Financial Survival For Christians — “Let Nothing Be Wasted”

 

Title: Financial Survival For Christians – “Let Nothing Be Wasted”

Text: 6:12-13

Time: October 10th, 2013

A news report appeared in the papers and on television broadcasts around the world in which the new Pope Francis reminded Christians to not waste food. When I first heard the report, I thought to myself, “Now there’s a great suggestion, but how sad that a world leader needed to remind people of something so basic.” We’re all aware by now that there is a lot of food waste in the United States and other wealthy nations; a lot of food simply thrown out or left to spoil. Now in poorer nations, that doesn’t happen very often because the people are careful to not waste anything, as their very survival depends on consuming every last drop of food. But in the U.S. and other Western nations food is routinely wasted. I’m continuing in a series today on the topic of financial survival for Christians that started in response to the so-called recession of the last three or four years here in our country. I’m trying to teach how Christians can apply the faith teachings of Christianity and the Bible in order to make it through difficult financial times. We’ve all heard of people losing their home, of being laid off work, of having their cars and other items repossessed, and so forth. How can Christians who are going through economically difficult time survive?  They can survive by faith, by believing in the promises of God found in the Bible, and by living out those promises in the real world of daily living. So in my series “Financial Survival For Christians,” I try to lay out some very practical ways Christians can make it through the rough financial times we find ourselves in. Today I’d like to turn to the whole topic of waste, or rather, avoiding waste. Not only is wasting food a problem in countries like the United States, waste in general, in all areas is a real problem as well. We waste a lot of money, for example, that really hurts, especially in financially challenging times. Waste is a problem and a bad habit. But fortunately it’s a bad habit that can be broken when we apply ourselves to eliminating waste. If we’re on a tight budget, if we are having trouble paying bills, if we are scraping by as best we can, eliminating waste is not only important, it’s essential for financial survival. It was Ben Franklin who once said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” It’s still true today, and it’s something that if we took seriously would help motivate us to cut waste in our lives immediately. But eliminating waste isn’t something Ben Franklin invented; it’s something that Jesus actually taught during his ministry here on earth two thousand years ago. In connection with the Feeding of the Five Thousand, John 6:12-13 records, “When they had all had enough to eat, he (Jesus) said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’ So they gather them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.” This is a great encouragement for Christians to cut their waste too. Let me explain.

First, it’s important to eliminate waste from unnecessary buying. John 6:12, “. . . Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” When financial times are good, when there’s money flowing in, when we aren’t fighting to survive financially then obviously the need to watch every penny isn’t as great, or so we think. It’s still not good to practice waste on a regular basis, but it’s easy to let waste go when there’s plenty of resources available. But when money is tight, when putting food on the table is difficult, when paying bills related to housing and transportation is hard, and so on and so on, waste is something that can’t be tolerated. In financially challenging times, waste is something that simply must be eliminated, or else it’s something that can potentially break us, even bankrupt us financially. So a good place to start in eliminating waste is making sure that when you spend money, you spend it on something important, something essential and necessary. Why did Jesus ask the disciples to collect the remaining amount of food? What was the reason behind Jesus being careful not to waste any of the food left over? That’s hard to say. We really don’t have any explanation given as to why he instructed the disciples to carefully gather leftovers, so we can only speculate. It might be that generally speaking Jesus objected to wasting things, anything, but especially something as important as food. We need to remember that back then, food was more valuable than it is now, at least in our country. There were no grocery stores like we have today. Food simply wasn’t wasted because it was critical for survival. But also, maybe Jesus intended to reuse the food later, either in his own preaching ministry to feed more people, or to give to the poor who weren’t present. We don’t know, but he we do know he didn’t want anything wasted. We need to keep that in mind every time we make a purchase, by asking, “Do I really need to buy this? Will this really be used or not?” During rough financial times we simply can’t make a habit of buying things that won’t get used. We need to put away any idea of trying to “keep up with the Jones’s” or peer-pressure purchasing. We need to buy only what we definitely need, and need now for survival. We can’t afford to buy luxury items, or even investment items, because the goal is surviving financially now. We can worry about making investments long-term latter. If you don’t know whether something will be used, don’t buy it. Buy only what you know will be used. This applies to all areas of spending. We can go through our whole budget and ask whether each item is necessary or not. This will help us save a lot of unnecessary buying, and help us survive financially as Christians.

Second, it’s important to eliminate waste from fees, penalties or extra charges. John 6:12, “. . . Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” Now we still don’t know for sure why Jesus was so insistent on the disciples not wasting any of the bread gotten through the multiplying of the loaves and the fishes. It doesn’t say there were any fishes left, so the people must have eaten all those up. But it says there was bread left over, so the people must have left whatever they hadn’t eaten, or maybe they did carry off as much as they could that was left leaving only what they couldn’t use for the disciples. Again, we don’t know, but we know there was bread left over, and we know that Jesus instructed the disciples to gather it up in order not to waste it. Did Jesus plan for the disciples to carry the bread into the boat across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum? Maybe. We know that the disciples got into the boat without Jesus and headed across; maybe they carried the bread that was gathered. But wherever the bread was taken, it wasn’t wasted; Jesus saw to it. Another big area that we can eliminate waste is in not paying extra fees, penalties and charges. The rule is — when in financially tough times don’t pay extra for anything. Try to stay current on bills so you don’t have to pay late fees. If you get an extra charge for something, try to get it removed. It makes no sense to try to save every penny while at the same time wasting money through extra charges. It’s incredible how many people routinely pay late charges, penalties and extra charges. If you add it all up every month it’s a lot. If you use credit cards, try to use the lowest interest rate cards if you must carry a balance. On purchases, don’t buy any add-on extras such as insurance or upgrades, and so forth. These are great to have, but usually they are luxuries you can do without during a financial crunch. If you have cable TV or Internet or Satellite TV, get the basic plan, and eliminate any unnecessary upgrades or fees. You can always upgrade when money is better. The point of a financial survival plan is surviving financially. We’ll have to make sacrifices and cut back temporarily. That’s one of the problems with going through financial setbacks in a prosperous society – we’re tempted to think we need to keep the same standard of living as before. Wrong. If the goal is financial survival, then we must learn to cut back and eliminate waste in order to make it out of the tough times, and maybe pick up some good habits in the process that we can use even beyond the immediate financial crisis. But an important key for surviving financially is eliminating any extra expenses.

Third, it’s important to eliminate waste from foolish spending. John 6:12, “. . . Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” This is similar to the first point, but a little different. We shouldn’t spend on things that are unnecessary, although something that’s not absolutely necessary may not be a foolish thing. But there are things that we buy that are foolish because we don’t always buy based on what makes sense. We often buy things for non-rational reasons. Now in a better economic condition this might not hurt us too bad because our abundant resources might make up for foolish spending, although even in good times foolish spending might actually cause us economic hardships. I’m sure it often does. But during financially hard times we definitely need to think carefully about everything we buy in order to avoid foolish spending. For example, lets consider food purchases. The question we need to ask in buying food is, “What food is good for keeping our bodies healthy?” Not necessarily the healthiest, like in the health food stores, but healthy, period, more or less. So we spend money on food to feed our bodies, not feed our taste buds. Now there’s a big difference. When money is tight we need to focus in on keeping food on the table that keeps our bodies healthy, period. There are lots of food that might taste good, but don’t really give our bodies a lot of nutrition and vitamins. If we buy food based mainly on taste we’ll waste a lot of money on food that won’t really keep us healthy. So in order to supplement, we’ll have to eat more of the healthy foods, which drives up our food bill. Usually so-called junk food is a waste of money. So is desert food, usually, unless it’s healthy desert food. So when money is tight, eliminate food that doesn’t feed our bodies. Why? Because we can’t afford to waste our money, which we don’t have much of, on food that doesn’t feed us. Remember, later, after the financial survival phase is over, we can return to more luxury food spending on sweets, deserts, and other foods that feed our taste buds. Realize that typically a large amount of money is wasted on foods that don’t directly give us any nutritional value but tastes good. From a survival standpoint, that’s a waste. So we need to work hard in deciding what to purchase that essential in surviving our financial crisis. It takes more forethought, but if thinking ahead will save us money, it just might be the difference between making it financially and not making it; the difference between bankruptcy and not, the difference between out-on-the-streets and keeping our housing. Survival calls for tough decisions. We must be willing to make those tough decisions.

There’s a whole lot more that needs to be covered in eliminating wasteful spending during financially challenging times. But the point is we need to go over every item that we are spending on and asking whether it is something that can be cut or not. If it can be cut, we should cut it in order to survive financially. Remember, we’re talking about surviving, the difference between making ends meet and not. Jesus and his disciples carried on their mission of preaching the gospel and improving the lives of people wherever they went because they lived simple and traveled light. How could Jesus and a group of twelve other men afford to teach, preach and travel cross-country without a steady income? For example, we know the Apostle Paul worked part-time in the tent-making trade for his support, but we don’t exactly know how Jesus and the disciples raised their living support during their ministry. But from the little hints and clues, like in the passage we’ve been studying, it’s clear that they didn’t waste very much, and that’s probably one of the reasons they could live low cost. We need to take our cue from Jesus and the disciples and follow their lead in dealing with our financial challenges. I’ve written a lot about the topic financial survival for Christians, about the importance of prayer and faith, about standing on the promises of God, and so forth. Today I’ve covered the importance of eliminating any financial waste that we might have in our spending habits. Now this point is an ongoing challenge. We need to develop wise and sound spending habits, and unlearn bad habits as well. We need to learn to think carefully about spending instead of impulse buying or spending on our emotions. Simple things like avoiding grocery stores when we are hungry and carefully planning our buying by making a list – and checking it twice, for waste! By simple things like buying only on sales or deep discounts so as to avoid wasting money by paying too much are helpful. Where we buy is important too. Fast food is usually too high priced to justify it, although by using coupons sometimes it’s actually thrifty. Buying from convenient stores is usually a waste because they charge more than grocery stores normally, although sales can change that, making them the wise place to buy certain items. The point is, by carefully spending money and by carefully eliminating wasting money, we can survive financially tough times. Praying to God for wisdom in how to spend, where to spend, what to buy, when to buy it is important. With God’s help we can make it from month to month even on a bare bones budget. Financial survival is possible!

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