Getting Out of Bondage [v125]

JULY 2009

GETTING OUT OF ‘BONDAGE’
We have seen a very traumatic upheaval in the financial industry in the past year—and in the value of most everyone’s “retirement.”  Without getting into the details of what happened in the financial markets, and how to ‘fix’ them—since most of us have no ‘control’ of that—I would like to talk about what every one of us can ‘fix’ or ‘control’—our own personal/family financial stability by GETTING OUT OF DEBT!

Our American culture, with the help of a very powerful ‘media’, has told everyone of us that the only way we can be “happy” or “satisfied” is to have more things—which means you need MORE MONEY. So, if you don’t have it, you MUST go out and BORROW IT!

Now, it’s human nature to feel better about oneself when we have money, or feel ’embarrassed’ when people find out that you don’t have any. So, to feel better, and not embarrassed, we all go out and buy something ‘fancy’ that we really can’t afford (clothes, cars, boats, etc.) that is outside of our means, to try to ‘project’ an image of wealth—so others will ‘value’ us.

Paradoxically, this happens more often during ‘stressful’ or ‘hard times’ (like today). A person wants to feel a little better about themselves and their situation, so they go out and buy something nice. It does make them feel much better for a period of time, but then that feeling starts to ‘wear off’ (usually when the credit card bill comes).

So, instead of getting them out of the ‘hole’ of depression, it actually puts them into the ‘hole’ of debt—and that will ‘tyrannize’ them more than it would have if they didn’t have that nice thing. They are in greater ‘bondage’ because of the debt. It’s also almost like a ‘drug addict’—having to have that ‘fix’, and then after that doesn’t satisfy, getting a bigger ‘fix’—selling yourself into ‘slavery’ and causing great stress within you and your family.

Now, I’m fully aware that sometimes it’s not your ‘fault’—like the ‘abrupt’ change our economy has seen in just the past year. I’m not just ‘preaching’ to you, I’m one of the ‘casualties’—I’ve been livin’ it.

Especially here in Detroit, the marketing/advertising business has been ‘horrendous’ in the past few years. Many companies that supplied the auto industry are closing, and the agencies that supported them are also closing their doors—both of which my company did work for.

So, I’ve been ‘forced’ to take on debt I never had, and have had to cut back to the ‘bone’ on the things I could do and buy. But, the one thing I noticed is that I was not lacking for the ‘essentials’ of life—food, clothing, shelter, and my health.

It was amazing to me to see how, just in the ‘nick’ of time, I would get a call out of ‘nowhere’ from a company that wanted a small job done, or my dad offering to help me out. It was uncanny! (Maybe it has something to do with God ‘blessing’ me because I’m trying to be ‘obedient’ to Him? Hmmm…).

Well, what I have learned is that when things are going reasonably well, we don’t ‘scrupulously’ watch what we spend, and we spend much more than we realize (i.e. a ‘latte’ on the way to work each day, at $2.50/each, is over $600 a year!—or whatever you do, it adds up to ‘real’ money). Even though I have cut out a lot of ‘fat’ in my budget, I’ve noticed that I’m not that much less ‘happy’ than I was in prior years.

[ Note: I dedicated an entire Deep Thoughts last year to what it really means to be “happy”—see the post, “Are You Happy,” v112 ].

Here’s another ‘real money’ example for you to try that might ‘cinch’ it for you: Add up all the credit card interest payments you have paid in the just past 3-4 years (I’ll wait…[Jeopardy theme playing]…). Well, using the national average for credit card debt, you would have paid enough to buy a good late-model car for CASH!

So, (like it or not), I’ve also been learning that I don’t NEED things RIGHT AWAY—I can actually wait a while for something, and actually feel more ‘appreciative’ when I finally do get it. I am learning to be CONTENT with what I have, and that I’m not ‘entitled’ to everything I want. We all must learn to resist the desire for instant gratification.

I believe we live in an utterly discontent culture. This became very apparent to me when the kids and I were at Disney World a few years ago. If there were any place on the planet where kids should be happy, content, and filled with joy, it would be Disney World. But, as we walked around the park, I saw so many miserable kids. They were crying, and whining, “Why can’t I have this?” and  “Why can’t we ride that?” I was amazed at the discontentment that I saw there.

Finding contentment in life is not a matter of making a wish list of achievements and acquisitions and marking them off one by one. Contentment is within our ‘reach’ even if we never get those things that are on our “bucket list.” Contentment is not a by-product of affluence, achievement, or acquisitions.

But, most people think, “If I just had enough money, I would be content.” But the fact is, most wealthy people aren’t content. John D. Rockefeller, who had a net worth of about $100 million at the time, was asked how much wealth does it take to be happy. His answer was quick and to the point: “Another million dollars.”

Even if we say that’s absurd, we subconsciously start looking to money as the answer to all our problems—but money never brings contentment. (And shame on the “prosperity preachers” that use this to link God to blessing you depending on how much you give them!—Biblical “prosperity” is having everything you need to be most effective (to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for your life), and enough extra to be a blessing to someone else).

I heard someone say once that a person with six kids is certainly more content than a person with six million dollars. Why? Because a person with six million dollars wants more!  ;-D

All kidding aside, is there a ‘proper’ way to think about money and debt?

Well, I’m told that there are two kinds of debt—good and bad. Credit card or debt on deprecating assets (like a car) is bad, and debt on something like a house (that usually appreciates) is a ‘better’ kind of debt. However, no debt is preferred by some money experts, purporting that it is possible to wait and buy a car and even a house with cash, or, for those who already have purchased a house, to live ‘below’ their means and pay off the mortgage within 10-15 years.

Ridiculous? Well, not according to a guy who’s been there (a millionaire that lost it all), and now lives ‘comfortably’ debt free. His name is Dave Ramsey, and has many best-selling books and a radio show that talk about what he personally has learned about debt over the years.

Here’s a story that Dave Ramsey tells of a farmer at a closing that Dave was the real estate salesperson on. When Dave asked the farmer for the down payment check, the farmer pulled out the entire $120K purchase price out of his bib overalls! Dave, surprised, asked the farmer, “Don’t you want to borrow the money and get the tax deduction for it?” The farmer said, “Son, let me educate you on this. Let’s walk through the math.”

So the farmer said, “To make it easy, let’s take a $200,000 loan at 5%—that’s $10,000 of interest per year, right? Now you have a $10,000 tax deduction for the year.”

“So, let’s say I made $75,000 last year, and with a deduction like this, I would only have to pay taxes on $65,000, right?” Okay then, what would be the savings on that $10,000? Well, I’m in the highest tax bracket of 25%, so that would save me $2,500. Now, I’m going to say this really slow so you can ‘catch’ this. You want me to pay the bank $10,000 so I can get back $2,500…right? I thought you said you have a college degree in finance?!”

Dave said this one man changed his life in regards to how he thought about money and debt.

[ NOTE: Go to http://www.daveramsey.com to read stories of many people that have used his “Total Money Makeover Plan” to pay off their mortgage. FYI: He is actually coming to Detroit on Saturday, 29 AUG 09 to the Compuware Arena in Plymouth, MI ].

Another thing that Dave says helped him ‘solidify’ his thinking about money and debt was the Bible. He grew up in a family that followed it for the moral teachings, but was never taught the things it said about money (Note: The Bible speaks more about money than it does about Heaven, hell, or prayer—so, I guess it must be pretty important to ‘get right’).

The Bible does say that money is just another ‘method’ of exchange, and is neither good nor bad (in the ‘Old Testament’ days, money wasn’t used much and people would simply barter for things). But the Bible says that the “LOVE OF MONEY is at the root of all kinds of evil” [1 Timothy 6:10].

Many scholars say that Solomon was the smartest (with the help of the Holy Spirit) and richest man (Trillions in today’s dollars) to ever have lived, so I’m thinking it would behoove me to find out what he said about money. He said, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income” [Ecclesiastes 5:10].

The “God-man,” Jesus, had this to say about money: “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well [Matthew 6:24-25, 31-33].

The above verses show a few biblical principles very clearly. First, it acknowledges that God is aware of our need for money—He fully understands we need money to survive—and secondly, it says that if you FIRST SEEK the kingdom of God, all of those ‘essential’ things (food, shelter, etc.) will be provided.

Later, Jesus also gave a stern warning saying, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” [Luke 12:15].

Concerning debt, since Solomon had ‘first-hand’ experience with this, he warned, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” [Proverbs 22:7].

Then, I think the apostle Paul, writing under the ‘influence’ of the Holy Spirit, summarizes what God thinks about the whole concept of ‘debt’: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” [Romans 13:8].

What I gather from all this is that it’s about ‘balance’ and the attitude of your ‘heart’—using the finances God has entrusted us at the time (which, of course, fluctuates during our lifetime), to provide our family with a ‘comfortable’ lifestyle (balance), and to have enough left over to give to God’s ‘work’, and some to put away for a ‘rainy day’ (so we don’t have to borrow it when the unexpected happens).

This ‘balanced’ approach will allow us to experience the joy and liberty that come through financial freedom.

Here are a few concepts of ‘balance’ that the Bible puts forward:
– Worldly goods are good, but they become bad when we ‘long inappropriately’ for them
– Worldly goods are to be enjoyed, but when we make it our ‘goal’ to enjoy them, they can destroy us
– God gives us worldly goods, but we cannot ‘devote’ our lives to acquiring them
– If we have worldly goods, the best thing we can do is to ‘share’ them with others
– If we don’t have worldly goods, we may expect to get them, but we must not ‘worry’ about getting them

The Bible does not condemn wealth—and gives many examples of ‘outstanding’ people that were wealthy—it just condemns the all-consuming desire that makes becoming wealthy your aim of life.

So, to try to be of help in all this, let me propose a “G.O.O.D” lifestyle (Get Out of Debt), and some thoughts on how to do it.

First off, here’s Dave Ramsey’s “7 Baby Steps”:

0 – Getting Started—Making A Decision To Change (I added this one)
1 – $1,000 to start an “Emergency Fund”
2 – Pay off all debt using the “Debt Snowball”
3 – 3 to 6 months of expenses in savings
4 – Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
5 – College funding for children
6 – Pay off home early
7 – Build wealth and give!

Here’s a Biblically-based ‘process’ to get out of debt proposed by the lead pastor, Brad Ball, at North Harrison Church in Gulfport, Mississippi:

1 – Determining that you are no longer going to ‘conform’ to what the world says you need to have. [Romans 12:2]
2 – Commit to not borrowing and repaying quickly what you currently owe. [Psalm 37:21]
3 – Start giving your first 10% to God, and start saving 10% for yourself. [Malachi 3:10]
4 – List all what you own outright, and all that you owe on. [Proverbs 24:3]
5 – Have a ‘garage’ sale, and sell all non-essentials. [Ezekiel 20:7]
6 – Set up a ‘strict’ budget plan, and don’t budge from it until all the debts are paid off. [Proverbs 21:5]
7 – Decide to do it in a certain amount of time—yes, it’s possible to do! [Luke 18:27]
8 – Be content with what you have [Hebrews 13:5]
9 – Share your plan with God—He will help you through this! [Proverbs 16:7]

With all this being said, even though getting out of ‘financial’ debt is really important, there’s one more ‘debt’ that is MORE IMPORTANT—that is the ‘DEBT’ or ‘BONDAGE’ to sin that we all were born with. This bondage will last an eternity if you don’t ‘TAKE CARE’ OF IT while you’re here on Earth. (“For the wages [debt] of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” [Romans 6:23] ).

The Good News is that there is a ‘solution’—that is, to accept Jesus’ sacrifice for your sins, and receive Him as your Savior. Yes, if you are truly ‘convinced’ about this, it’s just that easy! (“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that WHOSOEVER believes in Him, should not perish, but has everlasting life” [John 3:16] ).

You will then have a ‘helper’ to guide you through this life, and more importantly, you will be BONDAGE FREE—for eternity!!!

[Excerpts from: Steve Foss; Dave Ramsey; Brad Ball; RBC Ministries]

RESOURCES:

Dave Ramsey:
DaveRamsey.com
(Also: mytotalmoneymakeover.com)

Ron Blue:
RonBlue.com

(Also: Crown.org)
“The New Master Your Money Workbook”

Randy Alcorn:
“Money, Possessions and Eternity”
“Treasure Principle”

[Click this link to read about how you can have contentment in this life:
http://www.thesearchformeaning.net/sfm_pres/sp_q1_d1_1of10.html ]

Blessings…Mark

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v125) for JULY 2009
If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

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NATIONAL DEBT
“I am one of those who do not believe that a national debt is a national blessing, but rather a curse to a republic; inasmuch as it is calculated to raise around the administration a moneyed aristocracy dangerous to the liberties of the country.”
[President Andrew Jackson]

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“MARGIN”
A family doctor, and devout Christian, discovers that much of his patients’ pain is a direct result of the pressures of modern society and what he calls “possession overload.” Swenson not only diagnoses the disease, he shows how to treat it. This book deserves much more visibility than it has so far received.
[Richard Swenson]

(Note: I reviewed this book a few years ago—take a look at the posts “Overloaded Lives,” v73 and v74).

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“You know these are tough economic times. My hairline is in recession. My stomach is in inflation. My mind is in depression.”
[Rick Majerus]

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“AFFLUENZA” (PBS TV Documentary)

TEST YOUR CONSUMPTION QUOTIENT:
1. Which of the following is comparable to the size of a typical three-car garage?
a. a basketball court
b. a McDonald’s restaurant
c. an “RV” (recreational vehicle)
d. the average home in the 1950s.

Answer: d. Many of today’s three-car garages occupy 900 square feet, just about the average size of an entire home in the 1950s. Many people use the extra garage space to store things they own and seldom use. Often we hear that Americans have lost ground economically and have less purchasing power. But Americans are buying more luxurious items, partly by working more and going deeply into debt. The homes they live in and the cars they drive today are often bigger and more technologically advanced than those purchased by their parents.

2. The percentage of Americans calling themselves “very happy” reached its highest point in what year?
a. 1957
b. 1967
c. 1977
d. 1987
Answer: a. The number of “very happy” people peaked in 1957, and has remained fairly stable or declined ever since. Even though we consume twice as much as we did in the 1950s, people were just as happy when they had less.

3. How much of an average American’s lifetime will be spent (on average) watching television commercials?
a. 6 months
b. 3 months
c. 1 year
d. 1.5 years
Answer: c. In contrast, Americans on average spend only 40 minutes a week playing with their children, and members of working couples talk with one another on average only 12 minutes a day.

4. True or false? Americans carry $1 billion in personal debt, not including real estate and mortgages.
Answer: False. Americans carry $1 trillion in personal debt, approximately $4,000 for every man, woman and child, not including real estate and mortgages. On average, Americans save only 4 percent of their income, in contrast to the Japanese, who save an average of 16 percent.

5. Which activity did more Americans do in 1996?
a. graduate from college
b. declare bankruptcy
Answer: b. In 1996, more than 1 million Americans declared bankruptcy, three times as many as in 1986. Americans have more than 1 billion credit cards, and less than one-third of credit card holders pay off their balances each month.

6. In the industrialized world, where is the U.S. ranked in terms of its income equality between the rich and the poor? (First being the most income-equal.)
a. 1st
b. 5th
c. 12th
d. 22nd
Answer: d. The income disparity between the rich and the poor is greatest in the United States.

7. The world’s 358 billionaires together possess as much money as the poorest _____ of the world’s population?
a. 15 percent
b. 30 percent
c. 50 percent
d. 10 percent
Answer: c. Nearly 50 percent. The world’s 358 billionaires’ combined assets roughly equal the assets of the world’s poorest 2.5 billion people.

8. Since 1950, Americans alone have used more resources than
a. everyone who ever lived before them
b. the combined Third World populations
c. the Romans at the height of the Roman Empire
d. all of the above
Answer: All of the above. Since 1950, Americans alone have used more resources than everyone who ever lived before them. Each American individual uses up 20 tons of basic raw materials annually. Americans throw away 7 million cars a year, 2 million plastic bottles an hour and enough aluminum cans annually to make six thousand DC-10 airplanes.

9. Americans’ total yearly waste would fill a convoy of garbage trucks long enough to:
a. wrap around the Earth six times
b. reach half-way to the moon
c. connect the North and South Poles
d. build a bridge between North America and China
Answer: a. and b. Even though Americans comprise only five percent of the world’s population, in 1996 we used nearly a third of its resources and produced almost half of its hazardous waste. The average North American consumes five times as much as an average Mexican, 10 times as much as an average Chinese and 30 times as much as the average person in India.

10. Which president feared that untamed American capitalism might create a corrupt civilization?
a. Jimmy Carter
b. Ronald Reagan
c. Theodore Roosevelt
d. Abraham Lincoln
Answer: c. President Theodore Roosevelt feared that allowing American capitalism to develop unleashed would eventually create a corrupt civilization. He was a strong proponent of simple living.

11. Which economic indicator counts pollution three times as a sign of a growing economy?
a. the GDP (Gross Domestic Product)
b. the GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator)
Answer: a. The GDP counts pollution three times: first when it is made, second when it is cleaned up and third when health-care professionals treat pollution-related health problems. An organization called Redefining Progress developed an alternative economic progress measurement, the GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator). GPI takes into account 24 aspects of economic life that the standard GDP (Gross Domestic Product) ignores. The GPI adds value for such activities as housework and volunteerism, and subtracts for the costs of such problems as crime, car accidents and family breakdown.

12. Of the Americans who voluntarily cut back their consumption, what percent said (in 1995) that they are happier as a result?
a. 29 percent
b. 42 percent
c. 67 percent
d. 86 percent
Answer: d. Eighty-six percent of Americans who voluntarily cut back their consumption feel happier as a result. Only 9 percent said they were less happy. In 1996, 5 percent of the “baby boom” generation reported practicing a strong form of voluntary simplicity. By the year 2000, some predict this number will rise to 15 percent.
[PBS TV special–July, 1998]

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DIAGNOSE IF YOU HAVE “AFFLUENZA”
1. I’m willing to pay more for a t-shirt if it has a cool corporate logo on it.
2. I believe that if I buy the cocktail dress, the cocktail party will come.
3. I have a shoe collection Imelda Marcos would envy.
4. When I’m cold, I take my clothes off and turn up the heat.
5. I’m willing to work 40 years at a job I hate so I can buy lots of stuff.
6. When I’m feeling blue, I like to go shopping and treat myself.
7. I want a sports utility vehicle, although I rarely drive in conditions that warrant one.
8. I usually make just the minimum payment on my credit cards.
9. I believe that whoever dies with the most toys wins.
10. Most of the things my friends/family and I enjoy doing together are free.
11. I don’t measure my self-worth (or that of others) by what I own.
12. I know how to pinch a dollar until it screams.
13. I worry about the effects of advertising on children.
14. To get to work, I carpool, ride my bike or use public transportation.
15. I’d rather be shopping right now.

For questions 1-9 and 15, give yourself 2 points for true and 1 point for false.
For questions 10-14, give yourself 0 points for true and 2 points for false.
If you scored:
10-15 No dangerous signs of Affluenza at this time.

16-22 Warning: You have mild Affluenza.

23-30 Cut up your credit cards and call a doctor!
[PBS TV special–July, 1998]
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TIPS FOR ‘BEATING’ “AFFLUENZA”
1. Before you buy, ask yourself:_Do I need it? Do I want to dust (dry-clean or otherwise maintain) it? Could I borrow it from a friend, neighbor or family member? Is there anything I already own that I could substitute for it? Are the resources that went into it renewable, or non-renewable? How many hours will I have to work to pay for it? (Note: Before you do this, you may find it useful to figure your real hourly wage. Take your annual net income and subtract your work-related costs like clothing, transportation, childcare, parking and lunches out.
2. Avoid the mall. Go hiking or play ball with the kids instead.
3. Figure out what public transportation can save you (time, money for gas and parking, peace of mind).
4. Become an advertising critic. Don’t be sucked in by efforts to make you feel inadequate so you’ll buy more stuff you don’t need.
5. Volunteer for a school or community group.
6. Splurge consciously. A few luxuries can be delightful, and they don’t have to be expensive.
7. Stay in—have a potluck, play a game, bake bread, write a letter, cuddle a loved one.
8. Make a budget—know how much you are earning and spending. Each dollar represents precious time in your life that you worked. Are you spending money in ways that fulfill you?
9. Pretend the Joneses are the thriftiest, least wasteful people on the block. Then try to keep up with them.
10. For even more ideas, read the Bible (added by Mark Besh).
[PBS TV special–July, 1998]

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DEEP THOUGHT:
“Think what you do when you run into debt; you give another power over your liberty.”
[Benjamin Franklin]

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Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with!  Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“For the wages [debt] of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”  [Romans 6:23].

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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3 Responses to “Getting Out of Bondage [v125]”

  1. markbesh Says:

    capo Says:
    8 July 09 at 6:48 pm | Reply edit
    Mark, you’re on the right track. For those willing to take things to the next level enjoyment will will be found in these two items:

    1) The real reason the bankers and the media they control are egging on Christians to wage war on Muslim nations (Especially Pakistan)
    http://www.albalagh.net/Islamic_economics/riba_judgement.shtml

    2) A must read book for any Christian studying Biblical finance
    http://www.amazon.com/Usury-destroyer-nations-S-Mooney/dp/B00072B0E6

    Extra Credit:

    It’s not just debt, its the INTEREST on debt. Christians need to go back to seeing usury (taking interest on debt) for the sin that it is. That is the step Dave Ramsey has not yet been willing to take so far.

    Revisiting the parable of the Shrewd servant, which in today’s usury based world confuses most people, is particularly enlightening:

    What the embezzling servant/manger had done to curry favor was to write down the debtors contacts to their original principle amounts. That is, he took out the interest that was being charged (by either him or his master) to fellow Jews in defiance of Mosaic Law. The master calls his servant “shrewd” because the servant had put the master in the position of having no recourse for arguing before the rabbinical judges that the adjusted contracts should be set back to where they were.

    If the master did condone the charging of interest – stealing from other Jews – it would make sense that the servant would also be tempted to steal. For the master to call the servant “shrewd” could be seen as one flim-flam artist congratulating another on having got the better of him. That is, ultimately, each deceitful person was exposed by the other. The happy ending in a movie would be that both master and servant go on to be more honest in their future dealings with money and their fellow Jews.

    Note: Some try to claim that it was clearly the servant who was adding interest to the contracts rather than the master. This does not make as good sense though. For if the master was NOT guilty of the sin of usury (charging interest) he could have easily taken the servant before the rabbinical court and won compensation for the servant’s embezzlement. Hardly a shrewd move by the servant.

    The reason this parable is so important (and misunderstood) today is that we have an “entire” world economy that needs to revisit God’s teaching about not charging interest on loans. I say “entire” in quotes because unlike Christians who have fallen away from God’s teaching on money in the Bible, there are sill many Muslim Imam’s demanding adherence to the very clear bans on usury in the Qur’an.

    It could be argued that a major reason we have troops spread through several Muslim nations right now is that we are defending our interest-bearing, debt-based economic system against those who are still willing to call usury a sin.

    Using the Bible as the standard for judgement, our financial system really is the “great Satan.”

  2. markbesh Says:

    Capo,

    Yes, it was against Mosaic Law for Israelites to charge one another interest on credit extended (Deuteronomy 23:19), and as you said, many merchants got around this restriction by overcharging for goods and services, taking excess profits in lieu of interest. (You can see a current example in the auto business. The 0% financing you got on your car is really a loan whose interest is paid by the manufacturer out of the excess cost that is added to the price of vehicles specifically for the purpose of funding such incentives).

    Scholars believe that the manager had apparently dealt unfairly with the master’s debtors, tacking on excess profits in lieu of interest. From the story, there’s no indication the master either instigated or condoned any over charging—its discovery may even be one of the reasons for the manager’s sudden loss of position. Perhaps he was using these ‘add-ons’ to compensate for the losses of which he was being accused.

    If so, his efforts resemble those of today’s Orthodox Jews during the 10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur—frantically going around to right all the wrongs they’ve committed against others in the preceding 12 months. They’re ‘working’ to retain their place in the “Book of Life” before it’s closed for another year, simultaneously reconciling themselves to their friends and neighbors, while getting back into God’s “Good Graces.”

    Christians, on the other hand, don’t need to ‘work’ to get back into God’s good graces–by “accepting” Jesus, their names cannot be blotted out of the “Lamb’s Book of Life.” But, our willingness to ask forgiveness of someone we’ve wronged is more than an attempt at reconciliation—it’s an indication of the contrition in our hearts, a measure of our repentance for the sins we’ve committed.

    On another note, today we normally think of “shrewd” negatively, but the original Greek work, “phronimos,” means “wise, sensible, thoughtful,” and comes from the root word, “to think.” So, rather than having a negative connotation, like our English word might have, back in Jesus’ time, it actually had a positive connotation.

    Now, Jesus is not telling us that it’s okay to be deceitful—though He was saying that this manager recognized the ‘generosity’ of his master, and was ‘astute’ in planning his future by using someone else’s property to ‘invest’ in his future well-bring. Jesus was trying to drive home the point that if, even deceitful people can have enough sense to act in a wise and thoughtful way at times, certainly His disciples could learn a lesson and be wise and thoughtful as well when it comes to using God’s resources (the ones God gives you to ‘manage’) for good.

    This is significant. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. God can condemn you to eternal damnation—and it is ‘wise’ to seek a way out of that. In fact, the judgment of damnation is so terrible, that praise is offered to the one who, in desperation, seeks a way out of it.

    Now, concerning the financial aspect of this parable, Jesus is not telling us to be deceitful. He’s telling us to learn a lesson that even the world understands—that money can be used in a positive way at times, if we choose to use it that way. Imagine the shame of a Christian who ‘wastes’ the immense potential that wealth and material things have–the potential to impact others for good, and the potential to effect people in a positive way—for eternity!

    Mark

  3. markbesh Says:

    Mark, you’re on the right track. For those willing to take things to the next level enjoyment will will be found in these two items:

    1) The real reason the bankers and the media they control are egging on Christians to wage war on Muslim nations (Especially Pakistan)
    http://www.albalagh.net/Islamic_economics/riba_judgement.shtml

    2) A must read book for any Christian studying Biblical finance
    http://www.amazon.com/Usury-destroyer-nations-S-Mooney/dp/B00072B0E6

    Extra Credit:

    It’s not just debt, its the INTEREST on debt. Christians need to go back to seeing usury (taking interest on debt) for the sin that it is. That is the step Dave Ramsey has not yet been willing to take so far.

    Revisiting the parable of the Shrewd servant, which in today’s usury based world confuses most people, is particularly enlightening:

    What the embezzling servant/manger had done to curry favor was to write down the debtors contacts to their original principle amounts. That is, he took out the interest that was being charged (by either him or his master) to fellow Jews in defiance of Mosaic Law. The master calls his servant “shrewd” because the servant had put the master in the position of having no recourse for arguing before the rabbinical judges that the adjusted contracts should be set back to where they were.

    If the master did condone the charging of interest – stealing from other Jews – it would make sense that the servant would also be tempted to steal. For the master to call the servant “shrewd” could be seen as one flim-flam artist congratulating another on having got the better of him. That is, ultimately, each deceitful person was exposed by the other. The happy ending in a movie would be that both master and servant go on to be more honest in their future dealings with money and their fellow Jews.

    Note: Some try to claim that it was clearly the servant who was adding interest to the contracts rather than the master. This does not make as good sense though. For if the master was NOT guilty of the sin of usury (charging interest) he could have easily taken the servant before the rabbinical court and won compensation for the servant’s embezzlement. Hardly a shrewd move by the servant.

    The reason this parable is so important (and misunderstood) today is that we have an “entire” world economy that needs to revisit God’s teaching about not charging interest on loans. I say “entire” in quotes because unlike Christians who have fallen away from God’s teaching on money in the Bible, there are sill many Muslim Imam’s demanding adherence to the very clear bans on usury in the Qur’an.

    It could be argued that a major reason we have troops spread through several Muslim nations right now is that we are defending our interest-bearing, debt-based economic system against those who are still willing to call usury a sin.

    Using the Bible as the standard for judgement, our financial system really is the “great Satan.”

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