Winning the Battle Against Materialism

April 2016 Good $ense Newsletter: Winning the Battle Against Materialism

Dear G$ Friends and Partners,

As I write this article my emotions are all over the map. Recently I returned from South Africa where I interacted with wonderful people who have given themselves in difficult situations to serve others vocationally and spiritually.  I also saw the very poor – living in shanty towns salvaging in garbage dumps. And just a few miles away I walked through a very modern shopping mall serving upper class South Aftricans who seemed focused on establishing their self-worth through consumption. Contrasts like this do things to the emotions.

After thinking, praying, and wrestling with issues that are clearly beyond my ability to affect directly, I came back to an answer for myself that flows out of Ps. 37. Perhaps it has significance for you as well. It is, “Trust in the Lord and do good in the place where He has placed you at this time”.

One of the places God has placed most of you reading this column is in some aspect of leadership in financial stewardship ministry. Trust in the Lord! Do good! Use Good $ense resources, other resources, create your own resources – whatever it takes to proclaim the counter-cultural truths:

  • Life does not consist in the abundance of one’s possessions
  • Things do not bring true happiness
  • The most important thing in life is relationships – to God, others and self

Greed is nothing new. Jesus warned the people of His day, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.” (Luke 12:15). But it would appear that materialism has permeated our culture to such a degree that our inherently greedy side has been encouraged to manifest itself to new levels.

  • major oil companies that have misrepresented the amount of their reserves
  • major accounting firms that have promoted questionable tax avoidance schemes
  • major law firms that have overcharged millions of dollars
  • whole countries that overstate gross domestic product (GDP)
  • corporate board members with flagrant conflict of interests

So, back to you and me in our “mission field” within the local church, para-church organizations, and individuals on their own stewardship journeys. To change our cultural environment will take winning the battle against materialism, which my friend Dick Towner has stated many times before is nothing less than a competing theology. We’ll win the battle by equipping folks with a Christian worldview about their money and stuff – one person, one family unit, one church, then one community at a time – and in due course of events, God willing, we’ll change one nation, maybe even one world. Let’s do it!

The degree to which we are successful will open people to a deeper relationship to God and reduce the levels of relational conflict, corporate scandals, neglect of the poor and environmental degradation in our world. That’s worthy of our best efforts.

Trust in the Lord, do good, and may you be blessed in the process!

Sid Yeomans

President, Good Sense Movement

Transforming Finances!  Transforming Lives!

Honest Scales and Measures

Truths That Transform: Honest Scales and Measures

The Lord detests dishonest scales,
but accurate weights find favor with him.
— Proverbs 11:1

It’s tax time again. Perhaps no season better reveals our level of trust in God for our provision. Perhaps no season more regularly challenges our integrity as we consider what to report, what deductions to take, how to account for various financial dealings. Complexities of the tax code and our opinions of how the government uses that money aside, the heart question involved is whether we will place the same value on our integrity that God does.

We’ve said many times that our finances are a reflection of our character and of our relationship with God. They may reflect wholehearted integrity, or they may reflect other priorities – like those of Ananias and Sapphira. Acts 5:1-11 tells the story of this couple who conspired to deceive the church regarding their giving. Having seen the example of others like Barnabas, who sold possessions and brought the money to the apostles – and no doubt wanting to be thought of as generous and giving – Ananias and Sapphira sold a field and brought part of the money to the apostles, keeping part of it back for themselves.

Peter makes clear that the problem wasn’t that they kept part of the money; the problem was that they lied to God and to the church about it (verses 3-4). This was a turning point in early church history – how important would integrity and character be in this new community? God provided a quick answer, striking dead first Ananias and then Sapphira. In the context of unprecedented outpourings of grace, miracles, and salvation, God showed just how much integrity meant (and means!) to him. The result – a holy fear of God swept through the church (verse 11).

Dishonesty angers God and harms his reputation both within the church and beyond her walls. It can come from failure to trust God to provide for our needs; or it can come from a concern about the opinions of men over that of God.

But integrity brings honor to God and shows a watching world the difference that God makes in a life. And even when no one else is looking, our God knows the hidden motives of our hearts and the results in our actions. He rejoices when our trust in him causes us to be people of truth and integrity when it comes to our finances. He expects us to treat others honestly and fairly in all our dealings.

Where are you on the integrity scale? We all encounter times when we’re tempted to be less than fully honest in our financial dealings. What are the situations that tempt you most? Give those over to God in prayer. “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).

Good Sense Movement Team
Good Sense Movement
Transforming Finances! Transforming Lives!

The Wise Saver

Biblical Financial Principles: The Wise Saver

One who builds, preserves, and invests with discernment.

It is wise to save.

“The wise store up choice food and oil, but fools gulp theirs down.” (Proverbs 21:20 TNIV). “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers it food at harvest” (Proverbs 6:6-8).

It is sinful to hoard.

“Then he told them a story: ‘A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, “What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.” Then he said, “I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll sit back and say to myself, ‘My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ But God said to him, “You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?” Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God’” (Luke 12:16-21 NLT).

Calculate cost; prioritize.

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’” (Luke14:28-30 NLT).

 Avoid get-rich-quick schemes.

“The trustworthy person will get a rich reward, but a person who wants quick riches will get into trouble” (Proverbs 28:20 NLT).

Seek wise counselors.

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” (Proverbs 1:5).

 Establish a job before buying a home.

“Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that, build your house” (Proverbs 24:27).

Diversify your holdings.

“Give portions to seven, yes to eight, for you do not know what disaster may come upon the land” (Eccles. 11:2).

Help the people in your church or organization develop a stewards’ mindset with a year-round stewardship ministry. The Good $ense Stewardship Ministry Pack contains the resources to get you going.

Saving for a Rainy Day

News You Can Use: Saving for a Rainy Day

Since our Biblical Financial Principles this month center on saving, we thought we’d dive a little deeper into a key element of saving – Emergency Saving – by looking at some frequently asked questions we receive. We hope you’ll find these questions and answers helpful.

What is Emergency Saving?

Emergency Saving encompasses money we put aside to handle unexpected events or crises, such as an unanticipated car repair or replacement of a failed appliance.

Why is Emergency Saving important?

Crises and unexpected expenses will occur in our lives – it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when and how much they will cost. Preparing for these situations with emergency savings is the first and best defense against going into debt in response to an unanticipated crunch.

Why not just use a credit card if a crisis occurs and then pay it off?

Chances are, if you’re not putting money aside for savings in your budget today, then you’re already maxing out your income with expenses. If a crisis occurs and you use a credit card to handle it, where will the money come from to pay off the credit card? If you can think of where you’d adjust your budget in response to a crisis, then make that change today and put the money aside first, so you can avoid the interest associated with credit cards.

What constitutes an Emergency?

People define this differently, but for our purposes an emergency is an unforeseen need that requires a non-trivial amount of money to address. So, for example, Christmas shopping is not an emergency! Though it might qualify as a need to some extent depending on your family, Christmas is one of the more predictable events in our lives. Similarly, an unexpected chance to go to an expensive event is not an emergency. While you might not have anticipated it, the event is typically a want rather than a need.

How much money should I have in Emergency Savings?

Opinions on this vary, and to some extent it depends on your risk tolerance and your willingness to do without some things you have considered necessities. (For example, you could probably wash dishes by hand if your dishwasher broke.) A good place to start is to have at least $1,000 in your Emergency Savings fund. This is enough to replace most appliances if they break and it’s enough for most car repairs (though not all).

Once you’ve achieved the minimum, consider shooting for 3-6 months of expenses in your Emergency Savings fund. Note that this isn’t 3-6 months of income (hopefully your expenses are lower than your income!). This is enough to cover for the possibility of losing the ability to earn income for a limited period, whether through loss of a job, an accident, etc. If you were unable to work for 3-6 months, what bills would you need to cover? Your insurance might cover your medical bills, but consider housing, utilities, transportation (possibly a reduced need), food, etc. Also take into account the payments on any debt you may have (loans, credit cards, etc.).

What form should my Emergency Savings fund take?

Emergency savings should be in a form that is very liquid and that entails next to no risk. The point of emergency savings is not to earn income – think of it as more of an insurance policy. So you’re not concerned about interest rates, dividends, or appreciation in value. You’re concerned about stability and liquidity. Generally, a savings account or other very flexible instrument that allows you to withdraw whenever you need to without a penalty is a good vehicle for Emergency savings.

One last note…

Emergency savings is a form of self-insurance and can save you money in a couple of ways. First, if you have savings to cover a crisis, you won’t have to go into debt to resolve the issue, so you’ll be saving the interest on a credit card item or a loan.

Second, and more subtly, having Emergency savings can free you from the “protection plan syndrome”. Nearly every major appliance you buy these days – and many smaller items as well – comes with an option to buy some sort of protection plan. These plans vary in detail, but they typically promise to replace or repair an item at low or no cost should a problem arise. These plans can provide some peace of mind for the consumer, but they are huge money-makers for the sellers.

Suppose you’re buying 5 appliances and each one costs a bit under $1000. You could purchase a protection plan for each one and pay that extra money five times. Or, you could have an Emergency Savings fund that would allow you to replace one if it broke out of warranty. The likelihood of more than one of them breaking at the same time is pretty small, so you could actually protect all the appliances with the same money, rather than covering each one individually by paying extra for specific protection plans.

Emergencies will occur…The question is, will you be prepared?

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