In this first article, let’s look at the financial big picture. In the scheme of life, finance and the way in which we manage our assets is important—right up there with earthly relationships. The Bible uses the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) to remind us that we are to put our treasure to use, and not just bury it. We are to be good stewards of everything that God gives to us.
So, how does that command impact our personal economy? How does short, medium and long term planning begin to take focus in that economy? What specific steps should we consider in the process?
It’s easy to read those questions and take a Scarlett O’Hara approach to the problem, deciding we will “…think about that tomorrow.” However, that approach doesn’t remove the stress of knowing that we must plan for a future that arrives new every morning. A second approach—hoping that someone will rescue us and solve the problem—denies our personal responsibility to be a good steward. Historically, government programs such as Social Security have provided help, but a quick review of recent headlines indicates that we should not depend on any government program as the center piece of our retirement plan.
So, no matter our age or financial history, we need to answer some questions:
- What is my goal in 20 years? Is it to leave a financial legacy after my death? To retire? To provide college expenses for my children?
- What is my goal in 5 years? Is it to be completely out of debt? To buy a house? To start a new business? To change careers? To finish schooling?
- What is on the horizon in the next year? Is it to increase giving to ministries? To establish an emergency savings fund? To review insurance strategies? To establish a new household through marriage? To adopt a child?
These are big questions. Take some time, turn off the electronic gadgets of life, relax in the stillness, and think about the big picture.
Now, even though I banned electronic gadgets in the previous sentence, I am using an electronic gadget to create this article and I realize that you may prefer to draft electronically. However, I also like to use ‘old school’ methods such as an actual piece of paper. For me, writing emits creativity. It also results in doodling flowers and vines, which helps keep my mental processes focused. So, pick a method that you enjoy.
At the top of the document, write the headings— God, Marriage, Family, Career. Down the side of the page, write 20 year, 5 year and ‘in the next year.’ Use different time frames if they make more sense in your specific situation. Then, consider the questions above as a starting point for building your big picture.
There is a reason that I asked you to use the column headings: God, Marriage, Family, Career. The Bible gives us this hierarchy for focusing our time and money: first, on our relationship with our Redeemer, Jesus Christ; second, on our marriage (If you are not married, this affords additional focus for the other columns.); third, on family—children, parents, etc.; and fourth on career. If we can keep this straight, then the rest of the big picture falls into place. The problem is that we are a distractible bunch and we often need to refocus.
Prayerfully revisit your big picture over the next week, reviewing each column’s activities. Then, read across each time frame to highlight the activities that you are planning in each column. When you are satisfied, congratulations! In the next article, we will begin looking at the components of the big picture.