Do You Have A Philosophy Or A Theology When It Comes To Personal Finances?

Photo by Loan Leaders of America Inc.

Photo by Loan Leaders of America Inc.

Money Beliefs

I’ve been involved in studying and teaching the ways of personal finances now for 10 years. It’s been an interesting journey that has impacted my life in many ways; mostly good, some bad.

As I have been on this decade-long journey, it has been thought-provoking to discuss with people their own personal finance beliefs.

We all have a unique set of beliefs or philosophy about money that we arrive at in our adult lives from a variety of sources. The majority of our beliefs we tend to pick-up from our parents (we either embrace their beliefs, or go completely in the opposite direction). Other beliefs, we pick-up from friends and others closest to us. Finally, we pick-up various money beliefs from the society we live in – TV commercials, internet media, so-called financial experts, and so on.

The world’s financial philosophy says one thing. God’s financial theology usually says the exact opposite.

Here’s the weird thing, though. Those of us who name the name of Christ as our Lord and Savior tend to adopt the financial beliefs of our parents, friends, and society over what God’s Word tells us about money. Over the last decade of observing a lot of various money beliefs, I have concluded the following list of four money beliefs often held by Christians:

  • Money Belief #1: Money is worldly and a necessary evil to survive. Let’s not discuss it. Some Christians have a (false) belief that money is a carnal, worldly system that is completely separate from their faith journey. They’ve never been taught or never made the connection that God’s Word has a lot to say about money and possessions. These people may even have the belief that money is sinful and should not be part of our spiritual conversations.
  • Money Belief #2: Money is a taboo topic for the church world. Some Christians believe money is a taboo subject that should never be discussed in church, even though they do recognize that money is addressed in Scripture. I’ve had people tell me directly to my face that we need to stop discussing money in our church because it will run people off to other churches. These same people would probably be more in favor of and less embarrassed by having a sermon series on a Biblical theology of sex than a Biblical theology of money (Personal note: I find this completely bizarre, yet fascinating about our societal beliefs!).
  • Money Belief #3: I know what God’s Word says about money. I like my money system better. Now, leave me alone! Some Christians have a good head knowledge that the Bible does have a lot to say about finances. They have chosen to bury their heads in the sand on God’s money system in favor of the world’s money system. Their actions seem to say, “God, I think the world’s money system is a lot more sophisticated than Yours. Sorry, but I’m going to go along with the world’s system, because it’s better.”
  • Money Belief #4: I recognize that I am God’s financial manager. I will follow His instructions. In this final financial belief, Christians recognize that everything comes from the hand of God, and we are simply called to be good managers of everything that He has entrusted to us. This not only includes our finances, but also our time, talents, resources, and even our physical bodies. Everything we have, everything we are belongs to Him.

Defining The Terminology

So, let’s take a moment and define the terms that we’re talking about in this post.

Philosophy: a set of ideas about how to do something or how to live.

Theology: the study of religious faith, practice, and experience.

Let’s put this in even simpler terms: a philosophy is a life theory invented by man. Man’s theories are flawed and imperfect. A theology is a system of belief based on Scripture. If we believe that God’s Word is holy and without error, than a theological system of belief is flawless and perfect.

So What? Who Cares?

The big deal here for the Christian, at least in my mind, is the “why.” Why are Christians so willing to adopt a financial belief system that is flawed and imperfect when God has the very best financial plan laid out in His Word?

When we embrace His financial teachings, we avoid debt, we save money, we provide for the needs of our family, and we invest in the Kingdom of God through generous giving.

This financial lifestyle is in stark contrast to the world’s financial system.

In my next post, we’ll take a closer look at actually crafting a Christian personal finance theology based upon God’s Word.

Questions: What financial belief system are you currently operating under? An imperfect theory taught by the world, or a perfect belief system written down in God’s Word?

The Great Financial Debate: Quality vs Frugality

Photo by pjinomaha

Photo by pjinomaha

A Simple Coffee Maker Reminds Me Of The Debate

Over the holidays, I received a Keurig coffee maker for a Christmas present. I’ve secretly wanted one of these bad boys for quite a while, but I also didn’t want to spend $150 to be able to brew just one cup of coffee at a time, either.

Within a few short days of using my new coffee maker, I started thinking “where have you been all my life?” This machine brews an amazing cup of coffee! For 20+ years, I’ve made the traditional 10-12 cup pot in a drip coffee maker. I just never realized how bitter and nasty this coffee is when compared to a freshly brewed cup from a Keurig.

For those of you who are serious coffee drinkers and have done all the different types of coffee makers, then you are very much aware that the daily cost of using a Keurig is possibly twice as expensive as a traditional drip coffee maker. You can make them a bit less expensive by using the refillable plastic mesh K-cups. This is what I’ve done with great results.

As I’ve enjoyed my new coffee maker the last several weeks, I have been reminded of the continual financial debate of quality versus frugality.

Is Frugality Always The Best Option, Really?

There are so many Christian financial, frugality-mindset, well-meaning blogs out there. They teach you how to re-use plastic sandwich baggies, how to recycle old clothes, and how to clip coupons. That’s fine. I understand this line of thinking. I believe there is a place for frugality. We should live with an attitude of contentment and thanksgiving. We shouldn’t be wasteful with what God has blessed us. I’d like to think I live frugally in most areas of my life.

Here, though, is the overarching question to the entire debate: “Is being super frugal in every area of your life always the best way to go?”

For me, the simple answer is “No.” There are some instances where we probably should abandon the frugality bandwagon and step over into a quality mindset.

Several years ago, I had the same epiphany moment with Mac versus PC. Yes, the Mac is more expensive on the front end. But on the back-end, several years after purchasing my MacBook, iMac, and iPad, these computers are still running almost as well as the day I purchased them. I don’t need to constantly update virus protection software. I don’t struggle with my operating system slowing down. I no longer have computer crashes. I’ve experienced the quality but expensive better overall experience over the cheaper PC products. I’m not going back, either. Yes, I drank the Kool-Aid. Thank you, Steve Jobs.

On other items less important to me, I’m the dollar store guy. Take, for instance, clothes hangers. I have no problem picking up a ten-pack of cheap, plastic clothes hangers for a buck. No biggie for me. Here’s an instance where I will embrace frugality. Other people who are clothes hounds might scoff at dollar store, plastic clothes hangers. Because they have embraced a quality clothes mindset, they may value a better quality hanger to hang their higher quality clothing.

The Answer Isn’t Always Simple

The answer to this financial debate isn’t always as simple as you might think. It really boils down to our values and interests. If you’re a coffee fanatic, then you’re willinging to pay more for your cup of java. If you do a lot of work via technology, then you will value a higher quality, higher cost product. If you need to dress for success in your career, then you need to buy higher quality clothing.

And this is really okay, assuming we are still living out wise, Biblical financial principles. If you’re going into debt to drink high-quality coffee, to buy an new iMac each year, or to purchase expensive clothing, then we have a much bigger problem to deal with.

I typically take a quality assessment on purchases to see if it’s really worth spending the money on what I need or want. If the higher-end, quality product is worth it long-term, then I’ll save my money and pay cash for the better product.

Questions: How about you? Are you locked into the frugality mindset? Are you willing to pay a higher price on a better quality product? What’s your approach to the great debate of quality vs frugality?

3 Areas I’m Fighting Back Against Clutter In The New Year

Photo by Basial

Photo by Basial

The Expansion of Clutter

Clutter. Similar to the shark in the movie Jaws, you know it’s always lurking around in your home. You may not see it immediately, but you know that it’s a problem that needs to be dealt with sooner than later.

Over time, clutter just builds up and expands. The more people living in the home, especially families with small children, the more stuff is accumulated. And, of course, the holiday season is the worst time of year for accumulating a whole new pile of additional stuff through Christmas gifts.

Worst case scenario of clutter: you end up on an TV episode of Hoarders.

I came back from my own Christmas holiday break this year on a mission: declutter my life. It’s time to get rid of junk and reorganizing my physical spaces (home and office) as well as digital world (computer files, email, etc.). I kind of go through this manic problem once or twice a year.

So What?

So, who really cares about clutter anyway? What’s the big deal if we have stuff piling up around us on a continual basis?

Here are a few great quotes that synthesize the unique problem of clutter and the ultimate benefits of a clutter-less lifestyle:

“I hate belongings. I hate clutter. It really bothers me because I can’t think properly. If you’ve got distractions in front of you, your mind goes nuts.” – Simon Cowell

“Clutter is not just physical stuff. It’s old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits. Clutter is anything that does not support your better self.” – Eleanor Brownn

“The wonderful, beautiful thing that happens when you rid yourself of the things that don’t see your worth? You make space in your life for all the glorious things you deserve.” – Mandy Hale

We can’t think properly because it is a distraction. It does not support your better self. Losing the clutter makes room for better, more glorious things in our life.

3 Areas In The Battle Against Clutter

Here are my three areas I’m currently waging war in my battle against the enemy of clutter:

  1. Clearing Out Drawers and Closets. We can all get a little lazy when it comes to keeping our homes clean and organized. We randomly toss clothes, shoes, and accessories into drawers and closets during busy, hectic days. Pretty soon, we have a disorganized mess on our hands. We also accumulate clothing items that we don’t and won’t wear any more. Time to clear out and bag up those items and give them away to your favorite local charity.
  2. Tackling The Dreaded Inbox. In our modern society, digital clutter – emails and other files – are a new form of hoarding that takes place in our lives. Well, hoarding may be an extreme word to use, but our digital world has added a whole other layer to our lives that needs to be cleared out and organized on a regular basis. Right now, I’m trying to attack my email problems at the source by unsubscribing from email lists that I no longer find useful in my life. Also, if we attempt to only “handle” and immediately deal with each email once and then delete it, that should help reduce clutter as well. Also, consider going through hard drives and cloud drives to delete unneeded files; reorganize needed files into a clear structure of various folders.
  3. Fighting Back Against Junk Mail. At one time in my life, a few years back, I thought I had a handle on my junk mail issues, and then over the last two years, I feel like my junk mail has returned with a vengeance. In the 2008, 2010 version of Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey gives proactive advice on how to decrease unauthorized direct mail marketing. If you own this particular workbook, check out p. 89 or click-through now to this web page. I just re-registered myself on these opt out websites in order to cut down on my daily mail clutter!

Question: Do you have any helpful tips in dealing with physical and digital clutter? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave me a comment.

Focus On The Line Of Your Life, Not The Dots

Photo by robinparmar

Photo by robinparmar

Inspired Musical Performance

As a musician, it’s easy for me and other music-types to get hung-up on technique. We try really hard to play the right notes at the right time at the right pitch. We think we have achieved success if we can nail that musical trifecta and then stick the landing!

While technique is vitally important to achieving a successful music performance, we’re definitely missing the boat as musicians if that’s our only concern. The purpose of performing any piece of music is to communicate the intended interpretation of the composer. We need to consider the overall line, shape, musical structure, and phrasing. We need to be more interested in communicating the message of the music rather than playing a technically perfect rendition of the song.

The greatest musicians of all time have been able to detach themselves from their performance technique and communicate the message of the music. They have inspired us with beautiful performances that have transcended the written notes on the page. These musicians passionately touch our lives in amazing ways.

Your Greatest Performance: Living Life

I believe several analogies can be drawn between musical performance and our own life performance.

As with too much focus on musical technique, so too can we get hung up on the proper technique of living our lives. We get focused on the individual points of our lives, instead of connecting these dots into an incredible life line that communicates an amazing message to those around us.

Let me give you some examples of what I’m talking about.

When I speak of the “individual points” of our lives, I’m mostly talking about those BIG life events that we think about being able to accomplish: graduating high school, graduating college, establishing your career, getting married, having 2.5 children, getting those children raised, socking enough money in IRA’s to retire, retiring, traveling the world, crawling into the casket, and passing away.

What happens, though, when we get focused on the technique, the main points of our lives?

A number of things can happen. We can lose sight of the big picture of our lives. We can get bogged down in one area (such as finishing college – I know I did!). We can desire the act of marriage so much that we lose sight of our life line and marry the wrong person. We can get so worked up about putting enough money away for retirement that we’re working too hard in a job in which we feel unhappy and unfulfilled.

So, what if we flipped this whole life process around? What if we started living out the line of our lives instead of getting hung up on these individual parts of our lives?

Focus On The Line

The best way to overcome this point-by-point, event-by-event living is to stay focused on the line – your unique path to your ultimate, desired destination.

Stephen Covey called this type of thinking, “Beginning with the end in mind.” This is visionary, possibility thinking.

Have you ever sat down and figured out your life destination, where you intentionally want to end up? In your mind, you may have a general idea, but have you purposely crafted a statement of life intention? Have you created an extraordinary vision that you are running toward each and every day?

Perhaps you desire to live to age 100 and be the reigning patriarch of an amazingly large, Christian family of 5 kids, 15 grandchildren, and 30 great-grandchildren! How amazing would that be?

So, how are you going to get to there? How would you live if this was your desired destination?

I can just about guarantee you won’t get there if you’re out partying each weekend, you and your spouse fight constantly, and your family is an absolute train wreck. In this situation, your daily actions don’t line up with your intended life destination. So you’re going to need to stop and spend a little time on your life technique so your life can play out to its intended conclusion.

Fix Your Technique

Let’s go back to my example above and think through the technique on how to possibly accomplish the following life statement:

“I desire to live to age 100 and be the reigning patriarch of an amazingly large, Christian family of 5 kids, 15 grandchildren, and 30 great-grandchildren!”

  • Part 1: “I desire to live to age 100.” [Personal note: I recognize that our time here on earth is totally in the hands of Almighty God (James 4:14). This is still a vision that we can live toward]. So, does your lifestyle currently support your being able to live a mostly healthy life to age 100? If not, what needs to change today in order for you to live into the possibility of age 100? Do you need to change your diet, start exercising, and get yearly physicals?
  • Part 2: ” … and be the reigning patriarch …” Are you a strong leader in your family? How do treat your spouse and children? Are you a servant leader to your family? What do you need to do, who do you need to become in order to be the respected leader within your immediate and extended family?
  • Part 3: ” … of a an amazingly large, Christian family …” Are you strong in your own walk with Christ? Does your walk match your talk? Are you in the Word and in prayer on a consistent basis? Is weekly church attendance a priority? Can you look your family members in the eyes and say with the confidence of the Apostle Paul, “follow me as I follow the Lord?” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Work on your life technique just like a musician would, but also don’t forget to play the song of your life with everything you’ve got! Have a vision and live toward that vision each day.

Questions: How is your “life song” playing out, today? Are you hung up on performing the right life techniques or are you focused on your life line and ultimate destination? Have you ever crafted a vision of intention for the ultimate destination of your life here on earth?

As we begin a new year, now is a great time to work on the line, the ultimate destination of what you desire to achieve in this life.