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Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Bible has a lot to say about money.

I volunteer as a financial counselor at my church. This means I get to meet with people and help them plan a budget, discuss ways to save money, and make a plan to get out of debt.  I love that my church has this ministry. Since this ministry is important to NewSpring Church, they are planning to put together a devotional about getting out of debt, and they invited each of us financial counselors to write an entry or two.

NewSpring Church has campuses all over South Carolina, and anyone can make an appointment for free financial counseling here. You don't even have to attend NewSpring.

Here's my entry:

2 Kings 4:1-7
One day the widow of a member of the group of prophets came to Elisha and cried out, “My husband who served you is dead, and you know how he feared the Lord. But now a creditor has come, threatening to take my two sons as slaves.”

2 “What can I do to help you?” Elisha asked. “Tell me, what do you have in the house?”
“Nothing at all, except a flask of olive oil,” she replied.
3 And Elisha said, “Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors.
4Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.”
5 So she did as she was told. Her sons kept bringing jars to her, and she filled one after another. 6 Soon every container was full to the brim!
“Bring me another jar,” she said to one of her sons.
“There aren’t any more!” he told her. And then the olive oil stopped flowing.
7 When she told the man of God what had happened, he said to her, “Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over.”

In verse 1, we see a widow who would have had very little earning power. She is in so much debt that her kids are going to be repossessed. We don’t know how she got into debt. Maybe it was her husband’s doing. Maybe he was borrowing in order to start a business and then suddenly, he died. Maybe he always took care of the money, and she just didn’t know what to do after he died. Whatever the reason, now she’s desperate and she comes to Elisha for help.

Read verse 2 again. Elisha is acting as her financial counselor. He’s getting all nosy in her personal business like us financial counselors do. He doesn’t go to the church and take up an offering for her. He asks her what she has that she can sell. She didn’t think that she had anything that people would want to buy, but I guess she didn’t realize what kind of stuff people would buy on Craigslist, Ebay, and Amazon.

In verse 3, her friends supported her in her effort to get out of debt. They lent her jars, but it wasn’t a big deal, because she gave them back after she sold the olive oil. They didn’t pay her bills for her, but they had a small thing to lend, and she wasn’t afraid to ask for it.

In verses 4-6, God miraculously multiplied her olive oil. God may not decide to miraculously multiply your bank account, but when you decide to make a plan for your money, God will multiply your efforts! Proverbs 21:5 says: Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.

Her sons were helping her with the olive oil, and you need to get your kids on board and helping you. Every time they ask you to buy something, you have an opportunity to teach them about managing money. Sit down with them and have a serious talk. Tell them you are changing your spending habits and they can’t ask you to buy stuff they don’t need. It’s ok for them to know how much money you make and that you are paying off debt. Otherwise, how will they learn? If you feel they are old enough, you can put them on their own budget for buying clothes and doing fun things with their friends. Kids that are old enough can mow lawns or babysit to earn this money. Older kids should get jobs. Kids as young as two can do chores around the house to earn money. Of course, they might not do a very good job... The important part is for your kids to start learning that money comes from working hard and it is not going to be handed to them.

My prayer is that your children will learn from your situation and never have their own financial difficulties.

In verse seven, the widow sold her olive oil, paid off all of her debts and they lived on what was left over. They had to make it last until her oldest son was able to earn some real money and support the family. This time around, the widow knows that they have to make a plan and live as frugally as possible. Never again will they live with the threat of slavery!

Never again will you be a slave to your lenders!

What can you sell to help pay off debts? Maybe you have books you’ve already read, dvds you’ve already seen, or video games you’ve already played. Maybe you have recreational vehicles that you aren’t overly attached to.

In what ways can you ask your friends for help, without asking too much? For example: trading babysitting services, so you can both have free babysitting; if you are paying for a storage unit, maybe you have a friend who has some empty space in the attic; if you have a business, your friends could tell their friends about it; you could carpool.                                                                                                                          
What can you teach your kids about money? Is there anything your kids can do to start earning their own spending/saving money?                                                                                  

What is your plan for the future?