Pastor's Blog - Norm Byers
Healthy finances

9.14.11

 

Could you use a “bailout”? A bailout is assistance that helps an entity avert a financial collapse. Simply said, a bailout is a financial rescue that positions an entity to regain financial health. Many of the contemporary examples of financial rescues, like in the case of the two American automakers, involved an “infusion of cash.” Over time, if the company recovers and returns to a good condition, the bailout is viewed as a success.  Sounds good, doesn’t it? But cash is not always the way to financial rescue. Infusing money does not always bring about recovery.


Here is something to consider: God gives bailouts. God focuses his “assistance” that will help us to avert a financial collapse in the form of wisdom. We think that a heap of money will really get us on track, but God wants to give us what we really need— the thing that has great potential to bring about healthy finances and that is insight about money. In 1 Timothy 6:6-9 from the Bible, it says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” In regard to money, watch out for traps, pitfalls and harmful desires that can bring about ruin.


There are more than 50 million search results on Google for “How to get rich.” Getting rich is a topic that excites people. One of the search results is an online poll at ehow.com where the top four answers were revealed. The most popular response given was “Start your own business.” Becoming your own boss seems like the best way to get on track and build some wealth. Unfortunately more than 50% of new business startups fail within the first five years. While starting a business could be a great possibility to bring your finances vitality, is getting rich really a good reason to start a business?


The second result in the poll was “Win the lottery.” No work or stress involved, just a couple of dollars and a little bit of luck! But you have a much better chance of being hit by lightning than winning a substantial lottery! Therefore, staking money in this way may bring about more financial harm.


Another popular response was “Invest in real estate.” Now this sounds sophisticated, doesn’t it? However, this requires knowledge of the real estate market and the ability to finance the investment and a lot of patience.


The last response in the poll was “Inherit a fortune from a distant relative.” This is called financial recovery by waiting for someone to die. There must be a better way!


There is a tried and true way to build wealth in a healthy way. I want to share with you three biblical ways or laws to grow your finances. I am choosing to use a strong word like “laws” because of their great importance.


Proverbs 28:19 says, “He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.” The first law of wealth building is “Work your land.” This is not merely an imperative for those who own land and are farmers, but for all of us to utilize our abilities and resources and earn a living. The biblical worldview is one that presents “work” in a very positive light. We are designed to do something productive in life. In contrast, chasing fantasies will result in poverty. Sometimes this may mean you have to supplement your income in other ways like delivering pizzas.


The second law that will bring financial well-being is “Spend less than you make.” 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 wise store up and the foolish spend everything. Keeping this law is difficult for almost everyone but must be followed in order to achieve financial stability. Many of us have difficulty distinguishing between “needs” and “wants.”  It’s not wrong to have cable TV, take vacations, or dine out, but they are not requirements for life. Healthy finances come through planning and budgeting and that takes a lot of work. Sometimes we may have to delay getting the things we want in order to live within our means.


The third law is “Build wealth little by little.” Proverbs 13:11 says, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” By spending less than we make, there will be money left over for savings, unexpected emergencies and major purchases. Setting aside money regularly is the easiest way to grow your wealth, even a small amount will add up in time.


Are you taking steps in your life that are bringing about financial health? It’s fun to search Google for an easy fix, but if you really want your finances to be in good condition, embrace the biblical teachings for building wealth and wait to see what the God of the universe does with your money!


 
A debt amendment

9.7.11

 

Where were you when you heard the US government decided to “bailout” the American auto industry in the form of multibillion-dollar loans? Perhaps it was the day you got a foreclosure notice or got laid off from your job. Maybe you were at home struggling to determine what bill you were going to pay and what bill was going to have to wait. When you heard that word “bailout” for the first time, your natural response might have been, “Where’s mine!”


Let me clarify my position a little. In general, I do not view a “bailout” as a negative thing. A bailout is assistance that helps an entity avert a financial collapse. Think of a bailout as a financial rescue. Many of the contemporary examples of “financial rescues,” like the one mentioned above, involve an “infusion of cash.” But cash is not always the way to financial rescue. Money is not always the answer.


Where’s mine? God wants to give us a bailout. Many times God’s financial rescue it is not an infusion of cash but more in line with what we need. What we may need is an infusion of wisdom and insight about money. It is easy to think of money just in terms of its physicality, but the Bible teaches that money, wealth and property have a spiritual dimension. Jesus spoke about money more than seventy times in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Jesus’ statements about money had more to do with being cautious about its over-attention in our lives than any kind of investment strategy. These statements (and others) are assistance to help avert a financial collapse.


Consider the prevalence of debt in our society today. An anonymous quote that appears in Howard Dayton’s book “The Money Map,” that alerts us to the commonality of debt says, “We have so much debt in our nation that the average person has been described as someone driving on a bond-financed highway, in a bank-financed car, fueled by credit-card-financed gasoline, going to purchase furniture on the installment plan to put in his mortgaged-to-the-hilt home.”


What complicates the prevalence of debt in the western world is that it is seen as a road to financial well-being. Debt is sold. It is a product. Due to its accessibility and marketing, debt has become a way of life. According to creditcard.com (numbers from 2008), 78% of American households own a credit card and have an average balance of $8,300.


The Lord’s word about debt is summed up in Proverbs 22:7, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” We learn here that the borrower is subservient to the one who has made the loan possible. Folks, debt is not this glamorous position but is a predicament of “financial slavery.”


If the Bible is true and becoming a borrower means financial servitude, then why do people enter into debt in droves? First of all, there is much naïveté about the effects and long-term damage that debt can bring. This is illustrated by the fact that as bankruptcies have risen dramatically in the last several years, young Americans, those between the ages of 20-25, have the highest rate of bankruptcy of any group.


Presumptive thinking instead of real life thinking wins out. Instead of strategizing, “How can I get rid of payments to have financial breathing room?” contemporary rational says, “Yes, I have enough left over to make it fit.” But what happens when income is lost by a layoff or pay cut? Those who are wise understand that unforeseen issues happen! As Dave Ramsey says, “Murphy is going to show up every once in a while.”


A very subtle cause of our individual indebtedness can come from within. We are longing in our souls for satisfaction and fulfillment that sometimes we believe can come through material possessions. We find a very helpful comment on this topic from 1 Timothy 6:6-9, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” Debt is a trap that can bring about destruction.


I believe God would say to us that we as individuals need a “debt amendment.”


An amendment, in this case, is a change or a modification in the way we view debt. Debt needs to be viewed seriously and should not be entered into lightly. We need to minimize our current debts and put the kibosh on any future with the rare exception of an appreciable item (such as a mortgage). We need to develop a clear plan to eliminate all debt. This plan needs to be detailed and is one that can be systematically executed over a specific time.


Interested in making your debt amendment? I recommend joining a 13-week Financial Peace University group (many are starting in the community this fall).


 
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