15 Things I’ve learned about money from the mission field
For more than seventeen years my husband and I have served in full-time ministry where we’ve had to raise 100% of our support. Some people call this “living by faith,” but I’m not crazy about that term since I believe all Christians are called to live by faith, which is not contingent on who signs your paycheck.
Whatever you want to name it, we depend on the generosity of others to pay our bills. Many YWAMers and other missionaries follow this model of ministry funding. (Jesus followed it too.)
Although we’ve always had enough, we’re not exactly rolling in the big bucks. And yet those who know us in “real life” would testify that we don’t live like we make peanuts either. We actually live really well. Some people would even call us rich. (In fact most of the world would call us rich.)
We’ve found it helpful when looking at our finances to bear in mind that it’s all relative to our worldview as well as the community we find ourselves living and working in. (Traveling and working in developing nations certainly lends us perspective!) This helps us keep our wandering eyes in check when we’re tempted to look at what God’s provision looks like in the lives of others and compare it to our own in unhelpful/unhealthy ways. Yes, sometimes we wonder how we’ll pay next month’s rent. I’m not going to lie—this is hard. But the big picture of our life demonstrates that we are well taken care of—rich, even. We are more than just making it.
Why does God provide?
I could tell you a hundred stories about the ways God has provided for us during our years in ministry. Some are truly miraculous. (Please ask me if we get to sit down for a cuppa one day—I’d love to share!) But God’s not provided for our little family because we’re in ministry; he’s provided for us because he’s God and he cares about taking care of all creation, especially people.
“Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” (Luke 12:24)
15 Financial lessons from the mission field:
1. No matter who signs your paycheck, the funds are withdrawn from God’s account.
2. You never have too little to give. Seriously. (Anne Frank famously said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”)
3. Everyone should support a missionary. Even missionaries should support a missionary.
4. A little planning can go a long way. (For example, I buy Christmas gifts year round as I spot bargains.)
5. The freedom of living with no debt, is… freeing. When possible make this a priority.
6. God always provides for that which he directs. No exceptions.
7. Consider your finances, but don’t let your finances dictate your life. (God has a sneaky way of providing in ways you wouldn’t expect.)
8. Bursting or empty, your bank balance doesn’t define you. (Or your worth.)
9. If financial problems are bringing you down, get prayer and support and encouragement from others. (Trust me, I’ve been there. We need each other.)
10. If you are in financial difficulty, confide in the right people. People want to be generous, but they can’t give toward a need they don’t know exists. This includes getting professional help or accessing social services if you need to. Just like we would get medical help when something goes wrong with our bodies, don’t hesitate to get financial advice or assistance when things have gone wrong with your finances.
11. A little creativity goes a long way—use Freecycle, shop thrift stores, attend clothes swaps, repurpose stuff, DIY, buy off-season, etc.
12. You are only poor if you think of yourself that way. (Do you want to live with a poverty mindset? This is not dependent on your bank account.)
13. You are only rich if you think of yourself that way. (We are rich. Incredibly.)
14. God provides for you because he’s God and because you’re important to him (Luke 12:24). No strings attached.
15. God meets your needs according to his riches, not your own (Philippians 4:19).
His mercies endure forever
Money is important. It’s good, it’s necessary, and it can be used within our worship of God and to bless others. Jesus wasn’t afraid to talk about money, so we needn’t be afraid either.
Maybe you’re in a place of financial hardship. If that’s the case, I know talking about money can be difficult, but this applies to you too: Jehovah Jirah—God is our provider. He is who he says he is. Take courage, friend. You are worth it.
And whether you’re in a “good” place or a “bad” place financially, this truth remains:
God is good and his mercies endure forever. (That means, like, forever. Even tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that.)
Questions to consider:
What is one truth about finances that you need to internalize today? Do you need prayer in this area? Leave a prayer request in the comments and we will stand with you before our Provider.
For further exploration and encouragement:
Erin Odem has recently written a faith-based book on finances called More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated. (This is an affiliate link, meaning if you purchase through this link it helps support our work at no extra cost to you—thank you!) Erin is also giving away over $200 worth of free bonuses if you order before September 5, 2017. Check out all the freebies here.
Please note: A version of this post by Adriel Booker previously appeared on Grace For Moms in 2014.
Photo by Sara Kauten.