Bible Finance

Manage Your Money God's Way

Investing—Use Minimal Debt—or Better, No Debt

Over the past 28 years, I have met many investment advisers who have instructed their clients to use debt in order to increase their investment returns. When the market goes up, additional returns can be obtained through the use of debt. However, when the market goes down, the results can be disastrous. I remember one woman who borrowed against her home and invested in mutual funds only to discover four years later that the funds had decreased in value by 50 percent. Being upset with what occurred, she immediately sold her investments and paid off as much of the loan as she could. Several years later, she is still servicing the remaining debt.

 

The deception from the world is that “smart people use other people’s money.” This is contrary to God’s Word. Every reference in scripture to borrowing is negative, and nowhere in the Bible does God ever direct anyone to borrow money in order for God to bless. Our all-powerful God is able to meet every need without the assistance of the bank. Philippians 4:19 states, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

 

It is not a sin to borrow money, but it is a sin to borrow and not repay. Psalms 37:21 states, “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.” The implication is that the righteous person not only repays all debts but goes “the second mile” and gives generously.

 

Experience has shown that people who use a lot of debt when investing will generally encounter one of the following problems:

 

1. When the markets are down, borrowers are forced by the lender to sell at the wrong time. In Proverbs 22:7b, God warns that “the borrower is servant to the lender.”

 

2. Psychologically and emotionally, it is much more difficult to survive a “bear market,” because debt increases the volatility of your portfolio. For example, if you borrow 50 percent of what you invest, and if the market decreases 20 percent in value, then the loss on your personal capital is 40 percent.

 

3. If the investment decreases significantly in value, you can lose more than your original capital and end up with a deficit that may take years to repay.

 

In Deuteronomy 28, God promised the people of Israel that, if they fully obeyed him, he would bless them so much that they be would lenders and not borrowers. In other words, God can bless your investments without the use of debt. I have seen more than 100 individual cases in which God has done this.

 

Before you borrow to invest, be sure to ask God to reveal your motives. Frequently, people use debt in order to “get rich quick” because of covetousness or greed—both of which are contrary to God’s Word. On the other hand, saving and investing carefully over a long period of time, with the objective of meeting future needs, is a very biblical attitude. Proverbs 13:11 states, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow” (emphasis added).

 

Saving and investing to provide for future needs is biblical. However, God strongly discourages the use of debt. I recommend that you save and invest whatever funds God has provided, and trust God to meet your needs, which he has promised as you put him first. (See Matthew 6:31–33.)

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May 30, 2008 Posted by | Investing | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Financial Deception—Smart People Use Other People’s Money

Many people believe it is good financial thinking to use borrowed money to make a lot of money. In other words, “smart people use other people’s money,” not their own. This is a lie from the world and Satan. The only way that is true is if you can predict the future—that is, know with certainty the direction of markets and the economy.

 

The biblical truth is that only God knows the future. Humans can make our best guess about the future, but frequently we are wrong. The past 100 years have shown that no human being can consistently predict the direction of the markets. For example, from 1993 to 2000 the value of most stocks in Canada and United States increased significantly. With false confidence, many people “used other people’s money”—that is, borrowed capital—with the objective of increasing their returns. From 2000 to 2002, on average, the shares on Toronto and New York exchanges decreased about 50 percent in value. People who used debt lost a lot of money. Some lost not only their original capital but ended up in a deficit as their stocks’ value dropped below the amount they had borrowed.

 

The same principle applies to real estate. During the middle and late 1980s, the value of real estate increased significantly in the Toronto area. Many people believed it would never go down. However, between 1990 and 1995, the values dropped drastically. Some commercial real estate decreased by 75 percent in value, and residential by 50 percent. People with a lot of debt were hurt badly, and in some cases lost their home or investment property.

 

Over the years, I’ve seen many business people try to use significant debt to their advantage. Although there may have been periods when they benefited as the company expanded faster than it otherwise would have, in due course, every business encounters difficult times, and generally it is companies with a lot of debt that suffer the most, and some are forced into bankruptcy.

 

The Biblical truth is that we do not know what will happen tomorrow. Proverbs 27:1 states, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” In other words, there are no “sure deals.”

 

The same principle applies in business. God warns us,         

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13–15)

 

In summary, we do not know what will happen tomorrow—only God knows the future. Therefore, we should utilize minimal debt—or ideally carry no debt—in regard to investments and business expansion. Overall, the instruction in God’s Word is toward minimal debt, not maximum debt. (Please see my Financial Moments on borrowing for further details.)

 

 

 

May 20, 2008 Posted by | Financial Deceptions | , , , | Leave a comment

Stewardship Principle—God Requires Faithfulness

All of us are responsible to God, regardless of the amount of material wealth that he has entrusted to us. 1 Corinthians 4:2 states, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” Romans 14:12 states, “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

God gives different amounts of money and material wealth to different people. However, individual accountability does not change. Luke 12:48 states, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” In short, those who have been entrusted with larger amounts have greater responsibility than those who have been entrusted with smaller amounts.

As a side point, I would like to point out that this does not mean that a Christian who has limited financial resources has necessarily been an unfaithful or unbiblical steward. In the 21st chapter of Luke, we are told of the widow who gave a few copper coins, which, in terms of monetary value, was insignificant. However, Jesus said that she gave more than all the rest, because they gave out of their great abundance, whereas she gave all that she had to live on. The widow, with her limited amount of material wealth, demonstrated biblical stewardship, while others with significant wealth did not.

In addition, we can think of certain great men of God whom God decided in his sovereignty not to entrust with large amounts of material wealth. One example is the Apostle Paul. Notwithstanding his limited financial resources, Paul was still a tremendously committed Christian and an excellent steward of what God did entrust him with. In short, it’s really God’s sovereign decision as to how much he is going to entrust to each individual. Low income does not imply unfaithful stewardship.

 

In summary, regardless of the amount of money that you have, God requires faithful stewardship of the resources that he has entrusted to you.

 

May 1, 2008 Posted by | Stewardship | , , , | Leave a comment