- Seven Simple Steps
- 1. We changed our attitude towards money.
- 2. We slowly increased our church giving.
- 3. We wrote our tithing check first before paying for anything else.
- 4. We pray for a needy family.
- 5. We strive to practice Christian budgeting.
- 6. We keep track of income and expenses on a monthly or quarterly basis.
- 7. We strive to live within our means.
- His Promise of Abundance
Ten years ago, our family embarked on a journey which entailed leaving our comfortable life in Northern Virginia to live a life of simplicity in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. And with this move came our fair share of life’s curve balls including pay cuts, unemployment, large unexpected expenses and life-threatening illness. But despite all of this, we felt our Heavenly Father was always at our side. He faithfully gave us exactly what we needed when we needed it. We knew it was His plan for us to come here. And we discovered that part of that plan is to make Him the Lord of every aspect of our lives, including the area of finances.
While we are also called to be wise stewards of our time and talents, this article will be focusing on the first principle of the simple life, that is, stewardship of treasure. In answering our Lord’s call to wise stewardship, we become instrumental in providing for the needs of the Church and the needs of those less fortunate. What is interesting, however, is how our Lord promises abundance to those who offer their “first fruits” to Him. Proverbs 3:9-10 says to “honor the Lord with your wealth, with first fruits of your produce, then your barns will be filled with grain, with new wine, your vats will overflow.” This promise of abundance also resounds in Malachi 3:10 “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be food in my house and try me in this, says the Lord of Hosts: Shall I not open for you the floodgates of Heaven to pour down blessing upon you without measure?”
Seven Simple Steps
While I am not an expert in the area of finances, my goal is to share with you seven simple steps our family took in order to answer His call to wise stewardship:
1. We changed our attitude towards money.
In Jesus’ parable of the wise steward, the master gives stewards his treasure to invest and rewards them accordingly upon his return. From this Gospel reading, we can conclude that, in essence, a steward is someone who takes care of something that belongs to someone else. We began to look at money as a gift from our Heavenly Father, only in our hands for a time, not to be used for our own frivolities. We realized that this precious gift is entrusted to us to provide for our needs, help provide the needs of others and glorify our Lord in the process.
2. We slowly increased our church giving.
While there is nothing in the Catechism that requires Catholics to tithe, we learned that giving one-tenth of one’s income was an accustomed practice in the Old Testament to help provide for the needs of the Levite priests and the poor, especially the widows and the orphans. The Book of Deuteronomy says, “I have purged my house of the sacred portion and I have given it to the Levite, the alien, the orphan, the widow, just as you have commanded me.” Most parish priests we interviewed during our discernment process gave a guideline to give five percent to the parish and the other five percent to a needy family or a charity of choice. While we could not afford to give this “sacred portion” right away, nothing was stopping us from making this our goal. So we increased our giving ever so slowly, at a steady rate of one percent per year, until we eventually reached our ten percent goal.
3. We wrote our tithing check first before paying for anything else.
We were inspired by the words of Saint Paul, “Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need.” Instead of using offertory envelopes every week, we wrote one tithing check at the beginning of each month. This act was more symbolic of the trust and surrender our Lord was asking of us. As soon as we began this practice, many doors opened for our family and signal blessings came into our lives. The Lord is truly never outdone in generosity!
4. We pray for a needy family.
St. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, exhorted, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others.” Every month, we discern whether to give to an organization or a local needy family. In doing so, we learn to step outside of ourselves and realize that there are people who are struggling more than we are. Now, there are also times our Lord makes it clear during our discernment that we are the needy family. In the end, we learned that it doesn’t matter who the needy family is, as long as we prayerfully ask our Lord in the process.
5. We strive to practice Christian budgeting.
Wise stewardship requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice. This statement translates into the reality of budgeting. It requires sacrifice not only to give a portion of our income to the Church, but also to not be able to spend money the way we’d like when we’d like. It is a sacrifice because it requires mortification of the will. St. Teresa of Avila writes, “If we do not pay great attention to mortifying our own will, there are many things that can take from us that holy liberty of spirit, which we seek in order to be able to mount freely towards our Creator.” On a practical note, we simply looked at our budget as a guideline, and even if we are not always in budget due to unforeseen expenses, we know that God sees our honest efforts and faithfully provides what is lacking. For Christian budgeting guidelines, ranges and worksheets, go to Project Nazareth Ministry.
6. We keep track of income and expenses on a monthly or quarterly basis.
It could be as simple as collating pay stubs and receipts for each month. Our family uses a computer program (such as Microsoft Money, Quickbooks or Quicken) which made balancing our checkbook, categorizing expenses and generating monthly reports a breeze. These reports help us see where we tend to overspend and what lifestyle changes we need to make.
7. We strive to live within our means.
Using cash is ideal, but I simply do not have the discipline to keep cash in my wallet. So in our home, we simply use the credit card on cash basis. This means every time a credit card is used, the balance is paid in full every month. Once we began the habit of living within our means, our desire to live debt-free consequently became stronger. With God’s immense mercy, other than our mortgage, we have enjoyed the grace and freedom of living debt-free.
His Promise of Abundance
I must be quick to point out that, in the end, it is up to each family to discern how much to give. Stewardship is so much deeper than juridical measures, precepts, percentages and numbers. And while the abundance He promises is not always temporal in nature, our Lord has taught our family so many invaluable lessons that no amount of money on earth could ever buy. He taught us that He has absolutely no need for our money but simply needs our willingness to let it go and trust in His providential love. He taught us that, while there are times we struggle, there are many families who are in worse situations than we are. He taught us to focus on our blessings rather than our lack. He taught us that there is freedom in desiring nothing and refusing nothing that comes from His hand. He taught us to work hard and to surrender to Him everything that is beyond our control. He taught us to lay down all our desires at His feet, leaving it up to Him to give us what’s best for our souls, in His time, not ours. Most importantly, He taught us to love Him as a Person and to love Him for who He is and not what He can give us.
So in the end, wise stewardship does not change God. It changes us. And with this change comes an indescribable peace knowing that even if our wealth and possessions ever run out, His love for us is constant, untiring, unchanging, limitless, inexhaustible and will never ever run dry.
Header Image CC stevendepolo