This weekend I uttered a word that made many people in my congregation cringe. It’s a word that has been known to make the strongest of women faint with fear, and the most stout-hearted men weep like newborn babes. That word? Budget.
I don’t know many people who get really excited about budgets. But I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t benefit from one. Living without a budget is like driving without a gas gauge, or getting dressed without consulting the weather, or eating your chicken without caring if it’s fully cooked. It might work out, but it’s a foolish risk.
As with every unfounded fear, ignorance makes the task before us seem more intimidating than it really is. So we’re here to help. Here is Brad Hambrick, our Pastor of Counseling, with a thoughtful primer on budgets, “Eight Definitions for a Misunderstood Document.” You can read the entire post here.
1. A budget is the numerical expression of an individual’s or family’s mission and priorities.
This does not mean we need to color code our budget according to “Love God; Love Each Other; Love the World,” but it does mean these categories should be on our mind as we do our budget.
Too often we are prone to think that the tithe covers our “family mission” requirement and that the other 90% is ours to do with as we please. When we think this way two things happen. First, we devalue functional spending. We no longer view health insurance as a way we love each other. We miss that our grocery bill can be a way we love our world when we have our neighbor over for dinner. We overlook that our mortgage is a way we can love God by hosting a small group in our house.
Second, we become prone to think that only fun-spending “counts” as being rewarded for our efforts. In the absence of a larger sense of mission, our personal enjoyment (i.e., hobbies, decorating, etc.) becomes all we find satisfaction in. But within a healthy budget fun-spending is, at best, 25% of your take home income (you can see the basis for that number here). We feel robbed by everyday life, because we haven’t attached everyday life to our reason for living.
2. A budget is a tangible recognition that we are only stewards of the life God blessed us with.
It is overwhelming when you first sit down to do a budget. We quickly realize that life is not as controllable and predictable as we would like for it to be. A budget should humble us and teach us what it means to live in the fear of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:7).
As we do a budget, we should quickly realize that it is God who gives us life, health, and the abilities necessary to earn money. It is God who has made the world, even in its current broken state, orderly enough that budgeting is even possible. It is God who will have to continue to be faithful in order for our income to remain steady and our expenses not to spike. Ultimately, we see that all of life, not merely our money, is a gift from God given to us for a purpose. Therefore, “success” is measured by how well we accomplish His purpose for that gift.
In light of this, we can see in fresh ways that we will give an account for how we spent our life (Rom. 14:12). While this involves much more than finances, giving a faithful account will require some “accounting.” We cannot say that we managed something well if we did not keep track of it.
Read the rest of Brad’s post here.