Economics and buying a house

Yesterday I was discussing money, the love of money and things, and the use of money with one of our pastors on staff at Grace.  We were reading in Matthew 6:19-24 about storing up treasures on earth and about serving money as an idol.  We considered the question: how does this relate to decisions about buying a house or a car? Or anything for that matter?

A wise pastor once said, “When you start considering how you will use your car or your house or resources for ministry, the Lord will bless that.” 

I have often contemplated if it is ok for a Christian to have a lot of money in light of Jesus’ words in Matt. 6.  I once read an article in WORLD Magazine that approached this topic from the perspective Christian theologians in the second century church.  They believed it was not wrong for a Christian to be rich, but that simplicity and wisdom in the use of resources to help one’s fellow-man was a Christian virtue. 

Where we get in trouble as the human species concerning money and things (no matter your economic standing) is that we allow things to compete with God and get in the way of serving Him, and therefore we often enslave ourselves to things and debt, which makes life more difficult.  In essence, simplicity is more freeing because we are less distracted and can focus more on God and people.

Considering our economic hard times and making wise decisions about spending, I thought I would share with you this article from WORLD Magazine:

 

The Smiths and the Browns: Young Americans need to hear an old tale of sound stewardship | by Joel Beltz

“Here’s a brief story about personal finance—and maybe macroeconomics as well—that I first heard about 40 years ago. I wish I had heard it 50 years ago. I hope a few 20-somethings are listening to me now.

“It’s the simple story of two young couples—let’s call them the Smiths and the Browns—who were eager to buy their first homes.

“For the purposes of this account, we’ll assume that the Smiths and the Browns are virtually equal in almost everything they bring to this big purchase. Their incomes and savings are the same. Both have two young children. Their credit worthiness is the same. Their overall economic circumstances are very similar.

“We’ll also assume for this exercise, though it’s a stretch of our imaginations in today’s economy, that both the Smiths and the Browns can afford a down payment of $20,000.

“What’s also the same is both families’ desire to buy almost identical homes. They’re both attracted to recently constructed, three-bedroom, two-bath homes on spacious lots. They’d both prefer the comforts of air conditioning. They’d like to keep their quite-new cars in a garage. Naturally, they really prefer marble countertops in the kitchen (where they both have their eyes on a dishwasher) and in the bathrooms. In the neighborhood where they’d both like to live, the price tag on such houses is about $200,000.

“The Smiths have very much fallen in love with the house of their dreams. They’ve even made a list of all the things they’re willing to give up so that they can afford the regular mortgage payment—which will be about $1,200 monthly for the next 30 years. With a big gulp, they sign on the dotted line.

“The Browns, meanwhile, are gulping in a different way. Across town, they’ve found another house that, while by no means a nightmare, is neither what you’d call a dream. The neighborhood’s a little scruffy. Just two bedrooms, and another that might work for a third. Only one bath. Formica instead of marble, and there’s a big burnt circle right next to the kitchen sink where someone set an overly hot pan. No dishwasher.

“What’s got the Browns dreaming, though, is the prospect that in just eight years, with the same $1,200 monthly payment the Smiths are making, they can own this $100,000 house outright. No debt at all. And then, just eight years from now, other things being equal, they can take their $100,000 asset and make a 50 percent down payment on a $200,000 house like the one they’re saying “no” to now. At that point, they can repeat the eight-year process. Sixteen years from right now, the Browns will own the $200,000 house, with no debt and no further payments. Remarkably, they will have to wait only eight years longer than the Smiths to enjoy such comforts and such dreams.

“The Smiths, meanwhile, after 16 years, still owe about $150,000 on their $200,000 house, which by now they will think of as a little old and run down. They’d like to remodel, but can’t even think about it because of those $1,200 monthly payments they still face for another 14 years!

“The story of the Smiths, of whom there are many, and the Browns, of whom there are way too few, is one I first heard from my business professor friend Richard Chewning—but only after I was already committed to my first 30-year mortgage. I wish I had heard with more clarity a few years earlier. If I had heard it, and if I had listened, I would now be a wealthier man. If I had heard and taught that story more faithfully, my family would be more financially secure. My little part of God’s kingdom—my local church, the schools I support, and the outreach agencies I back—would all have more resources to work with.

“The story of the Smiths and the Browns is not just about housing. It’s about every dollar any of us ever spends. And it’s a story rooted in the deep biblical truth about the riches to be reaped when we faithfully defer our desires.”

 

 

When and why our nation lost its way:

Friends, as you learned in the news in recent days, the Washington State Senate passed a bill to approve gay-marriage 28 to 21.  This bill will go to the House next, and then be signed into law by Governor Gregoire.  The questions you might be asking are: How did we get to this point? What should Christians believe concerning this subject? How should Christians engage our culture concerning gay-marriage? Should we be politically active in trying to repeal this bill?

There are many long answers to these questions, so I will not attempt to answer all these questions in one Pastor Chat.  As I continue to read about this subject and engage the culture on the issue, I will be writing periodically about these issues and even preach about it on occasion from the pulpit to help you understand the Bible’s perspective.

My intent is to communicate about this subject in an intelligent way and with respect for those who disagree.  My role as a Pastor is not to appease any human concerning this subject, but to speak for the God of the Bible with love and respect.

Please know that my wife and I love all people, we have gay friends and relatives.  Those with this background who know us know our love for them even though we disagree.  But within the family of God there is a biblical standard, we need to know this standard and live by it to please God.

In this particular Pastor Chat I will answer the questions: What should Christians believe concerning this subject? And how did we get to this point as a nation?

First, what should Christians believe concerning marriage: marriage is the first institution created by God among men and women for the purpose of companionship, having children, and to create a united, healthy family unit in which to raise healthy children to know God and His ways (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:17; 2:22-24; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; and Ephesians 5:21-6:4).  Marriage is to be between a man and a woman and is a covenant made before God that should not be broken (Genesis 2:24; Malachi 2:16; & Matthew 5:31-32).  In the New Testament the requirements for leadership is a healthy marriage between one man and one woman (1 Timothy 3:2).

According to Scripture, the Old and New Testaments, any sex outside of the marriage covenant is known as sexual immorality or impurity and is forbidden by God (read first Hebrews 13:4 and then Leviticus 18).

The marriage between men and women transcends all continents, all cultures for all time (C.S. Lewis speaks of this in his books “Mere Christianity” and “The Abolition of Man”).  The rare exceptions in certain cultures were not sustained and did not end well.  For example, one of many reasons the Roman Empire fell was because the culture was obsessed with sex and virtually every form of immorality was accepted as normal.  Meanwhile, as the trajectory of morality was degrading in Rome resulting in its fall like a house of cards, the trajectory of Christian morality in line with Scripture led to Christians pulling Europe out of the dark era of the Middle Ages (how this happened will be the content of a future Pastor Chat).

All this to say, if we claim to believe in Jesus we are His disciples, and therefore are called to know what the Word of God says and do it (Luke 8:21).  Concerning the issue of marriage, if you call yourself a Christian, you are called to chastity before marriage and after you say “I do” you are called to a continuing, fulfilling, monogamous sexual relationship becoming one flesh with your spouse of the opposite gender.  In God’s eyes, at that point, the husband and wife become one (Matthew 19:4-6a).  “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matt. 19:6b)

So, related to the gay-marriage bill passing the Washington State Senate, how did we get to this point as a nation? The answer is simple and yet complex.  The simple answer is that in 1885 in Europe and in 1935 in America the philosophers and college professors stopped believing in absolute truth based on the bible and started believing a new philosophy “Survival of the Fittest.” 

In other words, the belief that God does not exist and that Darwin’s theory of evolution is a more believable explanation of the origin of life became the dominant theory on college campuses.  Eventually this philosophy worked itself out in our culture through music, art, television, and pop culture.  To put it differently, if there is no God, then there are no rules from God, and if there are no rules from God, then therefore human beings make up the rules.  If human beings make up the rules, then everyone can have an opinion and the majority voice rules.

Our country was founded as a democratic republic to be ruled by law.  Because some of the founders were not Christian (example, Thomas Jefferson was a deist – he believed in a God who created everything but did not interfere in the affairs of the universe), we were not specifically founded as a Christian nation.  But the majority of our founding fathers were Christians and they knew that as the spiritual state of our people goes, so goes the rest of the nation.  So in the 1930s and 1940s, the majority of our nation was Christian, but as people started believing Darwin’s theory and starting applying it to life, people started drifting from God and God’s principles based on the Bible and started turning a blind eye to the immorality in the 1930s-50s and started actively and openly rebelling against Christian values related to sexuality in the 1960s-70s culminating in fornication, homosexuality, rape, adultery, broken-heartedness, divorce, HIV/AIDS, pornography, etc.  Now this has become the norm that surrounded my generation in Junior High, High School, College, and adulthood.  Television is the primary tool being used to push the above as normal.  You cannot watch a sitcom without a reference to fornication, lust, or homosexuality and it is made light of.  You cannot watch a sporting event without immorality being in your face.  Take for example the Super Bowl coming up this Sunday, I will need to turn off the television at every commercial break so that my children will not be exposed to immorality my God knows is unhealthy for me and my kids.

We live in a country where majority rules; 51% is all that is needed to make changes to our laws.  The silent majority was silent for too long and is now no longer the majority, at least not in our State Senate.  Why did the silent majority remain silent? Because with the change in philosophy from belief in the God of the Bible and moral absolutes to “Survival of the Fittest” and a lack of absolutes, our nation stopped living consistently with Christian values and started living consistently with values we all agree upon, such as personal peace and affluence.  In other words, “Don’t bother me and I won’t bother you.”  So the silent majority might have believed sex outside of marriage was wrong, but they remained silent as long as it did not personally affect them.  As the younger generation saw that they could get away with things they started living contrary to the bible while hiding what was really going on in the 1940s and 50s, which turned into rebellion against hypocrisy in the 1960s and 70s, and which became common place in the 80s and 90s.  The vocal minority has gained ground in 20 years and now the silent majority is being convinced by the vocal minority that gay-marriage is normal and not detrimental to our society.

What do we know from history? (1) Gay-marriage has not been the norm; and (2) a nation obsessed with sex (among other issues listed below) is on a trajectory of collapse.  Francis Schaeffer said in How Should We Then Live?  “Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1794) said that the following five attributes marked Rome at its end: first, a mounting love of show and luxury (that is, affluence); second, a widening gap between the very rich and the very poor (this could be among countries in the family of nations as well as in a single nation); third, an obsession with sex; fourth, freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity; fifth, an increased desire to live off the state.  It all sounds so familiar.  We have come a long road since our first chapter, and we are back in Rome.” (Pp. 226-227).

So what can we do to change things? Simply this, know what the Word of God says and do it.

 

 

For more of an understanding of where I got some of these ideas, please read the following quotes:

“The attempt to make nature the basis of morals was also taken into the area of civil law, where it was called the Natural Law School of jurisprudence…It was an attempt in this eighteenth-century period to have principles of law, ‘even if there is not God.’  These jurists thought that a complete and perfect system of law could be constructed upon principles of natural law.  But there was a serious problem in trying to construct a system of law upon nature.  Nature is cruel as well as noncruel.” (Francis Schaeffer, “How Should We Then Live?” p. 159)

“Alfred Charles Kinsey (1894-1956), a biologist-sociologist at the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University produced his influential Sexual Behavior of the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior of the Human Female (1953).  These were based on 18,500 interviews.  Kinsey made that which is “right” in sex a matter of statistics.  Many people read his books because at that date they were far more titillating than other books accepted as respectable.  However, their real impact was the underlying conception that sexual right and wrong depend only on what most people are doing sexually at a given moment of history.  This has become the generally accepted sexual standard in the years since.  Modern man has done the same thing in law.”

“…the Greeks found that society – the polis – was not a strong enough final authority to build upon, and it is still not strong enough today.  If there are no absolutes, and if we do not like either the chaos of hedonism or the absoluteness of the 51-percent vote, only one other alternative is left: one man or an elite, giving authoritative arbitrary absolutes.”

“Here is a simple but profound rule: If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute.  Society is left with one man or an elite filling the vacuum left by the loss of the Christian consensus which originally gave us form and freedom in northern Europe and in the West.” (p. 224)

“In our era, sociologically, man destroyed the base which gave him the possibility of freedoms without chaos.  Humanists have been determined to beat to death the knowledge of God and the knowledge that God has not been silent, but has spoken in the Bible and through Christ – and they have been determined to do this even though the death of values has come with the death of that knowledge.”

“We see two effects of our loss of meaning and values.  The first is degeneracy… “

“But we must notice that there is a second result of modern man’s loss of meaning and values which is more ominous, and which many people do not see.  This second result is that the elite will exist.  Society cannot stand chaos.  Some group or some person will fill the vacuum.  An elite will offer us arbitrary absolutes, and who will stand in its way?”

“Will the silent majority (which at one time we heard so much about) help? The so-called silent majority was, and is, divided into a minority and a majority.  The minority are either Christians who have a real basis for values or those who at least have a memory of the days when the values were real.  The majority are left with only their two poor values of personal peace and affluence.”

“With such values, will men stand for their liberties? Will they not give up their liberties step by step, inch by inch, as long as their own personal peace and prosperity is sustained and not challenged, and as long as the goods are delivered? The life-styles of the young and the old generations are different… But they support each other sociologically, for both embrace the values of personal peace and affluence.  Much of the church is no help here either, because for so long a large section of the church has only been teaching a relativistic humanism using religious terminology.”

“I believe the majority of the silent majority, young and old, will sustain the loss of liberties without raising their voices as long as their own life-styles are not threatened.  And since personal peace and affluence are so often the only values that count with the majority, politicians know that to be elected they must promise these things.  Politics has largely become not a matter of ideals – increasingly men and women are not stirred by values of liberty and truth – but of supplying a constituency with a frosting of personal peace and affluence.  They know that voices will not be raised as long as people have these things, or at least and illusion of them.”

“Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1794) said that the following five attributes marked Rome at its end: first, a mounting love of show and luxury (that is, affluence); second, a widening gap between the very rich and the very poor (this could be among countries in the family of nations as well as in a single nation); third, an obsession with sex; fourth, freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, and enthusiasms pretending to be creativity; fifth, an increased desire to live off the state.  It all sounds so familiar.  We have come a long road since our first chapter, and we are back in Rome.” (Pp. 226-227).