By Rebecca Stuhlmiller
“For there was not a needy person among them” (Acts 4:34 NIV).
Last October my best friend’s husband was diagnosed with liver cancer. When her family lost their sole source of income, we were in a position to help them financially. For this, I don’t take credit.
Fourteen years ago when I remarried, my husband introduced me to the word “budget.” At first, I balked. I thought that meant I’d have no money to spend. Budgeting would cramp my creative style and limit my ability to make a nice home for our family.
Learning to live within a budget required me to make an intentional home management plan. And making that plan led to a result I never imagined: I had more time to spend with Jesus and more resources, like time, money, and developed talents to go out and love my neighbor.
My husband and I share most spending decisions, but there are a few categories where I have primary responsibility.
Food. When I was a single mom, my three young daughters and I ate macaroni and cheese, canned soup, and bake-at-home pizza for dinner. As a new farmer’s wife with a blended family of nine, I had to learn how to cook.
I bought fancy gadgets, cookbooks, and subscribed to gourmet cooking magazines. I constantly experimented with new recipes instead of providing simple, nutritious meals for my family. Food preparation became an expensive hobby.
Finally I realized I was not created to be Betty Crocker. I streamlined my kitchen cupboards and planned simple menus for dinner, company, and holidays. Now I only shop for what we need.
Some women are gifted to cook. For them, time and money spent in the kitchen is part of their service to God. For the rest of us, when we make food preparation a hobby, we consume resources we could use for others.
Clothing. Exodus 28 describes the priestly garments commissioned by God for Aaron and his sons as adorned with precious stones and made of “gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen” (verse 5). Apparently, God has a passion for fashion.
I like clothes, too. I like costume jewelry and trendy scarves. For years, I spent over budget in the clothing category because I bought too much. Then I started planning my wardrobe.
Each season I coordinate three dressy outfits for speaking engagements and church; four casual outfits for errands, meetings, and school ballgames; and two comfortable outfits to work in at home. I hang them assembled in my closet, and call it good. Planning my wardrobe also lightens my laundry load.
Household. In Man’s Economy, more is better. In God’s Economy, we are to be “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). Yet most of us cram our homes with stuff anyway. We accumulate because we can.
As a military wife, I lived without our household goods several times—and survived. When I settled down in a farmhouse, I filled it up with stuff, wasting money and consuming time with the upkeep.
Finally I considered what our family spends time doing at home. Before making a purchase, now I imagine where it will go or what we will do with it. I ask myself, Do we really need this? Often, I put the item back.
Joseph managed his households well, whether as a slave or a prisoner. Then, when God was ready to use him during Egypt’s famine, his skills were put to a greater use. His faithful administration blessed an entire nation. Genesis 41:49 tells us that the quantity of grain Joseph stored “was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.”
Recently, I pointed my friend’s daughter to the above passage when she said, “Mom, tell them to stop sending us money. They’ll run out.”
Like Joseph, the Christian homemaker will be prepared for God to use her if she “watches over the affairs of her household” (Proverbs 31:29).