Money Problems—What Help?
“FEASTING makes you happy and wine cheers you up, but you can’t have either without money.”—Ecclesiastes 10:19, Good News Bible.
2 Money is a major concern in every land. One reason is inflation. Every day it costs more to live. Many persons cannot even afford to buy the food they need. A growing number of men have to work at two jobs, and more wives go off to work. Families suffer. Health suffers. The money problems are usually compounded when credit buying comes into the picture. Relying on credit, many persons who are deeply in debt keep on spending for items they really do not need. This is true not only in advanced lands but also in areas where people have few resources.
3 What practical help does the Bible offer? Can it aid you to find or hold a job? Can it ease your family’s worry about money, leading to a happier life?
DO HONESTY AND HARD WORK HELP?
4 “People who work hard don’t get a fair break. Do you agree?” In a survey, 85 percent agreed. It often seems as if success depends on cheating, stealing, bribery and influential connections. Yet the Scriptures stress the value of honesty and industriousness. For example, the Bible says:
“Let the stealer steal no more, but rather let him do hard work, doing with his hands what is good work.”—Ephesians 4:28.
“The lazy man has longings, but gets nothing: the diligent man is amply supplied. You see a man skilful at his work? He shall enter the service of kings.”—Proverbs 13:4; 22:29, Moffatt.
“Make it your aim to live a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to earn your own living, just as we told you before. In this way you will win the respect of those who are not believers, and you will not have to depend on anyone for what you need.”—1 Thessalonians 4:11, 12, Good News Bible.
5 Both time and wide experience have proved that this advice is practical. Oh, it is true that some lazy persons seem to get ahead. But in general and in the long run, if you apply the Bible’s counsel you are going to do better than those who ignore it.
6 Employers frequently complain that workers come in late, loaf a lot, are dirty and cannot be trusted. So a person who, following Bible principles, is punctual, careful, clean, trustworthy and diligent will usually find work. And he likely will earn more, for employers are often willing to pay for a well-done job. There are many reports from Jehovah’s Witnesses of this happening.
7 But are not lying and cheating almost necessary nowadays? Christians who, because of applying Bible principles, have refused to steal, lie or cheat have seen that Scriptural counsel works.
A Johannesburg, South Africa, firm that sold electrical appliances was not doing well. One reason was that many employees stole. One day the manager called the African staff together and fired them all. Yet the next morning an employee was on his usual train to work and met a fellow worker. ‘How is it that you are going to work?’ he asked. The other employee said that the manager had told him privately that, since he was honest, his case was an exception. The first man said that it was the same with him. On arriving at the job they met a third employee who also had been told privately to come to work as usual. All were true Christians.
Robert worked for a British road-building firm. One day a director said that if anyone called, Robert should explain that he was not in. Yet when Robert answered a call he explained that the director was occupied. Hearing that, the director criticized him. But the matter was dropped when Robert explained that as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses he could not lie. (Ephesians 4:25) Later, when Robert was in line for a promotion, a greedy colleague tried to raise doubts about his honesty. Now the director spoke up about Robert’s honesty. He got the promotion.
8 Is honesty possible if you are in business for yourself? In some cases being honest may seem impractical. But it still is the best course. It helps you to have a clear conscience with God and peace of mind. Furthermore, many people prefer to do business with someone whom they feel will not cheat. It is just as the Bible says—you “win the respect of those who are not believers.”
HELP WITH HOUSING
9 Finding decent housing is another major problem. In some lands whole families are forced to live crammed into one room. Or, the difficulty may be to locate clean housing that one can afford. Can the Bible help with these problems?
10 When you rent (or lease) a home, you are dealing with someone else’s property. It is noteworthy that God urged the Israelites to respect and care for others’ property. (Deuteronomy 22:1-4) He also encouraged physical cleanness. (Deuteronomy 23:12-14; Exodus 30:18-21) Accordingly, conscientious Christians try to avoid damaging property and they keep clean any home that they rent. For this reason, and because they ‘live quietly,’ they are widely appreciated as tenants and have found it easier to get housing.
A Christian family rented a house from the ex-mayor of one African capital. They kept his building clean and paid the rent on time. (Romans 13:8) When they were about to move away they introduced the owner to another family from the congregation. The owner mentioned that normally the rent “would be raised,” which meant doubling it. But because he knew these Christians would be reliable, clean people, he left the rent the same, about half of what was charged for similar houses around there.
11 Even when circumstances beyond a person’s control prevent him from finding nicer housing, he still benefits. He will keep his home clean and neat. That makes for a healthier, happier life.
USING YOUR MONEY WISELY
12 Wealthy King Solomon wrote: “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.”—Ecclesiastes 7:12.
13 Solomon realized, as we must, that money provides a defense against the troubles that poverty can bring. So money is not to be wasted; it should be managed wisely. What practical counsel does the Bible offer us on managing our funds?
14 Jesus asked: “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.”—Luke 14:28-30.
15 That can be applied to family finances. Many couples have found it good to sit down and calmly calculate a budget to see if a major purchase is possible and wise. They have been further aided by the Bible reminder that unexpected events do occur. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) This has helped them to avoid impulse buying and long-term debts.
16 Also, note this insight: “The borrower is the slave of the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7, Revised Standard Version) While the Bible does not forbid borrowing or lending, it alerts us that borrowing needlessly can, in effect, enslave a person to a bank or a lender. Wise is the person who remembers that in these days so many are tempted to buy on credit, only to wind up in debt, paying high interest.
17 The Bible has helped many families to ease money problems through cutting down on waste. Jesus set a fine example. After providing a meal for a large crowd, he directed that the leftovers be gathered. (John 6:10-13) Following such an example, old and young Christians can be more conscious about avoiding waste.
18 Learning to apply Bible counsel about money may require a considerable change in viewpoint, but the results will be beneficial, as the following illustrates:
Soon after marrying, a young couple in Zimbabwe began having money problems. His wages were low; she wanted many new things and special foods. She also started working, but that did not seem to help much. The strain on their marriage was so great that it seemed questionable whether they would stay together. Some Christian elders offered to help. Using the Bible, they discussed the importance of a budget. (Luke 14:28-30) The couple saw the usefulness of preparing a shopping list with approximate prices and of buying foods for the whole week at a quantity saving. (Proverbs 31:14) The elders shared Scriptural counsel about contentment and the need to avoid desiring luxuries that could not now be afforded. (Luke 12:22-31) What a help this Scriptural counsel was! Being more settled about money, the couple was happier. Even the neighbors commented on the improvement in their marriage.
19 Those on a fixed income also have benefited from practical Bible advice. This was true of a retired couple in Spain:
Francisco and Maria’s limited income simply is not enough. Yet they explain they get along fine by applying what they learn from the Scriptures. For example, Proverbs 6:6-8 says: ‘Go to the ant. See its ways and become wise. It prepares its food even in the summer; it has gathered its food supplies even in the harvest.’ Maria says that she learned to do this, buying things when they are readily available and therefore cheaper, such as fruit in season. She also waits for clearance sales to buy next year’s clothing. They ‘prepare their food in the summer’ by cultivating a garden on a small piece of land that is a 45-minute walk from their home. The words at 1 John 2:16 also help. They have learned to be satisfied with home furnishings even if such are out of style. And rather than expensive entertainment, they enjoy helping others to learn about God.
AVOID HURTING YOUR POCKETBOOK
20 Indulging in such practices as drug or alcohol abuse, smoking and gambling can drain your pocketbook. The Bible helps in these areas, too.a
21 Consider liquor. The Bible does not prohibit the moderate use of alcoholic beverages. But it does advise:
“Pleasure-lovers stay poor, he will not grow rich who loves wine and good living.”
“Do not be one of those forever tippling wine . . . for the drunkard and glutton impoverish themselves, and a drowsy head makes a wearer of rags.”—Proverbs 21:17; 23:20, 21, Jerusalem Bible.
22 Heavy drinking hurts the pocketbook in various ways. Alcoholic beverages themselves are expensive, some persons spending up to half their weekly wage on liquor. In just the one Canadian province of Quebec over a billion dollars a year is spent on liquor. Another billion goes for things associated with heavy drinking—absenteeism from work and alcohol-related accidents.
In southern Chile a shoe salesman lost his job because of drunkenness. He then tried repairing shoes in a shed alongside the dilapidated house the family rented. Still, most of his money went for drink and his wife often had to get him from the jail. She also had to work late into the nights making wigs so they would have food money. But she began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, which moved her to be a more understanding and supportive wife. This led her husband to sit in on the study. He learned that one cannot be a drunkard and a Christian, so he stopped drinking. The family then could eat better. In time they even bought a small home and a store where he carried on a successful shoe-repair business.
23 What about gambling, whether large betting at a racetrack or a casino or the constant betting with lottery tickets? Many persons have money problems because of compulsive gambling. They keep hoping to make a “big killing,” but what they are really doing is squandering their funds, often with great hardship to their family.
24 An Australian man says that for years with him “gambling was an absolute obsession. I would gamble seven days a week, and more if there had been the days.” He borrowed from friends until they avoided him. “Sometimes after losing I would bang my head on the wall and plead with my wife, ‘Just give me 50 cents. I know I’ll win.’”
25 When he began to study the Bible, he was impressed with Jesus’ counsel: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of covetousness.” (Luke 12:15; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) Concluding that his gambling reflected extreme greed, this man forced himself to quit. Being then able to use his pay to benefit his family, he could more fully appreciate the proverb: “Wealth got by scheming [“wealth from gambling,” Living Bible] will diminish; but he who gathers little by little will increase his store.”—Proverbs 13:11, An American Translation.
BEING CONTENT IS A KEY
26 Concerning money, an area in which the Bible can provide some of the greatest help involves one’s personal outlook. At 1 Timothy 6:7-10 we read:
“What did we bring into the world? Nothing! What can we take out of the world? Nothing! So then, if we have food and clothes, that should be enough for us. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and are caught in the trap of many foolish and harmful desires. . . . Some have been so eager to have [money] that they have wandered away from the faith and have broken their hearts with many sorrows.”—Good News Bible.
27 Whether they are poor or rich, those who love money are never satisfied. A hard-driving executive in California told his wife: “I want to become rich . . . and if I have to choose between you and [the company], you lose.” He became head of a large corporation, a millionaire, and lives in a $700,000 home. Yet he says: “Whatever I have, it’s not enough.” The fact is that money does not assure happiness. Two years before he died, millionaire oilman J. P. Getty said: “Money doesn’t necessarily have any connection with happiness. Maybe with unhappiness.”
28 The Bible, while not condemning the having of money or possessions, strongly warns against developing a love for them. It reminds us that life does not come from what we possess.—Luke 12:16-20.
29 So rather than fill your life with anxiety by striving for wealth, be content with what you have or can reasonably obtain. Jesus’ words at Luke 12:22-31 can aid us to have that view:
“Quit being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or about your bodies as to what you will wear. For the soul is worth more than food and the body than clothing. Mark well that the ravens neither sow seed nor reap, and they have neither barn nor storehouse, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more worth are you than birds? . . . So quit seeking what you might eat and what you might drink, and quit being in anxious suspense; for all these are the things the nations of the world are eagerly pursuing, but your Father knows you need these things.”
30 An expensive wardrobe, rich food and a luxurious house may give some pleasure, but they will not add a year to your life—they may take years from it. Yet you can find much happiness in life without riches.
31 Nor do you need wealth in order to have friends. Anyone who depends on his money to attract friends is making a mistake. “Friends” of that sort eat your food and share your possessions, but when the money runs out so do they.—Ecclesiastes 5:11; Proverbs 19:6.
32 But when you accept the Bible’s balanced view regarding work, rejoicing in life and doing good things for others, you will have a “gift of God.” As Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13 expresses it: “There is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good during one’s life; and also that every man should eat and indeed drink and see good for all his hard work. It is the gift of God.”
33 So sound is God’s counsel on these matters that a person might well wonder: Will God someday open the way for a complete end to poverty, undernourishment and poor housing, which are so often associated with money problems? He will! And later we will consider the evidence providing the basis for such conviction. But, first, let us look at some other problems that seriously affect people’s lives now.
a See also Chapter 10, “Better Health and Longer Life—How?”
Why is there need for help about money? (1-3)
The Bible offers what different and practical view of work? (Ecclesiastes 8:12, 13) (4-6)
Of what value is honesty? (Romans 2:14, 15) (7, 8)
How can applying the Bible help with housing? (9-11)
What practical counsel is available about money? (12-16)
How have persons put Bible advice to good use? (17-19)
Why is Bible counsel about drinking of help? (20-22)
How has gambling contributed to problems? (23-25)
Why is Biblical advice on contentment useful? (26, 27)
Jesus offered what sound counsel about wealth? (28-30)
How can Scriptural counsel help you to have a richer life? (31-33)
[Box on page 53]
A SOUTH AMERICAN BUSINESSWOMAN
In Georgetown, Guyana, 48-year-old Norma owned produce stalls at one of the largest markets. She cheated when weighing with her pan scales. If someone ordered 4 ounces of salt fish, she set the scales at 3, and so on. Also, the metal weights for the scales were short. Hence, her customers never got the full measure.
One Sunday a relative gave her a copy of “The Watchtower” that discussed Bible principles in business. What it said about dishonest practices seemed to be speaking right to her. (Proverbs 20:23; Leviticus 19:35, 36) On Monday Norma threw out her false weights and got accurate ones. She began attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses and having a Bible study. Despite family ridicule, she became more convinced that she did the right thing.
How did it go with her business? She could not make a profit on some items without cheating, so she had to quit handling them. But with the remaining items customers saw a change and remarked, ‘Since you became a Christian you are giving us more for our money.’ As a result, business actually got better. Making an honest profit, Norma was able to pay off the mortgage on her home, put some money in the bank and make charitable contributions. And her health has improved, for she no longer gets the nervous headaches that she did when in fear of being caught cheating.
[Box on page 59]
“Eighty-seven per cent of Australians have taken part in some form of gambling over the last three months.”—“The Sunday Mail” (Brisbane).
“We’d Rather Gamble than Eat! Queenslanders are spending an estimated $12 million a week on gambling—almost as much as they spend on groceries and meat.”—“The Sunday Mail” (Brisbane).
[Picture on page 57]
Bible counsel has helped with the family budget
[Picture on page 60]
How practical are Bible principles about drunkenness, smoking and gambling?