Archives For June 2011

       About a month ago, Trent at The Simple Dollar posted an article titled Theming in Personal Finance: Do Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett Work Without Jesus?. Trent says he thinks it’s a good thing when people tie Christian beliefs with good personal finance advice in a way that reinforces both. He goes on to say that the personal finance information in many books that do this would work without the other material (the Christian parts).

       I agree with Trent. Good personal finance advice is good personal finance advice. It doesn’t matter if you dress it up with Bible verses or political views. Spending less than you earn is always going to be good advice. Saving for future needs is wise. Avoiding ridiculous consumer debt just makes good sense.

       But I find his initial question interesting. Do Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett (‘s advice) work without Jesus? In other words, can Christian personal finance advice work without Jesus? And my answer is that if it can, it isn’t Christian!

What Makes Christian Personal Finance Christian?

       Here’s what I mean. If all the advice that any “Christian” finance guru gives can work without Jesus, then the advice itself is not Christian. If Christian personal finance blogs are just giving the same advice that all other personal finance blogs give, then there’s nothing uniquely Christian about them.

       Now I’m not saying that Christian personal finance advice should not include any of the same material as “regular” personal finance advice. As I said before, good personal finance advice is good personal finance advice. It doesn’t really matter where it comes from.

       But for it to be Christian personal finance advice, it needs to be consistent with the message of Christ.

Twisting Scripture

       On Trent’s post, I left a comment saying, “Perhaps the reason ‘Christian’ personal finance can work without Jesus is because we’ve twisted the message He brought to fit our society’s desires.” You see, if Christian personal finance advice just takes regular personal finance advice and dresses it up with a few carefully chosen Bible verses, then it’s just twisting Scripture to fit in with the ideals that our society already accepts.

       But if you start with the message that Jesus brought and that Scripture as a whole teaches, then you’re not going to come up with advice that fits in with society’s standard way of doing things. Too often, Christian personal finance does it the other way around. We start with the world’s ways and fit Jesus into it. There’s nothing Christian about that. In fact, that’s just telling people what they want to hear.

       If “Christian” personal finance advice revolves around budgeting, getting out of debt, saving and investing, and growing your income just so you can reach your goals and your dreams, then it’s no different from the regular personal finance advice. The focus is all about you – which is what we want to hear.

       But Jesus didn’t come with a message all about you. He brought us a message that was all about God and others. He didn’t come to tell us how to get rich and retire early. In fact, He had some strong warnings for the rich and a parable about a man who was all too happy with his ability to retire early. Rather, He taught about how we should serve others and how we should give God our primary focus. He told us that if we want to serve money we won’t be able to serve God.

       So if you’re reading a “Christian” personal finance book or website and there’s not something in it that’s really challenging how you think about money, it might be good to step back and ask yourself if it’s really giving you Christian advice or just plain advice.

The Emphasis Here at Provident Planning

       I’m trying to avoid that here on Provident Planning. When I did my initial study of personal finance in the Bible, I was very challenged by what I read. Rather than emphasizing material comfort and luxury, God emphasizes contentment. Rather than glorifying early retirement and amassing wealth for yourself, He holds up generosity as a greater goal.

       It’s not always easy to keep the Christian aspect of personal finance in the forefront. But I hope you’ve realized from what I’ve written that the kind of approach to finances that I’m encouraging can’t work without Jesus.

       When I talk about contentment, I’m talking about contentment in Christ. I’m talking about contentment that is steadfast through all trials and all circumstances. I’m talking about a kind of contentment that realizes nothing in this world compares to the glorious riches we have in Christ. I’m talking about a contentment that you can’t explain or experience without Jesus.

       And when I talk about generosity, I’m not talking giving just to meet your obligation to God so you can do what you want with the rest. I’m talking about generosity as the ultimate goal of your personal finances. I’m talking about generosity that sacrifices to meet the desperate needs of others. I’m talking about a generosity that you can’t explain or experience without Jesus.

One Voice Among Many

       I’m not the only one trying to emphasize Christian personal finance that’s true to Christ’s message.

       I’ve had great conversations with my friend Kevin Tupper at Christian Simplicity (currently under construction) about “living a life that’s inwardly rich toward God and outwardly rich toward our neighbors” and the implications that has for our finances.

       My friend Craig Ford at Money Help for Christians just announced that he’s going to spend more time focusing on spiritual issues of money and the problem of materialism in American churches.

       And I’ve just finished reading Chuck Bentley’s The Root of Riches and will be posting an interview with him next week. Chuck’s book is focused on how we will never be truly rich unless we’re rooted in Christ. All the right behaviors in the world aren’t going to help us if we still hold on to the wrong beliefs.

       These are just some of the people who are passionately pursuing a kind of Christian personal finance that absolutely cannot work without Jesus. And I’m glad to be working alongside them as I learn and experience a transformation of my heart that only comes from God. I pray you’ll join us as we seek God’s will for our personal finances rather than trying to find ways to justify our own will for our money.

How to Kill Stinkbugs

Corey —  June 22, 2011

Stinkbug by daveynin on Flickr       Alright, so this doesn’t have anything to do with personal finance or a Christian perspective on money. But I found it useful and thought some of you might, too. We’ve had a big problem with stinkbugs in our area lately. And after spending way too much time flushing them or sucking them up with the vacuum, Michelle and I were looking for an easy way to kill them and we found it. Here’s our secret weapon:

Kill Stinkbugs with Soapy Water!

       It’s just a spray bottle filled with some soapy water. I just put about 2 tablespoons of dish soap in the bottle and shook it up a bit. Some recipes online say to use a whole lot more than that, but I found this to be effective. No need to waste a whole bottle of dish soap on this. Then I went on a rampage killing every stinkbug in sight. It works surprisingly well for something so simple. You usually only need about three or four good, direct hits to kill the stinkbug.

       Obviously, this has no residual effect and will not prevent future stinkbugs from entering your house. But it’s a convenient way to kill the varmints without touching them and getting the stink all over your fingers. (Even using a tissue or some toilet paper to grab them doesn’t keep the smell off.) After they’re dead, you can just vacuum them up or gather by hand. As a plus, you don’t have to worry about kids being around when you’re spraying it. Well, as long as you don’t spray them in the eyes…

       Don’t believe it’s that easy? Here’s a short video of me killing a couple stinkbugs with the solution. I went a little overboard on spraying them because I was trying to get quick results for the video, but you can confidently spray them a few times and move on. They’ll die within a couple minutes.

       Happy stinkbug hunting!

Back from a Break

Corey —  June 20, 2011

Sleeping Cat by kaibara87 on Flickr       Are you all still there?! It’s been a while since my last post.

       After not writing for almost six months, I’m ready to get back to it. I stopped writing for a while as I was taking on new responsibilities at church. Now that I’ve had time to settle in a bit, I’ll be writing here on Provident Planning again.

       I also needed a break because I was struggling with what I wanted to do with the content on here. I was getting distracted with things that don’t really matter and began to emulate many of the other personal finance blogs out there. I don’t want to do that. I want to keep the focus here on following Jesus in our finances – whatever that may cost. But I also want to help people with the practical side of things.

       So I won’t be writing as much as I used to. I want to create higher quality articles – not more articles. Right now the plan is to have two posts a week published on Mondays and Wednesdays. I may occasionally post a short article or some links on Fridays, but I’m not making any guarantees there.

       I’ll be balancing the articles between the strictly spiritual side of things and the practical (how to, information, general PF type of articles). However, I will try to incorporate a Christian perspective in everything when it fits. It’s sort of difficult to do that in a post that’s simply explaining what a Roth IRA is, but it’s certainly possible when talking about retirement planning. My hope is that this will meet both sides of my goal – looking at how to follow Jesus in our finances but also providing helpful resources to apply it to our financial decisions.

       Thanks for hanging in there during this break and for all your support. Many of you have encouraged me to get back into writing and that has helped motivate me to start again. I’m looking forward to learning and growing with you. God’s blessings to all of you as you seek Him!