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The New Master Your Money
A Step-by-Step Plan for Gaining and Enjoying Financial Freedom
By Ron Blue, Jeremy White
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2004 Ron Blue
All rights reserved.
Will I Ever Have Enough?
"Just about the time you make both ends meet, somebody moves the ends."
"If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free; if our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed. We are bought by the enemy with the treasure in our own coffers."
"Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of its filling a vacuum, it makes one. If it satisfies one want, it doubles and trebles that want another way. That was a true proverb of the wise man, rely upon it; 'Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure, and trouble therewith!"
At the age of twenty-four, I had every ingredient needed for success—an MBA degree, my Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certificate, a well-paying job with the world's largest CPA firm in their New York City office, a driving ambition to be a success, and a supportive and very intelligent wife.
For the next eight years, I proved to myself that anyone could succeed by really putting everything into it. By the time I was thirty-two years old, I had achieved every financial and success goal I had set:
* I had moved rapidly up the corporate ladder.
* I had founded the fastest growing CPA firm in Indiana, and it became one of the fifty largest firms in the United States.
* I, along with others, owned two small banks in Indiana.
* I had a lovely wife and three young daughters.
* I had all of the trappings of success: a new home, new cars, country club memberships, and the like.
I had also just committed my life to Jesus Christ—a commitment that began to change my perspective and my priorities.
It was during the early 1970s, and for the first time in the nation's history, that Americans began experiencing "tremendous" inflation rates of 4 percent and 5 percent. The prime rate hit an unbelievable high of 10 percent and then even went to 12 percent. The dollar was taken off the gold standard, and for the first time in recent history, the United States began running a trade deficit.
In the midst of personal affluence, I began to experience the fear that comes from wondering, Will I ever have enough? Or, If I do have enough now, will it be enough when I retire? And, By the way, how much is enough? I believe that everyone, rich and poor, asks himself these underlying questions more frequently than he would like to admit. These questions are constantly in our subconscious, and therefore we all deal with them somehow in our decision making. Either we tend to hoard our resources, or we tend to live out the philosophy of "get all the gusto you can—you only go around once."
The Christian, additionally, is confronted with the question, What is the appropriate Christian lifestyle? This book, by the grace of God, will attempt to answer each of these questions by providing a framework of financial planning that is both biblical and relevant in our unique society.
Through the mid-1970s I dealt with these questions, both personally and as an advisor to a largely wealthy, secular clientele. In 1977 my wife, Judy, and I experienced God's call to leave the businesses I was involved in and join a new ministry in Atlanta, Georgia. For two years, as our family grew to five children, I helped to develop seminar materials in the areas of decision making, time management, faith planning, and problem solving. During this time, I traveled to Africa eleven times, assisting a large Christian organization to apply the principles that we were teaching.
I observed during all of this that the same financial questions my former clients and I had been asking were being asked by others as well: missionaries, affluent Africans, poor Africans, full-time Christian workers, successful American executives, pastors, and friends. The questions were:
* Will I ever have enough?
* Will it continue to be enough?
* How much is enough, particularly in view of my Christian convictions and understanding of Scripture?
The questions transcended cultures as well as classes.
In 1979, at the encouragement of Dr. Howard Hendricks, I began a financial planning career with the objective to remove the fear and frustration that Christians experience when they deal with money. The need for this type of counsel and advice is, I believe, pervasive. Christian teaching and application go from the extreme of sharing personal income in communal living to the "name it, claim it" approach. Both extremes are an attempt to reach God in the way we handle our money, when all the time He is attempting to reach out to us with His wisdom, counsel, and principles. I believe so strongly that American Christians need godly counsel for their finances that I now serve as president of Christian Financial Professionals Network (see appendix B and the website www.cfpn.org).
This book outlines the journey that Judy and I are on to "be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Colossians 1:9), as it specifically relates to personal money management for the Christian in the context of a very uncertain economic future.
The Rich and the Poor
In the world's most affluent society in all of history, very, very few individuals ever achieve a position of being able to live off the resources they have accumulated. The vast majority are dependent on government, relatives, or charity, or they must continue to work in order to have enough income to meet their needs. Yet there are exceptions, and I have had the privilege of meeting and working with many people who are better prepared for their future.
One of the dramatic exceptions is that of a retired pastor who never earned more than $8,000 in one year. I met this humble man because he wanted to know if he had enough financial resources to live out the rest of his life. At the time of his question, he was eighty years old; he had been retired for twenty years; and recently his wife had required full-time nursing care. His question, therefore, was a justifiable one!
As I generally do, I began to ask some questions before giving advice. First, I asked him if he had any debts. His response was no, and he went on to say he had never borrowed any money. I asked, "Why not?" He said because if he borrowed money, he would have to pay it back someday, and he couldn't afford to pay off debt, feed his family, and tithe.
My second question was to ask what resources he presently had. He indicated that in his wife's name, they had approximately $250,000 in cash, money market funds, and certificates of deposit. Additionally, in his name, they had another $350,000 in cash and cash-type investments. Needless to say, I was impressed! Over $600,000 in cash accumulated by a couple who had never earned more than $8,000 per year! And this was in 1982.
One thing bothered me though. He had not mentioned any stock investments, and yet in looking at his tax returns, I noticed a substantial amount of dividend income. He revealed that at retirement he had invested approximately $10,000 in the stock of a new company, and at the present time, the market value of his stock in that company was $1,063,000. WOW! $1,663,000 of cash and stock and they had never earned more than $8,000 per year!
This couple was unusual, but I know of many other couples who are headed in the same direction. They practice some very basic biblical principles that work regardless of the economy or economic environment. Incidentally, my advice to this man was not to seek advice from anyone, myself included, because we might "mess him up." I would be better off listening to him. This couple had followed four basic economic principles that will work for anyone regardless of the economic uncertainty. We will examine those principles in chapter 2.
Would this man have enough to live on? That was his question. Undoubtedly, he had enough to live on and to enjoy giving some away during his lifetime. We'll talk more about giving in chapter 15.
The years following World War II have seen an incredible growth in our affluence as a nation. No people, ever, have possessed the material resources that we do. We are truly a blessed people, and yet there are some significant cracks in our economic structure.
Our national debt (the amount of money owed by our government) is about $7,000,000,000,000! That's approximately $23,900 for every man, woman, and child in our country. If we wanted to pay off this debt, we would first of all have to stop going into debt; and then if we started a repayment plan of one $1,000,000 per day, it will still take over 3,500 years to pay back the debt (assuming there is no interest charged on the debt, which there is!). We have mortgaged not only our children's future, but also obligated countless future generations because of our lack of control and impatient spending. Someone must pay this debt through a literal repayment (future taxes), a deceitful repayment (future inflation), or cancellation (political upheaval). There are no other alternatives. The debt will not merely disappear.
I could go on and on about how serious our economic problems are. For example, what happens to our banking system if Third World countries refuse to pay their debts to American banks? What if the federal budget is not balanced? What happens to our economy if Japan's economy fails? The fact of the matter is, the problems are serious, and there is absolutely nothing that you or I, as individuals, can do to solve them.
While the original thirteen colonies were still part of Great Britain, Professor Alexander Tyler wrote of the Athenian Republic, which had fallen two thousand years earlier:
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves a largesse from the [public] treasury. From that moment on, the majority will always vote for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy and is always followed by a dictatorship.
The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From BONDAGE to SPIRITUAL FAITH; from SPIRITUAL FAITH to GREAT COURAGE; from GREAT COURAGE to ABUNDANCE; from ABUNDANCE to SELFISHNESS; from SELFISHNESS to COMPLACENCY; from COMPLACENCY to APATHY; from APATHY to DEPENDENCY; from DEPENDENCY back again into BONDAGE.
There is no question that the United States is at least at the abundance level in the sequence outlined by Professor Tyler. In my opinion we are leaving the selfishness level and approaching complacency.
Before you wring your hands in despair, let me give you a question to ponder. Do you think God is worried? Is He wringing His hands in despair, wondering how it is all going to turn out? Of course not! Inflation, deflation, monetary collapse, and political upheavals are nothing new to Him; and His message is just as relevant today as it has always been.
The context, therefore, of personal money management is that God is still in control, and under His control there are four broad economic situations: (1) inflation, (2) deflation, (3) monetary collapse, or (4) political upheaval. Although I am neither an economist nor a prophet and I do not know what is going to happen, I can plan for possible eventualities and base my planning on basic biblical financial principles. In the early 1980s, almost everyone was projecting increasing double-digit inflation. One of the consequences of that belief was a rapid escalation in raw land prices, especially farmland. However, farmland can be purchased today for one-third to one-half of what it was selling for in the early 1980s. Almost no one predicted the collapse in farmland prices or oil prices, and the consequent devastation to many families, corporations, and even cities. In the early 2000s, economists have mentioned deflation in the midst of the upheaval of the war on terrorism. The point is that neither inflation nor deflation is a sure thing. God is sovereign and can direct the course of our economy in any way He wants.
In any case, financial planning must take place under the sovereignty of God, recognizing His omnipotence, wisdom, purposes, and plans. Because there are only four economic possibilities, I must plan for all four in answering three primary questions:
* Will I ever have enough?
* Will it continue to be enough?
* How much is enough?
I believe that God is more interested in each of us individually than He is in any failure or success of our economic system. I do not believe that the Bible sets forth any one economic system. God is interested in how I glorify Him wherever I live—whether under capitalism, communism, socialism, or any other system.
God has called each of us to a unique role in an uncertain economy. To be prepared for that role, we must understand the biblical principles of money management given in the next chapter.CHAPTER 2
Four Biblical Principles of Money Management
"Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant."
"If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area of his life."
"God can have our money and not have our hearts, but he cannot have our hearts without having our money."
R. Kent Hughes
An acquaintance of mine, William Cook, wrote a book called Success, Motivation, and the Scriptures, in which he defined success as "the continued achievement of being the person God wants me to be, and the continued achievement of established goals God helps me set." I once asked my oldest child how her friends would define success, and she gave me the best worldly definition of success I have ever heard: "To have whatever you want whenever you want it."
One perspective is eternal and long-term, while the other is worldly and short-term: "I want what I want when I want it." Some even go further and believe, "Not only do I want what I want when I want it, but I have a right to it."
Both the Christian and non-Christian are concerned with success, and in each case success is always related to goals. The difference is in the perspective. One view sees only the here and now and self-promotion. The other sees the unseen eternity and the treasure to gain in heaven. What your perspective is (or to put it another way, what you believe) will determine attitudes and actions. That is why the Christian, in managing his or her money, is different.
Individually, God has called us to be salt and light (Matthew 5:1316 NIV):
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds, and praise your Father in heaven.
He's called us to be servants (Mark 10:43–45); God has also called us to be stewards (Matthew 25:14–30).
The idea of being salt and light says that God wants me to be different from, not better than, others in the world. The Christian, therefore, may or may not have more than his neighbor, but that does not distinguish him. What does distinguish the Christian from the world is the absence of any anxiety, which might have come as a result of the loss of something he has managed or even God's denial of something he wants. Why? Because the Christian's treasure is not on earth. The world and its temporal toys do not possess him. He is prayerful. He plans. But he is not the least bit anxious about the uncertainty facing our national and world economy. He understands that Christ's promises of abundance do not mean financial security but peace and knowledge of Christ.
Such an attitude is not "normal" but rather "different," and it comes from having an entirely different perspective. The Christian's perspective is eternal, the attitude is one of holding possessions lightly, and the lifestyle is free from worry and anxiety. Truly that is different!
Not only have we been called to be salt and light, but all Christians have been called to be servants: "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Money is one of the most significant resources with which American Christians can serve others. It is not the only resource (time and talents are two others), but it is certainly in greater abundance among American Christians than among non-Americans.
By contrast, the world emphasizes serving yourself: "I want what I want when I want it." Advertising persuades us with "You deserve it." God says, "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share" (1 Timothy 6:18 NIV).
Excerpted from The New Master Your Money by Ron Blue, Jeremy White. Copyright © 2004 Ron Blue. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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