God’s Financial Plan
Greetings from Fredericksburg, Texas! Every once in a while I need to get away from the rigors of the financial world and sharpen my axe. For those of you not familiar with that phrase, ask your parents or grandparents. I spent the morning marveling in the artifacts from the Nimitz Memorial Museum and it reminded me of how are modern society have completely lost many of the simple but profound messages of our forefathers. Messages of hard work and long term saving have been replaced by get rich quick schemes and debt. By taking time to stop and study our forefather’s success we can make positive changes in our own financial well-being. It is very apparent to me that many have replaced the financial wisdom of the Bible with the Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine and other secular publications. While there is nothing wrong with reading this information it is important to understand the wealth of information in the Bible that our forefathers relied on and I believe was crucial to their success.
Before moving forward let’s first get to the root of the problem. Almost every week I speak or have an appointment with a new client wanting to become an investor when they have yet to break out of their unhealthy spending habits. I classify new clients in three categories. You are a spender, a saver or an investor. These three stages must graduate to the next. You cannot be a spender and jump to investing. In other words, in most cases, if you have large amounts of credit card debt you are not ready to become an investor. You must first understand the principals of saving before becoming an investor. Our forefathers were excellent savers and investors, however, as a nation I feel we have lost our way. I will focus on what the Bible says about saving this week.
My wife and I were in a store on Main Street in beautiful downtown Fredericksburg where I saw a sign with the following saying, “God does not give us what we cannot handle, and God helps us to handle what we have been given.” This is very true in the financial world. Do you classify yourself as a spender? Do you find yourself using credit without a thought of how you will pay it back? How would you expect God to entrust you with blessings of wealth? Just as our earthly father may monitor our use of money as children, our heavenly Father will monitor our use of money as adults. One of the most profound messages about saving and investing in the Bible is the parable of the talents. Matthew tells us about a Master intrusting money to his servants while he is away. Two of the servants “put the money to work” and the other buried his share. As we all know the servant who buried his share was scorned by the Master at his return. There are several aspects of this story that give us insight on how we need to live our financial lives.
Remember in this parable the money was given to the servants by the master. The Master is testing the servant’s ability to handle the money. Those that did well he rewarded with more responsibility. Similarly, our Lord gives us responsibility for wealth on earth to test our abilities. Remember, it is all God’s money. He wants to see if we can be good stewards of what He gives us before giving us more to handle. In turn by running up credit card debt you are attempting to take on more than God intends for you to handle. It only serves to keep you from achieving the end result that is God’s financial plan for your life. I recently had a meeting with a new client with credit card debt of 20,000 at 18% wanting me to take over management of a 40,000 stock account she had with another brokerage firm because she was unhappy with the performance. For many of you the answer of selling some of the stock portfolio to pay off the debt is obvious. But I feel the education here goes much deeper. First, her abuse of credit shows me she should have never invested in stocks in the first place. God is not ready for her to become an investor. And without God’s blessings her chances for investment success are greatly diminished. She has also tried to skip stages; however, she has failed to fully understand the principal of saving which will enable her to become an investor. Understanding that by paying off her debt with the proceeds from the sale of the stock will save her 18% annually is an important step but more importantly, it will give her the freedom to continue along God’s financial path.
Next stop on God’s path, saving. It is important for my clients to build up at least six months of monthly income in reserve before becoming an investor. Paying off debt then building a reserve is how I teach my clients to move away from being a spender to a saver. Throwing money into the stock market is not saving and in some cases not even sound investing but this is a topic for another article. Saver assets include money markets, C.D.’s, and any other assets that build consistently over time with little to no risk of loss.
Another overlooked lesson is the factor of time in the parable. Matthew tells us the Master returned “after a long time”. In Biblical terms this could have been many years. Understanding saving means understanding that saving necessarily takes time. This is another opportunity for God to teach us to be patient. Think about it, anything you have accomplished in your life that was rewarding required work and most likely did not happen overnight. God gave you what you could handle, helped you along, gave you a little more, and continued the process until the task was completed. Why should saving and investing be any different?
And finally, at the conclusion of the parable, the servant who got in trouble is the one who buried his money in the sand not allowing it to grow and prosper. In Matthew 26 the Master calls him a “wicked, lazy, servant” and later states “Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the banks, so that when I returned I would receive it back with Interest.” The lesson here is, don’t be afraid to follow God’s lead in your life. Whatever the gift God gives us, financial or otherwise, it is our job to prayerfully listen to what God has planned for us. Never be caught burying your gift in the sand for fear of failure. None of us wants to be referred to by our Master as “a wicked, lazy, servant”. However, even if you do fail ,remember, you have a Father to pick you up, dust you off, and get you back on His path.