Financial Foundations

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Did you know that recently the federal government made it better for us to give to registered charities?

Read more: Greater Giving

The longer I work as a financial planner the more clearly I see the differences between two schools of thought - - the NO GOD School and the KNOW GOD School.

Tithing is a case in point. Most people who call themselves Christians don't tithe. Most people who call themselves Christians are also unsatisfied with their financial state. Is there a connection? I think so.

We are doing ourselves a great dis-service if we make decisions based on the NO GOD School of finances. It's better to KNOW GOD and prosper. What is tithing? The word “tithe” comes from the Bible. It literally means giving God the first tenth of our income. The NO GOD School has a version of tithing as well. Not long ago financial planner, David Chilton, wrote a fictional book which was to become the best seller in Canada – you may remember it, The Wealthy Barber. Chilton popularized the expression "Pay yourself first". Much but not all of his advice is fundamentally sound.

We should start saving as soon as we get a paycheque, not after we have paid our bills. If we spend it all, there's nothing left to save - makes sense! Chilton devoted an entire chapter to this strategy. How much should we pay ourselves? Chilton says 10%. Isn't that a coincidence? Didn't Abraham give his first 10% to God thousands of year ago?Chilton popularized the expression "Pay yourself first". What does Chilton say we should do with the first 10%? To quote The Wealthy Barber, "The ten-percent savings is different. It is separate. It's our I've-made-it-big fund and it's intended to give us the finer things in life."

Who would refuse the "finer things in life"? Chilton's advice is very alluring but which strategy is best? It all depends on which of the two schools you adhere to – NO GOD or KNOW GOD. The Bible says that we should "Honour the Lord with the first of our income" (Proverbs 3:9). Over the past 20 years giving in Canada has decreased while incomes have grown. Last year the average evangelical Christian gave 2.3 percent of their income to charity while they paid over 9% in interest. Why don't Christians tithe? Let's face it; giving 10% of our income is a big outflow – especially if the 10% is before taxes. Most of us feel that we just can't afford it.

Some of us may feel that if we volunteer time to church work, (tithe time) then that's good enough – time in lieu of money. Sounds good, but I don't see that trade-off in the Bible. Time and money are separate entities. One Christian radio talk show host, speaks about tithing as the Bible's way to teach us how to give – rather like generosity school with training wheels. Ten percent is simple to calculate. It is big enough to be significant. It is small enough to leave us with the majority of our assets. Jesus did not criticize the Pharisees for their tithing practices. In fact he said they should carry on such practices but pay much more attention to compassion and mercy. The New Testament talks about giving all to God as God gave all to us in Jesus Christ.

This does not mean giving everything away, but it does mean allowing God to direct all our sharing, spending, and saving decisions. So what if God did want us to tithe, 10% off the top of our income? Would we do it? Would he take responsibility for the financial mess that might develop if we started to do it?This does not mean giving everything away, but it does mean allowing God to direct all our sharing, spending, and saving decisions.

I remember reading the book Your Money Matters by Malcolm MacGregor who was a professional accountant in the US. He was so excited about tithing that he made this public promise: If you are not tithing now, start with you next paycheque. Take 10% off your gross wage right off the top. If at the end of 3 months, God has not met your needs and you have bills unpaid strictly because of the amount you are tithing, send me the bills and I'll pay them. What a promise! Anyone interested? This brings me back to an earlier article (2 of 6 - How closed minded are you?) in this six part series about living in a closed or an open system. Do we believe God can miraculously intervene in our finances?

We are doing ourselves a great dis-service if we make decisions based on the NO GOD School of finances. It's better to KNOW GOD and prosper.

I have delayed the 6th article in my current series because of a troubling truth I stumbled over. That’s right stumbled over. 

Read more: Trusting in Riches?