A Financial Education

coinNormally I wait to have more formulated thoughts for the blog but I felt like sharing some of what has been going on in me over the last few months. I have been learning a lot about money and what better time to share than at the tightest point in most peoples budget! Money is a strange topic perhaps for a student at a ministry school. What I am learning has really begun to challenge my thinking in several ways. It seems our school system does very little in helping us manage money. Perhaps this is part of the reason we have a society seemingly drowning in debt and struggling to pass on anything of value to the next generation. Recently it feels like I have been receiving a financial education. Only read on if you are prepared to have your thinking challenged!

Money and finances might seem like a strange topic for a ministry school, however Jesus had a lot to say on the topic! He talks on money in the gospels more times than we might consider comfortable. Money can be a really touchy subject, the mention of the word in church brings to the surface a lot of fear and uncertainty mixed with the memory of some horror stories of manipulation.

I have been learning through conversations with friends who have a passion for healthy finances, by taking a course about money at school and by reading the now famous book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert T. Kiyosaki. One of the key things I have learnt is that I need to be intentional about finances if I want money to work for me rather than working for it. This can sound like an unhelpful cliché until we realise that most of us spend the majority of our time trying to make money in order to do the things we want to do in the time remaining. I am convinced that our western society has an unhealthy approach to work. The first step is always facing up to the problem right?

As my world view on finances has been challenged I have discovered a number of strange view points I held that needed worked through. Somehow I had shortened 1 Timothy 6:10 in my head. I thought “money was the root of all kinds of evil” rather than “the love of money”. To me it felt like wealth should be avoided as it was dangerous and so many had failed before. This has some basis in history so was not completely irrational. However I had not thought through the consequences. By running from riches and glorifying poverty in the church we actually hand our power over freely. Money gives power, as much as we might not like to say it. As such money tends to exaggerate whatever is in a persons life. As wealth increases their heart and thought patterns are revealed for all to see. The goal is not to run from wealth or money but rather to learn to handle it in a godly way. Do we want the most powerful people on our planet to wield their wealth for good or evil?

The other thing I have realised is how easy it is to slip into a stereotypical Middle Class model of finances where we simply save for a while, then spend for a while, then save for a while and repeat. This approach generally results in no net gain. Very little thought goes into how we can increase our net worth. The desire for nice cars, houses and technology drives so many of our financial plans. You barely have one house before you are thinking how to “move up the property ladder”. Whatever pay rises we receive we immediately consume into our cost of living. If the desire for nice things doesn’t get us, the fear of not being able to provide grips us and ties us to jobs that we do not enjoy or makes us resent what we do. The love of money seems to display in these two main ways in our society. How often do we stop and work out where we are going?

You see the battle is in our thinking. The rich get richer whilst the poor get poorer. Studies show that when millionaires lose their fortune that it is not long before they amass a new fortune. This implies its not the money that makes them rich rather the way they approach money and think. Anyone who has witnessed first hand poverty in developing nations will recognise that in many cases financial aid is only part of the story. Whilst the topic is hugely complex education is definitely going to be part of any solution.

The idea of the rich getting richer makes most of us nervous and yet the bible is full of the concept. This really challenges my thinking! Those who steward well will be given more in the parable of the talents and in several other places:

“Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” Mark 4:25

In the midst of this learning I have uncovered a huge desire I have to provide abundantly for the next generation. To set my future kids up for success seems like it could be one of the greatest honours I could share in. Can you imagine the momentum created by successive generations taking this approach to life? It is not just about us here and now, it is about those we create a platform for.

My thinking continues to be challenged and I haven’t necessarily come to any strong conclusions but I have found the process invaluable. Doing without thinking is dangerous! There are a hundred other thoughts on the topic buzzing around my head but this is enough rambling for now! What do you think?

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