MANAGE | Jul 24, 2023

The Importance of Financial Habits

Having financial goals is important; without goals, it's hard to know if we're on track when it comes to Biblical stewardship. But goals themselves aren't enough - we also need to instill the habits necessary to reach them. It's great to have a goal to pay off our credit cards, but if we don't put in place the disciplines needed to get there, the goal itself doesn't help us.

In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear notes that many sports teams start the season with the goal of winning a championship. But, obviously, not all of them actually achieve that goal. Merely having a goal doesn't guarantee success; goals provide direction, but they don't actually move us in that direction. That's where habits come in.

Look in the Mirror - Then Do Something

Another James emphasizes the need not just to understand what we need to do but to actually do it:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. James 1:22-25 Setting goals is similar to listening to the word - we know the direction we want to head. But knowing where we want to go is like seeing ourselves in the mirror and identifying what we need to do: Unless we actually do it, the glance in the mirror serves no purpose. The key is maintaining diligence in foundational financial habits.

The book of Proverbs is full of exhortations to diligence:

Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. Proverbs 10:4

Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor. Proverbs 12:24

The lazy do not roast any game, but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt. Proverbs 12:27

A sluggard’s appetite is never filled, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied. Proverbs 13:4

The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. Proverbs 21:5

These Proverbs contrast diligence with two things: laziness, and haste. In contrast to laziness, diligence implies discipline, consistency, and perseverance. In contrast to haste, diligence emphasizes the importance of little things over the long run. In the same way, our financial habits require both discipline and patience to bear fruit.

Key Financial Habits: Being a "Doer" of Stewardship

Stewardship is a key aspect of Christian discipleship. And discipleship requires, among other things, growth in regular spiritual disciplines and habits - habits like prayer, fellowship, Bible study, and others. So, it should come as no surprise that some key habits/disciplines support our journey into stewardship. Here are a few:


A desire for God's glory is what separates Christian stewardship from worldly financial management. As a result, prayer should pervade our financial planning - prayer for God's wisdom, for his provision, and for him to be honored in our finances (James 1:5; Matthew 6:25-33; 7:7-8; 6:9).


Tracking and categorizing our spending is key to knowing where the money is going. This enables us to control the resources God provides rather than waste them.


Tracking spending is the first step, but tracking alone won't tell us if we're heading in the right direction. We need to evaluate our spending against our Spending Plan to know how we're doing and where adjustments need to be made. (And, of course, we need a Spending Plan in the first place if we're going to do this!)


Life situations change, so our priorities (and ultimately our Spending Plans) need to be flexible. Regularly evaluating before God our priorities and non-negotiables is key to continued good stewardship.


For those who are married, we need to regularly discuss our finances and review our priorities together with our spouse. Spouses often come at stewardship from different perspectives: different money motivations, different family backgrounds, etc. Regular communication and collaboration over finances can help promote a healthy marriage overall.


Some key financial habits, like giving and saving, can be automated. Scheduling payroll deductions or recurring online transactions can help ensure that we consistently maintain these important habits.


Scripture warns us to flee temptation and to ask God to lead us away from it. Places of financial temptation might include activities like online shopping or practices like impulse buying. Understanding our temptations and avoiding those environments can help us to stay on track financially. (1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22; Matthew 6:13)

Habits like these keep us on track to meet our stewardship goals - whether they're related to retiring debt, increasing savings, giving more generously, or any other area. Another great thing about habits is that they keep working after we've achieved any specific goal - they continue to guide us on the path to the next goal, and the one after that, etc. Even while updating our financial goals, these habits will serve us well on the journey to financial freedom.

The Long Game

One 30-minute session of Bible reading is beneficial - but alone, it won't make us students of the Word. A 5-minute time of prayer will help us connect with God - once. But it won't develop ongoing intimacy and communication.

Similarly, creating a Spending Plan or tracking our spending for a few weeks is beneficial, but doesn't create lasting results. Lasting results require lasting habits.

This is why Scripture emphasizes the need for perseverance (Romans 5:3-4; 2 Peter 1:5-7; Hebrews 10:36; 12:1-2; James 1:3-4, 12; 5:11). God develops perseverance in us as we follow him. This perseverance, in turn, enables us to stay the course even when we don't see immediate results.

For seven years, Joseph stored up grain in Egypt, knowing a famine was coming. At first, it may not have appeared to amount to much. But over time, so much grain was accumulated that he stopped keeping records of it. And this grain sustained not only Egypt but surrounding countries as well during the seven years of famine that followed (Genesis 41:41-57). We can learn a couple of things from Joseph's diligence:

1. Urgency. Joseph didn't wait until year 6 of abundance to start preparing for the famine. He took it seriously from the first day and immediately implemented a program to collect and store grain during the years of plenty. Similarly for us - the best time to get started is now! 2. Consistency. Joseph didn't just collect grain when it was convenient or easy. He faithfully persevered for seven years, gathering and storing the grain in a time of need. In the same way, our practice of productive financial habits needs to be consistent. 3. Thoroughness. Joseph didn't just collect grain from a few areas. He collected it throughout Egypt, storing it in the cities near the fields where it was harvested (verse 48). Likewise, we need to apply positive habits throughout all our finances in order to reap their benefits.

Staying on Course

When we're taking a trip, a GPS helps us by keeping our destination in sight and by giving us directions to reach that destination. But it doesn't drive the car. We have to pay attention to road signs and employ safe driving habits if we want to get where we're going.

Similarly, having financial goals helps us define our stewardship destination. And having a working spending plan provides the directions to get there. But it's the financial habits - the little things we do day after day - that actually determine whether we will stay on course to reach our destination.

Fortunately, we have a God who not only shows us the direction to go but empowers us to stay the course. May he be honored as we practice key financial habits!

Article Contributed by our Friends at GoodSense Good Sense is a non-profit organization that exists to help churches equip their congregations in a key area of Christian discipleship: financial stewardship. Learn more about them by visiting

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