What to do with your economic stimulus rebate check - Word&Way

What to do with your economic stimulus rebate check

By Brad Dixon

The U.S. Treasury Depart­ment began sending economic sti­­mulus payments to most Ame­r­­ican households this month.
To receive a payment, taxpayers must have a valid Social Security number, receive annual income of $3,000 and file a 2007 federal tax return. Individuals will receive up to $600, and married couples up to $1,200. Parents will receive an additional $300 for each eligible child younger than 17.

President George W. Bush and Congress hope these checks will be used to buy things, enabling manufacturers to sell more products, em­ploy more people and bring our country out of economic difficulty. But there other ways to spend these windfalls.

Bart Nill is the area director for Kansas City and northwest Missouri for Crown Ministry. Crown is dedicated to equipping people around the world to learn, apply and teach biblical financial principles.

When questioned about the money Americans will receive, Bart didn’t hesitate.

“Most Americans,” he said, “are in debt. They need to give 10 percent to God and use the rest to pay down their debt. Christ’s followers need to ask Christ what he wants them to do. The Lord may tell different people to do different things.

“But debt is a serious problem, and few people that owe money should consider doing any­thing else but pay on their debt.”

Christians often make choices contrary to worldly wisdom. Transformed by our commitment to God, we believe Hebrews 13:5: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” Christians put their faith in God.

Most Americans’ problem is not that they don’t have enough stuff. Instead, the problem is not having those things paid for. Adding to our pile does us little good. What can believers do that is a better choice than buying? Here are three suggestions:

First, give it away. You’re going to receive a check. If you have never given a tithe before, here’s your chance. Give 10 percent of your economic stimulus payment to your church or other Chris­­tian ministry. Or give 20 percent. Thirty percent. Why, you can give it all. Giving this money to God’s work may not change your current financial sit­uation, but it’s a way to “…store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matthew 6:20)

Second, pay existing debt. Do you have credit card bills, college loans, home improvement loans, car loans, etc? These debts drain our finances month after month, long after the pleasure or novelty of what was purchased has worn off. Money is the biggest source of conflict in many otherwise happy marriages. Use your government check to pay off debt, and you have a chance to reduce that conflict.

Third, save this money. Amer­icans have a terrible re­cord of saving. One of the reasons our country is in a financial downturn is that few people save. We have a “negative saving rate,” which means that we spend more than we earn. When you open a savings account in a bank or credit union, you help reverse this trend. Or investing in stocks and bonds may interest you.

Hiding this money under your mattress isn’t a bad idea if you don’t have a savings account. A piggy bank is an emergency fund that can keep you dry on a rainy day.

Proverbs 21:20 says, “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” The “stores of choice food and oil” in the days of the Old Testament were foods that would not easily go bad. Your “stores of choice food and oil” are dollars and cents that are saved for difficult days.

Sometime in the near future you may receive a check from the government. The government wants you to spend it on stuff. What do you think God wants you to do?

Brad Dixon is a regional vice president for the Missouri Baptist Foundation. Contact him at bdixon@mbfn.org.