Is your head spinning with all the financial advice being tossed around these days? I know mine is. So, when I stumble across good financial advice, I want to pass it on. What better way than right here on my blog? Keep reading to find out what is the #1 best piece of financial advice you’ll receive…ever. You’ll never guess where I found it. Well, if you read my blog much you might guess.
I ran across this video the other day and thought I would share. There is only one way to keep the rug from being pulled out from under you. I know this should probably be a Monday post, but I didn’t want to wait until then.
Can you guess what it is?
Ethan, my 8 years and 362 days old son, walked into the house without his glasses. I was busily preparing to present a lesson on the Kingdom of Heaven at the Jackson Heights Church of Christ in Columbia, Tennessee. I was already stressed because I was behind and under the gun. Ethan said, “Dad, I took a nap on the bus and put my glasses on Jacob’s backpack.”
It took me a moment to process. “What?”
“I took a nap on the bus and put my glasses on Jacob’s backpack.”
“Are you saying you left your glasses on the bus?”
“No. I left them on Jacob’s backpack.”
“Wasn’t Jacob’s backpack on the bus?”
My blood pressure started rising. Jacob lives next door so I hustled Ethan off to see if Jacob had his glasses. Of course not. Jacob said he put them on the seat beside Ethan so Ethan could find them. Yeah well, we already know how well that plan worked. Fortunately, we live in the middle of a loop the bus has to make so it actually passes by our house twice. We waited in the middle of the road. Ethan was frolicking with his siblings seemingly oblivious to the financial crisis he was putting us in. I, on the other hand, was about to lose it.
We stopped the bus, but no glasses. The driver assured us she would look for them. I talked to her this morning. No glasses. Who knows what has happened to the glasses. Probably one of the kids saw them and grabbed them. I hope it was someone who knew they were Ethan’s and decided to hold on to them to give them back this morning. However, I don’t have too much hope for that.
Can you see where I nearly lost a great opportunity yet? I was already stressed and this was just a bit too much. I almost lost it. In fact, I was so mad I told all the family to just leave me alone because I was about to come unglued and behave inappropriately. Gratefully, as I went back to my lesson, I recalled the number of mistakes I have made that have cost me all kinds of money. Then it hit me. When I make a mistake that costs me money, who pays for it? Not my parents. I do.
This is not a time to be overflowing with anger. This is a life lesson in the making. This is a time to teach consequences.
I had a little heart to heart with my very precious near birthday boy.
“Ethan, I’m sorry I was so angry. I’m trying to get over that. The fact is, everyone makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes that have cost all kinds of money. I’m upset that you were careless but we all do that sometimes. Here’s the problem. When I make mistakes, guess who has to pay for it?”
“You do, Dad.”
“That’s right. I do. Now that you’ve made a mistake, guess who needs to pay for it?”
“Me?” He said it in the form of a question clearly hoping he was mistaken.
“Yes. You. Your birthday is on Thursday. Any money you get is going to have to pay for some new glasses if you don’t find them.”
Then I showed him his bank account balance online from the 8 years of saving gift money and other savings and I said, “Here is your bank account for going to college or buying a car one day. Here is the balance. Whatever is left over after your birthday money will have to come out of your savings and you won’t be able to use it when you get older for whatever you wanted.”
He immediately started crying. For a moment I was crushed. But I held on. This was the right thing. After all, what would happen if he was careless with his glasses and learned that a new pair would just magically appear? He certainly wouldn’t learn to take care of his glasses or anything else.
Of course, later he said something to his sister about being punished by having to pay for his glasses. I pulled him aside and said, “Oh buddy, you misunderstood. I’m not punishing you by making you pay for your glasses. Punishment would be if I spanked you or grounded you or removed some privilege. This isn’t punishment. This is natural consequences. If I lost my glasses, who would have to pay for them? That’s right, me. That wouldn’t be punishment. That would simply be what I had to do because I lost my glasses. You need to learn that lesson too. Sometimes everyone is careless and makes mistakes. But when we do, we have to pay for it. If you can learn that lesson now, you will miss out on a lot of heartache as you get older.”
As you can see, because I allowed myself to get angry in the moment, I almost lost this golden teaching opportunity. It was almost merely a time for me to shout and holler and generally be foolish in front of my kids. Gratefully, by God’s grace, I was able to seize the moment. It wasn’t easy for me and it won’t be easy for Ethan (especially on his birthday on Thursday), but in the long run it will make his life easier. I’m sure of that.
You can’t turn on the television or fire up an internet home page on Yahoo, Google or some other place without getting a face full of “Government Bail Out.” It’s almost more prevalent than Tina Fey as Sarah Palin. Now, I’m not an economist, so I don’t fully understand what needs to be bailed out. And I’m not a politician, so I don’t fully understand what the government plans to do about it. But, I am a house owning, debt paying off, job working, family raising American who begins to get a little worried when I hear things like “Biggest crisis since the 1930’s” and “Reminiscent of the Great Depression.”
At the same time, I’m a Christian. Should I face this financial fallout with a Chicken Little attitude? Or should I take another approach? I’d like to share three keys, I think we as Christians need to keep in mind as we hear all this news and begin to get our fears and worries up.
- Seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (cf. Matthew 6:33): Yes, that still applies during an economic recession. It still applies even in a depression. No, God didn’t promise we would live in a nice house, drive nice cars and wear nice clothes. But He did promise to take care of us if we sought His kingdom and righteousness first. We need to remember that stocks, bonds, insurance plans and savings accounts will not take care of us in the long run. God can and will if He is our priority. No, that doesn’t mean throw financial caution to the wind, running up debt, wasting money and then expecting God to bail us out (our government’s example notwithstanding). It simply means make serving God a priority, even if you think it will cost you money and God will take care of you.
- Take it one day at a time (cf. Matthew 5:34): Let tomorrow worry about itself, Jesus said. We need to simply face today. You know what, the economy may come crashing down next Monday. But it hasn’t crashed yet today. Next Monday may be really rotten. It may be the most horrible day of our lives. Who knows? But today is not so bad. We’ve eaten today. We’re still able to access our internet today. We are living in our home today. Let’s not make today rotten by focusing on how rotten it might be next week. No, as with our last point, this doesn’t mean throw caution to the wind and live recklessly today trying to capture fun in the sun while it lasts. That is just as much letting today be dominated by tomorrow as the fearmongering approach. Rather, live wisely today. Make wise choices with your money and material blessings today. Don’t do it out of a sense of control as if you can somehow make sure that next Monday is not rotten if the economy turns south and we run into a Great Depression and it becomes so bad we are like a third world country. But simply live wisely today and rejoice in today’s blessings. Don’t let today’s blessings turn sour in your mouth because you are worried about what might happen next week. Just take it one day at a time.
- Share (cf. II Corinthians 8-9; Hebrews 13:16): This is the hard one. Financial ruin looms around the corner. Our natural reaction is to hoard. If I don’t take care of me, who will? I need to look out for #1. We need to remember instead that sharing on an individual level is how God expects us to take care of each other, not government bailouts. When times are good, we need to share those blessings. When times are bad, we need to share what blessings we have. I think of the story that I’m sure I read in one of those “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books of “The Poor Family in our Church.” As the story is told in first person–
The preacher had announced that he had learned about a poor family in the congregation and wanted the church to do something good for them. On the following Sunday, they would take a special collection for this poor family. Our family took it very seriously. We knew we didn’t have much, but we wanted to help out the poor family. So, we made some sacrifices. We cut and scraped. Mama bought cheaper meat for supper. Daddy put some of his overtime money in. The kids cut some neighbors’ yards. By Saturday, we had scraped together $20. (This obviously took place several years ago.) On Sunday, we were so proud we all sat up on the second pew. We were beaming as Daddy dropped in the $20 bill. We knew there were so many better off than we were and they would do so much more. But we had done what we could. That afternoon, the preacher knocked on our door and handed Daddy an envelope, saying he hoped we would accept this gift with the love he had intended it. The preacher was smiling as he left. Daddy slowly opened the envelope. $25 fell out.–
The sad fact is, it is often those who have the least to share that are the most generous. We as Christians need to share. Whatever we face in the future, we need to remember that the blessings God has given us are meant to be spread around, not hoarded.
Hey, I don’t know what’s going to happen in America’s financial future. Frankly, I have the feeling that sooner or later, we’re going to have to pay the piper. Band-aids like government bailouts won’t fix the problems. They will only postpone the inevitable. But God has shown how we should act no matter what comes our way financially. Let’s quit facing this like Republicans or Democrats and start facing it like Christians.