Posts Tagged ‘money’

On Wednesday of this week, I stopped by a friend’s house who is a professional cabinet maker.

He has helped my church, the REFINERY, so much. In the last few years, he has put beautiful cabinets in our upstairs kitchen, a kitchen in our youth center, cabinets in our offices – and they have all been free materials, free labor, no cost — his gifts.

So on Wednesday, after my friend and I greeted each other warmly, he began to apologize to me.

I’m like, “What?”

He kept saying he was sorry. He was sorry he hadn’t come by lately and done more. He talked about how he remembered we wanted to add some cabinet doors to our office, but he hadn’t gotten to it.

Then he told me that he had some new cabinets he wanted to give us — free.

When I left I was struck by the fact that even though he has done so much, he was apologetic for not having done more.

And I thought about how, when we get to a point of maturity, then giving time, goods, money to others — it’s normal, it’s fun, it’s just how we treat our friends.

Luke 16:1

“Jesus told his disciples: ‘There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. [2] So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’

[3] “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— [4] I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’

[5] “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ [6] “ ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. “The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’ [7] “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ “ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’

[8] “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.

[9] I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

Wow, what an odd, and fascinating story Jesus tells.

A business manager is getting fired. So he goes to people who owe his boss, and he reduces their debt. Apparently he has this power, even though he doesn’t have his bosses approval for this.

Why does the shrewd manger do this? So he will have friends, later, when he doesn’t have a job.

The people, whose debts he reduced, will welcome him into their homes.

It’s a quid pro quo, a this for that.

When the business owner finds out about the scheme, he congratulates the dishonest manager for being smart, savvy, shrewd.

We don’t know if he went ahead and fired him or not. Probably.

But we do know this: The shrewd manager was set up — with friends.

Use money, Jesus tells us, to make permanent friends. Set yourself up by means of generosity, (not dishonesty for that was never something Jesus condoned in his teaching) with God and others forever.

What? Jesus said, “What?”

Jesus said we should see wealth, just like my cabinet maker sees it, as a means to good relationships.

I have a $20 bill. If I go buy lunch for myself with this, does that use of it make any friends for me?

Well, it might, if while I am buying lunch I talk to and have fun with the person taking my money. And, I am paying that employee’s wages. And I am benefiting the owner of the restaurant. So such exchanges are intrinsically transactional, and relational.

But can I, in some way, load this $20 bill with even more relational value than buying something for myself?

Yes, if I just give it to someone, asking nothing back, then I weight it with even more relational value.

Hobart Brown once said, “Money doesn’t always bring happiness. People with ten million dollars are no happier than people with nine million dollars.”

It is the use of the million dollars … for others …that brings happiness.

There are two ways to view money and things. One is that money and things are objective, they have a value in themselves, that they are cold, impersonal objects to be used for ourselves alone.

Then our relationship with them is very limited. These isolated things are weak and they have no connective, far-reaching, relational value.

Or we can see money and goods as primarily relational. They exist to connect us to each other.

Wealth exists to make good relationships. Then these things are warmed up, they become personal — bridges to connect us — hands reaching out and taking hold of each other. They become full of love.

Consider my iPhone 6.

With this phone, I can do stuff for myself, I can take selfies, check my bank account, make a shopping list, pay for a sandwich for lunch. If I do only these things with the phone, then it exists only for me. Then it is disappointingly non-relational, unsocial, small and limited.

But if on my phone, I write a text, if I post a picture on Facebook, if I use my phone to make a donation to a charity, if I make a list of gifts I am going to buy for my wife, (vacuum cleaner, broom, laundry soap), if I use this to pay for someones lunch, then this phone transforms into something relational, full of social good.

How do we view our money, and our stuff?

Jack Handey once said about money, “I hope that when I die, people say about me, ‘Boy, that guy sure owed me a lot of money.’

Better yet, I hope they say about me, “Wow that guy sure helped a lot of people with his money.”

How do we view our money, as personal or relational?

Why did God give us what he has given us?

Perhaps God has given us what we have so that we might do good, connect with others, share, make friends.

According to Jesus, To be shrewd with wealth is to use it to connect, to bond and to befriend.

Money and things — they were made for love.

Recently, I bought new tires for my Nissan Juke — 235 50/R17’s.

I had researched this purchase for three weeks. Upon buying, I experienced the thrill of the purchase, and the agony of the bill!

I upgraded to wider, quieter, safer, longer-lasting tires — less roll resistance, better gas mileage, and better traction on wet surfaces, but afterwards I brooded, “Did I just pay too much for the wrong tires?” They weren’t the most expensive offered me; they were also by far not the cheapest.

Stuff is tough on me!  Then again, later looking at the tires sitting under the car —  wide, stabilizing, sports-car aggressive, more efficient, safer — and  feeling the improvement in ride as I drove and turned the car, I knew I’d made the right choice. There is a significant improvement in ride, handling, safety and quality.

I had passed safely through the rugged terrain of the buyer’s high and the buyer’s low. I bought the right shoes for my car.

Consumption takes some gumption, for our buying choices exist within our emotions. Anxiety and hope rule the attribution of value.

I venture ahead into the world of consumerism with a bit of nagging uncertainty (that’s weird, but so human) and a bit of loving confidence;  I pick my way gingerly through the landscape of consumption.

The ability to purchase wisely — it’s hard!

Smart buying requires accurate knowledge, good judgment, some risk, some caution, the good sense to stay within our means, the equally good sense to sometimes upgrade to better, smarter and safer.

A while back I called my cable company. I did that because I had just come from Best Buy where a representative from another TV service offered me a better deal. I didn’t take it. All the reviews on Yelp were negative — lousy costumer service and poor quality.

I’m glad I didn’t jump on that deal.

But the option gave me the idea, the energy and the motivation to negotiate my current bill with my current company, and so I did. It took three phone calls until I got the representative that knew what I could do, and through her I dropped everything I didn’t need. I dropped my land line phone. Who needs a home phone when the whole family has smart phones that far surpass the house phones? I dropped some TV stations the family never uses. I kept what my daughter wanted — the ability to see her beloved San Diego Padres.

That worked; it fact, it worked so well that, again, recently, when the baseball season ended, I got another idea. Cut the cable. I did. I bought an indoor antenna for $30. This gives me all the network channels free with great HD reception. Then I bought a Roku TV box and signed up for HuluPlus at $10 a month. The only thing I kept the cable company for was internet. I cut my cable bill by two-thirds, and we still have more TV options that I could ever want. Really, TV pretty much bores me anyway, so less is better, for me..

All this figuring took a change in thinking for me, and a bit of assertiveness with the cable company, and a bit of research and work, but in the end, these were wise financial decisions. With less TV and less phone, I’ll be saving about $1700 next year in phone and tv service costs! That is a lot of money, and it is helping me to increase my savings, increase my giving to charity, and travel more.

With all this said, a few thought on wise shopping come to mind.

Think, process and plan before you consume. Don’t buy impulsively. The tire purchase; that was my second visit to the tire store to discuss the options. I researched for about three weeks before buying.

Avoid debt if possible.  I do have a car payment and a house payment, but no other debt. I put the tires on a card, but I will pay for them out of my savings account when the bill comes. I save, so that when these bigger, less frequent expenses come —  the tires, a broken washing machine, the dental bills —  I can pay without paying interest. Not everyone can do this at every point in life, but it is something to aim for. Savings lessen stress and allow for the extra expenses to not take from us in interest what we can have for ourselves by some care with spending and some pre=planning.

Rely on the wisdom of the community of shoppers. I read numerous customer reviews on the tires and the cable and TV service providers before I pulled my wallet’s trigger.

Don’t be afraid to risk. It was a risk to buy better tires. It was a risk to drop my home phone line. I’ve had a home phone all my life. No more! No more political and sales calls!

Decide with your head and your heart. Emotions are fine, wanting something is normal, desire can lead to improvement in life, but the heart must team up with the head to make smart decisions. It is with our minds that we can best please our hearts, over the long hall.

Don’t forget that you also want to give back. I make my financial decisions with the constant check that I am reserving something for others. I save, shop, spend, and don’t spend with it in mind that charity is not an option. I will only spend if I also leave something to give. Why? I want to be able to give to others. Last year I bought tires for my daughter’s car. I paid for kids to go to school in Mexico. I gave to my church. I like myself when I give. My goal is to give away at least ten per cent of what we make. That seems fair to me.  The good life is not spending all I have on myself.

Lastly, remember that it is a privilege to get to decide. Much of the world does not have the luxury of driving personal cars, upgrading tires, owning cutting-edge technology, having access to consumer information. I won’t always be able to do this either. We should always consume, when we do, with a great sense of thankfulness that we are alive, privileged and resourced enough to consume wisely.

How very cared for we are when we have the power to care for ourselves and others wisely.