by John Ravindran
Jesus Christ while explaining the cost of Discipleship gives this illustration of a person sitting down, counting the cost before he even lays the foundation of a tower (Luke 14:28). We read about the planning, raising resources for construction of tabernacle during their wilderness travel, construction of Temple during King Solomon’s time and also raising of resources by King David for construction of the Temple. We read of similar planning and execution by Nehemiah when he repaired and reconstructed the wall of Jerusalem. Nehemiah was so thoroughly prepared that he requested King Artaxerxes for wood for constructing the Wall of Jerusalem during his first meeting on this subject.
What is budgeting?
Budget can be defined as “a Quantitative and/or Financial statement of future plan of action of an organisation”. Characteristics of a Budget include:
- Budget is for a definite future period
- Budget is to achieve Organisation’s goals over the future
- It is a detailed plan of activities of an organisation
- All the departments of the Organisation unite, cooperate for the preparation of the budget
- It is a continuous process for, Budget requires to be updated, corrected and controlled every time circumstances change.
- Budget is a means to achieve the Organisation’s plan/goals and is not an end in itself.
Budget as commonly understood is not simple allocation of available funds for various activities of the Organisation or individuals. It is allocation of funds or resources of the Organisation or Individuals to achieve the Organisation’s goals or objectives or the Individual’s goals over a definite period. Budgeting involves:
1) Planning –as the budget is a process to achieve the overall objectives of the Organisation.
2) Communicating —the expectation throughout the Organisation
3) Directing and Coordinating –as budgets are used to direct and coordinate the activities/operations of the Organisation to achieve the stated targets
4) Controlling –as Budget and Budgetary Control are a continuous exercise. Actual performance is compared against the planned targets. The results are communicated to the various levels to improve the Organisation’s functioning to achieve the stated objectives of the Budget. This also helps in preventing unplanned expenses. It helps in establishing spending priorities.
Bible is not against planning and certainly not against planning for the future. Throughout the Bible we read of God’s redemption plan and his working out His plan. Normally in every budget preparation, there is a Key or limiting factor. In case of individuals it could be availability of funds or resources, in case of Organisations it could be availability of resources like money or men or could be other resources also. But God being all powerful, he also works out the plan of salvation through men. But he never forces any individual or Organisation to obey his call.
Not ours certainly
There is a fundamental difference in the Christian budget. The Bible teaches us that we are only stewards of the resources given to us by God (Ps: 24:1, Matthew 25:14). Psalm 24:1 clearly tells that “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” What we think ours is God’s property. What we think that we have earned with our skills is purely because of God’s empowerment. Deuteronomy 8:17-18 reads as follows. “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth…” Matthew 25:14 clearly explains this truth. It reads as follows. “…who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.” There are few principles from this parable on handling finance, budget etc.
1) Master entrusted to them his property:
Servants received Master’s property. The servants were only stewards of the property which they received. Today all the properties, or the wealth or the resources that we have belong to God the Master. We are only stewards to take care, to multiply or invest the property for multiplication. This requires that we use the God given resources for His glory and for the purpose that God wants us to use. This is a paradigm shift from worldly thinking. The wealth or the money that I earn is not mine but God’s and I can and will use only what the Lord God approves and not the way I want to use that.
We can use our resources for God-approved purposes.
2) God gives each one of us resources:
It is God who decides our talents. God has given each one of us with different Gifts, talents and vocations. In this parable, the Master has given 5 talents, 2 talents and 1 talent to three different persons. This is true in our life. God is Sovereign and he gives to each of us talents.
In this parable the Master has entrusted to his servants his property. Here the Master trusted his servants and given them resources to work with. This is true in our life also. God has trusted us with many responsibilities and resources. He has given us leadership roles to impact the society and our nation.
3) God expects us to multiply the talents/resources:
Master was commending the two who multiplied their talents. He told them, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
But to the one who kept the talent safe from robbery, loss he called him as ‘wicked and lazy servant’. This man took the pain to hide the talents of money or gold in the ground, he certainly was watching over the talent from robbers. But the master was not happy at all. In fact, the servant was thrown into darkness. In this parable, the Lord says that the servant should have deposited this talent with the bankers for interest.
Multiplication of our talents or resources involves hard work or rather smart work. Budget and budgeting helps in smart work. Budgeting exercise will help us identifying the surplus funds in advance. To a reasonable extent it will also help us in identifying the months during which we would have this surplus. Our Budget exercise will help us in deploying the funds.
Budget when exercised carefully will help us in multiplying the limited resources for the glory of God.
Our planning, actions and communications in our personal life and Organisation will be motivated to achieve the purpose for which God has called us. When we understand and realise that we are only stewards of the God given resources I am sure we will meaningfully respond to these responsibilities.
John Ravindran is a Chartered Accountant practising in Chennai.