Crackerjack Greenback Prudent Advice for a Prosperous Future

February 10, 2009

A Guide to Wet Shaving (at Scordo.com)

Filed under: Frugality,Random Stuff — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 2:24 pm

Sharp! by John Griffiths on Flickr       Vince over at Scordo.com posted a great article today about wet shaving. I researched wet shaving over a year ago and started off with just a badger hair shaving brush and quality shaving cream. Boy, did it make a difference in my shaves! I highly recommend men consider wet shaving.

       The initial cost of the equipment is higher than buying some disposable razors and a can of shaving cream, but in the long run it’s more cost effective and gives you higher quality shaves. The tubs of shaving cream I get cost about $13, but they last about 3-4 months! Not to mention the cost of replacing razor blades is much cheaper (~$0.50/blade for high quality blades) than buying more Mach3 cartridges (~$2/cartridge?). Wet shaving can be a good frugal choice if you don’t skimp on equipment that will last and take the time to learn how to shave properly.

February 8, 2009

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Free Ebook!)

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

       As promised in my post last Sunday summarizing the Contentment Bible study, here is your free Ebook to download and share with anyone you like. In addition, I’ve added all the Bible verses on contentment that I’ve been able to find. It’s 52 pages, including the title page and table of contents. I even added some questions for reflection. You’re definitely getting your money’s worth here, folks! Click the picture of the Ebook to download the PDF file. Let me know what you think in the comments!!!

Contentment Is Wealth

February 7, 2009

Frugal Tip: Beware When Buying in Bulk!

Filed under: Frugality,Saving Money,Spending — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 1:33 pm

Fresh tomato sauce by merci on Flickr       I stopped by the grocery store today while I was in town. I needed to pick up some milk and a few other things. I wanted to get some more tomato sauce to keep my supply well-stocked since I just used some in a recipe for Beef Curry a week ago.

       I generally go straight for the generic brand (Shurfine in this area), but there were a couple sales on the bigger cans of tomato sauce. The sale wasn’t on a well-known name brand, but it wasn’t a store or generic brand either. This 29 ounce can of tomato sauce was “on sale” for $1.50. The generic brand (Shurfine) 29 ounce can was $1.19. Not much of a sale if you ask me.

       I was about to grab the big can of generic brand tomato sauce when I saw the smaller cans on the shelf above. These cans were 15 ounces and they cost $0.59 each. Quick math tells you the small cans are a better deal. I can get two small cans (30 ounces) for a total of $1.18, or I can get one big can (29 ounces) for $1.19. So I can choose to pay 3.9¢/ounce or 4.1¢/ounce for the same product. Which size do you think I bought?

       Now, it might not seem like a big deal, and in this case it wasn’t really. But if you watch for this kind of thing over the course of your entire grocery trip, you can save quite a bit of money. Do it every time you shop for groceries and you can significantly reduce your food bill for the year.

       So don’t grab the bigger can, carton, bag, or box because you think it’s a better value. Check the numbers first. It really doesn’t take long if you have a calculator (and most of us do if we carry a cell phone). And don’t automatically grab the smaller size either. It can pay to buy in bulk and store what you don’t need. Just make sure it really is a good deal before you throw it in your cart.

Frugal Tip: Check the price per unit to decide between buying in bulk or buying a smaller size.

       To find the price per unit, divide the total price by the total number of units for the item you’re considering. In the case above, I divided 118¢ by 30 ounces to get 3.9¢/ounce on the smaller cans. Remember: total price / total units = price per unit

February 6, 2009

How to Start a Corporation in Pennsylvania

Filed under: Earning,Starting a Business — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 4:00 am

       In January 2009, I incorporated Crackerjack Greenback. I’m now Chairman of the Board, President, Secretary, Chief Financial Officer, and owner of my very own corporation. And I incorporated for a total cost of $260! How did I do it? Through research and a couple helpful websites, I was able to find all the information I needed to incorporate without the help of a lawyer or paid incorporation service.

       This guide is a review of the steps I took to incorporate in Pennsylvania. This guide is primarily for people who want to do business in Pennsylvania and want to incorporate in Pennsylvania as well, though most states have a similar process. (You don’t have to incorporate in the state you do business in.) While it is not a replacement for specific advice from an attorney and an accountant, it should familiarize you with the process of incorporation and prepare you for the steps you’ll need to take. I incorporated on my own, but I have a pretty good understanding of accounting, taxes, and business law. You may or may not wish to do everything on your own. Regardless of what you choose, I am not responsible for what you do with the following information. This information is not to be taken as legal advice.

       The most helpful website I found for starting a corporation in Pennsylvania came from the Citizen Media Law Project. Their page about forming a corporation in Pennsylvania is quite extensive. However, I’m reviewing the steps I took for my benefit and yours. I’m also linking to a better source of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. (The links they use at Citizen Media Law Project are slow and difficult to navigate.)

1. Choose the Business Name

       When you choose a name for your business, you need to consider two aspects. First, you have the marketing aspect. Does your business name describe your product or service effectively and help you achieve your marketing goals? Entrepreneur.com has a good article about how to name your business which covers the marketing aspect and some of the legal aspects.

       From a legal aspect, you need to make sure that your business name meets the following requirements:

  • Meets State Law Requirements – In Pennsylvania, a corporation’s name must contain the word “corporation,” “company,” “incorporated” or “limited,” an abbreviation of any of these words, or words or abbreviations of like import in languages other than English. There are also some limitations on which words your corporate name can contain. You can find all of those limitations in 15 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1303.
  • The Name Is Available – You can check to see if the name is being used by another corporation in Pennsylvania using the Corporation Search from the Department of State. Your name must be distinguishable from other corporate names according to the guidelines outlined here. The Department of State also has additional information regarding name availability.
  • Does Not Violate Federal or State Trademarks – Read up a little on trademark law. Then you’ll want to search for trademarks that others may have registered. You can search for federal trademarks using TESS, the federal trademark database. Click “Search” under “Get a Trademark Registration…” to access TESS. Pennsylvania does not have an online database of registered trademarks. To check for trademarks in Pennsylvania, you’ll have to call the Department of State at (717) 787-1057.

       You may want to register a trademark for your business name. You can find out more information in Citizen Media Law Project’s article about registering trademarks. If you’re going through the trouble of registering a trademark for your business, you might as well register federally with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. I didn’t do this for my business. There is some common law protection for unregistered trademarks, but it can be prudent to register your trademarks.

2. Recruit a Director or Directors for the Corporation

       Pennsylvania requires all corporations to have at least one director. Directors must be 18 (eighteen) years old, but they do not need to be residents of Pennsylvania or shareholders in the corporation. You can set requirements for directors in your corporate bylaws, but they are not necessary. When you write the corporate bylaws (in a later step), you should state how many directors the corporation will have. If you don’t state how many directors you will have, Pennsylvania law requires 3 (three) directors. You can be the director of your corporation and hold all the offices for the corporation. I chose to be the director of my corporation.

3. File the Articles of Incorporation

       In Pennsylvania, you can file your articles of incorporation online through the Online Business Registration Interview (OBRI). Most of the application process is self-explanatory, but here are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Most corporations will be “for profit” “stock” corporations. If you’re creating a different kind of corporation, this guide will not cover everything you may need to know.
  • When choosing how many shares you will authorize, 1500 is a good number because it is easily divisible by 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, and 25.
  • If you choose to publicly trade your stock, you will need to meet additional requirements that are not covered here. For a small business run by a single owner, you do not need to publicly trade your stock.
  • During the registration process, you are asked if the corporation will be an S corporation. There are some advantages to making your corporation an S corporation. You can read more than you’ll ever want to know about S corporations with a simple Google search. It’s relatively easy to elect S corporation status if you meet the requirements, and an S corporation is taxed similar to partnerships. That means the corporation doesn’t pay income taxes. It all flows through to the shareholders. I elected S corporation status for Crackerjack Greenback, Inc.
  • As long as your corporation will not do business under any name than its legal name, you do not need to file a fictitious business name registration.
  • You do not need a commercial registered office provider unless you do not have a physical location or mailing address in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
  • You can register for taxes and some licenses in OBRI as well. You’ll need to sign up for at least the Employer Withholding Tax, Unemployment Compensation, and Workers’ Compensation. Even as an officer of the corporation, you will be considered an employee and you’ll have to pay employer withholding taxes and unemployment compensation taxes. However, there is an exception for Workers’ Compensation for those employees who are officers and shareholders of the corporation. You’ll need to call the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation at (717) 783-5421 and request forms LIBC-509 and LIBC-513. You may need to sign up for additional taxes and licenses, and this is where an accountant or attorney may be able to help you. This guide does not cover every possible situation.
  • The fee for filing your articles of incorporation is $125.

4. File a Docketing Statement

       After you file your articles of incorporation, you’ll want to send in a Docketing Statement. It’s a very simple, one-page form. You should send it in to the Corporation Bureau. Their contact information is at the bottom of this page. Once your application has been received and approved, you’ll receive an official acceptance letter from the Department of State. However, your corporation’s existence begins when you file the articles of incorporation—not when the Department of State accepts them.

5. Fulfill the Advertising Requirement

       Your next step is to fulfill the advertising requirement. You are required to publish notice of incorporation in two newspapers of “general circulation”, one of which should be a legal journal if possible. This just means you need to publish in your closest major newspaper and the legal journal for your region. Your notice must simply state the name of the corporation and the fact that you have incorporated or will incorporate under the laws of Pennsylvania. Here’s my example:

Notice is hereby given that: Crackerjack Greenback, Inc. has been incorporated under the provisions of the Pennsylvania Business Corporation Law of 1988.

       Since I’m in Lancaster County, I published in the Lancaster newspaper through their website. You’ll want to publish in the legal notices section of the classifieds. The Pennsylvania Department of State has a geographical listing of legal publications with contact information for legal journals. It cost me about $30 to publish in the local newspaper and $78 to publish in the legal journal for Lancaster County.

       You don’t need to send in proof of publication to the Department of State. Just make sure you file it away with your corporate documents. I created a folder to hold all my important corporate documents: articles of incorporation, corporate bylaws, meeting minutes, corporate resolutions, and other important papers.

6. Write the Corporate Bylaws

       There are no requirements for your corporate bylaws, but they’ll typically cover things like: existence and responsibilities of corporate offices (the officers), size of the board of directors and how they’re elected, length of term for a director, how and when board and shareholder meetings are held, who may call the meetings, and how the board of directors will function. The Citizen Media Law Project has more information about corporate bylaws.

       To save you some time, I’m going to share the corporate bylaws for Crackerjack Greenback, Inc. with you. These may not include all of the bylaws you’ll want for your corporation, but they’re a good start. I’ve also highlighted all of the sections you may want to change to fit your needs. I’ve listed four corporate offices in my bylaws: Chairman, President, Secretary, and Chief Financial Officer (or Treasurer). The names don’t matter very much, but the duties of the offices must be completed by someone. See 15 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1732 for more information. Click the link to download a copy of Crackerjack Greenback, Inc.’s Corporate Bylaws in Microsoft Word Document format.

7. Purchase a Corporate Seal

       Many documents will require the Corporate Seal to prove that the board of directors has officially adopted, signed, or otherwise recognized the document as binding to the corporation. You can purchase a Corporate Seal online quite easily for about $30. I purchased a self-inking stamp for about $27 after adding shipping and handling. Your corporate seal must have your corporation’s full legal name, the year of its incorporation, and the words “Corporate Seal” and “Pennsylvania”. You’ll need it to officially adopt your meeting minutes and issue stock certificates in the steps below.

8. Hold the Organization Meeting

       The first official meeting for your corporation will be the organization meeting. This meeting allows the incorporators or initial directors (if named in the articles of incorporation) to adopt the corporate bylaws, elect directors if they are not listed in the articles of incorporation, and handle any other business necessary. You must keep formal meeting minutes to prove that this meeting actually occurred and that the corporation is being run correctly. Failure to do so could dissolve your corporate status in a future lawsuit.

       Pennsylvania law requires that the incorporator who calls the organization meeting notify all other incorporators in writing at least 5 days prior to the meeting. However, there is a provision in the law for any corporate meeting that allows the attendees to sign a written waiver of notice to get around this formality. I’m including here a copy of the minutes of the organization meeting for Crackerjack Greenback, Inc. which has a written waiver of notice included. You’ll want to read through it carefully to understand the minimum that should happen at your organization meeting and to determine if you’ll need to conduct additional business. Click the link to download a copy of the Minutes of the Organization Meeting of the Incorporators of Crackerjack Greenback, Inc. in Microsoft Word Document format.

9. Hold the First Meeting of the Board of Directors

       Immediately after you have held the organization meeting and have elected the directors, the directors may hold their first meeting. If you’re the only director, feel free to meet with yourself. Just keep the arguments to a minimum. During the first meeting of the board of directors, you’ll approve the minutes of the organization meeting, elect corporate officers, adopt a stock certificate form, adopt your corporate seal, give the corporate officers the power to open a bank account, and authorize the issuance of stock certificates.

       Again, I’ll offer you the meeting minutes, stock certificate forms, and bank resolution I used for Crackerjack Greenback, Inc. First, the Minutes of the First Meeting of the Board of Directors for Crackerjack Greenback, Inc. in Microsoft Word Document Format. Next, a blank stock certificate in Adobe PDF format that meets the requirements of 15 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1528. Finally, a sample bank resolution in Microsoft Word Document format authorizing the officers to open a bank account for the corporation.

       The price you issue your stock certificates for will depend on how much initial capital you need to have in your corporation. You can always contribute more and increase the shareholder’s capital contributions account, but if you don’t understand that concept you’ll want to hire an accountant. Make sure you fill out the stock certificate correctly by filling in the shareholder’s name and address, the number of shares, the full legal name of the corporation, and the date. Have the President of the corporation sign the certificate and affix the corporate seal. The Secretary of the corporation should then record this information in the corporate stock ledger including the date the shares were issued, the shareholder’s name and address, the price per share, and the total number of shares. You may also want to track the shareholder’s Social Security number, especially if you’ll be electing S corporation status (you’ll need all shareholders’ Social Security numbers).

10. Request a Federal EIN for the Corporation

       You can do this easily via the IRS online application. There is no fee and you can print your confirmation letter after you complete the application. The IRS will let you know which tax forms you will need to file and when. If you need help with the tax and accounting side of things, hire an accountant.

11. Take Care of Employee Hiring Paperwork

       Any time you hire an employee, there are certain steps you must take to gather information about them. Corporate officers are considered employees of the corporation. The IRS requires that you complete a Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility) and a Form W-4 (Withholding Certificate) for each employee. You don’t need to file these with the IRS, but you should keep them with your other records.

       Each state has new hire reporting requirements to enforce child support orders. Here is Pennsylvania’s New Hire Reporting website. You’ll need to report all employees (including corporate officers).

12. Open a Bank Account for the Corporation

       You should keep all of the corporations finances separate from your own. The best way to do this is to open a separate bank account for the corporation. You’ll most likely need your Federal EIN, a copy of your articles of incorporation, and either your own or the bank’s version of a corporate resolution. If your business is small and won’t involve a lot of financial transactions each month, you may want to look into a free business checking account. Just about every major bank offers a free business checking account, and your local bank may offer one as well. Check around to find one that suits your needs.

S Corporation Election

       If you’ve decided that becoming an S corporation is right for you, you’ll just need to fill out Form 2553 and send it in to the IRS. If you’re going to elect S corporation status, you should do it within 2 months and 15 days after filing your articles of incorporation in Pennsylvania. Federal S Corporations are automatically considered S corporations in Pennsylvania, so you’ll need to let the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue know if you don’t want to be taxed as an S corporation in Pennsylvania. Once you receive confirmation from the IRS for your S corporation election, send a copy to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue to notify them. You should send notification to:

PA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE
BUREAU OF CORPORATION TAXES
PA S UNIT
PO BOX 280705
HARRISBURG PA 17128-0705

       If you don’t understand the accounting and tax requirements for an S corporation, hire an accountant.

Ongoing Maintenance of the Corporation

       You should continue to hold the board of directors meetings and annual shareholders’ meetings as outlined in the corporate bylaws. Additionally, Pennsylvania law requires that certain records be kept at the corporation’s place of business. See 15 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1508 for a list of the required documents. These documents must be made available to any shareholder who wishes to examine them.

Final Thoughts

       If you’re starting a simple one-person corporation, you can probably follow these steps and do just fine. However, if your situation is more complicated in any way you may want to hire an attorney. If you don’t understand the accounting and tax requirements of running a corporation, then strongly consider hiring an accountant to help you. It’s not worth going through all the trouble of incorporating if you’re going to neglect the requirements you need to meet to maintain the corporate veil of limited liability.

       I hope you found this guide helpful. If you have any suggestions or additional notes, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

February 5, 2009

Review: Getting Things Done by David Allen

Filed under: Reviews — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 11:36 am

       I recently finished reading Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. I have seen a lot about the Getting Things Done (GTD) system on many websites, so I wanted to read the book and see what it’s all about.

       I figured I’d write up a review when I was finished. Why review a book about productivity on a personal finance website? Because productivity—getting things done—is basically how we earn money. In general, if you can get more work accomplished, you’ll make more money. That’s not to say you should be a workaholic, but it helps if you can complete your work with accuracy and efficiency without getting stressed.

       While I was reading the book, I ran across a review by G.E. Miller at 20 Something Finance. In his review of Getting Things Done, G.E. covers everything you really need to know from the book. (Except he does it in a few paragraphs, whereas David Allen took 257 pages to do it.) G.E. also reflects many of my sentiments about the book, but I’ll add a couple of my thoughts here. Check out his review if you want a sense of what the GTD system is all about. There’s no sense in me writing it up again!

More Fluff Than the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man

       One of the things that bothered me about the book is that David Allen takes five hundred words to say what he could with five words. Getting Things Done is loaded with way too much fluff that doesn’t really add much to the ideas it contains. Save yourself the time and read G.E. Miller’s review of Getting Things Done.

Corporate Jargon Plague

       Part of the fluff is Allen’s extensive use of corporate jargon. If phrases like “multilevel outcome management”, “positive organizational culture”, or “outcome visioning” don’t get you all excited, you’re probably not going to enjoy reading the book much. Again, just about any online review of the book will give you all you need to know with minimum corporate jargon.

It’s Just Common Sense

       Most of the GTD “system” is just plain common sense. I have a natural tendency to be organized, so maybe that’s why it seems like common sense to me. If you have no concept of organization, maybe the book will help you. But just about every technique I read in the book was something I already do. Making lists, tracking appointments, and having a weekly review are not revolutionary ideas. Though the faithful adherents in the GTD movement would like you to think so.

Save Your Time and Actually Get Things Done

       I don’t recommend buying the book or even borrowing it from your library. Check out G.E. Miller’s review or any other review you’ll find online, and save yourself the time of reading the whole book. The only good thing I can say about the book is that it helped me refocus on my own system at a time when I was feeling a little lost (since I’m no longer in a 9-to-5 environment).

February 1, 2009

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Summary)

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

       This post is a short summary of the Personal Finance Bible Study on Contentment. It contains links to all the articles in this Bible study. You can also read about Bible verses on Contentment here.

The World’s Message

       The World’s Message
       The Problem with the World’s Message
       The Solution to the Problem

       In the first three parts of this Bible study on Contentment, we looked at the World’s message. “If we get more of the stuff the World has to offer, we’ll be happy and satisfied.” We then looked at the problem with the World’s message—it keeps us from serving God, and it has no eternal reward. Finally, we looked at the solution to this problem—giving God our hearts and allowing Jesus to fully live through us.

Getting God’s View

       Getting God’s View (Part 1)
       Getting God’s View (Part 2)
       Getting God’s View (Part 3)

       In the next three parts, we looked at God’s View of the world, money, and our lives so we can focus on serving Him instead of serving Money. First, our focus on the Things of This World keeps us from seeing the importance of love and relationships. This keeps us from fully serving God. Second, we must focus on storing up treasures in heaven rather than on Earth because that will show whether our hearts belong to God or Money. If we let the concerns of this life take priority over the concerns of eternal life, we will be unfruitful. Finally, we learned that everything belongs to God. And even though these ideas go against our human nature, it’s not worth gaining the whole world (being rich) if we end up losing our souls.

Practical Applications

       Practical Applications (Part 1)
       Practical Applications (Part 2)
       Practical Applications (Part 3)
       Practical Applications (Part 4)

       The next four sections are about the practical applications of God’s View and Contentment in our lives. First, we looked at we should focus on God instead of being worried about our Earthly lives. This means we’re more worried about doing good and showing love than earning money and gaining wealth. We also learned that if we follow Jesus’ teaching we will receive a great reward (though probably not monetary). Second, we learned that we don’t have to be concerned about our needs because God has promised to always be with us. Third, we looked at how we should react in all circumstances and the importance of asking God for our daily bread—just enough. Finally, we learned that we shouldn’t wear ourselves out trying to get rich. And if we are rich, we should be very generous and doing good so that we don’t trust in Money but in God alone.

The Results

       The Results (Part 1)
       The Results (Part 2)

       In the last two sections, we looked at the results of God’s Contentment in our lives. First, we learned that we will delight God, really enjoy life, and always have God as our strong tower—our protector. Then, we learned that God’s Contentment will teach us the secret to happiness in all circumstances and will bring us greater wealth than we can imagine.

Free E-book

       By next Sunday, I hope to compile all of these lessons into a free e-book for anyone to download. I’d like to add some discussion questions, but that may have to wait until I can get some feedback from other people. Nonetheless, I’ll at least have the lessons put together into an Adobe Acrobat PDF file by next Sunday. Come back then to download your free copy! Then feel free to share it with family, friends, church members, and any other fellow Christians.

Update: The Ebook is now available. Download your free copy of Contentment Is Wealth: A Bible Study on Contentment now!

January 29, 2009

Thoughts on Planning a Wedding: Staying Organized and Registering for Wedding Gifts

Filed under: Marriage — Paul Williams @ Crackerjack Greenback @ 3:02 pm

       I’m knee-deep in wedding planning right now, but I thought I’d share some thoughts on things my fiancée and I have found useful.

Staying Organized

       I’ve found The Knot to be very useful for keeping track of to-dos, the guest list, the budget, and deposit and payment tracker. It has some other great features we’ll be using as time goes on including the gift log and thank you note tracker and the seating charts. Plus, it tells you how many days until the wedding. 🙂 Best of all, it’s free! (Of course, they try to steer you to using their resources and referrals so they’ll get paid. There’s also a bit of advertising, but that’s normal for free online stuff.)

       Michelle, my fiancée, started a notebook to keep track of brochures and dresses and things like that. The notebook she put together works quite well. But when we registered for some wedding gifts at JCPenney, we got a free organizer notebook. We both think it’s very well done, and I’d highly recommend it if you don’t want to make your own. You just have to register for 15 items to get the free organizer, but we struggled to find even that many. We didn’t really see much that we liked at JCPenney, so we won’t be asking people to go there.

Registering for Wedding Gifts

       Although our trip to JCPenney didn’t go well, we did find tons of stuff we liked at Target. At Target, the prices were better, we found most everything we wanted, and we got two free smoothies and a free chocolate bar! 🙂 If you don’t find something in the store, you can check to see if it’s available online and add it to your registry there.

       The last thought I have is on kitchen gear. Michelle and I both enjoy cooking, but we both hate clutter. We wanted to minimize the number of single-use or nearly useless gadgets on our registry so we will have plenty of space in the kitchen. I’m a big fan of Alton Brown and his cooking philosophy, so we picked up a copy of Alton Brown’s Gear For Your Kitchen. You won’t get specific brand-name recommendations (though he does offer some ideas), but you’ll learn which items are the most useful and which are more specific. You won’t need everything he recommends, and you might want some things he doesn’t point out. But the book is very good if you’re looking to minimize how much kitchen equipment you have while ensuring you’ll have the things you need for most recipes.

       That’s it for now. If I think of any more useful ideas, I’ll let you know!

January 25, 2009

Personal Finance Bible Study: Contentment (Part 12 of 12) – The Results

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 the results of following God’s teaching on contentment. How will contentment benefit you, and what kind of effects will it have on your life? We’ll finish that discussion today.

       Paul speaks about contentment in two specific ways that clearly show the results of being content. First, he talks of facing every situation with contentment. Second, he discusses how contentment brings great gain and saves us from many sorrows.

The Secret to Happiness

       In Philippians 4:10-14, Paul thanks the church at Philipi for the gifts they gave him. He explains that he’s not trying to get them to give more, since he has never been in need because he’s learned to be content in any situation through God’s strength. But he thanks them just the same.

       10 How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.

Philippians 4:10-14 (NLT)

       These verses highlight the striking difference between God’s kind of contentment and the world’s kind of contentment. We generally view contentment and happiness as something we get after some certain requirements are met.

When I get that new car, I’ll be happy.

When I get promoted and start making more money, I’ll be set.

When I can move to a nicer neighborhood, then I’ll be content.

When I retire, life will really start to get better.

       From the world’s perspective, contentment is almost always something that comes in the future. But the contentment God wants to give us is for the past, present, and future. It’s not for just the good times but the bad also. God’s contentment brings us happiness and peace in any situation. The world’s contentment only happens when everything’s turning up roses.

       How is it possible that we can learn to be content in any and every situation that comes our way? How can we possibly be content if we have to drive a beat up, old car to a dead-end job just so we can pay the rent on our drafty apartment? And that’s where we make our first mistake. We don’t have to do anything. God has already handled it all for us.

       All we really have to do is realize two simple things. First, there is nothing worthwhile that the world can offer us when compared to the blessings God has already given us. We have eternal life in Christ. What does it matter if we’re not wearing Armani suits and driving BMWs while we’re here on Earth? Second, Christ will give us the strength we need to make it through any situation we encounter—we are not alone in our struggles. We can be happy in every circumstance because God is with us and our standing in this life does not matter in our eternal life.

Contentment Is Wealth

       The next passage I want to look at is 1 Timothy 6:3-16. Paul is speaking to Timothy here, giving him instructions on how to lead a godly life and teach others the way as well.

       3 Some people may contradict our teaching, but these are the wholesome teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. These teachings promote a godly life. 4 Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. 5 These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy.

       6 Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

       9 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

       11 But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. 13 And I charge you before God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good testimony before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you obey this command without wavering. Then no one can find fault with you from now until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. 15 For at just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. 16 He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! Amen.

1 Timothy 6:3-16 (NLT)

       This is a clear message against the “Prosperity Gospel” that’s so prevalent today and was apparently widespread in the time of the early Church as well. So many people see God as a means to get rich in this life by preying on others, and they preach that God will bless us with material wealth if we’ll just call in right now and give them some money for “God’s work”. Others preach that God will bless us abundantly if we give more money to our church, or that we can’t really receive God’s full blessing unless we’re giving a full tithe (ten percent) to our church.

       But you see, God is not so much concerned about whether we’re blessed in our earthly life. He wants to see us blessed in our eternal life. God has already blessed us abundantly by giving us His Son so that we can live with Him in Heaven. How much money we have or how comfortable we are here on Earth matters very little when we bring eternity into the picture.

       And God has abolished these rules of “you do this, and I’ll give you that”. For those who are living in Jesus Christ, there is no law saying we must give 10% of our income to the church. We try to impose rules and laws for God and end up missing the entire point. When Christ came and taught the Jews, he spoke with authority about the laws of Moses. What did He teach? That God doesn’t just want us to meet some minimums and go home from church thinking we’re good to go for the next week. No, when Jesus taught about the laws he told us to do much more than the laws tell us to do. We’re supposed to go above and beyond the expectations we think we’re supposed to meet. So while I’m in no way against giving generously to your church or the needy, I am 100% against teaching Christians that the tithe is a requirement they must all meet. But we’ll look at this more when we discuss giving.

       We also see here the famously misquoted scripture about money being the root of all kinds of evil. People often leave out the “kinds of” part, thus changing the meaning dramatically. Money in and of itself is not evil—it is just a thing, a tool to be used. But the love of money takes our focus off God and leads us into all kinds of evil things. Again, it comes back to whether or not our hearts belong to God. If our hearts belong to God, we will serve and glorify Him in all things. If they belong to money, we will never be able to please God and will always be led astray. Paul tells Timothy, and all Christians, to run from all these evil things and not let the love of money take over our lives.

       I’ve gotten sidetracked a bit, but those were important points. What this passage means for the results of contentment lies in verses six through ten. Godliness is not a means to financial gain, but true godliness with God’s contentment provides us with great wealth. First, we receive spiritual wealth because contentment allows us to remain focused on God and ignore worldly materialism.

       Second, we receive great material wealth through contentment because we’ll “need” less. When we are content and need less “stuff”, we don’t need to be as rich or make as much money to be happy. That is to say, we don’t have to be as focused on making money or building wealth if we can be happy living on $25,000/year versus $50,000 or $75,000/year. Once we learn to be content in any situation through God’s strength, what used to seem like so little becomes great wealth because we just don’t need as much. Despite what numerous websites and scammers may claim, the best way to get rich quick is to be content.

       The point is this: contentment and godliness together give us great gain because we will be blessed spiritually by being more focused on God and materially because we’ll just “need” less of the world’s “stuff”. Though it’s strange to hear and difficult to believe (from a worldly perspective), learning to be content with whatever situation you’re in by relying on God can make you richer than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined.

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

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