Show me the money part 1
I read an article last week about the top ten things you should be doing with your finances once you reach your thirties.
They consisted of things such as: get the proper insurances, invest in retirement, stock options, and on and on.
The more I read, the clearer it became that while these options are fine, I have an entirely different list for college students.
As I disciple college students, I realize that for some, budgeting and long-term planning come naturally to them. But most don’t have a clue.
They just know they want a lot of money and don’t have a lot now. Which makes a college student the ideal candidate to disciple in the arena of financial convictions.
As a college student, I was ignorant about money.
My family was simply trying to survive financially and my mom was fighting to get her five boys to fall in love with God.
Teaching us about stock options and retirement plans wasn’t on the list.
By God’s grace, after high school I attended a year long discipleship school at our church.
During this time, we studied what Jesus said about money and read George Mueller’s autobiography.
I was floored as I learned Mueller obeyed God relentlessly, even when the funds weren’t there.
He did not tell people about his financial needs and never went into debt.
Yet God would always provide and Mueller’s ministry built orphanages, cared for thousands of orphans, and saw societal transformation.
While these stories were phenomenal to read about, I still needed to see someone do it.
Two simple rules
My college pastor, Jimmy, came and taught about the domination and anxiety finances can often bring.
He shared stories of God telling him to go on mission trips that he did not have the money for.
He would mow lawns, not tell anyone his needs, and God would show up at the last second.
Another time, he was down to his last hundred dollars and God told him to give it away.
Even knowing that a rent payment was coming soon, he took the risk and God delivered.
It was obvious: he wasn’t being radical for the sake of it—he was obeying God and finding himself in the midst of a mind-blowing Kingdom adventure.
Jimmy challenged everyone in the room: “Tithe ten percent to your local church, never go into debt and every time there’s a chance to give financially, do so. Even when it hurts. Even when you have needs. During your college years, you have less responsibilities—no spouse, kids, or mortgage so you can take the risk. Live simply, work diligently, give generously.”
As a 19 year old kid, I took our college pastor up on that challenge—a ton of us did.
As a result, two simple rules were embedded into our souls concerning money:
- Give radically even when it doesn’t make sense.
- Do not go into debt at any time for any reason.
Twenty years later, we still live by these principles to the best of our abilities. It has been hard. No doubt about it.
Instead of putting a vacation on a credit card or getting a loan for a vehicle when our old clunker died on the side of the road, we would embrace the pain of delay.
As a result, God often provided in miraculous ways and it knit our community together as we carried each other’s financial burdens.
It also gave us a chance to give radically to one another and to believe God for impossible money miracles.
Lord knows how many time crunches we’ve found ourselves in, needing thousands of dollars for plane tickets for mission trips.
How often did we reach into our wallets to grab our last few dollars and wonder if it was the smart thing to do and if God was going to come through.
But God has been faithful. Community has been built. And our convictions have gone deep.
Yes, quick loans make life temporarily easier. And if you add up all the money you’re going to tithe and give, it can make you think twice before you write that check.
But living by these rules given to me in college has produced a life of less scars and more adventures.
It has been a wild ride and I wouldn’t trade it for all of Solomon’s wealth.
Don’t let money control you
A couple years ago I was catching up with a group of old friends when money came up.
I kept quiet because I’m not the financial guru of the group and everyone knows it.
A lot of these guys I had grown up with seemed to bathe in money.
However, one by one each began to describe the high levels of debt and stress they have carried for years.
They spoke of their financial strain and, as a result, the marital chaos that had followed.
Shame had flooded in due to bankruptcy and many regretted the way they had viewed money and the lifestyles they had tried to achieve. I sat there dumbfounded!
Here I was, the financial ignoramus of the group, assuming the rest of the world was a mixture of Dave Ramsey and Warren Buffet, only to be reminded yet again not all that glitters is gold.
I went home and grabbed my wife and said: “I know finances have been tough for us at times. But I am so thankful for what I got during my college years. Because while my knowledge was low, my convictions were high and I have been able to navigate the turbulent waters that my dear friends could not.”
Jesus talked about finances more than any other area.
He wanted to make sure that His followers were in control of their money—not controlled by it.
Actually, He wanted them to see that it wasn’t theirs anyway; they were just stewarding what He gave them.
I believe the college years are perfect to groom a person as to how they will govern finances for the rest of their life.
It’s true that while we are trying to make sure our students stay out of sin, learn to read the Bible and go on mission trips, it can be difficult to throw the whole money topic in there as well.
But how a person relates to money will be a game changer for them, their family, and their destiny so we need to address it and model it.
Radical giving. No debt.
What if we as college leaders made it our aim to at least teach these two financial rules to our students?
Less scars. More adventure!
Continue learning more about radical giving in Show me the money part 2: Radical giving.