Chapter OneWill I Ever Have
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"Just about the time you make both ends meet, somebody moves the ends." Anonymous
"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." Edmund Burke
"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.'" Benjamin Franklin
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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
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
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
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
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 TwoFour Biblical Principles
of Money Management
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"Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant." P.T. Barnum
"If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help
straighten out almost every other area of his life." Billy Graham
"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."