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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Not another budget talk!!!!

Spend:  To use up, consume or exhaust.  The other night, I heard something in a movie I was watching which caught my attention.  The actress was being asked how she wanted to spend her life.  She made some mention of using the term "spend your life" as though life was a commodity of sorts.  In just that one fleeting moment in the movie, I began to take pause to consider the idea of "spending our life" and how we actually do this.  In fact, I began to see the idea of "using up" or "exhausting" our "resources" much quicker than we might actually imagine.  We treat life as though it has endless renewable resources, but I wonder if we ever realize the source of those resources?  

Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.  (Matthew 6:33 MSG)

As I considered this idea of "spending our lives" in some pursuit or another, I began to draw some parallels to those who live by a "budget" and those who "spend willy-nilly".  Now, if we think of life as an endlessly renewable resource, we might just live like the latter.  If we count each new day as a blessing, we might just live like the former.

So, how is it a budget has anything to do with how we spend our lives?  Glad you asked!  Let me ask you this:  What does a budget do for us?  Don't we make a budget to get an idea where we are spending our resources?  In fact, probably the first reason we actually make the budget is because we have more demands for our finances than we have finances!  So, by creating the budget, we get an idea what our finances have to cover - so we don't run out of finances when there is still month left!

There are several things creating a budget does for us in the literal sense:

* It centers our attention.  In putting the numbers down on paper, we begin to see just how our monies are spent.  I think there is something amazing about beginning to keep a diary of how we spend our physical resources.  Maybe there is some value to us also keeping a diary of how we spend our "non-renewable" resources such as time!

* It helps us prioritize.  When we outline our spending plan, we usually put things at the top such as rent, utilities, groceries, gasoline, and the like.  One of the most common things people find is that once these priorities have been listed, there is often a lot less "left over" for the "fun stuff" like entertainment and clothing.  Even car insurance and medical insurance come before these, huh?  In focusing our attention on how we spend, we also must come to the place of ordering our priorities with what we spend.  I don't think this is a bad lesson to learn in our spiritual lives.  It certainly is a good lesson for us to learn in our relationships!

* It shows us the gaps.  As we outline the "needs", we clearly see if there are going to be any "gaps" in meeting those needs.  In other words, when we add up the anticipated expenditures, we might just come to a place of realization about how significant some of the perceived "needs" really are - especially when the amount of funds we have to spend does not equal what we see as our "needs".  As we focus on the budget a little, we often see things come to mind we might have forgotten to "factor in" - like car repairs, the renewal of our car's registration, etc.  These "gaps" present a challenge, don't they?  We have to figure out a way to "balance" the "needs" so the gaps are evened out.  Maybe this doesn't seem significant to you, but it is often in the "balancing" process where we make the decisions between "need" and "want".  

So, a budget in the natural sense really can be an example of how we could look at how we "spend our life" in the literal sense.  Relationships are often most impacted by how much attention we give them, the ways we prioritize those people in our lives, and just how well we do identifying the real "needs" from the simple "wants" of our hearts.  The same is true in our spiritual life.  When we begin to "inventory" and "itemize" our time spent on things which really matter, we might just find we are a little top-heavy on the "fun stuff" and a little deficient in the "most necessary" stuff.

Maybe the question posed by the actress was a good question.  Understanding life is not just an endlessly renewable commodity may be the very thing which makes us sit up and take notice of how much we have given priority to the things in life which really don't amount to much in the end.  Perhaps we see a gap between how we are spending our lives and how God would desire us to use them for his purposes.  Spending is really a means of exhausting - fulfilling the desires of another is a means of renewing!  Just sayin!