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Prepare for our 2013 Giving Plan

By Michele Hermansen, 12/14/12, 4:15PM CST

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The Characteristics of Vibrant Stewards, on the opposite page, illustrate that life with God includes healthy stewardship of all God has given. This month as we each prepare our individual 2013 Giving Plan, we delve into our sixth characteristic:

Vibrant Stewards embrace financial health as an expression of faith. We allow money to flow to and through our lives in ways that nourish us and our world. We recognize our capacity to give is defined by our heart, not our pocketbook.

Personal finances can be a touchy subject, and I feel it’s important to say upfront that there is no judgment intended in this article. We are each in different places financially for different reasons. Many among us are struggling financially, and the causes may be the result of our own decisions or due to a misfortune over which we had no control. Others among us have more than sufficient financial resources and greater than that, wealth. 

Money, and even wealth, is not in itself bad, no more than food is bad. The biblical prophets rail against the rich, not specifically because they are rich, but because they are rich and oblivious. The rich man in Jesus’ parable in
Luke 16: 19-31 is doomed to eternal torment because he was luxuriously rich and completely oblivious to the destitute Lazarus lying just outside. One wonders how things would have turned out if just one of those at the rich man’s feast had called his attention to the poor man at the gate. 

Over the past several years, I have been fortunate to work in a community foundation. Through extensive study of foundations (private, community and corporate) I have come to understand and appreciate the great things that have been and are being accomplished when people use their wealth for the good of all. I have seen countless real-life examples of “allow(ing) money to flow to and through our lives in ways that nourish us and our world.” The challenge for us, as imperfect humans, is to maintain a balanced relationship with money wherever we are on the spectrum. 

God calls us to be disciples as whole people, all the time, engaged in all aspects of life on earth. And in this day and age, life on earth involves money. Our personal financial health is an important dimension of our overall “faith-health.” To put our finances in order, we have to order our life and priorities as well. “As I look into financial issues, the more I realize it is about more than math. In fact, I’ve been surprised how often the emotional and spiritual components of a financial decision outweigh the mathematical.” (A quote from Craig Ford, a former missionary who shares thoughts on debt-free living, frugality, generous giving and simple living.)

Personal financial health is best achieved in the same way as personal physical health: develop good daily habits and have an annual check-up. Good habits include basics like preparing a budget so we live within our means; that we save, give, and pay debts on time, and continue to learn about financial issues. 

Our annual financial check-up includes making a personal balance sheet. Record all the details of personal assets: bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, real estate, cars and furnishings. Record all the details of personal liabilities: credit card debt, mortgage, student loan debt. Does the ratio of debt-to-assets indicate that we are living within our means? Review property and life insurance coverage to ensure that it is accurate and adequate. Have we developed the discipline of saving for emergencies as well as saving for retirement? At any stage in our life, we should have a will and/or estate plan that provides for any dependents and distributes our assets in a positive manner.

What if our financial health isn’t good? Fortunately, there are many resources to help us get on track:

FamilyMeans in Stillwater provides confidential tools and education so families can regain financial stability and reduce unmanageable debt through its Consumer Credit Counseling Service. See the “Financial Solutions” tab on their website at www.familymeans.org or contact FamilyMeans confidentially at 651-789-4014.

We have heard positive testimonials from people who have participated in a nine-week Financial Peace University program. There is a listing of local classes as well as other resources on the website at www.daveramsey.com

There are many good resources on the Share Save Spend website at
www.sharesavespend.com

Our personal financial health matters. Being financially healthy frees us to live a productive and joyful life in service to God. We are stewards, on behalf of God, of all that we have and all that we are.  Stewardship is not a program –
it is a way of life!

Characteristics of Vibrant Stewards

1.     Trust God’s abundance

  • a. We embody an attitude of gratitude and generosity.
  • b. We believe we are called and freed to be caretakers of all that we are and have.
     

2.    Ground ourselves in biblical and theological principles

  • a. We believe in God as creator, and Jesus as role model and redeemer.
  • b. We listen to and interpret all of scripture with an ear for stewardship themes.
     

3.    Hold a holistic perspective

  • a. We steward our whole lives including our time, energy, wisdom, bodies, money and other resources.
  • b. We integrate our faith into our whole life.
     

4.    Accept interdependence

  • a. We ground ourselves in God’s presence.
  • b. We nurture an attitude of loving kindness toward all of God’s creation.
     

5.    Promote justice

  • a. We seek to understand the impact of social systems and structures.
  • b. We align our decisions and actions to work toward universal peace and justice.
     

6.    Embrace financial health as an expression of faith

  • a. We allow money to flow to and through our lives in ways that nourish us and our world.
  • b. We recognize that our capacity to give is defined by our heart, not our pocketbook.