Tag Archives: money

Video: Thoughts on Money

It’s YouTubesday again, which means will look at some videos. I’ve put five videos on the player below, all related to finances and the church. Here’s a quick rundown of what you have to watch below.

  1. Nooma – RICH 01:29
    To most people in the world, what we have would be more than enough. Maybe what we have is enough.
  2. Eight Dollar Hot Dog 04:25
    Are God’s children caring for one another? Pastor and author Chris Seay discusses the tension between eight dollar hot dogs and children dying every fifteen seconds because they lack access to clean water. Are God’s children caring for one another? [h.t. joe and people]
  3. THINK OF ME 04:04
    A movie that was presented by Franis Chan and his church Cornerstone. This is the reason they decided against a multi-million dollar church building to instead build an out-door amphitheater for church. The rest of the money was given to help feed the poor around the world. UNBELIEVABLE! [h.t. shlog and Jesusland]
  4. The African Dream: Ending Extreme Poverty 06:54
    This 7-minute short serves to promote awareness on Poverty in Africa – an issue of extreme importance that does not receive the mu This 7-minute short serves to promote awareness on Poverty in Africa – an issue of extreme importance that does not receive the much needed attention it deserves.
  5. Consumerism! The Musical 05:01
    A satire and celebration of the culture we live in.

Financial Straight Talk: Most of Us Have Money

The brief discussion last week about paying off a home mortgage quickly, has me realizing we need to talk a little bit about finances here. I’ve talked finances many times before and I think now would be a good time to start the discussion up again, both to articulate my views and to encourage discussion about them.

From what I can tell the readers of this blog come from a lot of backgrounds, stages of life, income levels, etc. So, there isn’t a great way to address all of our situations at once. That being the case, I’m just going to go ahead and use some numbers I found on wikipedia for average household incomes. We’ll use $46,326 as the average annual household income. I know many make less then this, and a few make more then this, but we’ll stick with it for the time being, because I think most reading this blog will be making at least that much as a household in the near future if they are not currently already.

I’m not sure how much of my own financial situation I’ll disclose on this blog yet, a discussion and decision still to be made, but I will tell you some of my thoughts on spending, resources, budgets, etc. And the first thing I want to address is this: Most of Us (‘us’ being those who have the technology access to be reading this blog) have money.

You might not have a lot of money coming in (income), or you might have a lot of it already tied up in debts, but you have money. According to Barna [via Boyd], Christians spend 97% of their income on themselves. And that’s not based on how much one makes. We tend to spend what we make, in other words, our cost of living usually matches our income (this is a problem). As a individual follower of Christ, or as a group, or as Christians in general, our ethic on finances and budget should not be to simply be smart spenders of our money, but to use our resources for good in the world. An ‘average’ church of say 10 family units (households from the previous statistic) has roughly $463,260 of income flowing through it. There are necessities, like feeding, clothing and sheltering those in the church, as well as some necessary expenses to remain employed at the jobs that create those incomes, but all in all, there could be a heck of a lot of money being used for good in the world.

The big question is: how much do we ‘need’ to live on. With all the potential for good with our resources, what do we ‘need’?

Impotent Church

I suspect the American Church has been so divided, so influenced by American greed and thus so impotent for so long, most can’t even imagine it being otherwise. Related to this, we’ve relinquished so much responsibility for caring for the poor to the government for so long, most American Christians can’t picture the Church itself, without the aid of government, taking responsibility for this. –Greg Boyd

Ethical Living: Trendy Guy vs. Hippie Gal

trendy guyA Day in the Life of Trendy Guy

  • B-fast: Double Mocha from Starbucks
  • Transportation: Ford Excursion
  • Day Job: Corporate Elite for Walmart
  • Home: High rise Condo in recently gentrified neighborhood.
  • Dinner: Fancy Steakhouse
  • Nightlife: Regularly volunteers at a soup kitchen.
  • Summer: Missions trip in the 3rd world.

hippie galA Day in the life of Hippie Gal

  • B-fast: Free-range eggs from local CSA
  • Transportation: Bike and Public Transit
  • Day Job: Barista for local fair trade coffee shop
  • Home: Commune in the city.
  • Dinner: Potluck with Community Garden.
  • Nightlife: Late night concerts, anti-corporate protest, and other leisure activities.
  • Summer: Road Trips, Music Festivals, and wild parties.

What I would suggest is, a healthy combination of the two. Basically, I would suggest that everything from Breakfast to Summers be made from a thoughtful and ethical standpoint. Below is a brief combination that I think might be ethical (certainly subject to further discussion).

A Day in the life of a World Changer

  • Breakfast: Dumpstered and purchased from a local CSA.
  • Transportation: Biking, Public Transit, Carpooling, and driving less.
  • Day Job: A job that does not contradict your ethics and values.
  • Home: Modest living, shared if possible.
  • Dinner: Community Garden shared with friends and neighbors.
  • Nightlife: Community movie nights, craft nights, scrabble, soup kitchen, playing with the neighborhood kids.
  • Summer: Ethical summer ventures.

Now, it’s time for discussion. Does your life line up with Trendy Guy, Hippie Gal or World Changer? If so were and if not, what areas do you need to change? Or, what areas do you think I’m way off base on. Let the discussion begin.

It’s Time To Get Rid of Stuff

Joanna, at Keeping Feet, wrote a great piece called Sick of Stuff, which I thought was worth checking out. Here’s a snippet:

Christian author and theologian Richard Foster puts it this way:

The lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is time we awaken to the fact that conformity to a sick society is to be sick.

I stole that quote from my pastor’s sermon a couple weeks ago. The topic is Practicing the Economics of God’s Kingdom, and the second catalyst he talked about to encourage us to change the way we think about money and wealth and stuff, My personal economics will begin to change the more I am sick and tired of the material lifestyle I am living.

I recommend reading the whole thing here.

….Another P.S.

I just added a new type of post to Trying to Follow, called Asides. To see them you have to actually go to the website and browse the posts. They’ll mostly be short thoughts, links, maybe occasional pictures or videos. They won’t show up in your email or rss. The idea is it will allow me to post more often, without bombarding you with more information, and it’s one more reason to check out the website. Enjoy.

What If? Visions of the Future or Future Fridays

I’m a visionary of sorts. What I mean is that I often think about and dream about what would happen if… the big radical amazing changes we long to take place actually took place. In an effort to encourage my imagination and spread the vision of change to others, I’m gonna start writing once in a while some of these thoughts. Don’t know if I’ll call them by a unique title or not, any ideas?

In reflection on yesterdays post on Jesus’ statements on Wealth
What if Everyone Who Read The Bible Lived Out What Jesus said about Wealth and Possessions.

First of all, I think there would be a lot more people that chose to step out of the rat race, selling their possessions and wandering the land (just like Jesus!). But let’s think on a large scale. I’m not gonna look up specific numbers, but let’s just suppose there are 1 billion people in the world who actually read the Bible. If each of them read Jesus’ words and chose to live their lives accordingly it would mean incredible change in the world. Let’s assume they chose to continue at their jobs, provide the basics for their family and gave the rest to those in need.
There would be no one homeless or without something to eat in the entire United States. If a Bible reader saw a person walking the street with nothing to eat or no were to sleep they would bring them to their house and feed them, clothe them, and provide them with shelter. If they didn’t have room at their home they would do as the Samaritan and provide the finances to feed, clothe and shelter their companion until they are well enough to make it on their own.
Organizations like World Vision and Compassion which sponsor children through out the world would suddenly have more finances available then children and they would have to quadruple their service to every child in the entire world.

We could probably fully fund feeding, vaccinating, providing clean water, educating, and housing ever person on the planet.

Imagine that.

And just in case you thought there wasn’t any validity to this, here’s a stat from Generous Giving:
Generosity Potential (American Churchgoers)

1. If members of historically Christian churches in the United States had raised their giving to the Old Testament’s minimum standard of giving (10 percent of income) in 2000, an additional $139 billion a year would become available.

Finance Brain Storm: Pay Each Others Mortgage

The Conversation about housing got my wheels turning and I started thinking about different ways we might live creatively outside the box of what we are currently used to in our culture. I’m gonna write a few things this week about just ideas I’ve had of ways to live out our convictions creatively. This is the first.

Instead of taking out huge Mortgages and taking years to pay them off and effectively paying three times the cost of our houses, we should pay each others mortgages. I’m not quite sure how this would work as traditionally we all want a house and we want it now, not later. But really think about it.
If you could pay cash for your house today, then over the course of the next 30 years you could take what you would have spent in interest to the bank and give it to some wonderful cause you believe in. As one person or family this doesn’t quite seem possible, but collectively it’s not as difficult.
What if five or ten families got together and decided that each year they would take all the money they could muster and pay off one persons mortgage (assuming they already have one). Over that time the pay-off would speed up exponentially as a persons house is paid off and they no longer have a monthly payment themselves. By the end of the time (maybe ten years max) everyone has a house completely paid off and they are able to do a world of good with the rest of the money.

Or, what if folks lived communally in a house, that was fully paid off. And then they pooled their resources and were able to buy one house a year, which a family would move into and start a communal living opportunity for others to follow a similar pattern.

There are some assumptions I’m making here. You can’t be living paycheck to paycheck, nor can you be living just below your income, you need to make some radical life changes. Of course, those are things you should have done even before you bought a house to begin with.

Here’s a brief (I didn’t have much time) example…

So you’ve got five families, with differing incomes. The goal is for each to buy a $100,000 house. If they all contribute 25% of their income to a pot it would take 11 to accumulate $500,000 (enough for each family to have a house). If they lived on just $16,000 a year they’d have enough in 5 years.
The “5 Year House” column is just showing what cost of a house they could pay off in five years if they were putting 25% of their income to the house.
And the “Years to 100K” column shows how many years it would take each family to actually accumulate $100k if they were doing it themselves (by which time their house cost would be double if they were doing their own mortgage).

Of course these are simple numbers not taking into account other housing costs, inflation, etc, but hopefully you get the idea (or maybe your totally lost).

Any math geeks out there want to help me make more sense of something like this?

Okay, But What If Debt Really Is Bad?

We’ve had a fabulous discussion over at the Home Sweet Mortgage post, and I’d love to continue it. The thing is, the direction I would really like to take it is into the area of creatively brain storming how a Christians might live and function if they decided Debt really was completely unacceptable.

I’m not saying it is (Mindy and I have chosen to take loans out for her to finish school), but I’m contemplating what things might look like if we firmly believed that it was. You see, I think too often we are quick to interpret and justify away some of scripture because we can’t figure out how it would “work” in our world today. I think that’s why a lot of people don’t believe in non-violence (a topic for another post). I think this is also why most people give the “buying is better then renting” statement and then give the short financial advice to back it up.

Again, I’m not saying buying is bad, I’m just saying maybe we can think of ways to think of all of it in a completely new way. Jac, mentioned people in the church giving others loans. That’s a neat idea that is outside the box of what we ever consider. I want to brainstorm ideas like that.

So, the floor is open. The one rule is that what ever idea you present, it has to be given with the assumption that Debt is unacceptable and not an option.

How do we live? were do we live? College? Cars? the floor is yours…

Capitalism: Get Out While You’re Still Saved?

At it’s very foundation, Capitalism works because of people’s selfishness. Adam Smith the Father of the modern capitalist economy said,

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.

I’ll begin, for the sake of Virgil, by saying that in practice in our society, I have not seen or know of a better system then capitalism. I’ve thought that there is a chance a different governmental or economic system would better serve society, but I’m not sure, nor do I know enough to argue, that it would. That being said, Capitalism still has it’s downsides.

We often make choices and contribute to systems that we believe in and agree with. There are personal and moral reasons people boycott stores, flee countries, choose not to vote, refuse to pay taxes, or live off the grid. It’s a much more daunting task, but I wonder if we should not at least consider the same possibility as it relates to our economy.

If our economy by it’s very structure encourages us to act in our own self interest, it goes quite counter to the life that Christ calls us to. And if our economy by in it’s flaws creates a structure of economy that oppresses people, then it goes against our calling to love our neighbors. Is there a way to remain a part of that system, to contribute to it, play a role in it, and benefit from it, yet in a way that still allows us to fully follow Christ?

We don’t know much about a large portion of Jesus’ life but it seems likely that he was a carpenter for most of his adult life. It’s possible he paid taxes and was involved as much as the next person in the economies of that day. Yet, during his ministry we see challenges to the structures in place. He makes satirical play of a question about taxes. Jesus when the tax is required conjures it up out of the mouth of a fish. He dines at people’s homes, relying on the hospitality of others rather then his own wages to provide food and shelter. When he dines at a Tax Collector’s home though, isn’t he benefiting from the corrupt system?

It just seems that economy is another area that Christians don’t think about at all. We just take for granted the system that is in place and don’t consider whether it’s appropriate to be involved or if there is another way. When Mindy and I went to Papa Festival they tried to use an alternative currency during the event. It was similar to the Ithaca Hours, which a whole city adopted. It seems like a creative way to step out of the current economic system (though it seems like it’s just replacing it with a similar one, although more local and maybe less corrupt).
Maybe we are supposed to be moving off the current economy and joining the Amish. Or maybe there is a way to involve our selves in the economy of the world in such a way that it is still honoring to God and not involving ourselves in a corrupt structure.