Archives for category: Financial

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.

 

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.”