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Biblical Financial Lesson from the Book of Acts

August 28, 2008 · Filed Under Biblical Lessons · 7 Comments 

I’ve heard over the years of the importance of spending "quiet time" with God through prayer or study or whatever. So, near the end of last year I started reading my bible for at least 15 minutes each weekday .  I don’t do anything fancy; I usually read a chapter a day. I try to read through the chapter a time or two to try to understand it. Then I’ll go through it one more time while reading the commentary.


Why do you care about this? (You don’t) I thought it would be interesting to try to pull out some relevant information or advice or whatever I can find from each book as I read it. Don’t worry, I realize this is a personal finance blog so I’ll pull items that relate to finances. I just finished the book of Acts, so let’s start with that.

A lot happens in Acts

Acts details the events of the very early church starting when Jesus ascended to heaven through the next few decades – so there is a lot of meat in there. I want to point out a story from chapter 19 of Acts.

People like money….a lot

This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course. If you start reading in verse 23 you will read the story of a silversmith from Ephesus name Demetrius. It seems that Demetrius has a pretty good business going selling silver shrines of Artemis who is local god quite popular Ephesus. Of course we have a problem since Paul is preaching the gospel and converting many Ephesians to Christianity. This does not sit well with Demetrius:

He [Demetrius] called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: "Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty." Acts 19:23-27

Now, I’m reading between the lines, of course, but I do not think Demetrius was overly concerned with Paul besmirching the good name of Artemis. He stuck that part on the end of his argument after starting by mentioning the "good income from this business."

So what do Demetrius and his fellow silversmiths do?

They don’t start talking about job retraining, that’s for sure. They literally whip up a riot:

When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater. Acts 19:28-29

The funny part is that most people don’t even know why they are rioting:

The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. Acts 19:32

Well, eventually the city clerk calmed the crowd and then they dispersed. But if things would have continued out of control who knows what might have happened to Paul’s companions and himself.

So the love of money really is a problem

When you think about money, there are probably two oft-repeated verses that come to mind:

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

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24

This tale from the book of Acts is a cautionary one. It shows us how we can become so preoccupied with money that we resort to horrible acts if that money or our ability to get more of it is jeopardized. We should reflect on this story and ponder what applications it has in our lives.

From 1 Timothy, we see that money itself is not evil but rather the love of it is what causes us to act inappropriately. Everyone must earn money to take care of their needs and those of their family members. Having money is not a bad thing. Obviously, resorting to violence, as in this story, to protect your source of income is a problem. Consider, however, other ways that this love of money may cause us to act.

Well, I don’t have to worry about that – I’ve never whipped up a riot

Do you gossip or slander the person who is up for the promotion you want? Are you envious of those around you with bigger houses or nicer cars? Are you "creative" when you complete your tax returns? People don’t do these and similar actions because they love other people; they do them because they love money.

Well, this turned into a lot more "moralizing" that I had originally intended. I’ll try harder next time to just present an interesting story with some financial implications. Isn’t it true, though, that our finances and our behavior tend to be more closely tied together than we would probably want to be the case?

PS: One last thing – I usually do a book review on Thursdays – did anyone miss the review this week? (I’m still trying to find what works best here!)

photo credit: Paul Keller

What if Everyone only got Paid once a Year?

August 22, 2008 · Filed Under Intriguing · 9 Comments 

I have no idea what I was thinking about the other day…but this thought popped into my mind:

"Would people take better care or worse care of their finances if everyone only got paid once per year?"

I like to come up with these strange questions to try to get myself and others thinking – I feel like it stretches my brain somehow (not literally) (I guess this is why I ended up having to answer most of my own questions in that Bible study we used to host in Arizona) (I should really stop talking to myself). I know it isn’t practical and it would never work and all of that – but practicality is not the point of this exercise.


So, on January 2nd (the 1st is still a holiday) (ok, the first weekday after January 1st – how’s that?), everyone got their single paycheck for the entire year. What happens next?

At first, I thought this would be a complete train-wreck. A number of people would have that money blown by Groundhog day. On the other hand, for fiscally responsible people, this would actually be somewhat of a boon. If you had all your entire year’s salary up-front instead of accumulating it little by little throughout the year, you’d be able to earn significantly more interest during the year.

Taking into account how much credit card debt the average American has, I think it is obvious that some people have a problem delaying immediate gratification to focus on the long term.  Therefore, would people flush with cash at the beginning of the year run out and satisfy their every whim?  I would say "probably." (you might say, "at least they’re not using a credit card," and this is true…but come the end of the year all expenses would end up on the CC)

But maybe, just maybe, if people knew that they only got this one paycheck and they were not getting any more, maybe they would be inspired to be more careful about their planning and living. Yeah, you’re right, that’s unlikely and it would probably end up being worse than now.  Now that I think about it, that large lump sum would probably distract some normally fiscally responsible people and cause them to overspend early in the year as well.

So, I would answer the question like this: for some people it would work out a lot better. For some others, they would be inspired to get more serious about saving and planning. Unfortunately, I’d guess that some people would get distracted by the money, lose sight of the long-term, and end up being worse off.  And, of course, I still believe that a number of people would have it all spent by MLK, Jr Day.  The bottom line is it would be a lot better for some and a lot worse for others.

What do you think? Better? Worse? Why am I even wondering about this?

This Week in the Blogosphere

Have a great weekend and God bless…

Book Review: Your Money or Your Life

July 31, 2008 · Filed Under Book Reviews · 5 Comments 

Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence

by Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin

BFN Book Reviews

Over the years, I have found it tremendously helpful to see what other people with similar interests have been reading on the topics of personal finance. That is why I am periodically publishing my own reviews. I hope to give you a brief overview of the book and the authors, touch on the good and bad in the book, and finally, give you my personal recommendation for whether you should borrow the book, buy the book, or act like the book doesn’t exist. Click here to continue reading…

Reminder: Consider the Total Cost of Your Significant Purchases

July 30, 2008 · Filed Under Spending Money · 4 Comments 

HDTV Have you ever watched a high-definition feed on a large HDTV? A few times recently, I’ve considered purchasing one of those fancy, wide-screen, 1080p, LCD or Plasma HDTVs. We were on vacation recently at my sister-in-law’s house and they have a sweet 42” LCD HDTV. Naturally, I’ve been thinking about it again – the prices have been dropping over the past few years and it does provide a remarkable picture! (even watching golf seems better on one of these)

Click here to continue reading…

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