WOULDN'T it be wonderful we had no financial problems at all in the home or in the church? The pastor's salary would be sufficient for all his family needs, and the church treasury would always be full. To pay for the new organ or the new gymnasium for the school all the church board would have to do would be to authorize the treasurer to pay the bill. What a delightful thought! Freed from the responsibility of raising money, the pastor could devote so many more hours to preaching, visiting, Bible study, and evangelism. Why do we have to be burdened continually with this extra load?
There must be some reason why we need this experience, or we would have some other plan. God is the owner of the world and knows exactly where all His gold and precious metals are. He also knows our needs far better than we do and could supply every dime without any effort on our part, if He so desired.
Gold was discovered in California a few years after Ellen Harmon had been given the prophetic gift. But that gold was discovered by worldly people, not by the church. Why didn't God counsel His people to purchase the Comstock land before the world got hold of it? The young church at that time was poor. In fact, it was poverty stricken. It really needed the money. It could have used a gold mine.
And even today we certainly could make good use of a large income. How much simpler our financial problems would be if, after all the needs from the various conferences, missions, and institutions were in, we could total the sum and send out an order to the gold-mine directors for the amount needed for that year. Why don't we have such a plan?
The reason is obvious. Heaven is looking for partners instead of hirelings in the work of saving souls. It is so much easier for us to take a more personal interest in the cause when we put our money into it than when we merely use the Lord's money. God did not furnish Noah with an ark. He had to build it himself. The carpenters who were paid in full for their services on the ark were not saved in the ark. No doubt Noah invested all he had in that project, but he and his family were saved. As in the days of Noah, this old world is again to be destroyed; and the messengers are asked to put not only their time and strength into the work but also their money. This improves one's own character and ability. It has been proved again and again that money earned usually accomplishes much more than money inherited.
The entire work of saving men and women from the world could have been done by the angels. But God has not commissioned angels to do this work. He has honored man by making him a partner in the great work of salvation.
He has placed means in the hands of men, that His divine gifts may flow through human channels in doing the work appointed us in saving our fellow men. This is one of God's ways of exalting man.— Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 255.
The position of a steward is one of dignity because his master trusts him.—Ibid., p. 246.
Furthermore, if a pastor did not know something about personal financial problems he would not be the help to his people that he otherwise could be. Many of them are struggling with situations that can and will affect their Christian experience. Home finance is a part of Christian living, and in this the pastor should be able to help his people. Handing money to a family is temporary aid only, but teaching them how to make out a budget and how to live within their income is a lasting service. Indirectly it is laying a strong financial foundation for the church also. The pastor should teach his people how to plan for the future, how to avoid any financial crisis.
A banker once taught me a valuable lesson in long-time planning. He had come to me with some questions concerning his son's college education. In answering these I inquired when his son expected to finish the academy. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the boy was still too young for church school. "I have his elementary and secondary education all planned," the father explained. "Now I am working on the college plans. Bankers have a way of looking into the future, you see," he added, "and in dealing with money one cannot wait until the day it is needed and then start looking for it. If he expects to have it he must plan months and years ahead."
I think that is sound advice for everyone, bankers and all. He further explained to me that he was planning to put his son through college on §200 a year. Of course, I was interested. How did this banker think he could send a boy to college on $200? "Wishful thinking is not enough," he said. "Something has to be done now. Waiting until he has his application blank is too late. We plan to begin now and spread the cost over several years. "Here in the United States, if the church school bill is $100 a year, the total cost for eight grades would be $800. If all four years are to be spent in a boarding academy at $800 a year, the total would be $3,200. If college costs $1,000 a year, the total would be $4,000. This makes a grand total from the first grade through college of $8,000."
"At $200 a year, that would take forty years to pay the bill," I added.
"Not with the proper kind of planning," he assured me. "First, let me say that Christian education includes training our young people in the art of handling money. It also teaches them to carry responsibility themselves. Every student in a secondary school should earn at least one fourth of his school expenses; and every college student should be responsible for at least one half, whether his parents are rich or poor. The long summer vacations are not to be idled away. And. the money earned while the young person is working should not be spent for nonessentials, but dedicated to his education."
"But that still leaves 55,200 for the parents to pay. How can that be done with only $200 a year?" I inquired.
"By depositing $200 in a savings account each year from the time the child is born. This early start, along with the interest, solves the problem. I have worked it out in this table:
The table is available in the PDF version of this issue.
But Christian education is only one item of the family expense. Many a home would be greatly benefited by learning how to make out a working policy for all the financial obligations. The happiness and Christian experience of many a home is wrecked because of money matters. A pastor who aids his members in the art of handling money is in deed and in truth helping them to live the practical life of a Christian. Of course, the best time to train an individual is in childhood, from the time he first begins to handle money. This is dealt with in detail in Christian Home Pamphlet, No. 10.
However, many adults have not had any instruction at all and could profit greatly from a little counsel. First of all, they should understand the necessity of having a budget. Those who know nothing of the nature of a budget may object, saying they do not have enough money to budget, or that they have all the bills they can stand as it is and cannot afford any extras. It would be well for them to understand that a budget does not add one penny or subtract one dollar from the total amount in hand. Its purpose is to see that the money we do have is used exactly as we wish it to be used. Our budget is to be our servant, not our master. It enables us to "see" where our money is going.
Let us take a businessman for our example, and we will use a fictitious but convenient round figure for his income—say $300 a month.
The Businessman's Family Budget
(Husband, wife, and two children)
The table is available in the PDF version of this issue.
Another man might have an entirely different budget. A change in income or expenses would call for a new budget. This income of $300 a month is channeled into three major divisions: 30 per cent for the church, 55 per cent for living expenses, and 15-per cent for the family. After the tithe is paid, a second tithe, or 9 per cent, is set aside for freewill offerings. These freewill offerings can be given in any way the family desires. The entire amount can be used for one item or divided into various offerings through the year. This family desires to use 3 per cent for Sabbath school, 3 per cent for local church expense, and 3 per cent for the various special offerings that come up during the year. The manner of giving is also a family decision. Should one person give the entire amount or each member give a portion? With two children and this salary 11 per cent is necessary for the long-term educational fund.
Again, the 55 per cent for living expenses is a question for the family to decide. Should father buy all the groceries and mother buy all the clothes, or should each member of the family buy his own apparel? However it is handled, $360 has been set aside for the clothing of the family.
This budget allows each member to have some pocket money of his own. The husband has $2.00 a week and the wife has $2.00. It also allows 50c for each child. If the parents feel that the child is able to carry the extra responsibility, they can take 25c a week from the family freewill offering and 25c a week from the clothing allowance and add this to the child's 50c. This would give the child a total of $1.00 a week without disturbing the family budget.
No business is safe without a reserve or depreciation fund of some kind, and no family can use every dollar as fast as it comes in without running into difficulty. This 5 per cent for savings can be set aside to replace needed furniture, or to supplement the cost of a new car, or to assist with the family vacation. Of course, if there are any unpaid bills, these should be cleared up first, but a savings account is essential for every family.
Plan as carefully as you may, sometime, somewhere an extra expense will come in. Let's prepare for these occasions with an emergency fund. It may be that some of the regular items need a little extra now and then too. It is well to have an emergency fund on hand to bridge over the gap. If there are no emergencies, we can always put this money into the savings account.
A budget enables one to control his money better and to see that it is spent as he desires. It also serves as a good drill master to curb one's wants—these are likely to get out of hand without some kind of guide—or to keep one from making a rash move that could bring embarrassment to him at a later time. Success seldom comes by chance. Careful planning is the surest way to succeed in money matters as well as in every other phase of life.