Why “Steward and Slave”?
Most times, when you read self-help books about money, they talk about winning. They talk about getting rich. Which makes sense and is a pretty safe approach for self-help books. We want to win, we want to be rich, and we want to be the best, and if we pick up a book that promises to help us achieve those things, it’s a pretty easy sell.
I don’t feel that there’s anything inherently wrong with that in and of itself. I do think it’s incredibly dangerous territory, though. I think we have a tendency to let those things consume us, and let greed and pride and envy begin to control our relationships with people. In this blog, I’m attempting to see money through a different lens: one in which money is a tool to achieve goals, not the goal in itself. I don’t know where my bank account will be when I die, and I don’t really care. In fact, I don’t even view the money I have as really mine at all. I believe that my money, along with every other physical possession I own, is a gift from God, and that I am merely a steward of it, the manager charged with using it for His glory (Job 41:11). Even the fact that I am entrusted with stewarding it does not give me the freedom to do whatever I want with it, though. I am a slave to Christ Jesus, and all my actions must glorify my Master (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). That sounds pretty weighty and depressing, right? Actually, it’s the opposite. My God has changed my heart so much that the things that make Him happy also make me happy. Responsibly leading a family, caring for others, and enjoying the sights, sounds, and especially foods of places all over the world are all on my wife’s and my to-do list. Those are all things God delights in. I believe that if I am faithful to Him in this journey, He will in return be faithful to R and me in allowing us to enjoy the world He’s placed us in. I don’t know if He’ll allow us to become some crazy wealthy family. I do know that He will provide for us in every circumstance, and that is enough for me. I am a steward of the money I’ve been given, not the owner, and I am a slave to the One who gave it to me. I hope that seeing that reminder every time I open this blog will keep my focus where it belongs.
What’s the plan here?
As I mentioned in the first post, this wake-up call was partially in thanks to Dave Ramsey. You may have heard of him, or heard about his Financial Peace University classes, but for those of you that haven’t, he’s the most obvious financial guru around. I say that because none of his advice is anything you haven’t heard before. There are no insider secrets on real estate, no tricks to timing the stock market, no hidden paths to quick financial success anywhere. In fact, his plan is the slowest of all of them. But the reason he’s become so successful is because it works. He has taken all of this common-sense wisdom and developed a plan that works for just about everyone, regardless of your background, income level, or situation in life. Here’s his program in a nutshell, called the Baby Steps:
- Save $1,000
- Pay off every debt except the mortgage in order according to balance, from smallest to biggest
- Save 3-6 months of expenses as an emergency fund
- Invest 15% of household income into retirement funds
- Start a college fund for children
- Pay off mortgage
- Build wealth and give it away
R and I are on baby step two currently. For most people, this is supposed to take about 2-3 years, depending on income and debt amounts. For us, it will probably take a little longer, but that just means our tunnel is a little longer. The light at the end is still just as bright and just as sure as it is for the people making $100k every year with $20k of debt to pay off. The order we’re paying things off and my current back-of-the-napkin projections for the payoff dates goes like this:
- R’s car: paid off November 2017
- Discover loan: paid off February 2018
- Discover card: paid off September 2018
- K’s student loans: paid off November 2019
- R’s student loans: paid off February 2021
Admittedly, those figures don’t count for interest accrual, so it may stretch out a little longer than that, but I also assume that I’ll be able to pick up extra shifts here and there to make bigger payments. We’ll see what surprises happen along the way!