There are three honest ways to increase your net worth: invest money, earn more or spend less and, preferably, do all 3. Yes, that’s easier said than done! The Bible says the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. The problem isn’t the money itself, but rather a craving for the “standard of living” that we somehow believe we’re entitled to enjoy. In short: the idolatry of selfishness.
Another Bible concept says that if we have food and clothing (with the implied shelter those things bring) we ought to be content. For many years American families believed in industry and frugality. That combination created wealth. Some of our politicians wooed their votes by pretending that “conservative” was akin to fiscal restraint. That was ‘yesteryear.’
Please don’t look to Washington, DC today for signs of restricted spending. For an accurate comparison you remove from the total spending of the last few administrations the cost of the military and of home land security. President Reagan said: "Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end & no sense of responsibility at the other." He believed it and thus actually shrank government spending by -1.4% during his administration.
Presidents Carter and Clinton were modest increasers in spending. (1.6% and 2.1%) and some people remember how the money poured through the hands of the Nixon administration where spending increased by 5%. The current administration? We’ve never seen this kind of debt! Yet, still they come to congress to borrow even more.
We in New Jersey are reeling under revelations of money waste by the people we elected to Trenton. The auditors are uncovering huge amounts that have lined the pockets of favored patrons, but government waste is only a part of the national problem. How would you like to be paid what companies in Manhattan squander either in inefficiency or in pandering to greed?
If only the problem was “out there” in the business or political arena alone. Ever since the credit card became a way of life, we have seen spending threaten the income of ordinary families. Mom says: “For as long as I have this card in my hand there’s no way my child will go to school in worn out shoes.” Dad believes that opting between tendering the card for a meal to please his family and admitting there’s no cash for luxuries is an obvious choice. Even college kids are being tempted with cards for those “needs” that college tuition doesn’t cover. The luxuries of one generation become the bare necessities of the next. If you have money to invest think long-term. Use the “rule of 72.” Investing at 6%, your capital should double in 12 years. Even at only 3% – you still gain. The Bible talks of gathering money “little by little.”
Don’t spend more than you can afford. This implies a budget. It’s a paper that guides your check book. If possible, never pay bills alone. Ask for objective opinions. The budget should include 3 minimum standards: save 10%, give away 10% and live on 80% of what you earn. How does giving away 10% cause you to become wealthy? I don’t know, but I know it works! It has worked in our house for 41 years. It has worked every month and in that time we’ve raised kids, paid college bills, bought cars, taken vacation trips, paid for surgeries and all the other normal family expenses. Christians and Jews call it tithing.
Even when giving away 10% is your habit I have found the hardest part of money management is saving that other 10%. It’s the great test of discipline. The safest way to become wealthy is to surrender to God your love of immediate pleasures. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, living within the yielded heart, is increase in self-control.
Andrew Paton of Clinton Church of the Nazarene, born in Africa, has pastored in Hunterdon County since 1997. Before that he ministered in Durban and Bedfordview, South Africa and prior to that was an officer in The Salvation Army. He has been in full time Christian leadership since 1975. He and his wife Carol have two married sons and five grandchildren.
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