What does it mean to put God first?
My husband and I have been on a debt-free journey ever since we got married. Although, if I’m being honest, we have been on a debt-free journey since I decided student loans were my only way to get a college education.
During college and graduate school, I understood I would have to pay the money back, but didn’t fully realize how a large amount of debt would prevent and distract me from accomplishing other important financial goals. Now, my husband and I have to stay focused on our monthly budget, so we can pay off our debt.
What I’m realizing is our financial journey is not that different than our spiritual journey. The same way it takes discipline to stay on budget, it takes discipline to stay focused on Jesus. Because the same way that saying no to some good things now will lead us into financial freedom later, learning to let go of selfish desires is what allows us to experience true freedom in Christ.
Three Ways Prioritizing Your Relationship with God Is Like Budgeting
1. Define the essentials.
Unbudgeted purchases pull us away from our financial goals. The product doesn’t have to be evil or sinful to pull us off our budget. Likewise, life sends us lots of opportunities that distract us and stop us from experience real intimacy with Jesus.
1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” So take a moment and think about how you spend your time, resources, energy, spiritual gifts, and understanding of God. Everything we have was meant to bring God glory.
When we make decisions based on what will build His kingdom instead of what will bring us wealth, influence, or more Instagram followers, we’ll find we experience more joy, more peace, and great intimacy with our Father in heaven (Mark 8:34-38).
2. Stick to the plan.
To have financial success and freedom, we must stick to a written plan, a monthly budget. God’s written plan for His people is the Bible. When we follow God’s plan, we find freedom in Christ.
We all want to read the Bible more. But something always seems to get in the way. The kids get up early. Our alarms don’t go off. Our work schedule changes.
My husband and I struggled with “budget busters,” purchases that set us off track for our monthly spending and saving. But we’ve learned some techniques to keep us on track that are just as helpful for spending time in God’s Word.
Find a buddy or accountability partner.
When I see a pair of shoes that I really like (ahem, need), instead of buying the shoes right away, I consult with my husband and our monthly budget. How does this relate to reading our Bibles more? If you struggle with reading the Bible consistently, reach out to a friend, spouse, or family member who will hold you accountable.
Money is like time — we always feel like we don’t have enough. Setting financial goals helps us prioritize how we spend our money. Pretty soon, we realize how much we can do with what we have. Learning to set priorities for our time can have the same effect.
Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” When we understand that our time is finite, just like our resources, we pay more attention to where it goes. Try tracking how you spend your time for a few days. What are you giving time to that isn’t helping you grow closer to Jesus? Then, make adjustments accordingly.
Guard against distractions.
Distractions provide temporary joy, but will only delay future success. Guarding against financial distractions might mean avoiding Target on pay day. Guarding against distractions in your quiet time can be as simple as leaving your phone in another room or waking up before everyone else in the house.
3. Invest wisely.
The world tells us to strive to achieve, that living the #blessed life is having all of the things we want. But God has called us to so much more!
Investing wisely in God’s economy means investing in other people. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
A relationship with Jesus is the only thing we will take from this life into the next. That’s why Jesus is always connecting how we use our resources to how we treat others. He wants to use to spend our time, money, and energy on something that will last. Any wealth that comes our way, Jesus tells us to generously bless others (Mark 10:21). Any success or talents we have were given to us by God to help spread the Gospel (Matthew 25:14-30). Our good health and physical strength? You guessed it. They are gifts to use to serve God and His people (Philippians 2:14-17).
Putting God first means serving Him with everything we have in whatever situation we’re in. It means allowing His love for us to overflow into the lives of the people around us.
It’s not easy to focus on the essentials, to stick to God’s plan, and to invest wisely. But as we do, our financial situation changes and so does our relationship with Jesus. What seems like a trade off — trading our way for God’s way or excess now for freedom later — is really a trade up. Just like we’ll have more fun on a vacation when we’re not stressing about how to pay for it, we get the most out of this life when we realize it’s not about us.