By Jim Palmer
For seven years he had it all and was on top of the world. As administrator over the difficult project bestowed on him by his boss, he had just presided over the most prolific era of prosperity the area had ever known; the best of times like no one had ever seen before. “Immeasurable abundance” and “great plenty” were words used to describe the accomplishments that took place under his watch.
But then, disaster struck. The seven years of abundant prosperity were, in turn, followed by seven years of devastating loss. Every good producing plant dried up. The usual avenues that led to profitability turned up worthless. And the usual methods that had been predictably fruitful left his hands empty. The famine was relentless. For seven uninterrupted years the land produced nothing.
What happened to the nation which only a few years earlier had ridden a tide of ever-increasing abundance? What became of the man who was chosen as administrator because he was recognized as “wise and discerning”? The nation, which you may recognize as Egypt, and the man – Joseph, actually did remarkably well. So well, in fact, the nation of Egypt was able to supply not only their own people’s needs but also the needs of other tribes and nations. Joseph flourished and solidified his place as an incredibly wise steward during this remarkable moment in history.
How did he accomplish this momentous feat of navigating a nation through seven lean years of devastating famine?
He budgeted.
Now, before you close your eyes (dozing off!), before you set this article aside (to come back to later – much later), and before you think, “been there, done that, not going back”, let me assure you of something that is completely verifiable: Budgets carefully crafted and faithfully followed with a disciplined approach WORK.  They really do.
But don’t take it from me. Take it from a discerning and wise man (Joseph, Gen. 41:33). His plan succeeded. Or take it from the wisest man – Solomon. Consider the inspired principles he laid down in Proverbs 6:6-11 and 30:25. Concerning the industrious activity of the ant, Solomon commends the principle of budgeting and implies the wisdom in living below one’s means today in order to meet the needs of tomorrow.
Let’s consider the long-term effects of living at, above, or below one’s means.
Simply, one’s means are his or her income level. One’s income level is the amount of money he or she earns. One will decide (either consciously or unconsciously) whether or not to live at, above, or below those means. Allow me to suggest that if you haven’t consciously decided how to manage the outflow of money from your household, you will in all likelihood find yourself living well above your means. And living above one’s means, as we will explore in just a moment, is the highest risk lifestyle one can lead (from the perspective of good monetary stewardship).
God has blessed each of us with the means (abilities) to supply all of our needs in this world (2 Corinthians 9:8-10). He continually blesses and cares for us (mankind) unlike any other part of His creation (Matthew 6:25-34). The issue is not whether or not we can have what we need. It is whether or not we are being trustworthy servants with the talents he left in our possession (Luke 19:12-27).
In general terms, living at, or within one’s means is simple enough to describe. At the end of each week or month a paycheck (income) is deposited and over the course of the following week or month the bank balance dwindles back to zero (outflow). There is no excess saved, nor is there any debt added that remains unpaid. On its face, this way of life may seem within reason; virtually no debt outstanding and paying for expenses as they come due seems reasonable enough. However, the danger lies in the unexpected. What would one do in the case of the unexpected medical bill, car breakdown, appliance malfunction, or loss of income? Living at or within one’s means will only work as long as one does not encounter the unexpected.
Living above one’s means only compounds and complicates matters. Unfortunately, today’s society recommends we live this way and even ridicules when we don’t. Living above one’s means, simply put, is when outflow exceeds income with great frequency and regularity. Living above one’s means is when monthly debt (particularly credit card debt) grows consistently. Many people today find themselves in the trap of having lived above their means for long periods of time and now find themselves under a mountain of bills. The issue here is not unexpected emergencies that arise and put us behind (although the unexpected would certainly compound one’s problems). The issue is unbridled spending – typically on self. When we live above our means, it makes it extremely difficult to put God first in either our lives or our giving.
However, as mentioned earlier, our examples from Solomon and Joseph teach us to live below our means. Living below our means requires us to make a careful examination of our income and outflow. It means putting God first by giving to him before giving to self. Secondly, it means setting some portion aside for savings and emergencies before taking care of today’s needs. Just like Joseph, in Genesis 41:34-36, who set aside one-fifth of the bounty during the seven prosperous years, we should be prudently setting aside reserves. Do not miss the point: God first, reserves second. Then, for today, we may live on the remains. And the Lord will supply your needs (Philippians 4:19).
The year is still early. There is no time like the present. Isn’t it time we took the first step toward financial responsibility? Think of the good that could be done if we decided to honor God with the “first-fruits” (Proverbs 3:9-10) Consider the peace of mind Joseph enjoyed by setting aside reserves. Examine your checkbook today. Are you living at, above, or below your means? Would it be a positive change to begin using a budget? Do it today, to the glory of God.
In America, where it is reported that we spend $1.25 for every $1 earned and some 60% manage finances without any form of budget, it is clear the time is now to “get right.” The following websites provide excellent launching pads for those who are ready to get serious about budgeting. I’m sure there are many other sites that are equally helpful, but if you are just getting started the following will point you in the right direction. offers decision making calculators and tips  to help a person make financial decisions. provides saving strategies, real life examples,  practical ways to manage debt, and motivation to break the cycle and begin  saving and investing. is a one-stop website for pertinent rate information,  calculators, expert advice, explanations of common financial terms, and an online (and even printable) budget calculator.
If you use Microsoft Excel, using the ‘Help’ drop-down menu, then clicking on ‘Online Help’, and typing in ‘budget’ in the search site box will take you to several budget spreadsheets that you can download for home use.

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