|By Crown Financial Ministries|
How can we seek God’s wisdom concerning our finances? God says that if we pray for anything that is within His will, it will be given to us. But God’s will and His ways are not always compatible with our will and ways. Therefore, when we turn our finances over to God we must be willing to accept His direction.
However, all too often we strike out on our own without a clear direction from Him. We take control of the reins, feeling that we know what direction is best. Unfortunately, many times the end result of choosing our own way is destruction. Then we expect God to come to our rescue and bail us out. Sometimes He does, but other times He does not, because we need to learn a valuable lesson about rejecting His control in favor of self-control.
By Crown Financial Ministries
|According to a recent report by the Employee Assistance Program at the University of Texas at Austin, since 1997 billions of dollars (approximately 14 billion per year) worth of productivity was lost by business and industry through absenteeism, wasted time, poor work performance, loss of income, criminal acts such as theft, accident, rehabilitation and recovery, and medical treatment, due to gambling and gambling related problems.
In addition to this and unseen to most, at least a quarter and maybe more of all family disruptions, neglected or abused children, divorces, impoverishment, mental breakdowns, and suicides were able to be traced back to the negative effects of gambling.
In light of these statistics, why have so many bought into the notion that gambling is nothing more than harmless entertainment? What is gambling and why do people gamble?
What is gambling?
Gambling, in the strictest sense, is a method by which a person can get rich quick without having to earn the wealth by labor. Solomon said in Proverbs 14:23, “In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads to poverty.”
Whereas attaining wealth by working is scriptural, attaining wealth by enticing someone to gain money at the certain loss of another violates every principle taught by Jesus.
In short, it is deceptive and sinful. It breeds selfishness, greed, and covetousness and, in fact, promotes them.
Regardless of how socially acceptable the practice of gambling has become, it is still preying on the weaknesses of others, contrary to the instruction of Paul recorded in 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15.
Many people gamble because they feel that they have needs that cannot be met through earned income. Gambling to them is their “opportunity” to acquire material wealth and comforts.
Another group gambles just for the fun of it; they call themselves social gamblers.
A third group is compulsive gamblers. To them gambling is a disease that wrecks their finances, families, and careers.
At first glance, each group appears to have a different motive for gambling but, in reality, they all have the same motive: gaining materialism without labor (Proverbs 14:23)—the ultimate in get-rich-quick schemes.
Is gambling wrong?
The following principles can help Christians evaluate whether gambling is an activity with which they should be involved: (1) Many times gambling is connected with other vices, such as prostitution and drugs; (2) gambling is always associated with get-rich-quick motives (Proverbs 28:22); (3) gambling discourages work (Genesis 3:19); (4) gambling often will offend a brother or sister in Christ (1 Corinthians 8:11-12); and (5) gambling manifests a heart of greed and love of money, which Scripture says is the root of all evil. “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9).
Many Christian leaders feel that state lotteries, operating legally in at least thirty-eight states, are a form of gambling, although some Christians do not think so.
Yet, if the above principles for evaluating gambling are considered, the state lottery is, most definitely, gambling.
The effects of state lotteries
Since 1989 Massachusetts citizens spent an average of $1.5 billion annually on lottery tickets. Instead, they could have spent that money in local businesses, placed it in investment vehicles, or deposited it in savings.
Ironically, much of those billions goes into the Massachusetts state coffers, making the state the big winner.
States generally claim from 35 to 45 percent of the money raised by lotteries.
Administration and promotion takes another 10 to 20 percent, leaving less than half of the money collected to be paid to winners.
According to the California Grocers Association, 66 percent of the food stores that sell lottery tickets reported a decline in food sales after they began to sell tickets.
It is estimated that since 1990 more than half of California’s lottery ticket sales come from customers whose income is near or below the recognized poverty level.
The poor tend to be the greater victims of the lottery simply by virtue of the fact that they have smaller incomes. “For the poor, lottery is not harmless entertainment,” says Dr. J. Emmett Henderson, head of the Georgia Council on Moral and Civic Concerns. “It is a desperate but vain attempt to survive. But odds of winning are so cruel (roughly 13 million to one is typical for state lotteries throughout America), that lottery turns out to be theft by consent. Almost all players lose money.”
Jesus said that all the commandments can be summed up in the first commandment (the greatest): Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and in the second commandment, love your neighbor as yourself.
As such, the questions must be asked: Would Jesus participate in this game of chance? Would He bet money on His chances of winning? Would His Father be pleased with His decision to bet? Would His involvement cause the other participants to accept Him as their perfect example? How a Christian answers these questions should determine their course of action.
Christians are the only Christ that many outside of Christ will ever see. Our actions and our decisions will more times than none testify of what should be the true nature of Christ. “For those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed” (1 Samuel 2:30).
By Crown Financial Ministries
|Without question, family financial problems seem to increase dramatically during economic slumps. Are the financial problems caused by economic slumps? Generally not.
With rare exception, family financial problems have begun long before the economic slumps, perhaps as early as childhood.
Ignoring God’s Word
Usually families with financial problems only recognize the symptoms of the problems (such as unpaid bills) or the consequences of the symptoms (such as repossession of property). They seldom identify the real underlying cause of the problem.
Most of the symptoms of financial problems that families face in today’s society—business failures, foreclosures, bankruptcies, out-of-control debt, two-job families, and divorce—can be traced to a central problem of ignoring God’s financial principles as recorded in His Word.
It is likely that the problem was learned from parents who also had the same problems. “Now it shall be, if you will diligently obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth” (Deuteronomy 28:1).
God’s financial principles and instructions are not complicated or hard to understand. They were designed to free His people from financial burdens and not to bind them with an unattainable set of dos and don’ts.
Unfortunately, though, since the mid-1950s God’s principles have increasingly been ignored by families who have adopted a get-rich-quick mentality by using easily obtainable credit to purchase “what I want, when I want it.”
The children of these 1950s and 1960s parents learned to buy on credit from their parents’ example.
Now, a generation later, we are reaping the burden of sown seeds of moderate debt in the form of overwhelming excessive debt.
It was Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), Earl of Beaconsfield, who said in an address before the British House of Commons on May 1, 1865, “What we do and allow in moderation, our children will allow and do in excess.” What better words can describe the primary cause of the downward financial spiral of families in our society?
Without a doubt, the lack of financial discipline in parents is reflected and amplified in the lives of their children and their children’s families.
Symptoms of financial problems
If parents do not operate on a budget, seldom will the children.
If parents use credit readily and make buying decisions based on the ability to make monthly payments, rather than on the initial price of items purchased, so will the children.
Once married and on their own, young couples attempt to duplicate in a few years what perhaps has taken their parents decades to accumulate. In order to accomplish that goal, they use credit, as they were taught.
Before long they have numerous assets, but the assets are all tied up in liabilities.
This debt burden causes many of these young couples to experience the following symptoms.
They no longer can pay the monthly bills. Once the credit cards have reached their maximum limits and other sources of readily available credit begin to tighten, financial pressure begins to build. Finally, in desperation, a bill consolidation loan is obtained. Usually within less than a year the credit card debts return, making the end result worse than the beginning.
More income is needed. More credit cannot be the answer, so logic says that more money is needed. Consequently, the wife usually has to go to work. When young children are involved, the result may be breakeven or less.
Buy to pacify the pressure. At this stage many Christian families try to pacify the financial pressures by buying something new or going on a “get away from it all” vacation. However, these usually have to be financed with credit, so again the end is worse than the beginning.
Divorce and/or bankruptcy. When financial pressure reaches the boiling point, with no apparent way out, either the couple takes it out on one another—resulting in divorce—or they file for protection under the bankruptcy laws in order to start over again. However, if God’s principles were not learned during the process, the same financial problems will be present in the second or third marriage or after the discharge of bankruptcy.
Although symptoms of financial problems can be devastating, it is much easier for families to practice prevention rather than recuperation.
As such, there are four basic preventive measures that families can exercise to counterbalance unbiblical financial practices and to prevent the symptoms of financial problems.
Abstain from borrowing. “The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives” (Psalm 37:21). Scripture clearly indicates that borrowing is not God’s best for His people and should never be used as a routine part of financial planning.
Saving. “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up” (Proverbs 21:20). In today’s society, spending and borrowing are promoted, and saving—in order to purchase with cash—is discouraged. It is more in keeping with God’s principles to save for future needs and purchases than to borrow or use credit.
Making hasty decisions. “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but every one who is hasty comes surely to poverty” (Proverbs 21:5). Patience and consistency, rather than quick decisions and instant success, are the ways to financial security. One of the best disciplines parents can teach their children is to work to reach a goal.
Develop a budget. “Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline, but he who regards reproof will be honored” (Proverbs 13:18). Children should learn by parents’ examples how to develop and live on a balanced budget. If they don’t, chances are when the children have families of their own, they will continue with the cycle of debt.
If Christian families truly lived by sound biblical financial principles, they would not only be lights to show the way to financial freedom for their friends and acquaintances, but their children would grow up with the knowledge of God’s principles and how those principles should be used.
They in turn would pass on to their children what they were taught. With consistent teaching and discipline it would take less than a generation to break Christians’ financial bondage and free them to fund the work of the Lord.
|By Crown Financial Ministries|
When reading a familiar passage in Matthew 13, one might stop and reflect on what the Lord said in verse 22: that the deceitfulness of wealth chokes out God’s Word. Is wealth deceitful (misleading), or is it just a simple tool used in deception? Obviously, the answer is that material possessions are not problems themselves; they are the reflection of problems. Deceit is an external, visible expression of inner spiritual flaws.
By Crown Financial Ministries
|Christians can best make financial decisions according to God’s plan for their lives by understanding His directives for their lives.
Every decision requires a thorough understanding of God’s attitudes, and that understanding comes from studying God’s Word and communicating with Him.
If Christians never ask God’s direction regarding investments of financial decisions, they will never receive an answer.
There are some specific principles that Christians need to consider when making financial decisions: avoid speculation, keep finances current, keep Christian witness, give—do not loan, never cosign, avoid indulgence, prepare for decreases, and let peace rule.
Christians should seek God’s increase rather than trying to increase their financial worth through speculative schemes.
Many times enticing programs and “guaranteed” moneymaking schemes are not only unethical but border on being illegal.
They must assess every so-called opportunity with their relationship with Christ and not let others make financial decisions for them. Instead, every decision must be made in light of individual goals, whether the venture is necessary, and whether it fits into God’s individual plan for their lives.
Keep finances current
Christians need always to manage their finances on a current basis, making no provision in their financial planning to borrow money beyond their abilities to repay.
Impulse buying, either investment or consumption, is disastrous to budgets.
So, when evaluating purchases or investments, always consider the financial obligation in light of known income or available funds.
Plan for tomorrow by prudence today; make plans in light of present circumstances, not on some future event.
Keep Christian witness
Consider all decisions, especially financial decisions, on the basis of their effect on the work and reputation of Christ. To blindly pursue a course without a directive from God and then depend on Him to rectify any resultant financial disasters is not God’s will; nor is it according to His plan.
As an example, if one must borrow outside of God’s people in order to remain in His will, beware! This course is not according to His plan. “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Proverbs 22:7).
If Christians deal unfairly or unethically with any individual or any business, it is the Christians’ witness that will suffer.
Therefore, Christians must establish that, no matter what the circumstances are, they will tell the whole truth, keep their vows, make decisions based on God’s directive and God’s plan, maintain financial honesty, and preserve the integrity of Christ in every aspect of life.
Give—do not loan
Christians should avoid lending to those in need if giving is possible.
If someone approaches a Christian requesting financial help in order to acquire wants or desires, that request and justification for the request should be seriously questioned.
If that person is in need, however, and God has directed that he or she is to be helped, it is the Christian’s responsibility to supply that need.
To cosign means to pledge personal assets against the debt of another. It doesn’t matter whether it is personal or business, Scripture specifically forbids this whenever it speaks of surety or striking of hands. “My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor, have given a pledge for a stranger, if you have been snared with the words of your mouth, have been caught with the words of your mouth, do this then, my son, and deliver yourself; since you have come into the land of your neighbor, go, humble yourself, and importune your neighbor” (Proverbs 6:1-3).
Of all the portions that warn against surety, or cosigning, in Scripture, this seems to be the one that most explicitly warns against it.
Christians need to learn to discern the difference between needs, wants, and desires in every financial transaction.
This applies not only to purchases of material goods but to investments as well. Before buying, determine whether the purchase is a need or a desire; then check it against God’s principles.
Before investing, determine the reason for investing and what will be done with the money if God blesses with increase.
Many Christians get frustrated because they cannot distinguish between luxuries and necessities.
Consequently, they seek fulfillment through the same channels as non-Christians and then wonder why they have fruitless Christian witnesses.
Prepare for decreases
Being prepared for unexpected decreases in funds is a vital part of keeping financially current.
Evaluate all financial decisions on the basis of what would happen if there were even a small decrease of income or available funds.
Do not operate at the upper limit of income or available funds. Instead, make financial decisions cognizant of the possibility that if there is a sudden drop in income, it may be necessary to reduce current living standards.
Let peace rule
Often Christians are not responsive enough to God’s Word or to His presence to hear Him, except through an inner turmoil known as lack of peace. As a last resort, God will use this to provide direction.
Accordingly, if He does not give peace, do not get involved.
If a quick decision is required, do not get involved. Take the time to think and to pray about any decision, especially financial decisions that will affect the family, and be determined not to make any financial decision under pressure. “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it” (Proverbs 10:22).
Become sensitive to God’s guidance by becoming familiar with His directives and leadership procedures, through the study of His Word and by communicating with Him through prayer. He will always provide the right direction for those who seek it.
Even when we fail to see the right path clearly in God’s Word or fail to hear Him in prayer, He will never fail to place an unrest or a peace inside that will confirm His preferred course and His will. If we are sensitive, we can usually avoid financial failures and bondage.