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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Do you have questions about your money that need answers? Search our articles below for answers to questions commonly asked by our readers or submit your own question at the link below

How Should I Finance my Ministry? This week in Questions and Answers, we’re tackling a question from Tony, a man in Auckland, New Zealand is who feels called to start a homeless centre in Auckland and is looking for a way to fund the work. We’ve included an abbreviated version of Tony’s question below; you can see the full text.

Question:

Question: Tony – Auckland
What we would like to do is buy an RV and drive up to Auckland, New Zealand and use it as a home at first until we figure out the best place to set up the centre. At that point we will get a house and then we would like to use the RV as a tool. We were looking at putting an internet dish on it and turning it in to an online school where homeless could come and take classes for free.
The problem is we have not had a credit card or a loan in a long time, so getting a loan might be hard I have thought about having my parents consign but not sure I want to drag them in to this. My current job will be going with me so that is how we plan on paying for the RV. I figure it is no different than getting a loan for a house or car. Instead of paying $1,200 in rent, a $600 RV payment and $600 to park the RV, plus electric and water, sounded like a good trade off to me. My house electric runs me around $350 a month, so living in the RV will be cheaper. We are well aware of the cold and we have been told what to do to weatherproof the RV.
To raise the money we have sold 150% of our possessions and we have done an online fundraiser We have asked all our friends, relatives, the church we attend and other churches, and we have not even come close to the money we need. A lot of doors had opened up, so we were really thinking God was blessing it. But now we have been sitting in a house with no furniture well we have a kitchen table and a desk left. And everything is in boxes. I’m not sure if I am supposed to wait on God or he is waiting on me to take a leap of faith to bless the whole thing.
Answer: : — Cyrus Rose, Auckland, New Zealand
Thanks for your question, Tony. I’m sorry that it’s taken me a while to respond to you
— I’ve been on an extended break since the birth of my daughter several months ago. I hope I’m not too late to talk you out of this, though, because what you’re talking about doing is a very bad idea.
I don’t mean, of course, that the homeless centre in Auckland is a bad idea — I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Auckland, and I’m familiar with the struggles of the native people there. Your goal is admirable, and I don’t doubt that God is calling you to help up there. But I do doubt that He wants you to use debt and bad purchases to do it.
There are several areas that give me concern here, Tony. First is the idea of borrowing money; second is the idea of using that money to purchase an RV; and third is the trouble that you’re having raising funds.

Debt burdens ministries

First of all, I want to tell you that debt is always a bad thing — it’s a form of financial slavery that can have severe consequences that last the rest of your life. And while it can be tempting to turn to debt when you want to do something that is really good for society or the Kingdom of God, it’s never a good idea. There’s no such thing as good debt, and borrowing money can be a crushing mistake for a ministry.
I have personally watched as ministries that I cared about deeply and contributed to for years closed their doors because of bad financial decisions — borrowing money to do big things quickly instead of going slow and steady. That’s an incredibly painful process, and it hurts both the ministers and the people they’re trying to reach. I don’t want to see the same thing happen to you.

Vehicles always depreciate

Now, onto the issue of the RV: You make an interesting case for spending money on an RV payment instead of on rent. Your math might be right — on a month-by-month basis, the average cost of RV payments (plus parking and utilities) might equal out with the cost of rent. But here’s what you’re forgetting: An RV is essentially a vehicle, and all vehicles depreciate in value.
In other words, you’ll be borrowing money and making payments on something that is dropping to a value of zero.
Why is this a problem? Because eventually, you’ll reach a point where the RV is worn out (and that’s likely to happen more quickly in Auckland than in the lower 48, given the extreme conditions up there). It’s not at all unlikely that the vehicle could depreciate faster than you could pay the loan off. In other words, you could end up upside-down in the deal, owing more on the loan than the vehicle is worth.
That’s not a situation you want to be in — if a weather event, traffic accident or other misfortune causes significant damage to the RV, you may find yourself without a vehicle, without any money to replace it, and still having to pay off the balance of your loan. That could quickly torpedo your ministry.
God pays for what He orders
My final thought for you, Tony, is that the difficulty that you’ve had in raising money should tell you something about the feasibility of what you’re trying to do. I firmly believe that God pays for what He orders. And that leads me to believe that if you haven’t been able to raise the money that you need for this project, this may not be the right time or the right plan for your ministry.
I’m not trying to take anything away from your ministry or your calling. But I have to doubt that God would call you to a full-time ministry in Auckland without providing the funds to undertake it. This isn’t about a lack of faith — it’s about wisdom. It’s not wise for your family or your ministry to borrow a bunch of money to undertake a project that isn’t well funded.
Instead of going forward this way, consider finding alternative routes to getting your ministry going. Can you rent a home in Auckland and use that as the base of your ministry, rather that borrowing money to buy an RV? Or could you partner with a local church that would allow you to use their facilities?
You may even need to start smaller than that. Perhaps you need to take short-term trips up there a few times a year to establish relationships and begin to build strategically in the community. This would allow you to put down a foundation for a long-lasting ministry without endangering your family’s finances.
Whatever you do, I wish you the very best. I hope that you’ll follow God where’s He’s leading you, when He’s leading you there, and not go rushing into things prematurely

God bless you!

Does God Bless Your Faith or Your Work?

Hard Work Brings Blessings

If you want God to bless you, start by excelling at the things He gives you to do

A reader from Canada asks whether hard work brings blessings or just the grace of God:

Question:

Does God want us to work really hard and achieve excellence in our workplace? Or does He want us to work and wait upon His blessings or timing for everything?

Question: A reader from Canada

Answer: : — Cyrus Rose, Auckland, New Zealand

This is an important question with an important answer. It should impact the way each of us works every day.

Yes, God wants us to work really hard and achieve excellence. He blesses us according to the faithfulness and diligence that we’ve shown.

Proverbs Says Hard Work Brings Blessings

God created work, and He wants us to work hard to help others and earn the things that we need. Prov. 10:4 was written by Solomon, the richest man ever to live, and it clearly spells out where wealth comes from:

Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.

God created us for work, and He intends for all of us to work hard. He promises to provide for us. And this scripture teaches that His main way of providing for our needs is through our work. Hard work brings blessings.

Christians should be shining examples of hard work and excellence in the marketplace. No matter what kind of work we’re doing.

“Christians should be shining examples of hard work and excellence in the marketplace.”

Waiting on God’s Blessing

There’s another important part of this question: the idea of “waiting on God’s blessing.” A lot of people get confused about this idea. 

Some people teach that if you believe the right things and have enough faith to wait for God, He’ll eventually bless you with material wealth. But this is a very incomplete view of scripture and the nature of God. 

The Bible does teach that God wants to bless us with abundance, and that this blessing includes meeting our worldly needs. But as we’ve just discussed, the primary way that God does this is through our work. Hard work brings blessings.

“Waiting on God should go hand in hand with our hard work.”


There are times in the Bible where God met someone’s material needs throughsupernatural intervention. In the story of the Elisha and the widow’s oil, for example,God provided oil and flour to the widow when she was at the very end of her resources.

It’s okay for to ask God for help when we find ourselves in dire straits. But that’s not the way that God wants us to live each day.

Instead, our waiting on God should go hand in hand with our hard work. Go to work and do everything He has called you to do there. Then wait on Him to bless your hard work according to His promises.

Don’t Become a Slave

There’s one more important thing to keep in mind on this topic. Hard work brings blessings, but if you go overboard, you can become a slave to your work.

If you work hard enough, you’ll start to find success in your career. And when that happens, you may be tempted to double down. You might work longer hours and take on extra projects in order to make even more money.

There are times in life when it may be appropriate to work long hours, But you don’t want to make a habit of it. Money can trap us in bondage if we’re not careful, and one of the ways that it can happen is by making us slaves to work.

“Hard work brings blessings, but if you go overboard, you can become a slave to your work.”

If your work (and the money you earn from it) ever begins to come between you and the people you love, or you start to draw your identity from your work in unhealthy ways, you may have gone so far that you’re neglecting God’s will for you in other areas of your life.

It’s important to be careful and be balanced. But most of all, be diligent. God wants you to work, and He wants to make a difference in the world through your work. He promises to bless you when you spend your time blessing others.

Should My Church Borrow Money for a Building?

Question:

Is it ever appropriate for a church to obtain a mortgage for a property purchase? I attend a small church that is bursting at the seams, but the fear of financing keeps us here.

We are renting our current building for $1,000/month with all utilities extra. We have no debts and maintain an account with $5,000.00 for regular operations. We have recently become aware of a large church building for sale at an exceptional price:

$350,000. In just over 2 years we have saved $100,000.

Is it prudent to finance the balance if we negotiated the price to where we could pay a third of the price in cash? You can imagine the pressure on my church to make a wise Biblical decision for the next step.

Question: — John, Ontario

Answer: : — Cyrus Rose, Auckland, New Zealand

Thanks for the question, John — it’s great to have readers in Canada. You and your church are in a position that many churches have found themselves in over the years, and it’s great that you are trying to be wise in making this decision.

I’m afraid that you’re not going to like my answer too much: I believe that debt is slavery, and that all ministry organizations need to stay away from it. And some time ago, I wrote an article addressing this exact question: Should churches use mortgages? My conclusion in that article was that they should not, and my opinion remains the same. Still, I’m happy to walk through the particulars of your church’s situation to help shed some light on your options.

I’ve seen a number of churches get in trouble with mortgages in the past: Even though it seems like getting a building of your own is a great move for your church, the financial pressure that debt puts on your congregation can bring your momentum to a halt. I’ve seen more than one church dissolve completely over bad debt decisions like this, and I want to spare your growing church from experiencing this same turmoil.

Starting in a good position

Before we talk about these details, though, let’s discuss some of the good news about your current situation. Your church is in great financial shape — with no debt and a $5,000 operating fund you have total financial freedom, as well as some cushion in case you encounter some difficulty. (If you wanted to be really secure, you should consider increasing your reserves from $5,000 to around six months’ worth of operating expenses, but that’s a suggestion for another post).

The rent on your current place is actually very reasonable — perhaps even cheap — and even though you seem to be full, it’s a good situation. If you were in a higher rent facility, you would have had trouble saving the $100,000 that you currently have to work with.

Finally, your church seems to be growing, and this is a great problem to have. It may make your weekly services a little cramped, but it’s great news for the Kingdom of God making an impact in Ontario. It’s also good news for your revenue, as growing membership should result in growing tithes and offerings.

Churches vs. Homes

If you were an individual looking to buy a home, or perhaps even a business owner looking to buy an office or operating facility, financing 67% of the purchase would seem like a good deal. We encourage individuals to wisely use mortgages to buy homes and build wealth, because there are some key factors that make home mortgages much less risky than other consumer debt. But there are also some key differences between homes and churches that make this a problem for your congregation.

The residential real estate market is relatively stable and predictable because home values tend to appreciate over time, and because there is frequent enough turnover that it’s easy to appraise a property by looking at how comparable buildings have sold recently. But churches change hands much less frequently than homes or commercial buildings, which makes them incredibly difficult to appraise. That also makes it difficult to sell your church if you need to quickly liquidate your assets. And even if you did sell, you would have no guarantee of getting all of your money back from the sale.

One reason that we encourage home buyers to get mortgages to buy homes is that home values often rise in predictable ways, and owning a home is a key wealth building tool. But a church isn’t — or at least shouldn’t be — interested in building wealth. For a congregation, purchasing a church building is a “buy and hold” proposition. You don’t plan to sell the building in 15 years at a profit. You plan on being there forever. So the incentive that individuals have to buy homes quickly (in order to maximize appreciation) doesn’t really apply to you in this situation.

Debt is slavery

The bigger problem is that debt is financial slavery, and the Bible specifically warns us against it. If you take out a mortgage — even just $200,000 — your congregation will be obligated to make the monthly payments against that loan, no matter what is going on. If your giving income goes down, your growth momentum stalls or you have some other financial emergency, that mortgage payment can become a noose around your neck, severely limiting the church’s options to make necessary financial decisions. If the problems get too bad, they can even force you “out of business.” 

A church building should be a blessing for its congregation. But when debt is involved, buying that building can quickly turn into a curse. 

Don’t get me wrong: I want your church to buy a building. But I want you to buy it with cash, not financing. The fact that you have saved $100,000 is a great start. I think you should continue saving — and even ramping up your fundraising efforts — in order to amass the $300,000 to $400,000 that you need to buy a building outright. If you focus your efforts to do this, you might be able to raise the money in just a few

more years.

Creative alternatives

There are some other creative options that might help you get around your problems. If you’re truly running out of room in your current space, you could consider running two or more services to accommodate everyone (many large churches have been doing this for years). You could also find an intermediate space — a bigger place that you can rent for a reasonable monthly amount while you continue to save for your own building.

There may also be a creative way to get into this new building now, depending on how flexible the sellers are. You could ask if they would be willing to lease it to you instead of selling it. If they are, they may consider a “lease to own” agreement, by which you slowly buy them out of the building over the course of several years. You could also set up a lease with an option to buy — in this scenario, you could have a regular lease, with the understanding that the congregation has the option to buy the facility outright at a predetermined price several years from now, when you could theoretically have saved enough money to finance the entire purchase with cash.

If one of these options works, then great. If it doesn’t, don’t despair. God knows your needs, and He will provide for them in a way that is consistent with His principles. Don’t let yourself believe that this is the only building that will work for you, or that borrowing money is the only way to get it. We serve a God with abundant resources, and He will bring you His best in His time if you are faithful to trust him.

How Often Should You Tithe?

God asks us to return 10 percent of our income to Him. But does He specify when, where or how often?

Claire from Massachusetts writes in with a question many people ask: How often should you tithe? And does it matter where?

Question:

I am a hairstylist and I work for a franchise-owned hair-cutting salon chain. The pay is only $15.00 per hour and I get some tips (not a lot, though). I’m struggling financially and don’t make enough to support myself.

How does God want us to tithe? Does He want us to give away our tithe money right away, such as the same day as soon as it is in our hands? Or should it be put into a checking account and a check written and mailed to a ministry or charity on the same day that we get a pay check?

I know that God has to come first in everything and of course that includes tithing. But I’m not sure how to come up with a good fool proof system to tithe that would please God. What would you advise?

Question: — Claire from Massachusetts

Answer: : — Cyrus Rose, Auckland, New Zealand

This is something many people wonder: How often should you tithe? And does it matter when or where?

It’s no small thing to give away 10 percent of your income. If you’re like Claire having a tough time making ends meet, it’s even harder. So, the fact that you want to tithe says a lot about your faith in God to provide for you.

I certainly believe that God wants us to tithe: Scripture makes it clear that the tithe belongs to God, and that He promises to bless us if we are faithful to tithe to Him.

Where Should You Tithe?

I also believe that tithing is intended primarily as a way of funding our local church congregations. Quite simply, tithing makes church happen: Without faithful givers, our churches wouldn’t be able to maintain their facilities, pay pastors or fund community outreach.

“If you belong to a good church in your community, you have some responsibility for helping to keep it financially healthy.”

So, you should tithe to your local church. If you belong to a good church in your community, you have a responsibility for helping to keep it financially healthy. You fulfil that obligation by tithing regularly to the church.

If you aren’t a member of a solid local church, I’m afraid that finding a place to tithe is putting the cart before the horse. God wants you to live in fellowship with people who love you. He created the church to give you a place to do that. If you’re not connected to a church, you’re missing out on a lot that other people have to add to your life. You’re also missing out on a powerful opportunity to make a difference in the world by serving your church and your community.

It’s great to give generously to non-profits and ministry organizations. But those gifts don’t replace tithing to your local church. You shouldn’t withhold the tithe to your church because you’re giving to an outside organization instead.

How Often Should You Tithe?

Now, how often should you tithe? The Bible doesn’t specifically address how often you should tithe, so there’s not a strict rule you have to keep. Instead, you should figure out the tithing schedule that makes the most sense in your own life.

Many people that make a point of writing out a tithe check as soon as they get paid. This helps them give to God first, before they do anything else with their money. I think this is a pretty good way to go, because it makes a priority of the tithe and helps you to avoid the temptation of spending that 10% elsewhere. Today, many churches offer online giving or text-to-give platforms. So it’s easier than ever to give your tithe as soon as you get paid, regardless of whether you’re physically at church.

“A good budget should have a tithe built into it.” You don’t have to make a contribution for each pay check, though. If you have a thorough, well organized monthly budget, you probably have a good idea of how much money you’ll have coming in every month, and when it will be coming. A good budget should have a tithe built into it. So, if you know how much your tithe will be every month, you can schedule a recurring monthly gift whenever it’s convenient for you. There’s nothing wrong with tithing once a month, as long as that gift represents 10 percent of your monthly income.

Fixing the Income Issue

We should talk about one more aspect of Claire’s question. She’s having a hard time making ends meet with her income of $15/hour. Asking “how often should you tithe?” will be a really difficult question for anyone earning such a low wage. God doesn’t want to burden anyone with the tithe — especially people struggling financially. Instead, He wants to bless their faithfulness.

So, part of what Claire needs to think about is how to get your income up. She works at a budget hair-cut chain now, but self-employed stylists at independent salons make quite a bit more money. Low-wage jobs are never meant to be career positions. If you find yourself earning less than you need to live on, you should do anything you can to find a way to advance in your career so you can pay your bills.

If you’re like Claire, trying to grow a heart of generosity or struggling to manage your money, I’d love to help you. My free e-book, “God’s Master Plan for Your Money,” is full of wisdom, tips and encouragement that I have gained from years of studying what God says about money.

Should I Borrow Money for a Mission Trip?

Question:

My husband and I are currently planning a mission’s trip. It’s very expensive, so we are raising support. We hate the idea of borrowing money, but if we continue purchasing plane tickets, etc. for this trip, we will have to borrow money from my brother (no interest, but it’s against, ‘owe no man anything’). Would it be wrong for us to borrow money from my brother until the rest of the support comes in, to avoid being in debt with the bank? Or should we hold off on making purchases regarding this trip until support comes in?

Question: — Michelle, Toronto

Answer: : — Cyrus Rose, Auckland, New Zealand

Michelle, congratulations on your decision to venture out onto the mission field, even for a short-term trip. Mission work is one of the most important callings in Christian life today, and this experience is sure to make a big difference in your heart, as well as in the lives of the people that you’re going to serve.

Mission trips are often expensive because of the costs of travel, and many people do raise support to cover those expenses. I’ve taken many mission trips in the past and have raised support to cover the costs of quite a few of them.

Having said all of that, I don’t think it’s a good idea to borrow money from your brother to pay for the trip. I have several reasons for saying that which we’ll analyse one at a time:

1) You don’t want to be a slave to your brother

In general, you have a good understanding of the dangers of debt, and you’re wise to stay away from a bank in trying to come up with money for this trip. On the surface, it might seem like borrowing money from your brother is the perfect alternative — after all, he’s not going to charge you interest, and you have a good relationship with him.

That relationship, though, is what would make borrowing dangerous. Proverbs 22:7 tells us that “the borrower is slave to the lender,” which means that if you borrow money from your brother, you enter into a kind of financial slavery to him. There’s a big difference between a healthy brother-sister relationship and a master-slave relationship, and I don’t think that God intends for you to replace the good one with a bad one.

If everything goes right, you might pay off the loan to your brother quickly, and all will be well. But if things don’t go well — if support is slow to come in or if you encounter more expenses than you thought — you could have trouble paying him back. And that is going to have a negative impact on your relationship with your brother. 

Where I in your shoes, I wouldn’t be willing to risk the relationship?

2) Good intentions don’t make bad strategies good ones.

The second reason why I would avoid this strategy is more philosophical: Borrowing money is always a bad financial strategy. And even the best of intentions can’t magically transform a bad strategy into a good one.

The mission trip that you want to take is undoubtedly a good and noble thing. and it’s easy to think that because you’re undertaking such a good endeavour, it somehow changes the equation when it comes to debt and wisdom. But the truth is that it doesn’t. Debt is always going to be a bad plan. Borrowing money for good reasons doesn’t change that.

We encounter this kind of thinking a lot among people that want to borrow money to pay for things like education or adoption. Sometimes people go so far as to refer to this as “good debt.” But good debt is a myth.

If you’re really committed to living a debt-free life, this mission trip should be no exception.

3) God always pays for what He orders.

Here’s a final, spiritual way to think about this issue: If you believe that God has called you and your husband to go on this trip, you also need to believe that He will provide you the financial means necessary to make it happen.

 I believe that our God always pays for what He orders. He doesn’t tell us to do expensive things, and then leave us without the resources to accomplish them. Remember, God owns everything in the universe, and He gives us the things that we need to do His work. And He never tells us that we should borrow money to do it.

As I said, I’ve been on a lot of mission trips in my lifetime. On several of them, I was in no position to pay for them myself, so I had to raise support. And each time, God came through — I always raised enough money to take the trip, and often more than enough. Later, as I grew older and had more resources, I was able to pay for some of the trips myself.

I don’t know where you and your husband are financially, Michelle, but I believe that God is going to make a way for you to do what He has asked you to do. That might mean expanding your network of support, or perhaps picking up some extra work in order to pay some of the cost of the trip yourself. It may even mean delaying your trip until you’re able to pay for it without borrowing money.

Whatever it means, remember this: God would never send you on a mission without giving you the tools to accomplish it. Doing things God’s way may be slower or require more faith than borrowing money. But in the end, doing things God’s way always brings God-sized results.

Tithing When You’re in Debt

Should you stop giving at church while you’re trying pay your debt off?

You’re ready to start living a life of financial freedom. And to do that, you need to use every dollar possible pay off your debts. But how should that impact your giving?

Should you quit tithing when you’re in debt?

Answer: : — Cyrus Rose, Auckland, New Zealand

Many believers wrestle with this question. Tithing sounds great when you have lots of money to spare. But when times are tight, or when there are bills to pay, it can seem like a much bigger burden. 

But no matter how difficult it feels, the discipline of tithing is worthwhile. God wants you to live a lifestyle of generosity, and that includes tithing when you’re in debt.

Tithing in the Bible

The principle of tithing — giving 10 percent of your income to God — is first introduced in the Old Testament, and then confirmed by Jesus in the New Testament. Tithing is a command from God, but it comes with a promise of blessing if we’re faithful to obey.

God owns everything. The money and things we have are really just resources He has given us to manage for Him. And He asks us to set aside some of that for the work of His kingdom.

Because God gives us everything we need, we can trust His promises to bless us and provide for us when we follow Him faithfully. And everything He asks us to do is for our good. God wants us to tithe not because He needs our money, but because He wants us to be connected to His heart.

“God wants us to tithe not because He needs our money, but because He wants us to be connected to His heart.”

The Bible says a lot about debt, too — usually warning us to stay away from it. But it never says you should stop tithing when you’re in debt.

God wants you to tithe. He also wants you to get out of debt. And the amazing thing is that doing one will help you do the other.

A Change of Heart

Getting out of debt isn’t just a mathematical formula. It’s a process that involves your heart, your mind and your soul. Escaping debt requires you to discipline your heart and mind and commit to long-term change.

The best way to get out of debt is to commit to God’s way of handling money. And doing that requires tithing.

It might seem like tithing when you’re in debt will slow down your progress. But many people find that the opposite is true.

Why? Because tithing helps you keep your heart cantered on God. When you make a habit of giving your tithe to God, it keeps the love of money from overtaking your heart. You begin to see money the way God sees it and value the things He values.

“When you make a habit of giving your tithe to God, it keeps the love of money from overtaking your heart.”

When your heart and values are in the right place, you’ll make better financial decisions. You’ll have wisdom to make sacrifices now that will pay off later.

In other words, you’ll be more likely to get out of debt quickly, because your heart, mind and money will all be moving in the same direction.

Tithing when you’re in debt is a sacrifice, for sure. But it benefits you in the end.

If you’re struggling with debt, trust God’s promise of provision. Start practicing generosity, even when it doesn’t feel good. Then work as hard as you can to get out of debt. Before you know it, you’ll be walking in financial freedom.

Finding Freedom Together

Getting out of debt doesn’t happen overnight. Financial freedom is a journey you take one step at a time. And like any journey, you’ll go farther and faster if you’re walking with friends.

 If you’re working on paying off your debt, join me and a community of others walking this road alongside you in our Facebook group, Financial Freedom With Cyrus Leonard Rose. Every day, we share insightful articles, encouraging photos and personal stories to help you stay focused and engaged on your journey to freedom.

This group is a great place for you to interact with me and ask me questions. You can also learn from other people’s stories, share your own experiences and grow in your faith.

Why Do Some Christians Struggle Financially?

Question:

If we are faithful God will provide. What do we say to those who are faithful yet find that their needs are not provided? Or is it that they are not really being faithful, and we just don’t know the entire story?

Question: — Vincent Duncombe

Answer: : — Cyrus Rose, Auckland, New Zealand

Thanks for the question, Vincent. You submitted this question in the comments section of this article about how God provides for us and expects our obedience. While I answered it briefly in a follow-up comment, I thought that this question merited a more in-depth discussion.

You’re raising a question that has come up over and over again in Christian circles. We believe that God promises to provide for our needs if we are faithful to follow Him. But we all know Christians who are struggling financially. So, what gives?

The answer, of course, is “it depends.” It depends on a whole host of factors, actually. But there are some fundamental principles that will help us navigate through these difficult waters.

Ownership, righteousness, and wisdom

Perhaps the most fundamental principles are these two: God owns everything, and He gives us everything that we have. Whenever we talk about money and resources, we have to maintain this perspective. Even the things that belong to me don’t really belong to me — they are God’s resources that He has entrusted to me to manage.

Next, we need to understand the difference between righteousness and wisdom. Though these ideas are very closely related, they’re not exactly the same thing, and it’s possible to have one without the other.

Righteousness refers to walking in holiness with God. Living a righteous life means staying away from sin and obeying the commands that God gives us. One of the primary concerns of the Christian life is endeavouring to walk in righteousness.

Wisdom, on the other hand, is not exactly about morality, but about insight and good decision-making. Wisdom is about being able to see danger in the distance and avoid it. It’s about knowing what kinds of actions, attitudes and disciplines will cause you to succeed, and applying those things to your life.

Righteousness + Wisdom = Success

I take the time to differentiate between these two ideas for a key reason: To have true, biblical success with our finances requires both righteousness and wisdom. And I think that many times Christians fail to enjoy their financial potential because they’re strong in righteousness but not in wisdom.

When we talk about God providing for those who are faithful to follow Him, we’re really talking about righteousness. Sin causes poverty, but the Bible teaches us that prosperity is a fruit of righteousness.

Sin leads us down paths that have all kinds of financial pitfalls, but when we walk in morality and integrity, we steer clear of many of these dangers. And since everything in the universe belongs to God anyway, He promises that He will always meet the needs of people who are faithful to follow Him in righteousness.

But we also have to remember that God gives us resources for us to manage, and this is where wisdom comes into the equation. When God provides for us with jobs, money and other resources, we still have to decide how we’re going to manage those resources. If we manage them wisely, they can meet our needs for a long time and help us to build wealth. If we’re foolish with them, though, we can find ourselves in need again very quickly.

The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom about how we should manage money. It teaches us about budgeting, saving, investing and giving. It talks about hard work, discipline and diligence. If we apply all of the wisdom of Proverbs to our financial resources, we can’t help but to be successful.

Christians without wisdom

So, Vincent, here’s how I see this all working out: Too many Christians have learned to walk in righteousness — aligning their lives with the basic morality of God’s word — but have not learned to walk in financial wisdom. They may be faithful, but they struggle with money because they are not wise.

In my experience, many Christians who are having financial trouble are just like many unbelievers who are having financial trouble. They don’t have a good budget, they aren’t disciplined in their spending and savings, and they rely too much on debt. God is faithful to provide for us when we are faithful to walk in righteousness. But in order to win with money, we have to add wisdom to righteousness. If we live foolishly
with our money, we risk squandering the very resources that God has entrusted us with.

That’s why God, Money & Me exists, and I suspect it’s why your blog exists as well. I believe that God is always faithful, but that we need to do a better job at teaching wisdom so that Christians can make the most of His provision. 

If we learn to walk in both righteousness and wisdom, we can see great fruit in our own financial lives, and great progress in the kingdom of God.

Tithing but Still Struggling: What Gives?

You’ve tried giving money to the church, but you’re not making progress in your
finances. Now what?

Question:

What should you do when you’re tithing but still struggling financially?

I tithed 6 months in a row and during those months I was always behind in relation to bills. After I stopped things got better. How do you explain that?

Question: — Judy from Norway

Answer: : — Cyrus Rose, Auckland, New Zealand

A lot of people wrestle with this question. And too many out on the blessing of tithing because they get frustrated with the process.

The Bible teaches that all wealth belongs to God — we just manage it for Him. And God asks us to give 10 percent of all we earn back to Him. This 10 percent gift is known as a tithe and is practiced by many evangelical Christians.

There are a lot of reasons to tithe. Tithing is commanded by God in the Old Testament and re-enforced in the New Testament. Our tithing is important because the money we give serves as the primary financial resources for our churches.

“Tithing is a way of uniting our hearts with the heart of God.”

God doesn’t ask us to tithe to weigh us down, though. Because the things that we do with our money help to determine the state of our hearts, tithing is a way of uniting our hearts with the heart of God. And God also promises that if we’re faithful to tithe, He will be faithful to bless us with greater resources because of it. 

Many people do have trouble with this aspect of tithing. They find themselves tithing but still struggling and start to question God’s faithfulness.

Tithing but Still Struggling to See the Blessing

While many churches support the principle of the tithe, many only really talk tithing when they’re trying to raise money. This creates a series of troubling incentives: The pastor wants to get more money for the church, so he preaches sermons to encourage giving.

In order to incentivize giving, he needs to make the church members think they will gain financially from tithing. So, he emphasizes the part about “return blessing” without really covering the other principles of tithing.

When that happens, people get the wrong ideas. They give with the wrong motives. And it usually doesn’t work.

“Although tithing involves your money, it’s really not about your money. God doesn’t need your money, but He wants your heart.”

What the preachers forget in this scenario is that although tithing involves your money, it’s really not about your money. God doesn’t need your money, but He wants your heart. And He knows giving regularly will bring your heart closer to His.

A Heart of Love and a Life of Blessing

At its most basic level, tithing is about love. We should give God what He asks of us because we love Him, and we know He loves us. After all He has given to us, how could we withhold the little bit He asks for in return?

Unfortunately, too many people misunderstand this principle. They study the scriptures that promise blessing to tithers, so they decide to give because they’re looking for a blessing. And when they don’t become more financially prosperous, they decide the blessing doesn’t exist.

But God’s blessings do exist. In fact, they’re all around us. God doesn’t just promise to bless your money — He promises to bless your life. He wants you to have a thriving marriage, a happy family and friendships that build you up. He wants you to belong to a community of faith that supports and encourages you. And He wants you to discover the purposes He created you for to make a difference in the world. If you’re only looking for financial benefit, you’re missing the greater good that God wants to do in your life through your obedience. He wants to fill your heart with love and fill your life with blessing. 

“God doesn’t just promise to bless your money He promises to bless your life.”

A Budget Issue

If you’re tithing but still struggling financially, your trouble might have more to do with your own financial habits than God’s faithfulness. If you don’t have a solid budget as the foundation for your financial life, it’s going to be difficult to make the most of financial blessings. Most people that have a well-crafted budget don’t find themselves struggling to pay bills at the end of the month, because they’ve already allocated the money to pay those bills before the month begins.

If you find yourself in that situation together, let me encourage you: There is so much hope for you! For years, I’ve been helping people discover financial freedom by understanding what the Bible says about money. It would be my honour to help you too.

You can start your own journey to freedom by downloading my free e-book, “God’s Master Plan for Your Money.” This resource is full of wisdom, insight and encouragement to help you overcome the obstacles in your financial life.

How Does Debt Affect Your Ministry?

Question:

Is doing “God’s work” more important than paying off debt? A friend of mine feels called to work full-time with kids and then do ministry two months of the year. His job with kids does not pay well, and neither does his ministry. I would not see a problem with this, but he is in a lot of debt. Due to that he has bad credit and some other issues. I think he should pay off his debt first before going into ministry, but he says,
“I don’t need to worry about my debt because God will provide.” This is a question I’ve been trying to answer for a while and was wondering if you had any insight.

Question: — Carrie, Hawii

Answer: : — Cyrus Rose, Auckland, New Zealand

Thanks for reading in Hawaii, Carrie! Your question is a really good one, and it touches on an important issue: Far too many people in ministry these days are also in bad financial shape. So, how important is it for ministers to walk in financial freedom?

I think it’s extremely important. The truth is that while some people may have some success in ministry while their personal finances are shaky, debt will always hold them back from the full potential of their life and ministry.

You see, the Bible’s fundamental teaching about debt is that all debt is slavery. When we borrow money, the obligation we take on can extend far into the future and tie up our funds for many years.

Not only that, but debt also adds risk to our lives. Carrying a lot of debt can turn a difficult-but-manageable financial need into a catastrophic bankruptcy event.

What your friend needs to realize is that these two facts about debt are a real hindrance to his ministry. Firstly, his personal debt is a financial liability to his ministry — if he gets too deep in his financial troubles, it could strip him of his ability to do ministry work, or ruin his reputation among the people that he’s trying to reach out to. If he loses his home, his vehicle or other possessions to foreclosure and repossession, he could wind up losing his ministry too.

The second threat to his ministry comes on a spiritual level. One of the core tenets of the gospel is that a relationship with Christ brings freedom from guilt, freedom from sin, freedom from addictions, freedom in relationships… and even freedom in finances. But your friend isn’t really financially free, because his debts are making him a slave. This creates a dangerous contradiction that undermines your friend’s credibility.

It’s understandable that your friend expects God to provide for his needs if he is faithful in ministry. And there is Biblical evidence to support this — I wouldn’t expect to see a servant of God go homeless or hungry. But when we study God’s provision is scripture, we only see God providing for people in the things that He has called them to do. There’s not a time where God miraculously provides for people in order for them to escape the consequences of their own bad decisions.

Your friend’s debts didn’t come from God’s call on his life, because God never calls us into debt. Rather, they come from mistakes that he made in the past. And while God will provide for your buddy’s physical needs, He’s probably going to let him learn the lesson of debt the hard way by digging out himself.

What’s the best solution to this problem? Well, Eccl. 3:1 tells us that “for everything there is a season.” Your friend may well be called to ministry, but that doesn’t mean that he will be in ministry during every season of his life.

I would say that there is a season to pay off debt and a season to work in ministry. If I were in his situation, I would take a few years to work and get out of debt so that I could then move on to a season of Rise and Shine Worship ministries, New Zealand total Financial freedom.

You should advise your friend to focus all of his energy on getting out of debt as soon as possible, so that later he can go into ministry unencumbered by poor decisions of the past.

Recovering from a Financial Emergency
This week in Questions and Answers, we’re tackling a question from Tim, a dad, web designer and former pastor in Nashville who has been through a tremendous medical emergency with one of his children, and is struggling to regain his financial footing with his work and family. We’ve included an abbreviated version of Tim’s question below; you can see the full text.

Question:

After working with a marketing company for the last year (and being contractually obligated to not work and build my own company), I recently renegotiated my contract due to the fact that we have severely struggled financially since taking the job. The marketing firm I am with has not been as successful as they had originally hoped, and all my work for future great reward never paid off. The money I make from my day job is approximately $3,000 per month, which is about $1,000 short of what I need to provide for my wife and four kids.

I have since started working on trying to build websites again, but as it is not, my whole life is work. I work all day, come home, see my kids for a brief moment as I rush upstairs, and get back to work and work till 2am – 3am building websites and trying to find new website clients. This has “worked” for the last 4 months as I was able to pay all my bills on time (usually at the end of the month after incurring late fees). But this last month, I couldn’t get web jobs and I could not pay my mortgage (our church wound up helping us).

I am exhausted with life and don’t believe this is God’s will for me. I am supposed to be engaging my wife and kids and spending time with them and raising them to love the Lord. But all I do is work, just to provide the basics. With my wife not being able to work I am not sure what my options are. If I re-entered ministry (which I love) I don’t think I could find a work that could provide what we need. Outside of church 
have so few skills that no entry level job will provide.

Question: — Tim, Nashville

Answer: : — Cyrus Rose, Auckland, New Zealand

Thanks for your question, Tim. First of all, praise God for the recovery that your son has experienced in the years since the accident. You have a lot to be thankful for in that situation.

The circumstances that you’ve outlined are difficult, and you’re correct in believing that this kind of struggle isn’t God’s will for you. I believe that He wants you to be engaged with your wife and kids, as well as to provide for them, and that there’s a balance between the two. But the way you’re working now is not sustainable, either in terms of your finances or your family relationships.

If we address your situation on a purely mathematical basis, it’s not too difficult to figure out. You’re struggling to provide for your family on $3,000 per month. And the truth is that this income would probably be too low for anyone trying to support a family of six in Nashville. Though your son’s accident was a defining moment in your life, at this point it’s not the driving factor in your finances. Your biggest problem, on paper at least, is your low income.

Your question doesn’t specify whether your $3,000 income is your gross pay or the amount that you actually take home after taxes and other withholding. If it’s gross, that means you’re earning about $36,000 in your day job; if it’s net, you may be earning around $45,000 or $50,000. Either way, you need to be earning more.

Having said that, I think that what you’re really up against is not just a mathematical situation, but an issue of emotional and spiritual exhaustion. Your family has been through an incredible ordeal in the last three years, and the heart-wrenching nature of the accident and the recovery has left you feeling completely spent and emotionally beaten down.

This overwhelming feeling of exhaustion is affecting the way that you think about your work and your income. It’s great that you learned web and graphic design and have used that to make extra money. But you haven’t necessarily made great career moves. When you signed on to the marketing company and promised to give up doing your own side work, you severely restricted your earning potential. And it sounds like you made some sort of deal with them that was based on the overall success of that organization, which wasn’t the best idea for someone in your position.

What you really need is a stable, full-time job with a well-run organization that compensates you well based on your skills and experience. You say that you don’t think you can find that in ministry or in the secular job market, but I think that’s just the exhaustion talking. You’re so beat up emotionally that you don’t see hope in your circumstances. But I think there’s plenty to be hopeful about.

It’s not at all unthinkable that you could find a job that would pay the $60,000+ that your family needs. There are hundreds of churches in Nashville, and I’m sure there are a few that would value your decade of ministry experience and the wisdom and perspective that you could bring from your recent trials. And you do have marketable skills in the secular world, too — namely, graphic and web design. While the marketing firm was not the best place to use those, they are certainly valuable, and you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding companies in your area that would pay you well for work in those fields.

I think your biggest issue isn’t the lack of money, but the lack of hope. If you haven’t already done so, surround yourself with some people who can encourage you and speak some hope back into your life. And then begin looking for work — not side work for nights and weekends, but a full-time job that really makes the most of your skills and experiences. The right job is the key to feeding your family while also getting to enjoy them

Should Charity be Mandated by Law?

Welcome to Questions and Answers, a new section of God, Money and Me where we’re answering questions submitted by readers on Facebook, Twitter and here on the site. If you have a question about faith or personal finance, to submit it. We’ll answer your question in an upcoming post.

Question:

Do you believe that helping the needy is something that should not be legislated or mandated by earthly establishments? If your heart is right and you give willingly under these conditions, do you think that God appreciates that the same or not as much?

Question: — Sacred Struggler

Answer: : — Cyrus Rose, Auckland, New Zealand

Thanks for the question, Sacred Struggler. The issue of whether care for the poor should be mandated by government — and how Christians should respond when it does happen — is an important one, and it’s on a lot of people’s minds as Western nations grapple with economic instability and populist political movements.

As believers, our ability to set political policy is limited at best, so we often end up having to play by the rules that other people set. But it’s important to understand God’s heart toward the poor and what the responsibility of the Church is, regardless of what the government is doing.

Your question has two parts to it, so I’ll give you two answers, and then tie them together at the end. First: Should helping the needy be legislated or mandated by earthly establishments (i.e. governments)? I’d say no… but also yes. It’s complicated but let me try to explain.

Giving vs. Taxing

I say “no” because, according to the model that comes from scripture, caring for the poor is the responsibility of God’s people, not society at large. It is the ills of society at large, after all, that cause poverty. So, it seems unreasonable to expect society to offer effective solutions to the problems that it has caused. The Church, on the other hand, is commissioned by God to solve the problems that the world cannot. God is very clear in scripture that He wants His people to be taking care of the poor. It is the mark of a vibrant, living faith.

The role of the Church and private ministry in caring for the poor is important because we are able to do so much more effectively than any government intervention can. You see, the Bible teaches us that when we give to the poor, we are demonstrating God’s love to them in a tangible way, inspiring them to give thanks to Him. True, sacrificial giving inspires people and helps them to rise above the poverty of their circumstances.

Government-mandated welfare programs don’t do this, though, because there is no love involved. Government assistance, in fact, is a way of forcing your fellow citizens to part with their money in order to help the poor, instead of voluntarily helping them yourself. Because of this, welfare engenders an attitude of entitlement, not gratitude. Many people who get government assistance will rely on it for their entire lives. Government assistance only treats the symptoms of poverty, while giving motivated by love treats the root causes.

Having said that, I have to begrudgingly admit that social welfare programs are probably necessary today. Why? Because the Church has done a pretty lousy job of caring for the poor recently. And poverty isn’t just bad for the poor — it creates crime, disease and other problems that are bad for the whole of society. In order to protect society as a whole from the effects of widespread poverty, governments choose to use public money to help staunch some of the worst effects of poverty. This is certainly an imperfect solution, and it costs the taxpayers a lot of money, but it’s probably better than letting poverty fester unattended to.

‘Reluctantly and Under Compulsion’

Now to your second question: If you live in a place where caring for the poor is mandated by law, does God appreciate your compulsory contributions as much as He does when you give voluntarily? In other words, if you’re already contributing to the poor in the form of taxes, does this get you off the hook for giving charitably too?

I’m afraid that, in this case, the answer is a resounding no.

To explain this, I’ll point you to II Cor. 9:7, one of the most famous biblical passages on giving:

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

The bible is clear here — God is after freewill, voluntarily, “cheerful” gifts. He is not interested in anyone being forced to give, because true charity comes from the heart. But in a government-mandated system, the money that you’re contributing to the poor isn’t a charitable gift at all, but at tax. In other words, this is money that you give “under compulsion.” And if you’re like many taxpayers, you give it “reluctantly,” too. When you pay your taxes, you’re not really giving out of love, even if some of that money is going to help those in need.

I’ll take this one step further: When we follow God’s example, it will always lead us to giving sacrificially. (The Macedonians that Paul commends are a great example of this.) God always asks us to part with a little more than we think we can afford, with the promise that He will provide for us more abundantly than we can imagine. You can afford your taxes, which fund social welfare programs. But I believe that God
wants us to give beyond that.

So, let’s bring these ideas altogether. God’s best plan for caring for the poor is for His people to take the responsibility of doing it. Many governments step in to provide some care for the poor, but this does not override God’s mandate for the church. If your society is providing the basics for the needy in your community, jump in and give more to bless and them. Or find a place in the world where the poor aren’t as protected and give money to help care for those people.

God requires our giving, but He also promises to reward us for it. We should never let any public policy get in the way of that.

Should Wages Go Up with Inflation?

Your living expenses are going up, but your income is not. Does your employer owe you a cost-of-living raise?

Question:

What are your thoughts on inflation? Should wages go up with inflation? Are companies obligated to give cost-of-living raises?

Question: — Jennifer, Kentucky

Answer: : — Cyrus Rose, Auckland, New Zealand

Good question, Jennifer. Inflation should be on the mind of anyone who is carefully about money. It should also be on the mind of anyone who determines employee pay.

Inflation is an unfortunate and unavoidable part of modern financial life that gradually makes our money less valuable over time. You notice inflation when your utility bills go up, when gasoline gets more expensive, when rents increase and when you see higher prices at grocery stores or restaurant menus.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in economic theory when talking about inflation, and we won’t go down that road. There are some basic principles that guide us, though. In slow economic times, inflation tends to be low, hovering around or below 1% a year. When the economy is really humming, inflation reaches a higher rate. But government organizations and banks like the Federal Reserve do their best to make sure that inflation rates don’t become so high that they negatively impact the economy. They don’t always do a perfect job.

As an individual worker, inflation can put you in a tough spot. It drives up the prices of the goods, services and commodities that you count on the most. And unless you get raises to match the cost of living, there’s nothing you can do about it.

“While prices are going up, your income may not be.”

And while those prices can increase suddenly at any time of year, your income probably does not. If you work for a set wage or salary, you may only get an opportunity for a raise once a year or so. Some companies don’t even give raises that often. So while prices are going up, your income may not be. That begs the question — should wages go up with inflation?

Cost-of-Living Raises

Many companies realize inflation is putting pressure on their employees’ budgets and try to compensate for this by offering periodic “cost-of-living” raises. These raises aren’t based on performance or advancement; they’re simply attempts to account for inflation and keep your real income consistent. Some companies will match these raises to the exact rate of inflation, while others may just ballpark it. It’s obviously great when companies give cost of living raises to employees. And it seems that most managers, bosses and business leaders should want to do this. But life isn’t always that easy. Sometimes companies are in such a financial squeeze that they can’t afford to give even small raises. Other times you have managers that don’t understand the value of keeping good employees happy.

In the recession of the last decade, inflation was been pretty low, but many companies saw drastic drops to revenue and profit. Some owners struggled to simply keep the doors open. In very tight financial times, something as small as a cost of living raise can make the difference between solvency and insolvency. If your company has been battling just to stay afloat, I wouldn’t blame your boss for not matching inflation for a year or two. And if you’re concerned about the situation, have a conversation with your managers. Ask if they will commit to raising salaries once revenues return to normal.

Business is Booming — Should Wages Go Up with Inflation?

What if this isn’t your company’s situation though — what if business is booming and profits are growing? In that case, yes, your employer should be increasing your wage to match inflation.

You could make a good argument that a profitable company has an ethical obligation to do this. it also makes a lot of sense from a business and management standpoint. If employees know their company is succeeding but don’t see that reflected in their pay checks, they’re eventually going to become frustrated, disgruntled or bitter. If this goes on long enough, it will affect their work, which will in turn begin to drag down the company’s performance. The manager of a successful company should see pay raises as an essential part of maintaining employee morale and ensuring future success.

“Good managers are always looking for opportunities to increase employee compensation, not looking for opportunities to tamp it down.”

Companies that succeed do so in large part because they have great employees, and wise managers make sure to reward those employees. This means promoting people who show promise, offering raises for increased training or skills and even giving raises to people based on the experience and expertise that they’ve gained while working for the company. Good managers are always looking for opportunities to increase employee compensation, not looking for opportunities to tamp it down.

If you’re in a situation where your income is not keeping up with inflation, it could be time to work on growing that income. You can ask for a raise, pursue a promotion, take on new responsibilities or get additional training. If none of those opportunities are available to you, it could be time to look for a new job… somewhere you can thrive and advance.

So, should wages go up with inflation? Ideally, yes. If yours aren’t, perhaps it’s time to think about a career change.

Managing Money in Uncertain Times

No matter what is going on in the economy, or what is happening with your pay check, managing your money well can give you a lot of confidence and security. For years, I’ve been helping people find freedom in their finances by studying what the Bible has to say about money, and I would be honoured to do the same for you.

If you want to start a journey to your best financial life, my free e-book “God’s Master Plan for Your Money,” can give you the encouragement and practical tips you need to get going.