Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Springy Start

Although it doesn’t necessarily feel like it, spring has sprung here in Chicago. (although I’m not a fan of unionized sports) Baseball has begun, runners are out on the lakefront in apparel that exposes their skin to the elements: as if trying to will warmer temperatures to come.

I am personally approaching this spring season with a cautious optimism. The market run-up in Q1 was phenomenal, couchsurfing requests are secured for trips to Grand Rapids, MI and Charlotte, NC, I’m going to see Dave Ramsey at a live event, and the kick-off for hosting FPU through my home church is two weeks away. So why cautiously optimistic? I think it’s from the books I’ve been reading lately.

Not my normal cup of tea, my last few books have been on themes of Christian living, with spiritual and religious overtones. Generally the only Christian books I’ve read over the last few years have been finance based, my favorites including anything by Dave Ramsey and Larry Burkett. But with the last few I’ve challenged myself, and something about it doesn’t sit right with me.

There’s one aspect in a current one I’m reading that I’d like to delve into. Arthur Simon’s, “How Much is Enough?” is for the most part rich and compelling in advocating that living below your means and following an anti-consumer lifestyle is biblical. What irks me is the way he tries to balance and streamline Christianity and Capitalism.

Simon uses the bulk of the book to advocate that living a Christian life means helping in every and any way shape and form those marginalized, victimized and stereotyped in our world. With our hearts, purchasing power, acts of goodwill and with our charity, Simon argues that God calls us to carry a heavy heart and soul for those that are hurting in our world, and I agree with him.

Where I disagree is his viewpoint of Capitalism. In a section that thoroughly amazed me (not in a good way), Simon denounced and rejected Socialism as unbiblical and a gateway for tyranny rule that suppresses a population. He proceeded to brag on Capitalism, as the most efficient way to generate wealth within a population and give its people pathways and roads to climb the socioeconomic ladder. And he wrapped it up, after lengthy contrasts of each, with (to paraphrase), “People in a capitalistic system need to share and redistribute their wealth.”

So you recognize that Capitalism, against socialism, is the best way to give people opportunity, and then you ask that Capitalistic system to behave like socialism? You can’t have it both ways pal!

My lens is this: I am a Christian and I believe in Capitalism. My duty (more-so calling) as a Christian is to help those in need. To do that, God whispered to me a mission to empower consumers. To help teach that money is a tool that is to be used to follow the hopes and dreams that God places on our hearts. It could be attaining financial peace so that you can take a lower paying job at a non-profit, routine go on missions trips in 3rd world countries, have the time to volunteer in underserved areas within our communities, or the biggie: leave a legacy when you die to bless people and organizations.

I hit on this earlier and I’ll repeat it here: Money is like a candle, not like cake. God has placed a mission on my heart to help people empower themselves to make smart and biblical decisions with their income, and help inspire the fact that anyone at any place in life can achieve financial peace.

I won’t go too high on my soapbox here, but everything that I have is God’s. Not a tithe, not a love offering, not what I deduct for gifts at the end of the year, ALL OF IT! It’s in my attitude and exercise in what I do with what I have that defines my personal relationship with God and those around me (more accurately defined in Christian circles as the super awesome tandem tag team of FAITH AND GOOD WORKS). In the lens as I see the world, I’m living below my means today and passing up big item purchases so that in the future I can: make missions trips, setup college scholarships to help kids go to college debt free, adopt a child and help build schools in 3rd world countries. And you know what, if I want to splurge sometime along the way and buy an RV to travel the continental 48 states on a long vacation, I’m going to do it, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s when you start to believe and trust in material possessions to bring happiness that spiritual disease has taken over.

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