Living Within Your Means

A crucial point I didn’t mention in yesterday’s sermon about generosity: you can’t be generous it you don’t live within your means.

The 2008 recession was caused by people--millions of people--who didn’t live within their means. Abetted by bankers greedy for short-term gain, these foolish people bought houses with loans whose cost escalated annually like a rising flood. Within a few years they were in over their heads. The lending system collapsed, and with it the economy. The bankers were largely unharmed (it seems the rich know how to cover their assets, if you take my meaning), but the rest of us suffered because of the carnal human impulse to grab more than we can hold.

That carnal impulse leads to debt, stress, anxiety, and often to economic ruin. If you were sitting in the pews yesterday listening to me talk about being generous and thought to yourself “I can’t be generous because I’m so far in hock” – you are living way beyond your means. Your foolish financial decisions have come back to bite you.

Let me give you some numbers to guide you. First, plan to give away 10% of your income. Even an unbeliever, financial guru Suze Orman, says your first check of the week should be to charity because that organizes the rest of your finances. So swallow hard and make that commitment. Your second check of the week should go to your own savings and it should be about 5% of your income (10% if you don’t have a pension plan). Once you’ve made these financial commitments, only then should you start figuring what you can afford for housing, car, travel, etc.

Many 20-somethings today don’t do it this way. They’re not frugal. They skip the starter house idea, skip driving a junker, skip tithing, and generally refuse to accept a lower rate of consumption. They don’t live within their means. It spells trouble for them both spiritually and financially.

We all need to keep grounding ourselves in the joy of simplicity. It’s truly a much richer lifestyle. But so foreign – and downright odd -- to many Americans.

The Kingdom of God is only for the generous. Jesus is clear: the measure you give will be the measure you get back (Luke 6:38).

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Parkminster Church

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