Financial Planning: Tithing
At church we recently started a sermon series on love. If you’ve ever been to a wedding, then you know the go-to book in the Bible for discussing love is 1 Corinthians 13. As I listened, I found it interesting how love works in our financial situation as well.
Sure, it’s easy to think of only the monetary costs accompanying love, such as dinner dates and flowers, but I like to dig a little deeper. I’m a firm believer in looking past the dollars spent. We should also look at WHY we spend.
I was amazed by how my pastor, Thayer Stamper, was able to mix a sermon on tithing in the series on love. I encourage you to watch and listen on YouTube here. The sermon is after the music (if you’re short on time). The music is great too though!
Nobody likes going to church and listening to a sermon on tithing. I get it! Here is yet another person telling you how to spend your money. People are always begging and pulling on your purse strings from all directions.
When I played wheelchair hockey, I was also the manager of our nonprofit organization. I completely understand how tired you are of people begging for your money. There are millions of nonprofits throughout the United States. Each staff member believes you should be supporting their worthy cause. It gets annoying!
Tithing is about you.
Luckily, my pastor understands these frustrations as well. He wasn’t begging or trying to guilt us into tithing. He actually sounded like a financial planner.
I was so proud of him that I texted him later that day. Thayer and I have a great relationship and I think of him as my big brother. He knows I would be honest and tell him if I disagree with something he said and he would do the same with me.
What he did was something everyone should realize about financial planning. Working with a financial planner is NOT about the planner and their fees. It’s about you and your future.
Similarly, tithing is very much about you as well. Thayer understands this, so he structured the sermon around this crucial point:
“You can give without loving it, but you can’t love without giving.”
For example, we all hate when a coworker’s child sells stuff for school. We sadly look through the catalog to find the cheapest option. That’s giving without loving it. The coworker hates using their time to ask us to buy the stuff, but they love their child. That’s loving through giving.
Full disclosure, I give to the church each month, but Thayer’s statement still hit me like a ton of bricks. My account auto-pays my tithe each month. Sometimes I am tempted to stop the payment in those months when my budget is a little tighter.
That’s when I have to remind myself why I give to the church: I love Jesus and give because I love Him. I can stand a little less luxury considering what Jesus sacrificed for me. I honestly felt some shame for even considering skipping a month in my giving.
Tithing teaches discipline, which is an important Financial Planning tool.
Of course, many sermons on tithing preach on the verse about storing up our treasures in Heaven, not here, which is great! I definitely want everyone to spend eternity in Heaven. See Matthew 6:19-21. However, tithing also helps us here on Earth by teaching us discipline.
When we use our money on other things, we normally receive some kind of instant gratification. For example, we exchange our money for food in a restaurant. Then we can enjoy the atmosphere, the food, and a full stomach.
When we tithe, we may not see the result of our gift, but we have faith that our money will further the mission of the church. Similarly, when we put money away for retirement, we understand we will see the benefit later.
On a side note, as with all nonprofit organizations, you should always do your homework before donating to a cause. I love Thayer, but I’m not interested in buying him a mansion. I want him to be comfortable and successful, but our mission is more significant than any one person. Luckily, Thayer understands this, which is one of the reasons we get along so well.
Our church is very clear on where our money is going. We support different organizations at the local, national, and international level. I’ll never travel internationally, but knowing a portion of my tithes helps translate the Bible into different languages feels good. We don’t all have to be “boots on the ground.” Contributing to the mission still helps complete the mission.
Putting on our Financial Planning hats again, it helps to never lose sight of the big picture.
For a church, that big picture is introducing more people to Jesus, seeing His love and power change their lives, and providing the context for them to become more like Him. On the individual level, the big picture can be our long term financial planning goals.
Without clearly defined, reasonable goals, we tend to spend money just because we have it. As my parents always said, “That money is burning a hole in your pocket.” Just because we can afford something doesn’t mean we should make the purchase.
Personally, I think we’re approaching a crossroad in America. “We the People” can either keep spending everything we have each month (hoping lawmakers will magically make our lives easier), or we can start making some tough choices. There will always be something to buy, so we must choose what is worth our money.
Apple just released its new headgear device. It looks amazing and I’m sure it can do all kinds of things, but is it necessary? Remember when our parents said, “Don’t sit too close to the television?” Now it’s fine to put a television on your head? But I digress. Sure, we may want one, but is it really worth a month’s salary? (Yes, at over $3,000, this new gadget costs a month’s salary for most middle class Americans.)
Unfortunately, salaries rarely keep pace with our desires. Is it our responsibility to control ourselves, or should companies give us the raises we need to keep up with our desires? We can debate that question all we want, but which one actually empowers you? Yes, you guessed it. It’s the self-control option.
Financial Planning: Loving yourself.
Now, going back to Thayer’s main point of the sermon: “You can give without loving it, but you can’t love without giving.”
Do you love yourself? There are many memes, books, and life coaches that encourage us to love ourselves. They tell us to “live our best life,” “make time for ourselves,” or, my personal favorite, “tomorrow isn’t promised, so take that dream vacation.”
These are all good messages. We should take care of our physical and mental health. Also, we absolutely should enjoy our lives and experience the beauty and blessings of this world.
Yet, one problem with dream vacations (or really any experience) is that they always leave us wanting more. The hospitality industry can only function at high levels with return customers, not just new ones. Perhaps they’ll sell you on different destinations from before, but they know you want another great experience.
Financial Planning success requires discipline.
When I played wheelchair hockey, we raised money to travel to tournaments. Each time we said it was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” They were wonderful trips and I wouldn’t change a thing. We worked hard and raised money to ease the cost burden on our families.
When we’re considering our individual budgets, how many of those “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities can we have? This is where the discipline we learned from tithing can be extremely valuable. When the travel bug bites us, our self-control can squash it!
Sure, I may still want to go, go, go, but my big picture keeps me grounded. Not grounded as in punished, but focused. I have other priorities that help simplify my decision-making. They keep me on track with what is most important in my life as I pursue my hopes and dreams.
Financial Planning: Conclusion
I think if we truly love ourselves, then we have to start thinking about our future selves.
Do you really want to “see the world” when you’re young, but live in a cardboard box when you’re old? Our bodies can be picture perfect and our healthy lifestyle should help us live long lives. Living long is great, especially considering the alternative!
We must create (and commit to) a financial plan with clear goals in order to live that life. Your comfortable lifestyle at 40 will have meant little if you have yet to plan to afford food when you’re 70. This fact is what I mean when I tell people we have to find a balance between enjoying today and preparing for tomorrow.
Instead of saying, “We’re saving for our future”, let’s say, “We are showing our love for our future selves.”
Love takes sacrifice. We can make small sacrifices today that should benefit us tomorrow. Currently, the maximum contribution to an IRA is $6,500 a year.
That amount is less than the cost of two of the Apple helmet things. We all know our kids and spouses won’t want to share one device anyway. Your retirement account won’t end up gathering dust in your closet either!
I’ll be glad to help you start preparing for your future. There are no guarantees that we will live into our golden years, but what if we do? Shouldn’t we love ourselves enough to prepare for that? Email me!
And, by the way, even if you don’t love yourself enough to prepare for your future, email me anyway. You are not alone in this world and I would love to make your acquaintance. Who knows? You might change your mind and I’ll be glad to help guide you on your financial journey.