by George Fooshee
Some people mash cans, crunch bottles or shred newspapers and magazines to further the cause of modern ecology. As owner and manager of a collection agency for 17 years, I believe in preserving the nation's natural and human resources too-particularly from a personal finance perspective.
There are ten financial principles found in God's Word to counsel and to help "recycle" many people, especially Christians, who have been all but mashed, crunched or shredded by the miseries of indebtedness and poor money management.
To put it plainly, I've seen firsthand the full spectrum of financial woes that can hopelessly trap people in a society victimized by the credit-card, "buy-now-pay-later" syndrome.
As a bill collector, my business is to try to collect accounts that creditors have been unsuccessful in collecting. Daily, I see people in deep financial trouble. Thousands in this country have got themselves into financial messes that can lead to more serious consequences.
For years all of my personal financial counseling ended in failure. Then I discovered God's mighty Word and His ten financial principles. Financial counseling became a matter of revealing these principles and allowing financially troubled persons to choose whether to obey them or not. These principles reveal God's instructions to His children for conducting their financial affairs.
I believe that one of the major themes of the Bible is obedience to the Lord. These financial principles are real, and obedience to them demonstrates that Christians are trusting God in another area of their lives.
God is Source
The first principle is that God is the source of everything. Philippians 4:19 says, "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Proverbs 8:20,21 adds, "I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment: that I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures."
And 2 Corinthians 9:8 says: "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work." Whenever we need money or possessions, prayer is the answer. Look to the Lord, because He will provide it-according to His will.
The second principle is that of giving. Luke 6:38, a key verse, says, "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give unto your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." According to Deuteronomy 14:23, one purpose of tithing was to teach the people of Israel to put God first in their lives.
I find there are a couple of ways I can put God first daily. One is to have a quiet time. If I am unwilling to meet the Lord each morning when I get up, that means I'm putting somebody else or something else before the Lord.
For example, how many people have thought seriously about not taking the daily newspaper? The man who is unwilling to cancel a newspaper subscription, which is keeping him from reading the Word of God, may often be the same man who is having trouble making the payments on the TV set that is keeping him from doing the things that would help him grow closer to the Lord. So it can be a vicious cycle. And with TV commercials by the dozens exhorting him to buy, spend, charge and go, is it any wonder that thousands of people are so molded by the world?
Having a quiet time is one way a person can put God first. I believe another is to commit a tenth of his income-right off the top-to the Lord's work. Proverbs 3:9, reads: "Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst with new wine."
Live On Margin
The third principle is that of living on a margin. Everyone ought to live on a margin-a physical margin, a spiritual margin, a time margin and a financial margin. Living on a margin simply means allowing room for things to happen.
There are really only three ways a person can arrive anyplace. He can arrive early, on time or late. I used to aim at arriving right on time, and I consistently arrived five minutes late. That's because I allowed no margin.
Those precious minutes add up. Think of the cumulative effort, on health alone, of continually spending 15 minutes hurrying to be five minutes late. I swim three times a week at the YMCA to stay in shape, and I try to eat right and keep my weight down, since I want to serve the Lord and therefore don't want to die of a heart attack. But 15 minutes of hurrying three times each day for 15 years adds up to nearly six months of 24-hour days when I'm under unnecessary tension, just hurrying to be late. And tension is a leading cause of heart attacks. How ridiculous! But the Lord led me to operate on a time margin-planning to arrive early rather than hurrying to be late.
Bible Backs Saving
The fourth financial principle concerns saving money-setting something aside for a rainy day. Proverbs 21:20 says, "There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up." And Proverbs 22:3 emphasizes, "A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished."
For a simple example, if a couple with an income of $12,000 a year would save $1000 of it each of those years and let this money earn 6 percent interest, compounded annually, they would have $24,672.56 at the end of a 15-year period.
If at the end of 15 years of saving faithfully, a son or daughter is ready for college or the family needs to move into a bigger house or wants to serve the Lord on a full-time basis, the couple can start to withdraw their savings. They can withdraw $2000 a year for 10 years and still have $15,322.17, or slightly more than they set aside. Isn't this making your money work for you? God has a reason for the principle of saving money.
Keep Out of Debt
The fifth principle is to keep out of unnecessary debt and thus avoid the debt trap. Borrowing for a house or car is one thing but taking on financial obligations one can't keep-buying beyond the ability to pay-is another. Psalm 37:21 says "the wicked borroweth, and payeth not again." The minute a person goes into debt, he loses a portion of his freedom. As Proverbs 22:7 says, "The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."
Suppose this same young couple with the $12,000 annual income had decided that instead of saving $1000 a year, they would go into debt for $1000 to buy some furniture. And suppose they continue to increase their indebtedness by $1000 during each of the 15 years, without paying back one cent. With 10 percent interest, compounded annually, on the increase in debt, the couple's debt would have been an astronomical $34,949.74. The debt on $1000 alone for that same period, without any repayment, would have been $4177.21.
Too many people think you can buy now and pay later. That isn't true. I've found that easy credit now makes people uneasy later. Usually a person pays more for the use of borrowed money than he gets in interest for saving it.
Secret of Contentment
The sixth principle is being content with what one has. Hebrews 13:5 puts it succinctly: "Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
One area where people often first become discontent involves the old automobile. Too many persons trade or sell their cars before they are used up. There's a big difference between fixing up the old junk heap to drive three more years and buying a new car. Many salesmen make the slick remark, "You just make that easy monthly payment." There is seldom anything easy about that monthly payment. It seems to get harder to make all the time. Second Corinthians 6:10 is so beautiful to apply here. It reads: "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things."
My friends in the automobile business tell me that most cars are good for more miles than most people put on them. Just because a car has over 100,000 miles doesn't mean a person has to get rid of it. Look at some of the buses, trucks and cars still going strong, especially in countries outside North America. They are cars of the same age and mileage that other people junked years ago.
A worthwhile saying to remember on contentment is this: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without."
Keep Records, Budget
The seventh principle is that of keeping records and making a budget. God's Word says, "Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding" (Prov. 23:23). "Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established: and by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches" (24:3,4).
If someone were to tell me that he's going to run his business without keeping any records, I would say this is downright stupid. And it is even worse for one who really wants to be a good steward of the Lord's money.
I started my children on a three-category budget when they started school. Every week I distributed the allowance-$1.50-.50 cents each for depositing in separate calling card boxes designated "save," "church," "spend." The kids had a visual control system. If there was no money in there, they had no money to spend. Making a budget won't be that simple, but the idea is the same.
A man I know to whom I have given financial counsel thought he was doing great because he had to borrow only $300 in the last eight months. When I asked him how he managed to get along so well, he admitted he had sold his week of vacation for $500 and had some overtime pay.
I figured that the fellow was actually spending $175 per month more than he was making during the eight-month period, despite the one-time windfall of getting rid of his vacation and working overtime. A year from now, at his present rate of overspending, he would owe $2100 more, with interest adding to his debt totaling more than $30 each month.
By keeping good records, having a plan and being honest with oneself, a person won't get into financial trouble. I seldom see financially successful people who don't keep good records.
It's the same with my own business cars. I cut all my salesmen back 15 percent and made a little budget. The salesmen follow a monthly plan and know what the limit is. They are staying within the budget without a reduction in sales. It's just a matter of being more efficient with what one has.
The eighth principle is, don't cosign. God says in Proverbs 27:13 to exercise extreme caution in cosigning. The advice infers that the world's poorest credit risk is the man who agrees to pay a stranger's debt. When a person cosigns a note, he is the one who is really borrowing the money. The reason a person needs a cosigner is because the lender is unwilling to lend that money to the person requesting the loan.
The ninth principle is that of hard work. The Scriptures spell it out: "In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury [poverty]" (Prov. 14:23). "He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough" (28:19).
It is important to work. "In the beginning God created" (Gen. 1:1). Even God is at work. This is a principle throughout the Bible. Many times I find that people in financial trouble aren't really working hard. I have often discovered in counseling young men in real financial trouble that they are "tooling" around too much of the time and putting 2000 miles a month on the car. I advise them to take a second job. This increases their income and decreases their expenses and it keeps them from misusing or frittering away their time.
Seek Godly Counsel
The last principle is that of seeking godly counsel. Psalm 1:1 declares, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly." A person needing financial advice should not go to someone who makes his living selling the very thing he's contemplating buying. "Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established" (Prov. 15:22).
Before buying a house, purchasing a car or just borrowing money, pray about it and seek the counsel of godly people. They can keep you from making a lot of mistakes. The reason so many persons don't seek counsel is that they don't want to be told by someone an intended action is unsound-they just like to do what they want anyway.
Above all, don't sign anything until you check the deal thoroughly first. Don't be hurried into any deal. The worst deal in the world is often the one in which a person is rushed into signing-capitulating to a relentless salesman's chance-of-a-lifetime-offer pressure tactics. The best offer in the world can wait.
These are the ten biblical financial principles: God is the source; give first; live on a margin; save money; keep out of debt; be content with what you have; keep records; don't cosign; work hard and seek godly counsel.
As one learns to follow these eternal principles in his personal finances, he will know the joy that comes from trusting and obeying God.