Your Financial Compass: Knowing Which Way is North

by Joe Plemon on September 10, 2010

True North never changes

Some people could be left in the middle of a forest at midnight and still know which way is north. Not me. I have very little sense of direction but I do quite well with a compass. In the world of finance, with pressures bombarding from all directions and advice (good and bad) from countless sources, it is difficult to discern which way is north. The bible is an absolute standard which gave solid financial advice thousands of years ago that will still be valid thousands of years from now. It is a compass which never deviates from true north.

This post shares some of those timeless Biblical principles:

  • God owns it all.

The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell.” (Psalms 24:1)

Sometimes we get confused by the issue of ownership. We might have a deed with our name on it, but God created this world and he will still own it when we are long gone. This perspective will help us from getting overly tight fisted with our stuff. After all, it is not really our stuff.

  • Saving money

In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.
(Proverbs 21:20)

Try substituting “emergency fund” or “retirement plan” for “stores of choice food and oil”. The one who saves is wise. The fool lives paycheck to paycheck, spending all he has.

  • Contentment

Godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment.”
I Timothy 6:6-10

While we don’t normally think of contentment as a financial principle, it is a great one. Why? Because we need a defense mechanism against the constant barrage of advertisers who are trying to convince us that we will never be content unless we buy their stuff.

  • Life after Debt

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7)

No surprise here. Virtually every finance writer expounds the virtues of the debt free life, but not all refer to debt as slavery. Still, the slavery metaphor is an apt one. The bumper sticker “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go” says it well. Those in debt are controlled by their payments. They are in debt bondage.

  • Having a budget

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it (29) lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, (30) saying, This man began to build and was not able to finish.”
Luke 14:28-30

While this passage doesn’t clearly state “make a budget“,  the vignette strongly implies it. After all, if the man who was intending to build the tower had developed a budget before he got started, he would have delayed his project until he had sufficient funds.

  • Setting priorities

If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
I Timothy 5:8

We must prioritize. If there isn’t enough money to go around, some bills are not going to get paid. This bible passage emphasizes the importance of taking care of basics: providing for relatives and immediate family are highest priority. Many today refer to the four walls of basic economics: food, housing, clothing and transportation. All of these would be higher priority, for example, than making credit card payments.

  • Patience

A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished”. Proverbs 28:20

Get rich quick schemes will get you in trouble, but you will be blessed if you continue to faithfully be wise over a long period of time. Personal finance is a marathon, not a 100 yard dash.

  • Generosity

Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others”. 1 Timothy 6:18

Generosity is the pinnacle of all financial principles. If we follow every other financial principle and miss this one, our lives will become inward, selfish and meaningless. Generosity is an absolute necessity for true wealth.

It is due north on a financial compass.

Readers: What other biblical financial principles can you add to this list?

Creative Commons License photo credit: lakecurrents

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Financial Samurai September 10, 2010 at 8:59 am

Those are some great correlations and tips Joe! Thanks for sharing. Love the title post too.

Good to see you around Yakezie dot com and getting to know everyone! Come check out the Private Forums when you get a chance too!

Cheers, Sam

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Kevin@InvestItWisely September 10, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Is there a quote about creating gods out of men? That seems to be what we do when we invest so much power in the government over every aspect of our lives… and believe that by doing so, they have the power to fix everything.

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Kevin@InvestItWisely September 10, 2010 at 12:38 pm

“In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.”

This one’s probably my favorite, along with the one about the tower. Great list, Joe!

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joeplemon September 10, 2010 at 1:55 pm

@Sam,
Thanks…and thanks for the invite to the private forums. Haven’t been there yet, but need to.

@Kevin,
I should write a post on biblical view of the power of government. In a nutshell, the bible (Romans 13) says that the purpose of government is to punish wrong doers. Care of the needy was done by families and/or the church. The church was specifically instructed to not help those who were able to work and didn’t.

Obviously I also liked those verses that were your favorites (or I wouldn’t have used them). Isn’t it amazing how biblical truth is always relevant?

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Mandy June September 10, 2010 at 2:11 pm

“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7)

My favorite quote. Those who are able to get out of debt always seem to jump right back into it. I hate having debt because as a borrower, I really am slave to the lender. Thinking that way really helps me stray away from debt as much as possible.

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joeplemon September 10, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Mandy June,
Forgive me for referring you to Mandy Jane in the past. My bad.
I think that Proverbs 22:7 describes debt better in fewer words than anything else I have ever read.

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Kevin@InvestItWisely September 10, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I’m looking forward to it; as you know, I always appreciate your detailed and well-thought out posts.

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Carol@inthetrenches September 10, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Joe, I think this just might be your best post ever….brought tears to my eyes. God’s plans are so good. We just often miss our direction and start going the wrong way.

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Greg McFarlane September 10, 2010 at 5:06 pm

“God created this world and he will still own it when we are long gone. This perspective will help us from getting overly tight fisted with our stuff. After all, it is not really our stuff.”

Philosophically what you claim might be true, but what about as a practical financial matter? Don’t ost people only get “tight fisted” when they’re disputing ownership with a fellow human, not with a Divine Being? Even assuming you’re right, you’d at least agree that you have stewardship of your possessions while you’re here: aren’t you obligated to take care of them and help them grow and flourish? Maybe I’m missing something but it seems as though taking your comment literally, it’d be OK to leave my doors unlocked and let things fall into disrepair.

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joeplemon September 10, 2010 at 7:20 pm

@Carol,
Thanks.

@Greg,
Thank you for stretching my thinking. I believe that “God owning it all” is practical as well as philosophical. It would not behoove me to leave my doors unlocked and let things fall into disrepair because I am even more responsible to take good care of God’s stuff than I would be if it was simply mine. I like to think that I am a property manager for God. It makes giving a lot easier when I think of myself as sharing God’s resources with others than if I had to unclench my fist to release my own resources. By the way, I am not a naturally generous person, so I have to continually remind myself that God owns it all.

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