February 23, 2014
I thought it was kind of funny. Someone was asking me for investment advice. I know very little about stocks and bonds, and have always been wary about the stock market. It seemed to me that for every winner in the stock market, there was a loser, and I didn’t know enough to be a winner. And, like many of you, I wished that I had the nerve and had invested in the stock market heavily back in 2009 when the market bottomed out. But I didn’t, so I was not one to be asked about investments.
But the young man was serious. I was honest with him and told him that I wasn’t the one to be asking about investments. But thinking about it later that day, I realized that I did have some good investment advice to give him. (How is it you always think of what to say too late?) It was the same advice that was given to me over thirty years ago by an elderly man. It’s advice I have applied to my life over the years, and have seen its benefits.
In my mid-twenties, I had been working with the Revenue Department in Lumberton for a couple of years. I was involved in a men’s fellowship group that met for breakfast weekly. It was a time for prayer, maybe a little devotional, breakfast, and a lot of talking around the table. A couple of the guys were my age, but most were older, a few a lot older.
One morning at the breakfast, I sat across from an elderly, retired Methodist minister. While drinking our coffee and enjoying our breakfast, the subject turned to money. Rev. Nick, the retired Methodist minister, shared his strategy concerning his finances.
Nick said, “I learned this a long time ago, and have lived by it. It’s simple. Pay God first, pay yourself second, and live on the rest. It didn’t matter how much, or how little I made. I did it, and God blessed.” And he and his wife were living comfortably in their retirement. So I took what he said to heart.
Pay God first. Rev. Nick knew he needed to put God first, that included his
finances. God told the Jews back in the Old Testament, “The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God.” (Ex. 34:26) Being an agricultural economy, the Jews knew that God desired the first of the harvest out of their fields, not the leftovers. How much is He talking about? The common Biblical formula has always been a tithe, or a tenth, of your income. Malachi 3:10 instructs the Jewish believers to “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse” (or the Jewish temple). There is discussion whether the tithe principle still applies to Christian believers. And some even argue whether this applies to total income, or after taxes. I’m not going to go there, but I do know for certain that God wants to be first in our lives, including our money. And He will bless us if we do. The rest of the above verse states that if we put Him first in our finances, God “will open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”
Pay yourself second. In other words, save some money. How much and how you are to do it, I’m not certain. Over the years I figured if ten percent was my aim in giving to God, it should be my aim in giving to myself, or saving.
Finally, live on the rest. That is almost unheard of today in our buy now, pay later, credit based society. The not-so-funny bumper sticker you may have seen says, “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.” And the sad thing is that most of the things that are purchased on credit start losing their value the moment the purchase is made. I remember Rev. Nick saying that he never made much while being a pastor, especially when he was a minister in some small country churches. But, he said, there was always enough, even after he had given to the Lord and had put some in savings.
Pay God first, pay yourself second, and live on the rest. Boy, I wish I had said that to that young man. But I’m afraid that advice wouldn’t be flashy enough, or make that young man enough money as quickly as he would like. But, after reading an article this week on how our current stock market compares to the stock market in 1929, just prior to the Great Depression, maybe it is financial advice he should heed.