Let me start off by saying that I am not a Certified Public Accountant, lawyer, stock broker, licensed financial planner, or banker. I have no licenses or certificates that enable me to give special advice or guidance regarding your finances. I am also not an ordained minister, though I have attended seminary. What I am writing below comes from personal experience combined with a business degree and both business and home management experience along with my understanding of the Word given to us from YHWH– the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (I believe it is necessary in these days to define which god one is referring to.) Mainly the following comes from the school of hard knocks, where I have learned through my own mistakes and successes as well as those of my friends and family and from the study of Scripture. So, please read and learn what might help you, but prayerfully make your own decisions, seek professional counsel where it is needed, and consider that my situation and those described here may not apply to you. Each of us is responsible for our own choices and the consequences of our actions, whether these actions have to do with working to obtain property, defending our property, or making property sale/purchase decisions.
What’s Money To You?
To me, money is a tool. It is merely a means of substitutionary value for something of real or perceived value. Oxford dictionary defines it as “A current medium of exchange in the form of coins and banknotes”. However, we are learning that the government is making it more difficult to use tangible coins and banknotes and is pressing for electronic money use rather than paper or coins so that they can track all of our spending. I think it is a good thing for us to track how our money is used but not a good thing for the government or others to know exactly how we spend our money. I use it to buy beans, Band-aids, and much more, but the list of all the things I buy from various vendors is for me to know and no one else. That’s very personal and private information!
On multiple occasions, I have heard a pastor or speaker say, “Show me your checkbook and I’ll tell you who is your god.” While there is something to that saying about the checkbook revealing our priorities, how we spend our money is between us and God. I do believe we will have to answer for our financial choices, along with all of our actions on that judgment day, and we need to take our financial decisions a lot more seriously, but our purchase history should be private.
A wiser man said, “Don’t tell me who your god is. Let me see what you do and then I will tell you who your god is.” People are watching us to see who our god is. If we make a promise to pay for something or to pay someone for the work and benefit we’ve received from their effort, we should be people of our word and pay them what was agreed in advance. Our Savior tells us, in Matthew 5:37: “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” Either we are truthful people of integrity or not. Our God keeps His promises and so should we, at least to the best of our ability. Given this, we should be cautious about the promises we make, whether in regards to money or anything so that our “yes” can be yes and our “no” can truly be no. We must very thoughtfully and prayerfully enter into agreements, including purchase or sales transactions. Letting emotions rule our finances is no better than letting our emotions rule our tongues or our fists. It can get us into a lot of trouble and debt!
Lack of Self-Control in Spending Leads to All Kinds of Evil and Turmoil
Money is a dirty word to some people, while it is a god to others. At times, some have considered me to be rich, though only those outside the U.S. would likely say that about me now. My life choices, directed by a loving God, have brought me to a humble lifestyle, where I am far more content and truly happy than when I lived a more worldly and luxurious suburban lifestyle with the large, multistory four bedroom home with a manicured yard and sprinkler system on a cul-de-sac in a neighborhood that included million dollar homes and when I drove a Lexus and a Corvette. That was not the goal in my life and did not bring satisfaction! “Stuff” does not bring lasting happiness to anyone. My goal, which has brought joy and deep happiness, even in what seemed to be difficult circumstances, is peace with God, worshiping Him, and obeying Him. It is my hope that others will be drawn to Him and find the peace “that passeth understanding” and the truly abundant life He offers through belief in His Son, obedience to His Spirit, and Words of Instruction about spiritual, relational, and physical matters. By following God’s ways, we are able to find deep joy and contentment on this earth. It is not in the attainment of money that we find happiness or in its absence that we find sorrow. In fact the love of money opens doors for many problems in our lives. The apostle Paul wrote in his first epistle to Timothy:
“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” 1 Timothy 6:3
Now, I am not saying that money in itself is evil. Oh, no! It is the love and obsession over money that leads to evil. When our eyes focus on money and the objects it will buy instead of our God and families, friends, and service to others, then we have derailed. We grasp for what rusts, breaks, decays, and dies instead of what has eternal benefit and provides deep fulfillment. Money is not required to produce a smile or generate laughter. We don’t have to buy a hug. These things have an intrinsic value that cannot be bought. While a purchased object may generate a smile, so can a joke, magic trick, a wink, or tickling. There are often non-monetary options that produce equally, or greater, valued results than what is purchased. Not everything is about money! Money is just a tool, and it is not bad when it is used as a resource rather than the focus of our attention.
When I hear of families having a difficult time managing on an annual income of $250,000 or more, I know there is something wrong, because most American families can get by just fine on a small fraction of this amount! Certainly, our economy is taking a toll and I have sticker shock at the stores myself, but there are too many things considered “necessities” that just are not. What I see is a lack of self discipline and budgeting in the lives of most Americans, just as it has been the case in my own life in the past. I can confidently say this is the problem for most families because of the enormous rate of indebtedness that exists in the U.S. It is astounding! It is not only our government’s indebtedness that has caused our nation’s weak economic situation either. In 2015, the average household credit card debt was over $15,000. Because that is an average, this means that there are many households was far more than $15,000 of credit card debt. That’s crazy! This does not consider the enormous additional debt from mortgages, college loans, car loans, and other types of debt; this is just credit cards. I shudder to think how people can carry so much debt. I shudder to recall how much debt burden I once carried, too.
Proverbs 22:7 tells us: “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Debt is a heavy burden, and the lender may be a tyrant, changing the terms, confiscating property, or even evicting your family from your home. We have all heard of folks losing their homes to mortgage foreclosures. Now, we have also heard of cars, homes, bank accounts, furniture, and personal property being seized by the government because of college loan payment default.
I think that most people have given into the myriad of commercials and messages telling them that they need this item or that to be “acceptable”. Everyone wants to live in a home that looks like a model home, drive a new car, dress in the latest fashions, have their children in the trendy neighborhood or private school, and have the biggest flat screen t.v. on the block. None of that matters! Not any of this makes one bit of difference to who you are and whether you will survive TEOTWAWKI or how God will judge your heart. It doesn’t speak of who your god is either. In fact, the more luxury you have the less likely you are to point to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Sure, Abraham was a wealthy man, but he was also a hospitable and generous man, too. He gave his nephew, Lot, the first choice of the lands and remained very humble. God blessed him in spite of him getting the lesser quality lands. Even though Lot took the better lands and got into trouble, Abraham pleaded with God on Lot’s behalf. In Abraham’s maturity, his business actions spoke volumes about who he was and who his God was, too.
In Part 2 of this series, I will talk about the income portion of your budget, which includes all of the financial resources that comes into the household, and we will talk about expanding it.