Money & Stewardship

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Do You Have Enough to Retire?

UnknownRecent estimates suggest that the traditional $1 million life savings target before retirement is just not enough. Financial planners suggest that we now need $2 million to have “financial security.” In Monday’s (April 28) USA Today a report on this led to the response of various people. A person who seemed to be in the know about these matters said, “A $1 million nest egg along with Social Security isn’t really that much. Some accident or calamity would have the potential to drain away a big chunk of your principal, after which you can be destitute.” If you think this is crazy talk you should read the mainstream financial columns and see the advice that major investors give on these matters.

Another respondent to this story wrote: “We all need to take a hard look and figure out how to put away more for retirement.” Still another, “I now put away the maximum amount in my 401(k) that my employer will match. I also ditched a $275-a-month whole life policy in favor of a different policy for $25

Can Money Buy Happiness? The Real Answer Might Surprise You

One of the most misquoted verses in all the Bible must be 1 Timothy 6:10, which says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains” (NRSV).

UnknownThe text says “the love of money” is the root of “all kinds of evil.” It does not say money is evil in itself.

People say money cannot buy happiness. This is true, at least on one level, but it is a truism and thus it only truly works up to a point. Let me explain.

People’s emotional well-being–what we call happiness–increases along with their income up to about $75,000 (U.S.) according to research in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (September 2010). For those making less than $75,000 Angus Deaton, an economist at the Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University, said “Stuff is so in your face it’s hard to be happy. It interferes with your enjoyment” (quoted by AP, September 2010).

Deaton and Daniel Kahneman

From Socialism to Capitalism – A Move That Cost Michael Novak Friends and Prestige

124_2013_bknovack8201_s640x821Michael Novak, author of the memoir Writing from Left to Right: My Journey from Liberal to Conservative (Basic Books, 2013), writes eloquently of how he became disillusioned with the “new” versions of the old Keynesian liberalism of the 1970s. This economic view promoted government spending to excess in order to stimulate the economy and create jobs. The core belief was that this approach would solve the problems of the poor through a greater expression of compassion which would come about through direct governmental help. Nothing awakened him to the failure of this kind of thinking quite like the policies, and outcomes, of the Jimmy Carter era.

As I noted in my blog on Novak’s memoir last Wednesday (1/29) one of the reasons that I so deeply appreciate his position, and thus his memoir, is that he openly explains why he  “resist[ed] libertarianism” (159). He admits that he found great reasons in libertarian arguments to reject his strident socialism but not enough to compel him to embrace the total package. To make sure his position is properly stated I

Michael Novak: On Forming Good Intellectual and Spiritual Habits

Unknown-1Michael Novak, not to be confused with the late conservative journalist Robert Novak, has been (rightly I believe) described as “one of the world’s most influential social philosophers.” He has played a number of prominent roles in American life, ranging from advising candidates and presidents to teaching and writing on the ethics of the free market and welfare reform. He has taught at Harvard and Stanford and he has held academic chairs at Notre Dame and Syracuse. He was also one of the early leaders of the American Enterprise Institute, an influential think tank. In 1994 Novak won the Templeton Prize (it has been called the Nobel Prize for the life of the spirit), a prize also won by men like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Desmond Tutu, Mother Theresa of Calcutta and Charles Taylor. His writings have been translated into every major Western language as well as Chinese and Japanese.

One thing that separates Novak from many intellectuals, and elected leaders, is his genuine civility and humility. His thought is clear and he is willing to allow facts to challenge

True Friendship (1)

CassianJohn Cassian (d. 435), a monk and influential spiritual writer, devoted a great deal of his writing to the meaning and importance of friendship. Cassian wisely wrote:

True friendships . . . have as their first foundation contempt for worldly wealth and a disdain for all the material goods that we possess . . . . The second foundation is each person’s curtailment of his own inclinations, so as not to consider himself wise and skilled. Neither one insists on having his own way but both prefer to do what his neighbor wishes. The third is that each person knows that all things–even those he values as useful and necessary–are to be treated as secondary to the value of love and peace. The fourth is that each person believes from the bottom of his heart that he must never become angry for any cause, whether just or unjust. The fifth is that each one desires to assuage the anger that the other may have toward him–even if for no reason–in the same way as he would his own

Radical Love and Kingdom Generosity (2)

imagesYesterday, I suggested that Luke 6 provides a pattern for how we can live extravagant, generous lives rooted in the love and mercy of God himself. This sixth chapter of Luke has often pushed me to deeper resolve to follow Jesus in his radical love. Let me illustrate this by commenting on a few particular words of our Lord in Luke 6:37-38. I have often prayed over these words and felt it was a great text to teach the liberal giving of our financial support for Christ’s church. I believe it does encourage this practice but I believe it encourages so much more than this when it is deeply considered in meditative prayer. Here are the words of our Lord that I refer to:

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will

Radical Love and Kingdom Generosity (1)

At the very heart of the kingdom message of Jesus is a call to radical love that will not easily go away under convenient readings of the text, readings that fit comfortably with our way of treating people in a modern “Christendom” culture.

We encounter this radical teaching in many parts of the Gospels but no text has redefined my life and actions, time and time again, quite like what I have read in Luke 6. Here is the portion of the sixth chapter that I wish to draw your attention to today:

27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what

Does Money Directly Impact Marriage?

Married couples that care a great deal about money are much more likely to suffer from less peace and harmony in their marriage. This conclusion, from a Brigham Young University Provo, Utah, and William Patterson University, Wayne, New Jersey, study of 1,700 couples comes as no surprise to anyone who has counseled married couples for as many years as I have. A couple’s attitude toward money has always been one of the big three problems that destroys a marriage. (The other two common problems are sex and in-laws!)

Marriage images In this recent survey couples who said money was not important to them scored 10% to 15% better on measures of relationship quality, such as marriage stability, than couples in which one or both partners were materialistic. Also, couples in which both partners said they valued a lot of money—about 20% of the total in the survey—fared worse than couples who were mismatched and just had one materialist in the marriage.

Jason Carroll, a BYU professor of family life

St. Clement of Alexandria on the Value of Wealth

I wrote several blogs last week about the value and importance of the Church Fathers. One of the early Greek Fathers was Clement of Alexandria, born in Athens around A.D. 150. His parents were pagans. He was converted to faith in Christ and began to travel widely searching for faithful Christian teachers. He attended the famous School of Theology in Alexandria, founded by Pantaenus in A.D. 180. After he settled there he became the director of the school, thus Clement of Alexandria. A few years after he became the director he was forced to quickly flee during the persecution of Septimius Severus. He took refuge in Cappadocia, where he died in A.D. 215, thus he is called a Cappadocian Father.

StClementOfAlexandria St. Clement is considered one of the forerunners of what we now call systematic theology. He was the first Christian writer to recognize secular philosophy (Neoplatonism) and incorporate some of its major ideas in service of the Christian faith. Most of his literary output has been lost but

Acton University June 14-17

ACton I am honored to be on the faculty for one of my favorite conferences in America, the Acton University. AU meets June 14-17 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For four days each June, the Acton Institute convenes this wonderful ecumenical conference of pastors, seminarians, educators, non-profit managers, business people and philanthropists from more than 50 countries. It is simply one of the most interesting and impactful events that I have ever attended. I have been several times in the past. This year I will go to teach “Protestant Social Ethics.” (See the faculty link below.)

600 people of faith gather at AU to integrate and better articulate faith and free enterprise, entrepreneurship, sound public policy, and effective leadership at the local church and community level. With this week of fellowship and discourse, participants build a theological and economic infrastructure for the work of restoring and defending hope and dignity to people around the world. This is the core of what is called Acton University.

Registration is now open for the


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