Bible with Cross Shadow by knowhimonline on Flickr       Today’s Personal Finance Bible Scripture comes from Proverbs 21:17.







     17 Those who love pleasure become poor;
     those who love wine and luxury will never be rich.

Proverbs 21:17 (NLT)



       Think the Bible doesn’t have relevant financial advice? Consider that verse one more time. Personal finance experts generally agree that avoiding hard work and buying things you can’t really afford will never lead to financial success. (And by afford I mean that you can still cover all your necessary expenses and save for all of your goals after purchasing your luxury item.) Even though this little bit of wisdom seems like it should be common sense, God wanted to emphasize it in Proverbs as well. I’m guessing it must be pretty important! ;)

       It’s not that God doesn’t want us to have any enjoyment in this life. You really have to look closer at what that verse says. If you love pleasure and luxury, you’re probably not putting God first in your life. As I’ve discussed many times before, God wants your heart and if your heart belongs to something else then you can’t serve Him. It’s fine to enjoy the good things in life, but make sure you have a wise (God’s) definition of the “good” things in life and make sure you put God above all else. That’s the only way you can truly be rich.

Bible with Cross Shadow by knowhimonline on Flickr       This is a question I have asked myself many times. Many people have already tried to answer this question as a quick web search will show you. But I often see where people have twisted the Scripture to fit their message rather than looking at the Scripture first to find the message. I’ve also read that there are over 2,000 Scriptures about money in the Bible, but I can’t seem to find a free resource online that shows all of these Scriptures in one place. Bob at Christian Personal Finance has the most comprehensive list of Scriptures discussing money in the Bible that I have found anywhere online, but it’s a bit short of the 2,000 number that’s so often quoted.

       So I decided to do my own Personal Finance Bible Study to list and categorize as many verses in the Bible that I can find pertaining to some aspect of personal finance. From that resource I hope to cull the Bible’s message about personal finance and apply it in practical ways to our lives today. My biggest worry is that I might also fall into the trap of using Scripture out of context to fit my own message, especially since I’m a financial planner and already have my own ideas about personal finance. If you ever catch me doing this, please let me know!

       As I complete this work, I’m going to share it with you on this website. I’ll start a page showing the categorized list of Bible verses I’ve found along with a running total of the Scripture references and number of verses in each category. I’ll also share Personal Finance Bible Studies with you via individual posts. I encourage your participation as your wisdom and insight will help me improve this Bible Study and my own understanding.


Why Spend So Much Time on Personal Finance in the Bible?

       I don’t want to focus on money so much because of any personal fascination with it or because I’m greedy or because I want to be rich. I’m doing it because it has such an important impact on both our spiritual and material lives. It can be used as a tool to serve God and our needs, or it can keep us far away from God and take control of our lives. The problem isn’t when we’ve got money – it’s when the money has got us. Jesus told us this in Luke 16:13.

13 “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Luke 16:13 (NIV)



       Jesus is clearly telling us that we must have the right views about Money if we’re going to truly love and serve God. That’s why I think it’s so vitally important to focus on Personal Finance in the Bible and how it should affect our lives as Christians. If we can get that right, it’ll make it much easier for us to serve God completely and wholeheartedly.


Stay Tuned!

Stay Tune by shop boy on Flickr       So stay tuned for more spiritual resources to come. I’ve already got a good bit of the work finished, but I can tell I have a good bit left to finish.






       In the last part of this series, we started talking about the results of following God’s teaching on contentment. How will contentment benefit you, and what kind of effects will it have on your life? We’ll finish that discussion and this entire series on contentment today.


       Paul speaks about contentment in two specific ways that clearly show the results of being content. First, he talks of facing every situation with contentment. Second, he discusses how contentment brings great gain and saves us from many sorrows.


The Secret to Happiness

       In Philippians 4:10-14, Paul thanks the church at Philipi for the gifts they gave him. He explains that he’s not trying to get them to give more, since he has never been in need because he’s learned to be content in any situation through God’s strength. But he thanks them just the same.

       10 But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at length you have revived your thought for me; in which you did indeed take thought, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect to lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. 12 I know how to be humbled, and I know also how to abound. In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need. 13 I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. 14 However, you did well that you shared in my affliction.

Philippians 4:10-14 (WEB)



       These verses highlight the striking difference between God’s kind of contentment and the world’s kind of contentment. We generally view contentment and happiness as something we get after some certain requirements are met.

When I get that new car, I’ll be happy.
 
When I get promoted and start making more money, I’ll be set.
 
When I can move to a nicer neighborhood, then I’ll be content.
 
When I retire, life will really start to get better.



       From the world’s perspective, contentment is almost always something that comes in the future. But the contentment God wants to give us is for the past, present, and future. It’s not for just the good times but the bad also. God’s contentment brings us happiness and peace in any situation. The world’s contentment only happens when everything’s turning up roses.

       How is it possible that we can learn to be content in any and every situation that comes our way? How can we possibly be content if we have to drive a beat up, old car to a dead-end job just so we can pay the rent on our drafty apartment? And that’s where we make our first mistake. We don’t have to do anything. God has already handled it all for us.

       All we really have to do is realize two simple things. First, there is nothing worthwhile that the world can offer us when compared to the blessings God has already given us. We have eternal life in Christ. What does it matter if we’re not wearing Armani suits and driving BMWs while we’re here on Earth? Second, Christ will give us the strength we need to make it through any situation we encounter—we are not alone in our struggles. We can be happy in every circumstance because God is with us and our standing in this life does not matter in our eternal life.


Contentment Is Wealth

       The next passage I want to look at is 1 Timothy 6:3-16. Paul is speaking to Timothy here, giving him instructions on how to lead a godly life and teach others the way as well.

       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.

       11 But you, man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith. Lay hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you confessed the good confession in the sight of many witnesses. 13 I command you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate testified the good confession, 14 that you keep the commandment without spot, blameless, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; 15 which in its own times he will show, who is the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and eternal power. Amen.

1 Timothy 6:3-16 (WEB)



       This is a clear message against the “Prosperity Gospel” that’s so prevalent today and was apparently widespread in the time of the early Church as well. So many people see God as a means to get rich in this life by preying on others, and they preach that God will bless us with material wealth if we’ll just call in right now and give them some money for “God’s work”. Others preach that God will bless us abundantly if we give more money to our church, or that we can’t really receive God’s full blessing unless we’re giving a full tithe (ten percent) to our church.

       But you see, God is not so much concerned about whether we’re blessed in our earthly life. He wants to see us blessed in our eternal life. God has already blessed us abundantly by giving us His Son so that we can live with Him in Heaven. How much money we have or how comfortable we are here on Earth matters very little when we bring eternity into the picture.

       And God has abolished these rules of “you do this, and I’ll give you that”. For those who are living in Jesus Christ, there is no law saying we must give 10% of our income to the church. We try to impose rules and laws for God and end up missing the entire point. When Christ came and taught the Jews, he spoke with authority about the laws of Moses. What did He teach? That God doesn’t just want us to meet some minimums and go home from church thinking we’re good to go for the next week. No, when Jesus taught about the laws he told us to do much more than the laws tell us to do. We’re supposed to go above and beyond the expectations we think we’re supposed to meet. So while I’m in no way against giving generously to your church or the needy, I am 100% against teaching Christians that the tithe is a requirement they must all meet. But we’ll look at this more when we discuss giving.

       We also see here the famously misquoted scripture about money being the root of all kinds of evil. People often leave out the “love of” part, thus changing the meaning dramatically. Money in and of itself is not evil—it is just a thing, a tool to be used. But the love of money takes our focus off God and leads us into all kinds of evil things. Again, it comes back to whether or not our hearts belong to God. If our hearts belong to God, we will serve and glorify Him in all things. If they belong to money, we will never be able to please God and will always be led astray. Paul tells Timothy, and all Christians, to run from all these evil things and not let the love of money take over our lives.

       I’ve gotten sidetracked a bit, but those were important points. What this passage means for the results of contentment lies in verses six through ten. Godliness is not a means to financial gain, but true godliness with God’s contentment provides us with great wealth. First, we receive spiritual wealth because contentment allows us to remain focused on God and ignore worldly materialism.

       Second, we receive great material wealth through contentment because we’ll “need” less. When we are content and need less “stuff”, we don’t need to be as rich or make as much money to be happy. That is to say, we don’t have to be as focused on making money or building wealth if we can be happy living on $25,000/year versus $50,000 or $75,000/year. Once we learn to be content in any situation through God’s strength, what used to seem like so little becomes great wealth because we just don’t need as much. Despite what numerous websites and scammers may claim, the best way to get rich quick is to be content.

       The point is this: contentment and godliness together give us great gain because we will be blessed spiritually by being more focused on God and materially because we’ll just “need” less of the world’s “stuff”. Though it’s strange to hear and difficult to believe (from a worldly perspective), learning to be content with whatever situation you’re in by relying on God can make you richer than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined.


Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

Raising a Cow for Beef: Month 13

Corey —  September 22, 2010 — 5 Comments

       Last month, I posted an update about how my wife and I are raising a cow for beef. This is a summary of our activity and costs for month 13. As always, let’s first check Bambi’s growth. Here he is at twelve months old:


Bambi - 12 Months Old


       And here he is at thirteen months old:


Bambi - 13 Months Old


       I don’t see much difference between this month and last month. But the pictures were taken from slightly different angles so it’s hard to tell. Bambi’s not one for posing exactly the way you tell him! I’m not too worried about his weight gain though. I think he’ll be fine.

Costs & Time

       I’ve been on my friends to give us a cost for keeping Bambi on their farm, but they’ve yet to give me a price. I’m going to keep asking, but if they don’t give me a price I’ll just end up paying them $30/month because that’s the best estimate I can come up with. (Anyone have an idea what it should cost to board a 700-800 pound steer?) I won’t be able to update the costs until I get that sorted out. But for your reference, here are our total costs so far:

  • Cost of Bambi – Free!
  • Castration & Dehorning – $16.00
  • Milk Replacer – $45.54
  • Miscellaneous – $46.87
  • Feed – $362.77
  • Hay – $88.00
  • Straw – $20.00
  • Medicine – $5.00
  • Total Spent – $584.18
  • Time – 102 hours



       I’d guess the total costs will be about $650 after we get a payment figured out for our friends.

       The big news for this month is that I finally have Bambi’s slaughter date! He’ll go off to that big pasture in the sky on December 2, 2010. (No, I don’t believe animals have souls, but it sounded nice…right?)

       So the two big things I have to do before then are find a chest freezer and decide what cuts we want. We have been planning to purchase a chest freezer anyway to store up any good deals we find and for keeping veggies and such. So I’m not considering this an additional cost for raising a steer. But you’d certainly need something beyond your regular top-of-the-fridge freezer if you’re going to be getting an entire steer (or even 1/4 or 1/2 of one). I haven’t been trying very hard to find a freezer yet, but that’s something I have to do before Bambi comes back in little vacuum sealed packages.

       We don’t need to decide which cuts of beef we want until the day before Bambi goes to the butcher. I have to say it’s a bit of a daunting process for a first-timer. There are many options and a few cuts I’ve never heard of before. (And I’m pretty familiar with my critter cuts thanks to Alton Brown!) Thankfully, the butcher we’re sending Bambi to has a very helpful beef processing form with plenty of explanatory notes and I can always call if I have questions.

       I’m still not sure what the cost will be for butchering, but we won’t be getting any beef processed (jerky, dried beef, etc.) so that will keep the costs down. I also doubt we’ll get patties since burgers are better when you pat them out yourself (in my opinion). If anyone has experience with butchering a steer and wants to offer some tips, I’m all ears!

       And if you haven’t already make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning so you don’t miss out on the final steps in the process of raising a cow for beef!

Bible with Cross Shadow by knowhimonline on Flickr       Today’s Personal Finance Bible Scripture comes from 1 Timothy 6:17-19.







       17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NLT)



       I’ve lived my entire life in America, and I’ve only visited one other country (Haiti). But I know how amazingly blessed I am to have been born in a country where prosperity abounds. Even the poor in America are richer than most people in the rest of the world, yet we generally take our wealth for granted and tend to trust in it too much.

       Are you a Christian living in America (or a wealthy or prosperous Christian in any country)? I encourage you to meditate on this verse for the next week. How is God speaking to you through His Word? Do you trust in money more than God? Do you truly believe God provides everything you need? Where are you storing your treasures?

       Let’s try to make sure we don’t get so caught up in the riches of this world that we miss out on true life.

       Poverty has been on my mind for some time now. What is poverty? How do we measure it? How do you overcome it? How do you live in it? Each of these questions (and more) warrants a post or several posts of its own. But that last one is what I want to talk about today.

       I’ve been wondering what it would look like if my wife, Michelle, and I had to live in poverty. What would we have to give up? What would we spend our money on? What would life look like living in poverty?


Poor Family from the 1940s
 

Defining Poverty

       In this case, I’m going to define poverty according to the 2009 U.S. federal poverty level guidelines. For two people, the poverty level is $14,570/year. This level applies regardless of where you live in the U.S., which doesn’t make much sense to me since the cost of living varies so much by location. But perhaps the areas with a higher-than-average cost of living adjusts the poverty level guidelines for their assistance programs. That’s something I’ll have to look at in another post!

       I could use a different measure for poverty – a global measure, for instance. But the disparity between the global poverty level guidelines and the U.S. poverty level guidelines is extreme. Based on a $2/day/person poverty guideline (World Bank threshold), we’d be looking at $1,460 or 1/10 of the income for the U.S. poverty level. I can tell you right now that would mean giving up everything except food. No shelter, no transportation, no clothing purchases – absolutely nothing but food…and not much of that.

       So for this article, I’m going to use the federal guideline of $14,570/year which is pre-tax. I’m not going to include food stamps, federal/state health coverage, or tax refunds (namely, the Earned Income Credit). Some studies have shown that the poverty level income would be 30-40% higher if such benefits were included, but I’m going to stick to the $14,570 number for the sake of simplicity.

What Would Our Spending Look Like?

       If our annual income were $14,570, our monthly income would be just over $1,214. Here’s what I think our monthly budget would look like. Some of these numbers are based on actual expenses now and some are based on what I estimated after making changes to our lifestyle. I’m assuming we keep our current jobs.

Category Amount
Income $1,214.17
   
Giving $130.00
Saving $106.70
State & Local Taxes $39.46
Health Insurance $76.93
Rent $400.00
Renter’s Insurance $11.08
Groceries $150.00
Utilities $120.00
Auto (Gas, Maint., & Ins.) $130.00
Other (Household & Personal) $50.00
   
Total Expenses $1,214.17


What We’d Have to Give Up

       So the next question is how would this differ from our current lifestyle? Well, first we’d have to move. We’d have to find a place for 2/3 of the rent we’re paying now, and it would need to be closer to Michelle’s job to cut down on gasoline costs. A different place would also likely cut down on our utilities. This would be a major change since we’d have to move away from our family, friends, and church but not very far – just far enough to make it inconvenient but doable. We’d also likely be living in someone’s basement or sharing a place with another family for rent that cheap.

       We’d have to give up the excellent health insurance we have through Michelle’s work and buy a no-frills $10,000 deductible plan that doesn’t cover office visits or prescriptions. It would only cover serious catastrophes like cancer. In contrast, our current insurance has a very low deductible ($150/$300, I think?) and covers office visits and prescriptions for a low co-pay. We’d also be giving up our dental insurance, though I’m not sure that’s much of a deal anyway.

       Speaking of insurance, we’d have to decrease the coverage on our auto insurance to the state minimum levels and increase the deductible on Michelle’s car to $2,500. We’d also have to think about selling my car but that wouldn’t be completely necessary. Decreasing the coverage limits could expose us to some serious risks if we were to have an accident – likely resulting in bankruptcy if it’s a major accident.

       I don’t mind that we’d be paying less in taxes. But our giving would have to go down and that wouldn’t be so great. We’d have to make some tough choices there. All of our saving would most likely be short-term savings to cover the deductibles for our insurance policies.

       We’d have to spend less on groceries but not much less than we currently spend. I don’t imagine there would be any problems there. We’d just have to limit our meat intake and replace it with beans instead and shop a little more carefully. Eating out would be out of the question. We’d also need to cut our household and personal spending in half.

       Beyond that, we’d have no cell phones, no Internet connection, and no TV (that last one’s not any different from now, but I’m just saying). We wouldn’t be able to pay my student loans unless we gave up saving or giving (or some of both), but forbearance or an income dependent plan would be an option at that point. We’d have no money for entertainment or travel of any kind, and every dollar would need to be meticulously tracked and spent with care. As it is now, I don’t track what we spend our ATM withdrawals on completely so that would have to change.

       So while it wouldn’t be easy or “fun” to live on this budget, it would be possible. But we’d have no chance of saving anything for retirement, buying a house if we wanted to do that, or doing anything that required money outside of this budget. (That means no more sewing or jewelry making for Michelle. My hobbies don’t really require any money right now I think.)

Living Off Uncle Sam (or You, Rather)

       I didn’t include government benefits in that budget, but if I had things would have worked out quite a bit better. Between Section 8 housing, tax refunds, food stamps, health coverage from Pennsylvania, and utility assistance programs I think we could live at pretty much the same standard we currently enjoy. (Except for the housing part…that would likely be a major decline.)

       These benefits would probably comprise at least 25-40% of our budget in this scenario. At that rate, we could probably afford cell phones, an Internet connection, auto insurance at our current coverage, our normal household and personal spending, my student loans, and even some entertainment. Or we could choose to save that money, invest in ourselves (to increase our income), or give to people in more need than ourselves.

Possible But Not Enjoyable

       I’m not making light of this scenario. I’m certain it would still be stressful and emotionally draining, but it wouldn’t be impossible to live this way. (Though I’m having difficulty convincing Michelle of this. :))

       I think the reason I can say this is because Michelle and I are pretty content. We don’t have to have the latest gadgets or fashions. We are naturally frugal people who don’t enjoy spending tons of money. We have low-key hobbies, can entertain ourselves, and know how to cook. We’re also disciplined enough to say no to ourselves on the non-essentials. All these factors combine to make it easier for us to live on less than most people in America. (I don’t say this to boast but to simply point out facts. Many people get sucked into the culture and go with the flow without question. Neither Michelle nor I have ever been ones to follow the crowd.)

       I’m thankful we’re in a situation where we don’t have to make these choices. God has blessed us with all that we need and then some. But I struggled with creating a sample budget for this scenario, and I now have a slight understanding some of the choices people are forced to make when they’re living on so little. I say slight understanding because I don’t think you can truly comprehend what it’s like to live on that kind of income until you’ve done it.

Your Thoughts

       Do you think you could live at the federal poverty level? What would have to change for you? What would you have to give up? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

       In the last part of this series, we finished talking about practical applications when we take on God’s View of the World, Money, and our lives. We looked at how we should act and what we should do when we take on God’s View and live out His will. Today, we’ll start talking about the results of following God’s teaching on contentment. How will contentment benefit you, and what kind of effects will it have on your life?


Delighting God

       When our focus is no longer on wealth and material things but fully centered on God, we can begin to please Him. It’s amazing to think that despite our weaknesses and shortcomings we can still manage to please the Creator of the entire universe by simply learning to be content and centering our lives around Him.

   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)



       It’s nearly unthinkable that we can delight God, but we really can delight Him when we talk more about His goodness and our relationship with Him than our wealth or accomplishments.


Enjoying Life

       In Ecclesiastes, Solomon experiences all the things the world tells us will make us happy—power, wealth, and pleasure. He reflects on his experience and realizes all the things the world recommends are quite meaningless. He also reflects on what he sees in the world, and most of his learning about the best things in life is summed up by Ecclesiastes 8:15.

       15 Then I commended mirth, because a man has no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be joyful: for that will accompany him in his labor all the days of his life which God has given him under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 8:15 (WEB)



       Now, Solomon is not recommending that we all “eat, drink, and be merry” as the world understands it. He’s commending the enjoyment of life, which is really what contentment boils down to. When we’re content in any situation and learn to value God and His ways above all else, we can find true joy in life that will stay with us always.

       The joy of contentment in God can keep us happy and optimistic no matter what happens to us because it’s founded on Him. The eternal power and truth of God can overcome any situation, allowing us to fully enjoy life and realize our blessings even in the worst circumstances. And learning to be content in every situation can give us joy that lasts throughout our entire lives—unlike wealth, which is so uncertain and may not last through tomorrow.


A Strong Tower

       Throughout the Bible, we see a continual reference to God as a strong tower and mighty fortress. He protects those who trust in Him, and His strength overcomes all obstacles. When we are content with God’s provision, blessing, and His gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, we have the ultimate protection from any worldly disaster. Poverty, sickness, economic depressions, death, stock market crashes, natural disasters, job loss—none of them can hurt us because we will always have eternal life in Jesus. Despite what the world says, it just doesn’t matter what happens to us in this life. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of Jesus.

       Do I mean that God will protect us from all these things? Not at all. Terrible things happen to Christians all the time and they really test our faith. But if we weigh the worst tragedy against the fact that we have been saved by Christ, we’ll always see that we are truly blessed. God keeps us safe through all things because He has given us eternal security through Jesus. Wealth can never do that.

   10 The name of Yahweh is a strong tower:
   the righteous run to him, and are safe.

   11 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city,
   like an unscalable wall in his own imagination.

Proverbs 18:10-11 (WEB)



       We like to imagine wealth will protect us from all the bad things in life and give us access to all the good things in life. What we don’t realize is that we are just imagining that it can do all those things. Wealth can only protect you so much, and it can only give you the things that the world says are good. But there’s no guarantee that your wealth will be there when you really need it.

       There is only one guarantee, and there’s only one way we can find true safety in life. Trusting in God and finding contentment in what He’s blessed us with—whether little or much—will provide us with a strong tower capable of withstanding anything that might come our way. Contentment in God gives us joy that lasts as long as we live rather than a little pleasure for a fleeting moment.

       The truth is that money and things can never give us the happiness and security we’re seeking. God has already given us all the happiness and joy we could ever need—we just need to look at our lives through His eyes. Once we start doing that, we’ll see how truly rich we already are.


Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!