budgets and priorities

Now comes the possible controversy.

Last week I asked you to look at your bank statement. Did you do it? Seriously go look.

I was talking with my mother the other day about budgets. Both of us work with them. We have budgets to manage and work with. It’s just a part of our jobs.

We talked about how our budgets show our priorities. We talked about how some people may disagree but that it’s simple a fact.

The conversation reminded me a sermon Sarah’s steph-father gave years ago where he claimed that we should look at our budgets as moral documents.

This reminded me of a conversation I was having with Sarah’s step-mom about economics and the idea of revealed preference. If asked people about their preference that are likely to give the answer they think they are supposed to. They’ll lie. Would I rather apples or chips? Apples. But their spending reveals their preference. They buy chips. Don’t ask them what they prefer just look at the money.

So if we bring the ideas together that budgets are actually moral documents that share your priorities and preferences, what did yours say when you looked at it? Are you living a life of compassion?

Mine says I have a lot of work to do.

If you came to me today and said “Phil I have this great work that God is doing and we some consistent support” or “would you consider sponsoring a child?” or “I know this amazing charity doing really impactful community work, would you consider donating?” I’d probably say I can’t afford it.

That’s not really true. I do have the money. I just choose to spend it on my satellite so I can watch NCAA March Madness basketball.

It’s not true because I choose to give myself discretionary spending every month so I can buy coffee or go out for dinner with friends.

It’s not true because I choose to save for my future and not invest in someone else’s.

None of those things are bad. None of them are wrong at all.

But I do have the money. I just prioritize TV, dinner out and my retirement more than good work, sponsoring a child or a new charity.

My purpose is not to make you feel bad here but to make sure your honest with the choices your making. If you’re picking TV over a charity and that makes you feel bad then maybe God is saying your budget needs some more compassion in it. Maybe God is saying you need to look at it again with His eyes.

Next time there’s an opportunity to give be honest. Do you really not have the money or is that just an excuse you use to avoid the priorities your money is truly showing. Is it that you honestly wish you could or you can’t stomach the fact that you just don’t want to more than you want a cell phone with data?

If you want to live a life of compassion then God needs a say in your budget and space for His love to be displayed. Maybe it’s finally worth that look at your bank statement I’ve been asking you to do.

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giving the fun way

Ok, day two of our non-controversial week of talking about how we spend our money. No one offend yet right? Perfect!

So you’ve given it a try and found it’s not THAT hard to shift some spending in your budget. You can give up a coffee/burger/name brand x without the world ending. Great, we are off and running.

What’s next? How else can we begin to not just want to be more generous or want for all of what we have to be God’s, but actions we can take to build that belief into our actions?

You always ask such good questions!

Here’s an idea that I really enjoyed. It plays off the notion of getting an ‘easy win’. Living compassionately with our money doesn’t have to suck. At times it might but not every time.

Spend some money on compassion in a space that you really enjoy so it’s a positive experience. Do it in such a way that the small shift or stretch in your budget feels fun and enjoyable as opposed to a duty.

Here’s what I mean.

I’m going to go back to the time that Sarah and I hosted a party for our neighbours.

It went really well and I really enjoyed it. But it also wasn’t free.

We’ve done it twice now and every time there has been a cost. We have way more food than we need, beer, wine, pop, the whole gambit of party stuff.

But I LOVE parties! They are so much fun and I enjoy parties a lot. I love spending time with people, eating good food, sharing a drink with friends, I love it all.

So when Sarah and I decided to host the party the money was the easy part. We knew it would cost us money. We knew we’d have to save for a little while to afford doing it but whatever it’s a party!

It was an easy first step. It took exactly zero convincing to get me on board with the spending. I was ready and willing to be generous with all my neighbours because I knew that I was also going to enjoy the spending.

We’ll get into the hard spending, the shifting of priorities, all of that another time. But for today, there is no reason you can’t make your first step into compassionate spending and sharing what your money in community and relationship in a way that’s fun for you too.

Give doesn’t have to suck every time. It can be a load of fun. Do some fun giving to start. We’ll worry about the less fun stuff on Friday.

money, money, money!

I decided I wanted pick a really easy topic for this week, so we’re going to talk about money all week!

See nice and easy. No one’s every gotten upset about money before right? I’m sure I read that somewhere.

Look, money’s touchy. We talk around it, we talk about it in abstract terms but rarely in a way that creates accountability. We don’t want anyone telling us what we should do with our hard earned money.

We have commitments and responsibilities and you don’t know what I’m dealing with so don’t tell me what to do.

Any of that sound familiar?

We are talking about money and to be honest if you don’t like it, tough. It’s an important topic.

I think one of the things we need to break when it comes to money is that is ours.

I know we’ve all heard it and if asked in church we’d say “everything I own is Gods” or something like.

No it’s not.

It’s supposed to be but it’s not. No worries, it’s a process.

One thing that we lack however is how to we begin or grow in the process of giving everything over to God. We know it’s all supposed to be God’s but I don’t feel like we have real tangible ways to start.

Here’s a start for you to try. It’s more about changing your perspective and getting you thinking than it is about huge monolithic change so don’t get too worried.

Think about your average week (reflection) and look at how you spend your money. Is there one thing you could change about how you spend (action)?

For me it was coffee. Ah, so dark, so delicious, so caffeiney. Caffeiney’s a word right? I’m just going to assume you agreed with me and move on.

At one point in my life I bought coffee almost every day. I was young and had some free dollars to spend. So to get my head in the right space about who’s money it was and get me to be more generous I started giving my coffee money away.

Some days that looked like be buying coffee for someone else. Some days it was me not buying coffee so I’d have some money to be generous in another way.  Some days I forgot and just bought myself coffee.

It didn’t cost me any more than I was already spending. I didn’t give up coffee at all and I’m not asking you to stop what you’re doing, just change it. Yes I had to drink coffee at work which wasn’t as nice but my budget didn’t change one cent

My mind however changed a bunch.

It just gets you thinking about money. It gets you thinking about how much you actually have and how you spend it and ultimately who’s money it really is.

Maybe you cut back eating out by one time a week. Maybe you buy 1 coffee a day instead of 2. Maybe you buy a sweat at the consignment store and give the difference away. Maybe you decide that you won’t by brand name groceries and donate the difference to the food bank.

I’m not asking you to change your budget, yet, just how you spend within it.

I’m asking you to start thinking about what the spending of a person who lives a compassionate life would look like and I think this is a good start.