How the Financial Meltdown has Changed all the Rulesâ”or Should Have

financial meltdownBut godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.ââ”1 Timothy 6:7-10 (Emphasis added)

Four years after it began, we still find ourselves mired in some level of the Financial Meltdown. We’re all sitting around waiting for politicians, economists and industry leaders to fix what’s broken in the economy, but have you noticed that doesn’t seem to be working? Maybe it’s time for us to get busy. And since we have the handbookââ”the Bibleâ”perhaps as Christians we need to take the lead.

Part of the reason that our leaders have been unable to fix the economy is purely because of the enormity of the problem. As much as we want to pin the blame for the mess on politicians, in truth the causes are so deeply rooted in our culture that fixing them defies easy solutions.

So where do we start?


It starts with money

I believe that we need to change our views and opinions of money, and align them with what we read in the Bible. Most of us are unaware that the traditional role of money has changed completely in just the past few decades.

In its essence, money is a medium of exchange. It’s used to facilitate trade between people and businesses and because it carries a standard value, it’s more efficient than barter. So far, so good.

But here’s the problem⦠In today’s economy, money is no longer just a medium of exchangeâ”it’s become an asset unto itself. We still use it to trade, but it’s become something much more. Success is now defined as earning, acquiring, preserving and growing as much money as possible. The end game is no longer to produce as much food, fish, minerals, shoes or widgets as possible, but to earn as much money as possible!

That’s a game changer, and it has a lot to do with the mess we’re in. Money manipulation has become more important than building a better mousetrap!


Money as wealthâ

What is it you think about when you see or hear the word wealth� From Biblical times up until about the end of the 19th Century this might have invoked visions of vast acres of rich farmland, a forest full of timber waiting to be cut, large catches of fish, coal mines or perhaps a thriving family business.

Do you notice something about each of these? They all refer to something tangible, something that’s being produced. Wealth was measured by what you added to the economy and community.

How do we see wealth today? Stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, money markets, cash. Notice something about these? None of them are tangibleâ”they’re all paper. Stocks represent a share of ownership; they’re the way we own- and trade ownership in- the means of production, but are not means of production in themselves. All the rest are debt securities, which is to say that they represent a promise to pay, but nothing tangible.

The one possible wealth exception we have today, the one that actually represents something tangible, is real estate. But in the modern world there’s a caveat even with this. So much real estate has been purchased with debt (mortgagesâ) that’s often so large that the owner has little or no equity. Many property owners today are even in negative equity situations, owing more on their mortgages than their property is worth.

Wealth today is measured not in units of production as in days of old, but by the accumulation of pieces of paper.


Detaching money from the real economy

Here’s where we get to the root of the problem. Back when people grew, built, fixed or produced things for a living, there was a clear connection between being productive and earning a living. With the rise of money as a commodity in itselfâ”as the end game everyone now chasesâ”we’re now detached from actual production. Think about how many people work in money-related businesses, as compared to farming, manufacturing or the skilled trades.

The financial meltdown that started in 2007 has been commonly called the Financial Meltdownâ, but have you noticed that no one refers to it as the Economic Meltdownâ? That’s because the failure of what we loosely call the economy❠has been driven almost exclusively by financial factors. Could that possibly have something to do with the fact that in today’s world moneyâ”and all things closely related to itâ”have come to dominate all things economic?

When the ultimate economic goal becomes the creation of ever larger amounts of money, should we be surprised by the explosion of debt, the disappearance of real jobs, and the many Ponzi schemes that have flourished in recent years?

Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty. A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.ââ”Proverbs 28:19-20


How should Christians react to the financial meltdown?

I believe the time has come for Christians to realign our goals and set our sights on what is lasting. How do we do that? By changing our attitudes toward wealth and what it truly is.

Work. In the financial thinking of today, when we go out to look for a better job❠what we really mean is a better paying job, don’t we? That’s a pure play on money.

But perhaps if instead we sought work that we find fulfilling at a deeper level, money would become less important. Shouldn’t we be seeking our life’s callingâ”the work we’re meant to doâ”rather than just a higher paycheck? Maybe we should be asking ourselves, where can I be most productive?❠That needs to come back into the equation before work can be anything more than another component of the paper chase.

Investing. When we turn our money over to othersâ”mutual funds, investment managers, financial plannersâ”we’re asking them to get us a good return. Do we ever concern ourselves with what it is the money is invested in? We should.

We even seem content to have the money invested in exotic vehicles that we know little about, as if complication and complexity increase our chance at making a killing (they don’t). We need to invest only in what we do understand. How about investing in ourselves, investing in our own business, in the stock of companies that are either producing something tangible or providing a necessary service, in people (charity), or in our churches? Think of it as investing locally, in ventures we’re already familiar with.

Debt. If we could pick one cause to the financial meltdown that stands above all the rest, it’s debt! Culturally, we’ve come to believe that debt is benign, and once we reached that point the end result was inevitable. That needs to change. We don’t need to be borrowing to pay for entertainment, travel and consumer goods. And for those where we do need to borrow, we need to do so more conservatively.

We may need to borrow to buy houses and cars, but when we do we should 1) only buy well within our means, 2) make the largest down payment possible and, 3) take the shortest term we can afford. Paying off a loan (as opposed to rolling into a consolidation loan at a later date) should be a priority, otherwise we lock ourselves on a debt treadmill.

Family, community and church. It’s sad that we no longer think of these as wealthâ, but that’s exactly what they are. It’s equally disturbing that these very institutions that are so critical to basic life have degenerated in the great money chase of the past 50 years.

Family, community and church are the very foundations of civilized life and if we can’t invest our time, effort and money in them, then the quest to earn and amass more money will condemn us to chase that which we will never find.

What do you think that we as Christians should be doing to move the economy in a positive direction? Should we be doing anything at all? Scripture calls us to come out and be differentâ”does this also apply to economic and financial matters?

Controlling Expenses From the Top Down

top downIn an attempt to get control over finances, we’ll usually start with an assault on the smallest expenses; because they’re the smallest, cutting them will produce the least amount of disruption in our lifestyles. But it’s equally true that cutting small expenses also produces the lowest savings. No amount of coupon clipping, turning out unused lights or canceling subscriptions will offset a crippling house payment or an outsized car payment.

If we’re serious about controlling our financesâ”and I mean really serious–nothing will have greater impact than lowering expenses from the top down, meaning the Big Stuff. I’m talking about four expenses in particularâ”housing, cars, health insurance and entertainment.

Let’s consider each and the impact it has on our finances. At the end, we’ll discuss why this is even more important for a Christian.


Many or even most other expenses in your budget will be determined by how much you spend on housing. A house is the single biggest driver of lifestyle inflation! Where you live and the size of the home affects what you pay for utilities, repairs and maintenance, furniture, insurance and even entertainment and the car you park in your driveway. It’s never just about being able to afford a particular house payment–bigger houses seem to demand higher outlays for everything else.

For this reason it’s critical to be conservative in your choice of housing. For decades we were told to buy the biggest house we could afford, and our finances would grow into it; do we believe that anymore? Should we?

Here’s something else: once you close on your home and sign the mortgage papers there’s no way to lower your monthly house payment should it become necessary! This is especially true today since the ability to refinance is no longer assured. And while the principal and interest portion of your payment will be stable for the life of your loan (on a fixed rate), taxes and insurance can and usually do rise over time.

Consider these facts when buying a home, or even if you’re currently struggling to maintain your payment. It’s better to buy beneath your means when it comes to housing.


High car expense isn’t nearly as long term in scope as housing, but it can still do a lot of damage in the short run. Much like housing, other expenses tend to rise the more you pay for a car. Like housing, there’s a strong argument for buying less car than you can afford.

If you’re struggling with an uncomfortably high house payment you may want to consider buying no more car than you can afford to pay cash for. A car payment on top of a large house payment can be the tripwire into financial oblivionâ”most of us can afford to carry some debt but we can’t have it coming at us from all directions.

Health insurance

There’s a strong case to be made that this is quite possibly the most important expense we have in the modern world, but even if that’s true it still has limits. Many people want their health insurance plan to cover as much as possibleâ”the fewer checks they have to write the better. The problem with this goal, from a financial standpoint, is that it’s also very expensive.

A substantial part of the cost of health insurance is coverage over first dollar expenses. What this means is that the lower your co-payments, deductibles and co-insurance provisions, the more you’ll pay for your premiums.

If you’re in generally good health, it can be more cost effective to trade higher co-payments, deductibles and coinsurance provisions for lower monthly premiums. You can also offset these by maintaining an emergency fund balance large enough to cover your maximum deductible and coinsurance provision in any one year. You’ll be covered in the event the worst happens, and if it doesn’t you’ll be ahead through lower monthly premiums.


Not so long ago entertainment was a fringe expense, something we paid for with what was left after all the bills were paid and some money was socked away in the bank. No longer. Today entertainment has a far stronger claim on our first fruits, so much so that many go into debt to be able to afford it.

The problem with this lifestyle is that it’s expensive! Theme parks, travel, restaurant meals and professional sporting events are expensive, and even old stand-by’s, like movie theaters, are no longer cheap. If you’re entertaining yourself with these on a regular basis it’s a solid bet that entertainment is eating up a much larger slice of your finances than you might assume.

I have a theoryâ”stay with me for a momentâ”I think formal entertainment has grown with the decline of families and communities. The less interaction we have with people, the more we’re willing to pay to find recreation and contentment in more formal venues.

Spend more time with peopleâ”they’re more fun than formal entertainment, and a lot less expensive. Be purposeful about getting together with family and friends on simple activities like potluck suppers, outings or at home movie nights.

If boredom is an issue, try volunteering to help the less fortunate, exercising to improve your health or starting a side business to earn extra money.

What’s the payoff?

I’m of the opinion that as Christians we need to travel light❠in life. That starts with keeping control of the biggest expenses. By doing so we have more money free for other purposes; some examples:

Mobility. God sometimes calls us to stop what we’re doing and to go in a different direction. Mission work is an example; a career or geographic move are a couple of others. It’s not so easy to heed such a call when we’re weighed down with expensive possessions, large debts or a high cost lifestyle. We need to be ready because we can never know when such a call might come.

Peace of mind. Possessions have a way of controlling our thinking. The more possessions we have, and the more money we have tied up in them, the more we obsess on them. While we’re obsessing, we’re stressing, to at least some degree, and almost certainly neglecting other pursuits we’re charged with, including prayer and Bible study, fellowship and volunteering.

Liquidity. I believe that as Christians, we have an implied command to stay liquidâ”that is to have money, time and resources to contribute to our churches and to help others. Having income available and at least some discretionary savings will enable us to either deal with a personal crisis, or to help others with theirs. None of that can happen if our income and savings are maxed out in possessions or a lifestyle that’s at or just beyond our reach.

Giving. The less money we spend on our basic cost of livingâ”in other words, the money we spend on usâ”the more we’ll have to store up treasures in heaven❠( Matthew 6:20) by helping others.

Time. It’s become almost axiomatic in our culture that we never have enough time; how much of this owes to the fact that we strive to acquire and maintain a certain lifestyle? Time is probably a more valuable commodity than money because it represents our very lives, and not just our money. The more of it that we have that’s free, the more we have to do everything else we should be doing as followers of Jesus Christ. Our witnesses are driven more by how we use our time than by how we use our money. But in the Catch-22 that life can be, how we use our money has a major effect on how we use our time as well.

We can free up both our money and time for Kingdom purposes by controlling all kinds of expenses. But by tackling the biggest onesâ”by controlling our expenses from the top downâ”we can do even more!

Interview with Chuck Bentley: Root of Riches

root of riches bookToday, we have a very special interview!  I had the pleasure of interviewing Chuck Bentley.  He is the CEO of an awesome Christian organization that focuses on finances, “Crown Financial Ministries.”  Just recently, he launched his latest book titled “The Root of Riches.”  It’s a book that will transform the way you think about money.  I’m excited to share some of Chuck’s answers to my questions below.  Enjoy the interview!


1- Chuck, it’s truly an honor to be interviewing you.   Before I start on questions about Root of Riches, tell me a little bit about your background.   Give us a brief timeline of your life.

Jon, thanks for having me! It’s an honor to be a part of Free Money Wisdom.   Born in Texas, graduated from Baylor with a business degree. Married, 4 sons, a daughter in law and a grandson. Joined Crown 11 years ago.


2- When did your passion for writing begin?   What brought you to the point you’re at today?

I have a greater passion for reading than writing. The Root of Riches was a message that I began to teach after the Lord gave me an insight into I Timothy 6:10. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.❠Others told me I should write about it so I wrote from my passion for the message. I had a great team to help me get it done and I am excited to see how the Lord may use it.


3- Root of Riches❠is a pretty catchy title.   Tell us about how you came upon that title and the significance behind it.

I have known I Timothy 6:10 most of my life but I’d never considered the meaning of the word rootâ. Once I started down that trail I discovered that people, you and I, are often compared to trees in the Bible. That helped me to see that what we love actually determines our riches more than what we own or possess. I knew the message was taking me to the difficult task of examining what is in our hearts, thus the title.


4- What inspired you to write Root of Riches.❠  Tell us about your journey writing the book.

I don’t think of myself as a writer. However, my desire is to use the time, talents and energy the Lord has given to me to have an eternal impact for Him. Since writing a book is a very long, arduous journey, my motivation was to faithfully complete what I believed He wanted me to do. In a very real sense, the book was in my heart and mind; I just had to go through the discipline of writing it down. I was blessed to have a team that encouraged me to press on. I do hope to write more now that I understand the process.


5- You talk a lot about the meaning of rich.❠  What would you say America views being rich as?   And how is that different than what the Bible says.

I think Americans, and most people around the world, define rich as the accumulation of possessions. The more we have, the richer we become. The Bible refutes that definition in many ways: 1) In Luke 12:15 Jesus tells us that life does not consist in the abundance of possessions. 2) In Luke 16:11 he says that we must be faithful with worldly wealth❠to receive the true riches. Here, Jesus separates what the world can give from what only He can give and He defines what He gives as the genuine or true source of riches.


6- Regarding personal finances, share with us some of your failures.   And how did God restore you or bring you closer to Him during those times?

I have made just about every financial mistake there is but in the book I share my journey out of my worst mistake, the love of money. Money was my secret idol and it controlled my life in times when I had little or much. This led to many poor choices and a complete disregard for what the Bible has to say about finances. The Lord forgave me and ironically allowed me the opportunity to teach others about His principles. He is full of grace and mercy and my life is a testimony to that. On that financial side, I would never trade what I have gained from being in close fellowship with the Lord for any amount of money.   His riches have proven to be priceless.


7- What are your thoughts on Biblical stewardship are how it relates to our Christian walk?

The Christian life is stewardship. He is the Owner of everything including His people. If we fail to understand our role and responsibility to be faithful stewards, I do not believe we will hear the words, Well done, good and faithful servant.❠That’s how strongly I believe the importance of this topic.


8- Chuck, you use a tree with roots as the picture on the front of the book.   Tell us a little about this and how it relates to the mission behind the book.

We are either bad trees, what I call the ME Trees or we are  good trees, what I call  HE Trees in the book. One produces what the Bible calls evil and the other produces good fruit. We are all born as ME Trees and must be transformed at the root level to produce good fruit. Once I followed this theme in God’s Word  I realized that the Bible starts with a choice between two trees and ends with our reunion with Jesus as the Tree of Life.   The mission of the book is to lead people to become HE Trees, producing the fruit that will lead to the spreading of God’s goodness according to the prophetic words: They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.❠  Isaiah 61:3


9- What did you learn along the way while writing this book?   Did anything surprise you or come out of nowhere and make an impact on you?

Absolutely!   I was shocked by many new insights but particularly by the overall biblical correlation between ourselves and trees. I am much more committed to advancing correct (biblical) beliefs about money than I am advocating for correct behaviors that omits the core issues of the heart and mind.


10- What are your top pieces of advice for Christians who are seeking to live a rich❠life?

1)           Immerse yourself in the Bible. You are defenseless to the deceptions of worldly wealth without this investment to gain God’s wisdom.

2)           Love God, love people and love giving.


Thanks for the interview Chuck!  I highly recommend this book to anyone, go grab your copy today!