A cloud of generous witnesses

Examples of other Christians’ faithfulness can have a powerful influence on us. We know this not only from our own experiences but from the Scriptures themselves. The book of Hebrews recounts for us the stories of the Old Testament saints, concluding, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

In God’s wisdom, the example of other saints is meant to stir us to greater faithfulness in our own lives. Take, for example, three especially generous Christians from recent history.
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Debt – the credit crunch!

In the UK, more than 3 million people have debt they may never clear and for 5 million the debts will take more than a decade to repay. In Holland, one in six households have problematic debt. Debt is a burden, a worry and fuel for

depression. It can cause serious breakdowns in relationships. It is not just single mothers with no support, the unemployed or those struggling in low paid jobs. The statistics show the problem occurs over a wide range of income levels.

 

I remember lying in bed as a 15-year-old listening to my parents arguing in the room next door about bills they couldn’t pay. My dad was unemployed and bought stuff on credit from a mail order firm for the family out of a good heart. Having witnessed what debt can do in a family I vowed never to borrow any money; and I never did, with the exception of a mortgage (which is now paid off).

We can so easily get sucked into a vortex of buying, often with just a few clicks. Advertising is subtly tempting us to, as Will Smith puts it, “to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like!” Spending can become a rush of power and pleasure, mounting in some cases to addiction. Psychologists say that consumer debt is as much about mood as actual need. Credit cards can open a door to easy buying, but this may be an open door to trouble.

The Bible warns about debt, telling us that borrowing can remove our freedom to use our money as we want because creditors have first call on our money. “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7)

So, how can we remain free? First of all, don’t buy stuff you can’t afford! Better to save and pay cash, or if you use credit cards, make sure to pay the balance each month! The Bible does not prohibit borrowing but it warns of the dangers when not being able to pay back fully and on time.

An important question to ask is, ‘does it make economic sense?’ For instance, borrowing for education in order to get a (better-) job, or for a car which you need for your work or for some investment in your business makes sense. Borrowing for consumer goods never makes economic sense because the value depreciates quickly.

Paul wrote, “All things are lawful for me, “but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12) I really believe we should all strive to become debt free. Your mood will improve significantly!

Start listing your debts, try to find a little extra money to spend on repayment and make a plan using the snowball calculator here.

True Financial Freedom – 6th. Compass Europe conference

Here is your warm invitation to join us at ten beautiful seaside resort of Cascais, near Lisbon, Portugal for our 6th European conference on financial discipleship! Our theme is “True Financial Freedom.”

Jesus said to His disciples,  “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

Financial freedom comes from learning what the Bible has to say about handling money and possessions. The goal of this conference is to help disciples of Jesus to help others discover what the Bible has to say and then to apply this so that they can experience true financial freedom.

True financial freedom means to be free from worries, anxiety and fear. To be free from the power of money. It is not a destination to reach but a path to be taken. True financial freedom means also being free to be share and to use finances His way.

This conference will focus on how to help people to find this freedom through Biblical advice and counselling.  More information here.

Where does it go?

“I just don’t know where it all goes. The month is not finished and we’re short already.” This seems to be a common phenomenon, affecting people with all sizes of income. However much money we earn, there always seems to be more month than money! It is a well-known saying that “money talks”, but all mine seems to say is ‘Goodbye’!

Managing money is not just a matter of adding and subtracting all working with percentages, that is easy; managing money is more of spiritual discipline, because it has to do with our character, priorities, and values.

It seems to be a problem in the old Testament Times. The prophet Haggai passed on Gods words.” Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts; you that your ways. You have sown that much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but never have your Phil. You close yourselves but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.” (Haggai 1:6)

 I must confess I am spender rather than a saver. I like buying  things. Fortunately, I have a wife who is very frugal  and always looking for bargains. I have learnt that spending without a plan is a recipe for disaster. I have experienced first-hand what the wise Solomon so graphically describes. “In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle.” (Proverbs 23:5)

God is asking us to consider our ways. He is inviting us to adjust our lives to his ways. Haggai’s picture of bags with holes is a powerful image. In a recession, or financially difficult times, we will probably begin to spend less-reining in our use of credit and so on. But I think the message of Haggai runs deeper. God does not want us to just patch up our bags and wait for things to get back to normal. Instead we must find a new way of living as faithful stewards of all that God has given to us. Don’t patch the bags; get new bags!

Secret to financial success is very easy. Spent less than you are over a long period of time and you will be financially successful. To do this we need to setup a spending plan, together with God who is the owner of our money, to plan our finances so that each month so that we are spending less than is coming in. This requires discipline, the ability to say no to purchasing items we have not budgeted for, to stick to our plan.

Here is a spending plan tool.

Absolute honesty

We live in an age of “relative honesty” in which people formulate their own standards of honesty which change with the circumstances. The Bible speaks of a similar time which was a turbulent period in Israel’s history. “Everyone did whatever he wanted to—whatever seemed right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6, TLB ).

Relative honesty contrasts sharply with the standard we find in Scripture. God demands absolute honesty. Proverbs 20:23 reads, “The Lord loathes all cheating and dishonesty” (TLB). And Proverbs 12:22 states, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord.” Leviticus 19:11 says, “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.”

Truthfulness is one of God’s attributes. “I am . . . the truth” (John 14:6). Moreover, He commands us to reflect His honest and holy character. “Be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

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The problem with financial success

“Having money is more fun than not having any!” Seems logical, but is it always true? Does having more money always bring joy and life fulfilment? A documentary on Dutch TV described the rise to fame of a Dutch artist Folkert de Jong, one of the most successful contemporary artists in Holland. His expressive sculptures […]

“Having money is more fun than not having any!” Seems logical, but is it always true? Does having more money always bring joy and life fulfilment?

A documentary on Dutch TV described the rise to fame of a Dutch artist Folkert de Jong, one of the most successful contemporary artists in Holland. His expressive sculptures and installations are very popular and ‘are selling like hot cakes.’ Rich collectors, like Charles Saatchi, Damien First and Tracey Emin fought each other for his work.

Folkert de Jong told of his journey. “One minute you are making something in your atelier  in old Amsterdam and the next it’s worth € 40.000 or even a hundred thousand. The ever increasing bank balance sent him crazy, he tells. ” All of a sudden there were secretaries, and assistants, it became much more commercial. I held lots of exhibitions and had to produce more and more. It was like becoming another person, driven by money and power.”  Eventually stress tore him apart, constantly arguing with his business friends, who ‘turned out not to be friends at all.”
This all led to bankruptcy, and left him with a debt of over half a million euros.

“I knew I had to get back to basics, back to myself … I made by best work when I had no prospects at all!”

This mirrors the experience of probably the richest man who ever lived, Kong Solomon. He said, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10-12)

‘Christians should warn governments about the effects of debt and greed’

‘Christians should warn governments about the effects of debt and greed’ Spanish group Evangelicals in Economy and Business organises conference for business leaders. Meeting regularly with fellow believers is “vitally important.” “The Bible has much to say about dealing with people and money, innovation and creativity, decision-making and leadership”, believes Peter Briscoe, a former executive […]

‘Christians should warn governments about the effects of debt and greed’ Spanish group Evangelicals in Economy and Business organises conference for business leaders. Meeting regularly with fellow believers is “vitally important.”

“The Bible has much to say about dealing with people and money, innovation and creativity, decision-making and leadership”, believes Peter Briscoe, a former executive of a high-tech company. He will be one of the speakers of a May 2017 conference organised by the Spanish group Evangelicals in Economy and Business (Evangélicos en Economía y Empresa, Tres-e).   Evangelicals in Economy and Business. They bring together people whose desire is to live the professional life according to “biblical values” and see their workplace as their “mission field”.

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“Getting to know other Christian professionals who go through similar situations gives a new perspective and helps to discern ways to address certain challenges”, explains Zulima Sánchez, member of the Tres-e committee.  A wide variety of professionals – such as people working in engineering, human resources, finances or self-employed workers – are active members of  the group. After 6 years of local training, national conferences and production of materials, the group is now organising its first Conference for Executives and Business Leaders (12-14 May, Barcelona).

“The perspectives and needs of executives and business leaders are frquently very specific”, says Sánchez. “Certain topics are addressed from another angle”. Such a conference is important because “we do realise that executives and business leaders have positions that are very visible in the business field, and their testimony has a great impact both inside and outside of their organisation”.

Evangelical Focus asked Peter Briscoe, one of the guest speakers at the Barcelona conference, about the relationship between the Bible and leadership in business.   

Question. Why is it important for business people to spend time with other Christians to think about what the Bible says about their job?

Answer. It is vitally important for leaders in business to meet together with fellow believers for mutual encouragement, guidance, support, and to find God’s direction for their organization… A business leader is faced with multiple decisions almost every day. Many decisions will be taken together with staff or managers, but there are many types of decisions for which it is not practical or possible to discuss with others in the same company. Outside help and guidance can be of great help.  When I was leading a high-tech company in the field of human spaceflight, we called together a team of business owners to advise me on major decisions. I had lots of tough decisions to make! The people I met with were not high paid consultants but Christians leading their own business who wanted to meet to discuss dilemma’s and tough problems in a confidential manner with each other. We searched the scriptures to see if the Bible could shed any light on these problems and prayed together for Gods revelation and guidance. There were eight of us meeting monthly for a half day of talks, prayer and study on practical business problems. Between the eight of us, we had almost 200 years of practical business experience. We supported each other with our time and experience because we wanted to grow as disciples of Jesus and to glorify God with our businesses. There was not one problem which was brought to the table, which someone had not previously encountered! That person was able to give a testimony on how the problem was solved, or which mistakes they had made. This help, advice and support was worth so much to me as a business leader, and even saved me lots of money by avoiding some mistakes and pitfalls. The Bible has so much to say about dealing with people and money, innovation and creativity, decision-making and leadership. It is a wonderful, dynamic resource for building a business which will shine as a light and testimony to God in a sometimes dark and tough marketplace. We need not go it alone in business as God has also given us fellow Christians to help us!

Q. At the Barcelona conference, you will talk about loneliness in leadership. Why is this an issue?

A. Isolation is one of the Christian’s greatest enemies. Leading to feelings of loneliness, isolation opens a door for depression, negative feelings, lack of focus and affects performance. As an entrepreneur, you are on your own and nobody supports you because it’s hard for them to see what you see and feel the excitement that you feel at the critical stages. This is especially true if you run your small business from home. It can also be true for people working in large companies who can be isolated as a result of neglect or poor performance. Loneliness when travelling opens us up for temptations and can often lead to uncharacteristic and undesirable behaviour. We are created as social beings and need to feel connected, supported and loved.  In our ultra-connected world of social media we have lots of quick contacts but very few friends. A person can be alone without being lonely, which implies feelings of loss or alienation. And vice versa: a person may be with others, and paradoxically, experience deep feelings of loneliness if involved in a relationship with someone who doesn’t understand or accept your essential nature Who can we turn to for support, encouragement and understanding? How can we remain strong in an environment which seems to be against us? How can we turn a negative feeling such a loneliness into a strength with which to cope with life’s challenges? So if we’re out there on our own in our business or career either literally, mentally or emotionally, what can do to create community around us and feel supported? How can we change isolation into true community?   Christians should participate in the public debates about economy.

Q. Some weeks ago the World Economic Forum had its latest meeting in Davos.  What do Christians have to say about these type of global meetings?  

A. I was last at the Davos conference almost 20 years ago, where, for some years, we held small meetings with Christian entrepreneurs and leaders to share our Christian thoughts on economic issues. Then these meetings were banned because of the religious content. It is important that Christians should have a strong voice in economic issues because we believe that God has the best interest of people at heart and wants them to live prosperous and generous lives in safety, security and peace. The Bible gives us revelation on God’s heart concerning our economy and economic principles of the Kingdom of God can be applied worldwide. To this end, I am one of the initiators of the European Economic Summit (see more) which is held every two years. This is a gathering of Christians in politics, economy and business which proposes Christian solutions to not only European but also to global issues like human trafficking, poverty, corruption and employment. We, as believers, have a responsibility to warn governments about debt which is spiralling out of control and damaging the future of our children; about poverty which takes away human dignity and about greed which steals from honest workers. We must stand up and tell the world about God’s love for people and the ways in which the global Church is equipped with the Bible and the Holy Spirit to transform local societies.

How Much Is Enough?

This is an excerpt from my presentation at the European Economic Summit, Amsterdam September 7-9, 2016. How Much is Enough? How much is enough? This is a very easy question to ask but difficult to answer, but the answer, when found, will lead to the ability to realise the most important things in our lives. […]

This is an excerpt from my presentation at the European Economic Summit, Amsterdam September 7-9, 2016.

How Much is Enough?

How much is enough? This is a very easy question to ask but difficult to answer, but the answer, when found, will lead to the ability to realise the most important things in our lives.

The Greek philosopher Epicurus stated, “nothing is enough, for the man to whom enough is too little.” Contrast that with the well-known answer to our question from J.D. Rockefeller, which although stated over a hundred years ago seems to have characterized our capitalist system recently. When asked ‘how much is enough’ he stated ‘just a little bit more!’

In 2012 father and son Sidelsky write a much discussed book with the title, ‘How Much is Enough’ which was inspired by the 1930 essay by Keynes entitled “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren,” in which he describes a moral economy, wherein we can ask ourselves the question, ‘How much is enough, what do we need money for?’  Keynes proposed the answer – “enough for living a good life.”  Keynes maintained that by 2030, developed societies will be wealthy enough that leisure time, rather than work, will characterize national lifestyles. He uses a realistic estimate for growth — 2 percent per year — and pointed out that with that growth the “capital equipment” in the world would increase seven and a half times. With a world as wealthy as this, he said, “We shall do more things for ourselves than is usual with the rich to-day [sic], only too glad to have small duties and tasks and routines”

The Wall Street crash was still a year away when in 1928 John Maynard Keynes spoke to an audience of Cambridge undergraduates. The great economist told the students that by the time they were old men the big economic problems of the day would be solved. The capitalist system was capable of delivering such a sustained and steady increase in output that workers would eventually have all the material goods they could possibly want. They would need to toil for only 15 hours a week and could then spend the rest of the time enjoying themselves. I heard this again in the seventies, that with the development of technology, our work would become so efficient that we would enjoy a sea of spare time in which to enjoy our lives and that the 15-hour week would become reality.

The Sidelsky’s described 7 aspects of what Keynes called the good life:  Health, security, respect, personality, free time, friendship and harmony.   Interestingly, they did not include good work, which is essential for human creativity, productivity and dignity. However, if our question of enough is not answered, then Epicurus’ advice is also valid for work. If the question of enough is not answered, then no amount of work is enough and this seems to have negated Keyne’s prediction that we will have less need to work.

Can we combine our human need for productive work with our longing for the ‘good life’? I believe that answering our question is the key to this. A good friend of mine is Dave Rae, who had a successful career with Apple, first as president of Apple Canada and then vp for the Pacific region. He found a good balance between the goodness of work and the goodness of free time. His policy was never to work more than 45 hours a week. He maintained throughout his career, that if you cannot get the job done well in that time, you are either doing the wrong things or doing them in the wrong way.

His free time, he devoted to helping students and others, while bringing up a very balanced family with a happy marriage and three children, and being very generous with his money.

The problem in not being able to answer our question was tackled by Prof.Dr. Thomas Sedlacek, in his book the economics of good and evil,

“The more we have, the more we want. Why? Perhaps we thought (and this sounds truly intuitive) that the more we have, the less we will need. We thought that consumption leads to saturation of our needs. But the opposite has proven to be true. The more we have, the more additional things we need. Every new satisfied want will beget a new one and will leave us wanting.  For consumption is like a drug.”

If the question of enough is not answered, we will always be left wanting, according to Sedlacek, becoming victims to ‘affluenza’, the sickness of our times, for which the cure is the answer to our question.

Anselm Grün is a Franciscan monk, and director of very large group of enterprises, employing over 600 people in southern Germany. He leads these enterprises according to Franciscan rules.

In his recent book “Of Greed and Desire” he says that the attitude of never having enough leads to a very unrestful behaviour, ‘a nomadic existence’ and continual dissatisfaction. “When we desire possessions, we are looking for rest which we never find because we ultimately discover that the possessions are possessing us and lead us into more needs.”

The pulling power of our desire for more is very strong – that very thing which we think will give us freedom ultimately leads us into captivity. This thought was captured succinctly by E.F. Schmacher in his seminal book “Small is Beautiful.”  He states, “The cultivation and expansion of needs is the antithesis of wisdom. It is also the antithesis of freedom and peace. Every increase of needs tends to increase one’s dependence on outside forces over which one cannot have control, and therefore increases existential fear. Only by a reduction of needs can one promote a genuine reduction in those tensions which are the ultimate causes of strife and war.”

Listening to Sedlacek, Grün and Schumacher, we can conclude that the answer lies in our ability to limit our needs and desires, to develop a sober lifestyle of sufficiency in which we can be content and thankful for all that God has given us to enjoy.  If we do not pursue such a path, then we become subject to inward desires and outside forces which control us, resulting in loss of freedom.

Stuffocation’  s a new word which we could easily add to our dictionary. The trend watcher James Wallmann coined the term to describe the feeling that too many things, too much stuff is suffocating our way of life.

Thanks to mass production and global markets, we have access to a huge amount of relatively cheap products which we readily buy … and then store! The explosion of self-storage facilities over the past 10 years testify to the fact that we have too much stuff and too little space to keep it. Not only too little physical space but also too little emotional space. The excess of things is beginning to show us that more is, in fact, less.

I was very surprised to read some comments from Steve Howard, Head of Sustainability at IKEA, a company which survives very nicely by offering us such a wide range of things we never knew we needed, who said “we have reached a limit on how much we can consume!  We will be increasingly building a circular Ikea where you can repair and recycle products.”  In economic terms, Howard says, ““If we look on a global basis, in the west we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff … peak home furnishings… ”

We have reached a clutter crisis. The more we have the more stress this brings. It all has to be managed, used, repaired, stored, maintained – and this is not bringing the satisfaction we expected!

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in 1911 in “The Dawn of Day” that, with the absence of God growing in Western culture, we would replace God with money.

“What induces one man to use false weights, another to set his house on fire after having insured it for more than its value, while three-fourths of our upper classes indulge in legalized fraud . . . what gives rise to all this?

It is not real want — for their existence is by no means precarious . . . but they are urged on day and night by a terrible impatience at seeing their wealth pile up so slowly, and by an equally terrible longing and love for these heaps of gold. . . .

What once was done “for the love of God” is now done for the love of money, i.e., for the love of that which at present affords us the highest feeling of power and a good conscience.”

The new god of the world is money … or rather the power behind money, which Jesus unmasked and named as mammon. It is this dynamic force which powers our inward desires for more than enough and prevents us from finding rest, peace and contentment.  Jesus, when unmasking this power behind money, desires to set us free. Free from want and bondage and free to live a good life, having sufficient at all times and free to share liberally from our surplus.

So what is the goal of wealth acumulaton, which will arise from productive work, as Keynes described? Listening to Andrew Carnegie in the article “The goal of wealth” he sets out the duty of the man of wealth.

“First, to set an example of modest, unostentatious living, shunning display or extravagance; to provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him; and after doing so to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is called upon to administer, … (North American review, 148, nr. 391 June 1889.)

Wealth creation is not merely the accumulation of money, but should be seen in the ability to lead a good life. The goal of our work should be to build an asset based economy in which the assets are managed for people to enjoy the God-given life. The focus should not be on money but on all the different types of assets needed for the good life. Examples are: physical assets to enjoy good health; emotional assets to enjoy inner strength hand peace; time assets with which to enjoy meaningful relationships; spiritual assets to enjoy Gods activity.

Financial assets are important, in a balanced relationship to the other forms of assets, with which we can be generous and achieve long term, life goals.

For the follower of Jesus, this means developing an eternal perspective on wealth creation. The ‘good life’ in which we find contentment and happiness is to be found in the ability to give, as he stated, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:32)

He founded the ‘sharing economy’ which characterized the early church.

“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”  (Acts 4:32-24)

 

Peter J. Briscoe

peter@briscoe.com

www.peterbriscoe.eu

 

 

Help, I can’t breathe!

“Stuffocation’  s a new word which we could easily add to our dictionary. The trend watcher James Wallmann coined the term to describe the feeling that too many things, too much stuff is suffocating our way of life. Thanks to mass production and global markets, we have access to a huge amount of relatively cheap […]

Stuffocation’  s a new word which we could easily add to our dictionary. The trend watcher James Wallmann coined the term to describe the feeling that too many things, too much stuff is suffocating our way of life.

Thanks to mass production and global markets, we have access to a huge amount of relatively cheap products which we readily buy … and then store! The explosion of self-storage facilities over the past 10 years testify to the fact that we have too much stuff and too little space to keep it. Not only too little physical space but also too little emotional space. The excess of things is beginning to show us that more is, in fact, less.  grote aankopen

I was very surprised to read some comments from Steve Howard, Head of Sustainability at IKEA, a company which survives very nicely by offering us such a wide range of things we never knew we needed, who said that we have reached a limit on how much we can consume!  “We will be increasingly building a circular Ikea where you can repair and recycle products,” Howard said.  In economic terms, Howard says, ““If we look on a global basis, in the west we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff … peak home furnishings… ”

We have reached a clutter crisis. The more we have the more stress this brings. It all has to be managed, used, repaired, stored, maintained – and this is not bringing the satisfaction we expected!

The Czech professor Dr. Tomas Sedlacek in his book “The Economics of Good and Evil” stated, ““The more we have, the more we want. Why? Perhaps we thought (and this sounds truly intuitive) that the more we have, the less we will need. We thought that consumption leads to saturation of our needs. But the opposite has proven to be true. The more we have, the more additional things we need. Every new satisfied want will beget a new one and will leave us wanting.  For consumption is like a drug.”

One of my favourite economists, E.F. Schumacher in his book “Small is beautiful: Economics as though people matter.” Stated this: “The cultivation and expansion of needs is the antithesis of wisdom. It is also the antithesis of freedom and peace. Every increase of needs tends to increase one’s dependence on outside forces over which one cannot have control, and therefore increases existential fear. Only by a reduction of needs can one promote a genuine reduction in those tensions which are the ultimate causes of strife and war.”

That the cultivation of needs leads to unrest and dissatisfaction was also noted by the Fransican Friar Anselm Grün, who leads a very large group of businesses in southern Germany. “The attitude of never having enough leads to a nomadic behaviour and continual dissatisfaction. The desire for possessions is really a desire for rest. But the paradox is that we never find rest because we are possessed by the desire for more.”

So, what is the antidote for our disease called ‘stuffocation’?

One excellent suggestion from James Wallmann is to spend your money, not on things but on experiences. “Instead of buying presents for my kids at birthdays or Christmas, I take them to a show. My most recent present for my wife was a flying lesson!”  Such shared experiences strengthen relationships and builds precious memories of time together.

I am not against material things, but when we reach a saturation point, the law of diminishing returns comes into play. Extra investing does not bring extra results!

Another suggestion is to give; after all it was Jesus Himself who said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Join in the ‘sharing economy’ in which things such as cars, mowers, tools could be shared with family and neighbours.

Downsizing can bring extra space in which to breathe … several books on this and organizing your material life can bring much needed space.

In the end, our life does not depend on how much stuff we can gather. The well-known bumper sticker “he who dies with the most toys wins’ … does not!

Jesus told of a rich man who wanted to enjoy life, living off his accumulated assets. ““Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops? ’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

The Philosopher’s Stone!

From the Middle Ages to the late 17th-century, the so-called “philosopher’s stone” was the most sought-after goal in the world of alchemy, the medieval ancestor of chemistry. According to legend, the philosopher’s stone was a substance that could turn ordinary metals such as iron, tin, lead, zinc, nickel or copper into precious metals like gold […]

From the Middle Ages to the late 17th-century, the so-called “philosopher’s stone” was the most sought-after goal in the world of alchemy, the medieval ancestor of chemistry. According to legend, the philosopher’s stone was a substance that could turn ordinary metals such as iron, tin, lead, zinc, nickel or copper into precious metals like gold and silver. It also acted as an elixir of life, with the power to cure illness, renew the properties of youth and even grant immortality to those who possessed it.

The Bank of England was created in 1694 by a Scotsman William Paterson who famously said: “The bank has benefit of interest on all moneys which it creates out of nothing.”  Today, our banks are enjoying the philosopher’s stone which they have created. Money out of nothing but paper!  It is said that at the incorporation of the bank of England that it was promised, “We will provide unlimited financial means – in return, we will keep the absolute privilege to create money.” (To be precise: false money – or what the banks call fiat money!)  Fiat money is money that has value only because of government regulation or law. The term derives from the Latin fiat, meaning “let it be done.“ (Wikipedia) Fiat money is the opposite of honest money. Fiat money is money that is declared to have value even if it does not.

Faust and Mephistopheles

About a hundred years later. The influential German author Goethe, tells the story of a young scholar, Faust, who enters into a pact with the devil, Mephistopheles. In return for Mephistopheles’ services to help him realize his ambitions, Faust wagers the devil his soul.

The the Second Part of Faust, Faust attends the court of a ruler whose empire is facing financial ruin because of government overspending. (Sounds familiar?) Rather than urging the emperor to be more financially responsible, Mephistopheles—disguised as a court jester—suggests a different approach, one with disturbing parallels to our own age.

Noting that the empire’s currency is gold, Mephistopheles maintains there is surely plenty of undiscovered gold underneath the earth belonging to the emperor. Thus, he argues, the emperor can issue promissory notes for the value of this yet-to-be-found gold, thereby generating fresh monetary resources for the government and solving its debt problems.

The emperor and his treasurer are delighted with this idea. It means the monarch can avoid making hard economic choices while simultaneously providing the empire with desperately needed currency. Mephistopheles subsequently deluges the court with paper money, and Faust is praised by emperor and commoner alike.

The results, however, are not what are expected. First, the issuance of paper money does not solve the emperor’s spending problems. Instead the ruler and his court become even more extravagant, knowing they can always print more paper money to cover their ever-growing expenses. Second, the devil through his ally Mephistopheles, has subtly but fundamentally changed the basis of the empire’s currency. Instead of being rooted in the solidity offered by a tangible and valued asset, the currency is now based on flimsy paper promises. Thus long-term monetary stability and powerful restraints on extravagant government spending are sacrificed for short-term gain.

Goethe finished writing the second part of Faust in 1832, yet Goethe’s insights go to the heart of some of our most intractable long-term economic problems.

Free money

This has led to the creation of free money, Governments printing vast amounts of paper money. Money has never been so cheap. From an economic perspective, the printing press is not necessary, as the creation of money primarily shows up electronically on the central bank’s balance sheet, on its accounts.

If central banks can potentially create an unlimited amount of money out of thin air, how can we ensure that money remains sufficiently scarce to preserve its value? Does this ability to create money more or less at will not create the temptation to take advantage of this instrument to create additional leeway short term, even at the risk of highly probable long-term damage?

Yes, this temptation certainly does exist, and many in monetary history have succumbed to it. Taking a look back in time, this was often the reason for establishing a central bank: to provide those in power with free access to seemingly unlimited financial resources.

It is vital to understand that the world’s economic situation is made up by Real Economy and Financial Economy. The Real Economy is the world’s combined GDP. GDP being the value of all private and public production and services globally represents a meager 7 % of the total , while the Financial Economy represents 93 % of the total. (Currency exchange not included)

Our economic system is a house of cards. Debt, both household and national is still increasing rapidly. A house based on paper is a crisis waiting to happen.

So, what is the solution? A strong economy in which money plays its part as a medium of exchange, can only be built on what God has created – human, natural and relational capital. That is, land, agriculture, real resources such as precious metals and the honest, industrial application of human talent and ingenuity to create value.

Jesus unmasked the real power behind money when he said “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”   Goethre adequately described the work of mammon in our economy through his character Mephistopehels. This caused overspending, loss of trust and financial chaos leading to human suffering.