Category Archives: Money and Finances

An Honest Salesman?

Proverbs 12:5

“The thoughts of the righteous [are] right: [but] the counsels of the wicked [are] deceit.”

It is not often that I choose to quote another author, but I found the following words instructive.

The plans of the righteous are right.” His designs are well-intentioned and morally sound because the mind of the righteous man is disciplined by wisdom. On the other hand, “the counsels of the wicked are deceit.” Their warped minds invent crooked methods for reaching their goals. To them the end always justifies the means.”*

The Ends

Do you ever stop to think about the “ends?” In other words, do you ever stop to think about the results of your actions, or your thoughts? Do you plan ahead? Do you think about consequences?

The “thoughts of the righteous are right” because the righteous have right hearts. And because of their righteous thoughts, the means to an end matter just as much as the result. They want to do what is right, because it is right.

On the other hand, the wicked think only of self-gratifying goals. As the above quote says, “To them the end always justifies the means.” Because of an unwise, wicked heart, what is right does not matter, only the desired result.

The Means

I have known many salesmen over the years. As a matter of fact, I was actually a pretty successful salesman at one time. But if there was anything that characterized the average salesman, it was the desire to make a sale, to “close the deal,” even if his “counsel” was a little deceitful.

The problem with many salespeople is that they will tell you whatever you want to hear, even things you don’t, in order to sell a product or service. What the customer needs or can afford is rarely a consideration when sales bonuses and large paychecks are at stake. As long as a dollar can be made, it is thought “the end justifies the means.”

So how do you know when you have met a “righteous” salesman? You will know him when he won’t sell you something, even when you think you want it. Happily, I can say that there were times I did just that, even when the rent was due. Taking advantage of customer was wrong, and even though I might have needed the money, the end didn’t justify the means.

Believe it or not, there are some honest salespeople out there. However, there are also a lot of deceitful customers, too. Just saying.

A Prayer

Dear Lord, give us a righteous heart that thinks right things. Keep us from wicked and deceitful thoughts. Give us a heart for others over the needs of self. Reprove us, Jesus, when we are tempted to deceive, for what waits in the end is anything but gain.

 


*James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996), Pr 12:2–7.


It’s All In God’s Hands

Proverbs 11:28

He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.

It Isn’t Ours

I have been self-employed for the last twenty years. Income in 1992 when I started out was modest, but I believe that over the years God has blessed the business and blessed my family. In turn I have tried to bless others. I have not amassed cash to any extent, other than making provision to eventually pay off the mortgage on the family home through endowment policies and savings. I would not say I have trusted in my financial assets, but I believe that I may have become increasingly complacent, and forgotten one small detail: None of it belongs to me.

A Reminder

Whatever we have on earth we have because God allows us to have it. Over the last three years my income has fallen and it has become increasingly difficult to get paid. While prayers have been answered I have had to dip deeply into savings as it takes longer and longer to receive payment for invoices. I have also had to review my giving. While that has been difficult I have been reminded that it was never mine in the first place. God has challenged me about becoming proud about what I have given.

Temporary Benefit

We cannot and must not rely on or trust in the temporary benefits associated with worldly wealth. We leave the world in the same way that we arrive. Empty handed. Even if we are blessed with monetary riches, nothing can be considered permanent, as many a person who has fallen on hard times can testify. The challenge we face as human beings is to be wise in our choices, and wise in our use of everything God has placed into our hands. It doesn’t matter if the world considers us rich or poor in terms of possessions. What matters most is what God sees in us.

How to Flourish?

So how can we flourish? Jesus spoke about branches that flourish and those that do not. He said:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8 NIV)


Don’t Be a Scrooge

Anthony, Grady, and Daniel

Anthony, Grady, and Daniel

(A Note from the desk of the Editor: It was truly a privilege to host Daniel Klem and his wife, Caitlin, when they visited Chattanooga a few years ago. It was the first time we ever had the chance to meet in person. We thank the Lord for brothers and sisters in Christ! Also in the picture is Grady Davidson, who also just met Daniel – Grady and I already knew each other.)

Proverbs 11:24-26

“There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself. He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.”

First let me clear up the potentially confusing part:

This is not political!

Now let me explain this a bit:

This particular passage basically says “Some people give all they have, yet they always have what they need or more. Others hold onto everything they think they have, but they really have nothing. The former are loved and lavished upon. The latter are hated.”

Misers versus Givers

Do you know the story by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol? I am specifically talking about Ebenezer Scrooge.

He is known as the stingiest man in town. He counts every cent, never spends more than he absolutely has to, and is not very kind to others.

Nobody likes him.

And the Ghost of Christmas-Yet-to-Come shows him dying alone and his stuff stolen by nere-do-wells who complain about and ridicule him.

Conversely, I know a family who is always struggling to make ends meet. Yet they always have enough food to eat. In fact, they have dozens of people visit on an average of at least once a week. They have been literal and figurative foster parents to many children, teens, and young adults, and their biological children always know they are loved and accepted. They have traveled all over and impacted so many …

… because they give their all, their everything, for all people.

Physical and Spiritual

To be truly blessed in this life, we need to be willing to give up everything. This means money, things, cars, homes, stuff, and even people.

To be truly blessed, we need to be willing to give up literally everything. We need to be willing to die. Die physically and figuratively to our own selves, our wants and desires, our plans and hopes.

In their place, we must put the Love of God. God is our greatest hope, should be our greatest desire, and be the foundation of all our plans and our lives.

Then we will not be able to help loving others and giving of ourselves.

Ask that family.

Gracious and loving Father, instill in us a desire to love. Fill us with a passion for others. Give us more of You than we can handle that we may see You overflow into others. Do not let us get stuck on things and silly desires. Free us to free others.


Just Say “NO!”

Proverbs 11:15

“He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure.”

Proverbs 11:15, 16, & 17 are connected in that each involves someone who acts with kindness, but with varied results.  In tonight’s verse, we consider a kindness that brings injury; in tomorrow’s, a kindness that brings honor; and in the third instance, a kindness that brings benefit.

A KINDNESS THAT BRINGS INJURY

In the first half of verse 15, we read, “He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it,” or as the ESV reads, “Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm.”  Solomon returns here to a theme he has already elaborated upon at length in Proverbs 6:1-5.  The idea is fairly straightforward in both texts.  So, somebody asks you to lend him a hand by cosigning on a loan… what is the “Christian” thing to do?  The problem is that you like to be liked. You want to come across as a decent and generous person.  You want to be helpful.  So you cosign on the automobile, or mortgage, or student loan, or credit card offer.  And now, my friend, you have obligated yourself in regard to the other’s ability to earn, budget, and spend income.  Unless you are that individual’s mother, that’s an awkward spot to be in.  No, I take that back.  Even if you are that individual’s mother, that’s an awkward spot to be in.  You have absolutely no leverage in the situation.

NOW GUESS WHAT?

You’re on the hook if and when the person defaults on repayment.  If your name is signed on the bottom line, the creditor can and will come after you.  The FTC tells us that in as many as 3 out of 4 loans that go into default, the cosigners are asked to repay the loans.  Think about it.  When you cosign a loan, you are taking a risk which the professional lenders have refused to take.  If the borrower could meet the lender’s criteria, there would be no need for a cosigner in the first place.  http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre06.shtm

NEWSFLASH

Jesus didn’t die to make you “nice.” No, he died to make you His!  Sometimes the “Christian” thing to do is to ask, “Have you totally lost your mind?  You can’t afford that car, or house, or new TV!  Save some money for it and pay cash!”

A FIRM, WISE “NO”

In the second half of the verse we read, “And he that hateth suretiship is sure.”  Oh, the security and peace of mind enjoyed by the one who has not entered hastily into business agreements!  Years ago, First Lady Nancy Reagan, as she spearheaded a campaign against drug abuse, popularized the slogan, “Just Say No.”  The same firm “No!” might well be in order the next time someone approaches you about helping him with a loan.

Father God, thank you that when you see us, you see the righteousness of your own dear Son.  Thank you that our security and identity are in Christ.  Free us, Father, from the need to be people-pleasers to our own harm. Through Christ our Lord: Amen.    


Overboard With Everything (11:4)

Proverbs 11:4

“Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.”

Extending Life

According to Wikipedia approximately 250 people are believed to have invested in cryopreservation as a means of maintaining their bodies in a suspended state after death. They hope that science will one day find a solution to whatever it was that killed them so that they may live again! Considerable wealth is necessary to fund cryopreservation, but the fact remains that even the wealthy die. No amount of money can change the fact that our days on earth are numbered.

Death Approaches Silently

Years ago while anchored in the Shatt-al-Arab River we hosted some officers from another British ship in our bar one night. I spent a long time listening to one of them telling me about his perfect his life. He had bought a new flat (apartment) back home, and a new car. He had a wonderful girlfriend and a great job. He showed me the expensive Seiko watch he had purchased in Japan earlier in the trip. I can remember being envious. I was only a cadet at the time, and the lowest paid person on the ship.

Later that night our officer of the watch got a VHF call from the other ship asking if we could put our boats down and help them search for a missing officer. The very person who had spent the evening telling me about his absolute satisfaction with life had fallen out of the boat when trying to board his ship. It was three weeks before his body washed up further downstream. He died with everything he ever wanted, but without the only thing he ever needed: Salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

Rich Fools

Jesus told a parable about a rich fool who had his best year ever on the farm. The harvest was so good that he decided to demolish his barns and build bigger better barns so that he could store away plenty for years to come. That night the farmer died. The NIV version is shown below:

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:13-21

The writer of Proverbs captures this parable in a single line, ably demonstrating the simplicity of the message. You cannot buy salvation. Eternal life is a gift that may be claimed only by surrendering your earthly life to God.


Watching the Scales

Proverbs 11:1

“A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.”

True Weight

In the attempt to stay a lean, mean, fighting machine (oh, get real), I have found myself watching the numbers when I weigh myself. As a matter of fact, there is a small calendar in our bathroom where I have recorded the numbers over about three months.

One day I was so excited that I had seemingly lost several pounds. I told my wife, “See, I am losing weight!” Then, later that day, I went to the doctor’s office for a regular checkup. It was there that my inflated ego became a lead balloon, for the official scales told a different story.

What I had thought was my weight when I stood on the cheap scales at home did not square with the expensive, worthless-to-argue-with scales at the doctor’s office. Instead of losing weight, I had gained weight. The scales at home lied!

Balances and Ducks

In order to really understand this proverb, we must understand what is meant by a “false balance.” As you can see by the illustration, things used to be weighed by placing one object on one side of a balance, and then a standard weight on the other.

A humorous example of false weights and false scales can be found in a scene from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In that scene a woman is accused of being a witch, so “logically” they decide that since wood burns the same as witches, and wood also floats, then something besides wood must be put in a scale to determine if the woman was actually a witch. They choose a duck, because ducks float in water like wood. Yeah, it’s crazy.

Once they take the accused witch to the scales, they place a duck on the opposite side. When they remove the blocks underneath, guess what? The scales did not move. Hmmm.

False Balances

But what God hates is a false balance. In other words, God hates scales that have been tampered with in order for a merchant (or a witch burner) to make a profit. God hates scales that do not tell the truth, but lead others to believe they do. God loves the truth, even if the scales tell us something we don’t want to admit.

In the book of Daniel we read of Belshazzar of Babylon seeing a message written by God on a wall. Among other things it said, “TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.“(Daniel 5:27). In Belshazzar’s mind his bathroom scale was just fine. But according to God’s scale, he was way, way off.

This proverb is primarily pointed at those who lie to make a profit. It is about those who tamper with what is a “true” weight to perpetuate a falsehood. In other words, hypocrisy.

But from a different perspective, we should remember that how we think of ourselves needs to measure up with God’s standard. The world’s scales are always a little unbalanced.


Richly Blessed

Proverbs 10:22 

“The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.”
Getting Rich

You can turn on the television any time of the day or night and hear things like…

  • “Call right now and I will send you a free brochure detailing how you can learn to give me money to learn how to become wealthy like me!”
  • “For a limited time only, you can receive my secret for success for only $199.95!”
  • “Sow a $1000 seed of faith into this ministry, and God promises to bless you ten-fold, show you favor, and magically replace the tires on your Buick.”

Then there are other commercials on television, along with ads of all kinds, that promote the “fun” of gambling…

  • “Somebody’s gonna win – it might as well be you!”
  • “If you love excitement and fun and joy and all that stuff, nothing beats the fun of thinking you may become a millionaire as soon as you scratch the silver stuff off a paper card!”

Everybody wants to “get rich quick.” Nobody wants to have to work for it. Everybody wants to get lucky in Vegas.

Going Broke

The sad truth is that so many people who become wealthy over night turn right around and lose it all. Many who become millionaires in an instant go bankrupt almost as fast. The result is depression, loss, rejection, desperation, and even suicide.

Jesus posed a question in Mark 8:36.  He asked, “What good is it to gain the whole world and still lose your own soul?” Even when you have it all, you can still be completely broke, even destitute.

Richly Blessed

Some of the happiest people in the world are the poorest. I have seen people in the poorest parts of eastern Europe who had more joy and peace than the richest millionaires in Hollywood or New York. The reason is that many of the poor were believers in Christ, and in Him they were blessed. They were rich in mercy and love. They had all they needed, and they were content with what God gave them.

On the other hand, I have known the rich who always wanted more and were never happy.  Their wealth added sorrow upon sorrow. They knew nothing of the “blessing of the LORD.”

Being richly blessed by God doesn’t always involve being wealthy, but it does include what money can’t buy – the ability to enjoy what one has without regret, or sorrow.

A Prayer

Jesus, thank your for your blessings. Help us to focus not on the passing wealth of this world, but the treasures laid up above. You know what is best for us, so help us to trust you. Remind us that seeking anything outside your plan will only result in added sorrow.