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WOMEN, TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR MONEYA BIBLICAL PATH TO FINANCIAL SECURITY
By CAROLYN CASTLEBERRY
Multnomah PublishersCopyright © 2006 Carolyn Castleberry
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe World's First Female Investor
Elizabeth had the perfect life. She had beautiful children and an adoring husband. She was well known and respected in our community. Her husband took care of all the bills and appeared to do so with ease, so she thought she had nothing to worry about when it came to finances.
Until the day her husband passed away.
He left quite a legacy-debts that Elizabeth never knew they had, bills that were unpaid, a welter of financial confusion that took years to decipher and undo. Oh, she did it, and she is much the wiser for what she went through. Elizabeth continues to be a community leader, and she's now a business owner who has done very well. But if only she'd known earlier what you will know after reading this book.
Why, in this new millennium, do many women still think it isn't their responsibility to be good with money? "My husband handles that!" "I'll think about that when I'm older." Knowing and caring about finances is still viewed as a man's job, and talking about money is uncomfortable, to say the least, or garish, to put it more precisely.
And there's still the knight-in-shining-armorsyndrome. According to Christopher L. Hayes, author of Money Makeovers, one of the myths women still hold on to is that someone's going to rescue them from the burden of financial cares the way knights in shining armor once saved the proverbial damsels in distress.
But here are the facts, according to the National Center for Women and Retirement Research (NCWRR): Of women thirty-five to fifty-five years old, between one-third and two-thirds will be impoverished by age seventy. And women live an average of seven years longer than men. That means many of us will have no choice but to personally handle our own finances at some point. So learn to think about it now!
I understand your tendency to feel overwhelmed by all this. I've been there. But after reading this book, you'll have the skills, the confidence, and the plan for starting a new financial journey. It's a plan exemplified by a woman whom God placed in the Bible thousands of years ago, yet a plan which can still help you succeed today.
This book is about much more than just managing dollars. It's about finding your purpose in the only One who truly knows what you were created for. That's because God is the One who did the creating. He loved every moment of it and has never stopped loving you. He also never intended for you to navigate your life as a slave to money. Through God, money is subservient to you.
So let's walk down this path together, taking our time and learning to carefully consider our ever-growing number of financial options.
SOMEONE TO LEARN FROM
God can bring a number of people into your life to show you how to be victorious in this very frightening area of life. You can learn from many of them (and from me) in regard to both success and failure.
But as someone to learn from, one person in particular stands out, and I love the fact that she's a woman. I hope you also discover that she's someone much like you, though she lived in an age that was less kind to females than ours, one that didn't afford them all the opportunities we have now. She juggled relationships and career and took it one step further: She became an investor, just as you can. An investor in God. An investor in her family. And an investor in business, in something that would provide financially for her family long into the future. This was her field of dreams, and my goal is to help you consider and find your own field to help provide security for your future and peace in your present.
Let's take a closer look at this remarkable woman from Proverbs 31. Love her or hate her, you have to admit she's a breath of fresh air in a long lineup of other female mug shots depicted in Proverbs. As Ann Spangler and Jean Syswerda observe in Women of the Bible, Proverbs overflows with less-than-glowing descriptions of women. There are wayward wives, prostitutes, and women with smoother-than-oil lips. We find strange women, loud women, defiant women, and wives who are like a continual drip on a rainy day or decay in their husband's bones. There are women whose feet never stay home, brazen-faced women, and even a woman so repulsive she's likened to a gold ring in a pig's snout! Yikes!
However, the book of Proverbs opens and closes with positive portrayals of our gender: first, a woman personified as wisdom (in Proverbs 3-4 and 8-9), then finally, in Proverbs 31, an "excellent wife" who seemingly can do no wrong. In contrast to the nagging, adulterous, mean-spirited female images in much of Proverbs, the woman in chapter 31 is God-fearing, strong, wise, and immensely capable.
She put God at the top of her priority list: "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised" (v. 30).
She made family her next priority: "She is not afraid of the snow for her household, for all her household are clothed with scarlet" (v. 21). "Her children rise up and bless her" (v. 28).
She had a positive outlook (for reasons we'll later discuss), and as a result, "she smiles at the future" (v. 25).
She put her creative talents to work: "She looks for wool and flax and works with her hands in delight" (v. 13). "She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the tradesmen" (v. 24).
She was a careful investor: "She considers a field and buys it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard" (v. 16).
She was a hard worker: "She stretches out her hands to the distaff [a wool-spinning device], and her hands grasp the spindle" (v. 19).
She was generous: "She extends her hand to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy" (v. 20).
She was tough: "Strength and dignity are her clothing" (v. 25); she "girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong" (v. 17). And she was tireless: She "rises also while it is still night" (v. 15) and "her lamp does not go out at night" (v. 18).
She reaped positive rewards: "The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain" (v. 11). "Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates" (v. 31).
Do you hate her yet? Many women do because her example has been thrown into the faces of ordinary women who feel they can't possibly live up to her standards.
But let's take another look.
Did this woman truly exist, with all these positive attributes? Or was she simply a figment of the author's wishful imagination in creating a model for the rest of us to follow?
I don't think it matters. If we believe all Scripture is God-inspired and beneficial for our training in righteousness, then we must also accept that there are many lessons to be learned from the woman in Proverbs 31-lessons of family, virtue, and honor. And in this book, I'll focus especially on the financial lessons she teaches us.
I've decided to give this capable lady a fictional name, because referring to her as only "the Proverbs 31 woman" can seem so distant and impersonal. So I've named her "Proven"-combining the beginning of the word Proverbs and the last letters of women.
Proverbs + women = a Proven, winning plan
Clearly, Proven was very much involved in her family's financial life. She made linen garments and sold them. She considered a field and bought it; from her earnings she planted a vineyard. And remember, this resourceful lady didn't have a laptop or any other high-tech tools to work with. Proven worked with what she had at the time.
Notice that the passage doesn't say her husband did all the work and gave her a shopping allowance. In fact, it mentions that she plants a vineyard with her own earnings. She created both immediate and future wealth and provision for her family.
Proven's model for financial well-being can be summed up in three simple words: create, consider, and invest. She created products, she considered her field of investment, and then she actually bought it!
You can do the same thing in your life-in God's unique way for you.
OUR INVESTMENT RESPONSIBILITY
Proven's model for the role we should play in our family's finances is consistent with New Testament lessons on money. The Gospel of Matthew records a story Jesus told to illustrate our financial responsibilities. It begins with a man who went on a trip and left his servants money (also referred to as "talents") to invest-each according to his ability. He gave one servant five talents, another two talents, and the last servant one talent.
Away he went, and the servants went to work-or at least two of them did-taking risks, doubling their money, and receiving a reward and praise from their boss when he got back home. But the last servant was afraid and buried his talent in the sand. Sound familiar? It does to me.
Let's read about this last guy as the moment came to face his boss:
"He said, 'Sir, I know that you are a hard man. You gather grain where you have not planted. You take up where you have not spread out. I was afraid and I hid your money in the ground. See! Here is your money.'
"His owner said to him, 'You bad and lazy servant. You knew that I gather grain where I have not planted. You knew that I take up where I have not spread out. You should have taken my money to the bank. When I came back, I could have had my own money and what the bank paid for using it. Take the one piece of money from him. Give it to the one who has ten pieces of money.'
"For the man who has will have more given to him. He will have more than enough. The man who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away." (Matthew 25:24-29, NLV)
Talk about harsh! Harsh reality, that is. God watches and hopes we'll multiply our money! But how many of us are more like the last slave, who buried the piece of silver in the ground? Certainly, one perspective is that he was lazy and indifferent. But I think this poor fellow was simply afraid, and to that I can certainly relate.
At times in my life I not only buried my head in the sand, but also essentially flushed my money down the toilet. I was more incompetent than the last servant because I spent everything I made as soon as I got it, and more. It took a long time for me to realize it was my responsibility not only to make money but to multiply it.
As a young woman, I didn't give this too much consideration until my children were born. God, however, has always taken it very seriously.
So exactly how do you double your money in today's tumultuous economy? You have more options than you know, and we'll discuss many of them as we learn to create, consider, and invest like the good servants and the Proverbs 31 woman.
By putting Proven's money model into action in my life, I was able to give careful consideration to my days and how I spent them. As we'll see, whoever or whatever Proven is, she's at the very least an attainable and realistic example for today's women who long to be free and to have meaningful, prosperous lives. Yes, it's true. But it's not easy. I must tell you that this book will require action on your part. It will require you to examine your life and create a new plan.
Is the Proverbs 31 model attainable on your own? Not a chance. Can you do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13)? Absolutely! So say a prayer, get ready to face your fears, and extract your head and talents from the sand. Get ready to transform your financial life based on a plan that has been "proven" time and again.
Excerpted from WOMEN, TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR MONEY by CAROLYN CASTLEBERRY Copyright © 2006 by Carolyn Castleberry. Excerpted by permission.
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