Surely this topic "The Minister and His Personal Finances" is not only timely but urgent, and its importance should be recognized. The minister who fails to conduct his financial business with prudence reveals a damaging weakness and also shows that he is not capable of directing or conducting the business of God's church wisely and judiciously. To the minister, money and time can be the heaviest burdens of life; both can produce a great good and happiness when used correctly—but the unhappiest of all mortals are those who know not the proper use of either. Such a minister will bring a state of distress, discouragement, and suffering to himself, his family and his congregation.
The Worst Kind of Devil
Tryon Edwards wrote, "To possess money is very well; it may be a most valuable servant; to be possessed by it, is to be possessed by . . . one of the meanest and worst kind of devils."
"All our money has a moral stamp," says T. Starr King. "It is coined over again in an inward mint. The uses we put it to, the spirit in which we spend it, give it a character which is plainly perceptible to the eye of God." Yes, the God of heaven takes notice of the minister's money dealings and his personal finances. Also a record on earth is kept by our attending angel.
Today it is easy for one to purchase almost any commodity on credit. This trend can lead to great heartache because some persons may overload themselves with debt. Henry Ward Beecher has said, "No blister draws sharper than interest on money. It works day and night; in fair weather and foul. It gnaws at a man's substance with invisible teeth. It binds . . . as a fly is bound with a spider's web. Debt rolls a man over and over, binding him hand and foot, and letting him hang on the fatal mesh, till the long-legged interest devours him."
Let me point again to this topic "The Minister and His Personal Finances," but this time we look at the topic in the light of God's Word which reads—"Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law" (Rom. 13:8). To stay out of debt should be the planned program of every minister. This desire should engage his interest and attention not only for himself but for the churches to which he gives leadership. At no time should the minister permit his personal obligations to become so involved in debt that they would be a source of discouragement to his family or to the members of the church who look to him for leadership. The minister's business is to save souls, but souls can be lost due to heavy burdens of unnecessary financial obligations with which the pastor may be involved.
When Upkeep Causes Downfall
This requirement to remain free from debt is urged upon the pastor further by the servant of the Lord, who wrote: "Debts must not be allowed to accumulate. The very highest kind of education that could be given is to shun the incurring of debt as you would shun disease."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 211. "We should shun debt as we should shun the leprosy."—Ibid., p. 217. I believe wholeheartedly in this advice given to us, both in the Bible and in the Spirit of Prophecy. I recognize, as others do, that the financial burdens are multiplied many times more today. They are varied and complex. This makes it necessary for the minister to look at his obligations realistically, and take a firm attitude which will prevent him from becoming involved with debt beyond his ability to pay with reasonable ease. This major assignment of living within his income is one which every minister must perform for himself. Someone has rightly said, "If your outgo is more than your income, then your upkeep will be your downfall."
I believe in operating on a "pay as you go" basis. I know there are times when circumstances beyond the minister's control may force him into too much debt, which brings perplexities. This should not bring discouragement, but rather it should suggest that plans be made to correct the situation. Any attitude on the part of the minister that would indicate that he is not concerned regarding indebtedness will finally affect him in the same way that a hush-hush attitude toward cancer will—it will destroy him. To correct the condition, whether it is financial or medical, he must become alert, call in a team of specialists and apply every known remedy.
God has given us advice concerning the shunning of debt, both in the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. Let us heed this counsel and avoid debt as we would the plague and keep our personal finances in a healthy condition.
The following budget was prepared by H. L. Dyer, chief accountant, General Conference, as a guide for a minister's family consisting of two adults and two children. The percentages given are suggestive and not inflexible.
1. The income should be estimated from all sources, such as salary, subsidy, and miscellaneous income, which includes interest, rents, royalties if any, et cetera.
2. The monthly estimates for various expenses should then be listed.
3. These estimates of monthly income and expense make up your monthly budget. Normally your income should exceed your expenses each month, but in some months you may have unusually large payments, such as taxes or interest that will cause your total expenses for the month to exceed your income for that month. For items such as these you should build up in advance a cash reserve with which to pay these obligations as they become due.
4. Your income will be divided roughly into the following percentages:
(SEE PDF for PERCENTAGES)
5. The general expense budget will be made up of items such as transportation, personal items, medical bills, postage. insurance, new equipment for the home, taxes. gifts, et cetera.