Crackerjack Greenback Prudent Advice for a Prosperous Future

January 1, 2009

Personal Finance in the Bible: Contentment and Giving

Filed under: Contentment,Giving,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 6:10 pm

Bible with Cross Shadow by knowhimonline on Flickr       This is just a quick update to let you know that I have added all the verses I’ve found on Contentment and Giving in the Bible. You can find them on the Personal Finance in the Bible page. Just scroll down and click on either category to see the sub-categories. Then click on any of those to see the list of verses along with my short summary. Click the Scripture reference if you’d like to read the verse (opens in a new window).

       I’ll be adding verses about Prudence next. (I might call it Wisdom instead.) So far, I found 81 Scripture references about Contentment, which contain 278 verses. I’ve found 99 Scripture references about Giving, which contain 282 verses. That brings us to 180 Scripture references containing a total of 560 verses about personal finance—and that’s only for Contentment and Giving! It’s obvious there’s a lot in the Bible about personal finance, which is why I feel strongly called to keep working on this and share it with other Christians. God must be trying to tell us to pay attention if advice and guidelines about personal finance are mentioned so much in the Bible. In fact, there’s a very good reason:

       13 “No servant 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.”
       14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.

Luke 16:13-15 (NIV)

December 28, 2008

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Part 8 of 12) – Practical Applications

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Last Sunday, we started talking about practical applications when we take on God’s View of the World, Money, and our lives. How should we act and what should we do when we take on God’s View and live out His will? We’re continuing that discussion today.

       Without God’s View, we tend to worry—a lot. Even after we begin to fully follow Him, we still worry. Why do we worry? Because we haven’t begun to rely on God and trust in His goodness. But in Luke 12:22-31, Jesus tells us not to worry about worldly cares:

Do Not Worry

       22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

       27 “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Luke 12:22-31 (NIV)

This passage is also found in Matthew 6:25-34.

Lily by Per Ola Wiberg (Powi) on Flickr       We can spend a lot of time worrying about the what-ifs in our life. What if I lose my job? What if I get a terminal illness? What if I can’t retire? What if I die? But do we help anything by fretting over these things that may never happen? Even if they do happen, is there anything we can do to stop them from happening? In truth, there’s little good that can come from worrying, so why do it?

       Instead of worrying about all possible future disasters, we should be focused on only one thing: seeking God’s kingdom. God knows what our needs are, and He will take care of us. Once we begin to rely on God and trust in His goodness, we can allow Him to provide the things we need. But until we let God change our hearts so we can fully trust Him, we will be so preoccupied with worry that we won’t be able to seek His kingdom and see His blessings in our lives.

       Does this mean we shouldn’t plan ahead for anything, or that we shouldn’t save for emergencies? Not at all. But it does mean that we shouldn’t be so worried about the cares of this life that we’re prevented from fully pursuing God’s kingdom. We should be so intently focused on serving God and serving others that our worldly needs rarely cross our minds.

       Once we fully trust in God’s providence, we can begin to see that we have nothing to fear in this life. There are no worries to concern ourselves with when we’re fully resting in the Father’s arms.

       5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
   “Never will I leave you;
   never will I forsake you.” 6 So we say with confidence,
   “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
   What can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NIV)

       God has promised that He will never leave or forsake us. He is always there to help us, and He always will be. We may not always understand how He’s working in our lives, and we may not see Him when He’s by our side. But He has promised that He will always take care of us. With a promise like that from the Creator of the entire universe, what do we really have to fear? What can we possibly worry about? God is in charge, and He’s taking care of everything for us.

       So how do we use this practically? Realize that once you fully submit yourself to God and His will for your life, He will take care of all your needs. Plan for what you know (like retirement and random emergencies). Take control of the things you can actually control (like your spending and attitude, not the economy or the government). And leave the rest to God. If you belong to God, what can happen to you in this life that can ruin you forever? Even death has no power, because once you die you’ll be with God for eternity. The presence of God is the only thing we need ever concern ourselves with in this life.

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

December 24, 2008

Personal Finance in the Bible: Proverbs 21:17

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

Bible with Cross Shadow by knowhimonline on Flickr       This week’s Personal Finance Bible Scripture comes from Proverbs 21:17.

     17 Those who love pleasure become poor;
     those who love wine and luxury will never be rich.

Proverbs 21:17 (NLT)

       Think the Bible doesn’t have relevant financial advice? Consider that verse one more time. Personal finance experts generally agree that avoiding hard work and buying things you can’t really afford will never lead to financial success. (And by afford I mean that you can still cover all your necessary expenses and save for all of your goals after purchasing your luxury item.) Even though this little bit of wisdom seems like it should be common sense, God wanted to emphasize it in Proverbs as well. I’m guessing it must be pretty important! 😉

       It’s not that God doesn’t want us to have any enjoyment in this life. You really have to look closer at what that verse says. If you love pleasure and luxury, you’re probably not putting God first in your life. As I’ve discussed many times before, God wants your heart and if your heart belongs to something else then you can’t serve Him. It’s fine to enjoy the good things in life, but make sure you have a wise (God’s) definition of the “good” things in life and make sure you put God above all else. That’s the only way you can truly be rich.

December 21, 2008

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Part 7 of 12) – Practical Applications

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Last Sunday, we finished looking at God’s View of the World, Money, and our lives so we can start to focus on serving Him instead of serving Money. Today we’re going to start talking about practical applications. How should we act and what should we do when we take on God’s View and live out His will?

       The scripture today comes from Luke 6:20-38, and we’ll be looking at it in three parts. The first part we’ll look at is Luke 6:20-26:

The Beatitudes

   20 Looking at his disciples, he said:
   “Blessed are you who are poor,
   for yours is the kingdom of God.
   21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
   for you will be satisfied.
   Blessed are you who weep now,
   for you will laugh.
   22 Blessed are you when men hate you,
   when they exclude you and insult you
   and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

   23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
   24 “But woe to you who are rich,
   for you have already received your comfort.
   25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
   for you will go hungry.
   Woe to you who laugh now,
   for you will mourn and weep.
   26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
   for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.

Luke 6:20-26 (NIV)

       God doesn’t want us worried about our situation in this life. Even if we’re poor, hungry, and hated by men, we have an eternal reward in Heaven. Once we start keeping that in the front of our minds, we can see that we really are blessed, apart from our outward condition, and we are to be envied among men. Wealth and happiness in this life are only temporary rewards. If we focus on having those things in this life instead of being true to God, then we’ll have already received our reward.

       So what’s the practical application here? Stop worrying about your wealth, pantry, and reputation as men view those things, and instead focus on being rich in good works, full of God’s Word, and true to God’s will.

       The next part we’ll look at is from Luke 6:27-36:

Love for Enemies

       27 “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

       32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:27-36 (NIV)

       While this section has very little to do with personal finance (apart from giving), it does show us just how different our lives will be if we take on God’s View of the World, Money, and our lives. Jesus is telling us here that instead of being focused on wealth and plenty in this life we should live out these few instructions. I think Jesus is showing us that contentment acted out in life ends up focused more on doing good and showing love than earning money and gaining wealth. I’ll let you contemplate how this applies to your own life, but it’s a good example of what actions and thoughts should replace our desire and efforts for wealth.

       Finally, we’ll look at Luke 6:37-38:

Judging Others

       37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Luke 6:37-38 (NIV)

       Jesus tells us we’ll be greatly rewarded if we follow His teaching. Many take this to mean material rewards (a.k.a. the Prosperity Gospel), but I’m fairly certain Jesus is speaking in terms of spiritual and eternal rewards. If we are truly content and focused on God’s ways, are we going to care about being greatly rewarded in this life? Not at all—we’ll realize we already have a great reward in Heaven with Jesus. But think of the great reward we could have in this life if everyone took Jesus’ teaching to heart and lived it out. Can you imagine the peace, calm, and happiness we would all have if this happened? Now that would be a great blessing indeed!

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

December 17, 2008

Personal Finance in the Bible: 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 8:00 pm

Bible with Cross Shadow by knowhimonline on Flickr       This week’s Personal Finance Bible Scripture comes from 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

       17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NLT)

       I’ve lived my entire life in America, and I haven’t visited another country yet. But I know how amazingly blessed I am to have been born in a country where prosperity abounds. Even the poor in America are richer than most people in the rest of the world, yet we generally take our wealth for granted and tend to trust in it too much.

       Are you a Christian living in America (or a wealthy or prosperous Christian in any country)? I encourage you to meditate on this verse for the next week. How is God speaking to you through His Word? Do you trust in money more than God? Do you truly believe God provides everything you need? Where are you storing your treasures?

       Let’s try to make sure we don’t get so caught up in the riches of this world that we miss out on true life.

December 14, 2008

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Part 6 of 12) – Getting God’s View

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Last Sunday, we continued looking at God’s View of the World, Money, and our lives so we can start to focus on serving Him instead of serving Money. We’re finishing that discussion today, and we’ll start talking about practical applications next Sunday.

       In David’s prayer to God after the Israelites’ freewill offering for the building of the temple, we see an excellent example of God’s View of the World, Money, and our lives:

David’s Prayer

10 David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,
       “Praise be to you, O LORD,
       God of our father Israel,
       from everlasting to everlasting.

       11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power
       and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
       for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
       Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom;
       you are exalted as head over all.

       12 Wealth and honor come from you;
       you are the ruler of all things.
       In your hands are strength and power
       to exalt and give strength to all.

       13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
       and praise your glorious name.

       14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. 15 We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. 16 O LORD our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. 18 O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.

1 Chronicles 29:10-18 (NIV)

       David recognizes the awesome power of God. God is the ruler of all things, creator of all things, owner of all things, and giver of all things. We are truly nothing in comparison to all of God’s glory. Our very few days on Earth (when compared to God’s eternity) are but a shadow. We must remember that we have not created all we have—it all comes from God.

       The second part of David’s prayer has some especially good points to keep in mind in our giving. First, everything we have comes from God, so when we give we’re really only giving what is already God’s. Second, we must give willingly and honestly to truly bring joy to God. He doesn’t want our Money for the sake of having our money. A willing offering is a sign of complete loyalty to God—it shows that our heart belongs to God and not Money.

       If a willing and honest desire to give back to God in thanks for His goodness, mercy, and glory is not in your heart, pray that God will help change your heart and focus your mind on His ways. If you already have a willing and honest desire to give, pray that God will keep that desire in your heart forever and that He will keep your heart loyal to Him.

       To view everything as belonging to God, to view contentment as the ultimate path to wealth, and to give God all praise and glory are ideas that go against our human nature and the ways of society. It may be difficult to take on God’s View and live it out because it will seem like foolishness to many people. But consider what Jesus said in Matthew 16:26:

       26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

Matthew 16:26 (NIV)

This passage is also found in Luke 9:25.

       What good will millions of dollars do for you if you lose your soul in the process? How much will you care about having a nice car and a nice home if it means you have severed your relationship with Christ? Is there anything in this world that’s really worth eternal separation from God?

       It’s so easy to let Things creep into our lives and put up a barrier between us and Jesus. Sometimes it happens without our realizing it. But we have to remember that nothing is worth more than our life in Christ. When the Things of this World seem to start taking precedence over your faith, step back for a moment and consider: Is it worth it?

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

December 7, 2008

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Part 5 of 12) – Getting God’s View

Filed under: Contentment,Personal Finance Bible Study,Personal Finance in the Bible — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Last Sunday, we began looking at God’s View of the World, Money, and our lives so we can start to focus on serving Him instead of serving Money. We’re continuing that discussion today, and we’ll finish it up next Sunday. Then it’s on to practical applications.

       In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus teaches us that we should focus on storing up treasures in heaven rather than on earth:

       19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

This passage is also found in Luke 12:33-34.

       Jesus makes two main points here:

  1. Earthly treasures are only temporary. The wealth of this world provides no eternal security and very little security in this life. It is easily stolen, lost, or otherwise destroyed. On the other hand, heavenly treasures last forever.
  2. Whatever we treasure will control our heart. If we hold the riches of the World in high regard, our hearts will be focused on serving Money. If we value God’s Word more than the World’s riches, we’ll be able to truly serve God and experience His blessing. God will have the only thing He needs to work through us—our hearts.

What's in your treasure chest? (Treasure chest by markleggett on Flickr)       God’s View of storing up treasure is so different from ours. Instead of worrying about the value of our 401(k) plans and savings accounts, Jesus would rather have us thinking about how many people we’ve shown love to in the past 24 hours—and how we can share His love with even more people tomorrow. Instead of looking at things in terms of the past few months or over our lifetimes, we need to start viewing everything in light of eternity. It’s the only way we can really get God’s View.

       If we let the Things of this World come in and take over our lives and our hearts, Jesus tells us very plainly what will happen. In Mark 4:18-19, He explains the parable of the sower:

       18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Mark 4:18-19 (NIV)

This passage is also found in Matthew 13:22 and Luke 8:14.

Thorn bush by Elsie esq. on Flickr       As Christians, we often discuss bearing the good fruit that comes from having the Spirit within us. But look at what Jesus says. If we let the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things come into our lives and take over our hearts, we will be unfruitful.

       Getting caught up in the things the world reveres—wealth and all its trappings—chokes God’s power in us and keeps us from doing His Will. To fully serve God, we have to view everything in terms of eternity and reject the World’s view of money and meaning. Once we do this, we can break free of the thorns in our lives and flourish in God’s glory.

Want to read the entire Bible study series on Contentment? Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

December 5, 2008

Cable/Satellite TV Subscriptions Actually Cost Nearly $64,000!

Filed under: Budgeting,Consumerism,Contentment,Frugality,Saving Money,Spending,The Basics — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       Think it sounds ridiculous? Bear with me and I’ll explain how I came up with that number. This obviously isn’t the exact cost for every single person, but it probably isn’t far off. I didn’t include the cost of electricity, purchasing and replacing your television, or the cost of lost opportunities due to the hours wasted watching television. I’m also basing the cost on the amount I pay for satellite TV. Your actual costs may be higher or lower.

The Assumptions

       I assumed a cost of $40/month for the subscription. This is the cost of my basic satellite TV subscription. There’s a good chance most people pay more than this, so my estimate is probably conservative.

       I assumed you started your subscription at age 22 (when most people are out on their own) and you keep it until you die at age 80.

       I assumed an inflation rate of 3.8% and an investment rate of return of 8% (very reasonable over a 59 year time period).

The Results

Television by dailyinvention on Flickr       If you decide to give up your cable or satellite TV subscription and instead invest the money, you’d have over $577,000 at age 80. If we adjust for inflation, that $577,000 would be about $63,900 in today’s dollars (e.g., what costs you $63,900 today will cost you $577,000 in 59 years because of inflation).

       By age 65, you’d have an extra $177,700 because you gave up that cable/satellite TV subscription. This is the same as $34,300 in today’s dollars. That could mean retiring a year earlier! (depending on your income needs in retirement)

What About the Cost of Purchasing a TV?

       If you’re 22 and you decide to save $100 instead of purchasing a TV set, you’ll have an extra $2,955 by age 65—or $570 in today’s dollars. (While the price tag says $100, it’s really costing you $570 because you could have invested that $100.)

       If you save $500, that’s an extra $14,780 by age 65—over $2,850 in today’s dollars.

       If you save $1,000, you’ll have an extra $29,550 by age 65—more than $5,725 in today’s dollars! (That $1,000 big screen TV is really costing you $5,725.)

       And we haven’t even figured in the cost of lost opportunities because you watched so many episodes of Lost…

The $64,000 Question

       If Dish Network, DirectTV, or Comcast told you that subscribing to their service would really cost you $64,000, would you do it? Even with the first month free, I just don’t see how it’s worth it. 😉

       Add in the cost of purchasing a TV (and replacement TVs), the higher medical bills because you sat on your butt so much, and the other reasons you should stop watching TV and you’ll soon find that it’s just not worth it.

TV;        If you’re struggling to get by, TV should be one of the first things you cut. It’s a drain on your finances (a $64,000 drain!), wastes your time, and can get in the way of quality family time. Your time is better spent finding ways to increase your income, cut your expenses, and enjoy your life the way you want (instead of the way the TV tells you to enjoy it).

Disclaimer and Other Stuff

       Even though I know how much television costs, I have not given it up completely. However, I do watch a lot less than I used to and I’m amazed at how much more I can accomplish! Now I tend to only watch a couple shows on Discovery Channel. (I’m a science geek at heart.) I’ll watch in social situations as well, but overall I probably watch less than a couple hours a week on average.

       Not all TV is bad. Like I said, I like to watch Discovery Channel. Educational shows can be a good way to get some entertainment while expanding your mind at the same time. But most TV shows are an absolute waste of time—end of story.

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