Jun 17, 2009

some ancient wisdom on current finances

This summer I've decided to engage in four goals that I hope will enlarge how I see life, enlarge my connections, enlarge the souls around me, and enlarge resources others need. Part of that includes a daily reading in a pretty amazing text called Proverbs, and today's comes from Proverbs 17.

I couldn't get past the implications of the first verse:

"Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife."
It's ironic, since many people feel that in times of trouble and challenge we start to get petty with each other over small stuff. I think this is generally true, and have experienced its temptation as Katie and I have been through trials.

But I've also seen the beauty when the distractions of life reveal the true priorities and you have to ask yourself what matters most. It seems like the times that we've had it the toughest, we have had a great level of intimacy in our communication and connection as a family.

Maybe this is why verse 3 says:

"The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart."
And verse 16:

"Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?"
Given the challenges many of us are going through to honor God in the finances He's given us to manage, it only seems right and fitting to take to heart these words.

The alternative attitudes and behavior is what we're used to, and something one student at London‘s M&C Saatchi uncovered regarding how many people cope financially in times of struggle:
  • Crash Dieters (26%) identify and cut out all non-essential spending until things improve. They live from week to week, and when the money runs out, they’re forced to take drastic action.

  • Scrimpers (13%) down-trade rather than cut out. They are more likely to substitute brands with generic/private labels rather than dropping them altogether.

  • Abstainers (15%) want to maintain their lifestyle and postpone big purchases until the situation improves.

  • Balancers (9%) rob Peter to pay Paul. They prefer sacrifice to compromise.

  • Treaters (12%) don’t find it easy to cut back, but know they have to. So they reward their frugalness with regular small treats.

  • Justifiers (12%) are happy to give, but in the current climate they want to be sure their money is well-used. They’re looking for value deals and sound investments.

  • Ostriches (9%) feel unaffected or in denial and are spending normally.

  • Vultures (4%) are looking to profit from others’ misfortune. (Let’s hope you or I are not doing this!)

There is at least one other sound bit of wisdom in Proverbs that echoes this data - "He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished." (Proverbs 17:5)

These are great days for the Church to speak with clarity and conviction about the hope and certainty of God’s Story. Whatever we can do to enlarge the perspective of others beyond what they feel caught up in will only further their ability to see His fingerprints in their lives. Our faith is not in the stock market or in retirement accounts, but in the Almighty God who sustains His children in all situations.

This past Sunday our church community went around town and planted "free food" at the bottom of vending machines. Attached was a card that expressed how it really was free and was intended to remind whomever found it that God loves them, right there... right then. Maybe it's something as simple as that... a spark that creates a fire.

Or maybe it's more. Maybe it's you and I leading a life that is full of creative generousity, wise discipline, prayerful priorities, and courageous simplicity. These priorities are God-honoring regardless of the size or regularity of a paycheck... this is about extending (which implies discomfort) the hope of Jesus into the life of everyone else.

“Remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today” (Deuteronomy 8:18).

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