2004-01-30 - Riding Out the Storms
Make Your Money Count, Part 3
"And sure enough, for the next seven years, there were bumper crops everywhere. During those years, Joseph took a portion of all the crops grown in Egypt and stored them for the government in nearby cities. After seven years, the granaries were filled to overflowing. There was so much grain, like sand on the seashore, that the people could not keep track of the amount." Genesis 41: 47-49 (New Living)
I was talking with someone recently that had been riding high on the "success" train. The economic woes of the past four years caused his train to crash. He lost everything - his business, house, cars, and his "big boy toys." Everything accumulated over the years was gone in months. He told me he does not miss the life in the fast lane, but he does miss the possessions. I wanted to say, "but you really never owned anything. You accumulated more debt than assets."
Do we really own anything, when a financial storm can wipe us out? Do we really own our house, furniture, cars, boats and other items, when as a country, our debt load is at an all-time high? Stop making your house payments, and see how long you "own" your house.
During the 1990s, we experienced a bumper crop of wealth in America. But we did not heed the advice written thousands of years ago in Genesis. Most of us did not save for the inevitable economic storms. Instead, we spent more than we made, and at a record pace. Debt has reached an all-time high. Consumer spending drove the economy, and consumer spending wrecked lives.
Notice in the above passage, that Joseph took a portion of the crops and stored them away for the future. In modern terms, he put money aside and saved it, to ride out the next recession. He was prepared.
Let's look at common mistakes we make with money:
Lack of Contentment
"No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24 (NLT)
In the good economic times, the more we accumulate, the more we want. We are never content with what we have, even when we have more than ever. Jesus knew that we could not serve both God and money, along with the items money buys. Jesus is asking us to choose a life of contentment with what we have by placing God, not temporal possessions, first. Be content with what you have.
Lack of Prudence
The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get. Proverbs 21:20 (NLT)
This verse is saying to be smart about money. Don't be foolish. Easy credit with high interest rates trap us into spending whatever we want, with impulse buying.
Lack of Making Wise Purchases & Spending More Than We Make
Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender. Proverbs 22:7 (NLT)
It helps me to stop, think, pray and wait, particularly when considering a major purchase that will require borrowing. Stopping before buying keeps me from being impulsive. Thinking and praying takes the purchase before God. He wants to be involved in all our decisions. If I wait long enough, I usually see that I really can do without that new whatever.
Lack of Saving Money
Our government reports that the latest personal savings rate for Americas hovered around 2.1 % during 2003. We don't save money, because we are too busy making the all the mistakes about money listed above. Most financial planners recommend trying to build up a savings account equal to three to six months' living expenses. Joseph saved enough grain during the bumper crops, to feed the people during the seven year famine. Savings provide a safety net when unexpected financial storms hit.
Here are some practical antidotes to the unwise use of money:
Live on less. Our financial problems are typically not on the inflow side, but the outflow. Perhaps it is time to downsize your house. Perhaps it is time to wax the old car and drive on. Housing and automobiles are the two biggest budget busters in America.
Keep track of where your money is going. Write down every purchase for a month. Most people are surprised at the spending that in not necessary.
Take a close look at your debts. Perhaps a low-interest equity line is needed, to replace those high-interest credit cards. One caveat: If your credit cards are unmanageable and you pay them off with lower interest debt, shred the cards. Do plastic surgery on your wallet. Keep one for emergencies only.
Remember what money cannot buy. Money can't buy contentment, acceptance, relationship and love. We can't buy our relationship with God. He has given that to us; we just need to get unbound by the pressures of debt and bound to His power.
Point to Ponder This Week:
Am I using my money in a way that is pleasing to God?
For info on my new book "What Now Lord?":