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FIRST-PERSON: Making good financial decisions

ATLANTA (BP)–Christians make the best financial decisions according to God’s plan for their lives when they understand his biblical financial principles.

Effective financial decisions require a thorough understanding of God’s perspective, and that understanding comes from studying God’s Word and communicating with him. If Christians never ask God’s direction regarding investments and other financial decisions, they will never receive an answer.

There are some specific principles Christians need to consider when making financial decisions: Avoid speculation, keep finances current, maintain Christian witness, give — do not loan, never cosign, avoid indulgence, prepare for decreases, and let peace rule.

Avoid speculation

Christians should seek God’s increase for them rather than trying to increase their financial worth through speculative schemes.

Many enticing programs and “guaranteed” moneymaking schemes are not only unethical but also may border on being illegal. Assess every so-called opportunity with your relationship with Christ and don’t let others make financial decisions for you. Instead, make decisions in light of your goals, whether the venture is necessary, and whether it fits into God’s individual plan for your life. Precondition your attitudes and you’ll have gone a long way to avoid speculative “opportunities.”

Keep finances current

Christians need to always manage their finances on a current basis, making no provision in their financial planning to borrow money beyond their abilities to repay.

If what you want or desire jeopardizes your future financial freedom, forget it. Impulse buying, either investment or consumption, is disastrous to budgets. So, when evaluating purchases or investments, always consider the financial obligation in light of your known income or available funds.

Plan for tomorrow by prudence today; make plans in light of present circumstances, not based on some future event, and maintain the principle of staying debt-free.

Maintain Christian witness

Consider every decision, especially financial decisions, on the basis of its effect on the work and reputation of Christ. God must not be backed into a financial corner and called on only during a time of economic crisis. To blindly pursue a course without a directive from God and then depend on him to rectify any resultant financial disasters is not God’s will, nor is it according to his plan.

As an example, if you must borrow from non-Christians in order to remain in his will, beware! This course is not according to his plan. “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Proverbs 22:7).

When Christians deal unfairly or unethically with an individual or business, it is the Christians’ witness that will suffer. Therefore, as a Christian you must establish that no matter what the circumstances you will tell the whole truth, keep your vows, make decisions based on God’s directive and God’s plan, maintain financial honesty and preserve the integrity of Christ in every aspect of your life.

Give — do not loan

Christians should avoid lending to those in need if giving to them is possible.

When someone approaches a Christian and requests financial help in order to acquire wants or desires, that request and justification for the request should be seriously questioned. However, if that person is in need and God has directed you to help him or her, then it is your responsibility as a Christian to supply that need.

Never cosign

To cosign means to pledge personal assets against the debt of another. It doesn’t matter whether it is personal or business, Scripture specifically forbids this whenever it speaks of surety or striking of hands.

“My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor, have given a pledge for a stranger, if you have been snared with the words of your mouth, have been caught with the words of your mouth, do this then, my son, and deliver yourself; since you have come into the land of your neighbor, go, humble yourself, and importune your neighbor” (Proverbs 6:1-3).

Of all the portions of Scripture that warn against surety or cosigning, this seems to be the passage that most explicitly warns against it.

Avoid indulgence

Christians must learn to discern the difference between needs, wants and desires in every financial transaction. This applies not only to purchases of material goods but to investments as well.

Before you buy something, determine whether the purchase is a need or desire, then check it against God’s principles. Before investing, be sure you know your reason for investing and what you will do with the money if God blesses with increase.

Many Christians get frustrated because they cannot distinguish between luxuries and necessities. Consequently, they seek fulfillment through the same channels as non-Christians and then wonder why they have fruitless Christian witnesses. God wants us to live comfortably, but he does not want us to live lavishly.

Prepare for decreases

Being prepared for unexpected decreases in funds is a vital part of keeping financially current. Evaluate all your financial decisions on the basis of what could happen if there was even a small decrease of income or available funds. Could you make adequate adjustments to live within new spending parameters without having to go into debt in order to maintain your current lifestyle?

Do not operate at the upper limit of income or available funds. Instead, make your financial decisions cognizant of the possibility that if there is a sudden drop in income it may be necessary to reduce your current living standards.

Let peace rule

Often, Christians are not responsive enough to God’s Word or to his presence to hear him, except through an inner turmoil known as lack of peace.

Many times God uses this lack of peace to provide direction. Accordingly, if he does not give you peace about something, do not become involved. If a quick decision is required, do not get involved. Take the time to think and to pray about any decision, especially financial decisions that will affect your family, and be determined not to make any financial decision under pressure. “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and he adds no sorrow to it” (Proverbs 10:22).

Listen to God’s Word

Become receptive to God’s guidance by becoming familiar with his directives and leadership procedures through the study of his Word and by communicating with him through prayer.

God provides the right direction for those who seek it. Even when you fail to see the right path clearly in the Bible or fail to hear him in prayer, he will never fail to place either an unrest or a peace inside you that will confirm his preferred course and his will.

As Christians, if we will be alert to understanding biblical financial principles and sensitive to God’s leading, we usually can avoid financial failures and economic bondage.
Burkett is chairman of the board of Crown Financial Ministries, which merged last year with the ministry he founded in 1976, Christian Financial Concepts. A Southern Baptist layman based in Gainesville, Ga., Burkett is the host of the national “Money Matters” radio program and author of two resources published by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention: “How Much Is Enough? 30 Days to Personal Revival” and “Jesus on Money.”

    About the Author

  • Larry Burkett