The Crazy Way We Handle Money

Jennie Allen
May 18, 2021

Jennie Allen

Bible teacher, founder of IF:Gathering
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Well, this season has been a hit. You all love my husband. I love him too. We are actually celebrating our 24th wedding anniversary this week.

Happy anniversary.

We totally forgot y'all. After 24 years, you wake up on that day, and you're getting a kid off to school.

No, no, no. I had a big plan.

Yeah right.

No, we have a whole weekend planned. Actually, I have a trip planned for us.

He's making all of this up. We completely forgot our anniversary for the second year in a row, mind you. It's okay.

Wait, do you have your feelings hurt?

The good news... not at all because I forgot too.

Okay, phew.

Okay. We really quickly made a reservation. We're going to go out to dinner. We'll be fine, but what I want to say is that it is so helpful to hear from guys about this season. We had a feeling Chloe's idea to do a series on decisions would be really helpful for all of you, and it is. This is actually something that we have mastered after 24 years together, knock on wood. When you think about decision-making, it's such a big part of life.

Yeah. So we are. We are making decisions every day, whether they're big or small, or we think they're significant or insignificant. I know that the things that we're talking about on this podcast might feel like they're the big rocks, like the big decisions. They are. Those are vital. However, the decision-making and filtering questions like, "how does God want me to do this? what direction does He want me to move in?" is just a part of life. It's actually a part of our daily communion and walk with God. It's not something that we set aside, and we can't necessarily look at a spreadsheet to figure out the answer. This is a God of the universe that's walking beside us. That's leading us. His spirit is in us. He is saying, "Seek Me. Seek Me. Seek My word. Seek My people and seek the leading of My Spirit within you."

This decision-making is a spiritual process. If you have a spouse, it's a really, really intimate bonding that's sometimes full of conflict.

Yeah.

Making decisions is a part of our everyday life that we need to become good at. We need to learn. I hope this series is giving you hope that a long obedience over time of making decisions, hearing from God, and walking with Him leads you to gain more and more confidence that He's not going to abandon you. He's going to lead you. He's going to put the right people around you. He's going to show you where to go.

Today, we're actually going to talk about money and how we make decisions regarding money. Some of you are going to lose your minds over how we do this. You're going to be so uncomfortable. I remember I was talking to somebody whose whole life is teaching people to deal with their money. She was like, "Oh my gosh, I cannot believe y'all do this." We're going to share a little bit about that. Before we do, you said something really interesting in that last little part about hearing from God. I just want to be clear. We've talked about this in the first episode, I believe. Hearing from God for us looks like several things. The first thing is the word of God. We know our priorities are based around what God's told us to care about. I mean, you can look at the history of our life and how we have chosen to steward money.

It's been based on priorities that God has given us: whether that's community and spending intimate time with people that we love, whether that is orphan care, whether that is giving to organizations that we believe in, or whether that is generosity with our home and the things that God has given us. We definitely do not see anything as our own. Everything is God's, and He's given it to us for a season to steward it. Before we get in there, I just want y'all to know that we see it as the word of God hearing from God. Of course, the spirit of God will prompt us sometimes to give to something or even just which way do we go? How do we know what to do? He gives us, I would say, just a nudge. I wouldn't say it's ever been a voice or rarely really been a voice, but we'll just have a peace about a direction.

Because we are both surrendered to God, there's a trust that He's going to be clear with us and show us which way to go. Thirdly, and this is the one I really want to talk about today, is community has been a huge way that we've heard from God. People in our lives that surround us, that we let into the crevices of our lives, that we share the intimate details of our lives. Let's talk about that because this is the part that's going to blow everybody's mind. Talk about our small group and specifically to do with financial decisions.

Yeah. So 24 years married, and I would say that 21 years out of the 24 we haven't fully lived this way. We haven't been in this kind of environment where we have had people this much involved in our finances, in our day-to-day, and in how we steward what God has given us. We'll say the last three have been so fruitful and so encouraging to have those safe people in our lives that know those things about us andare encouraging us. They are also calling us out. We have a small group of five couples that annually, we will put our budget together for the upcoming year. We will reflect on our previous year's budget and how we stuck to that or why we didn't stick to that. We will look at our stewardship goals that we had over the previous year and say, "Did we actually execute? Or did God provide what we thought He was going to provide so we could give what we gave?"

So Zac's saying this real matter of factly, but let me blow your mind with it for just a minute. We sit down with all of our numbers, every bit of our income, every bit of our expenses, every bit of our giving, and if there's any debt from houses or cars or anything, it is all on paper. We take it to our small groups, and every single person in the group does this. We walk through all of our finances. The thing people can't believe is that we put the numbers down, but that has probably been the most important part. When we show everybody everything, they have asked really hard questions and good questions. Also, getting to see everybody else's numbers is so inspiring. There's a couple in there that gives so much to so many organizations that it has challenged all of us.

We kind of gave to a handful, and they really give widely to a lot. It just made us feel more creative and think out of the box. I think watching other people and how they steward money has caused all ships to rise. We all have had weaknesses in our finances in different areas. We have grown in those areas because of watching other people. We get to watch the way they live, the way they give, and the way they keep up with things. I would say that was one of our weaknesses. As long as we weren't getting into trouble, we didn't really keep up with how much we were spending in different categories.

Then when we did, you were like, "Dang it, we eat out a lot." You start to notice spending patterns that you don't really notice because it doesn't feel like we eat out that much because it's maybe once or twice a week. When you put it down on paper over the course of a year, it causes you to think a little bit more about it.

Right. So what you're saying is both of us are visionaries, and we're idea people.

High level.

Not details. We're not very good with details. 

As long as we're not broke or the bank's calling, we think we're okay.

This is actually especially good for us because it's forcing us to do things that we probably wouldn't do to the level that we're doing. We've got other small group members who are better in the details.

Yes. Yes, that's helped.

They have strengths in the details, and they can really push into some of the places where we might go, "Well, this is a little fuzzy, or I think this is about what it is." They just keep pressing us.

Yeah.

You can't work with what you don't have clarity on.

Yeah.

That's been helpful.

You've got to have really safe people to do this. I mean, we were nervous the first time, but our small group knows everything about us. By the time we were doing our finances, it didn't feel crazy. You don't just sit down with anybody. If you are young, not married yet, or maybe you're newlyweds, reach out to your parents. If they were good with money, I promise you they would love to help you. Think out of the box about who these people could be. Maybe an older couple or two.

I would just say somebody needs their nose in your business because this is a very important topic. Scripture speaks so much to it. In fact, I don't know that it speaks to anything more than this subject. Because God knew that this was a place where people would be prone to be greedy. Their hearts would be prone to focus on it. Because if you have too little or too much, there have been issues with both. It's a consuming thing. Whether you have a lot or whether you have a little.

Right.

Or even if you just have exactly enough. You're going to have to be thinking about money a lot to be able to make sure that all fits. That it all works out.

Yeah.

So...

Who ever feels like they have exactly enough?

I know. Yeah.

Some money is neutral, right. It's not inherently evil. It's how things get done. It's how organizations get funded. It's how businesses run. It's how profit is made. We actually have the ability to give it away. Money is inherently neutral. Our hearts often do something different with that. We villainize what money is and we look at it as evil or we idolize it. I guess this is idolatry on both ends. If you are a hoarder and all you can think about and talk about is money and how much you're saving, it becomes an idol. If you're a huge spender or just want to make the next million dollars, it can become the idol of our hearts. It's not inherently evil.

It's inherently neutral. Doing this with our small group has been super helpful. I would say two things. The first is that time is going to be the hardest time. You're going to need to just go first. Be the person that goes first, and people will follow after you. I would say the second thing is that you're going to have to fight. I think this is the case. Before you go first, you're going to have to fight thoughts of comparison. 

Well, that's why it needs to be really safe people too.

When we got married, we were living on $500 a month. Now, we were in college and we got married really young. My husband was playing college football at a small school in Tennessee, and we lived in married student housing. He had a scholarship, so that big bill was covered. We lived on $500 a month. We lived off of red beans and rice. We did canned chicken because I didn't like tuna. We did creative things. We have lived on very, very little in our lives and had to make decisions. I would say all of the decisions we made, whether it was with very, very little or with more, we have sensed a provision that God has given as we have submitted to Him and just said, "Hey, we're going to do our best with this."

What would you say to people right now that are saying there's just not enough? Even when there wasn't enough, we were still giving. So let's talk about giving for just a little bit because it's such a value to us and how we did that. How did that work out for us? Because I can't imagine. Looking back, there were so many linears, and when we made more, it was one ministry salary and we had four kids. So what did that look like to you who managed our books to give still in the midst of not having enough?

Well, I think that the first thought was that not giving was not an option.

It's like taxes. You just set it aside right away.

Yeah. As soon as the paycheck came in, there was the portion that was set aside.

Okay. Now we have these kids that are becoming adults. We have one that is a senior in college. He'll be heading into the world. What are things that you want him to know about money? What do you hope for him when he gets out, and when we're no longer paying his bills?

I mean, the first thing for our oldest is that I want them to walk with no debt. That debt is your master. We talked to folks that want to go onto the mission field, and one of those requirements before going overseas on the mission field is being debt free. The debt will keep compounding while you're on the mission field, and so there is debt as your master as long as it is over you.

That's the first thought of walking with no debt. The second thought is, as I'm processing this with my son, he's choosing careers. It's really fun to listen to him talk about choosing a career. It's not about how much money the job makes, but it's about how he can contribute to society and how God can use his work to bring Him glory. That's something that is super fulfilling as a parent to hear your kids saying as they're graduating and moving into the workforce.

So another question is, what if my spouse and I do not agree on how to spend money? What would you say, Zac?

I think that's been one of the themes of conflict in our lives. When we aren't in agreement or when we don't seek each other's counsel and make a decision together on some of the bigger purchases, that's where our expectations are different. That's where conflict happens. If you're married, you and your spouse are making these decisions. You're still united in your marriage together whether these decisions go well or not. You can deal with the consequences. We were walking through that with one of our small group members recently who made a decision of a house to purchase, and they're both pretty risk-averse.

That was my counsel to them. It was not a decision that was super black and white, and there weren't any red flags. It was a green light from our small group, but it was a little bit more of a risky decision than the couple was used to making. I asked them, "Are you guys united? If you guys are united, then together, you can handle what happens on the backside if this proves to be a good decision or not a good decision, but you made that decision together."

That's good. Bottom line is that money is a tool, and it is a really powerful tool. It is a tool that can cause a lot of good. It can also become something that enslaves us. Keeping it as a working tool in your life is your goal, not something that is a noose around your neck, and you feel stuck forever. There is a peace that has come as we have taken these big decisions to a group of godly people.

We've made these decisions together because what happens is we can articulate why we are doing something that we are doing. It isn't just a random spend. It has purpose built into it. If we can't give that purpose, they'll call that out and this isn't something we're going to do. It has been such a sharpening experience to share this with other people. I know it sounds crazy y'all. Make sure and find really safe people, but it is possible.

Thank you guys so much for being part of this community. We do not take it for granted that so many of you show up week after week.

Jennie Allen

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