The Morality of Money
Dave Ramsey, the creator of Financial Peace University, host of radio and television shows as well as a financial author, has a wonderful description of money that has stuck with me for years. He says money is no different than a brick. What gives the brick “morality” is what is done with it in the hands of a human. The brick can be used to build a house for someone, therefore being a helpful and a positive thing, or it can be thrown through a window by the human and cause pain and destruction.
Money is the same way. What we do with it causes it to be positive or negative and those who are managing it control its morality.
In the first Presidential Debate of the 2012 election, candidate Mitt Romney declared that he believed the economic problems facing our country are a moral issue. In the weeks that followed this debate, other well-known analysts and former politicians, such as former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, agreed and also said the economic turmoil we are facing as a country is a moral issue.
In the past four years, how many concerned citizens have had the exact same thought about our financial state? How many times in the past four years have you sat at your desk paying your bills, whether trying to pay them off or just trying to pay the minimum payment for that month, and thought, ‘financial responsibility is obviously only for those of us outside of Washington D.C.’? Is our financial mess in America truly a moral issue? There is no evidence of self-control or morality in our leadership, when it comes to money.
Some would ask how can it be a moral issue if we are trying to raise taxes so we can help those who can’t help themselves? Others would also say, how can you relate money to morality, if we are trying to improve the roads and schools we all use to make better communities? Then we step on toes when we say, how can it be a moral problem if we are trying to make the playing field level for everyone? Do we need to continue with all the arguments that can be made for why we need all the programs that we can no longer afford to support while our national debt is sitting at $16,173,857,550,637.48? Divide that among the estimated population of the United States of 313,643,607 people making our individual responsibility for the national debt $51,567.63. (Statistic as of 10/7/12 at 11:39pm GMT www.brillig.com/debt_clock)
We talk about the immorality of leaving our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren this debt, which will continue to increase if we don’t get control of it. Lessening their opportunities to succeed and have the same material and financial opportunities we have had, when they are adults. So if it is a moral issue, as a country, where have we resolved numerous other moral issues in our history? What source, reference, have we used throughout our 236 years as a nation and the years prior as we built our nation, to determine items of morality? Believe it or not, the Bible.
Let’s agree many believe the Bible is the source of how we live and build our life and others choose different sources and resources to determine life’s path. But if we are citizens of America many of the laws and guidelines we live by come from the Bible. Just look at the Ten Commandments. Our laws are set in the pattern of the 6th Commandment: “You shall not murder”, as well as the 8th Commandment: “You shall not steal”. These are punishable offenses in our cities, states and country as a whole. The 9th Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”, is enforced when we stand in front of a judge or even a policeman. We are expected to tell the truth. If we do lie or commit perjury, there is a punishment for that behavior. The other Commandments may not pertain so much to the present day law, but many Americans still live by the moral compass it provides not only in each of our personal lives but in the life of our children and neighbors.
So if we still construct necessary laws in our land, which we can all agree if we didn’t have we would have chaos, from the Bible, and if many of our schools choose to use the Bible as a historical reference book for studying other cultures and history, we should be able to use it as an economics book.
Credit should be given to my church’s Senior Pastor, Cal Jernigan, for laying out the reality of how we should respond to God and money. Recently, we have discussed how personally we should be more financially responsible, yet as I listened to his lessons, so many of the things he has shared sounded like viable financial advice to be shared with the leaders of our country. So many times, conservatives have the Bible thrown at them if they won’t support an entitlement program with people saying, ‘God says to love each other’. You are correct. The Bible mentions love 714 times; it talks about giving or other monetary topics 2,162 times!
Jesus told 38 parables while He was on earth, 16 of those related to money. Jesus talked more about money than Heaven and Hell. Maybe there is something to the claim people are making about money and our economy being a moral issue.
In all honesty, how do you feel when you are in debt? I mean any kind of debt—for example, what if your friend buys you lunch? Do you feel the next time you go out, you need to “pay them back”? If so, you feel the weight of debt. How much fun is buying a new television when you know, you will be paying on it for years?
I love the way Cal Jernigan described debt, putting it in the context of body fat: “Fat is the pleasures of the past we are still carrying around today, that we haven’t paid for yet.”
What a reality check to look down and see our muffin top and realize that is the result of overeating we did months, maybe years ago. We are stuck with it until we work it off. Debt is no different than that muffin top many of us are sporting around town. When we purchase things on credit (borrowing from China), we pay for them so much longer than necessary. It is a weight around our country’s neck.
No matter what your religious beliefs are, you can’t deny our forefather’s intent to base so much of our country on God. But if you don’t want to look at this in this way, let’s “go scholastic” with the Bible. When you talk about borrowing in the Old Testament, the end of Deuteronomy 28:12 says, “You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.” That is sound advice, to not be in debt to other nations.
As of July 2012, here is the break down to the question, “How much money does the United States owe (fill in the blank with a country)?”: China – $1.15 Trillion, Japan – $1.12 Trillion, Russia – $154.3 Billion, United Kingdom – $140.9 Billion, Germany – $62.8 Billion, Canada – $55.6 Billion. Amazing!!
If we still consider ourselves a Godly country, God wants to bless His people and make them the lenders not the borrowers. Debt puts our country in a position of servitude. We all have shared the wisdom of Proverbs but have you ever read the second half of Proverbs 22:7? “The borrower is slave to the lender.”
Let’s look at its historical context. Solomon was the wisest man on the earth. He was a ruler, he should have known about running a country, and he openly states borrowers become slaves. Has America become a slave to those we owe money? Do we want to become a slave to those countries to whom we owe money? Why can’t we just be content with what we have at the moment, and then save and use our talents, determination and overall exceptionalism, work to provide those things we wish to have and do as a country?
Mitt Romney’s plan–that if we have to borrow from China to do something, we won’t do it–is a healthy approach to running a country. A fabulous point that has been presented to me recently is, “Your financial health is primarily due to what you do with what you make.” This premise is directed at a personal finance view, but think about its application on a large scale. What are our nation’s leaders doing with the taxes they are collecting from us? The taxes we pay are the nation’s pay, and what they do with it determines our country’s financial health.
I think it’s obvious the leadership we have entrusted with our finances over the past few administrations, haven’t handled the blessings we have been given in a proper way, and now we are in a mess. Where could our nation go if we tried to do what a large percentage of our citizens have been doing for the past four years, pay down the debt and save money? Pull back on projects and entitlements that are unnecessary at this time and can wait until we are on more stable financial grounds. Then reinstate or create projects we can afford.
Governor Romney and others may have hit the nail on the head. It isn’t about equality or who likes one project over another. We have thrown away our financial moral compass and want to blame everyone else for why we are drowning in debt. If you don’t like your family being in debt, why would you let your country stay in debt? You know how to fix it.