08 Mar The Link Between Fasting and Budgeting
Over the past couple of weeks I have been reflecting on my lenten observances and in particular the practice of giving up certain things in Lent. The conclusion I came to is that the practice of fasting is very similar to budgeting.
Both budgeting and fasting require you to make small sacrifices right now in order for you to achieve something greater down the road. For example, if you want to save up for a vacation next year you need to sacrifice small things right now like frequently eating out or cable TV so that you can save up for the vacation that you want. Likewise when we fast we give up certain things which we like for a greater good.
Budgeting and fasting also help us to train ourselves in self-denial. They teach us that by surrendering things we enjoy we can achieve something greater. To simply sacrifice something for the sake of giving it up does nothing to help us grow. We also need to reflect on why we are making the sacrifice in the first place; i.e. we need to examine our motives. And while we are reflecting on why we are making these sacrifices we have the opportunity to ask some pretty big questions about our goals in life. We are forcing ourselves to stop and think about the life we are creating with the choices we are making.
What stops many people from both budgeting and fasting is that they are both hard practices to get started with and there is a certain level of discomfort that comes with them. Since these practices force us into self-reflection we may come face-to-face with aspects of ourselves that we buried a long time ago and do not want to deal with, but the great thing about both fasting and budgeting is that if we can endure the initial pain in getting started than they have the power to set you free so that you can live to your full potential. Also, once you have made a habit of fasting or budgeting it becomes easier over time and we can make great progress towards our goals.
If, for example, you always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom but you felt like you couldn’t make that choice because your family needs the income that your job brings in than budgeting may help you to reach your goal of becoming a stay-at-home mom because when you are looking at your finances while budgeting you may be able to find ways to cut your spending in some areas, so that you are no longer dependant on the income your job is bringing it. Budgeting can help you to do something you always wanted to do but never felt you could. because it gives us awareness of our income and spending so that we can make better choices with our money that are more aligned with our goals.
Similarly, fasting is a great practice for anyone who wants to break free from a bad habit, because it teaches us to reorder our lives and put things in perspective. It enables us to always work for the greatest good instead of settling for something lesser.
The picture above is a great way to think about budgeting and fasting. We are reluctant to surrender the small comforts that we love because we do not really believe that we can achieve the goals we desire, but God is faithful and when we give of our selves He blesses our efforts and gives us what we need and desire. Though it must be said God gives us what is best for us, not what we think is what is best for us.
There is always a spiritual element to sacrifice. Whenever we give something up it opens up our heart to God and others. It helps us to overcome pride and selfishness so that we can give and receive love more freely. God blesses our efforts to improve our lives.
The key difference between budgeting and fasting is their end goals. Budgeting is about managing your finances and material assets well and fasting is about growth in the spiritual life. Despite their seemingly different ends both can bring us closer to God. The virtue of justice, which we talked about in an earlier post, looks at how to properly manage our material possessions. Thus, budgeting is a good practice for those who want to grow in the virtue of justice.
We must always keep in mind, however, that all that we own really belongs to God and we are merely stewards of His possessions. This helps us to keep things in perspective. There is nothing wrong with wealth as long as we always keep God at the centre of our lives and use our wealth for His glory. Scripture warns us that “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Timothy 6:10) and “no one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). So let us remember that God is master and we are called to serve Him with all we own and all that we are.
Lent is a great season for us to take stock of our lives and to reflect on what we want. Through prayer and fasting we have the opportunity to prepare our hearts for great graces at Easter which will enable us to become the men and women God is calling us to be. Making small sacrifices through Lent trains us to give of ourselves which enables us to take on a posture of receptivity before God so that when Easter comes we may receive all the graces God wants to give us. Both budgeting and fasting can teach us to properly order our lives and place God at the centre of everything. If we give all we have, including our material possessions, over to God, He will give us the treasures of Heaven.
On a more practical note. If you are interested in learning more about budgeting please check out youneedabudget.com. I came across this site about a year ago and their budgeting software (YNAB, which stands for You Need A Budget) has been very helpful for me and my family in managing our finances. They also have a great blog with a lot of helpful posts on personal finance, getting out of debt, and managing your money. I would strongly encourage you to check them out.