A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want (scarcity) like an armed man. – Proverbs 24:33-34 (ESV)
There is no single reason for poverty. Education consistently marks off the haves from the have-nots. And a person's race, sex, genes, appearance, freedom from disease or illness (or presence of disease or illness) can all be factors in determining one's financial status. In addition, Pre-marital pregnancy, a welfare mentality, drug, alcohol or tobacco use, physical, emotional or sexual abuse – all these and countless other issues also factor into this equation. So while the writer of the above quoted proverb may have focused on laziness, no one would argue that sloth alone is that which determines where someone will end up financially.
This past week I read that 40% of American adults do not have even $400 set aside to aid them in the event of an unforeseen financial need. How this can be is hard to understand. Granted: it would be interesting to know what percent of that 40 percent have a smart phone, smoke, pay for cable television or have spent more than $50 on a pair of sneakers in the past year. So it is possible that 40% of American adults are far more financially foolish than they are lazy. But that is hard to say. What can be said for certain is that we live in a land of plenty where some have a LOT and where many have relatively LITTLE. Sure, compared to many parts of the world, even the 40% are wealthy. We've heard that from the time we were little children.
(When I was small it was impressed upon me that I should eat all of my food "because there are children in China that are starving." As a child I could not understand how my eating or not eating my food had anything to do with kids in China. As an adult, having recently seen literally tens of thousand of Chinese tourists in Italy, it would seem that it is time that American parents quit appealing to the starving Chinese to make their case for having their children join the "clean plate club.")
At Burning Hearts Community Church we are committed to seeing a congregation that is financially healthy and strong. To that end we have encouraged people to attend Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University video course, or get hold of some of Larry Burkett's books and go through them. Either of these will teach some basics like these…
1. Budgeting. That is, living within your means by making up a budget and then keeping a detailed record of all expenses so as to make certain you are keeping that budget.
2. Get rid of debt. "The borrower is servant (or slave) to the lender" (Proverbs 22:7) is a verse that should be drilled deep into all of our minds.
3. Give of your firstfruits to God. The tithe is not merely a means of supporting church work; the tithe was impressed upon Israel to teach them how to become financially savvy.
4. Set aside money for savings. Ramsey suggests an initial $1000. Even that amount would pull a person out of that 40% statistic cited above.
5. Have a plan for the future. "He who fails to plan, plans to fail." That is, keep looking ahead. So, for example, maybe you say you would like to take a trip to Hawaii in 2021. Great. How can you make that trip without bringing back with you debt from that trip? Plan ahead.
6. Avoid going into debt. Some debt is nearly impossible to avoid (e.g., a house purchase or some medical expenses), but all too much debt is reflective of a "buy now, pay later" mentality. Avoid that. And definitely do not buy a new car. New cars generally lose more than half their value within the first 3-4 years.
So, if you are in the 40% of Americans who don't have even $400 to aid you when a financial challenge comes along, now is the time to get you out of that percentile and move on to better things, and right away. Do it now for your own good and all for the glory of God.