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God’s Plan for Your Finances

In ministry, tight personal budgets often come with the territory. When Kay and I first moved from Texas to Southern California in 1979, we came with little money and a big vision. In fact, we didn’t even have enough money for a motel the first night we were in Southern California.

We started Saddleback Church on faith.

When you have to stretch your finances to meet your obligations, you need to learn how to manage money effectively. Most pastors weren’t taught how to do so in Bible college or seminary, but it’s an incredibly important part of your ministry. 

Throughout my ministry, I’ve used principles from the book of Proverbs to teach my congregation how to manage money. If you haven’t made these five commitments, consider making them today. 

Keep good records. Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds” (Proverbs 23:23 NKJV). One of the big reasons most people face pressure concerning their finances is they’re not sure where their money is going. You need to know what you owe, what you own, what you earn, and where it’s going. Your first rule of financial freedom is to face the facts and be realistic about where you are.

When I first taught these principles in the early 1980s, we didn’t have digital tools to help keep records. Today, you have all kinds of money-management tools at your disposal. It takes time, but keeping good records is worth it. Instead of spending time worrying about your finances because you’re wondering where all your money went, keep good records.

Plan your spending. The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5 NIV). I see haste all the time in impulsive buying, which leads to debt. But you can get your spending under control with a budget. A budget is simply planned spending. It’s telling your money where you want it to go rather than wondering where it went.

Enjoy what you have. Better to have little, with fear for the LORD, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil” (Proverbs 15:16 NLT). Too often we struggle being satisfied with what we already have—we want more. That’s why some pastors move to new churches so they can receive larger salaries. The solution is to learn contentment with what we have. 

Paul reminds us in 1 Timothy 6:6-7: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (NIV). Without contentment, our debt has a tendency to grow—and if we’re not careful, we’ll also stretch our family too thin and modify our ministry plans to get more.

Give 10 percent to God. “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10 NIV). Honor God first with your money. Pastor, as you teach your congregation to tithe, you should do likewise. Lead by example. You’ve probably taught this principle many times before. Whatever you want God to bless—your marriage, your work, or your finances—put him first.

Save for the future. Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow” (Proverbs 13:11 NIV). Practice living off of 80 percent of your income. Tithe 10 percent and save 10 percent. It takes discipline to live off of 80 percent, but it’s worth it. You can follow this principle on any income level. 

The reason we don’t save more is because we have a live-for-today mentality. We spend everything we have. The Bible says that’s not wise. Saving for the future is as much of a spiritual discipline as tithing. 

The next time you go out shopping, ask yourself this question: “Do I need this, or can I put this money into savings?” That one question can help you save more and become a better steward of your finances.

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