Being Honest In A Dishonest World

All of us make many small daily decisions about being honest. Do you deal honestly in all areas of your life, even the smallest ones? Or do you quietly smile and pocket the extra money when the cashier gives you too much change? Have you ever sold something and not been entirely truthful because you may have lost the sale? Do you put more hours on your timecard than you actually worked? Do you fudge the numbers on your tax return to get a larger refund? Do you bring supplies home from the office for personal use? 

Thirty or forty years ago if you had asked someone if they were honest or truthful, they would have looked at you as if you had two heads. Back then there was no discernable difference between the two.

Today, however, attitudes have changed so much that people often manipulate their words and actions so they are scrupulously honest without being absolutely truthful.

Think about a small child playing with his ball in the house. He knows mom has forbidden playing ball in the house, but he is having a good time despite mom’s warning.  Suddenly the ball hits a lamp and knocks it over.   The lamp falls to the floor and breaks into a million pieces. 

Hearing the crash, mom rushes into the room and says, “Did you break the lamp?” The child replies, “No mommy.”  In his small mind, he didn’t break the lamp—the ball broke the lamp—so he thinks he is being honest. Yet even this small child knows he is not being absolutely truthful. He knows that he was the cause of the lamp breaking because he was playing with the ball.

The attitude of this small child is reminiscent of what we hear from political figures, sports icons, or media celebrities caught in a lie. When they are confronted, we hear qualifying statements such as “Well, as I recall …” or “What I remember is …” but they never actually declare the whole unvarnished truth.

Society’s attitude of relative honesty is the opposite of what we learn in Scripture. The Lord requires absolute honesty from all of us in every area of our lives all the time. “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who are truthful are his delight.” (Proverbs 12:22)

People who lie try to figure out if they’ll get caught or if they can get away with lying. But if we are living from a Scriptural basis, then our decisions are based on what will please God.

Society tells us to only deal with the facts that can be seen. Yet the Bible tells us to act in a way that displays our faith in the living God.  In John 14:6, Jesus tells us, “I am the truth.”  If we want to be like Jesus we need to be truthful. When we act in ways acceptable to the secular world but unacceptable to God, we are acting as if God is incapable of discovering our dishonesty. 

Our actions speak louder than our words and acting dishonestly dims the light of Christ shining within us, erodes our faith response, and tarnishes the Christian life that others see in us. Every decision to be both honest and absolutely truthful helps us fulfill our role as Catholic Stewards.

To be honest with others we need to recognize that our personal preferences don’t change reality, because it is so easy to base reality on our own likes and dislikes. Being honest doesn’t mean that we are obligated to express every feeling we have on every subject. Just because we are being honest doesn’t mean that it’s our job to point out the faults and shortcomings of others.

If someone puts you on the spot and being forthright is not in anyone’s best interest, it’s okay to say nothing. You have the right to speak or remain silent. This is especially useful if someone is trying to pull you into a pointless argument or when someone’s feelings are on the line. “One is silent and is thought wise; another, for being talkative, is disliked.” Sirach 20:5

Another situation where we may be tempted to be less than truthful is with someone who is quite ill or in pain. We don’t know what to do or what to say and our temptation is to say things that come more out of our own fear than out of our care for the person in pain. Sometimes we say things like “Well, you’re doing a lot better than yesterday,” or “You will soon be your old self again.”

But we know that what we’re saying is not true, and our friend knows it too. In these situations, it’s best not to play word games. Simply say: “I am your friend, I am happy to be with you.” We can say that in words or with touch or with loving silence.

Regardless of the prevalence of dishonesty in our society, we all have the freedom to choose to live by a higher standard.

Are there times when you have been less than honest? Having the courage to review your past offenses may cause some discomfort, but recognizing when you have been dishonest can help you identify patterns and stop them from continuing.

Start by doing a thorough examination of conscience to find areas in your life where you may be dealing from a dishonest standpoint. As with any other time we’ve sinned, seek out the Sacrament of Reconciliation to put yourself right with God. After you restore your relationship with God, restore your relationship with the person harmed, then make restitution. 

There is an old saying, ”You might be the only Bible that some people ever read.” Make sure the Bible people read when they see your actions and hear your words accurately reflects the light of Christ. If people are looking at you as a way to read the Bible, be sure they are reading the Good Book!

Scaling Back: What I Don’t Buy

I often get bewildered looks from people when they find out that I only allot between $300-$400 per month for my grocery budget. My family consists of the five of us as well as two indoor cats and a few fish … if we want to be technical about it since we spend some of our grocery money on them, too.

My first response to their quizzical expression is, “It didn’t happen overnight.” I feel like I need to put their minds at ease because they will often become frustrated with themselves if their budget is two or three times mine, especially when their family size is smaller.

There is nothing wrong with a grocery budget that exceeds $300-$400 if it isn’t strangling you financially. Our budget used to be two to three times this amount, too. I just found myself in a position financially where that would not work for us anymore so I had to put on my thinking cap and get creative in order to bring down the grocery spending.

I have mentioned here before that one of the techniques I used to help me really analyze areas I could pinpoint to reduce my spending on groceries was a spreadsheet with individual categories listing EVERY SINGLE ITEM I bought at the grocery store. I didn’t have a “dairy” category, I had a “cheese” category, a “yogurt” category, a “milk” category, etc. I actually found I was spending so much on cheese that I further specified what types of cheese I was buying so I could determine if I could cut back more! So, my first tip to bringing down your spending on household items and groceries is to make sure you have a good understanding of exactly what you are buying.

After I had analyzed my spending to death, I found a few problematic areas and decided to eliminate them altogether. While I would love to say that I eliminated dairy from my budget because about a third of my grocery budget seemed to be devoted to dairy products that did not happen. However, I was able to cut it back significantly after I understood where that money was going.

I stopped buying yogurt and started making it. I stopped buying a bazillion of the little bags of shredded cheese and started buying one five pound block at the warehouse store and shredding it myself. I actually stopped buying the mega-container of Parmesan cheese at the warehouse store and bought two smaller containers at a local grocery store where it was a similar price per ounce. I reduced my spending by buying only what I needed and was still able to get at a good price.

It is important to note that sometimes the warehouse stores offer the best deals and sometimes they don’t. The warehouse stores are usually a great place to find deals and get good prices as long as you know what a good price is and if you will use up what you buy. When I found Parmesan cheese at a local grocery store for the same price per ounce that I was getting at the warehouse store, it was a no-brainer to only buy the amount I could actually afford and use within the month.

There were other items that I had been buying at the warehouse store that didn’t make sense for us to continue buying on our new restricted budget. I love the convenience of being able to go through the warehouse and toss a bunch of stuff in the cart with the notion that I won’t be back for another month. But, $400 later, I still didn’t have everything crossed off my list.

I found a flaw in this method of shopping because theoretically, I should have been done with grocery shopping for the month after the shopping trip at the warehouse store, but I wasn’t! Unfortunately, I knew I would still run out of eggs, milk, and fresh produce, which would send me to another store during the month and send my budget off the charts again.

After taking a critical look at what I was spending at the warehouse store, I started to restrict myself to things that would honestly take me a month to use and were, without a doubt, the absolute best price I could find anywhere. When I did that, I found that my warehouse shopping list became much smaller and I was no longer spending $400 there.

Two of the more expensive items I stopped buying at the warehouse store were paper towels and paper napkins. While these were definitely a great price and I didn’t have to buy them every month due to the large quantity, I could no longer afford $30 in paper products for the month or even every other month. I started using rags in place of paper towels and cloth napkins in place of paper ones. Even though I could usually find sponges at the dollar store, I stopped buying those, too and started using dishrags to wash the dishes. They smell nicer and, when they stop smelling nice, I toss them in the washing machine instead of the garbage can. All of this took some getting used to, but once we were in the habit of grabbing a rag instead of a paper towel or a sponge, we didn’t miss them anymore and we had just whacked $30 off our budget.

Another area of our household budget that took a pretty heavy hit was cleaning products. I went from purchasing humongous bottles of laundry detergent, fabric softener, dish soap, etc. at the warehouse store to making my own laundry detergent, using vinegar for fabric softener (no, we didn’t walk around smelling like a salad), and I even learned how to make dishwasher detergent and my favorite cleaning products by trying out recipes I found on the internet. Right there, I slashed our budget by about $50! It is quite amazing what God will do with our creativity and initiative if we are willing to look at things a little differently.

While all this cost cutting was a necessity for our family, it was also a way for my family to become good stewards of what God entrusted to us and to concentrate our spending on what was really important.

“Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” ~ John 6:27

Financial Crisis

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We regularly talk about managing our money the way God intended. As Catholics, we are called follow Jesus in every area of our lives – even when it comes to our money and possessions. But what happens when we experience a financial crisis? Do we lose faith when our situation seems hopeless? What should we do? Where can we find God in this situation?

To find the answer, let’s explore two Bible passages where people are in a crisis situation that seems hopeless, yet through their faith in God, they are able to find their way to the light.

Our first story comes from the book of Job. Job was considered by God to be one of his most faithful servants. He was extremely wealthy, possessing 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 she-donkeys, and an army of servants. Job was also richly blessed in his personal life as his family consisted of seven sons and three daughters.

One day God and Satan were having a conversation about God’s people, and Satan challenged Job’s devotion to God. God allowed Satan to test Job, as long as he did not harm Job himself. In a series of disasters, Job lost everything – his livestock, servants, family, even his health. Job lost everything in an instant.

Many of us would find it hard to have faith in such an overwhelming tragedy. But instead of losing faith, Job fell to the ground and worshiped God, (Job 1:21) “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job understood that everything was given to him by God, and he had faith that God would deliver him from his trials.

Put your self into the second story … your spouse has recently passed away and left you in debt, and you do have not way to pay it back. As collateral for the debt, your husband’s creditors threaten to take your sons as slaves. This is the story from the second book of Kings, Chapter Four, called ‘The Widow’s Oil.’ The woman in this story looked for the help of Elisha, a godly man, to help her. His first question to her was, “What do you have?” The widow said she only had one small jar of oil. Elisha told her to borrow jars from her neighbors and fill the jars with the oil she had. As she poured oil into each jar, each was filled to the brim and the oil ran out only after all the jars were full. She was able to sell the oil to pay off the creditors and keep her children.

Both of these stories are great examples of having enough faith to see your way through tragedy and challenges that seem impossible. So long as we keep God in our hearts he will step into our lives and do great things for us. It is always important to remember that we are stewards, or managers, of the money God entrusts to us. And sometimes our stewardship is short lived.

These stories hit close to home for us because there was a time in our lives where we were in the middle of financial challenges. It was only when we turned to God and learned his way that we were able to recover financially, but more important, become stronger faithfully.

One of the most amazing gifts of this ministry is the knowledge that we are helping others through the same hard times we went through. And remember both Job and the widow were thrown into circumstances they could not anticipate. Even in you are in good financial shape now, what will happen when you face a crisis? Will you have the faith of Job and the widow to help you through it?

Thanks for reading,
The Beans.

Pros and Cons of 6 Payment Methods

johnNowadays, paperless technology allows consumers to make cashless, electronic purchases. Some people still prefer to use cash or checks as their payment methods but whatever payment method you use, make sure you have the funds and budget to pay for the purchase now or at the end of the month if you use credit cards.

Managing and budgeting your money before buying items at the store, going on vacation, or eating out, etc. will prevent you from overspending. How can you ensure that you won’t go in debt from big or small purchases? How secure is it to make purchases in different ways? Learn the pros and cons of these 6 payment methods and figure out which is best for you in different situations.

  1. Cash: Pay with cash when you’re planning to make smaller purchases like groceries or if you are running errands. Bring a limited amount of money for shopping or running errands to restrict you from getting carried away and making unnecessary purchases. Statistics show that you will spend 30 percent less with cash than with a credit card. However, if you’re buying a big-ticket item, then you will probably need to use your credit card instead of cash. Having a large sum of cash for a purchase may make you vulnerable, and if you lose the cash there is no option to get it back. Remember that safety comes first.
  2. Checks: Paying with checks may seem a bit old fashioned but it’s still being used today, especially by the older generation. Be sure that you’re not overspending and receiving overdrafts—sometimes the overdraft charges can be as much as your purchase. When using checks your identity could be at risk since your bank routing and account numbers and personal contact information, like your address and phone number, appear on your checks.
  3. Credit Card: Using a credit card isn’t always a bad thing especially, if your purchases are budgeted and your charges can be paid off when the statement comes. The risk with credit cards is running up a balance and accruing interest on top of your purchases, which will negatively impact your credit score. You’re protected from charges you don’t make when you have a credit card, which is good. If there is fraud and someone else uses your credit card you are protected from paying for any charges over $50 (typically.) In case of fraud, credit card companies will remove the charges and mail you a new credit card. Additional benefits include cash-back offers that can be used on future purchases or for saving the money in your bank account or emergency fund. Some credit-card companies also provide extended warranties for electronics and other items. The most important thing is to use credit cards only for budgeted items and to pay the card off in full at the end of the month.
  4. Debit Card: When you use your debit card, the funds come out of your bank account immediately. The downside of debit cards is that they do not have as strong a fraud protection plan as a credit card. The cardholder’s liability for unauthorized use depends on how quickly you report the card as lost or stolen.
  5. Prepaid Card: Loading money on a prepaid debit or credit card allows you to ONLY spend the amount that’s available. Plus, you don’t accrue debt, and you’re funding purchases in advance. This is a great way to spend money during Christmas since you’re using budgeted money and not withdrawing cash. Prepaid cards are also a wonderful way to help a student in college or high school learn how to spend responsibly. If you make a purchase with a prepaid card, be sure to keep the prepaid card just in case you need to return an item. Some stores may require you to have the prepaid card in order to make the return. Read the fine print, understand the type of card you purchased and make sure there are no hidden fees or penalties that will reduce the value of the card.
  6. Apps: Use your smartphone to pay for a transaction with an app like the iPhone’s Apple Pay. The app scans and collects the purchase information with a single touch and prevents your identity from being stolen along with your banking information. The downside is that some retailers may not have the technology or equipment that allows the app to work.

No matter what method of spending you choose, be sure you’re budgeting and spending money wisely and not accruing debt. You need to manage the money – don’t let it manage you!

Listen to our “Pros and Cons of Spending” radio show to learn more money-wise tips: http://compasscatholic.org/archived-radio-shows/

These words from Pope Francis: “Money must serve, not rule.

Thanks for reading and on behalf of the entire team at Compass Catholic, we wish you a remarkable 2015!

Who is Your Real Boss?

content ballHas there ever been a time in your life when you’ve worked really hard for something, set a goal for yourself or wanted to achieve a milestone, and missed the mark?  Maybe it was an honor or a designation you were seeking, possibly even a promotion or a bonus.  As a stay-at-home Mom, I often seek recognition for a job well done by my family, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.  I also don’t think I’m alone when I don’t get the recognition I feel I deserve and recoil by wanting to throw in the towel, feeling unappreciated (but then, I ask myself, “Who would wash the towel?”).

In the workplace, if we’ve been passed by for something we felt we deserved, we may seek out opportunities to make things right in our own eyes.  I read an article about a woman who was working very hard to attain a bonus at work.  She came in early and stayed late, convinced that her boss would notice her effort and award her the bonus associated with the project.  However, when the project was finished and it was time to award the bonus, she was passed over and the bonus was given to someone else.  Dejected, she left the company, taking a laptop computer that had been issued to her as “payback” for the bonus she didn’t get, justifying it to herself since the cost of the laptop was approximately that of the bonus she felt she should have been awarded.

How many stories do we hear like this on a daily basis?  Some are even more extreme situations about disgruntled employees who return to the workplace and do more damage than stealing a computer.  While we often feel justified by our entitlements, our emotions can get the best of us and we act upon these feelings in inappropriate ways. 

We need to come back to God and allow him to heal our hurt egos and help us understand why things happened differently than we had hoped.  When we put our focus back on God and return to our roots in Biblical stewardship, we know all our work on Earth, all our effort in this life, needs to be for his glory, not our own.  We are storing up our treasures in Heaven now in order to spend eternity with him.  Conversely, the things we do here on Earth can also damage those chances of spending eternity in Heaven.  When we put things in perspective, while it may not ease the pain immediately, it might help soften the blow and allow us to move forward.

Incidentally, the woman I read about felt immensely guilty for what she had done and called her former boss to return the laptop.  This is a clear example of what happens after the dust settles and we are able to step back from the emotions of the situation for a bit.  We revert to what we know in our hearts to be the right thing and come to God in repentance.  It might feel good initially to take matters into our own hands and deal with the situation on our own terms, but when it’s all said and done, we come back to God for healing and forgiveness.  When we keep our eyes toward heaven, it helps us to handle some of the pain of our earthly lives with a little more grace.

“Whatever you do, work from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ.  For the wrongdoer will receive recompense for the wrong he committed, and there is no partiality.” ~Colossians 3:23-25

When You Love What You Have, You Have Everything You Need

johnThere’s a good reason why “keeping up with the Joneses” is a well-known phrase across the country. The consumer-driven mindset of constantly getting more, newer, better things is so deeply ingrained in our society that we coined a term just to describe the feeling. What’s more, as the holiday season comes into full swing, the advertising industry is gearing up and prompting us to buy, buy, buy—for our friends, our family, our neighbors, the postman, the delivery person, the checkout clerk at the store, and most of all – ourselves! We are pushed from all sides to forget our pledges of Biblical stewardship and satisfy our needs with material goods.

The interesting thing about this phenomenon is that the contentment we receive from the latest and greatest doesn’t last long. Did you just buy the latest smartphone? You’ll be the talk of the town until next week, when an even newer version is released. Have you purchased the car of your dreams? Chances are, you’ll second-guess your purchase when you see the same model in a different color. The problem with seeking contentment through material goods is that they do nothing to satisfy the deepest longing in our hearts and souls.  Seeking fulfillment in things leaves us with a void that constantly requires more and more things in an effort to fill the void.

In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul writes about contentment. “I have learned to be content in whatever my circumstances. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Paul penned this letter from his prison cell, where he learned the secret to being content–he was probably cold, hungry, lonely and frightened, but he had a faith that was deep enough to realize that the Lord had given him exactly what he needed for that moment.

It can be difficult to give up the constant quest for acquiring all the shiny new things we see around us, but that’s what true Biblical stewardship encourages us to do. It is not a restriction or a punishment; rather, it is a deep and fulfilling inner peace, which no material item can ever provide. It’s knowing that your loving heavenly father is going to provide you with exactly what he knows is best.

This holiday season, turn off the television, quit surfing the net, close the catalogues and take the time to remember what giving thanks is all about. Cherish the moments with your friends, family, and loved ones, and understand that those precious moments are worth more than all the material goods in the world. For more tips and tools to help you along your journey to Biblical stewardship, contact Compass Catholic at (844) 447-6263.

Are You Hiding Behind a Costume?

johnThe practice of wearing costumes on Halloween may have originated in the Celtic festival of Samhain, which has ancient, pre-Christian origins and was celebrated in various Celtic nations. This time of year was a transitional season between the light of summer and the dark of winter, a time when the spirits could easily roam the world to seek final vengeance on their enemies. Costumes were a way for people to disguise themselves to ward off evil spirits as they believed the spirits would not recognize them in costume.

Another explanation for dressing in costumes at this time of year is derived from the medieval celebrations of All Hallows’ Eve. To honor the saints and martyrs, individuals paraded through the streets with statues and replicas of the martyred saints. Some of the less wealthy churches could not afford relics, and so the people dressed up like saints instead.

No matter which origin you believe, dressing in costume is part of the fun of our modern day Halloween celebration. The question is: Are you dressing in costume at Halloween or do you hide behind a costume at other times?

A few months ago during our ministry travels, we joined our host family for Mass.  As soon as Mass was finished the youngest bolted into the men’s room to change his shirt.  I asked his mom about it and she replied that he was uncomfortable in his “church shirt” and wanted to get comfortable as fast as possible.

At that time, I thought of what a great challenge this child presented to adults.  How many times do we go to Mass and put on our “church clothes” of being pious and holy only to take those “church clothes” off the minute we walk out of the church doors? How often have we gotten angry with fellow parishioners in our rush to get out of the parking lot as quickly as possible? Can we even recall the message in the homily when our feet reach the parking lot surface? Do we leave church to go out to breakfast and spend money we don’t have? How do we live the message of the Gospel in our day-to-day lives?

Just like the emperor in the children’s story “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” we can fool ourselves into thinking that we are wearing our “church clothes” when we leave the church building, but others can see that we are really wearing nothing.  They can see beyond our exterior to our heart and discern that we are not acting in a way that aligns with our faith. Many people wear costumes when it comes to their finances. They pretend that they have more money and resources than they really do. They put on their wealth costumes to impress friends and neighbors, turning away from their plans of Biblical stewardship.

Costumes are not made to be worn every day. Eventually you will have to face the reality that you are living a make-believe life. The longer it takes to face reality, the harder the recovery will be.

If you plan to put on church clothes, don’t wear them as a costume to impress others, but make those church clothes something you wear every day—something that will have an impact far beyond the fun of Halloween. “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:11-17)

Dressing up in costumes is fun at Halloween, but in our everyday lives, we need to clothe ourselves in a way that every deed, thought and appearance clearly indicates we are children of God—even as it pertains to how we handle our finances. Learn more about Biblical stewardship from Compass Catholic today.

Back to Basics: Insurance

content ballInsurance is one of those areas that has become increasingly complicated. Unfortunately, it leaves a lot of people throwing their hands in the air, not even really understanding what they’ve signed up for because they just want to be done with it.  It is important to assess your insurance needs carefully and take into consideration some key factors before settling on just anything.

Oftentimes, insurance companies will offer lower premiums if we are willing to accept a higher deductible.  With health insurance, a higher deductible may take the entire year to meet, which means each office visit will require you to pay out of pocket until you’ve reached the deductible limit.  Conversely, that deductible may also be met with one hospital stay.  But do you have that money in your emergency fund to pay the entire deductible if that happens?  When evaluating health insurance, this is an important consideration.  If your family is typically fairly healthy, those trips to the doctor may not be frequent enough to warrant the trade-off of a higher premium for the sake of having a lower deductible. 

However, for families who still have little ones, especially school-aged children, trips to the doctor can be more frequent than we would like and having the peace of mind of a lower deductible might be worth the higher premiums.  Another factor to consider is the back-up plan, the emergency fund.  If you struggle to keep the initial $1,000 in the bank because something always comes up that requires you to dip into the emergency fund, it might be worth paying higher premiums in order to avoid accruing credit card debt due to higher co-pays.

With auto insurance, there are typically only a few options for deductibles, but the same principle applies.  The lower the premium, the higher the deductible and the higher the premium, the lower the deductible.  The reason it’s important to understand this relationship is because if you have an accident, you are required to pay any amount up to the deductible before the insurance will pay their part.  Sometimes it’s not even worth making a claim if the deductible won’t be met. 

Again, it’s time to consider the emergency fund before signing up for a higher deductible in order to get that lower premium.  If this is a season of volatility and the emergency fund is frequently under attack, it might be worth investing in a higher premium to insure that you don’t have to cough up $500 that you don’t have.  It’s times like these that send us back to square one on our Money Map, paying off credit card debt and building up the emergency fund.

Something else to consider when shopping for auto insurance is how much coverage you actually need.  Granted, if your car is not paid off, you will likely need to carry full coverage. However, if your car is paid for, you are only required by law to carry as much insurance as your state has declared necessary.  In this case, it might be worth checking into the replacement cost of your vehicle and determining how much insurance you need based on that value.  We maintained full coverage on our vehicles even though they were paid for because their replacement value made it worthwhile.  We eventually dropped the coverage down to the state requirements because the replacement value did not warrant the amount of coverage we were carrying.  If you determine that this is the case for you, drop the insurance to the necessary requirements and save the difference in your auto savings account for a future car purchase.

Being good stewards requires some give and take.  When we’re thoughtful about our decisions, God will bless our Biblical stewardship efforts and help us to go forward on our journey to financial freedom.

“Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.”

~ I Corinthians 4:2

Secular Debt Solutions

johnEvery magazine and newspaper is offering solutions to the current economic problems. And all of the talking heads on TV have help for the present financial mess. Most of what they are saying and printing makes sense, but if you step back and analyze their ideas, you’ll see that all of their solutions are secular versions of biblical stewardship principles.

We were speaking to a friend about using the Bible as a source of financial counsel, and he felt Scripture verses may have had some relevance 2,000 years ago, but it really wasn’t applicable to today’s world. But a deeper look confirms that the Bible is a wise, applicable and relevant source of information for today’s situation.

One of the most widely advocated media solutions is that you should be proactively paying off your debt. Read Romans 13:8: “Owe no man anything.” And Proverbs 22:7: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. The Bible considers debt a form of slavery and gives clear instructions that we should be paying off debt and we should not become slaves of the credit that was so freely offered.

What about all the ideas on ways to keep your job? We hear and read: Work hard, keep your nose to the grindstone, make your boss happy, any job is better than no job at all. Again, the Bible gives us direction. Colossians 3:23, 24 advises: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. … It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Even before original sin, work was a part of God’s plan for us. In Genesis 2:15, we learn: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” We may not always recognize it, but work is plainly part of God’s plan for us, and whatever work we do honors him.

There are many subject matter experts promoting sanity in the housing market–another idea where the Bible offers help. Matthew 7:24-27: “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” The rains, floods and winds can all be compared to our current economic crisis. Those who built their house on “rock,” i.e., they didn’t purchase a house beyond their means and they paid a reasonable down payment to establish suitable equity, probably don’t have housing problems today. However, problems can occur if you “built your house on sand.”

Then there are all the ideas about saving money. Again, many verses in the Bible offer ideas about saving and investing wisely. Proverbs 21:20: “A foolish man spends what ever he gets but a wise man saves for the future.” And 1 Timothy 6:9 states: “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation … which plunge men into ruin and destruction.” Proverbs 21:5 reads: “Steady plodding brings prosperity, but hasty speculation brings poverty.” It seems that there has been quite a lot of hasty speculation going on in the past few years! How many people could have benefited from a little Bible reading prior to making some of their investments?

Reading the Bible and finding the message of biblical stewardship for sound financial principles can give us a tremendous sense of peace and contentment that cannot be found anywhere on earth. The only thing we can be certain of is God. One of the ideas you will never hear from the secular world is from Hebrews 13:5: “Let your way of life be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for he himself has said, ‘I will never desert you nor will I ever forsake you.’”

Growing Up, Financially

john“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

It was once a rite of passage for children to leave home by the time they turned 18.  Now it seems like young adults are living with their parents for longer periods of time, even well into adulthood. With the financial turmoil of 2008 still sending shockwaves through the economic community, it is not unreasonable to give children a place to stay while they attempt to enter an extremely competitive and difficult job market. And while our children grow up and become adults, we never stop being parents and often it’s hard to know where to draw the boundaries. However, there has to be a cutoff at some point in time—right?

One of the most important steps to encourage independence in your adult children is for you and your spouse to discuss how much to help and how much to let them handle on their own. Both the father and mother must be in agreement on their strategy. The decision is more art than science and it requires prayer and discernment. It is also important to evaluate how well your adult children are handling their money. The last things parents should do is to fund a lavish lifestyle for an adult child who has no thoughts of fiscal responsibility.

There is a fine line between spoiling them and helping them. To be a good steward, don’t give them anything that would increase their lifestyle, but you may want to help them stay out of debt for basic needs. In our own family, sometimes we’ve helped, and sometimes we’ve sensed that the Lord is working in their lives and we shouldn’t help. Many times if we do help it’s not by giving them money but providing something—like taking grandchildren shopping for school supplies, or inviting them over for dinner and being very generous with the portions so there are lots of leftovers they can take home for subsequent meals.

If you do decide to help them financially, it is important to lay down the basic rules.  If the financial assistance is a gift, then it must be freely given and used in any way they wish. A gift is a gift. If the money is given with the intent it’s earmarked for a specific purpose, then the ‘rules’ need to be clearly stated. Maybe you are willing to match some of what they are able to prepay on the mortgage to help them get their homes paid off quickly.  Or maybe you are willing to match what they save for the purchase of their first car. It is important to distinguish between a gift and money that has strings attached. Too many times, the money with strings attached is a subliminal way of controlling your adult children. And unstated expectations about how the money is used can cause hurt feelings on both sides.

Many people ask us if it’s OK to loan money to their adult children.  In our opinion, loaning money to adult children is usually a recipe for disaster.  Once you loan money to someone else, you tend to judge the way they spend it.  If your child is not spending in a way pleasing to you, it can cause tension and strain in the family. And if they delay repayment to you while they spend in ways you consider irresponsible, the anger and disappointment can escalate out of control.

We also caution parents against cosigning.  If you cosign, you are taking on a risk that a professional lender will not take. After all, there is a reason the professional lender requires a cosigner. When you cosign, you become responsible for your child’s debt, just as if it were your own.  If they miss a payment or make late payments, it is reported against your credit history.

Most parents look forward to a visit from their adult children, but what if that visit includes all of their luggage, the TV, a spouse and two grandchildren plus a ten-week old puppy? This is another great opportunity to pray and discern the Lord’s will. If the Lord makes it clear that they are to move in with you, establish ground rules for them staying in your home—and have all four adults sign it. And just as with a lease agreement, they have to move out of they are not faithful to the agreement. Once the ground rules are established, welcome them, just as the father welcomed the prodigal son home.

The best way to prepare adult children to be responsible stewards is to use the MVP approach when they are young—model responsible financial behavior, verbally explain how you make financial decisions and provide practical opportunities for them to manage their own money at an early age.  This requires you to personally become a good steward and live according to God’s teachings. He will guide you toward the right decisions, even if they’re hard to make. To learn more about Biblical stewardship principles, contact Compass Catholic today.