Reorienting Spiritual Principles for Financial Planning

By John Withum

car-768711_1280While planning a day off from school in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the titular character wants access to a vintage Ferrari belonging to his friend Cameron’s father. When Cameron points out his dad’s meticulous attention to  details of the car, including its mileage, Ferris replies, “We’ll just drive home backward,” with the hopes the mileage will reverse.

Financial planning, at least in the “conventional” view outside of the church, is meant to maximise the potential of our money to build wealth and protect the future for the investor. When the working years are over, this line of thinking says, money will provide a verdant pasture for retirement and golden years of relaxation and leisure.

But much like Ferris Bueller, we have to look at the whole situation backward. We are followers of Jesus, whose birth was an exaltation of the lowly, whose ministry cared for the poor and powerless, and whose victorious kingdom reverses the power structures of the kingdoms of this world. This alone causes us to think of all sorts of priorities in new ways. Our approach to financial planning, then, must be based around Kingdom priorities as well. It matters little whether we would be considered wealthy in this world or poor; our entire lives fall under the rule of King Jesus, and we should view how we utilise our money accordingly.

While not exhaustive, here are three reorienting principles around which we should consider financial planning.

First, financial planning gives us the opportunity to line all of our priorities up together. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 that our heart will find rest wherever our treasures are (v 21). We are also told to seek the kingdom of God above all else (v 33). Even if we talk about Jesus, worship weekly, and participate in Christian community, our money could be living a different life than we are. If we are truly interested in offering our whole lives to Jesus, we need to stop viewing our money as a means to personal gain and instead as a means to further the redeeming and healing mission of Jesus Christ in our neighbourhood and world.

Second, having a plan allows us to utilise our stamp-2022899_1280
money instead of it controlling us. Spending can get out of control quickly, day-to-day necessities can overwhelm, and the urgent can take priority over the truly important. When we lack a plan to use our money wisely, to invest it properly and well, it ends up taking over our lives. No matter what our income, having a plan for how to manage our finances helps us to navigate both day-to-day spending and long-term saving. Most of us carefully plan how to spend our time; likewise, we must have a plan for how to use our money.

Finally, our money can do work for us in the years our bodies can no longer physically serve the Lord. Followers of Jesus should be devoting their whole lives—work, rest, time, and money—to God’s ongoing mission in the world. At some point, however, our years of work will end, and eventually (hopefully many years later) our bodies will not be able to continue the same level of participation or activity we once could offer. In those years, if we have planned well, our money will be able to continue bearing the fruit of our life’s service to Jesus. My education was funded by the financial legacy of several individuals who had given their lives to educating pastors and missionaries. I am blessed to be a part of their ongoing work.

The platitude “you can’t take it with you” is true, in the sense we give up personal control of our finances at the moment of our earthly lives. If we have planned well, however, our money can continue serving the Lord long after we are gone.

About the author

Processed with VSCOcam with kk1 presetJohn Withum is the associate pastor of the First Baptist Church of Aurora, Illinois. He also serves as the recess supervisor at a local elementary school. He has an MDiv from Northern Seminary of Lombard, Illinois and a BA in Journalism from Marshall University of Huntington, West Virginia. He and his wife, Katie, live in Northern Illinois with their dog, Bacon.

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Planned Giving… it IS for Millennials, too!

During July, the COMPASS blog, is sharing stories, tips and reflections all about gift giving. Today we welcome back writer Nicole Brennan from Barnabas Foundation, who shares about the significance and importance of planned giving, especially for Millennials.

A friend of mine is currently developing an app to streamline generosity in all its many facets: donating, volunteering, attending an event, and sharing news about a cause. When I asked if he was including planned giving, he said “it’s too big of a fish to hook now.”

seedFor those of you who may not know, a planned gift (or planned giving) is just that: a gift that requires planning. (Novel, I know!) Whether you set aside some funds in your lifetime through a donor advised fund, or leave a portion of your assets to charity through a will, it’s planned giving. I happen to think it’s not too big a fish, it’s just a misunderstood one- and a great way for Millennials to create their legacy.

You see, as Millennials, we may not want to think about our imminent death. We also may feel that financially, we have nothing to spare for planned giving. (I don’t know about you, but as a 20-something, renting an apartment, and squirrelling away a few bucks in a savings account, I don’t think I have much to give away.) But through my work at Barnabas Foundation, I came to realize that I have “unknown affluence.” As a Christian, my true treasure is in heaven, but I have a lot here on earth, too. I just didn’t know it.

One of the volunteer groups I am active with is the Legacy Corps: Support for veterans and their caregivers.

One of the volunteer groups I am active with is the Legacy Corps: Support for veterans and their caregivers.

There are several ways to give a gift: through our time, talent, and treasure. I love volunteering and give my time freely generally because I feel it is the most abundant aspect of the three. However, I can easily give my “treasure” away immediately, if only I budget. Tithing and stewardship is a way of life, and can be part of our giving even after we pass away. You can do that by creating a will.

Now I know most of you Millennials are thinking, “A will isn’t for me,” but a will is an important document to have at every age. It can save your family hassle, can appoint guardianship of your children, direct your money where you want it to go, and provide many tax deductions.

Here’s a little homework for you: make a list of everything you already own. Include items like your car, laptop, furniture, pension, life insurance, savings account, those bonds from 8th grade graduation- anything that would be considered an asset. All of that can be included in your will: your earthy, material possessions.

Leaving a lasting testimony behind- especially a faith statement- is an important aspect of a will. This shapes your legacy- your proverbial monument- but what are the bricks that build it? Your monument- your legacy- is built by the bricks: the volunteer hours you freely gave, the fundraising on behalf of a worthy goal, the prayers said in the stillness, and the financial support for these causes. Planned gifts are important and creative bricks to show your support during and after your time on earth.

What does your monument look like? What is your legacy going to be?

profileAbout the Author, Nicole Brennan: Hello there! I’m passionate about living a stewardly lifestyle, while being adventurous and frugal. I currently live in community with six other 20-somethings in downtown Chicago and work as a Marketing Assistant at Barnabas Foundation, a partner of ESC and COMPASS. In my off hours, you can find me volunteering at a nearby homeless shelter, enjoy live music with friends, or watching reruns of Parks and Rec. Email me at or tweet me at @BarnabasFdn.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.