Unemployed or underemployed, you may find yourself as one of the 49 million Americans that face hunger. In a country of such excess, it is shocking that 1 in 6 Americans has to go hungry. Luckily there are numerous programs and organizations available to help try and combat hunger.Continue Reading...
Archives For Prosperity
Christianity, by tradition, has long affirmed the recognition of seven deadly sins. For those unfamiliar with them or the Christian tradition, they (as listed on wikipedia) are wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. These seven deadly sins are considered unhealthy vices. Christian history has used these speculate what a healthy lifestyle would look like. Basically, take all of these things – make sure you don’t do any of them – and you are set.
While it may not be this simple, it is essentially the point. The truth is though, that the seven deadly sins is often ignored or forgotten. Despite learning about them from the financially successful Hollywood film ‘Seven’ by Andrew Walker, starring both Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, I would wager a bet that most people in my generation have not learned of the seven deadly sins. In fact, even as a Seminary student (who also grew up in a Christian family), I had to look up the seven. I new a few of them from memory, but there is no way I could name them all.
As a result of which, I thought it would be interesting to use the seven deadly sins as a structure for a financial article. What might these teach us about smart financial management and how might our lives be different if we did or did not follow them.
1. Wrath: Wrath is often used in the Christian tradition to refer to God’s anger. This the essence of what this deadly sin refers to. Falling victim to excessive amounts of anger can do terrible things for one’s financial state. Making decisions based on anger can lead one to ignore all signs of wisdom or advice. It is always important to try and reflect on your financial state with a sound mind.
2. Greed: Greed is the strong desire for wealth, money, goods, etc beyond a healthy limit. If you are interested in reading more about greed, be sure to check out my article What is Greed? Greed can also cause all sorts of unbalance with your finances. It can cause you to be disconnected from your family or gamble away your money. It’s always important to balance your desire for more wealth with things that truly matter.
3. Sloth: Other than the movie film’s character Sid the sloth from Ice Age, the word sloth is not often used in popular conversations. This may make it hard to understand, but refers (in this case) to apathy. Apathy or sloth can cause a huge financial disaster. Not caring about monitoring your finances or even budgeting can lead to financial ruin. Before you know it, you can overspend and find yourself wondering how you are going to pay off debt. Financial management is an on-going activity that requires action and attention.
4. Pride: I am sure everyone has felt proud of an accomplishment. There are certain degrees of pride that are healthy – such as celebrating an achievement. However, there are also forms of pride that take control of your life. Before you know it, you can feel unstoppable and take risks that are unnecessary and unprecedented. It’s always important to critically question your actions when managing your finances. Can I afford to take this risk? Would I lose to much? Is my reasoning for doing so justified? These are all important questions to ask.
5. Lust: Lust, the cheap version of love, is often understood as some sort of sexual fantasy. While it doesn’t have to be limited to this definition, even this understanding helps us understand something about finances. Ignoring lust teaches us to place value on something long-term – something more than just an momentary feeling of satisfaction. The inherent message of resisting temptation and holding on to previous commitments also parallels advice given for retirement – that is, buy and hold. Thinking long-term for financial investments is a great strategy.
6. Envy: When was the last time you were envious of your neighbors new car or nicer house? Is is this effort to keep up with the Joneses that puts a lot of American families in consumer debt. Envy, or wanting to have what other people have, can lead to unnecessary spending. Take extra care not to place value in possessions – for you will never be satisfied and always wanting more.
7. Gluttony: Gluttony or the over-indulgence is a theme that I think Americans know all too well. Traditionally, Americans are known for their big houses, big cars, and many possessions. It’s unfortunate but true to a certain degree. I know that I personally have realized how much stuff I can accumulate over time. It is a struggle at times not to satisfy that urge to buy more or even eat more, but it is a healthy practice to avoid doing so. This reminds you that giving should be an important aspect of your life as well as keeps you from completely buying into the consumerism myth that possessions will make you happy.
I didn’t realize it when I started writing this post, but it’s remarkable how well the old, Christian traditions still speak to the experience of contemporary American culture. Managing your finances is never black and white, but full of shades of gray. It means weighing options and deciding which is the best one. Hopefully these deadly sins will give you an idea of what not to do.
On the About page, I state that Provident Planning is dedicated to exploring God’s Provident Plan for the personal finances of Christians. But what does that mean? What is God’s Provident Plan? It’s God’s clear Biblical message that through contentment in Christ, diligent work, and good stewardship Christians can prosper so we can give generously in the name of Christ. By following the Provident Plan, Christians can glorify God through their finances.
This message is what I discovered as I have studied personal finance in the Bible. As a Christian and someone who studied financial planning in college, I wanted to know how I could give sound, Biblical advice, but I found so many conflicting opinions that I felt I should find out for myself. After searching for all the Bible verses I could find about personal finance, I began to see God’s wonderful plan for a Christian’s personal finances.
It’s not a plan focused on making Christians rich, or how we can retire early, or the things we can do to make us feel good about ourselves or our money. No – just like every other part of God’s plans for Christians it brings glory to His name and strengthens the witness of Christ in the world. If all Christians followed God’s Provident Plan for their finances, we would radically change the Church and the world. And while it involves how we handle our money – it’s all dependent and focused on the transformation that occurs when we fully give ourselves to Christ and realize the power of His death, resurrection, and the life we have in Him. Let’s take a closer look at each part of God’s Provident Plan.
Contentment in Christ
Once we have decided to follow Jesus, He becomes everything to us. We are in a continual struggle against Satan to keep other things (especially money) from taking the place of Christ. When we find contentment in Christ and Christ alone, the importance of money in our lives diminishes and pales to the value we place on Jesus. We learn the secret to being happy in all situations – whether we’re full or starving, rich or poor, employed or jobless, single or married – nothing in this life matters at all when compared to the glorious gift of Jesus and the fact that no one and no circumstance can take that away from us. We see everything in light of eternity, and we find that nothing on earth is of more value than our faith in Christ. We come to fully believe and trust that God cares for us and will provide everything we need.
Once we have this habit of always finding our contentment in Christ, the Spirit will teach us to place much less importance on material things. We will no longer be focused solely on our own needs and wants – an early retirement, a bigger house, a nicer car, and so on. Instead, we’ll be consumed with a desire to focus on the needs of others – to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and show God’s love to the world through our faith and our deeds. We’ll spend less and less on ourselves as we give more and more to others.
Where contentment helps us to spend less on ourselves, understanding God’s call to work diligently helps us earn more money. As the gap between our spending and our income grows, we are left with more to manage wisely, prosper, and then give generously to the needs of others. The attitude and spirit we have as we approach our work can also glorify and honor God’s name. His witness can be seen in how we deal with people in our businesses and our motivation in our work.
You can read more about hard work in the Bible here.
While the Bible says little about financial planning as we know it today, God has shown us the value of using wisdom and prudence in managing our affairs. There are verses that speak to planning ahead, saving, avoiding debt, and other practical matters we will encounter in our personal finances. By wisely managing the blessings God provides (that gap between our income and our spending), we can be good stewards and have even more to give in His name.
As we follow God’s teaching on contentment, diligent work, and good stewardship, He will bless and prosper us. When we think about prosperity our focus needs to be on having God’s view of prosperity and its purpose. Prosperity can come in many other ways than just material blessings, and God wants us to use our prosperity to honor Him – not just make ourselves more comfortable. When God prospers us, it’s so we can further glorify Him as we give more and more to those in need.
Giving is the purpose of God’s Provident Plan. All other aspects of His Provident Plan are a means to this end. Through our contentment in Christ, we spend less so we have more to give. Our hard work provides more income so we will have more to give. Through good stewardship we avoid wasting what God has given us so we will have more to give. Our prosperity comes from God not so we can make ourselves richer but so we can give even more. God’s Provident Plan is completely focused on others – on how we can glorify God by laying down our lives and our wants for the needs of others. We live simply so others can simply live.
At the same time, we’ll realize that God’s Provident Plan gives much to us as well. Peace beyond understanding, joy beyond description, and happiness beyond compare are all ours as we trust ourselves to God’s care. When we first begin following God’s Provident Plan, we hardly realize the potential benefits it will have for our own lives because we were still mired in the views of the world. But as we follow Jesus and see that He is trustworthy and faithful, we become aware of the indestructible treasures in heaven that He has taught us to accumulate.
When we fully grasp God’s Provident Plan, we’ll see that giving in the New Covenant has nothing to do with tithing or percentages. It’s not about requirements, rules, obligations, or blessings or curses. Our giving is to be completely motivated by love – joyous and cheerful as we realize that our sacrifice is not loss but gain in Christ. We give freely, generously, and sacrificially not out of compulsion but out of our joy and contentment in Christ. Such giving is a sign of our total commitment to Christ and His teaching, and it’s a very powerful witness to the world.
Following God’s Provident Plan
Following God’s Provident Plan for our personal finances has huge implications for our lives. It goes against every motive the world gives us for why we should manage our finances well. Instead of focusing on what’s in it for us, we look at what’s in it for God and others. But we know that the rewards God has for us far outweigh the deceitful and false promises of worldly riches. If you feel God calling you to follow His Provident Plan for your finances, please browse around the website and sign up for free updates through email or your favorite feed reader!
I’m not talking about stocks or bonds. Are you willing to trade in the pursuit of the “American Dream” and instead pursue God’s Kingdom and His Ways? Check out this video:
So, are you a trader? Let me know in the comments below!
On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chuck Bentley, the CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, about his upcoming book The Root of Riches: What If Everything You Think about Money Is Wrong?. The book will be released in the next week or so, but if you’d like to get a 20% discount you can go to http://www.crown.org/rootofriches and sign up to pre-order the book and get a free sample chapter.
I had the chance to read the book before the interview and I highly recommend it to all of you. Chuck does a good job of getting to the heart of our issues with money by highlighting how being rooted in Christ is the only way to receive true riches. The interview below will give you a good overview of the central ideas in the book and help you determine if it’s something you’d want to read.
I’ve included the audio here which you can listen to on the website or download for later. I’ve also transcribed the interview for those of you who prefer to read. I’d be interested in your feedback on how well you liked this because it’s the first time I’ve tried doing an interview/podcast. (I was quite pleased with how my intro and outro music turned out!) Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of the page, and if you have any questions I’ll do my best to answer them.
Download the audio by right-clicking here and choosing “Save as…”.
Credits: intro and outro music for the audio is from “Bucolique Utopique” by David on Jamendo
Note: I was not paid anything to post this interview. I only agreed to it after reading the book because I believed Chuck’s message in The Root of Riches is excellent and needs to become more prominent in Christian personal finance.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a Christian’s proper relationship to material wealth – especially in terms of what’s appropriate for us to desire and what’s not. The difficulty comes in trying to draw lines. When do our desires become excessive? How do we know when we’re pursuing the things of this world above the kingdom of God? Where does ambition stop and greed begin?
Greed – that’s what I want to talk about today. But not so much talk about as discuss with you. What I want to know is how you define greed. What is greed? How do you know when you’re being greedy? How can Christians protect themselves from becoming greedy?
Let’s look at a few definitions of greed, and then I’ll show you why I think it’s such an important concept to understand. The Bible says quite a bit about those who are greedy, and it’s not good…
Definitions of Greed
Dictionary.com states that greed is “excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions”. In other words, greed is when you’d extort, rip off, and even steal to get more money. Obviously, that would violate Scripture and Jesus’ command to love our neighbors.
On the other hand, WordNet, a project at Princeton University, defines greed as an “excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves”. That’s a much more difficult definition to wrestle with, isn’t it? Where do we set our level of “need” or of what we “deserve”? And when does a desire to acquire more than that level become “excessive”?
I’ve talked before about needs versus wants. We act like many things are needs when they’re actually just wants. Our needs are very few: food and water, clothing, and shelter and warmth depending on your local climate. In the strictest sense, that’s all we truly need.
And within each of those categories there’s a level beyond which the need becomes a want. We only need food that’s edible and enough to keep us going. We only need clean water. We only need enough shelter and warmth to protect us from the elements and provide a place to rest. And even that one is debatable to some extent.
I don’t say these things to make myself or you feel greedy if we want anything beyond the most basic of necessities. I say it to point out how difficult it is to get a grasp on what greed really means. Most Americans would not think me greedy if I wanted a modest 1,000 square foot home. But even the smallest of homes in the U.S. are luxurious by most world standards simply because they don’t have a dirt floor!
In the same way, it’s easy for me to look at Dave Ramsey’s new house and say “That’s too much!”, but I’m sure my friends in Haiti would consider me quite wealthy to be able to rent the small house I’m in now. I think they’d say the same of Dave Ramsey, but it does cause me to step back and examine myself a bit more closely.
What do you think? Is greed more of the stop-at-nothing-to-get-more definition, or is it closer to the “excessive”-desire-for-more-than-you-need definition? Let me know what you think in the comments at the bottom of the page, but let’s take a look at greed in the Bible.
Greed in the Bible
Checking the dictionary is all fine and well, but I think it’s more helpful to see what the Bible says about greed if we’re trying to look at this from a Christian perspective. Most of what I read online tends to point at the Christian definition of greed as the stop-at-nothing-to-get-more style. I certainly think that’s included, but I wonder if we’re not held to that higher standard.
So I’ve found several verses that discuss greed. Coveting is another way the Bible talks about greed, so I’ve included verses that use either word or concept (like “love of money”). Let’s look at them and see if we can draw a conclusion about the Bible’s definition of greed. I’ll list the verses below and include any additional verses needed to get the context. All verses are from the World English Bible (WEB) version, but if you click the link on the reference you can get just about any version you want.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.
Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife; neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.
You shall burn the engraved images of their gods with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourself, lest you be snared in it; for it is an abomination to Yahweh your God.
20 Achan answered Joshua, and said, “I have truly sinned against Yahweh, the God of Israel, and this is what I have done. 21 When I saw among the spoil a beautiful Babylonian robe, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, then I coveted them and took them. Behold, they are hidden in the ground in the middle of my tent, with the silver under it.”
2 In arrogance, the wicked hunt down the weak. They are caught in the schemes that they devise. 3 For the wicked boasts of his heart’s cravings. He blesses the greedy, and condemns Yahweh.
17 For in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird: 18 but these lay wait for their own blood. They lurk secretly for their own lives. 19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain. It takes away the life of its owners.
He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live.
There are those who covet greedily all day long; but the righteous give and don’t withhold.
One who is greedy stirs up strife; but one who trusts in Yahweh will prosper.
Yes, the dogs are greedy, they can never have enough; and these are shepherds who can’t understand: they have all turned to their own way, each one to his gain, from every quarter.
But your eyes and your heart are not but for your covetousness, and for shedding innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence, to do it.
In you have they taken bribes to shed blood; you have taken interest and increase, and you have greedily gained of your neighbors by oppression, and have forgotten me, says the Lord Yahweh.
They covet fields, and seize them; and houses, and take them away: and they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.
21 For from within, out of the hearts of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, sexual sins, murders, thefts, 22 covetings, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness.
He said to them, “Beware! Keep yourselves from covetousness, for a man’s life doesn’t consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses.”
33 I coveted no one’s silver, or gold, or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands served my necessities, and those who were with me.
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not give false testimony,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other commandments there are, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
9 I wrote to you in my letter to have no company with sexual sinners; 10 yet not at all meaning with the sexual sinners of this world, or with the covetous and extortioners, or with idolaters; for then you would have to leave the world. 11 But as it is, I wrote to you not to associate with anyone who is called a brother who is a sexual sinner, or covetous, or an idolater, or a slanderer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner. Don’t even eat with such a person.
1 Corinthians 5:9-11
17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their hearts; 19 who having become callous gave themselves up to lust, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
3 But sexual immorality, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not even be mentioned among you, as becomes saints; 4 nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not appropriate; but rather giving of thanks. 5 Know this for sure, that no sexually immoral person, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God.
1 If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, our life, is revealed, then you will also be revealed with him in glory. 5 Put to death therefore your members which are on the earth: sexual immorality, uncleanness, depraved passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry; 6 for which things’ sake the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience.
3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine, and doesn’t consent to sound words, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, 4 he is conceited, knowing nothing, but obsessed with arguments, disputes, and word battles, from which come envy, strife, insulting, evil suspicions, 5 constant friction of people of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. Withdraw yourself from such. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can’t carry anything out. 8 But having food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
1 Timothy 6:3-10
For the overseer must be blameless, as God’s steward; not self-pleasing, not easily angered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for dishonest gain;
Be free from the love of money, content with such things as you have, for he has said, “I will in no way leave you, neither will I in any way forsake you.”
1 Where do wars and fightings among you come from? Don’t they come from your pleasures that war in your members? 2 You lust, and don’t have. You kill, covet, and can’t obtain. You fight and make war. You don’t have, because you don’t ask. 3 You ask, and don’t receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it for your pleasures.
In covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words: whose sentence now from of old doesn’t linger, and their destruction will not slumber.
2 Peter 2:3
There’s no doubt that the majority of those verses cover the stop-at-nothing-to-get-more definition of greed. But several of the verses point toward greed as the “excessive”-desire-for-more-than-you-need idea. In particular, Proverbs 21:26, Luke 12:15, and 1 Timothy 6:3-10 all seem to describe greed as being selfish, not being content, and desiring things for the sake of having more (often, more than your neighbor). That certainly fits in with the broader definition – greed as excessively desiring more than you need.
Personally, I think the Gospel of Jesus Christ eliminates any semblance of greed as an option for Christians. If we’re to be focused on loving others and helping the poor, how can we spend our time daydreaming about bigger houses, nicer cars, more exotic vacations, and lazy retirements? That certainly wouldn’t fit the instructions of Colossians 3:1-6.
But I want to know what you think. What is greed? What does it mean to be greedy? Is greed limited to the stop-at-nothing-to-get-more definition? Or is it more broad as in the “excessive”-desire-for-more-than-you-need definition? And in that same line of thought, when does a desire for more than you need become excessive and when does it remain acceptable? (That’s a question worthy of it’s own post!)
Let me know what you think in the comments below, and we’ll work through this issue together.
(photo credit: See-ming Lee)
This post was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance.
Yesterday I posted an article about how to create a balance sheet. Part of that process includes calculating your net worth. After I wrote it, I realized I should talk about net worth from a Christian perspective. After all, the tag line for this site is “Personal Finance from a Christian Perspective”. There’s nothing particularly Christian about that article. It’s helpful for Christians and non-Christians alike to review their balance sheet and net worth. But as Christians, we must be especially careful to realize that we are more than our net worth.
There is danger in obsessing over your net worth – in defining your success based on a number. It is wise for you to prudently manage your finances, and tracking your net worth is part of that process. But you must always be aware that your value comes not from what you own but from who you are in Christ. It is in being a child of God that Christians find their true worth.
Our net worth is infinitely positive. Christ has canceled the debt of our sin and we will inherit immeasurable heavenly riches. What you own or owe here and now does not matter in eternity.
This warning goes both ways. Those who are rich must grasp this concept just as much as those who are poor – even more so. It is easy for the wealthy to trust in their riches and forsake God. Their prosperity may even tempt them to think of themselves more highly than the poor. Both outcomes are sin in God’s eyes, and the rich must be careful to avoid both. The rich should not glory in their high estate, and the poor should not be shamed in their low estate.
The Bible actually has much to say about this topic. I’ve chosen a few verses to help you see why it’s important for us to understand our true net worth. Consider what God’s Word says:
The rich and the poor have this in common: Yahweh is the maker of them all.
Proverbs 22:2 (WEB)
17 …and lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth.” 18 But you shall remember Yahweh your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth; that he may establish his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as at this day.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18 (WEB)
Riches don’t profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.
Proverbs 11:4 (WEB)
For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits his own self?
Luke 9:25 (WEB)
10 He who loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase: this also is vanity. 11 When goods increase, those who eat them are increased; and what advantage is there to its owner, except to feast on them with his eyes?
Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 (WEB)
Focusing too much on your net worth can cause you to glory in your riches or to feel shame in your poverty. We must remember that the Lord is pleased with neither. What does please the Lord? Those who glory in their knowledge and understanding of Him and who boast about His loving kindness, justice, and righteousness.
23 Thus says Yahweh, Don’t let the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, don’t let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 but let him who glories glory in this, that he has understanding, and knows me, that I am Yahweh who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, says Yahweh.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 (WEB)