If you want a snapshot of where you are in your walk with Christ, pull out your budget and walk through it with a spiritual director, your pastor, and a fellow Christian who is not part of your family — together, at the same time, in the same room.
Take a few moments to think about that conversation. What would these people learn about you? For the two-thirds of people who studies show do not live on a budget, what does that say? For those who have a budget, what would your spending habits reveal?
When I have done this in the past, the exercise revealed many things about myself. Some were good. Others not so good! For example, the experience showed that I was afraid of losing my job and concerned that my peers would perceive me as unsuccessful. It also brought to light how I would justify adding additional work to my schedule — sometimes too much work — to earn extra money for a wide variety of purposes.
So why is budgeting important for Christians?
A budget is perhaps the best window to see into one’s relationship with God. It shows what an individual, family or ministry values, where they spend time, where they place their trust, and where they allow God to reign in their lives. At the same time, it shows what they fear, where they are vulnerable to attack from the enemy, and how they understand their participation in God’s kingdom mission.
Given that reality, I would suggest that budgeting is important for Christians because it is a process God uses to shape and form us into the likeness of King Jesus. In that sense, budgeting emerges as a spiritual discipline, an exercise that helps us to live in the present and transforming reality of the kingdom of God.
A budget is perhaps the best window to see into one’s relationship with God.
As such, budgeting shapes us into a people who naturally respond to challenges, opportunities, and decisions in the way of Jesus. It is a pathway that, when travelled, helps us experience the unbounded love and provision of God. By entering into the budgeting process with this mindset, we can find contentment, peace, and purpose as we learn to place our trust in God and to interact with money as Jesus would.
Also, when we approach budgeting in this way, the process looks more like spiritual direction, which is rooted in trust, discernment, and obedient stewardship, rather than merely financial management, which often finds deep roots in control, protection, and power. Keen observers see the difference between these two perspectives.
Financial management, when disconnected from our faith and isolated from other believers, has the potential to shape us more in the way of the world than the way of Jesus. We tend to hold the proverbial purse strings as if we own the money. We can fall into the trap of becoming slaves to money even when our goal is to steward it obediently. In this case, we strive to earn, direct, or manage money as if it has absolute power. When this happens, we have begun to ascribe to money power that belongs only to God. It tempts us to hold on to it to possess power. Those who do, become enslaved.
Budgeting — putting to work the money God provides — requires confidence and trust. With our hearts and minds focused on God, the exercise of budgeting can liberate us, as it invites us into a faithful posture where we recognize God’s provision, control, and love. When done in community as a spiritual discipline, budgeting actually fosters our collective growth as stewards.
To budget well, invite others into your journey of faith and your relationship with money, so that what was once hidden is brought to light. All of us need to remain free from the idolatry of money.
A budget, along with ongoing and transparent conversations with others about it, helps us to trust God, to handle money as Jesus instructs us, and to keep our focus where it should be: on the Triune God from whom all blessings flow.
Budgeting in step with the Holy Spirit and in community with fellow believers helps us remain free from the idolatry of money. It also prepares us to give an account for our stewardship to God. Practicing this discipline faithfully perfects us as disciples of King Jesus and brings glory and honor to God.
Greg Henson serves as President at Sioux Falls Seminary. He is a leading voice on the topic of innovation in theological education and has created several new approaches to financial and educational models. Greg is a published author and speaker on the topics of theological education, innovation, generational theory, missional theology, and competency-based learning.