According to research, if you were to buy all 364 items mentioned in The Twelve Days of Christmas, you would have spent $114,651 this year. That’s up 6.9% from 2012. And if you waited until the last minute and had to buy all these items online, the price would rise to approximately $173,000. Christmas is getting rather pricey.
In our zeal to prove that we are better parents than the people next door, we take our children on extravagant trips, duke it out in Walmart on Black Friday, and insist on buying everybody in the extended family some gift, whether or not they want it. Does our true love really want a partridge in a pear tree? We don’t want anyone to say that we are not generous! In the words of the famous commercial, how do we afford all of this? “We’re in debt up to our eyeballs.”
As we seek to dig out of holiday debt, I would like to offer twelve simple principles of financially competent people. These twelve simple principles have helped me avoid the financial backlash of participation in the twelve days of Christmas.
1. Under no circumstances am I ever justified in withholding my tithe (Malachi 3:10; 1 Corinthians 16:1–4). Since the “tithe is the Lord’s,” I am a robber if I withhold it. I cannot ask God to bless me financially if I am a thief, especially if He is the one I am robbing. My systematic, proportionate giving must always be laid by in store on the first day of the week.
2. When God speaks to my heart about special offerings (faith promise missions, building fund, etc.), I will be rewarded if I obey (Philippians 4:19; Luke 6:38). God promises to supply the needs of those who are obedient givers. If we give, it will be given to us. Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. Therefore, if I sow money the way God instructs, God will reward me. We should never allow prosperity theology to minimize our belief in the clear promise of God.
3. Most of the time when I find myself in financial difficulty, it is because I have put my desires above my needs (Philippians 4:19; Luke 11:3). God promised to supply all our needs. He did not promise to supply all our wants. I must not drive a Ferrari on a Yugo budget. We are to pray that God would provide our daily bread, not our daily filet mignon.
4. One of the quickest ways to destroy a family budget is by eating out in restaurants on a consistent basis. When you buy a car, house, or even a washing machine on credit, you can see it. But food? We all know what happens to that after we digest it! Some protest that they do not have time to cook at home, but the virtuous women gets up before the break of day to cook for her house (Proverbs 31:15).
5. Prayer and financial integrity will always be rewarded more than begging and manipulative tactics (Luke 11:3; Matthew 6:6, 16–18). We are to pray for our daily bread, not beg for it. Moreover, when we are fasting, it should not appear that we have been without food. We are not to mope during times of financial difficulty or camouflage begging as a prayer request. Talk to God in secret, and He will reward you openly.
6. God often blesses those who “pay the piper” by performing entry-level work with greater occupational opportunities (Matthew 25:14–30). We often feel that taking care of that isolated talent is beneath us. Why I am a ten-talent person! But the most menial tasks can be done for the glory of the Lord. When we tend to think that certain work is beneath us, greater positions of authority will always be illusive. God rewards those who are faithful in small things with greater things.
7. I am morally obligated to pay my bills and live on what is left over rather than determining what I can live on and paying my bills with the remainder (Romans 13:8). Debts are moral obligations. The Old Testament allowed for debt, but it was always manageable debt. Bankruptcy should not be an option for a Christian.
8. Homes appreciate in value; cars depreciate in value. There are exceptions, but as a rule of thumb, this is true. Therefore, Christians should seek to gain some return upon their investments (Matthew 25:27). Cars depreciate in value as soon as they are stickered. Many today are in great financial trouble because they keep rolling debt from one car into the purchase of another.
9. God promised to meet my needs, but He never promised to use my paycheck to do it (Matthew 6:25–34). When I obey God by tithing and paying my bills, God will supply from unlikely resources. He can even bring water from a rock! Therefore, worry should never cause me to violate biblical principles.
10. There is a difference between understanding good finance and practicing it (Romans 2:21). We all know that it is wrong to steal, but some who teach it still do it! The Lord and my creditors should not be defrauded. Many who advise financial establishments have thousands of dollars in amassed credit card debt. We need to practice what we preach!
11. It is better for a husband to work two jobs than for a wife to work one (Titus 2:5). Christian families are in trouble when they depend upon daycares to raise children. In many instances, women working outside the home hurt a home financially, not to mention the ill-effect upon children.
12. When I think of my local church, I should predominantly think in terms of what I can contribute to it rather than in terms of what it can contribute to me (Acts 20:35). Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive, but many do not believe Him. Many people through their businesses and begging seek to take advantage of the church rather than sacrificially contribute to it. In so doing, they rob themselves of the blessing.
These twelve financial tidbits have helped me through the years. I believe that if we practice these dozen things with our dollars, we will have greater financial freedom for “such a time as this.”