Tag Archives: Money

Stress and Conflict Reveals what one Sibling Really Values

I know of a family owned business whose three owners – all siblings – are in their late sixties. They present themselves to the outside world and to themselves as a tight-knight, loving family.

Their business is in crisis. For years, they have lacked a true leader to guide their business. Their father was more of an angry, my-way-or-the-highway drill sergeant, but he wasn’t a leader, so they didn’t learn any leadership skills from him. Plus, they have lacked any serious accounting talent. Their bookkeeper has done her best, but it’s clear that their lack of adequate leadership and accounting has resulted in their business being on the brink of bankruptcy.

I’m part of a team that was brought in to help them turn-around their business. When they started implementing our recommendations, significant stress and hidden conflict surfaced first on how they managed finances and then on what roles each sibling was fulfilling in the business.

It didn’t help that one of the extended family members had loaned the business a significant sum of money to keep it going and now was facing the prospect that he might not be paid in the time frame he was requesting. He and his wife (one of the owners) were nice as long as they thought they would be paid back within an artificial time-frame that he had arbitrarily set. But when it became apparent that his timeframe wasn’t going to be met, he threw a temper tantrum, stormed out of the office and never returned.

His wife, one of the owners, suddenly cut off all family communication. She even dis-invited her two siblings to a significant family celebration for her. When stress was low – before the recommendations were implemented – she would say that she’d like to be paid back, but that she knew it would take time. She was accommodating and nice. But when the stress became high, she became a different person. She and her husband were so angry that they moved out-of-state – permanently.

And there we had it: the truth. The truth was that they were willing to sacrifice family relationships – permanently – over money. Money was more important than family.

In my experience, when families tell me how loving and tight-knit they are, I usually wonder who’s not being honest with themselves. It’s not that tight-knit families don’t exist – they do. But those that are tight-knit rarely have a need to tell others how tight-knit they are. They just do it without thinking and you can see it in their interactions. It never occurs to them to tell others they are tight-knit because they don’t know of another way of living.

We usually find out who is not being honest with themselves when the really tough parts of a business turn-around are placed squarely on the shoulders of the family/business owners. Under stress, I’m able to see and hear the real truth of how solid and stable the relationships are within the ownership group. Moreover, I hear the real truth of what individual owners are really thinking.

On a global scale, here is what you can look for when stress increases in a family business.

Money is often more important to people than family or business relationships. I’ve seen this born out in a number of situations, both when I owned my own therapy practice and now as an advisor to family owned businesses. It’s sad, but true. Most people value money more than most other things and people in life. So they do things like cutting off and threatening to move to another state. Money becomes more important than family.

Our values are forced to the surface when stress hits our lives. I’ve seen people live out their stated values under stress. For example, I’ve seen people who are financially stressed still give to others because they really do value giving and philanthropy. The stress didn’t surface hidden values. But I’ve also seen people who valued their relationships jettison them at the first hint that their wealth was being injured through those relationships. Unfortunately for this ownership group, one of the owners values money more than her family relationships. This will be a truth the other two owners will need to keep in mind as they move forward.

Many justify otherwise unacceptable behavior because money is involved and “you just don’t mess with my money”. The sister who dis-invited her siblings to her celebration would have never thought to have done this under normal circumstances. But when she faced the (perceived) prospect of not being paid within the arbitrary time-table set by her husband, she chose to show her anger by cutting off from her family – hence the other owners in her business. This is clearly unacceptable behavior, but because money is involved, her behavior is somehow justified – at least in her and her husband’s mind.

Unfortunately, we often don’t see what people really value until they are under significant stress. This can be highly enlightening (and perhaps disheartening) when it is a family member. But if you agree with one of my undeniable truths of business ownership: “the truth is never the problem”, then you’ll come to see that learning the truth can only help you in your relationships and business ownership as you move forward, even if you learn that the truth is ugly and you had to learn it under stressful circumstances.

Bill English, MA, LP, MDiv is a family business advisor with the Platinum Group in Minnetonka, Minnesota. He assists families with conflict resolution and positive successions of their business as well as performing interim CEO work for family businesses in transition. You can contact Bill at bill. english @ theplatinumgrp.com or call 952-259-3217.

Christian Business Owners Never Stop Learning and Growing

Proverbs 8.10-11 says this:

10 Choose my instruction instead of silver,

knowledge rather than choice gold,

11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies,

and nothing you desire can compare with her

The command is pretty clear: choose instruction and knowledge over money and wealth, because the wisdom that you gain from instruction and knowledge is more precious than any wealth you can accumulate.

There are many things worth more than money and wealth, the Bible teaches. This is just one instance where material wealth is deprecated in relationship to something else that God gives us. Another example is 1 Peter 1.3-7:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. [emphasis added]

Note that Peter tells us our faith is more valuable than gold – more valuable than material wealth.

It is a common temptation for Christian Business Owners to desire wealth because we have such a strong potential for creating it. When we own a business, our potential to create wealth is greatly enhanced when compared to a person who is employed with a predictable salary. And frankly, it is fun to make money. There is a feeling of satisfaction that we get when we’ve closed a big deal or earned a sizable bonus. Such reinforcements to creating wealth can build within us a deep desire to make more money – to get that feeling of satisfaction over and over, stronger and stronger.

Yet Proverbs tells us that we should pursue knowledge and instruction ahead of pursuing wealth creation. Peter reminds us that our faith is worth more than any retained earners we’ll create on our balance sheet.

Another common temptation for Christian Business Owners is to “pack it in” – to coast. To reach a certain age and then stop growing and developing, whether personally or professionally. When we do this, we’re running counter to the given assumptions of the Proverb’s passage – i.e., that we’ll be in a state of always growing and developing. Don’t let the lure of wealth with its’ comforts and perks cause you to stop learning and growing. Keep pursuing knowledge and instruction – keep pursuing learning and mentoring. Never stop. Don’t give up. Keep going. Why? Because those who stop growing become ineffective and unproductive for the work of the Kingdom (2 Peter 1.5-11):

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, our work is for the Kingdom of God, not for our businesses. Anything that gets in the way of advancing the Kingdom and our holiness and sanctification should be jettisoned. This includes “coasting” as we get older.

Be sure that your heart is not set on accumulating wealth. And be sure that you’re learning and being instructed, regularly, persistently.

Bill English

Comparative Value of Money and Faith

I was reading through First Peter 1 the other morning and was again struck by how our faith is worth more than precious gold:

6In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

This idea is echoed in later in First Peter 3.3:

“3Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

The Christian Business Reference Architecture – which starts with who you are as a business owner – stresses the importance of a life lived in faith and obedience to God as a prerequisite to running a business God’s way. These verses extend that concept to say that within the value system of a true Disciple of Jesus Christ – even if they are business owners – is the notion that money is less valuable than faith in God.

What crossed my mind is that and abundance of either Faith or Money bring us similar things, though highly differentiated. Here are four comparative examples of what I mean. Asked another way – what does one have when they have money vs. faith? Both are valuable – but in the macro – money is valuable in the temporal world and faith is valuable in the eternal world. What we’re asking Christian business owners to do is to flip those realities: value faith over money in this temporal world as you look toward living in the eternal world. At any rate, here are four comparative examples of what I’m trying to express. In the first row, both money and faith bring us power – but very different kinds of power with different effects and different results:

Element Money Faith
Power The more money one has, the more power one has to make decisions, enter into advantageous relationships, tell others what to do and ensure one’s personal comfort. The more righteous one lives and the more mature one’s faith is in God, the more powerful are one’s prayers to God (James 5.16) and the less bondage one has to sin.
Treasures Lots of money can buy lots of things – usually large and expensive: houses, cars, positions, influence, membership, thrills, experiences and so forth. But the treasures purchased with money are temporal and fleeting. (Luke 12.14-21) Our faith is worth more than money, so a mature, deep faith in God brings about a “richness” that is stable and eternal. The “treasures” of faith never spoil or fade (Matthew 5). They are fully enjoyed in heaven, partially enjoyed on earth.
Access High amounts of money brings access to political and business leaders and sometimes access to religious leaders too. Faith is always noticed by Jesus and honored. Look at how many times Christ responded to even the smallest of faith in the Gospels. When you have faith in God, you get access to God
Giving People with large sums of money usually give away enough money to look good, but they don’t give sacrificially. Giving money rarely involves giving of one’s life too. They will give their money, but will lose their soul. (Matthew 6.33) When your faith is deep and mature in Christ, you’ll happily give away your life because you know of God’s provision and purpose for your life. And you’ll save your soul in the process (Matthew 6.33)

 

As Christian Business Owners, all God asks is that we value what He values more than what our American system of business says we should value. The four purposes for business – products, passions, profits and philanthropy – represent four core values that cannot be held in balance and then lived out without a deep and abiding faith in God and His work in our lives.

The comparative value of money and faith is essentially this: money brings us temporal, but substantial power, treasure, access and opportunities for philanthropy. Faith brings us power, treasure, access and opportunities to give of ourselves. The question is this: which do you desire more? You cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 5). As a Christian business owner, I ask you this simple question: which do you value more? Money or faith?

Bill English
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, The Platinum Group

A Couple of Notes on Money

Businesses can’t be operated without money.  And they won’t be in existence long without profits. But money – and the love of money – is a slippery slope.  For example, Proverbs 27.20 says that “Death and Destruction are never satisfied and neither are the eyes of man”.  In other words, apart from the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, we’ll always desire more than what we have and this desiring wages war with our need to be content with what we have.  As business owners who need to create a profit – but who are probably driven to some extent by the fun of creating profit – we still must learn to be content with what God has already given us.  Balancing the drive to be profitable with contentment is not easy. Achieving balance in this area is a sign of maturity.

In order to achieve the balance that God desires, it would be best if we kept in mind the following principles – which I’ve discussed from a different angle elsewhere on this blog:

  1. Money is a tool used by God to accomplish His purposes.  For God, money is a means to an end – never the end in itself.
  2. Money is neutral – it can be used for good or evil.
  3. Private property is assumed in the Scriptures.  For example, there would be no commands against stealing if private property wasn’t assumed in the Scriptures.  Money is a “property” that can be owned. For the Christian Business Owner, this is a stewardship issue since everything we have belongs to the Lord.
  4. How we handle money indicates how we will manage “real” riches (Luke 16.11).  As I just said, God already owns all of the wealth on this earth.  The one thing that he doesn’t own are people’s souls and those are the real riches to God.  As part of your stewardship of your business, God will ask you, at times, to shepherd well a person’s soul.  This might happen by sharing the Gospel with an employee or vendor or by God asking you to suffer at the expense of another’s actions against you so that you have an opportunity down the road to witness to that person.  Remember – the real riches on this earth are people’s souls, not your profits or your wealth. As Christian Business Owners, we need to be willing to part with our money on a moment’s notice if it means helping another person or holding fast to the true riches that God has for us on this earth.

In large measure, this post encapsulates two core purposes of business: Profits and Philanthropy. God enables us to create wealth so that He can bless us in giving it away to others who need it more than us. Keeping such a view of money at the forefront of our thinking will help us maintain balance in our lives and make us free from the love of money and the entrapments which so often sink deeply into the wealthy in our society.

Bill English
CEO, Mindsharp
Associate, The Platinum Group

Friday Five April 13

I like how the writer of this article focuses the first principle on building your career on more than just income and the accumulation of money.

Over the last five years, over half of the new jobs created in the United States were created in the State of Texas. This is supported here and here.

Under which party does the economy tend to grow? Well, much to the chagrin of my conservative friends, the data shows that our economy grows best when we have a Democrat President. This fact – not fiction – is highlighted in a sidebar article today. For an extended discussion of this, please look at Stocks for the Long Run, authored by Jeremy Siegel. In it, he writes:

“It is well known that the stock market prefers Republicans to Democrats. Most corporate executives and stock traders are Republicans, and many Republican policies are perceived to be favorable to stock prices and capital formation. Democrats are perceived to be less amenable to favorable tax treatment of capital gains and dividends and more in favor of regulation and income redistribution. Yet the stock market has actually done better under Democrats than Republicans. The performance of the Dow Jones Industrials during every administration since Grover Cleveland was elected in 1888 is shown in Figure 13-2 [not shown in this post]. The greatest bear market in history occurred during Herbert Hoover’s Republican administration, while stocks did quite well under Franklin Roosevelt, despite the fact that the Democrat was frequently reviled in boardrooms and brokerage houses around the country. The immediate reaction of the market—the day before the election to the day after—does indeed conform to the fact that investors like Republicans better than Democrats. Since 1888, the market fell an average of 0.5 percent on the day following a Democratic victory, but it rose by 0.7 percent on the day following a Republican victory. But the market’s reaction to the Republicans’ success in presidential elections has been muted since World War II. There have been occasions, like Clinton’s second-term election victory, when the market soared because the Republicans kept control of Congress, not because Clinton was reelected. It is also instructive to examine the returns in the first, second, third, and fourth years of a presidential term, which are displayed in Table 13-2 [not shown in this post]. The returns in the third year of a presidential term are clearly the best, especially since 1948. It is striking that this is true since the third year includes the disastrous 43.3 percent drop that occurred in 1931, during the third year of Hoover’s ill-fated administration and the worst 1-year performance in more than 120 years. Why the third year stands out is not clear. One would think that the fourth year of a presidential term, when the administration might increase spending or put pressure on the Fed to stimulate the economy for the upcoming election, would be the best year for stocks. But the fourth year, although good, is clearly not the best. Perhaps the market anticipates favorable economic policies in the election year, causing stock prices to rise the year before. The superior performance under the Democrats in recent years is documented in Table 13-3 [not shown in this post]. This table records the total real and nominal returns in the stock market, as well as the rate of inflation, under Democratic and Republican administrations. Since 1888, the market has fared better in nominal terms under Democrats than under Republicans, but since inflation has been lower when the Republicans have held office, real stock returns have been slightly higher under Republicans than under Democrats. But this has not been true over the past 60 years, when the market performed far better under the Democrats whether or not inflation is taken into account. Perhaps this is why the market’s reaction to a Democratic presidential victory has not been as negative in recent years as it was in the past.”

Siegel, Jeremy J. (2007-11-27). Stocks for the Long Run, 4th Edition (pp. 227-230). McGraw-Hill. Kindle Edition.

The market is reacting negatively to the lower-than-expected jobs numbers for March, 2012. Last month, our economy created 120,000 new jobs – which is pretty bad, considering that we need to create 150,000 new jobs a month just to account for college graduates and new adults entering the job market. The buzz is that there is a growing fear we will have a stagnate latter half to 2012, which could be exacerbated by the growing recession in Europe.

I should start a page on all of the stupid things people do that legislators feel they must regulate. This story not only illustrates the sheer lack of common sense among the populous, but it also confirms that no good idea goes unlegislated. People – please – don’t we have better things to do that worry about this?

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

It’s Your Birthday!

Today is my birthday – not that it matters really. I’m 51. Big deal. I remember on my 17th birthday calling home around 5PM to let my mom know a friend and I were going out somewhere and she said – “by the way, Bill, Happy Birthday!”. “Oh yea”, I responded. “Thanks, Mom!”. She wasn’t mean or careless – it just wasn’t on my radar that day.

Birthdays were not big deals in my home growing up so now, it’s just another day for me. I increment my age by “1” and do my life as I do any other day. My wife likes to celebrate birthdays – she gets a thrill out of doing it all up special and big. I’ve never understood this, but I’ve learned after 18 years of marriage that I sure better have a card and gift on her birthday.

Vendors like to remind you that it’s your birthday. So far, today, by email (before 9AM!!!), I’ve been congratulated by my insurance agent, a car dealership that I didn’t buy a car from and a dentist – all wishing me a Happy Birthday, then all of them asking me to spend money with them. What a message: “It’s your birthday – so buy something from me!!!!” <sigh>

Every year my dad complains that I was born two days too late to help him save on his 1960 income taxes. Sometimes, birthdays bring out long-held grudges. So, I think I’ll call my dad today and remind him that his tax bill in 1960 was higher than it should have been because of me. Then I’ll remind him that my social security, Medicare and Medicaid taxes are supporting him. I wonder if he’ll make the connection.

There really isn’t anything that I want for my birthday. The things I want most in life cannot be purchased or given to me by a human being. What I really want, more than anything else, is to know God, to love Him with *all* of my heart and to know that He is pleased with me. In short, I want to be intimate with God. My atheist friends will chuckle at this – trying to be intimate with something that doesn’t exist. Whatever. He is there and He is not silent. I’m not perfect – in fact, I don’t think I’m a good example of what it means to be a Christian. But the longing of my heart is not for more money, fame, power, control, women, sex, thrills, experiences, food or a host of other things that don’t really fill the void inside each of us. Instead, the longing of my heart is for God. At the end of my life, when all my birthdays are over and I’m in the last few minutes of my life, all that will matter is Jesus Christ. Nothing else will matter. Read “90 Minutes in Heaven”. You’ll understand what I’m talking about. I watched my mom die of colon cancer nearly 3 years ago. I was with her in her final moments. All that mattered was Jesus Christ.

Even though it’s probably not your birthday, what do you long for? I bet you long for the same things that money can’t buy. Consider this:

  • Money can buy a house, but it can’t buy a home.
  • Money can buy medicine, but it can’t buy health.
  • Money can buy a thrill, but it can’t buy satisfaction.
  • Money can buy power, but it can’t buy respect.
  • Money can buy sex, but it can’t buy intimacy.
  • Money can buy an education, but it can’t buy wisdom.
  • Money can buy a membership, but it can’t buy friendship.
  • Money can buy an army, but it can’t buy peace.
  • Money can buy servants, but it can’t buy loyalty.
  • Money can buy prestige, but it can’t buy a reputation.
  • Money can buy a religion, but it can’t buy a savior.

The things we most deeply want in life cannot be purchased by money. It’s one of the great lies of Satan – that money will satisfy you. Everything you really want in life is found, ultimately, in the person of Jesus Christ. If you want a birthday that will last forever, then give your heart and life to Christ and He will give you a new birth into a family with an inheritance that will never spoil or fade. Today can be your birthday – all you need to do is ask.

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

Wealth, Humility and Business Ownership

As I read through the Bible and grow in my business ownership role, I’m find that much of the Scriptures teach about wealth and business ownership is found in the Old Testament. This passage in Deuteronomy is one of the main, core, foundational passages that a business owner must bear in mind and follow if one is to run his/her business for the Lord based on Biblical principles. In this post, I’ll outline my thinking on this passage and pass along some pragmatic ideas on its’ application.

8.10-11: When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.

Note that our tendency to forget the Lord and wander from His ways occurs after we are fully supplied and satisfied with material goods. Part of our wandering is failing to observe his commands, laws and decrees. People often feel that hardships are times of testing and I don’t disagree with that thinking. However, success is often a strong, more difficult test for a number of reasons, but one pragmatic reason is that when a person is successful in business, there is usually an increase in income. With that increase comes the ability to spend money on one’s affections. This is where Matthew 5.21 becomes so relevant: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. If you’re earning an increasing salary + bonus because the profits in your company are on the rise, then understand that how and where you spend those extra dollars reveals what is in your heart and where your affections truly reside. If you spend it on cars, cabins, boats, memberships, bigger houses, or other big ticket items, then that is where your heart is. If you spend it on building the church – Kingdom investing – then that is where your heart is. Some can do both – given away large sums of money while purchasing big ticket items. Knowing how/where to spend this cash is best brought before the Lord, in a spirit of stewardship, asking Him how you should spend His money. Success can reveal a heart that easily wanders and the money that comes with the success often allows the heart to wander from the Lord while enjoying the trip.

Notice that God does not condemn his people for having these material goods. His warnings in this passage are really about affections and pride: forgetting what the Lord has done for us. Setting aside our dependence and relationship with him because we foolishly believe that our success is a direct result of our efforts, energies and intelligence is what his coming warnings are all about. This passage does not teach that we should remain poor or live at the lowest economic level possible.

8.12-14: Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

How many of us in American have fine houses in communities into which we’ve settled down? How many of us business owners have “herds and flocks” that are growing along with retirement plans and savings accounts that multiply all that we have? For many, many business owners, this is the case. The description of these people are that they have everything they need and want materially. Their physical and economic needs have been surpassed and most, if not all of their desires have been fulfilled. This is a description of ultimate “success” in American terms. But look at what this success leads to: pride. Those who are given success will be tempted with pride: “I did this or that”. Pride forgets what the Lord has done for us. It forgets that each of us were rescued by the Lord Himself. The reminder for the Israelites was their escape from Egypt and it’s slavery. This is a metaphor for us today: We have been brought out of sin and it’s bondage and are no longer slaves to anything the evil one can offer us. Paul says as much in Colossians 1.13, when he writes that “he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have the redemption, the forgiveness of sins“. Pride forgets the past, forgets the goodness of the Lord, places itself as the proximate cause to all it’s success and places it’s affections in itself.

This is one of the reasons that we tithe 1% of the gross dollars in our company to non-profit organizations. Tithing helps us remember who gives us our success and the abilities to earn an income. Tithing helps us to recall the past when we nearly had to close our doors due to high bills and lack of sufficient income. We have been though salary cuts and layoffs in the past. Any success we experience in the present is a direct result of the Lord’s goodness to us. Yes, we must work (and often work hard) to achieve success. But let us never forget what the Lord has brought us through.

8.15-16: He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its’ venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end, it might go well with you.

It is interesting that the Israelites needed to be reminded about that which the Lord did for them in the past. He took them through a period of little success that was difficult and long. It had elements that could sting and perhaps kill. But he also provided in ways that were simply unnatural – so unnatural that they defined any natural explanation. He did this to humble them and test them, to prepare them for their future success.

8.17-20: You may say to yourself, My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me. But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

This is an expansion of the temptations listed earlier in this passage – to become prideful and to wander from the Lord as our affections for him are replaced by an affection for ourselves and our material goods. The meaning of this last part is obvious: what we mistake as a direct correlation between our success and our effort is the truth that our effort could not have existed had it not been for God’s kindness in giving us the ability to create the wealth in the first place. Boiled down to common English, while one may take pride in pulling himself up by his own boot straps, one cannot deny that is it God who gave him the ability to pull in the first place. Ability precedes results and those who forget that it is God who gives us this ability will surely fall into the sin of pride.

I take the phrase “ability to produce wealth” to encompass not only skills, talents and intelligence, but more generally, also to encompass opportunities, ideas and the entire economic system of capitalism in which the wealth is produced.

Summary

What can we learn? Here are the lessons that we can learn from Deuteronomy 8:

  • Having wealth is not condemned by God
  • Pride is the core temptation for a person who has experienced material success
  • Forgetting how the Lord has brought you through difficult times is a second temptation to material success
  • It is God who gave us the ability to produce the wealth in the first place and thus, we have little room (if any), to take pride in the results of our efforts
  • Humility is the attitude of the heart that is dependent on God for all that one has

How Wealth Impacts Abraham and Lot

The last half of Genesis 12 and all of Genesis 13 illustrate several important truths on how God views wealth and how we should too. In short, here is what happened.

Abraham goes to Egypt due to a famine in the land of Canaan. Because his wife, Sarah, is rather beautiful, he decides to lie to the Egyptians and tell them she is her sister rather than telling the truth that she is his wife. He fears they will kill him for his wife. So, in exchange for taking Sarah into the palace, they gave him all kinds of wealth – sheep, cattle and servants.

Once they found out via a dream from the Lord that she was his wife and not his sister, they were indignant with Abraham. So they sent him and his wife away along with his wealth. At the beginning of Chapter 13, we’re told that Abraham went to the Negev and that Lot was with him. It is assumed that Lot went through the Egyptian experience too.

Because both men had grown rather wealthy, they found that their “wealth”, which consistent of animals and servants, was not getting along. So, because of their wealth, they decided to part ways and live apart. Lot chose the plane toward Sodom and Abraham stayed in the land of Canaan.

Now, in these series of events, we can exegete several principles about wealth. First, in spite of our sin, God can bless us materially. This is precisely what happened when Abraham lied about Sarah. He received much wealth from the Egyptians in exchange for his wife. The material blessings that we receive are directly related to the generosity of God. The entire notion that if we live righteously, God will bless us materially is directly contradicted in this passage. God, in His sovereignty and wisdom, decides whom He will bless and not bless. The only promise in regards to wealth is that He has promised to supply enough material goods to meet our needs.

Secondly, Abraham sacrificed that which was second most important to him (Sarah) to save his own life, which one can reasonably discern was most important to him. In an ironic way, this fits with Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs, which says that we’ll sacrifice nearly anything to meet our most basic needs, such as food, shelter and security. Note that security is the second level of need, only ahead of basic physical needs. Giving away your wife to preserve your own life is equal to acting in one’s own interests for level 1 and level 2 needs. I’ve met several people who have lost everything in business or through a medical situation that drained them financially. In every case, they were happy to give up their wealth in exchange for basic physical and safety needs. It’s not that they enjoyed losing their wealth – they didn’t. But when push came to shove, they were more than willing to forego their wealth in exchange for their basic needs being met.

We can sit here and criticize Abraham for his decision. I’m not going to excuse it because he did sin and he did lie. But he likely found himself in a difficult position of having to choose between several “evils”. He has left his home through no fault or decision of his own – he was forced to go to a land with food. That’s a level 1 need. He knows that by doing this, he’ll likely lose his wife, or so he believes. He thinks the Egyptians will kill him for his wife. Preserving his life is also a level 1 need. But losing his wife is also gut-wrenching. I doubt very much that he enjoyed watching them take his wife into the palace. I bet this worried him sick and caused him all sorts of emotional distress. While the Bible doesn’t tell us this, it is reasonable to assume. The fact that he got a lot of wealth in exchange for his “sister” likely didn’t mean much to him. Look at the movie Indecent Proposal and you’ll see what I mean.

Thirdly, those who are wealthy are usually those who take up more space than those who are not wealthy. It just stands to reason. One of my friends who has found new freedom in being poor has told me that he wants to get down to where he can live in 500sf. Note he’s not married nor does he have children. But still, 500sf in American is a rather tiny spot to call home. Chapter 13 is mostly about Abraham and Lot deciding which space they will take with Lot being given first dibbs. When people become wealthy, they accumulate more material goods and thus take up more space. Abraham and Lot part company because of their wealth.

Lastly, God’s generosity to Abraham is once again demonstrated at the end of Chapter 13. He tells Abraham to look up and look around. All that Abraham can will be given to him by God. Abraham did *nothing* to deserve it. Nothing. And yet God gave him a firm promise of future wealth for his future family. That which is most precious to us in life is given to us by God. That’s why Deuteronomy 8.18 can say that it is God “who gives you the ability to produce wealth…”. Our talents, abilities, connections, education and a host of other elements which contributes to our wealth creation is something that comes from God, not from us.

The most precious thing we can have is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Knowing that our sins are forgiven and our future secured with God in heaven is more precious than even our level 1 needs. This is why people are willing to die for their faith – it is worth more than gold (says 1 Peter) and is worth more than the life of Jesus Christ. Why should Christians be generous? It’s not just because we are told in Matthew 5 to “give to him who asks of you and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you”, but it’s also because the most precious thing we have been given was just that: a gift to us totally undeserved and one that we could have never worked hard enough to earn. We give because God first gave to us.

Our generosity toward others should mirror or mimic the generosity of God. To whom much is given, much is required. If God is blessing you materially, then you have a sacred obligation to steward that money well and to manage it on behalf of God. It’s not your wealth – it’s God’s wealth. He gave it to you as an entrustment to be used for the accomplishment of His agenda on this earth.

For those who are very rich – go to God and ask Him how you are to steward the wealth He has given you. For those who are not rich, note that nothing in this passage indicates God is on the side of the poor vs. the rich. God isn’t on one side or another – He is His own side and both groups rich and poor, had better get on God’s side.

Bill English

Gold is our Current Bubble

I continue to think that gold is overvalued and that the gold companies are making a killing on the fear of what might happen in the future. The stimulus pumped a ton of money into our economy and that money had to go somewhere. I think it has gone – at least partially – into gold. Even if the economy crashes, I’m not convinced that gold is your answer to security. How would you trade an ounce of gold for goods and services? The only way gold can be valuable to purchase goods and services is if it is converted into some other type of currency – we are not setup to trade on precious metals.

I understand many of my friends will disagree with me on this. I just don’t see gold being workable as a practical solution should the economy crash.

http://professional.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903918104576501912915937874.html?mg=reno-wsj

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

A Brief Analysis of our Nation’s Spending and Revenue

This is a well-written article with interesting conclusions about our spending and revenue numbers as it relates to
the GDP.

http://blogs.forbes.com/warrenmeyer/2011/07/14/its-a-spending-problem/?utm_source=allactivity&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=20110714

Bill English, CEO
Mindsharp

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