The Responsibility Vaccuum

Yahoo finance ran a piece on how home owners facing foreclosure are sitting on their homes, paying nothing for over a year and saving up their payments. With so many homes in foreclosure it often takes the banks and the courts as many as 500+ days to get people out of their homes and complete the foreclosure process. So people are living in the homes payment free for well over a year and saving up or spending their payment on other things. Check out some of their quotes,

For Alex Pemberton and Susan Reboyras, foreclosure is becoming a way of life — something they did not want but are in no hurry to get out of.

Foreclosure has allowed them to stabilize the family business. Go to Outback occasionally for a steak. Take their gas-guzzling airboat out for the weekend. Visit the Hard Rock Casino.

“Instead of the house dragging us down, it’s become a life raft,” said Mr. Pemberton, who stopped paying the mortgage on their house here last summer. “It’s really been a blessing.”

Or how about this…

One reason the house is worth so much less than the debt is because of the real estate crash. But the couple also refinanced at the height of the market, taking out cash to buy a truck they used as a contest prize for their hired animal trappers.

It was a stupid move by their lender, according to Mr. Pemberton. “They went outside their own guidelines on debt to income,” he said. “And when they did, they put themselves in jeopardy.”

His mother, Wendy Pemberton, who has been cutting hair at the same barber shop for 30 years, has been in default since spring 2008. Mrs. Pemberton, 68, refinanced several times during the boom but says she benefited only once, when she got enough money for a new roof. The other times, she said, unscrupulous salesmen promised her lower rates but simply charged her high fees.

I live in the same city these people do. I don’t know them and I am not hear to attack them. But I am here to say it is time for a reality check. If you can’t make good on your debts you have to walk away and do the morally upright thing. I know this is not an easy answer or something someone would want to hear but it is the right thing to do. Call me old fashioned but anytime I have signed my name to a contract I understood that I was taking on risk. When Missy and I bought our home in 2006, just before the real estate bubble burst, we took it very seriously. Honestly, it scared us to sign up for that much debt. No one twisted my arm. No one threatened me to sign it. It was our decision and we have kept our word. You can’t pass the buck of responsibility on to the bank. It wasn’t the bank that went outside their guidelines. We all should have our own personal guidelines for how much debt we can responsibly take on and how much is too much. Toss on that a refinance to fund a promotional prize giveaway event? In times like these we have no one to blame but ourselves.

It is time we took responsibility back as a nation. People want zero risk but all the benefit. People want the government to come in and take care of everything, clean it all up. In the process we lose freedom. We lose our ability to make choices and decisions. We cannot and should not sacrifice freedom and individual responsibility at the cost of our freedom.


American Parallels with Deuteronomy 8

Read this and see if you think we as a nation or you as an individual fit in this text:

Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him. 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

19 If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20 Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God.

I don’t think it is necessarily healthy to read yourself back into every text or think that this texts are talking directly about us. But I do think there are some interesting parallels. The one striking difference is that God has not called out America by name and established a covenant with us as a nation the way He had with them or made us any specific promises as a group. But I think the basic human tendencies that God saw as a threat to the well-being of a well provided for people are the same for us today.

[incredibly long sentence warning] – We fall into the same trap they did because it is human nature that once we get comfortable and satisfied and begin to make decisions on how to use what God has entrusted to us, somehow we get the misguided notion that all we have really does belong to us instead of recognizing that it all came from God and that someday all we possess will have someone else’s name on it.

Sex and Money

These are…

  1. Two topics the world talks about the most
  2. Two topics you rarely hear discussed in church (at least in Churches of Christ…for fear of being “like the denominations”)
  3. Two of the most argued about topics in marriage
  4. Two topics that are at the center of a high percentage of divorces
  5. One topic that most non-Christians think Christians never talk about (and they are right)
  6. Another topic that most non-Christians think Christians always talk about (in a bad way…as in “the church is just after my money”)
  7. Two topics that can wreck your life
  8. Two topics that have the potential of helping you live a healthy and happy life when lived with an understanding of God’s plan for each.

So why not have a Bible class on both? Next month our 20s & 30s class will be talking about these two issues in one of those “I wish someone would have told me that earlier…” types of Bible classes. It is amazing to me that the church is silent on an issue that is ripping people apart. The world is informing our young people about what is normal and healthy when it comes to sex and sexuality. Why should the church be silent? The world also sends out a non-stop message of greed and self-centered materialism that many of our young people are buying into for lack of hearing a case made for a biblical point of view when it comes to finances. Why not get out the message of what the Bible teaches about finance, money, and stewardship? This should be interesting…I will let you know how it goes!

Craig Ford on Why Christians Need to Talk About Money More

This post is by Craig Ford on Christians and Personal Finance. Craig is a friend of mine and has a lot to offer in this area. Craig is a missionary in Alotau, Papua New Guinea. His years of ministry experience has provided valuable insight for helping Christians deal with their personal finances from a Biblical perspective. His blog provides daily personal finance advice from a Christian perspective.You can sign up for free daily articles via email.

Why Christians Need to Talk About Money More
I grew up believing that discussions about money carried a certain amount of ‘unholiness’. Those who are truly spiritual neglect such petty issues and instead focus on discussion of salvation, baptism, heaven, and hell. I assumed that the truly holy are those with minimal bank account balances. The man who squanders all his money on fast food, cars, and entertainment but has little in the bank is a man of God, while the man who saved, lived frugally, helped others, and has money in the bank is a heretic. I would be fine to accept my impressions if it were not the case that I know many others who carry the same thoughts about Christianity and money.

I recently taught a Bible class where I gave the class a set of words (each word on a piece of paper). I asked them to put the words into order of the frequency that those words appear in the Gospels. The words were Kingdom of God/Heaven, Love, Salvation, Baptism, Hell, Money, and Saved. You know the word that produced the most discussion (before I even introduced the class topic)? Money. “No, it goes near the top” one person said. “ No way, there isn’t much about money in the gospels,” another challenged. And then the discussion took off. Is it at the top or bottom? In reality, money was number three on the list behind Kingdom of God/Heaven and love.

My conclusion is: Christians need to talk about money more.
We need to know what the Bible does and does not say about money. We need a better understanding of the darker and lighter sides of money. We need to be challenged towards generosity. We need to be educated about earning, spending, giving, and managing money.
Here are eight reasons why Christians need to talk about money more often:

1. Jesus talked a lot about money. I believe Jesus talked about money because he knew money held inherent dangers for Christ followers. A way to combat those dangers was by teaching and reemphasizing a kingdom value regarding money.
2. When money is not addressed it will quietly and subtly consume us. Our natural selves are not good money managers. Biblical money management must be an intentional decision. We must ask ourselves: Am I handling my money in a way that honors God? Are my purchases reflective of my Christian values? Am I free from the love of money?
3. We are always learning about money management. Society is telling us how we should use our money, but is the church? Through osmosis we absorb teaching about money. If the church is silent, how will people learn to adopt a biblical view of money management? Paul exhorts us to be transformed instead of conforming (Rom. 12:2). Unfortunately, Ron Sider has shown that statistically Christians tend to conform in terms of how they handle money. See Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience,
4. Almost all of us have daily interactions with money. Christians have not withdrawn themselves from the interaction with money or use of money. Therefore, church ought to present biblical teachings and resources on how to appropriately earn, give, save, and spend money.
5. Money is a limited resource (at least on a personal level). Every dollar used to purchase one item is also a dollar that is not being used for another purpose. Money management requires spiritual discernment as we seek to determine how our funds ought and ought not to be spent.
6. It is not uncommon to hear that the single greatest sin in America is materialism. If that is the case, the church needs to be presenting a Godly view of money management and money ownership so that we can redirect Christians against the trend of materialism.
7. Compared to the world, God has different expectations of how Christians handle money. I outlined seven factors in a post entitled What is the difference between biblical finances and personal finances.
8. I believe money is a clear and present danger to Christianity. The more we openly discuss it, the more likely we are to avoid its dangers. Christians have the opportunity to use money in a way that is either spiritually destructive or a spiritual blessing for others to the glory of God.

In Ephesians 2:1-3 Paul characterizes an unregenerate life by the following characteristics: (1) Following the ways of this world. (2) Following the ruler of the kingdom of the air. (3) Gratifying the cravings of our own sinful self. How does the church combat these negative influences today? We preach about it, study about it, write about it, pray about it, and talk about it. But when it comes to finances, the church is often silent. When the church is silent I believe people naturally revert back to the influences outlined in Eph. 2:1-3. They follow the culture at large, the Devil, and satisfy themselves.

If you are interested in learning more about the relationship between the Bible and money, I suggest you check out the “Bible and Money Page” on Money Help For Christians.

The Fed Encourages Us to Spend Like Wild Barbarians

Amid talks of the Federal Reserve lowering subprime interest rates you have to ask yourself, “what message are we sending?” If you get in over your head, don’t worry. You will get bailed out. Be irresponsible with your spending, have no emergency fund, and a shaky adjustable rate loan that was targeted at you because your credit wasn’t that great to begin with. That’s all fine and good because if enough of you do that at the same time and are about to lose those homes we will bail you out no questions asked. Let’s not worry about the devaluation of the dollar in overseas markets. Don’t be concerned that people may never learn to spend less than they make, to save, and most importantly to be good stewards of their finances. We have already been sending that message for years through the different types of bankruptcy we have in the U.S. Not to mention what the devaluation of the dollar is doing to our missionaries who are having to stretch each dollar as far as they can because the dollar just doesn’t buy what it used to. Why? Because people are losing faith in our markets in part due to our misuse of credit and moves like this from the Fed.

What happens if you cannot pay your credit card bill. Does your interest rate go up or down? Up, up, and up some more. Of course they do that to make a profit and not in the interest of the consumer. When people cannot handle the interest rates (that they agreed to be responsible for!) what does the Fed do? They bring them down, down, down with no apparent concern for the long term effects on our markets and on inflation.

The root problem of all of this is that Americans have an unrealistic expectation of what their lifestyle should be like that is probably rooted in the media culture we are submerged in. The result is like wild barbarians we get what we want without concern if we can actually pay for it. We are looting stores, malls, ebay, and the rest by selling our and our children’s future. It is killing people financially, socially, mentally, and I would say even spiritually.

I apologize for venting this here. I just had to get it off my chest.