Posts tagged ‘Money’

Wall Street’s Wild Week

Are we in a bull or a bear market?  It’s hard to tell.

Last week was a roller coaster ride for Wall Street, to put it mildly.  The Dow Jones opened the week down over 1,100 points on Monday for the single largest one-day drop by raw points, though certainly not by overall percentage.  This freefall followed another precipitous drop the previous Friday of over 650 points.  On Tuesday, the Dow rebounded by 568 points.  But this was followed by another mammoth drop of over 1,000 points on Thursday.

Though the financial ride over these past several days has been bumpy, most economists believe the fundamentals of our economy remain strong.  This has not stopped investors from being jittery, however.  These kinds of swings are simply too disorienting not to have an effect on investor confidence.

After a financially tense week like this one, it is worth it for those of us who are Christians to remind ourselves of what a proper perspective on money looks like.

On the one hand, we are called, as Christians, to be stewards of money.  This means we can earn money, save money, invest money, and, of course, share money!  As people who steward money, financial news should be of interest to us.  Having at least a passing awareness of what is happening in the stock market, the commodities market, the derivatives market, the futures market, and the many other types of financial markets can help us steward whatever resources God has given us as best as we possibly can.

On the other hand, we are also called, as Christians, not to put our hope in money.   For when we put our hope in money, we don’t just manage it wisely; we look to it for our security, our identity, and our future.  When we put our hope in money, all it takes is a slide in the stock market for our hope to be shattered and our joy to be sapped.  When we put our hope in money, we are putting our hope in something that is volatile instead of in Someone who is solid.

To steward money means we think about the future of our money.  To hope in money means we think about our money as the future.  But as this latest stock market roller coaster ride has reminded us, hope that is placed in money is no real hope at all.  Money can be earned and lost.  Investments can rise and fall.  Financial futures can soar and sag.  Hope that is placed in money will always be a hope that eventually falters.  This is why hope does not belong in money.  Hope belongs in Jesus.  After all, the return on His investment is far better than the return on our investments of a few dividends.  The return on His investment of blood is our salvation.

Try finding that payout anywhere else.

You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
(1 Peter 1:18-19)

February 12, 2018 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

The Panama Pilferage

Panama Papers 1

It used to be that Switzerland was the place to hide money.  Now, apparently, Panama is the place.

A week ago Sunday, a massive cache of some 11 million financial documents from the Panamaniam law firm, Mossack Fonseca, was leaked to the media.  These files contained information about an “extensive worldwide network of offshore ‘shell’ companies – including ones with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin – that allow the wealthy to hide their assets from taxes and, in some cases, to launder billions in cash.”[1]  Several world leaders are implicated in this leak including the prime ministers of Iceland, Argentina, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, and the former prime ministers of Georgia, Jordan, and Qatar.  According to Lexi Finnigan of The Telegraph, the files “also contain new details of offshore dealings by the late father of British Prime Minister David Cameron.”[2]

Some of what has happened in these offshore accounts may be legal.  As Ms. Finnigan explains in her article:

There is nothing unlawful about the use of offshore companies. However, the disclosures raise questions about the ways in which the system can be used – and abused. More than half of the 300,000 firms said to have used Mossack Fonseca are registered in British-administered tax havens, which Mr. Cameron has vowed to crack down on.  And in one instance, an American millionaire was apparently offered fake ownership records to hide money from the authorities.

What has happened here is certainly troubling, even if it is not, at least for me, particularly surprising.  Giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s may be a biblical mandate, but it is not a pleasant experience – even, as it turns out, when you happen to be Caesar.  Nobody wants to pay taxes.

It should be reiterated that, in some instances, what appears to have happened with some of these accounts is little more than tax sheltering, which is legal and, according to many accountants, advisable.  Others, however, have crossed a line into tax evasion, which is a crime.  Still others have out and out used offshore accounts to try to launder dirty money.

Most world leaders are certainly not poor.  So why would such a number of them be so allergic to paying the very taxes that ensure their gainful employment and continued power that they would engage in shady offshore deals?  Perhaps it’s because Solomon was right: “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).  Even a lot of money is never enough money when a person loves money.

Lust for more, of course, is not only a problem for world leaders, it is a problem for many people.  Studies have shown that, proportionally, those who have higher financial means give less, as a percentage of their income, than those who have lower financial means.  As Ken Stern reports for The Atlantic:

In 2011, the wealthiest Americans – those with earnings in the top 20 percent – contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent –donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.[3]

Just because a person has more doesn’t mean he will give more.  Indeed, oftentimes, the more a person has, the more a person seems to think he needs, so the less he gives.

Perhaps we should keep in mind what Solomon says about money and the love thereof right after he explains that people who love money always want more money.  He writes, “This too is meaningless.”

The love of money may be tempting, but it is not meaningful.  It is not fulfilling.  It is not worthwhile.  This is a lesson, I fear, that these world leaders may have learned too late.  May their folly be our warning.

_________________________

[1] Greg Toppo, “Massive data leak in Panama reveals money rings of global leaders,” USA Today (4.5.2016).

[2] Lexi Finnigan, “What are the Panama Papers, who is involved and what is a tax haven?The Telegraph (4.7.2016).

[3] Ken Stern, “Why the Rich Don’t Give to Charity,” The Atlantic (April 2013).

April 11, 2016 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

ABC Extra – Unbaptized Money

Though I’m almost sure it’s apocryphal, Martin Luther is credited with saying, “There are three conversions necessary – the conversion of the heart, of the mind, and of the purse.”  Regardless of whether or not Luther actually spoke these words, this quote can serve to remind us of the importance our Lord places on faithful stewardship.  What we do with money matters.

In his book The Money Map, Howard Dayton writes, “When the Crusades were fought during the twelfth century, the Crusaders purchased the services of mercenaries to fight for them. Because it was a religious war, the Crusaders insisted that the mercenaries be baptized before fighting. As they were being baptized, the soldiers would take their swords and hold them up out of the water to symbolize that Jesus Christ was not in control of their swords, that they retained the freedom to use their weapons in any way they wished.”  Like Crusaders wielding swords in whatever unbaptized way they saw fit, many people wish to use money in whatever unsanctified way they see expedient.  But God wants our money to be “baptized,” so to speak, in that He wants us to steward our money faithfully and well.  And first and foremost, stewarding our money faithfully and well means being generous with others even s God has been generous to us.

In our text from this past weekend, Solomon writes, “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25).  God wants us to be generous and refreshing toward others.  Notably, the Hebrew verb for “refreshes” in this verse is rawah, meaning, “to water.”  In Hebrew, this word is in the Hiphil mood, which is an intensive form of the Hebrew verb.  Thus, when Solomon encourages us to “refresh others,” he encourages us to do so intensively.  That is, we are to be as generous as we possible can be.  And as we do so, we ourselves will “be refreshed.”  This phrase “be refreshed” is in the Hophal voice, another intensive Hebrew verbal form.  Thus, as we intensively refresh others through our generosity, God will intensively refresh us through His generosity.

Money that is not baptized by the gospel only causes harm and grief.  Judas, when he sells his Lord for thirty pieces of silver, despairs and commits suicide (Matthew 27:1-5).  Hezekiah, when he shows off his temple treasury to envoys from Babylon, seals the demise of his nation (Isaiah 39).  And Ananias and Sapphira, when they duplicitously hold back some money from the sale of a field, claiming that they had given all the proceeds to the Church, are struck down by God (Acts 5:1-11).  Money used apart from the purposes of God ends in disaster.  Conversely, money that is “baptized” by the gospel can be used to illustrate the gospel itself!  The apostle Paul writes, “You were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20, 7:23).  What is this price?  It is the price of Christ’s blood.  The monetary picture of a price is used to describe our redemption.  Indeed, the very word “redeemed” is monetary, for it describes how Christ purchased us “from the empty way of life” (1 Peter 1:18), that is, from the empty ways of sin, death, and the devil.

Do you allow the money with which you have been entrusted to be used at God’s pleasure and for His purposes?  Or, are your finances an area in which you remain functionally “unconverted,” holding your pocketbook out of the water while the rest of you is baptized into Christ, too afraid to heed Christ’s invitation to steward your finances in a way that is commiserate with His Kingdom values?  True financial joy and freedom is found only when your money is brought under the authority of Christ.  Jesus has been generous enough to give you all that you have.  Do you trust Him to be wise enough to use the money you have for your good and His glory?

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!

July 18, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

Paying the Preacher – 1 Corinthians 9:3-14

It has become an all too well known story.  A renowned pastor with a gigantic ministry has more money in his personal coffers than Fort Knox hides in its vault.  A local news organization comes in to investigate the pastor’s lifestyle and what is revealed shocks believers and appalls non-believers:  private jets, sprawling mansions, excessive luxuries.  And the pastor at the center of it all seems to spend more time fleecing his flock than shepherding them into the green pastures of God’s Word.

With such scandalous abuses littering the history of the modern American Christian Church, it is no surprise that many people look at their pastor’s paycheck with at least a little bit of suspicion.  “What’s really going on financially behind the scenes?” someone may wonder.  Indeed, recently, I received a question from someone concerning 1 Corinthians 9, where Paul argues that those who preach the gospel should be duly compensated for their labor.  The apostle writes:

This is my defense to those who sit in judgment on me. Don’t we have the right to food and drink? Don’t we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk? Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn’t the Law say the same thing? For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest. If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:3-14)

A few things are especially notable in Paul’s arguments in these verses.  First, in verse 3, Paul makes a “defense” of his ministry.  The Greek word for “defense” is apologia, a technical term for a legal defense in a court of law.  Thus, there are some who are questioning the very validity of Paul’s ministry.  Interestingly, however, his antagonist’s accusations seem to flow not from the fact that he’s being compensated to preach the gospel, but from the fact that he’s not being compensated!  Paul frankly admits that though he has a right to receive remuneration for his preaching, he “did not use this right” (verse 12).  The argument of his detractors, then, is this:  “You only get what you pay for!  And you’re not paying Paul anything!  Thus, you’re not getting good preaching!  So you should turn to us!  Our preaching is better that Paul’s because we’ll charge you for it!”  This, of course, is the reasoning of a charlatan.  Compensation or lack thereof does not make the message of the gospel any more or less true.  The gospel is the gospel, regardless of remuneration.

With this in mind, Paul continues by explaining that his free preaching of the gospel does not mean that all pastors should not be compensated for their work.  Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 to prove his point: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain” (verse 9).  In ancient Israel, an ox, while he pulled a sledge around a threshing floor to separate the kernels of grain from their husks, would remain un-muzzled so he could eat some the grain while he was threshing it.  Thus, just as ox eats his grain as payment for his labor, so should a pastor be compensated for his labor.  Indeed, Paul concludes: “The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel” (verse 14).

So what does all this mean?  Well, on the one hand, Paul warns against those pastors who have a sense of entitlement because of their preaching of the gospel.  A pastor should never say, “My preaching is great and therefore I deserve an exorbitant paycheck,” as those who were disparaging Paul’s ministry were saying.  On the other hand, Paul clearly says that a congregation should faithfully support its pastors.  Indeed, one of the things for which I consistently thank God is the way in which my beloved Concordia supports me as a pastor – and not only me, but all of the pastors here.  I praise God for the faithfulness and generosity of Concordia’s members.  And it is my intention and prayer, by the Spirit’s power, to serve Christ’s Church well and faithfully all the days of my life.

I am one who makes my living from preaching the gospel.  And preaching the gospel is a weighty task.  But it’s also a blessed privilege.  I am thrilled beyond words that I get to do it.

Do you have a theological question you would like Zach to answer on his blog? Email him at
zachm@concordia-satx.com.

February 25, 2010 at 4:45 am Leave a comment


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