Over the last year our federal government has passed three separate Covid-19 relief bills to cover losses during a pandemic year. Christians will disagree on whether these bills were prudent or needed, but it has resulted in individuals and families receiving money they would have never expected. Some individuals have received money that they really needed to support their family during loss of income and unexpected medical bills. Other individuals and families have received money that is expendable income to be used for their own desires. I've had many Christians seeking to know what is right and how to handle this extra money. My own family has had discussions about this newfound income. Our minds began to dream all of the projects that we could accomplish but then we settled down to ask the question: "How can we best honor God and use these funds to better our family?" We know that God has called us to honor him and be good stewards of our money, yes, even our stimulus money.
As Christians we know that we have been created and redeemed to give glory to God in all we do. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31, CSB) It stands to reason then that our money must be used to glorify God. Whether it's our time, talents, or money we should be seeking to honor God and the way that we use them. How we handle our resources indicates the gravitational pull of our hearts. Is it towards ourselves or towards God? The Bible indicates that how we use our money is an indicator of our heart for God. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:34, CSB) It is vital, therefore, for us as Christians to not allow money to rule over us, instead we should be thinking how we should steward our moneys for God. (See also: Matt 5:16, Col 3:23, Gen 2:15; Matt 5:16, 24:45-51; Lu 16:11; Rom 12:1; 1 Cor 4:1-2, 6:20, 10:31; 2 Cor 9:11; Eph 2:10; Phil 1:11; Col 3:23; 1 Pet 4:10-11; Tit 1:7; 1 Pet 4:11)
Being financial stewards begins with the understanding that God is sovereign and the owner of all of our financial resources. As a Christian I understand that my assets are owned by God, and that I have been entrusted to take care of these things by God. The money I have is just for me to “supervise and take care of” for the Lord. The Bible speaks clearly that we must seek wisdom in how we handle our money. The Bible instructs us to give, save, invest wisely, and work to provide for your household. It is our duty then to honor God and stewarding the money he has given us. (See also: Prov 13:11, 21:20-21, 22:9; Isa 55:2; Matt 6:19-34, 18:23-35, 25:14-30, 35-40; Mark 4:26-29, 10:17-30; Luke 12:15, 1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 8:7, 9:6-7; 1 Tim 6:10, 17-19; Heb 13:5, 2 Jn 1:8)
Many of us have received instruction from our earthly father on how to handle money, and it is no exception that our Heavenly Father has given us heavenly wisdom and how to handle our money. Yet the stakes are raised because we must answer to God for how we have stewarded his money. At this point of history, as He is sovereign over all things, God has allowed the U.S. government to give out financial resources. We must, therefore, be prayerful and biblical about how we handle our stimulus money. Some of you are using this money for basic needs and what a blessing that is! Others will be freer in the varying degrees in which they can spend this stimulus on a variety of ways. But we all must be wise about how we use this extra income. Below is some biblical council as you consider how to steward your stimulus money.
1. Budget your Money- One of the quickest ways to lose control of your money is by not having a plan in how to use it in the first place. Sitting down with a simple budget form and planning out your income is just wise for any person. “For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28, CSB) If you don't have a plan for your stimulus money you will have regrets on where that money went weeks or months ahead. Set up plan, include your spouse if you have one, and prayerfully budget your stimulus money.
2. Give to your Local Church and to Kingdom Purposes- If we are to truly honor God with our stimulus money, we must prayerfully consider how we are giving to Kingdom causes. The Bible teaches that we should be giving generously to our local church in the form of a tithe or more on a regular basis. (See the addendum by Jamie Dunlop) If you are already in the habit of giving to your church, you will probably be preparing to give a tithe or offering on your stimulus money. If you have struggled or never given to your church, this is a wonderful opportunity for you to begin. In giving to your church, you are supporting events like VBS that share the gospel to kids, youth going to summer camp to grow close to Jesus, people that are sent to go on mission trips, seniors that are handing out food and share the gospel, pastors who preach the word, and people that are taught the bible in small groups. In our Southern Baptist Church, we cooperate through the Cooperative Program where a portion of every dollar that has been given supports missionaries in our state and around the globe. God has blessed you unexpectedly and we must be faithful in being obedient in our giving.
With this unexpected income you can also use a portion of this money above your tithe/offering to give to ministries that support the Great Commission. In the Bible, Paul instructed the church at Corinth to give to a special offering for the Jerusalem church. It was vital to support kingdom work, “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:12, CSB) Our Southern Baptist church is currently giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter offering which supports church planters throughout North America. You may want to budget some of this money to give a generous gift to this or the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering which goes to international missionaries. Maybe your local church is doing a special offering for ministries in the area. Or your church has a special need for capital expenses or paying off debt. Maybe college student and senior adult, you should save your money to go on mission trip overseas. What about families saving up to go on a family mission trip. Wouldn’t it be great to use this money to further the Kingdom? When we consider how to honor God with our stimulus money, there would be nothing greater than giving to our churches and the Great Commission!
3. Save your Money- The temptation when we receive this money is to spend every last drop. Even as adults we struggle, as the expression goes, of “money burning a hole in our pockets.” But maybe this is a time for us to save wisely. Maybe you're in a period right now of life that you don't have a lot of needs so the best thing for you to do would be to hold the money off for another day. We do not know what tomorrow will bring and therefore having that money may prove to be wise. “Precious treasure and oil are in the dwelling of a wise person, but a fool consumes them.” (Proverbs 21:20, CSB) Maybe you need to save that money for a larger project or more important need later. Saving will also help you prepare for any other possible change in employment, income, unexpected circumstance, and also keep you from having to go back into debt. Saving money is just a wise and biblical thing to do and it may be the best thing for you to do with your stimulus money.
4. Pay off Debt- We are a society that doesn't mind getting into debt but with that comes lots of trouble. Millions of Americans struggle to pay off college debt, medical loans, bad loans for cars, pay day loans, and many other loans that were entered in willingly or unwillingly due to hardship. Unfortunately, individuals and families are handcuffed financially for decades. The Bible wisely tells us to avoid debt. Anyone who is in debt in great amounts understands the weight of this verse, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7, CSB) With this unexpected stimulus money maybe the most important thing for your family is to pay off debt. Get out from under the control of someone else and free up your money for you to use for the glory of God and for your family.
5. Long Term Benefits for your Family- “But if anyone does not provide for his own family, especially for his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8, CSB) With the extra money that you have been given you and your family may consider ways of investing into the long term good of your family. It could be investing in your home which could bring greater equity down the road. That could mean saving for your children's education or for instruction that will help them down the road. Maybe your family hasn't been able to afford a vacation and the best thing for your marriage, family, and each other would be to get away. Prayerfully consider how this money could benefit your family.
6. Seek Counsel- Not everyone has been taught how to use their money wisely. Others get overwhelmed with numbers and struggle in fear with money. It may be good for you to seek counsel if you are unsure what your steps should be. There should be no shame in asking for advice, as a matter of fact, the bible says it is wise to seek help. “Plans fail when there is no counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22, CSB) Talk to your pastor, elder, church member, or financial advisor in how you might use your funds wisely. (Note: Research any financial investor you may consult. Ask how they make money off any advice, policies/products they may recommend so they are not motivated in a way that isn’t in your best interest.)
There are many ways that you could use this money to glorify God that are not listed above. The point of this article is to make sure that you and your family are praying about how you might steward these resources well. Whether you need this money desperately, you have been given additional expendable income, or you disagree this money has been given out, you must consider how you can rightly use this gift you have received. You will have much regret in the weeks and months ahead if you have not planned wisely. If not prepared, you may have missed an opportunity that God has given you to impact the Kingdom. Let us all thank God for all the provisions he gives us and may we use all those gifts to glorify him!
• Crown Financial Ministries is a Christian non-profit that helps people improve their finances and promotes stewardship values all over the world. www.crown.org
• Your Money Counts: The Biblical Guide to Earning, Spending, Saving, Investing, Giving, and Getting Out of Debt by Howard L. Dayton Jr.
• Money, Debt, and Finances: Critical Questions and Answers by Jim Newheiser