Money · Wisdom

A Matter of Money

For fourteen years, I looked away when I saw something I wanted, but didn’t need.

This wasn’t some extreme, religious practice to deny myself. Rather, it was something I have learned to practice early on in my adult life; something I realized very quickly would be the key to having enough: Contentment.

This morning I scrolled through google news (I really need to stop, ya know!) only to find that half of the articles were about – you guessed it – MONEY.

Our Government extending the CERB benefit.

Capitalism – should it be demolished?

The Current Debt of our Country.

Superstore Ending the $2/hr pay increase as COVID-19 risk subsides.

Home owners forced to sell their homes because they couldn’t pay their mortgages.

And you know what I find extremely funny? The comments! You would think from the statements that were made that the Canada we live in is a 3rd world country where people are starving and have no opportunity to work! And that homelessness is just a step away for the average person.

“Debt or not, people NEED this money! Just increase taxes on the rich!” was one comment I read.

“Have you ever tried to live off of a minimum wage income? IMPOSSIBLE!” another commenter stated.

“Company owners should NEVER make more than their employees, they’re the ones who actually do the WORK!” said another.

Now before I say another word about these comments, let me tell you my story.

I grew up in a sheltered, “bible belt” area in Manitoba, Canada. I was raised in a middle class, mennonite family who worked hard and spent wisely. But I made my own choices, and around the age of 17, I found myself pregnant, working at a minimum wage job (Dairy Queen) at the beginning of my grade 12 year. 

In my opinion, when one finds themselves a pregnant teen with no husband, she has two options: Selfishness or Selflessness. Basically I needed to decide: am I going to continue to make choices for myself and what’s best for me? Or will I think of my child and what’s best for him?

Long story short, I chose to think of the baby.

I married my boyfriend (A wise decision in my particular case because he is a GOOD, hardworking man… I’m aware that often this wouldn’t be the best route!) I quit high school one credit short so that I could work full time and get mat-leave. I chose to surround myself with wise people, leaving my party friends behind. And I looked the other way when I saw things that I couldn’t afford.

This became my path:

A 70s trailer with mice (and rats), instead of a brand new condo or home.

Hand-me down outfits and self-help wardrobes.

Second hand furniture. If it was free, even better. 

My “beauty” care was called soap and deodorant.

No cell phone. One vehicle (a used, $3,000 jeep… not a brand new lease!!)

No internet. And definitely no daily “Timmies”.

None of what my “millennial” generation deems essential.

And yet, these same people, who deem minimum wages “impossible”, don’t realize that it’s VERY possible.

START LOW. Period.

DON’T SPEND WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE.

You can not start off life like your “rich” or “middle-class” parents ended theirs!

Really!

They took their whole lives to get to the place where you ended off. Don’t assume that’s where you can start.

Slowly, as my husbands work experience grew, our one wage grew. My mat-leave ran out. His raise almost covered it. I took a correspondence course and graduated with no celebrations. No parties. Just a mailed in diploma. Very anti-climatic. But SO worth it!

I then stayed home and realized how much I could “earn” by NOT working: I shopped for deals, made meals from scratch, started a garden, made cakes to sell and babysat for a bit of extra cash. There were no daycare costs, no “take-out” bill because I was too busy to cook, no second cell phone bill, no high gas bill because I drove almost nowhere. And I calculated that our savings in doing this was almost as much we would’ve made if I went back to work.

I guess the point of my story – the point of me sharing, is to say that the Western Entitlement attitude HAS to stop, or our country will bankrupt itself.

Down the road, my husband got to go to a nine month college course. He got a much better paying job and later, had an incredible opportunity to buy into a small rural internet company. For a year, he was the only employee and worked day and night to keep the company growing. In time, he hired two more employees. They DID make less money than him, but they also never had to deal with angry customers, late night service support, or canceled events or outings because of emergency outages.

And speaking as a previous business owner, I have to say that many, many of them deserve ten times the pay their employees make.

You. Have. No. IDEA!

It sucks to own a company. I can’t speak for huge companies, but I watched my husband’s life basically drain out of him for the three years he worked to build up his small business. And when he got the chance to sell and become an employee again – you bet – he ran at the chance! Even when it meant losing some of the “benefits”.

So please, please people. Do not think that business owners are undeserving of a bigger check.

They’ve earned it. 

And to top it off, far too many Canadians, don’t even want to go back to work! They simply want to have a share in what they have not rightfully earned. Our government is paying able-bodied people money to stay home and watch Netflix! Why ever would they want to look for a job?

As the debates continue, I just cling to the hope that wisdom will prevail. Someone has to pay for the government handouts. Either our generation or the many future ones to come. Equality doesn’t mean everyone gets the same amount of cash. Equality means equal opportunities for everyone to get it.

This means that if you are unwilling to start low, your bank account will never grow. If you don’t put in the work to get an education, you will never be able to get a higher paying job. If you are a lazy employee, you don’t deserve the promotion that your colleague got. If you think you deserve a $90,000 a year salary, benefits, and the ability to choose your own hours, you better get your head checked, because it AIN’T gonna be handed to you! Those who are there, either worked hard to get there or their parents did.

Equal opportunities. Not equal “stuff.” And we do have equal opportunities for education, healthcare, jobs and life in Canada. But it does come at a cost: Hard work.

It was the hard work of previous generations who made our country what it was. Let’s not throw that away.

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You Have Hoarded Wealth in the Last Days

Yesterday I wrote a blog post to address the wrongful attitude of judging the way others spend their money, titled: Is Starvation the Churches Fault. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d strongly suggest that you go back and read it first as I feel it is so important to have a balanced view on this issue.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I also had to acknowledge another sobering side to the topic of wealth: greed and hoarding.

I think one of the first times my eyes were opened to the difference between a hoarder and a giver was watching the Walt Disney version of “A Christmas Carol”. It is a story of a greedy business man, named Ebenezer Scrooge, who is radically changed one night when visited by three “spirits” (the original story was written by Charles Dickens). It was truly haunting to see the ghost of his former business partner in chains because of his greed.

Scrooge was greedy! He turned away the poor, he under payed his worker and he continued to stack up his wealth, counting it over and over again.

“Come now, you who are rich, weep and wail for the misery to come upon you. Your riches have rotted and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and consume your flesh like fire. You have hoarded treasure in the last days. Look, the wages you withheld from the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in the day of slaughter…” James 5:1-5

I remember when this verse became very real for me. A few years ago, I had a bin full of clothes that my kids had grown out of. I knew we would never need them again and I knew of someone in need that I could share them with. Yet a part of me wanted to make back some of the money I had spent on them, so I picked out the cheaper ones and put them in a bag to give to this lady. The rest of the nicer, more expensive clothes were put neatly away to be kept until spring when I could sell them. I patted myself on the back for I felt I had done a generous thing!

The next spring came, and when I opened the bin every single piece of clothing was ruined. Some how moisture had gotten into the rubbermaid container and they all had black spots of mold all over them. I couldn’t wash it out. They were ruined and I ended up throwing them away. Later, I read this verse in my devotions:

“Your riches have rotted and moths have eaten your clothes.”

I was cut to the heart! God had wanted me to give up these clothes and instead I had hoarded my wealth and it there it was, in the garbage testifying against me.

When God gives wealth, he expects us to share it. Period.

If I see my neighbour shovelling and I go and snow blow my own yard without offering to do his as well, I am hoarding a gift he has given me. If I can’t have people over to my new house for fear of them damaging it, then I am selfishly keeping to myself what God has given me to share! If I stock up my fridge and cupboards full of so much food that some goes bad and I have to throw it out, yet refuse to donate to the food bank in the grocery store line, my wealth WILL testify against me. If I can’t borrow out my cake decorating set, or my tools, or my clothes for fear of them being lost and stolen, I am no longer showing God thankfulness for what he is giving me. I am hoarding it. And I will be accountable to him for the way I’ve lived my live.

God gives wealth so we can share it, not so that we can live comfortably.

There are many rich Christains who have been a shining example to me of what it looks like to be a wealthy follower of Christ. But sadly, there are many, many more who are hoarding their wealth, making millions while their employees are barely scraping by, who would never even consider welcoming a stranger into their home, who are loading up their bank accounts for retirement while forgetting about the hundreds of thousands who will never live to be 65, because they will die of starvation before then. This is my warning to you:

Your wealth WILL testify against you, please, hold it with open hands.

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Is Starvation the Churches Fault?

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I saw this exact picture posted on Facebook by one of my Christian friends. And many other Christian friends “liked” it. I’m not going to address the particular church pictured in the photograph. Nor am I today going to write about what more the church should be doing about starvation and poverty. That’s a huge world issue (and also church issue) that has to be discussed on a totally different level. But today I simply had to address something that many people seem to believe:

Wealth = An Unspiritual Person.

It feels so spiritual to believe this, since often people who have great wealth become corrupt. They can become proud and arrogant. They can have anything they want! And giving up things for God can feel so righteous! And indeed it is righteous and good to give, even sacrifically at times!

I think of many heroes of the faith and they all had this in common: they were unbelievably generous people. George Muller, David Livingstone, Gladys Aylward and many, many others lived incredibly generous and poor lives, yet they blessed hundreds if not thousands of people. Even present day examples like Francis Chan truly encourage us to be willing to give it all up for God. He is worthy of all we can give!

And when we read about these amazing stories, we sometimes feel even more convinced that our riches will testify against us.

Let’s look at some of the scriptures that are often quoted to back up this belief:

“Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.” James 5:3

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:25

So many people understandably come to the conclusion that followers of Jesus should not be rich. After all didn’t Jesus once tell a rich man to sell all his possessions and then turn and follow him? We must all, therefore be called to do the same…right?

Actually the belief that it is wrong to be wealthy is so unbiblical and founded in judgement, pride and self-righteousness, that I would say that it’s actually just as wrong and deceptive as the prosperity gospel which teaches that all Christians will be rich, happy and healthy. Neither are biblically accurate. Neither are correct.

” For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” 1 Timothy 6:10

The LOVE of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Money itself isn’t evil. Because if wealth equals sin, then what on earth are we to do with all the wealthy righteous people listed in the bible? How about the rich man, Joseph, who lovingly buried Jesus? Or Abraham who had riches, servants and livestock that outnumbered many of the kings in his day? Then we have Job, an unbelievably wealthy man in his time…yet God said that there was no one else in his day as righteous as him. Or King David. Or King Solomon (who also build a temple for God, made with gold!) And guess what…there were starving people back then too.

Yet somehow that “waste of money” seemed to please God.

Remember the story of the disciples judging Mary for “wasting” her perfume on Jesus’ feet? They ironically used the same argument, in the same way as the one above. I mean, just pouring out a years worth of wages, surely God wouldn’t approve of that waste!

“But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was going to betray Him, asked, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor…” John 12:5

And here I say the same to you! Church, wake up! This “meme” was not made because of a person who actually cared about the poor! It was not made out of compassion! If it was about compassion it wouldn’t leave you shaking your head at “Those Rich Religious Christians” rather it would turn your attention to the poor! It would challenge you to look into your own heart and wallet to see if you could possibly sacrifice more to help!

But it didn’t accomplish that, did it? It was made for one purpose: To judge the way those “hypocrites” spend their money! And how DARE they make a fancy building to worship in?!?

If we really cared about where our money is going, why not post pictures like this:

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Or this:

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Or this:

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Or this:

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Each year $25.4 billion is spent by Americans on professional sports.

Last year, people spent $24.62 billion US dollars at McDonalds, with a total $117 billion  spent on fast food all together.

$65 billion dollars was spent on soft drinks.

$18 billion was spent on credit card late fees in America.

$70 billion dollars was spent on lottery tickets in the year 2014 according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries.

$90 billion dollars a year is spent on alcohol in the U.S. alone.

Americans spend $80 billion on cigarettes  per year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And here’s the deal, The annual estimated cost to end world hunger is $30 billion dollars.

Let that sink in for a moment.

That means if everyone in the U.S. would quit drinking alcohol for one year and drink water instead, we could end world hunger for three years.

But still, it’s so much easier to blame it on the church isn’t it?

Friends, I tell you, self righteously pointing at the way some spend their money, while wasting your own will never end world hunger and it will never end starvation. And I’m not writing these statistics to say that going to a NHL hockey game is wrong. Neither am I claiming that every Mega Church is spending their money right. But if we’re going to start picking out specks in our brother’s eye, we better make sure we are ready to take out the log in our own!

Money isn’t evil. The LOVE of it is. And having a big house, fancy clothes, a new car or even a big church doesn’t mean you are full of sin and greed anymore than having a small rental house, a rusty car, and a small church means you are free from sin or even that you’re spending wisely.

IT’s so so SO easy to look at others and say: “Well, if they can buy a car like THAT, they are obviously living for self!” Yet unknown to you, that person may be giving 90% of their money away and living off the rest. And you aren’t giving a dime to charity.

Please don’t post memes like this. It isn’t helping world hunger. Instead find a way rework your budget, have a yard sale, or organize a fundraiser to really help the cause.

Generosity pleases God. It’s a trait of a true follower of Christ. And if God’s asking you to sell your big house and move into a trailer: OBEY HIM. Bless you for being obedient, God will reward you!

But realize that God may call the next person to keep their home so that they can use it to offer the homeless a place to sleep, or to foster children, or to let their elderly mother move in so they can help care for her.

If you don’t have wealth, consider it a blessing, for much wealth brings many troubles. If you have wealth, consider it a gift, hold it loosely, and give generously, for what God has given you he can certainly take away.

And always remember that it isn’t about what you do or do not have, it’s the heart that God sees.