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 Jennifer Christian Newton, MBA

PREMISE:  In looking at financial priorities, they all should honor God and be rooted in His Word.  The only way to make sound fiscal choices is to make sure every spending decision is a spiritual decision.  That being said, these are my:


TEN COMMANDMENTS OF CHRISTIAN FINANCE(pdf)
  1. Don’t have any other god but Me
 
God’s first commandment is to put Him foremost in our lives.  Financially, we do this by tithing—giving back to Him 10% of what He has provided. As Christians we know that God is the provider of all; from our very lives to our means of support to the food on our table. All he asks is that we return 10% of our gain—whatever that may be—back to Him.  Tithing is not optional. This money belongs to Him, and the first rule of financial stability is to return what is rightfully His.  
Our tithe should be the first expenditure from each paycheck and the very best of our increase. He asks us to give Him not A tenth, but the FIRST tenth.  In Biblical language it is often referred to as “firstfruit.” This was not only the first of the crops but the best.
Tithing also speaks to the fairness of God when it comes to our finances.  The Biblical sacrificial system was designed to accommodate all levels of economic status.  Today, He asks us all to give equally by returning 10% of whatever He has blessed us with.  All he requires is that He comes first. 
 “What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” (I Corinthians 4:7, NLT)
“Everything comes from you; all we’re doing is giving back what we’ve been given from your generous hand.”  (I Chronicles 29:14, MSG)
“A tenth of the land’s produce . . . is God’s.  It is holy to God.” (Leviticus 27:30, MSG)
 “Bring the finest of the firstfruits of your produce to the house of your God.” (Exodus 34:26, MSG)
“Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly.  And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.” (II Corinthians 8:11-13, NLT)
 
It is interesting that the earliest Biblical instance of tithing is in Genesis 14 when Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils from war. This is hundreds of years before the instructions were given to the Israelites in the wilderness. Abraham’s example would indicate that it was a practice that came from the very beginning of man.
 
  1. Don’t make anyone or anything an idol
 
God gave us life and provides the means for our daily existence.  He also supplied a way for us to have eternal life through the gift of His Son.    He is to be worshiped and hold ultimate importance in our lives. Nothing (or no one) else should have a higher priority than Him.
 
“But we know that there is only one God; the Father; who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ; through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.” (I Corinthians 8:6, NLT)
 
What we choose to spend our money on shows the world what is important to us.  It is the outward manifestation of our priorities.  If all of our funds are spent on “things” that are transient—that new car, the latest electronics gadget, the current fashions—it indicates to others that the things of earth are important. 
In a sense, we become what we idolize.
 
“Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you chose to obey?”  (Romans 6:16, NLT)
“Idols will completely disappear.”  (Isaiah 2:18, NLT)
 “. . . They worshiped worthless idols, so they became worthless themselves.”
(2 Kings 17:15, NLT)
 
When we moved to Southern California from the Chicago area, our financial situation was a bit tenuous.  I did not have work yet, and housing was significantly more than the market we came from.  We decided that the children’s Adventist Christian education was our top financial priority, so we paid for their school year up front (which incidentally earned us a discount!) then calculated how much we could afford for a house.  We made a conscious decision to invest in something tangible rather than consumable.
 
  1. Don’t dishonor Me by misusing My name
 
In my opinion, the third commandment is the basis for the way we live.  God is to be part of our very existence but not taken for granted. He asks us not to trivialize Him by using His name inappropriately or holding Him responsible for our choices.
He has given us rules to live by and promises that if we follow His law we will have the necessities of life. But if we go our own way, we cannot blame Him when we run into trouble. This translates into not accusing God for disastrous results that come from bad decisions that we make—including financial ones. 
“Trivialize even the smallest item in God’s Law and you will only have trivialized yourself. But take it seriously; show the way for others, and you will find honor in the kingdom.” (Matthew 5:19, MSG)
“Look at you! You trivialize religion, turn spiritual conversation into empty gossip.”  (Job 15:4, MSG)
 “Those who live by their own rules, not God's, can expect nothing but trouble . . . .”  (Job 15:20, MSG) 
 
The story of Cain and Abel is a good example of trivializing God’s instruction.  You remember that both men were told to bring a specific sacrifice and Cain decided he knew better.  When his offering was not accepted, he blamed God.  He had all of the right information but made a bad choice, then took no responsibility but accused God of being unfair.
 
Investing unwisely or spending money like it grows on a proverbial tree and then crying out to God because we cannot pay our bills, desecrates the name of God. In fact the Bible calls it a sin.
 
“People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord.”  (Proverbs 19:3, NLT) 
“In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.”  (Job 1:22, NLT)
 
  1.   Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy
 
As the body of Christ, the Church is His representation here on earth.  Our tithe and offerings are given to support the local, national and worldwide work of His Church. It is not up to us to decide how it is used.  Our only obligation is to bring it to
“In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it.”  (I Corinthians 9:14, NLT)
the “storehouse.” Abraham is again a good example.  The Bible doesn’t tell us what Melchizedek did with the offering. It only indicates that he was a priest—a man of God.
“Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the Lord. . . .”  (Numbers 18:24, NLT)
 
When we pay our tithe to the local church we are fulfilling our responsibility.  Note that God does not ask us to give to whatever organization or ministry WE decide is important—that’s what offerings are for.  Our tithe is to go directly to the “temple.”  It is for the support of His workers.
On Mount Sinai, when God does give instruction to the Israelites regarding tithe, he directs them to give it to the priests (Levites). The priests then, in turn, returned their tithe directly to the High Priest, Aaron. This was how the Levites “earned” their living. 
 
“We promise to bring the first part of every harvest to the Lord’s Temple . . .  We will bring the best. . .  And, we promise to bring to the Levites a tenth of everything our land produces, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our rural towns.” (Nehemiah 10:35-37, NLT)
 
Our current system works very much the same way. The usual division is for a local Conference to retain the majority of tithe for paying pastors, teachers and administration personnel. The remaining amount is remitted to the Union, where it is distributed to the North American Division and General Conference for their institutions (such as Loma Linda University), the mission program of the church and reallocation back to the Union and Local Conferences.
 
God promises that if we are faithful in returning our tithes and offerings He will bless us and our Church.
 
. . . Since the people began bringing their gifts to the Lord’s Temple, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare. . . . .”  (II Chronicles 31:10, NLT)
 
 
  1. Honor your family
 
This means not only providing the necessities of life (food and shelter), but also planning ahead.  I am talking about savings here.  Whether you have a spouse and/or children, are supporting parents or are single; putting something away every month is vital.  It does not have to be a huge amount.  Start with what you can—even if it is $5 each week.  The goal is to make it a habit.  Right now, even with interest rates at an all-time low, after twenty years you would have saved $5,434--$533 of which is interest.  Naturally, if you can put away more than $5 a week it will grow exponentially; and interest rates are certain to rebound thereby netting substantially more.
 
“Anyone who neglects to care for family members in need repudiates the faith.  That’s worse than refusing to believe in the first place.”  (I Timothy 5:8, MSG)
“The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.”  (Proverbs 21:20, NLT) 
“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity. . .”  (Proverbs 21:5. NLT)
 
In addition to general savings, it is important to start planning for retirement.  If your employer has a matching fund available, take advantage of it.  After all, it’s free money!  If you have young children, or are planning on starting a family, set up a fund for their education.  Along with saving, make sure you have provided for your family through a will or trust.  Whether you are single or married, it is vital to have that legal document.  Our family found out the hard way when my brother died in an accident when he was 35.  Even though he was single, had no dependents and did not own a home, it was literally years before all of the financial legalities were resolved.  A will also precludes the government from taking more than what they already lay claim to.
 
  1.   Don’t murder
 
We do not create life; therefore, we do not have the right to take it away.  This same concept holds true for money as well—money we have not earned is not ours to spend:  In a word—debt.   The Bible is very clear on the fact that it is in our best interest not to owe others.   This is a practical concept as well when you look at what the actual expense is to buy goods on credit.
 
“Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.”  (Proverbs 22:7, NLT)
 
Do not be fooled by low or “no” interest car loans. If you finance $10,000 for 36 months it will cost you over $6,000 (based on the going rate of $16.67 per $1,000) in fees alone. In other words, a car that you would pay $12,000 cash for ends up costing you $18,000 if you pay $2,000 up front and finance the other $10,000! Add on the fact that the sales price will be less if you pay cash and the reality that dealerships usually want to have 48-60-month financing, and that vehicle you thought was $12,000 ends up being $20,000 or more. 
 
Debt is defined as “something that is owed or that one is bound to pay to or perform for another.”  (www.dictionary.com)  There is the problem.  You are now beholden to another entity for something you supposedly “own.”  Going into credit card debt just to have things you cannot immediately afford is the costliest financial mistake. 
 
“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. . .”  (Romans 13:8, NLT)
 
 This also includes incidental debt—commonly called an overdraft. This year banks will collect more than $35 billion dollars for that occasional $15 meal on the debit card drawn from your bank account that only had $12 dollars in it. These fees have escalated to $30 and more per occurrence. Make sure you know your balance before whipping out that debit card or when automatic withdrawal dates are near. Most financial institutions will let you request a specific day of the month to have your automatic payments occur, so you can either spread them out through the month or have them take place soon after you know deposits will be in.
 
Excluding a mortgage (as it is usually considered an investment), we should strive to only make purchases for which we have the cash on hand.
 
 
  1.  Don’t commit adultery
 
A vow is sacred, whether it is a marriage vow or an IOU. That means, if you do have debt, it is your Christian duty to pay it back.
“Loyalty makes a person attractive. It is better to be poor than dishonest.”  (Proverbs 19:22, NLT) 
 
As well as being a moral obligation, there is no better time than now to work on debt reduction.  Most creditors—including credit card companies—are willing to “deal” to get most or part of their funds. In addition,
the law is on your side with many rules recently instigated to protect the consumer from extraordinary charges.  You are usually much better off talking directly with individual entities rather than a debt- consolidation company unless you are so far under that you need professional help.
 
  Bankruptcy is a touchy subject, because there are instances when there is no other option. However, as Christians we should never borrow money with the intention of not paying it back—whether it is a school loan, credit card debt or mortgage. Make sure you have exhausted all other alternatives before you sign that loan document and that you have the resources to fulfill the commitment. Then, if the unexpected happens, your conscience will be clear. On the other hand, if you are going into debt for frivolous purchases or knowing that you have no way to make the payments, it is moral and legal fraud.
 
“When you tell God you'll do something, do it—now.  God takes no pleasure in foolish gabble. Vow it, then do it.  Far better not to vow in the first place than to vow and not pay up.”  (Ecclesiastes 5:5, MSG)
 
“Do you expect me to overlook obscene wealth you’ve piled up by cheating and fraud?”  (Micah 6:10, MSG)
 
  1. Don’t steal
 
When we don’t pay a faithful tithe, we are robbing God.    As Christians we have made a promise to return to God what belongs to Him.  The same is true when we make donation pledges.  It is vital that we fulfill our obligations, and God will hold us accountable for our financial responsibilities.
 
“You ask, ‘How have we robbed you?’  The tithe and offering—that’s how!”  (Malachi 3:8, MSG)
 
The most poignant Biblical example is that of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). You will remember that the Early Church supported each other. Those that were not able to provide for themselves were upheld by those who could. Ananias and Sapphira sold a plot of land and promised to add the proceeds to the church coffers.They discussed it at home and decided no one would know if they kept some back for themselves. First Ananias came in and claimed to have fulfilled their pledge and was immediately struck dead. Next Sapphira arrived and retold the lie with the same result. By giving less than they promised, they lost their lives.
 
We also cheat ourselves when we withhold what belongs to God.  We take away the opportunity of receiving the blessings He wants to give us. He wants to lavish us with joys untold if we will only hold up our end of the bargain.
 
 
“Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple.  Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams.”  (Malachi 3:10, MSG)
 
 
 
  1. Don’t testify falsely against your neighbor
 
In the story of the Good Samaritan, we learn that the person that acted as a neighbor was the one “who had mercy on him.”  (Luke 10:37, NLT). When we take care of those who have less we are doing the Lord’s work.
“Mercy to the needy is a loan to God, and God pays back those loans in full.”  (Proverbs 19:17, MSG)
 
Remember the widow of Zarephath? Elijah asked her to use the last of her flour and oil to make him something to eat and promised that she and her son would be taken care of until the terrible drought was over.  She had minimal resources, but Elijah had none. When she gave what she had to someone less fortunate, God took care of her immediate needs and filled her flour jar and oil jug every day. In addition, when her son became ill and died, God worked through Elijah to bring her boy back to life. By showing mercy, she received a miracle she did not even know she needed. (I Kings 17:7-24, NLT)
 
 
When we have fulfilled our obligations to God and family, it is truly a blessing to be able to help those in need. It is putting our money to the best use.
 “Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in Heaven far from bank robbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on.” (Luke 12:33, MSG)
 
 
  1. Don’t covet what others have
 
Be satisfied with what you have. You will be much happier if you are not constantly trying to “keep up with the Joneses.” Contentment comes from having what you need most—a relationship with Jesus; friends who love you for who you are and not the material things you own; and the basic necessities of a place to live and food on the table.
"A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough." (I Timothy 6:6-8, MSG)
 
 
There is a song from a few years back by Cheryl Crowe with lyrics that say, “It’s not having what you want; it’s wanting what you’ve got.”  That is a good place to start.  If we can look at the blessings we currently enjoy rather than making a mental list of all the “things” we wish we had, pretty soon we will appreciate our reality.
 
 
Our goal should be to use our God-given talents to earn a living.  Then we need to be satisfied and invest our discretionary income wisely.  Remember; if it sounds too good to be true; it probably is.
“Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich.  Be wise enough to know when to quit.  In the blink of an eye, wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle.”  (Proverbs 23:4-5, NLT)
 
 
 
There will always be somebody that has more than you do, and you will wear yourself out trying to catch up.
“Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have . . . .”  (Ecclesiastes 6:9, NLT)

 
                  There was a report on CNN about a family of three—mom, stay-at-home dad and four-year-old son.  The mom had recently lost her job, and they were attempting to make her three-month severance and unemployment income last for a year.  The reporter outlined the measures they were taking to cut costs.  At the end of the piece, and almost as an aside, the announcer stated that the family gave 10% of their income each month to their local church.  It proves the point, that if we will be faithful in returning what belongs to Him and make every spending decision a spiritual decision, God will take care of the rest.