The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. —Proverbs 21:5
STRATEGY n, a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal, usually over a long period of time; the skill of making or carrying out plans to achieve a goal.
Strategy is required in almost every aspect of life. It takes strategy to win a Super Bowl or presidential campaign. It takes strategy to grow a business, raise our kids, or maintain a healthy marriage. And, since we have already established that money has so much power in our lives and frames the biggest problem for many people’s lives and relationships, it only makes sense that we would implement a good strategy for our finances as well.
(Remember, this discussion has been building over the course of our recent money series, Money Talks. For a more complete explanation of these ideas, our podcasts are available on the website.)
A strategy for money:
1—Stop arguing with God about the tithe (a specific term, meaning a one-tenth part) and bring it with you into the conversation. This percentage is the common denominator for everyone and provides the comparable balance that the Apostle Paul championed in his challenge to the Corinthians.
2—The second number you plug into your strategy is unique to you, it’s what you’ve been given to manage, and everyone has been given something to manage. Identify how much you receive from the Lord (your income). Never make the mistake of waiting to receive what you don’t yet have before you begin the discipline of the tithe. It’s never about anything except what you have—and what you have right now is what you have right now.
Let’s say you have to a child who, whining about being given a brand new Camaro for his sixteenth birthday, points to a picture of the BMW that he really wanted and says, quite matter of factly, “When you give me one of these, I’ll be grateful,” and stomps out of the room? So, what’s your response? Let me guess, not good.
Actually, that scenario just might happen to you at some point (maybe not with something as expensive as a car)—your child may look at a gift you give them, but for some reason it is not quite enough to merit an attitude of gratitude, so they throw a tantrum. If or when that happens, try not to be too harsh in your response, because they may only be mimicking they way you typically respond to God. Remember, Jesus said that “whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever throws a tantrum with very little will also throw a tantrum with much.” (Luke 16:10, The Mercerized Version)
3—If you have 10% faith, then go for it. Give it first and then watch God go to work. If you don’t have a 10% faith, then start with a lower percentage. If you can’t bring yourself to take a full step into the tithe, start with a percentage that is commensurate with your level of faith. I’m not talking about saving faith—the day you placed your faith in Him for eternal life kind of faith. You place your faith in Jesus one time for your eternity, but you have to exercise that faith in your daily life. Actually, everything in your daily life is a reflection of the fact that you trust Jesus to take you to Heaven. After Heaven, everything else we trust Jesus for should be easier. But you need to get into the game here, so if you need to start with 3% or 5%, fine—just give it as your firstfruits, not your last fruits.
4—Then, should you not miss the money at the end of the year (which you won’t), add 2% to your strategy the second year.
5—Beginning the third year, since you’re faith has now had two years to grow, you’ll be ready to jump up to the full tithe—you still won’t miss the money, you’ll feel energized because you’re finally obedient with your wealth, and you’ll be amazed at how far the rest of what God entrusts to you actually goes.
6—Then begin a similar strategy with your savings regimen. Start with a lower percentage there, if you have to, and increase that percentage until you’re saving at least 10% of your income.
7—Never spend anything that doesn’t fit into that last percentage category, the 80%. Never make a major purchase impulsively and never spend without asking God if it’s in His best interest to pull the trigger on that purchase—certainly not every minor expenditure, but the ones that would affect your spending power in the future.
That’s the strategic formula: 10-10-80. As the saying goes, “failing to plan, is planning to fail.” Commit to the strategy and stop working for money. Instead, watch how God can commit the power of money to start working for you!