Posts Tagged 'finances'

Financial Wisdom

FinancialPlanning

 A lot of people are surprised to discover that the Bible has more to say about finances than the afterlife.  Actually, this makes complete sense because financial issues touch almost every part of our lives.  Depending on the state of our bank account, we’ll either feel on top of the world or buried under it with no hope.

It also surprises a lot of people that obedience to God is linked to financial blessing:

If you fully obey all of these commandments of the Lord your God, the laws I am declaring to you today, God will transform you into the greatest nation in the world.

The Lord will bless you with good crops and healthy cattle, and prosper everything you do when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you.  (Deuteronomy 28:1, 8  TLB)

Part of financial wisdom involves how those who have treat those who do not.  It also involves keeping the right perspective—keeping your focus on God, the One who blesses, not on His blessings.  Scottish Reformed preacher Sinclair Ferguson wrote:

Work is not the result of the Fall.   Man was made to work because the God who made him was a “working God.”  Man was made to be creative with his mind and his hands.  Work is part of the dignity of his existence.

In this Proverbs 6, King Solomon gives some advice on this very subject.

A Biblical work ethic, Proverbs 6:6—11; 26:13—16; 28:19, 22

Here’s another surprising factoid:  work is a blessing from God!  God gave Adam, the first man, the blessed duty of working in Paradise, thereby ruling over it.

And God blessed them and told them, “Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; you are masters of the fish and birds and all the animals.”  (Genesis 1:28  TLB)

One of the results of the Protestant Reformation was the development of what has become known as the “Protestant work ethic.”  It’s not an exaggeration to say that before Luther ignited the Reformation with his revolutionary ideas, “work” was a dirty word.   This negative idea surrounding work came from several sources; the Hebrews, for example, came to regard work as a curse from God and the Greeks looked upon work with disdain.  It wasn’t until the 1500’s and the Reformation that man’s attitude toward work changed—it was brought back to its Biblical basics.

Check out the ant, 6:6—11

And as you sleep, poverty creeps upon you like a robber and destroys you; want attacks you in full armor.  (Proverbs 6:11  TLB)

Aesop wasn’t the first person to see how industrious the ant is.  Solomon beat Aesop by a few centuries.  The advice is directed to a “lazy fellow,” or “sluggard.”  The Hebrew word means, literally,  “a sluggard, slow, lazy person.”  The idea is that the “lazy fellow” is an unambitious person.  When you think about it, comparing this person to the teeny, tiny lowly ant, it’s really degrading.  Still, even a lazy bum can learn something from an ant.

Warnings about laziness are all over the book of Proverbs, proving something many of us have long suspected:  there are a whole lot of lazy people in the world!

If we look at the ant, we see that it spends its days doing what’s important:  gathering food.  Now, we can learn a couple of lessons here.  First, the ant is not lazy and neither should we be.  It’s smart enough to know what’s good for it and it doesn’t depend on anybody else to do the work it should be doing.  Second, what’s important to the ant is survival—it needs food to survive and it won’t rest until it has all that it needs to get through.

Here’s a principle that has many applications for the believer.  The obvious one is the financial one:  make hay in the sunshine.  In other words, work while you can and while you are able to.  We need to be farsighted enough to make plans for the future.  But there is another principle that may not be so obvious and the answer to this question will determine whether you get it or not:  What’s really important in your life?  What you spend most of your time doing will reveal it.  If you’re a Christian, then like the ant, you should be doing things that relate to your faith.

Laziness might well be among the top 5 sins infesting the church right now.  We should all take the time to examine ourselves to see how are spending our time; especially our free time.  Are we reading our Bibles?  Are we spending time with God in prayer?

Thomas Miller was right on when he observed:

He lives long that lives well; and time misspent is not lived, but lost.

The lazy bum’s excuses. 26:13—16

The lazy man won’t go out and work. “There might be a lion outside!” he says.  He sticks to his bed like a door to its hinges!  He is too tired even to lift his food from his dish to his mouth!  Yet in his own opinion he is smarter than seven wise men. (TLB)

The lazy person uses the craziest excuses to get out of doing work.  What’s really strange about the “the sluggard” is that he has no idea how lazy he really is!  He has deluded himself into thinking he’s OK and everybody else is in the wrong.  In fact, a character trait of the lazy bum is that he is full of self-conceit and thinks he has wisdom nobody else has.  He thinks he has life—his and everybody else’s—all figured out.  But, he’s really just a lazy bum.

The lazy person would rather stay in bed.  The humor is priceless:  the lazy man is like a door on a hinge; it moves but goes nowhere.

The prosperous way, 28:19, 22

Hard work brings prosperity; playing around brings poverty. (TLB)

Trying to get rich quick is evil and leads to poverty. (TLB)

The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them. (NIV)

Prosperity doesn’t just happen.  It all depends on diligence and hard work.  The way to prosperity isn’t a mystery.

The two different translations of verse 22 give us good sense of what the Teacher is trying to say.  “Get rich quick” schemes attract a certain kind of person—the kind of person who has no discernment and is usually not too generous to begin with.

On lending and borrowing, Proverbs 6:1—5; 22:7; 15:16, 17

In Israel during Biblical times, there were no banks or credit unions.  Lending money was a private matter between two people.  Loans were personal exchanges, usually with great risk.  It was not uncommon for two strangers to engage in these personal exchanges, hence the Teachers advice here.

Pitfalls of borrowing and lending, 6:1—5; 22:7

Son, if you endorse a note for someone you hardly know, guaranteeing his debt, you are in serious trouble.  You may have trapped yourself by your agreement.  (verses 1, 2  TLB)

Since it was so common for one to underwrite another’s debts, entering into such an arrangement could be disastrous if the debtor turned out to be a “misfit.”  It all boils down, once again, to the ability (or inability) to exercise judgment or discernment.  The KJV’s translation of verse 2 may give us an additional insight:

Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.

It seems that, at least in the case, the one lending was behaving in a boastful manner.  He had resources and wasn’t afraid to “show off” to others; to play the big shot.  The advice is to avoid this attitude in financial matters.

Quick! Get out of it if you possibly can! Swallow your pride; don’t let embarrassment stand in the way. Go and beg to have your name erased.  Don’t put it off. Do it now. Don’t rest until you do.  (verses 3, 4  TLB)

Here’s the remedy to your financial problem:  swallow your pride and make things right.  Don’t be afraid to straighten things out.

Contentment, 15:16, 17

Better a little with reverence for God than great treasure and trouble with it. It is better to eat soup with someone you love than steak with someone you hate.

Verse 16 stresses reverence or fear of God as being superior to wealth.  A great big feast is just not satisfying when love is absent.  Cold soup, even, is better than a sumptuous steak when love is present.  In other words, believers need to be content.  If we are content, we won’t rush out and take out unwise loans.

Contentment is one of the most distinguishing traits of a godly person because a godly person has his heart focused on God rather than on possessions or position or power.  (Jerry Bridges)

Build a good reputation, Proverbs 22:1, 2, 9; 11:16, 22—26

In the Bible, there is a real high premium placed on a good reputation.

If you must choose, take a good name rather than great riches; for to be held in loving esteem is better than silver and gold. The rich and the poor are alike before the Lord who made them all.

In the original, the word “good” does not appear; it’s always supplied by the translators.  What the Teacher is saying here is that it’s up you to earn your name by the kind of person you are.  There is equality of all men before God, but down here, we earn our reputations by how we live.

Wealth is not disparaged in these verses; they are just saying that a good reputation is more valuable.  In fact, in Jewish teaching, a good name excels all other blessings in life.

Grace versus greed, 11:16

Honor goes to kind and gracious women, mere money to cruel men.

Two contrasts here:  “kind and gracious women” versus “cruel men.”  No, the teacher is not stating something definite about the sexes.  Women can be cruel, too.  The sense of this verse is a little obscure, but what it seems to be teaching is this:  you can seize wealth by any means, but honor is a reward for the kind and gracious person only.

Generosity, 22:9; 11:24—26

Happy is the generous man, the one who feeds the poor.  (22:9  TLB)

It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. Yes, the liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself. People curse the man who holds his grain for higher prices, but they bless the man who sells it to them in their time of need. (11:24—26  TLB)

The Bible is full of paradoxes, and here is one:  if you want  to get richer, you have to give what you have away.  In God’s economy, generosity very often determines one’s prosperity.  You must give to gain.

He gives generously to those in need. His deeds will never be forgotten. He shall have influence and honor.  (Psalm 112:9  TLB)

But remember this—if you give little, you will get little. A farmer who plants just a few seeds will get only a small crop, but if he plants much, he will reap much.  Everyone must make up his own mind as to how much he should give. Don’t force anyone to give more than he really wants to, for cheerful givers are the ones God prizes.  God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more so that there will not only be enough for your own needs but plenty left over to give joyfully to others.  It is as the Scriptures say: “The godly man gives generously to the poor. His good deeds will be an honor to him forever.”  (2 Corinthians 9:6—9  TLB)

A paradox indeed.  Dr. Ironside’s comments—

Bunyan’s quaint rhyme, propounded as a riddle by Old Honest, and explained by Gaius, is in itself a suited commentary on these verses:
A man there was, though some did count him mad,
The more he cast away, the more he had.
He that bestows his goods upon the poor,
Shall have as much again, and ten times more.

Solomon’s financial wisdom comes from experience.  He had learned by doing.  He knew the value of a strong work ethic and he knew the importance of generosity.  When you give, you can’t help but get.  It’s a law of the universe.

Help For Your Family: Finances

tired-woman-paying-bills

 

Money, they say, can’t buy happiness.  Of course, like so many axioms, this one is also false.  Money can buy happiness.  And depending on how much money you have, you can buy a lot of happiness.  The downside is that happiness, like money, is hard to hold onto.  Being happy is addictive, and it isn’t long before it takes more and more of your resources to feed that addiction.  The problem, you see, is that happiness is terribly temporary; it’s not a permanent state of being.  Most of us have a mistaken idea that our happiness depends on our circumstances.  Or a relationship.  Or a job.  Or even the weather.  If you are a Christian and think this way, hold onto your hat and read these verses:

Be delighted with the Lord. Then he will give you all your heart’s desires.  (Psalm 37:4  TLB)

God blesses those who obey him; happy the man who puts his trust in the Lord.  (Proverbs 16:20  TLB)

Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.  (Proverbs 14:13)

For the Christian, happiness—abiding happiness—is not found anywhere but in the Lord.  It is not found in the blessings of the Lord, although they can make you happy.  Certainly lasting happiness is not found in money, even though prosperity (and money) are blessings from the Lord.

What is your attitude toward money?  Do you think you achieved your prosperity and success by using your talent and hard work?  Did you know that you own nothing?  Let’s see how we should be thinking about money.

1.  Having the right perspective, Matthew 6:19—24

(a)  Treasures, verses 19—21

Don’t store up treasures here on earth where they can erode away or may be stolen. Store them in heaven where they will never lose their value and are safe from thieves. If your profits are in heaven, your heart will be there too.

Jesus said a lot in these verses that would have hit His listeners right between the eyes.  Back in those days, “treasures” included fine robes and costly garments.  We haven’t changed much in the intervening 2,000 years.  Our treasures today may include fine clothing, but also big screen TV’s, new cars, social position, and so on.  Jesus taught that acquiring these kinds of treasures was pure folly.  Why?  Because all those things are temporary; they can be destroyed, lost, stolen, or they just wear out.

Jesus gave His listeners, and us, an important principle:  “If your profits are in heaven, your heart will be there also.”  What did our Lord mean?  He simply meant that if all you want are earthly, temporary treasures, that’s all you have.  But if we live our lives with one eye on Heaven, then we will give to the work of the Lord.  Believe it or not, your preacher is doing you a great service when he gives you a chance to give your offerings every Sunday morning, because where your money goes, there also your heart will go.  It’s a Biblical principle that can’t be avoided.

(b)  Light and darkness, verses 22, 23

If your eye is pure, there will be sunshine in your soul. But if your eye is clouded with evil thoughts and desires, you are in deep spiritual darkness. And oh, how deep that darkness can be!

Jesus taught that a good eye brings light—goodness—into the whole body but an evil eye leaves the body in darkness.  Jesus’ point is sometimes lost, yet it’s a very simple one.  Only singleness of purpose, or purity of intention, can keep the inner man in the light of God’s truth.

It’s about a proper perspective.  If your spiritual vision is out of focus and blurred, your understanding of the truth will also be out of focus.  This is why it’s so important to see the importance of service to God as a pathway to happiness.

(c)  Two masters, verse 24

You cannot serve two masters: God and money. For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around.

Verse 24 is all about money.  God claims absolute loyalty from those who claim to be serving Him.  A true child of God cannot have a divided heart; he cannot divide his loyalty between God and the pursuit of worldly possessions.

2.  Make wise financial choices

(a)  Honoring God brings blessing, Proverbs 3:9, 10

Honor the Lord by giving him the first part of all your income, and he will fill your barns with wheat and barley and overflow your wine vats with the finest wines.

These verses come as part of a package of teaching on being faithful, which began back at verse 5:

…trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself.

When we trust the Lord, we can’t trust ourselves.  This is a long-standing Biblical idea:

The heart is the most deceitful thing there is and desperately wicked. No one can really know how bad it is!  (Jeremiah 17:9  TLB)

The rest of the admonitions build on this foundation.  To trust the Lord means to avoid evil, which is hard to do because we are all inclined toward evil; it always looks good to us.  But we can’t trust ourselves.  Also part of trusting God is giving back to God some of your wealth as a way of showing Him that you understand that He gave it to you in the first place.  Your heart may tell you, “I can’t afford to give an offering this week,” but we know that you can’t trust yourself—you can’t trust your heart because it’s deceitful.

(b)  Honorable work brings prosperity, Proverbs 13:11

Wealth from gambling quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows.

Solomon well understood that steady and wise work and investment produces prosperity.  This is a warning against gambling and speculation.  The “hard work” of The Living Bible comes from the Hebrew “hand by hand,” stressing slow and diligent work or growth of one’s investment.  In other words, wealth that comes too quickly, or with little effort often disappears in the blink of an eye.

(c)  Debt equals slavery, Proverbs 22:7

Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.

Anybody who has ever had a mortgage or a car loan understands the wisdom behind this verse!  The reason is simple:  debt (or poverty) makes you dependent upon others.  Borrowers are quite literally subservient to the lender.  Now, contextually, this verse probably has a reference to the practice of the Israelites selling themselves into slavery in order to pay off a debt.  But what’s the difference between that and paying out 30% of your paycheck to your mortgage company?  Debt of any kind puts you at a distinct disadvantage.  As A.L. Williams once said, “Nobody is free until they are financially free.”

(d)  Faithfulness brings reward, Luke 16:1—12

This is the called “the parable of the unjust steward,” and is often misunderstood because it seems like Jesus is actually commending a crook.  But Luke often used these kinds of parables as a way of contrasting something with something else.  Matthew and Mark, on the other hand, use Jesus’ parables to show a comparison.  The point of the parable of the unjust steward is not that “greed is good” or anything like that.  It’s that very often worldly people—unjust stewards—are more consistent with their beliefs and practices and work harder to achieve their ends than do Christians.  They aim low but they aim better; they work hard at making the most of their opportunities and doing the hard work that is needed to succeed and prosper.

The key word is probably found in verse 8:

The rich man had to admire the rascal for being so shrewd.  And it is true that the citizens of this world are more clever in dishonesty than the godly are.

Believers need to learn to be as clever in honoring God as a crook is in finding ways to be dishonest.

3.  Become a generous person

(a)  Help others, Proverbs 11:16, 24, 25

It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. Yes, the liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself.  (vs. 24, 25  TLB)

This seems like a real paradox!  But Jesus said essentially the same thing:  if you sow sparingly, you will reap sparingly.  It’s another divine principle that can never change and works for anybody.  The general principle is that if you are generous with the resources you have, you will have more resources.  This certainly applies to giving to your church and giving to the work of the Lord.

Ironside wrote this:

Bunyan’s quaint rhyme, propounded as a riddle by Old Honest, and explained by Gaius, is in itself a suited commentary on these verses—

A man there was, though some did count him mad,  The more he cast away, the more he had.  He that bestows his goods upon the poor shall have as much again, and ten times more!

You can never lose out in helping others.  What goes around, comes around. You really do reap what you sow.  When you bless others, you will be blessed.

(b)  Give cheerfully, 2 Corinthians 9:6, 7

But remember this—if you give little, you will get little. A farmer who plants just a few seeds will get only a small crop, but if he plants much, he will reap much. Everyone must make up his own mind as to how much he should give. Don’t force anyone to give more than he really wants to, for cheerful givers are the ones God prizes.

These are powerful verses.  Notice that the Christian giver is like a farmer:  he sows.  This is a remarkable statement.  A farmer plants seeds to reap a harvest.  A Christian is supposed to give for the same reason.  Proper Christian giving will NEVER result in poverty or destitution because proper Christian giving will always result in a harvest.

The world gets richer by taking from others.  But the Christian enriches himself by giving to others and to the work of the Lord.  The key is to be generous with what you have.  It’s not only the rich that are able to be generous, “everyone,” according to Paul, is to give generously.  And God especially loves those who give “cheerfully.”  The Greek puts the emphasis on “cheerful” and “God.”  Hilaron is the Greek word translated “cheerful,” but we get our “hilarious” from it.  God loves hilarious givers!  They impress Him greatly.

(c) God will be generous with you, 2 Corinthians 9:8—11

God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more so that there will not only be enough for your own needs but plenty left over to give joyfully to others.  (vs. 8 TLB)

Yes, God will give you much so that you can give away much, and when we take your gifts to those who need them they will break out into thanksgiving and praise to God for your help.  (vs. 11  TLB)

God is able to give you both the motivation and the means for generous giving.  If you want to become a generous giver, if it’s truly your heart’s desire, God will give you the ability and the resources to be that kind of giver.  It’s a grace from God.  The Christian who has the grace to get along with less has more for others!  And God can and He will give that giver all that he needs, both spiritual and material blessings.

Verse 11 describes a kind of single-minded spirit of generosity from which comes selfless living so that the needs of others may be met.  This kind of giving—real money in the form of offerings collected from the church—would result in God being praised.  When Christians behave like Christians, when we give generously as we are able, and as we give with a smile on our faces, God is the One who will be praised.

It was Daniel Webster who famously observed—

The most serious thought that has ever occupied my mind was that of my individual responsibility to God.

How seriously have we considered our responsibility to God in terms of our giving?  We should all think about this because we will all be held accountable to God.

 

 

 

 

 


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