Archives for category: Finance

Historically, there has always been a subset of the population who has considered money to be a god.  However, in more recent times, society has experienced the progression of money from demigod to supreme being.  In the infamous words of Wu-Tang Clan, “Cash rules everything around me.” Or does it?

 

In today’s culture, money seems to be the ultimate common denominator.  In many cases, it is the pivotal driving force for decision making.  Most people consult their money before they consult their God, family or friends.  Money motivates us.  It drives us.  It seduces us.  The truth is, there is nothing inherently wrong with money.  Money is the world’s currency.  Our capitalistic society is based on commerce, which is ultimately an exchange of goods and money.   The problem occurs when we place the value of money above all else.

 

In the new rat-race normal, big business has become the new big brother.  Its presence is ubiquitous, and its reach extends far beyond the bottom line to the bottom of our wallets.  The concept of enough is unquantifiable and insatiable.  It’s not enough for everyone to have his or her own piece of the pie.  Somehow, many in our society have subscribed to the misguided notion that we all cannot win.  Just look at the level of greed on Wall Street.  Economic goals are moving targets.  The cry for more has become a daily anthem.  The almighty dollar has become the alpha and the omega for many.

Navigating the course of the economic labyrinth is exhausting.  Oftentimes, financial resolutions often boil down to a battle of stamina.  Many company policies are intentionally designed to fatigue the consumer.  The hamster wheel approach to problem resolution frustrates most people into financial surrender.  Fortunately, money is not a God.  God is God, and He still sits on the throne.

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal,” (Matthew 6:19, KJV).  If we allow money to become our gods, then what recourse do we have when our money fails us? Money will fail us.  It’s not a matter of if.  It’s a matter of when.

Last year, I read a story about a Chinese man, who five years prior, had buried his entire life’s savings.  About a year ago, when he and his family dug up the buried money, they discovered that insects had eaten through most of the man’s cash.  Fortunately, the local bank was able to exchange the salvageable bills, which accounted for approximately half of his savings.  Although this man’s story had some what of a happy ending, what about those who weren’t so fortunate?  What about those who have lost all of their financial wealth and have nothing else to turn to?  What do they do?

Jesus was not oblivious to the value of money in the world’s economic structure (Matthew 17:24-27).  He acknowledged that there was some value to subscribing to the laws of the land.  However, he also asserted that monetary gain should not be the foundation on which we stand.  Wealth and fortune are fleeting.  Life should be built on more stable foundations.  There are things in this life that money cannot buy.  Money cannot buy happiness, freedom, respect or love.  In fact, money is often the cause of strife.  If we rest our hope and dreams on wealth, we will always face chronic disappointment.

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Traditional slavery, chattel slavery, is officially illegal in all countries.  However, while most of the world has since eradicated the antiquated systems that once forced multitudes of people into involuntary servitude, today, there is a new form of slavery—a new slave master.

 

According to Cambridge Dictionary, slavery is defined as “the condition of being legally owned by someone else, or the system in which people are owned by others.” Wikipedia puts it this way:  Slavery is “a legal or economic system in which principles of property law are applied to humans allowing them to be classified as property, to be owned, bought and sold accordingly, and they cannot withdraw unilaterally from the arrangement. While a person is a slave, the owner is entitled to the productivity of the slave’s labor, without any remuneration.”  In today’s capitalist economy, financial institutions have become the new captains of the slave trade.

 

Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender,” (NIV).  No where is this truer than in “free trade.”  The average American is shackled by debt.  According to an article published on Nerdwallet.com, as of October 2015, the U.S. household consumer debt profile was as follows:

  • Average credit card debt: $16,140
  • Average mortgage debt: $155,361
  • Average student loan debt: $31,944

 

The article further went on to say that the total debt owned by American consumers was:

  • $11.85 trillion in debt
    • An increase of 1.4% from last year
  • $918.5 billion in credit card debt
  • $8.09 trillion in mortgages
  • $1.19 trillion in student loans
    • An increase of 5.9% from last year

 

The median household income for 2014 was $53,657. As the numbers suggests, most Americans are in over their heads in debt.  The problem is not so much the debt itself.  The problem is the issue of usury, which is illegal and morally reprehensible.  Merriam-Webster defines usury as, “the lending of money with an interest charge for its use; especially:  the lending of money at exorbitant interest rates.”  How does one quantify and/or qualify exorbitant?  Today’s credit card APR can range from low 13% all the way to 29.9 %.  I would make the argument that even 13% could be considered exorbitant.  Who determines exorbitance?  I’m sure it’s not the average citizen.

 

The main difference between traditional slavery and economic slavery is that most individuals, at some point, voluntarily entered into their financial engagement(s).  However, the similarity that both conditions typically share is the inability to readily disengage from the entanglement.

 

Let’s take another look at the definition of slavery.  The first part of the definition of slavery asserts that slavery is orchestrated by “a legal OR economic system.”  By definition, the financial system is an “economic system.” So, check.  The second condition of slavery is that an individual is “legally owned” by another individual(s).  Yet, another check.  I must say this, although individuals are not physically owned by financial institutions, they are economically imprisoned and shackled.  Before I expand on this though, I would like to state the third condition of slavery, which is “they cannot withdraw unilaterally from the arrangement.”  Check!

 

Most financial institutions are in the business of buying and selling debt.  It is not uncommon for people who are saddled with debt to see their loan(s) change hands several times during the lifetime of their loan.  With each change of ownership, there are new notices and disclosures, which are usually multiple, page documents that are typically indiscernible, microscopic fine-print with an inherent obligation for compliance.  In essence, the borrower does not get to pick and choose which terms and conditions they accept and agree with.  Once the loans are sold, the borrower’s finances become subject to the new lender’s (“owner”) discretion. The borrower cannot readily disengage from the financial obligation without legal recourse or ramifications.  In some cases, many individuals are working solely to pay debts.

 

There are people who are reading this post and are probably thinking that individuals who are indebted are in the position that they are in because of poor decision-making.  While that may or may not be true of some, it’s not true of others, and I caution such thinking.  There are many individuals, who have made prudent decisions, yet have still found themselves victims of circumstances, including divorce, life, sickness, death, fraud or even hunger.  Not everyone in debt is living above their mean.  Some people are simply trying to live.  A mother who uses her credit card to buy food and clothing for her family is a far cry from a squanderer.  A young, doe-eyed humanitarian who made a prudent decision to attend medical school to refine his God-given gifts and impact his community and the world around him is far from what I would call irresponsible.  While I am sure there are people who’ve placed themselves in the lion’s den, this is not everyone’s story, and the truth is, even if it were, do they deserve to be eternally imprisoned?

 

King Solomon said it best when he said, “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all,” (Ecclesiastes 9:11, NIV).  One on the worse things that any of us could do on our journey on this Earth is to make distinctions between “us” and “them.”  If anyone has lived on this Earth long enough, one of the valuable lessons learned is that time is the ultimate equalizer where “they” often becomes “me.”

I was born a slave.  As an ancestor of the son of man, I was born a slave to sin.  As a black woman living in the United States, my ancestors were owned by man.  Even today, there are so many things in this world that attempt to hold me hostage. Thankfully, I embrace the freedom that Christ has given to me. Christ died on Calvary to set me free, for who the Son has set free is truly free indeed, (John 8:36).  Nonetheless, there are still forces that be that attempt to incarcerate me. One of the greatest of them all is money.
Many Christian erroneously think that having money is sinful. It’s not. That belief is not even Biblical. Having money has never been an issue. It’s the love of money that’s the problem (1 Timothy 6:10). Why? The love of money equal idolatry, and God will not stand for anything or anyone being placed ahead of Him. However, Christ understood that in this world’s system, money is needed, and in some cases, required. Christ illustrated that best when he produced the coin from the belly of the fish when asked to pay His taxes. This miracle illustrated two things:
1. Even Jesus, the most powerful man that ever lived, honored the laws of the land.
And
2. God will make a way where there seems to be no way.

In today’s upside down world, there are those that use money to keep people in bondage. Debt is the biggest shackle of them all. Proverbs 22:7 says that, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” As I sat today to pay my student loan, I thought to myself, “Wow, this world’s system is created to make us perpetual slaves.”  The truth is this, no one told me to go to school, and no one forced me to acquire debt to pay for my education. However, the system is designed such that there is a cost for advancement, one which neither my family nor I could independently afford, even though a great portion of my education was funded by academic scholarships. Like many, I knew that in order to advance the visions that God placed on my heart, I would have to assume some liability—take risks, including possible debt. But advancement of our dreams, if we are not careful, could result in situations where we are in the same, or worse, positions than before, particularly financially. If we are not careful, instead of making an impact on the world, we could find ourselves just trying to make a dent in our debt.
Many of us are slaves to the lender, which is exactly where the lenders want us to be. Let’s face it, the system is designed that there are more poor people than there are those who are rich. If everyone had a million dollars, we would all be equal, and the enemy is not a fan of equality.  The customary practices of usury in our society is designed to create and maintain a distinction between the haves and the have nots. Think about how many great ideas were conceived by financial slaves, whose visions were stillborn, or worse yet, stolen and nurtured by others with the financial wherewithal.
In the world’s system, debt is inevitable. But in the body of Christ, even the inevitable can become the remarkable. If we were to be honest with ourselves, most of us do not have the initial financial resources to attend college, start a business or pursue other ventures. One thing I do know is that we can use debt as a launching pad, but we do not have to remain indebted indefinitely. Our finances is an area where many of us overlook and underestimate the power of God and the power of prayer. Though it might seem weird, pray over your stack of bill. Ask God to help you to be a good financial steward of your money and resources. Ask God to make supernatural provisions. Also, set up a plan. Many of us do not have a financial plan. We can always ask God to move on our behalves, but sometimes, we have to take that first step.
Today, I want to issue a financial challenge. Over the next 30 days, incorporate a financial plan and budget. Write down where you see yourself financially at the end of 30 days, 1 year, 5 years, 15 years and 30 years.  Pray over the 30 -day course that God will give you favor, wisdom and abundance. Also, pray Deuteronomy 28:13 over your life:

The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. 14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them, (NIV).

 

The promises that were made in Deuteronomy were made to the Israelites. But our God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The promises that were made to one are still available to all today and forever.  Therefore, I pray that God will make us the head and not the tail; above and not beneath; and a lender and not a borrower, in Jesus’ name. Amen

If anyone has ever taken a road trip with children, they would know that one of the most incessantly asked questions of any vacation voyage is, “Are we there yet;” to which the most frequently given response is, “We’re almost there.”  Whether we are five minutes or 105 minutes away from our destination, the answer is usually the same: We are almost there.  In those moments, it seems like we just cannot get there fast enough.  Sometimes, this is not only true of our physical journey, but our spiritual journey as well.  Sometimes, it can feel like the light at the end of the tunnel is light-years away.

Have you ever noticed that it is usually the children who ask, “Are we there yet” on road trips?  Why is that?  One reason is that the adults are the ones who, for the most part, know the final destination, including where it is and how long it takes to get there.  Also, most adults are mature enough to know that they must endure some temporary discomfort (e.g. cramped spaces, long ride frequent bathroom breaks, etc.) before they get to their final desired destination.  In other words, before we can be free to enjoy our fun in the sun at the theme parks, we have to endure the turmoil of the four-hour car ride.

So, you might be asking yourself: What does this have to do with our Spiritual lives?  I think it’s safe to assume that many Christians are living an “Are we there yet” lifestyle.  Most of us have faith and trust God, yet there are moments when we believe that we have not yet seen the manifestation of our faith.  We have put one foot in front of the other, yet we have not arrived at our desired destination.  We often find ourselves asking God, “Are we there yet?”  Sounds familiar?  How about one of these scenarios below?

  • God, it’s been years, and I have been praying for healing; yet I am still sick.  Are we there yet?
  • God, I have been believing in you to mend my marriage, but it’s still falling apart.  Are we there yet?
  • God, I have been praying so long for you to bless me with my partner, yet I am still single.  Are we there yet?
  • God, I have been praying to you for years to bless my womb with life, yet I am still childless.  Are we there yet?
  • Lord, I have been praying that you would bless my business ventures, yet I have only experienced closed doors.  Are we there yet?
  • Lord, I have been praying for my wayward child to return home, yet he (or she) is still so far from you and from home.  Are we there yet?
  • God, I have been praying for financial breakthrough, yet I am still in debt.  Are we there yet?
  • God, I have been praying for (fill in the blank), yet (fill in the blank). Are we there yet?

Yes, many of us have been asking God, “Are we there yet,” for quite some time.  But consider this revelation.  In order to get to a place of peace, we have to realize that we are God’s children, and that we are in the backseat of His proverbial car.  We have to know that when we allow God to drive us, He knows exactly where He is going and how to get there.  When God drives us, we never have to worry about Him being pulled over for going too fast or being honked at for going too slow.  Like children in the back seat, we have to be patient, mature and know that if we buckle up and sit tight, we will eventually arrive at our destination.  We might also realize that if we quit whining and complaining, we might actually enjoy the ride.  Ultimately, our lives and our walk with God comes down to this one simple truth, “We are either going to trust God, or we are not.”  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.,” (NIV).

You and I have to believe that even though to the naked eye it might seem like we are light-years away from our desired destination, God is still in control and that He has a plan to bless and prosper us.  You see, in our minds, we might be thinking weekend getaway, while God is planning a vacation destination.

Father God,  Please continue to bless us with your peace that surpasses all understanding.  In those moments when we are tempted to ask, “Are we there yet;” comfort us.  Allow us to know that you are still in control and that you have a plan for our lives that will supersede our expectations.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen!

We never have to worry about missing the memo from God.  If we failed to receive it the first time, He always provides an opportunity for our lessons to be repeated.

Last night, I attended a midweek, young-adult service at one of my local churches.  Actually, the Tuesday night worship experience at this particular church is not your typical, midweek service.  The atmosphere is charged with and electrified by the Spirit.

The message of the night was from James 1:2-4:

Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (NLT).

The take home messages of the night were:

  1. God uses our trials as an opportunity for growth.
  2. We should find joy in the pain of growth.
  3. When it looks like all is lost, God has one more move.

Wow! How many of us can perpetually see the glass half full?

Last night was my God reminder.  I heard God say, “Just in case you missed the memo the first time, ‘I am reminding you of who I am.’”  During the service, I remembered that God had laid this very message on my heart a few month ago.  I was excited to go home to find my journal entry and be reminded of what God had said then.

Once we embrace the fact that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8) we can rest in the knowledge that what He promised yesterday is still valid today.

Below is my 2/13/13 journal entry on James 1:3-4.  I hope it blesses you as much as it has me.

For you know that when your faith is tested,
your endurance has a chance to grow.  (James 1:3, NLT).

Endurance is preparation for the next time.  Think about jogging.  The first time you commit to jogging, you might only be able to run one block.  But in running that one block, the body is being conditioned.  The cells are being oxidized, and the muscles are being strengthened.  The next time you run, you might either

  1. Be able to run the same distance with less fatigue

Or

  1. Run further

Each time, however, there is an increase in strength that occurs.  The same is true of faith.  Each time you exercise your faith, your spiritual muscles increase, yielding increase endurance.  The things that you endured today might have seemed impossible last year.

So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing, (James 1:4, NLT).

Think about the jogging analogy.  Let’s say you were training for a 5K.  There would come a time in the training process where you could run the 5K without stopping, or without fatigue.  So as far as the 5K level, you would need nothing.  You would be perfect and complete.  However, if you decided to train for a half-marathon, additional training would be required and the cycle would repeat.

The same applies to our faith.  There are different levels of completion.  When you reach, what I will call, “level-one faith,” you are perfect and complete for THAT level.  It doesn’t mean that you are perfect and complete for life.  It simply means that you are ready to be graduated to the next level of faith.  There is always a growth curve—at least until death.

Dear God,

During this season, you have challenged so many of us to have faith in your word and your character.  I pray that we will continue to trust you as you develop us.  I pray that we will trust you with our lives, our relationships, our finances, our destinies, our purposes and our hearts.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen!

There are moments in our lives when we will feel as though the walls are closing in around us and that we are surrounded by enemies on all side.  In those moments, it seems like there are more of them than there are of us.  That is when we are called to stand firm on the Word of God and scream the name of Jesus.  Deuteronomy 28:7 says, “The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven,” (NIV).  This morning I speak God’s words into your situation.  I pray that when your enemies comes at you in one direction, they flee in seven.  The Bible is filled with many verses for various situations.  Below are just a few:

Your enemies are attacking you and have surrounded you on all sides.                

“The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven,” (Deuteronomy 28:7, NIV).

Your faith is being tested and shaken.

“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Show us how to increase our faith,’” (Luke 17:5, NIV).

The foundation of your marriage is being tested.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love, (1John 4:18).

But for those who are married, I have a command that comes not from me, but from the Lord.A wife must not leave her husband. But if she does leave him, let her remain single or else be reconciled to him. And the husband must not leave his wife.  (1Corinthians 7:10-11).

Your relationships are being tested.

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence, (Jeremiah 17:7, NLT).

Your finances are being attacked.

The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich, and he adds no sorrow with it, (Proverbs, 10:22).

The devil is robbing you of your peace.

 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done, (Philippianss 4:6).

Doctors, man, have spoken death and sickness over your life.

O Lord, if you heal me, I will be truly healed; if you save me, I will be truly saved.  My praises are for you alone, (Jeremiah 17:14).

Doctors, man, have given you the news of infertility.

Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant (Genesis 25:21, NIV).

Man has spoken failure over your life.

Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.

When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing, (Psalm 146:3-4).

Man has spoken curses over you and your family.

Listen, I received a command to bless; God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it, (Numbers 23:20, NLT)!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:2, NIV).

The biggest life lessons are the ones that are birthed out of frank conversations.  About a year ago, I was conversing with one of my mentors when he shared with me one of his theories on life.  He said:

“If you get up on Monday morning and say, ‘Ok, it’s Monday, let’s jumpstart this day,’ then you probably have a career.  If you get up on Monday morning and say, ‘Oh s*** it’s Monday,’ you most likely have a job.”

Those words resonated with me.  If we, as individuals, are walking in our purpose, Mondays do not ignite a visceral response.  That doesn’t mean that life isn’t hard and we don’t get fatigued and occasionally frustrated.  It simply means that Mondays aren’t daunting.

So, why are Mondays so unnerving?  Why do most people start to dread Monday as early as twilight on Sunday?  The answer is simple.  Most of us are slaves.  One of our chief masters: Debt.  Sure, fear, laziness and other vices are all co-conspirators, but debt is one of the main slave masters.

I think it’s probably safe to assume that if it weren’t for financial obligations, many people would probably have quit their current jobs eons ago and pursued their passions.  But with mortgages, car payments, loans and other debts, simply walking away is difficult.  Debt not only impact our career paths, it impacts our overall health—physically, mentally, spiritually and relationally.  Debt distorts our perspective, limits our vision and narrows our options.

So how do we conquer debt?  We need two things: a physical and a spiritual plan.  A physical plan could range the gamut from budgeting to financial counseling.  This essential component is need and case specific and beyond the scope of this dialogue.  A spiritual plan requires us to stand on God’s Word.  His word is his promise to us.  God sacrificed His one and only Son so that we could be free.  Hence, it was never God’s intention that we would be slaves to anything, including debt.  Below are just a few principle to meditate on regarding God’s view on debt.

Proverbs 22:7 (ESV)

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

Psalm 37:21

The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives;

And finally, one of my favorites:

Deuteronomy 28:9-13 (NIV)

 The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him. Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you. The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.  The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.

Today’s prayer:

Lord,

According to the world’s standard for living, money is one of the greatest source of strife in relationships.  I pray that in our relationships, you grant us the wisdom to be prudent with the resources that you have gifted us with.  I also pray we would not allow debt to prevent us from pursuing and living the life that you have destined for us.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen!