What is the proper Christian attitude toward money? God does not intend His people to be poor! Here is vital advice on how to survive today's financial crunch.
All those years of work and nothing to show for it!" "I can't understand where this week's money has gone!" "Honey, the car broke down today. How are we ever going to pay to have it repaired?" Does this sound like your family? More and more people file for bankruptcy every day. Unfortunately, some of them are from God's Church. Debt and financial squeezes strain our marriages, limit our children's futures and put stress on us spiritually. With the prospect of higher unemployment and a continually punishing inflation rate, we all need to relearn the biblical principles of wise financial stewardship.
"I wish... that thou mayest prosper"
Of course, the Bible warns against undue preoccupation with material things. The love of money is listed as a major root of countless evils (I Tim. 6:10). Jesus said, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matt. 6:24). Drifting into materialism slackens zealous dedication to. God, His Word and His Work. This prevents some of God's people from reaching their full potential as useful members of the Church. "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (Gal. 5:17). Obviously; if there are 16 waking hours — 960 minutes — in a normal day, a Christian who prays only one minute often finds that the "cares of this life" are 960 times more real than the things of God (Luke 21:34). No wonder people who covet more, more and still more end up in financial, personal and family difficulties. The obsession with physical pursuits leeches the supply of God's Holy Spirit (Phil. 1:19). Yet, in a balanced way, God would love to prosper every child of His: "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper... even as thy soul prospereth" (III John 2). Jesus, Christ taught that the right approach and wise handling of money reflect some of the discretion, self-mastery, wisdom and planning needed for success in His Kingdom, "If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?" (Luke 16:11). Strong words! Yet from beginning to end the Bible pictures our God as a fabulously wealthy multi billionaire eager to share His blessings and treasures with us (Gen. 1:28-29, Rev. 21:7). Christ's parables of the pounds, talents, stewards, banquets, paying the laborers the penny, buying oxen and counting the cost portrayed the true God as a financial success (Deut. 8:18). We should be more like Him, Here are five steps leading to financial stability. To implement them will take character, wisdom and self-discipline — attributes of God Himself!
One: Be faithful and diligent
The shortest way to spell success is W-O-R-K. The declining work ethic, creeping socialism, massive welfare programs, strikes, deficit budgeting in government and featherbedding that plague the society around us have sadly affected some in God's Church. Yet God the Father and Jesus Christ have never stopped working (John 5:17). They are vigilantly over seeing the most massive project ever contemplated — turning sinning lumps of clay into Sons of God (Isa. 41:14). Billions of angels charge to and fro at lightning speed from God's active throne room, dispatched on missions of protection, inspiration or chastisement (Rev. 4:5, Dan. 10:12-14). The God Family is zealously busy (Luke 2:49). As a human being Jesus Christ characteristically worked long hours — from sunup to sunset (Mark 1:32-35). He was a• good provider. He was solicitous of His mother's welfare to the end, for instance, even securing a stable future for her as one of His dying acts (John 19:26-27). He inspired Solomon to write, "A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children" (Prov. 13:22) and that "There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise" (Prov. 21:20). Sadly, some of God's people are not good providers. The spirit of the "laid-back" generation has so infected this age that healthy, strapping men are content to just get by as easily as possible. To those who have lost sight of the therapeutic, beneficial effects of hard work, God thunders: "If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel" (I Tim. 5:8). Paul counseled the Ephesians: "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth" (Eph. 4:28). This means having a surplus in savings, not barely scraping by. It implies reaching the status of " profitable servant" (Luke 17:10). Such a, person is prospering and sharing his blessings with others through helping proclaim the Gospel (first tithe), providing a way for others to 'attend God's festivals (excess second tithe) and fulfilling the biblical injunctions to care for the widows, orphans and unfortunates (third tithe). Such an individual is a credit to God's Church and to his community. "The crown of the wise is their riches: but the foolishness of fools is folly" (Prov. 14:24). The truly diligent Christian has tapped the hidden blessing in today's unemployment crunch — the fact that those who are not afraid to work and are willing to start anywhere will so impress their employers that the boss won't be able to afford to let them go (Prov. 25:6-7)! Experts on job and career counseling maintain that few people fail because they can't do the job. They fail because of poor self-management skills — the inability to get to work on time, to operate constructively under authority, to relate well to co-workers. Working constructively under authority? This is a basic requirement of a true Christian: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ" (Eph. 6:5).
In a balanced way, God would love to prosper every child of His... Jesus Christ taught that the right approach and wise handling of money reflect some of the discretion, self-mastery, wisdom and planning needed for success in His Kingdom...
Isn't it amazing how far the Bible takes employer-employee relationships? Begin now to respect and support your boss. If you have problems with your superiors, God says it shouldn't be your fault (Eccl. 10:4).
Two: Keep track of outgo
Will a windfall help you out of. debt? What about winning the Irish sweepstakes? Millions wait for their ship to come in, but it usually sinks before reaching port. The plain truth is that lack of money is often not the major problem. Lack of wisdom is! Listen to more invaluable advice from the book of Proverbs: "Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase" (Prov. 13:11). Herbert W. Armstrong, in his booklet, The Seven Laws Of Success (which you can have for free), jokes about "poor" old Sheik. Ali who just couldn't make ends meet on a mere $12.5 million a year! More money won't solve our financial problems unless we keep track of how we spend it. One financial expert feels that at least 10 percent of the family income is frittered away as loose change or on unaccounted-for items. Begin to run a check on where you are spending your money. Why not construct a simple fiscal thermometer? List on the left-hand side of a notebook basic expenses such as groceries, coffee, lunch, clothing, laundry, household goods, personal care items, rent, gas and car payments, fuel and utilities, bus tickets, cab fare, barber/ beauty shop, entertainment newspapers/magazines, Church donations, kids, bills, other. List the days of the week on the top of the page and keep track of every item, small or great, for a month. Efficiency experts do the same thing for large corporations when they run "time checks.': At the end of the month sit down with the family and "count the cost" (Luke 14:28). Ask which items are not really essential and could be eliminated to help your family save money. There are certain key areas by which you can judge your expenses. If your rent or mortgage costs, plus utilities and taxes, exceed one fourth of your gross income, it might be advisable to seek a cheaper location. Rent can be a massive millstone. What about food? Groceries take 20 percent of the average family's gross pay. The best way to save here, without sacrificing nutrition, is by home cooking. Potatoes averaging $.15 a pound sell for 10 times that amount as french fries or potato chips! Cooked natural grain triples in cost as boxed cereals. Fresh, delicious ears of corn at $.15 each retail for almost $1 a pound as corn flakes, for example. Be a little tough on yourself (II Tim. 2:3). The more you slash from your outgo, the sooner you can leave the debt roller coaster. Do you really need cable television? Soap, toothpaste and other household items can be stocked up during sales. Follow the storage principle taught in Proverbs 6:6-8. Plan your menu around sale specials on chicken or roasts, etc. Maybe the barber bill can be reduced by giving the family haircuts at home once in a while — if you know how. Entertainment? Why not attend Church activities more often? They are usually inexpensive. A picnic lunch and a hike will do everyone a lot of good, as well as cutting down on movie costs. Or what about simple games like Scrabble or Monopoly, where the whole family gets involved? Think resourcefully. Soaring clothing costs can be reduced if Mom and Dad plan their wardrobes around classic, timeless styles that will not go out of fashion quickly. Using wisdom and discernment (Prov. 1:4), you could knock 5 to 10 percent off your outgo each month. This is vital because families behind the financial eight ball often spend about 25 percent of their income on debt retirement.
Three: Stagger your payments
Debt is fiscal sin. Mistakes of judgment or emotional impulsiveness lie at the root of most debt. Lack of foresight and proper planning helps put people there. Now turn these same principles around to work for you. The borrower truly is servant to the lender (Prov. 22:7). You must be prepared to face the music. Above all, don't run and hide. Notice Jesus' advice here: "Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means' come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing" (Matt. 5:25-26). Face your creditors. They will appreciate your communicating with them in a forthright, respectful way (Prov. 28:1). Indicate your willingness to make restitution. They don't really want to turn your case over to a collection agency and lose 50 percent on the deal. Plead for time (Matt. 18:26). Indicate a schedule of payments. That will show them you are sincere — that you are taking repayment seriously. Now comes the hard part: budgeting your assets to meet your debts. Many families live "high on the hog" with their first check and then hide from the bill collector at the end of the month. End this feast-and-famine cycle through carefull planning and foresight. God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33). Wise, balanced budgeting follows the tithing principle. When we are increased, we tithe (Prov. 3:9-10). Apply this principle to your debts. It is not easy but it does help. Adjust every bill to the length of time between your paychecks. If, for example, you are paid twice a month, then monthly bills will have to be divided in half and weekly bills doubled. A yearly bill should be divided into 24 parts. For example, to pay a $200-a-month rent bill from a weekly pay period, set aside $50 from each paycheck. By saving for bills from each check, the worry of budgeting disappears. In brief, the principle is to pay part of every bill with every check. You are now setting your house in order. This should ease some tensions with even your most contentious creditors. If you are resolutely doing your part God will give you the unexpected breaks (Mal. 3:10). In general, with most debts it is wise to pay the principal as soon as you are able. This is why if you must borrow, borrow only the bare amount needed and from reputable banks and lending institutions rather than from fly-by-night finance companies and loan sharks. Don't be easily dissuaded from your repayment program. Even in emergencies refuse to panic. Change your routine only in extreme necessities. Often people raid their savings or abandon a sound program when tact and wisdom might have eased them through the difficulty.
Four: Begin to save
Should you begin a savings account even if you are in debt? Most financial counselors say yes. Many people will say, "But I can't afford to save!" The point is to begin small, perhaps with a token amount of only $5 to $10 from each paycheck. Why save? Because the. safest way to make your money work for you is to capitalize on the best interest rates available. Christ counseled the slothful servant, "Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury" (Matt. 25:27). Some banks offer a daily interest rate on money deposited for only part of the month; money you have earmarked for other items can still earn some increase. Deposit these itemized amounts with your regular savings and interest accumulates faster. Our forefathers believed in saving for a rainy day. Proverbs 27:12 says, "A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself." We, though, have been so brainwashed by credit companies and • hard-sell advertising that money truly burns holes in our pockets. Perhaps the missing 10 percent of our income fritters itself away as pocket money or on impulse buying: "For riches certainly make themselves wings; they flyaway as an eagle toward heaven" (Prov. 23:5). Be wary of credit cards. Get into the habit of paying cash. It will make you more conscious that you are parting with your hard-earned dollars. Never shop for food on an empty stomach — when you are hungry everything looks good. If you really need an item, you will feel as strong a desire for it the next day and the next month as you did at the time the impulse struck you. Much personal debt is caused by purchasing unessential items for emotional or psychological reasons, under the pressure of advertising hype and slick packaging.
The way to prosper is to work diligently, plan ahead, evaluate your spending habits and invest wisely. How much safer this is than following some wildfire project for which one has no training or experience! Begin to take charge of the financial area of your life.
Knowing these propensities, debt counselors strongly recommend that people open savings accounts. Money in the bank is sometimes more awkward to get at than if it's lying around the house or being carried as pocket money. Also, debt counselors know that saving even a tiny portion from each check is a foundational principle for teaching people the value of money. Try it!
Five: Seek wise counsel
Sadly, some of the most wrenching financial problems in the Church occur among brethren involved in business dealings with each other, or when brethren invest in other members' projects that, while well-intentioned, may be economically unsound. Here is where the local pastor can give invaluable counsel and advice. Often the • minister knows more of the total background of a project and can offer sound advice. Beware of "get rich quick" schemes where you are surety or guarantor for loans and financial adventures of other people. "Be not thou one of them... that are sureties for debts. If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee?" (Prov. 22:26-27). Proverbs 28:19 says, "He that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough." Sometimes members organize whole consortiums involving other brethren without even an hour of counsel from the ministry. Financial disaster often follows. Personal relationships are strained. Then, belatedly, the minister is called, and then only to play the role of a peacemaker. While it isn't wrong to start your own business, it is wise to seek abundant counsel on such crucial matters as job and career changes. One career counselor warns, "Self-employment offers a faster route to bankruptcy than working for someone else." Your minister may know you better than you think. He may offer valuable advice in the area of personal skills• and career placement. These are areas of personal growth and development as well as emotional maturity. These subjects lie well within the sphere of the called, chosen ministry of Jesus Christ. The overwhelming majority of our ministers' families are financially solvent and stable. Follow their example. Seek wise counsel. Study. Search the book of Proverbs. Re-read the free literature we put out on this subject. Make it a special part of your personal Bible study until you have achieved financial stability. The way to prosper is to work diligently, plan ahead, evaluate your spending habits and invest wisely. How much safer this is than following some wildfire project for which one has no training or experience! Begin to take charge of the financial area of your life. God desires us all to prosper. It can happen for you — you can become financially stable.
Teaching Kids About Money by Dexter H Faulkner
While you are keeping your family's financial house in order, be sure to inculcate your good habits into your children. Teaching your children godly principles is one of your main responsibilities as a parent (Deut. 11:19). A friend of mine hit on a dramatic and graphic way to impress upon his children the value of money and the wisdom of budgeting and saving. His income was being sapped by high electricity bills because his children constantly left unneeded lights burning. His children were fairly young, but his simple method could be adapted for older children and even teenagers. My friend gathered his children around the kitchen table one evening. On the table were numerous stacks of pennies. Each stack was labeled to represent different household expenses: tithes and offerings, mortgage, food, heating, electricity, clothing, entertainment. He explained that the pennies represented the money he brought home from his job and that the stacks showed where the money went each month. "Now each of the bills we have has to be paid," he said. "And if one of the bills is larger than we expected, we have to take some money from one of the other areas to help pay for it." His children nodded, keeping their eyes on the pennies. They understood his reasoning. "One of the things we like to do most is go out and have a good time, isn't it?" he asked. "Yes," his small son answered. "We like to buy ice cream!" "And we like to go to the movies," said his daughter. "Right," my friend agreed. "But this month our electricity bill is bigger than we expected, because we leave lights on all over the house when we don't need them." His children could see the inevitable coming. "So you know what we have to do?" my friend continued. "We have to take money from some where else to pay the electricity bill. The only place where we have extra money is in our entertainment stack." My friend moved pennies, one at a time, from the entertainment stack to the electricity stack until there weren't any left in the entertainment stack. His children's eyes widened each time he moved another penny, the chagrin on their faces deepening until it resembled despair. "Now," my friend announced. "Our budget for this month is balanced. Maybe next month we'll have enough money to go out and have fun," he said hopefully. His kids could tell he was on their side and was just as sad as they were. After the family meeting was over, his children immediately began running all through the house, shutting off lights. From then on, they made sure no money was wasted on unneeded electricity. My friend's electricity bill went down and his kids learned an important lesson. Don't forget to teach your children about money management.