The largest democratic country in the world presented its union budget for FY 2022-23 yesterday. Here are some gleanings. As always Taxpayers expect a reduction in income tax rates, while others may look for loan repayment exemption, businessmen and company owners hope for relief on dividend taxation, or rebate on exports, or reduction/removal of GST on services. In short, all of us look for our respective “me” benefits and seldom think of the overall welfare of the people and the development of the nation as a whole.
The book of Genesis not only tells us that the Lord God who is the creator of everything including the human beings – the crown of His creation — created in His image but also reveals He is the author of collective entities like family, community and nations. The Lord God is equally concerned about individuals as well as collective entities. After the fall of the first man and woman, God revealed and continues to reveal His will, His mind and His plans through His laws, commandments and ordinances for the order and functioning of a king & nation, priest & sanctuary, and individual & family.
We can trace the basics of budgeting to biblical principles. Though we don’t find the word budget in the Bible, much is written on ownership and stewardship. So as we reflect on the current Union Budget, let’s take a couple of cues from the Bible which will help us to see the big picture of the national budget instead of the “me” budget.
Ownership & Stewardship:
Genesis 1:28 “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis, 1:28, ESV), makes clear God delegated the stewardship of multiplying, flourishing and taking care of the whole earth to man and woman. But we also need to remember that God is the ultimate owner of everything as mentioned in Psalm 24:1 (NCV) “The earth belongs to the Lord, and everything in it— the world and all its people.” This brings out the vital truth that nothing belongs to us, though we may “own” different possessions, ultimately ownership belongs to God who created all. That’s why Paul reminds us in I Timothy 6:7, “After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.” Let’s live with this conscious thought “all things and people belong to the Lord and He is the owner”. Matter, space, time and energy cannot be created but can be managed. So it demands stewardship on our behalf for God, the owner.
Similarly Jesus brings forth this thought of stewardship in Matt 25:14-30. Stewards/Leaders are expected to manage well and multiply the resources for the benefit of the master and his household. We infer that budgeting needs to be with the focus of increasing the benefit and welfare of the people who have elected the leaders and given them the authority to manage and multiply the delegated resources of the nation.
When analysing the national budget, on the basis of the above mentioned scriptures let’s remember stewardship is delegated power and authority for a purpose. So it ought to be for the welfare of others – other-centredness against self-aggrandisement. Don’t stop with what “I” can get out of this budget but go beyond and see how the budget highlights the ways and plans to increase the welfare of the people, growth and development in all sectors; balanced economic growth of our country coupled with social justice and equality, and peace and prosperity of the nation.
Responsibility & Accountability:
While discussing those who are in leadership as stewards for the resources of the nation and working out a prudent budget, what does the Bible say about individual’s responsibility especially as children of God?
Jeremiah 29:7 (ESV) “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
Very interesting to note that the people of God though in exile, are accountable for the welfare of the place they live. The scripture commands that we are called by God to pray and work for the welfare of the place where we live. Again Prophet Jeremiah is underscoring the thought that our God is the Lord of the whole earth – whether in Jerusalem or in Babylon, all resources, all materials, all power, and all products are His. It’s our Father’s world and we as individuals are responsible to work for its welfare. How do we contribute? By giving our best in our respective places of work, profession and investment. Every service and every work has a bearing and direct influence on the welfare of the nation. The verse clearly says, if we want to see our welfare, then work towards the welfare of the nation. We are expected to give our best.
“Seek the peace of the city… and pray to the Lord for it”, echoes what Paul mentions in I Timothy 2:1-4 “I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgiving, be made for all men.” As children of the Prince of Peace, we are called to be peacemakers. We are accountable to stand in the gap and intercede for others.
By giving our best and praying for our nation, we also stand as an ambassador for the living God and His love and care for the nation and all the people. We are commanded to pray and find ways to be an integral part of the community, fulfil the civic responsibilities and do our best which will automatically contribute towards the nation’s welfare and its people.
In Budgeting, the core lies in those who plan, prepare and execute with wisdom, discernment and futuristic vision. So can we uphold them in our prayers and contribute in ways that can bring peace and prosperity to our nation? Let’s move from “me” budget of selfishness to “we” budget of other centredness.