Use Material Assets Wisely
NOT money in itself but the love of money can be harmful. The Bible is very realistic in this matter. Although warning against the love of money, it also says: “The table has its pleasures, and wine makes a cheerful life; and money is behind it all.” (Eccl. 10:19, The New English Bible) Yes, a good meal may be enjoyable. But neither food nor drink can be obtained without money. In this world, money is a necessity. It is a valuable asset that must be managed wisely.
In connection with material possessions, the Bible emphasizes the importance of wisdom. We read: “Wisdom along with an inheritance is good . . . For wisdom is for a protection the same as money is for a protection; but the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom itself preserves alive its owners.” (Eccl. 7:11, 12) An inheritance is definitely of value. But if the individual does not know how to manage money wisely, he may soon be penniless. Money does provide a measure of protection from poverty and its accompanying troubles. However, wisdom provides even greater protection. It enables a person to make good use of his resources and to avoid things that could jeopardize his welfare and that of his family.
Besides stressing the importance of wisdom, the Bible provides the guidelines that, when followed, result in a person’s acting wisely. Those who do not know or appreciate these guidelines face many serious problems.
Take the case of a married couple in Australia. They make many credit purchases. To meet expenses, both husband and wife work. Though the man’s gross weekly wage is about $180, he receives only $12 of this amount. The rest of the money is used to pay off past debts. So many purchases have been made by this couple that each payment mainly covers the accumulating interest on their debts and very little of the amount is applied to the principal. Family relations are strained, and the husband continually turns to alcoholic beverages for an escape from the pressure of the undesirable financial situation. Under the influence of alcohol, he often destroys possessions. The smashed furniture, broken kitchen items and the like must then be replaced, only adding to the economic problems.
What Bible principles could help this man and others who take on more obligations than they can handle? The Scriptures tell us: “The borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” (Prov. 22:7, NEB) “Do not you people be owing anybody a single thing, except to love one another.” (Rom. 13:8) “Who of you that wants to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the expense, to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, he might lay its foundation but not be able to finish it, and all the onlookers might start to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man started to build but was not able to finish.’”—Luke 14:28-30.
It is indeed the wise course for a person to analyze beforehand whether he can take on a particular financial responsibility. Otherwise, as the Bible says, the individual may find himself in slavery to the lender. He could become hopelessly indebted. How much better it would be not to “be owing anybody a single thing”!
Especially must persons with limited assets be careful about not drawing too heavily on their income for nonessentials. Since they cannot afford to mismanage their finances, they do well to follow the Bible’s encouragement to be industrious, to avoid wastefulness and to shop wisely. (Compare Proverbs 31:14, 15.) Note what can happen when this is not done.
Though poor, some persons who could walk take a taxi to travel just a short distance. Instead of writing a letter, they may call long-distance on the telephone. They may spend much money on soft drinks, cookies, condiments, sauces, candy, processed foods and packaged meals. Sadly, a desire for quick, easy-to-prepare meals adversely affects both their budget and the health of their families. Because of lacking proper nourishment, the children may often be sick.
In Brazil, some poor families buy cups of yogurt that are sold at more than 200 percent profit. Just think of how much money a woman could save by making yogurt and other items at home! Other families have small plots of ground but do not plant anything. They may let bananas, coconuts and oranges rot on their property and buy these items from vendors. Others spend money on worm remedies, while papaya fruits become rotten in their garden. Yet, in the tropics, papaya is the best worm remedy.
By way of contrast, consider the case of one father of two children who applies Bible principles. This Brazilian has learned how to support his family of four on a limited income. By purchasing meat a day after the butchering, he pays a lower price. Shortly before closing time, he goes to the street market to buy fruits and vegetables. Since those operating the stands want to sell out, he is able to buy food at a greatly reduced price. While not as attractive as at the start of the day, the fruits and vegetables are still wholesome and sound. Through such wise shopping, this man spends just a third of what other people do for the same kind of food.
Also, consider the example of Bruce, a tall, slight-built family man. During the time of the Great Depression in Canada, he worked 10 hours a day, six days a week. His salary was $12 (U.S.) per week. Yet, in a modest way, he provided well for his family. The family always had adequate food, clothing and shelter. How did he manage on an income that was small even in the 1930’s?
He lived by a principle that Jesus Christ exemplified. When providing food for more than 5,000 people, Jesus instructed his disciples: “Gather together the fragments that remain over, so that nothing is wasted.” (John 6:12) Bruce applied this principle himself and inculcated the same in the minds and hearts of his happy family. He fortified his teaching about good management by calling attention to Jesus’ illustration about the steward who lost his job due to his wastefulness. (Luke 16:1, 2) As a result, the family wasted nothing—food, clothing, furnishings, heat or power. They took good care of their possessions.
The Bible’s comments about giving monetary help to others could also aid many people to avoid financial problems. Some persons who are emotionally inclined make loans without security or they even go surety for others. Often they lose money in this way and experience serious economic hardships. Hence, they would benefit greatly from living in harmony with the following Biblical warnings: “One will positively fare badly because he has gone surety for a stranger.” (Prov. 11:15) “Senseless is the man who gives his hand in pledge, who becomes surety for his neighbor.” (Prov. 17:18, NAB) Furthermore, persons who are irresponsible, lazy, and unwilling to accept available jobs that they are capable of handling should not be given financial assistance. The Scriptural rule is: “If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10) On the other hand, the Bible does encourage coming to the aid of those who are truly in need.—Eph. 4:28.
Would it not be beneficial if more persons knew and paid attention to the Bible’s principles about managing financial affairs? This would certainly aid them to put bread on their table.