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Learning Lessons from Losing $4.5 Billion

Originally posted at Christian Post June 24, 2016.

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can AskChuck your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

Dear Chuck, 

I have been fascinated by the news stories about the embattled founder of the medical testing company Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes, who lost $4.5 billion – BILLION – and it is really hard to understand how someone can go from the top of Forbes richest people list to the bottom. Is there Biblical advice on how to avoid that kind of rise and fall? I have a business that I operate and I want to avoid that kind of disaster.

Working Hard for the Money

 

Dear Working, 

Thank you for the question. I’ve been fascinated by the story as well, which has all the drama of a Greek tragedy, and some lessons for those who want to create their own “unicorns” – an industry term for start up companies valued at over a billion dollars. Perhaps the whole tragedy could have been averted if a little more of Biblically recommended caution had been applied by those who first heard about the venture. 

As Christians we are urged to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16). Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes told the world that she has built a better medical mousetrap – claiming she could revolutionize the world of blood testing, which impacts many people. But according to pending lawsuits, words and deeds did not match up. Blind faith is never a good thing in investing.

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Are Your Thoughts Ever Preoccupied with Money?

Chuck Bentley on 6/23/16 8:00 AM

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People who think about money often are usually in one of two groups: those that have very little and are in constant need or those that have a lot and are in constat preoccupation with using it and preserving it.  Both sides, the rich and the needy have a similar problem: they have lost their contentment.  It is my view that God wants each of us to have enough. And enough in my books is defined by having the amount of money necessary that you don’t have to think about money anymore. Let me explain. 

If you are needy, you won’t quit thinking about money until your financial needs are met. If you are rich, you won’t quit thinking about money until your heart's needs are met.  Interestingly, both of those needs are met by an increase in trust in God. The needy must trust God to provide through hard work and careful stewardship, and the wealthy must trust God to release them from worry and stress through careful stewardship. 

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Are You a Financial Prodigal?

Christians know the beautiful Parable of the Prodigal Son as a heart-rending story that demonstrates the radical love and grace of God. Yet, most of us fail to see that the story is replete with valuable lessons from the financial mistakes made by this prodigal. 

In Luke 15, Jesus begins the parable by introducing a man with two sons. The younger one made a demand to his father. “Father, give me my share of the estate.”  The brazen young man was essentially communicating to his dad that he preferred money over a relationship with his father. Now before we move on, I hear this often in the circles of those spewing out the false doctrines of the prosperity gospel, the health and wealth crowd. If you are a parent, how would you feel if your child demanded of you, “Give me my stuff! I don’t care about you, I just want the stuff!” This is the prosperity gospel, and it is an affront to God, the giver of all blessings, when we demand the bread but want nothing to do with the Baker!

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Is identity theft insurance a good idea?

Chuck Bentley on 6/21/16 8:00 AM

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We hear lots of folks pushing the latest insurance product – identity theft protection insurance. Yes, the Federal Trade Commission reports that identity theft has been the #1 consumer complaint for 14 straight years, so there is reason to believe this may be very helpful coverage to buy. But not so fast.  As they say, the devil is in the details. 

According to an article in the US News and World Report, some policies may not be worth the cost of the insurance.

“The National Association of Insurance Commissioners says the typical cost of identity theft insurance ranges from $25 to $60 per year.  That’s not bad. The insurance may include credit alerts, account and credit monitoring, and reimbursement for the costs associated with repairing your credit history if you become a victim.

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Are you worried about your student getting a college education that never leads to a job?

Chuck Bentley on 6/20/16 8:00 AM

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I believe today’s graduates are on the verge of suffering through another economic bubble poised to burst – a college debt bubble. Too many graduates will owe more for their education than they can afford to pay back. According to the Wall Street Journal, 2016 college graduates broke the debt record, leaving college today with an average debt of $37,172.  With so many graduates burdened by debt, it’s important to make a plan ensuring their investment pays off.

I believe parents and students need to seek experienced counsel before going into debt. Proverbs 15:22 notes, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”

Get Counsel on Your Best Skills. We are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” by a loving God who intended us to accomplish His purposes on this earth. Crown has developed Career Direct as an assessment tool to understand a person’s unique gifts and talents, the true foundation of a career. Getting wise career counseling before and during college will make a significant difference in costs and the long-term return on your investment.

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Does God Really Require Fathers to be the Breadwinner?

Originally posted at Christian Post June 17, 2016.

Dear Chuck,

As we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, it seems to me that today’s dads are under pressure of all kinds as well as having to endure being the butt of the joke too much of time. Father may not always know best, but Hollywood makes dads appear weak, stupid and clueless. What kind of leadership does God require of husbands and fathers? And does God require men to be the primary breadwinners, bringing home more than their wives? My wife and I both work, and I’m not sure how God sees that.

Duel Income Dad


Dear Dad,

Your question raises a common confusion: the distinction between leader and provider, and how God instructs men on both. God the Father – the image that we are given in scripture for the highest and best leader of all – provides us with a template for understanding what is expected of men … and what is not. In the Bible, God lays out a chain of command, which does not subjugate, but rather organizes how people work together, and at the foundation of the structure is sacrificial love by the leader who is held to the highest standard.

When it comes to organizing leadership, 1 Corinthians 11:3 puts it like this, “But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” In this outline, we see God detailing who is accountable for whom in relationship. God, out of love for the world, sent His Son to die for us. He made a plan to care for all of us. He asks the most of Himself. The husband is told to lay his life down for his wife and family as well, following God’s example. Accountability does not equal tyranny, but rather describes a sacrificial relationship.

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You are not a millionaire. Here’s why…

I hope my statement caught your attention.  You are not a millionaire unless you have a net worth of one million dollars or more. Okay, we all get that. But let’s say that you actually have a net worth in excess of one million dollars. Now are you a millionaire?  Uh, not if you are a Christian. 

Far too often, money is used as a source of our identity. This is especially true for those who are apart from Christ.  But in Christ, our identity is not derived from anything external. We are children of God, servants, ambassadors, citizens of heaven, fools for Christ and stewards of the Master and Creator of the Universe. Why would we want to be known for something as temporal as our financial condition?  Now listen carefully: You may have lots of money, or you may have no money at all. Those conditions are not who you are. You are not a rich man or a poor man. Don’t allow the world to give you that identity. You are a man or woman who belongs to Christ and He has promised to be your provider.

Paul wrote in Philippians 4:19: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever.” 

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We all know Jonah was swallowed by a great fish but do you remember his financial mistake?

In the book of Jonah, we learn the reason for the prophet’s round trip journey to the bottom of the ocean and back. Jonah was running away from God’s call on his life. But don’t miss this financial detail recorded in chapter 1 verse 2.

“But ---Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” 

This reference to Jonah’s financial decision has significant implications for each of us today. More often than we care to admit, we Christians use our financial resources in a manner that leads us away from following God.  Let this remind us that all our financial decisions have gravity. The time and attention they require can distract us from listening to and even obeying God.  May we never let money be an excuse to run from God’s call.

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Are you a BIG Spender? Today, some tips on being a really GREAT spender.

Knowing how to spend money is a skill and one that can be the determining factor in your overall financial well-being. Seriously, I have met some folks who taught me great lessons on how to spend money. Here are a few tips:

Ann’s grandfather had plenty of money but never paid for an expensive hotel in his life. He used to say, “a hotel is just a place to sleep: clean, safe, comfortable, that’s all that you need. The rest is just wasted money.”

My wife adopted a similar view when it comes to eating out. She sees a restaurant as a means to get quality food at an affordable price. She doesn’t enjoy spending lots of money at high-end restaurants.

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Should we give like the poor widow in Scripture who gave her last two coins?

Chuck Bentley on 6/13/16 8:00 AM

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In Mark 12, we meet the poor widow who gave two small coins in the temple treasury as her offering. In verse 42, Jesus said, “Truly I say
 to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on”. 

At church, I was asked, “If Jesus commended her for this gift, shouldn’t we too give all we have?”  Great question.

First, the widow is considered one of the greatest givers in Scripture.  Her action points to her heart that Jesus is worthy of everything she had. She teaches us the right attitude and motives for giving.  But she is not considered the greatest saver in Scripture.  The Bible points to Joseph who saved a nation and the people of God by saving 20% of the grain Pharaoh collected during seven good years.  In Proverbs 6 and 30, we are pointed to the lowly ant to learn the habit of saving during the harvest to have something for the winter.  So yes, we should give like this widow with a heart attitude of God’s absolute worthiness to have all we possess, but we should also save like the ant. 

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