Why should I keep thorough financial records?
Maintaining an effective accounting system is an investment in your future and in the welfare of your family. It equips you to be an excellent steward of the resources God entrusts to you and helps you accomplish the following goals:
Know What You Have
An accounting system is the basis for personal inventory and self-examination. It is a source of accountability for the resources you have and how you use them.
An accounting system is not limited to documentation of your financial assets. It can and should reflect the larger scope of what God has entrusted to you:
- Spiritual riches
- Family and friends
The value of the most precious things in life cannot be described by a price tag, in dollars and cents. Take time to consider the value of these resources and how you can bless others with them.
Use What You Have
Keeping an account of your resources enables you to know what you have so that you can use what you have. It equips you to make wise investments and thus increase your resources.
Your motives play a key role in the ultimate success or failure of an investment. Jesus Christ told parables about men who increased their wealth by investments—Jesus described one man as a foolish man and the other as a faithful man. Christ’s evaluation of their lives was not recorded on a ledger sheet. He based His assessment on the hidden motives of each man’s heart.
The foolish man was a proud man who hoarded riches and highly esteemed a life of ease. (See Luke 12:16–21.) The faithful man knew that the resources belonged to another, and as a steward he increased the value of those resources. He performed his duties as a diligent, trustworthy, profitable servant. (See Matthew 25:20–21 and Luke 17:7–10.)
Know What You Can Trade
Managing your resources with an accounting system equips you to make wise choices. God intends for wealth to be increased as a result of trading, buying, or selling—not by inflation. People should increase their assets through greater productivity, resourcefulness, and savings.
Jesus told parables about men who sold what they had to buy something of greater value. (See Matthew 13:44–46.) If you do not keep records of your assets, a “collector’s instinct” can easily influence your financial decisions. When greed goes unchecked, creativity and resourcefulness are stifled, and it also becomes easier to yield to the temptation to accumulate things that have little or no value.
Life itself requires giving up possessions of lesser value in order to obtain things of greater value. For example, we trade time for money, and we trade money for food. These concepts parallel truths that govern our spiritual lives: we are to focus on eternal riches. “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
Live Within Your Income
One reason to keep financial accounts is to make sure that you do not spend more than your income allows. Christ emphasized this point in His parable of the unfinished tower: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:28–30).
In this story you can see the value of taking into account the following details:
- Clear Plans
When you visualize how you could use your assets to care for your needs and advance the kingdom of God, carefully evaluate your ideas. In Scripture, we have examples of men who accomplished great tasks as they carried out God’s direction: Noah was given plans to build an ark; Moses was instructed to construct a tabernacle; David dreamed of building a magnificent temple; Nehemiah purposed to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
- Accurate Estimates
Wise planning requires a thorough, current assessment of the potential costs. Do the footwork needed in order to come up with an estimate of what will be required to complete a project.
- Available Assets
When God directs you to a project, He provides sufficient funds to finish the job. Begin to gather the needed supplies for a project, and trust God to continue providing what is needed. Moses collected materials before he began to construct the tabernacle. David gathered materials that would be needed to build the temple.
- Public Reputation
An effective accounting system can help you avoid unwise decisions and the ridicule that often accompanies them.
Give an Account to God
An accounting system is a daily reminder that we must some day give God a full and detailed account of all that He has entrusted to us. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12).
Details make a difference. “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon [riches], who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:10–11).
Establish Your Character
One of the most revealing tests of a person’s character is his attitude toward the use of money. Many people are influenced by greed and will do anything they can to gain wealth. Therefore where finances are concerned, you should be particularly alert regarding the potential for false accusations and be prepared to provide accurate and thorough documentation of all transactions.
When you make financial agreements, make sure they are clearly understood, accurately documented, and safely stored in an organized filing system. If you are accused of mishandling money, be prepared to defend your integrity. God instructs us to “provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17).
Those who are being considered for church leadership must not be driven by greed, and they should pass the tests of wise and Godly money management. (See I Timothy 3:3.) The character that is revealed by financial responsibility is so important that believers are warned to not even eat a meal with a person who claims to be a Christian but is a swindler in business dealings. “I have written unto to you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be . . . covetous . . . or an extortioner; with such a one no not to eat” (I Corinthians 5:11).
Keep Your Family in Order
A husband and father has a specific role in the leadership of the family. The Apostle Paul wrote: “The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church . . . . Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:23, 25).
It’s the head’s responsibility to be fully aware of the needs of the body and give direction to meet those needs. If your hand is on a hot stove and the signals of pain do not reach your brain, your hand will be severely damaged. Similarly, if damage is occurring in a man’s family, home, or business and he is not aware of it, he is not fulfilling his role according to God’s design. Consequently, his leadership will be challenged in his home, business, and church. “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (I Timothy 3:5).
In financial matters, the amount of money a man makes is not a source of security for his wife and family; rather, their security is determined by how carefully and wisely he manages his resources. If a wife senses that her husband is carelessly handling small amounts of money, she knows that he can also mismanage large amounts of money.
Careful accounting can help husbands and wives work together to wisely manage their resources. Husbands should ensure that their wives understand and know where to locate the family’s important financial documents, including bank books, contracts, insurance policies, mortgage papers, real estate records, tax files, marriage and birth certificates, licenses, medical or military records, pension information, vehicle titles, and the will. Careful maintenance of these financial documents and records is an important part of caring for a family.
Plan for the Future
Keeping financial accounts prepares you to wisely plan ahead for future needs. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:6–8).
The Biblical examples of Joseph (who helped the Egyptians prepare for a seven-year famine) and King David (who stored up materials for the construction of the temple) demonstrate the value of wisely accounting for your present resources and using them to accomplish a future goal. (See Genesis 41 and I Kings 7:51.)
In life, you will experience cycles of plenty and need as you go through seasons of sowing and reaping. God intends for these seasons to help you learn how to be content in varying conditions and to prepare for the future.
The temptation to steal is common to all people. However, if you keep precise records of your resources, you can discourage others from stealing from you. If you know what you have, you will notice if something is missing and you will ask others to account for it.
In Scripture, we find examples of unlikely thieves, such as Gehazi the servant of the prophet Elisha, who stole when he thought he would not get caught. (See II Kings 5:20–27.) We also find examples of wise stewardship, such as Ezra, who oversaw the safe transportation of the temple’s gold and silver vessels by carefully accounting for each piece. (See Ezra 8:24–34.)
Focus on True Riches
How you handle money reveals your true values, and it impacts your future. Jesus warned us, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).
This material is adapted from pages 145–149 of the Men’s Manual, Volume II .