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Are you Investing or Gambling?

Originally posted at Christian Post April 1, 2016.

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

Dear Chuck,

What is your take on "investing" in money market funds? Is this not a different way of gambling which is forbidden by the Bible? I will love to see your take on this.

Curious.

Dear Curious,

I have no problems with money market funds or other legitimate means of investing. Your question, one that I frequently receive, is to understand the difference between gambling and investing.

The difference between these two is vast but can be confusing, especially for those who don’t regularly engage in either, because there is risk in both. 

At the heart of it, gambling is based upon chance, and all must lose for one to gain. But investing is based upon knowledge and all have the opportunity to win.

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I believe in tithing. Don’t go away, you should too.

A number of places in the Old and New Testaments make reference to giving a tenth of our income to advance the work of God. It is hard to get real numbers of how many people actually give 10% or more of their gross annual income to the church but best estimates place this in the 8 -12% range of those attending church.  In other words, only a small percentage of Christians actually tithe. 

Now, I don’t believe we should make a law out of tithing, only a standard.  I fall into the camp of Randy Alcorn who believes tithing is the training wheels of learning to be a generous giver. You start out with 10% and increase it from there. A tithe should be our minimum starting point. 

But, “God loves a cheerful giver”, you say in reply!  Amen! I agree. And I think we should cheerfully tithe.  I am not going to let you off so easy on this one because it can change your life.

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I have four principles to follow if you have to borrow money.

Borrowing is not prohibited scripturally, but neither is it encouraged. It is always presented as a negative with many warnings about its danger and misuse. Here are fundamental Biblical principles related to borrowing.

Avoid Borrowing Unless Absolutely Necessary:  Borrowing should not be a way of life but the exception. Only if there is no other way to make provision for your need, should you borrow money. It is best to pay cash for all consumer purchases, cars and routine expenses and to even pay for your home with cash if possible.  Luke 12:57-59 says:

“As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison.  I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

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Today, I have a simple debt reduction tip for you.

Save all of your change to apply towards debt reduction.  Each day that I come home, I have a small tray where I empty my pockets of the various things that have collected there throughout the day. That usually means I have a few coins in my pocket that will go from that tray to a shoebox where they collect for a full year. At the end of the year, I will roll the coins and take them to the bank to exchange for cash. 

This year, I had $278 in coins saved. That’s an average of about $.75 per day that I saved in coins.  Now, if I put that in the bank and earn zero percent interest, it is not going to have an impact immediately. However, if I pay down high interest debt with it, suddenly it makes a big impact.

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Has money become a god in your life?

Most people will immediately say no in response to my question. But not so quick.

In Luke 16 and Matthew 6 Jesus refers to mammon when he says you cannot serve it and God.  This is an Aramaic word that usually means “money” and can also mean “wealth”. According to Jacques Ellul, the famed French philosopher,  “here Jesus personifies money and considers it a sort of god. He does not get this idea from culture.”  In other words, neither the Jews or Gentiles nor pagans in the area knew of any such god by this name. Jesus did not choose a pagan god to make the contrast between the true God and a false god.  He chose mammon.  “What Jesus is revealing here is that money is a power. It is something that ‘acts by itself, is capable of moving other things, is autonomous (or claims to be), is a law unto itself, and presents itself as an active agent’. But second, ‘money has a spiritual meaning and direction’” according to Ellul.  This spiritual power of money exists in the hearts of everyone to one degree or another.

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Socialism 2.0: An Economic or Governmental System?

Chuck Bentley on 3/25/16 9:00 AM

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Friday's Handwriting on the Wall posts will feature Chuck's new ChristianPost.com column, Ask Chuck. Chuck will be answering questions about what the the Bible has to say about money. Please share on #financialfridays and submit your own questions here. @AskCrown

Originally posted at Christian Post March 25, 2016.

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

 

Dear Chuck,

I read your column about socialism and the Bible. Perhaps I don't quite understand articles like these as I should, but is capitalism a form of government or an economic system? Or are the two so intertwined in American thought that we think of them as one and the same? Are we afraid of losing our economic system or our political system or both? The conversation seems to revolve around the amount of government control over monetary issues in our lives. Do you consider that a political or an economic debate? Sometimes I think we forget our sinfulness and the potential failure of any system and that general biblical principles can (and I would argue, should) be applied to any governmental/economic system we live in. Thank you for listening and thank you for your reply.

Seeking Understanding.

 

Dear Seeking,   

Thank you so much for a great question and one without a shrill tone attached to it.

My recent column at the Christian Post sparked some very vigorous debate, some of it over the top, some of it thoughtful, but all of it a sign that in light of current events, we should come together to consider a Biblical perspective on economics. Governments and economic philosophies are separate but intertwined.  Governments exist to uphold the economic philosophy of a nation, to create laws, protections and policies that support the economic, political, cultural and structural choices of a people. Capitalism, socialism, and communism – these economic philosophies become reality when governments make laws to carry these ideas forward, and it’s a good idea for a nation to consider if they want to go where those ideas will take them.

My own concerns with socialism have been fine tuned as I’ve traveled around the world for the past 15 years, visiting nations often in economic collapse, where people are truly suffering. In an American context, some of these hardships are not as well known, but I appreciate that so many have taken time to think about this lately, given the ongoing presidential primaries where socialism is in the headlines.

Capitalism is based upon free enterprise, the empowerment of the individual to operate in a just society, make choices of where and how to invest capital and to reap a just reward for their labors.  Thus a democracy is established to ensure that free enterprise is protected and the people can flourish.

Socialism and/or communism by definition are economic philosophies that embrace centralized control of resources with the idea that wealth is redistributed by political leadership not based upon merit or achievement or personal rewards but based upon a government's definition of what is “fair.” Sadly, in actual practice, governments often think it is “fair” to take from political adversaries or those who don’t support them to give to their own constituencies or even to keep the resources for themselves. Socialist structures can become a means of coercion that provides a way to take from the producers and give to the non-producers. And usually those whose resources are taken are first attacked, denounced and defamed as unworthy and flawed.

Another of my concerns with socialism is the way it separates work from reward.  God always intended us to work. Consider that in a perfect world – a world without sin – God gave men and women work. Genesis 2:15 noted, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

Work is not a punishment or a failure of imagination. It is one of our primary purposes here on earth. God sent a message to Asa, when he was told he needed to lead the people of Judah, in 2 Chron. 15:7: “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded,” and consider Proverbs 12:11, “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.”

The Bible is clear that we must work as unto the Lord, if we are able, and with the rewards we earn, we should be generous with those less fortunate. But a socialistic structure turns that on its head. Those who work and achieve can be demonized as unworthy; those who contribute nothing can be rewarded for merely being associated with those who have power.

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The value of an apology is priceless.

Just recently I counseled a couple regarding their troubled marriage. After 14 years, they were on the verge of a divorce. They owned a large and thriving business and had worked together to build it into a financially successful enterprise. But little by little, each had offended the other, communication was non-existent and Satan had built an invisible wall between them.

After listening to all their shared hurts as each pointed out the other’s fault, I asked a simple question. “When was the last time one of you apologized to the other?”  There was dead silence. Finally, the wife spoke up in almost a whisper. “Never”.  We never apologize over anything.”   I had identified the root issue so I pressed in.

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Neither a borrower nor a lender be….

Is that from the Bible or maybe somewhere else?

I once had a person ask me why God said we should not borrow or lend money by quoting this famous line from - Shakespeare!  The famed playwright wrote these words in his work The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play, and is among the most powerful and influential tragedies in English literature.  Here are the famous lines so many recall:

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be,

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

This above all: to thine own self be true,”

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The joy of secret prayer

Chuck Bentley on 3/23/16 2:30 AM

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Originally posted at Washington Times March 23, 2016.

At age 41, my spiritual life had become tepid, joyless and somewhat irrelevant to me.

The Christian faith had been a very real part of my life since I was a child, but as I grew older, although my faith was intact, the cares of the world had slowly eroded any real reliance upon God. I was going through the religious motions marked by attending church and minimal charitable giving, but the vibrancy of a personal relationship was suffering.

My wife, Ann, an avid Bible reader, challenged me to read the Bible, something I had not regularly done as an adult. In 2000, beginning in the New Testament, I started reading. It did not take long to be confronted with challenges that would change my life forever.

On Day Two, I saw in the sixth chapter of Matthew the clear instructions of Jesus to give in secret, pray in secret and to fast in secret. None of those practices were a part of my life at that time. But I was looking for something to reignite my relationship with the One I called Lord.

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Have you followed Apple’s battle with the federal government over access to information stored on your smartphone?

Did you know your phone has more information about you than you possibly can imagine?  

According to a recent article in Bloomberg Business, “It knows where you’ve been and who you were with, the birthday gift you bought your mother and who you plan to vote for. It knows if you’re using one of the applications for couples trying to conceive. From pre-installed apps that count your steps to saved passwords for banking accounts and social media, smartphones have evolved from devices that make calls into digital repositories for the most intimate details of life.”

According to Mr. Yoran, and executive of Koolspan, Inc., a communications security company, "You can extract enough information on a typical person’s phone that you can construct a virtual clone of that individual. They are the windows not just into our personal lives but they are equally the windows into our professional lives."

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