Learning to be Content

There was a recent article in our newspaper titled “Despite Having Nothing I am Happy.”

It was about a couple who experienced Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and moved to the panhandle area of Florida. When they got to Florida they had nothing. In fact, they tell a story about scavenging in a dumpster and finding a few notebooks and art supplies which they cleaned up and gave to their granddaughter as a present for Three Kings Day.

The few possessions they were able to accumulate disappeared when Hurricane Michael hit the panhandle area in October of 2018. Hurricane Michael was the third major hurricane they endured in about 18 months. The husband of this couple said “Despite having nothing I am happy.”

What a blessing to hear.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all discover the contentment this family feels so we could all say that we are happy with what we have. Being content with what you have—whether it’s a little or a lot—is a real gift.

Contentment is in pretty short supply in our country and in our culture because the advertising industry creates discontent in our lives.

Just look at the Smarter Image website to find lots of stuff intended to make you discontent, starting with the name of the business. You will buy their products if you are SMARTER and want a better IMAGE.

They offer a hover helmet—it’s a big metal C-shaped device where you put a major league batting helmet between the two ends of the C and the helmet hovers there. It’s $120. How about a heated fog free shower mirror for $130? Or the World’s First At-Home Professional LED Lip Therapy Device to get rid of lip wrinkles for $120.

None of these things will add any significant value to your life. Yet if we believe the advertising, we really need to buy them in order to be happy. The ads are telling us we are not good enough—we need a SMARTER IMAGE! Which they provide if only we buy what they are selling.

And there lies the problem.

All too often discontent leads us to use debt to buy things we don’t really need and things that will never really satisfy us. Maybe it’s something as useless as the items mentioned above or something BIG that’s easy to justify like a new car. Or it’s something that’s just NEW like the latest version of a smart phone

Any time you buy something in an effort to be happy, it will not make you happy for more than a few days. After a few days, the happiness wears off and you are on a quest for the next best thing to buy. Have you ever felt that “if only” you had more whatever it is you are craving, then you’d finally be content? But if you’re not content with what you have today, you’ll never be content when you get that nicer home, that newer car, the upgraded smart phone or more money.

As stewards of God’s blessings and the talents we’ve been given, we should always seek to improve our circumstances. But improving our circumstances does not mean accumulating things and buying stuff. A never ending quest for more and more can be very dangerous spiritually because if you’re not content with what you have, you’ll never be content when you get what you want.

Paul wrote Philippians 4:11-13 from a prison cell. This is what he said:

“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 learned to be content, it’s not an instinct we’re born with, we must learn it. And the foundation of contentment is being grateful for what we do have.

As Americans we live in one of the richest countries that ever existed. Even if you are barely making ends meet, you are still among the richest people on earth when compared to the standard of living in most other countries.

So if you struggle with being content, meditate on Phil 4:11-13.

The poorest people can be content, while all the money in the world can’t make you content. Look at all the wealthy people who are miserable. Being content has nothing to do with how much stuff you have or how new your stuff is or how much money you have. It has everything to do with being grateful for what you do have.

The families mentioned at the beginning are a great testimony to how you can learn to be content no matter how much or how little you have. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all learned how to be content?
The Compass Podcast has more on learning the virtue of contentment.

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!

God Marriage & Money

While talking about money may not be considered a romantic thing to do when you are engaged to be married, not talking about money may lead to divorce, which is definitely not romantic! Joint discussions about the family finances need to happen early and often in order to build and maintain a strong healthy marriage.

Think about how much of your time is occupied by money in your day to day routine.  Every minute is somehow connected to money. You are either earning it, spending it, managing it, or using something on which you spent money. There aren’t very many activities that do not somehow relate to finances. 

When a couple gets married they each bring assumptions and preconceived notions about money into their marriage. He thinks $1,000 in debt is horrible. She thinks $10,000 in debt is normal. He wants to lease a car and get a new one every 2 years.  She assumes they’ll buy a good used car and drive it till the wheels fall off. He thinks they will only use cash and buy what they can afford. She thinks they can use credit cards and buy whatever they want. He wants to fly by the seat of his pants financially. She thinks they need a formal budget.

All of these assumptions, and many more, will come up at some point in a marriage. Maybe right after the honeymoon or ten years down the road, but financial assumptions will come up someday. And unresolved financial differences will cause problems sooner or later.

Communication about anything makes that topic a shared concern between the spouses, and money falls into this category.  Without planning and a sense of direction, discussions about money can lead to arguments and finger pointing–definitely not a good communication method!

This means finances need to be discussed in an honest and open way without playing the blame game. One of the reasons we encourage couples to develop a spending plan is to take away the emotion and help them focus on facts. Instead of saying “you always overspend,” the conversation can be much more non-threatening, such as “Our entertainment budget is over the limit let’s talk about what happened.”

Having a spending plan helps you and your fiancé focus on the overall vision and plan for your money and once you do that, the small day to day discussions take care of themselves. It’s about making a plan, and sticking to it together.

Information gives you power over your finances. Not talking about money, not making a plan and not coordinating as a team makes you a victim of your finances. If you control your finances, they will never control you or your marriage.

We encourage couples to have a clearly defined money management system all the way from who handles the mail to who pays the bills and who balances the bank and credit card accounts. Without a well thought-out operational plan, things fall through the cracks

Open communication with no blame and shame is required through regular money dates. The day to day spending should be reviewed weekly. The budget needs to be reviewed monthly (or more often if you are just starting out.) Long term financial goals such as buying a house, saving for retirement, replacing a vehicle or a large scale home improvement projects should be reviewed every 3-12 months.

A sure way to derail your financial plans is to involve your parents in your finances, either by asking for loans or because mom and dad keep funding your lifestyle.

Jesus said, “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5). When you marry, you are to leave your parents in order to become financially and emotionally independent from them.

It is dangerous to a marriage if the couple is financially dependent on mom and dad, because that dependency gives mom and dad every right to judge how, when, where and on what you spend money. A young married couple needs to learn how to work together as a team without the involvement of wither set of parents.

There is a definite correlation between couples’ happiness, and having their financial goals aligned. Many financial experts promote the use of separate fund–yours, mine and ours–but that can be dangerous to a marriage as it builds walls between the spouses. And in order to have financial goals aligned, the money must be considered ‘ours’ or there will be arguments and accusations. Find ways for you both to be equally engaged in all money decisions.

The money in a marriage and all the responsibilities that come with money need to be shared by both spouses–no matter which one works or who makes more money.

So, whether you like or not, how you communicate about money and how you handle money as a couple has a huge impact on your marriage

The God Marriage & Money book from Compass Catholic Ministries will help you discuss these and many more topics related to finances in marriage. The book provides detailed topics for you to share, such as how much debt and savings you have; your credit reports and credit scores; and your attitude about giving, spending and saving. Start your marriage off on the right foot and have the “money talk” now!

The Way of a Fool

As a way to get ready for today’s blog, I went to the American Bible Society website, choose the NABRE version of the Bible, including the Deuterocanonicals and did a word search on “fool.” The search results showed there were 219 verses related to the word “fool.”  

Who knew the Bible had so much today about how we are foolish in different situations?  

Here are some verses for you to contemplate to avoid being a fool on April first, or any other day!

Proverbs 12:15, The way of fools is right in their own eyes,but those who listen to advice are the wise.

Proverbs 17:16, Of what use is money in the hands of fools when they have no heart to acquire wisdom?

Jeremiah 17:11, A partridge that broods but does not hatch are those who acquire wealth unjustly: In midlife it will desert them; in the end they are only fools.

Proverbs 10:8, A wise heart accepts commands, but a babbling fool will be overthrown.

Proverbs 20:3, A person gains honor by avoiding strife, while every fool starts a quarrel.

Sirach 22:9, Teaching a fool is like gluing a broken pot, or rousing another from deep sleep.

Ecclesiastes 7:7, Extortion can make a fool out of the wise, and a bribe corrupts the heart.

Proverbs 10:14, The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool is imminent ruin.

Proverbs 14:16, The wise person is cautious and turns from evil; the fool is reckless and gets embroiled.

Proverbs 15:5, The fool spurns a father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.

Proverbs 21:20, Precious treasure and oil are in the house of the wise, but the fool consumes them.

Sirach 27:11, The conversation of the godly is always wisdom, but the fool changes like the moon.

Isaiah 32:6, For the fool speaks folly, his heart plans evil: Godless actions, perverse speech against the Lord, Letting the hungry go empty and the thirsty without drink.

Matthew 3:26, 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.

Proverbs 8:5, You naive ones, gain prudence, you fools, gain sense.

Proverbs 17:24, On the countenance of a discerning person is wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.

Psalms 49:11, Indeed, he will see that the wise die, and the fool will perish together with the senseless, and they leave their wealth to others.

Psalms 53:2, The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They act corruptly and practice injustice; there is none that does good.

Proverbs 3:35, The wise will possess glory, but fools will bear shame.

Proverbs 13:16, The shrewd always act prudently but the foolish parade folly.

Proverbs 27:22, Though you pound fools with a pestle, their folly never leaves them.

Sirach 21:14, A fool’s mind is like a broken jar: it cannot hold any knowledge at all.

2 Timothy 2:23, Avoid foolish and ignorant debates, for you know that they breed quarrels.

Proverbs 9:6, Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.

Proverbs 14:17, The quick-tempered make fools of themselves, and schemers are hated.

Psalms 74:18, Remember how the enemy has jeered, Lord, how a foolish people has reviled your name.

Proverbs 26:4, Do not answer fools according to their folly, lest you too become like them.

Proverbs 30:32, If you have foolishly been proud or presumptuous—put your hand on your mouth.

Ephesians 5:15, Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise.

Proverbs 1:7, Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Proverbs 10:21, The lips of the just nourish many, but fools die for want of sense.

Proverbs 13:20, Walk with the wise and you become wise, but the companion of fools fares badly.

Proverbs 14:7, Go from the face of the fool; you get no knowledge from such lips.

Proverbs 15:2, The tongue of the wise pours out knowledge, but the mouth of fools spews folly.

Proverbs 17:28, Even fools, keeping silent, are considered wise; if they keep their lips closed, intelligent.

Proverbs 18:2, Fools take no delight in understanding, but only in displaying what they think.

Ecclesiastes 7:9, Do not let anger upset your spirit, for anger lodges in the bosom of a fool.

Ecclesiastes 10:2, The wise heart turns to the right; the foolish heart to the left.

Proverbs 18:7, The mouths of fools are their ruin; their lips are a deadly snare.

Proverbs 28:26, Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are safe.

Sirach 21:16, A fool’s chatter is like a load on a journey, but delight is to be found on the lips of the intelligent.

Sirach 21:26, The mind of fools is in their mouths, but the mouth of the wise is in their mind.

Sirach 22:11, Weep over the dead, for their light has gone out; weep over the fool, for sense has left him. Weep but less bitterly over the dead, for they are at rest; worse than death is the life of a fool.

1 Peter 2:15, For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Jeremiah 5:21, Pay attention to this, you foolish and senseless people, Who have eyes and do not see, who have ears and do not hear.

Proverbs 16:22, Good sense is a fountain of life to those who have it, but folly is the training of fools.

1 Corinthians 1:18, The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:20, Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish?

Cosigning is Bad for Your Financial Health

writing-1149962_640Many people gladly cosign a loan thinking they are doing the right thing by helping someone out of a difficult situation. Cosigners are usually friends or relatives who sign loan papers for someone who’s not able to get a loan on their own merit.

It seems like a good idea at first. You may be trying to help your daughter or son go to college. You may be assisting someone who is trying to purchase a home. Or maybe your brother needs to replace his car. Whatever the reason, cosigning is always done with the best of intentions.

You may think your only responsibility is to sign the paperwork and as long as they pay the loan back everything should be great, right?

Maybe not!

When you cosign you are agreeing to pay the loan in full if the person you cosigned for does not pay. You are legally responsible for the debt. By co-signing, you have promised to pay off the entire loan if the borrower does not pay.

Cosigning is required by a lending institution when a person applies for a loan and their credit score and credit history indicate they are a poor loan risk. The lending institution requires a cosigner to guarantee the loan. In other words, the lending institution with millions or billions of dollars in assets will not risk making the loan because they do not think the borrower can pay back the loan.

When you cosign you become fully responsible to pay the loan if the original borrower cannot do so. If the borrower makes late payments or does not make payments per the loan agreement, it is reported on YOUR credit report. You are risking what ever assets you have to guarantee the loan for which you are cosigning.

Therefore, if the borrower pays 30 days late, the late payment appears on your credit report. Your credit report will get a negative hit and your credit score will be affected. One thing most people do not consider when they are co-signing is that if the borrower defaults, your credit could be affected for at least seven years.

Cosigning means you get all the problems that come with debt and none of the benefits since you do not have possession of whatever the person bought. Your daughter or son may have a college education and your friend may have a house and your brother may have a car but you have the debt.

Proverbs 17:18 says “Senseless is the man who gives his hand in pledge and who becomes surety for his neighbor.” The Bible is telling us that we have no sense if we cosign.

The statistical truth supports the Bible. Rather than the original borrower paying their own loan, you, the cosigner will most likely end up paying for the loan. If you agree to cosign someone else’s loan, statistically the odds are against you. Various sources indicate the borrower defaults on approximately 75% of cosigned loans so before cosigning a loan you should think twice. In the end, you will be grateful you took the time to think about it.

Bankrate.com defines the following top ten reasons to avoid cosigning:

  1. All the risk, very little reward
  2. The lender will sue you first if payments are not made
  3. You may need to sue the other responsible party if payments are not made and you get sued
  4. The person you help will be happy, but you have a lot to lose
  5. Cosigning and financial issues can destroy friendships or family relationships
  6. You are 100 percent liable for the loan and it could be a significant amount
  7. You could face tax consequences if the debt is settled
  8. If you need a loan, the cosigned debt on your credit report may have a negative on the approval of your loan
  9. You are fully responsible to make the loan payments if your co-signer defaults
  10. To ensure protection you need to monitor the payments your cosigner makes

Cosigning means you are paying on something you don’t own, the relationship with the other person has probably been ruined, your credit has been wrecked and your financial future is in jeopardy through something you could not control. Doesn’t really sound like a very good deal, does it?

If you’re considering co-signing, think about this verse from Sirach 29:17 “Going surety has ruined many who were prosperous and tossed them about like waves of the sea.”

Cosigning can be very dangerous to your financial health.

10 Steps to Build a Budget That Works

Many people cringe at the thought of a budget as it raises mental images of not being able to go anywhere, do anything or have any fun.  A budget seems to convey the feeling of restrictions and lots of record keeping.

However, a properly designed and maintained budget gives you freedom rather than restrictions, especially if you think of it as a spending plan, not a budget.

Instead of your money simply trickling through your bank account each month, a budget allows you to actually plan where your money goes—you are in control. It gives you the freedom to decide what is important to you, both long and short term, and then use your money for what is most important.

Most people struggle with how to set up a budget and they often start by estimating how much they spend each month, which creates a lot of trouble.  How much we think we spend is usually much less than what we actually spend. 

By following the ten simple steps below, you can create a budget based on reality and you will be much more successful.

STEP 1 – Before even trying to create a budget, track all your spending for a minimum of 30, preferably 60 days.  Track every kind of spending you do, using cash, checks, credit cards, debit cards and auto pay accounts.

To keep things simple, start by using one of the two following methods:

1. Pencil and paper. Many people prefer using paper, to begin with. This is a good start as it helps you think through how you actually spend money and when you decide to use a more sophisticated process what you learned using paper and pencil will help you choose the appropriate software.

2. Spreadsheet.  If you are a whiz with spreadsheets, you may want to start budgeting by using a spreadsheet.  The Compass Catholic website has spreadsheets you can access by clicking here.

STEP 2 – As you track your spending, categorize it into different areas. The following categories are typical: Saving; Housing; Food; Transportation; Clothing; Medical & Health; Education; Personal; Entertainment & Vacation; Debts. Details for suggestions on what belongs in each category can be found here.

STEP 3 – Look at last year’s bank statements and credit card statements to find those items that only occur quarterly or yearly.  Divide the amount of the payment by how many months the payment covers to determine a monthly amount.  If a payment is due quarterly, then the payment should be divided by 3 to calculate a monthly amount. If the payment is due yearly, divide the payment by 12 to determine a monthly amount. If your car insurance is paid annually, you need to save money each month so when the annual payment is due you have money set aside to cover it. Another example is Christmas, money should be set aside each month to cover Christmas expenses. Failing to do this is a big budget buster.

STEP 4 – Calculate your monthly “Net Spendable Income.” This is not the same as your salary. It is the amount of money available for you to spend each month after you subtract all the deductions (Income Tax; FICA [Social Security and Medicare]; Employer-provided insurance, 401K or Retirement plan, etc.)  ALSO, subtract your giving at this point—giving comes from your first fruits, not your leftovers. Using your gross salary instead of your net spendable income is another big budget buster.

Step 5 – After tracking spending and income for a month or two, subtract your average monthly spending from your average monthly net spendable income and determine if the number is a negative or positive. 

Step 6 – Make adjustments to eliminate the deficit or surplus based on the results of Step 5.

A positive number means you have money to save toward an emergency fund or long-term goals such as buying a home or car, retirement or funding college. If you have not been saving and you don’t have any extra money at the end of the month, you missed recording some expenses. 

A negative number means you are spending more than you are making. If you find yourself in this position, you need to take action by either spending less or making more.

The good news is that you now have real data to use in analyzing where adjustments to your spending can be made.

Step 7 – Set up a long-term process for your budget by selecting one of the following.

1. Budgeting software. Good user-friendly software programs are available, such as Quicken, or Microsoft Money.  Once you have a handle on your spending using a manual process, you can explore the software options and find one that works best for you.

2. There are tons of apps available.  Our recommendation is to look at the following: Mint; PocketGuard; You Need A Budget; Good Budget; Mvelopes; Home Budget; Wally; Level Money; Spendee;BUDGETT; Unsplurge; Why You Need a Budget.  Each of them is similar, but different.

Explore each one and find one that works for you. The best app will allow you to enter your own categories, define your own budget amount and enter your spending. It also helps if the app is connected to your bank account.  Be sure you can look at multiple views of your spending, both in total and by category. The key is to find a system you’re comfortable using.  And then use it regularly.

Step 8 – Make it a habit. Once you get a good process in place, make budgeting a habit of recording. Recording your income and spending at least once a week enables you to stay current with your finances..

The good thing about using a spending plan is that it doesn’t require endless hours of bookkeeping. It shouldn’t take more than an hour of your time each week.  Being diligent with your budget is a small price to pay to stay on top of your finances.

Step 9 – Review on a regular basis, which will allow you to quickly discover any issues. You (and your spouse if you are married) need to review the spending plan at least weekly to start out.  After you become more comfortable with the process and find you are staying on track, make the interval between reviews longer.  When you are a long term budget user, the reviews can be monthly.

Step 10 – Overhaul your budget when life changes occur. You might have a new child, change jobs, pay off a lot of debt, move to a new location or retire … you’ll be making adjustments due to major life changes as long as you use your spending plan. Anytime one of these life changes occurs, the spending plan will need a total review and update.

Once you establish and use your budget you will see how freeing it can be. “The plans of the diligent end in profit, but those of the hasty end in loss.” (Proverbs 21:5)

For more information, listen to Compass Catholic on BreadboxMedia on Saturday 8/27 at 9:00 am where we talk about creating a budget and leaky budgets.

Evelyn Bean

Doubting Thomas

“Thomas called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.’ Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.’”

In the Gospel reading on Sunday, we heard the story of Doubting Thomas. Thomas was not with the other disciples when the resurrected Jesus visited them and he doubted what the other disciples were telling him. We usually think that Thomas doubted that Jesus rose from the dead but a close reading of this passage indicates that Thomas doubted the witness of his community. When Jesus does appear to him, Thomas does not put his finger into the nail marks or touch the wound on Jesus’ side. Instead, he knows it is Jesus and exclaims “My Lord and my God.”

How many times have we heard something about Jesus from our friends and like Thomas we do not believe them? Maybe they encouraged you to pray the rosary every day and you just don’t seem to have enough time to do it. Maybe they gave you a book to read that just sits on your shelf but you never open it.

Maybe they invited you to take a Compass Catholic Ministries Bible study and you doubted that you need it. After all, you know all about money, right? WRONG – unless you have learned everything you know about money from the Bible you really don’t know much about the Compass studies.

Try googling “Wealth Management” and you will get 65,600,000 results in 0.63 seconds. It’s is sad that so many people follow the advice of strangers who are writing books, magazine articles, blogs, Facebook posts and Pinterest boards instead of listening to the still quiet voice of God from the Bible.

When we think of people who are skilled in financial decision making, we often think of experts or those who are educated in financial matters. And even though many of these experts sound so very confident in their predictions, they are just making an educated guess based on historical data…which isn’t such a bad idea, but how does it apply to today’s economic world…a world like no one has ever seen before?

When we talk about Manage Your Money God’s Way, we are not throwing all of the conventional wisdom out the window, but conventional wisdom comes in a distant second place to using the Word of God as the basis for how to manage your money.
There are 2,500 verses in the bible dealing with money and possessions. This source of financial advice is never wrong. For thousands of years, it’s never been wrong since the truths in the Bible are timeless. It’s a living book that communicates God’s word to all generations. And the reason Compass Catholic Ministries exists is to teach people what the Bible says about handling money.

Some areas where the Bible gives us direction are:

God owns everything: 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 “Everything in the heaven and earth are yours and you are king, supreme ruler over all. All riches and honor come from you.” Too many times we think we are in control of our money and possessions and do not realize these are truly gifts from God to be used for his honor and glory. Just look at the first book of Genesis. Who created the universe? Who created the world? Who created men and women? How can we even think that we have any ownership?

The Bible calls us to be content no matter how much or how little we have. In Philippians 4:11-13 we read, “For I have learned to be content in any and all circumstances. I have learned the secret of being filled or going hungry, living in abundance and want. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

It is hard to be content in modern day America where we have so many influences on our lifestyle. We hear and see commercials telling us we have to buy certain things in order to be happy successful and fulfilled.

Saving to get rich is not a Godly goal: Luke 12:34 “Where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.” If we are focused on getting rich, we are not focused on God.

Whatever job we have, we are really working to use the talents God has given us and we really serve him in our work. Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever your task, work heartily as for the Lord and not men…You are serving the Lord Christ.

We are called to be generous. In Acts 20:35 we read, “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Too many times we keep our ‘first fruits’ and give God what is left over.

Our possessions do not help us get to heaven as defined in Mark 8:36, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” No amount of stuff or money will get us to heaven.

Debt is not good: “The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave of the lender.” Proverbs 22:7. If you don’t think debt is slavery, try missing a few payments!

And most importantly, how we manage money and possessions impacts our life in eternity as pointed out in Luke 16:11, “If therefore you have not been faithful in handling worldly wealth who will entrust true riches to you?”
No doubt about it!

Tax Cheats

calculator-1044172_640Last week we blogged about getting organized so tax time is less stressful and more automated. This week’s blog is about another aspect of tax time – cheating!

Most of us don’t enjoy paying taxes and many of us object to the way our tax money is being used. Some people even go so far as to insist that taxes are unconstitutional. For example, some people argue that income taxes violate the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. (Not sure I see how that relates to paying taxes.)

Others say income taxes violate the Fifth Amendment statement that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” I can see where some people may be able to make a case that taxes deprive us of our “property” (i.e. money) if they totally ignore what we get in return for our tax dollars.

Still other tax protesters have argued that income taxes impose involuntary servitude in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment or that the Sixteenth Amendment (Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration) was never ratified.

All these arguments have been rejected by the courts and according to the government, we are obligated to pay our taxes. The Bible even reiterates that we are obligated to pay taxes. Romans 13:6-7 says: “This is why you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.”

It may be difficult to see that the authorities in our government are “ministers of God.” And we may disagree with any and all decisions of our local, state or federal government, but we are still obligated to pay taxes.

Because so many people disagree with the government, we often get asked if it’s OK to cheat on our taxes if the government is acting in a way (in that person’s opinion) that is not very Christ oriented. The answer is NO! It’s not okay to cheat on your taxes, even if you disagree with the government.

The IRS released a Taxpayer Attitude Survey from 2014 which indicated that a majority of the responders found in unacceptable to cheat on their taxes. I wonder if people were saying they were honest because they were speaking face to face with a person, or if there are really so many people who are actually honest. Only 11 percent were tolerant of cheating “a little here and there” or “as much as possible.”

The cheaters lie in various ways – they write off items which are not considered valid tax deductions or they under report their income, and this is especially true of people who receive a large portion of their income in cash (restaurant servers) as well as the individuals who specifically deal in cash transactions in their business to hide income.

People who cheat may think they are in some way “getting even” with the government, but they are really hurting the other taxpayers. The victim in any dishonest situation is always a person – a child of God. Our faith calls us to be honest in all situations. Job 31:6 tells us: “Let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!

Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and fair. People of integrity are honest and do not lie on their tax form. Integrity is also defined as the quality of being complete or undivided. People of integrity incorporate their faith into all aspects of their life – even when it comes to being honest on their 1040 form. Sometimes integrity is defined as “doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.” People of integrity always do the right thing – whether anyone is looking or not.

A variety of systems and situations in society rely on our honesty and integrity. For instance, on Halloween children know they are supposed to take only one piece of candy from the bowl full of treats. As we grow into adults, we’re trusted to act with integrity in many situations, and some people do so because they are afraid of the consequences associated with getting caught, while others do so because they are following the Word of God.

This isn’t to say that you can’t maximize any and all legal deductions to which you are entitled. With the average refund being more than $2,902 (as of the 2014 tax year), there is a lot of financial gain to be had. But maximizing legal deductions and cheating on your taxes are two entirely different things and cheating is never acceptable.

Mark 12:14-17 reads: “They came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?’ Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, ‘Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.’ They brought one to him and he said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ They replied to him, ‘Caesar’s.’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’

If we are living our faith, Scripture clearly tells us that we are required to pay taxes and it is not acceptable to cheat on our taxes (or anything else for that matter!)

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

content ball

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.