Posts Tagged ‘money’

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Cures for Class Envy

March 19, 2014

envyThere is enough money in this world to go around. But being fair and equitable has never been the point of money. The idea that people will voluntarily spread the wealth around is both wrong and naive. Unfortunately, no society has successfully regulated the accumulation of money; it probably cannot be done.

In an unequal system such as the world monetary condition, there will always be winners and losers. And just as it is wrong to think that this can change, so too it is a false syllogism to believe that those who have more money somehow deserve to be rich and those with less money are getting what they deserve.

I am guessing–but I believe I’m accurate–that more than 90% of wealth and poverty is not the result of justice or rewards for effort. Most of the people in our world who work the hardest are the poorest. Many who work the least are the most wealthy.

Therefore, class envy is inevitable. The Have-nots will always stare longingly at the Haves and would trade places with them if they could. The problem is, there are few people who propose workable solutions to this condition. And it is a problem.

More and more, those who perceive they are part of underclasses–and the makeup of this group varies with every society–are rising up to demand their ‘share’ of the equity of this world. The riots in London three summers ago, the “99%”, the property crime in upper-middle-class suburbs etc. all tell us that people are suffering from a Class Envy ailment.

Economists, philosophers, politicians, writers, bankers all fail to supply answers for this disease. This is the place for religion to supply the answer. And of all the religions that addresses wealth and poverty, only Christianity has a plan that works.

When I say that Christianity has a workable plan, I only mean this plan works for individuals. Collectively, we will always have a difficulty with class envy. There will always be strife among those who do not have the bare necessities of life. But if you want to live free of this envy in your own soul, here are three prescriptions the Bible offers us:

1. Contentment: The best known set of verses on contentment is found in 1 Timothy 6:6-11:

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

In this passage, the word for “contentment” means to have “sufficient amount“. Yet Paul ties this concept with the idea of “godliness”. How can we make that connection in practical living? The person who devotes themselves to finding out God’s priorities for their life and arranging their schedule to meet those priorities will find that they don’t have time and energy to devote to those things that don’t fit into God’s priorities.

A few years ago, I was spending a lot of time thinking about how I should dress for going out in public, for speaking engagements and for meetings I had with clients. I spent so much time on it that God had to intervene. In my regular prayer time with God, he confronted me on how important clothes were becoming. He asked me to go an entire year without buying any new clothes. At first, I resented being asked this–though I went along with it. But as I noticed my poor inner attitude, I learned this desire to have others notice me was a toxic attitude. By the end of the year, God’s input had produced a certain degree of contentment in me. I found I no longer cared much about what others thought concerning my clothes. I now buy some when I need them and usually don’t spend much time thinking about it. And I found I don’t notice other people’s clothing as much either.

2. New Supply Chain: When a person has committed to be a follower of Jesus Christ, he is expected to accept his Lordship over their lives. This means more than obeying God. It also has perks and amenities. If we are God’s children and we serve Him, then we should expect God will take care of all our needs. Paul says it this way in Philippians 4:19: “My God shall supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory.

One Christmas, my wife and I considered something we had never done before. We thought about going into debt. We weren’t getting paid very much from the church and we had four small children. We bought them each a gift from us and made one for each of them. That emptied out our meager savings. We realized we didn’t even have the money to buy a turkey. Three days before Christmas, Kathy and I spent time in prayer and asked God either to supply our needs or to cut down on them. When no money came in the mail, we went down to the store and for the first time in our lives decided to buy groceries with our credit card.

Yet both of us felt this was not the right thing for us to do at that time. I am not saying it is evil to use a credit card or to have basic food needs. But for us on that day, we felt we could not put it on credit. So we took the food back to the shelves and left the store. We drove down to the church so I could pick up something from my office. When we went back out to the car, there was an envelope on the front seat. It contained almost $200. To this day, we have no idea who put the money there. And from that day, it became a tad easier to believe God was going to supply our financial needs. And when we came to believe that, we stopped envying those who had more. The One who supplies my needs is richer than everyone else in the universe combined.

3. Live in the Opposite Spirit: Sometimes, it is not enough to just resist envy. More often than not, if we just try and gut it out, we’ll find that we aren’t that strong. Someone close to us will buy something or be given something that we want and the envy will rear its head.

No, for envy to be crushed completely, we should go on the offensive against it. This truth is painted beautifully in the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 6:2-4 says,

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

So how does giving to the needy help to do away with class envy?

Pastor Jack Hayford of Church on the Way in Van Nuys, CA tells of a time when he and his wife went through a hard season with their finances. He noticed as their bank account got slimmer, his attitude toward other people’s possessions became jaded. He resented and envied more and more.

As he was reading the passage above, it occurred to him that this is not primarily about giving in secret. It is about watching the attitude of the heart by taking care of what is happening inside. Since he was facing envy and resentment, he decided to take what money he did have and give some away. He took five dollar bills and filled his wallet with them. Every person in town who panhandled, he gave them five dollars. Every letter that came in the mail asking for money he sent them some. He found after about two weeks, his resentment was over and the envy was completely gone.

How did that work?

When we walk in the opposite spirit from a bad attribute, we are no longer in the control of that thing. If we feel like hating, loving our enemies breaks the power of hatred. When we feel jealous, being sympathetic pulls us out of jealousy’s grasp. And when we feel envy creeping in, charity will scatter it.

These three things will annihilate envy: Contentment, trust and charity.

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God Can Help you With Money

March 29, 2013

A Helping HandWe now come to the two most popular posts in the past 10 years on this blog. This one (#2) was posted just last year , but already it has been viewed over 15,000 times. The truth is this: Knowing God will change your finances.

In a nutshell: He doesn’t help us with our finances, if by “help”, you mean that God will swoop down and rescue you from financial disaster. God wants to be our partner in everything in life, and that would not be a partnership at all.

However, God does give huge support in our financial endeavors. In the lifestyle we call “following God”, we recognize that everything we do in this world can be a partnership with God. With regards to money,  I can see at least eight ways God can give us long-term support with our finances:

1. Wisdom: There are thousands of traps out there ready to waste our money, steal our money and cause us to lose our money through negligence. Twice in the past five years, people have come to me with incredible investment opportunities. Both times, the risk seemed low and the rewards considerable. Both times, God sent people to me who gave me advice on why I should not go with either investment. Each of these investments went through bizarre disasters, and I would have lost most of what I owned if I had gone with either of them.

2. Defeating the Waste of Self-Absorption: We often think that we don’t have enough money. That is sometimes true (especially of those who live in third-world poverty). For the most part, we have enough money, we just have too many wants. God helps us with our money by showing us how much we are spending on ourselves: Our comforts, our habits, our pleasure and our fears. We are self-absorbed and this costs us a lot of money. Think of the person who spends $100,000 on a sports car and then wonders why God didn’t answer his prayer for more financial success.

3. Rebuking the Devourer: In Malachi 3 God promises if the people of God will begin living on 90% of their income instead of 100% (tithing), he will “rebuke the devourer”. The Devourer is everything in our world that will destroy our possessions. Traffic accidents, household appliances exploding, unexpected medical bills; these are all examples of the Devourer at work. When we tithe we are recognizing a partnership with God. The person who stops living a self-absorbed life, who tithes in recognition of God’s partnership will find that things just don’t break down as often. The pastor of my church growing up lived on very little and gave much of his financial wealth away. He kept a car running until 250,000 miles. When he got a new car after almost 20 years, his old car died about a month later. The mechanic opened up the engine and found there were almost no piston rings left. It should not have run at all. But God kept it going…he rebuked the Car Devourer.

4. Simplifying our Needs: When you follow Christ, your priorities change. One thing many followers of God find is that they don’t want expensive things or too many things to complicate their lives. A simple follower of God is usually quite content to live simply. This will definitely change a person’s financial standing. John Wesley used to teach that a follower of God needed to work as hard as they can, live as simply as they can to give as much as they can to God’s Work.

5. Work Ethic: Those who follow God with a full dedication often work harder than the average person. For centuries, this has been called the “Protestant Work Ethic”. Hard work almost always impresses those for whom we work and it almost always produces higher returns on our money. Hard working salespeople make more sales. Harder working students get better jobs. The work ethic that comes from the Spirit of God will give a person more ability to produce money…and this will dramatically impact a person’s finances.

6. Sin is Expensive; Righteousness spends Differently: Which person will spend more money: The one who spends a week in Las Vegas, or the person who goes to Yellowstone Park? I am not saying everyone in Yellowstone is righteous, but is hard for me to believe that those who deliberately choose Vegas as a vacation spot are doing it in order to enjoy the Godly life. Let’s face it: Sin can be very costly. Look at addicts, adulterers, thieves, alcoholics, liars, swindlers and the like. Though they may all have moments where they make a lot of money fast, they usually lose it even faster. Most people who live Godly lives never waste their money on vices.

7. We Become God’s Channel: When we seek to use our money for God, he sees that we are good stewards of our money. God loves to use good stewards to get some major things done. If you continue to allow your life to be a channel of God’s work, expect he will give you enough money to get that work done. You will never out-give God.

8. Long-term View Always Pays Off: In the world of investing, it is said that those who invest with an eye to the long-term always do much better than those who invest in the short-term. Long term vision often keeps us from spending foolishly. No one has longer vision than God. The person who plants a tree often will not see that tree grow to its full height. But living in Sacramento, a city of Trees as it is known, I can thank God for the vision of people who planted so many of the downtown trees a century ago. The same is true of finances. The longer a vision you have for finances, the better you will handle it. For instance, if you waste five dollars now (money that could have been invested) it is like wasting $25 over the next 40 years. Keep the long view and understand that God may want us to be frugal to bless future generations and not just the here and now.

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Economics for Life #2 – MONEY

May 3, 2011

Last year, I had a friend come over and work on my house. He did this because I had done a series of marriage counseling sessions with he and his wife. The problem was, he had to fit in my “free” work with the work he did to make a living. After he groused at me about the hassle of coming over to our house, I reminded him of how much money he saved not paying me for counseling. I don’t think I made him feel better.

This bartering agreement is why we have money. Money is a way to trade commodities with other people. Bartering sounds wonderful, but it is almost always inconvenient. Plus, I may not have anything you want, but you may have something I want. To solve it, we would have to involve a third person.

Money is a way to barter with others. We trade our skills with an employer and they give us money. We take that money to the grocery store, electric company, cell phone company, clothing store, restaurant, furniture dealer, toy store, Internet provider etc. and trade our dollars for their goods and services. The money is the way we exchange our services.

But how does money work? Where does it come from? Where does it go? Money is printed by a group called the Federal Reserve. They loan that money out to banks, who loan that money out to other banks, who loan that money out to other banks. Then the banks begin loaning the money out to businesses. Those businesses pay for raw materials, wages, goods and services, utilities etc. Those people and businesses pay their employees. The money continues to circulate until it is put back into bank accounts and then the banks pay back what they borrowed from the Federal Reserve.

But what about countries that don’t use our dollars? How do we buy from them? If we buy a lot of stuff as a nation from another nation like China, there are all sorts of people who keep track of it all. Why? Because if we buy more things from China than they buy from us, then we owe them money. It is called a Trade Deficit. So the Federal Reserve allows China to buy things like land, companies, our Federal debt and on and on. Right now, China bought almost half a trillion dollars in our land, debt and companies last year. This is because we buy more stuff from them than they buy from us. So more dollars go to them and then they use those dollars to buy our stuff.

Every country trades their money back and forth. When a country is buying more stuff than they are selling to other countries, their money is worth more. That makes the stuff from other countries cheaper for the rich country. The United States has always had money that other people wanted. That is starting to change. Why?

The question rises up: how much money are we allowed to print? The answer is: as much as we want. We are printing more American dollars than ever before. As I said in the last article, that makes each dollar worth less. It used to be that we could only print as much money as the value of the gold our country owned. This was called “being on the gold standard”. If we owned a trillion dollars worth of gold, then we could print a trillion dollars worth of money.

We went off the gold standard in 1971. Why? Because we wanted to print more money so we could get cheaper stuff from other countries.

Eventually, other countries figure this out. Eventually, they don’t want to buy our land and companies and debt because it isn’t worth as much as it used to be. That means that people don’t want our dollars. The long term effect of that is the stuff we buy from other countries will cost more.

I can see someone thinking…”well, that’s good. Then we’ll just buy stuff we make here.” Great idea…if it would work. But it won’t. Not for a long time. We don’t make much stuff here any more. We sold most of our factories and made movie theaters and sub-divisions and parks out of that space. We don’t make clothes and MP3 players any more. So right when we can least afford it, we are going to have to build factories again. Except we can’t afford to do that so we will have to invite Chinese companies to come and build them.

Meanwhile, because each dollar is worth less but there are more dollars we have to spend more of them to get the same stuff. Now we’re back to inflation that we talked about last time.

So someone will say “let’s save our money then.” Too late. The banks don’t pay interest to someone who saves money. You will find there is no bank paying more than 1.5% interest on savings. Most pay less than that. And if the real Inflation rate continues at 6-7% each year, your money in the bank loses almost 5% of its value every year.

So money in our near future will be worth less, will buy less and because interest rates are so low, won’t make you much in simple investing. Is there an answer to this? Yes, but it’s not an easy one. More next time in our series as we look at “Investing”.

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