A Ray of Hope

There was good news in the Minneapolis paper, the StarTribune on Wednesday, February 16, 2011.

The headline read Americans are working to pare their debt and rebuild their savings. The sub-headline was “Credit card debt is down 15 percent from mid 2008, the savings rate has tripled.”

Embedded in the article by Neil Irwin of the Washington Post, are some hopeful statistics. “Compared with the summer of 2008, when consumer debt peaked, there is now 7 percent less mortgage debt, 12 percent less in auto loans, and 15 percent less credit card debt outstanding, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Loan payments were at their lowest level in a decade.” The article went on to say savings rates are now at 53 percent of disposable income in December, close to three times the level in 2007.

Deos saving go against the scriptures that warn us of “hoarding.” No, as long as balance is kept. Paul wrote to Timothy,  “And whoever does not provide for relatives and especially family members has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” I Timothy 5:8 America has lost much of the sense of “Family.”

With children going away to college and working in other states, it is not unusual for a family with three children to have those three children living in three different states than mom and dad. In the age where 50% of marriages end in divorce, one could conceivably have the family in five different states. The age of the “mother-in-law” apartment attached to the home is past. It is the exception, not the rule.

Families with small children have to be aware of the fact that those children will want to go to college in many cases, so it is wise to set up college funds. In fact, there are special tax advantaged plans available to support families that want to save for those expenses.

Are we failing to trusting in the Lord if we save? Jesus told us that if we were going to be his disciples, we should deny ourselves daily, pick up the Cross and follow him. Parents who give up temporary pleasure for long term benefit of their children are complying with the scriptures.

People who set aside money in “Qualified Plans,” such as IRA, Roth IRA,or  401(k) programs are using common sense to acknowledge that there will  be a need for income after their working years are ended.

Others have an idea they may want to go into business for themselves some day, so they set aside money to start the business. This is wisdom and good stewardship of one money, all pleasing to God. The only Caveat? Make sure these plans conform to God’s will for your life through prayer and discernment.

One can find formulas on several websites, but one I have always liked is the 10-10-80 plan. The first 10% going to God, the second 10% going to personal savings, and the balance of the 80% used for current expenditures. It is difficult to steadily put aside money; it is best to set up a plan where that 10% savings is taken right out of your paycheck — if available through your employer — and you don’t see it.

Beware of the “get rich quick” schemes that you are bombarded with. Follow God’s plan. “The plans of the diligent are sure of profit, but all rash haste leads certainly to poverty” Proverbs 21:5.

We should question ourselves if we sense we are trusting in wealth rather than God. Remember, the Bible does not say “money” is evil. Paul tells Timothy it is the “love of money” that leads to evil. That means when ones actions, thoughts, and desires shift to what money can provide it becomes a source of evil in the eyes of God. To desire money for the purpose of furthering the Kingdom of God is a good and noble desire. When is it desired to serve humanity in some way, it is a good and noble desire. When money is desired to further one’s self-indulgences or to purchase items that represent prestige in the eyes of others, it turns evil and self-centered.

Read the story of Jesus casting the demons into the pigs who then ran off the cliff (Mark 5:1-17). Jesus drove demons out of a man who had been plagued with them. He cast the demons into a herd of swine who then ran off the cliff. When the villagers heard of this, they begged Jesus to leave their country. They desired the economic benefit from the swine more than that the man who had been suffering was now free to worship God. Not a good sign.

Life in this world is always a balance. The writer of Proverbs asked God for two things: Two things I ask of you, deny them not to me before I die: Put falsehood and lying far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches  (provide me only with the food I need); Lest, being full, I deny you, saying, “Who is the Lord?” Or, being in want, I steal, and profane the name of my God” Proverbs 30:7-9. © 2011 Stu Walker

Stuart Walker, CLU, ChFC, lives in Bloomington, Minnesota. He has been a financial advisor since 1962. He and his wife, Cathy, have given seminars on Christian financial principles for Crown Financial Ministries. They are now affiliated with Compass Catholic Ministries. If you would like to be added to Stu & Cathy's weekly mailing list, write stu@msn.com and ask to be added.