First, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is the one credited with giving us the “Fiscal Cliff” title. We need to understand that this supposed fiscal cliff really isn't a cliff, but a potential financial collapse that could lead us back into a major recession. Many believe America will proceed over that proverbial cliff if Congress and our president do not intervene before the end of 2012. The Bush era tax cuts along with the payroll tax cuts that were afforded to many Americans will be reinstituted beginning January 1 sending the markets into a downward spiral, or so it is thought.
Second, what adds to the possibility of a physical cliff is the enormous debt that we carry as a country. America is quickly approaching $17 trillion in debt, most of which is held by foreign countries, and in particular China. The Scriptures have much to say concerning money and debt. Note Proverbs 22:7 “the rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender slave.”
Third, when we couple the first and second points above with a new entitlement program known as the Affordable Care Act, (Obama Care), which will require new spending with funds we do not have, the outcome is fairly predictable. America is bankrupt yet lives in denial. The Congressional budget office, a nonpartisan group for the U.S. Congress recently stated our country will fall into recession if all these changes are allowed to proceed. Many analysts believe temporary measures may be instituted but will only delay the inevitable.
I’ll be the first to say that I’m no expert when it comes to financial matters, but the Bible has much to say about money. I remember when I was younger looking at my father and grandfather and thinking that each generation did a little better than the one before it, I no longer believe that’s the norm. As Christians we have fallen into the same traps financially as those outside the church find themselves in today. The typical American home is simply a microcosm of what is taking place in our own government. We have major spending issues based in selfishness.
In the next few paragraphs I would like to share with you what I believe are three problem areas we have not only as Americans but as human beings. And then I would like to share with you three principles based upon Scripture that every Christian should follow as we prepare for possible financial difficulties.
The first problem area we have is based in ignorance, note Proverbs 22:3, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” The word “prudent” means shrewd while “simple” carries the meaning of being untaught or naïve. Most of us are simply ignorant when it comes to financial matters and what the Bible teaches. As a pastor I've been guilty in the past of not being a better teacher to the congregations I've served by not spending more time providing financial instruction based upon the Scriptures.
The second problem area we have deals with our indulgent nature, read Matthew 6:24 and 1 Timothy 6:10 concerning the love of money. The “love of money” spoken of in these passages simply means to “covet”, and is a form of idolatry. Clearly one of the points Christ Jesus makes is that we worship what we serve. In America we put a great deal of emphasis on obtaining wealth, while other matters of importance are placed on the back burner. It isn’t a sin to be wealthy. I personally believe that God has blessed some with great prosperity in order to be a blessing to others and bring glory to Himself. But when wealth is our main focus it reveals the true nature of our heart.
The third problem area that many of us have is that we are poor planners. Note Proverbs 24:27, “Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house.” All too often we see what we want but rarely count the cost, we live in an impulsive society. Many of us lack self-control not only when it comes to our finances but many areas in our lives. As I've shared with others the philosophy of some can be summed up with this saying, “I want what I want when I want, and I want it now.”
Obviously if we’re going to prepare ourselves and our churches for possible financial difficulties ahead we need to correct the three problem areas listed above. We also need to put the following three biblical principles into practice.
One, as Christians we should view our financial affairs as a spiritual matter. The monies that we have should be viewed as belonging to God. We are simply his stewards and have been entrusted to use the finances we have wisely ultimately for God’s benefit and glory.
Two, as Christians we should also have a reasonable expectation of accountability concerning our finances. Husbands and wives are to operate as a team holding each other accountable. Church leaders are to be accountable to God and the congregations we serve. There should be no secrets and no waste when it comes to God’s finances.
Three, we need to identify our weaknesses when it comes to our financial responsibilities, and honestly deal with personal issues concerning the mismanagement of our monies. One of the major causes for divorce in America involves the differences husbands and wives have in regards to personal finances. Often times this requires the help of financial counselors and other experienced Christians that we can trust to help put us on the right track.
These principles are based upon the teachings of Christ found in Luke 19:11– 21. Again I’m not a financial expert but I know some that are, and many are more than willing to help just for the asking. I encourage you to study the word of God concerning your finances, and ask help from those who have the experience to help.