Written By Ivan Kwananda Pangestu, Indonesia, originally in Bahasa Indonesia
For the most part of my life, I’ve been a real Scrooge. Having been raised in a family constantly plagued by financial difficulties, I’ve learned to be disciplined about saving money so that I could pay my school fees. I held money in high regard as it gave me a sense of security.
Along the way, however, I learned that money is not everything. God showed me that it’s not about how well I save money for myself, but about using my money wisely and trusting that He would take care of me. Over the past few years, I have challenged myself to give to charity and embarked on personal giving projects. During special occasions such as Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas, for example, I set aside a certain amount of money to give to the needy.
Of course, each of us has different ways and habits when it comes to spending money. These are shaped by our personalities, the values we subscribe to, and our upbringing.
Everything in the world belongs to God, including our finances (Psalm 24:1). He makes everything available to us and wants us to be good and faithful stewards in managing all that He has entrusted to us (Matthew 25:21). One day, our Lord and Master, the Owner of all things, will return and hold us accountable for how we managed our resources.
In order to honor God with our finances (Proverbs 3:9), may I suggest that we first identify our spending habits. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses will help us to be good stewards of the resources that God has entrusted to us. Having studied financial management, I’d like to offer some tips to the four types of spenders I’ve identified.
The Generous Giver
Givers love to use their money to bless others. It brings them great joy knowing that their money can bring a smile to someone. They love to treat their friends and buy gifts for others, and they never hesitate to give to those in need.
Strengths: Generosity is a noble quality. The Bible teaches us to be generous to others, just like our Father in heaven is to us (Proverbs 22:9, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7; 1 Timothy 6:18). A generous giver can be used by God to answer the prayers of the needy or to help others feel appreciated and loved. This is especially important in a world that is increasingly individualistic and apathetic to those in need.
Weaknesses: Generous givers can find it hard to save regularly and consistently because they are easily moved by the many needs around them. This can make them easy targets to be taken advantage of. In extreme cases, they might even give at the expense of their loved ones’ (as well as their own) interests.
Advice: Generous givers need to allocate their resources. Designate a specific percentage for each area, especially for important areas such as tithing, offerings, and savings, and be disciplined in keeping to it. You could budget more in the areas of giving, but don’t forget to ensure that a healthy portion goes to savings (for instance, 10 to 20 per cent of your income).
Generous givers should also learn to be humble in acknowledging their limitations and realize when they are not in a position to help others financially. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you sensitivity and discernment to give wisely and not impulsively (Proverbs 19:2-3).
The Stingy Scrooge
Scrooges (like me) are extremely careful and calculative when it comes to money, which makes us appear to be very stingy. Our motto is, “Every cent counts”. We are extremely precise with our money and plan right down to the exact amount we need for all our expenses (think twice about asking us to donate our change).
Strengths: Stingy Scrooges excel in budgeting and are very good in saving money. We are the best candidates to play the role of treasurer or work in finance departments to make sure that money is well spent and not misused.
Weaknesses: We are usually seen as selfish or excessively prudent. If we are not careful, money can become our idol, as we tend to place excessive value on it and rely on money more than on God. We struggle to give to others, even those who are in need.
Advice: The Stingy Scrooge must learn to give to others, as God calls us to be concerned for the needy around us (Proverbs 14:31, 28:27). We need to recognize that God wants us to share, and to start giving sincerely to the people around us (we can start with small amounts; one step at a time). Keep Hebrews 13:5 in mind: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”
The Spendthrift Shopper
Spendthrift Shoppers spend their money impulsively, splurging on their hearts’ desires with little planning or calculation. They are the favorite targets of advertisers and can be lured by discounts. Their purchases are driven largely by wants rather than needs.
Strengths: These people know how to enjoy life. They make great company to shop, travel, and go on adventures with. They never hold back and maximize every opportunity to indulge and have fun. They are always up to date with the latest sale or restaurant deal.
Weaknesses: No matter how much income they have, their finances usually run dry before the end of the month, and they rarely have savings. Spendthrifts do not think about the long-term implications of their spending. Instead, they’re more likely to be ensnared in debts, especially when they’re prone to swiping cards.
Advice: Spendthrifts need to train themselves to distinguish between needs and wants. Before buying something, ask yourself: “Do I really need this or is this just something I want?”, “Can I live without this?” Steer clear of shopping centres, especially when it’s the season of sales. Write down a detailed shopping list before you shop and do not buy items that are not in the list—even if the price is cheap. Cling onto Proverbs 21:20, “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.”
The Shrewd Spender
Shrewd spenders are careful and always weigh the benefits and risks before spending their money in any situation. They know how to use their money at the right time for the right purpose, so whatever they spend on always benefits themselves and others.
Strengths: Money is never wasted and is always used as effectively as possible. Individuals with such personalities are usually well regarded in the field of finances and their opinion is highly sought after.
Weaknesses: Such spenders may be manipulative in their use of money and not sincere in giving. They might expect results or profit from the use of their money, and may be reluctant to give if they cannot be certain about the results, especially when it comes to supporting mission work, church-planting etc.
Advice: The Shrewd Spender needs to learn to cultivate empathy. Learn to give to people you do not know well (such as giving tips, paying the bus fare for an old lady etc.) and to those who will not have a chance to give back. Learn to give to mission work even though you may not be able to see immediate results. Remember Luke 14:13-14, where Jesus teaches: “when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Ultimately, let us make glorifying God and loving others our goal in the way we spend our money.