The Lost Keys to Financial Security

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The Second Key

The best ideas are usually simple and this one is no exception. The idea was conceived long ago and is so simply stated that most of us would read right over it and never grasp its implications. It reads as follows:

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.

Proverbs 13:22

I can hear you saying, That sounds like a good idea, but a little tough to execute. I have enough trouble making ends meet as it is without worrying about the next generation.

That response may sound reasonable to you even if it does sound a little bit selfish. But what may come as a surprise is that your own personal financial security can only be assured by giving serious thought to the next generation.

Financial security may be a phrase that means little to us in our younger years. We have our health, and we have abundant energy to tackle any challenge. Besides, real financial security seems absolutely impossible to attain, so why try? But somewhere around age 45 we start looking at things a little differently. Only 20 years stand between us and the usual retirement age–perhaps even a compulsory retirement age–and we suddenly have to face up to how little we’re going to have when retirement comes.

Also, as we get older we begin to pay a little more attention to older people, partly because all of our friends are getting older. Our circle of acquaintances may even include a few senior citizens. You may hear something like I heard from an old-age pensioner some time ago: When I first went on Social Security, she said, I got about $80 a month. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to pay for my food and my utilities. Since I own my home out-right, I was able to make it on that. Over the years my Social Security increased to $300 a month, but now if falls well short of paying for my food and my utilities. The costs of things I need keep on going up, but my income simply does not go up at the same rate.

Fortunately for this lady, she was not totally dependent on Social Security and was able to continue maintaining a fairly comfortable life-style in her sunset years. She was able to do so for the simple reason that her husband had in his lifetime followed the principle, A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.

Social Security

Now, why would that be a principle of financial security? When you think about it, doesn’t it seem like an additional financial burden? Yet to the writer of Proverbs it seemed obvious. Even Paul mentions it in connection with a totally different matter: For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children (2 Corinthians 12:14). He cites this illustration as though it were a well known proverb.

It’s very important that we understand this principle because in our world today we seem to be looking for our security in the opposite direction. Take, for example, the Social Security system, which we suppose will provide for us in our old age. Do you feel you really understand the Social Security system? Do you even have a clear understanding of the benefits that are available to you now or at retirement? For example, do you believe that under the Social Security system you are paying money into a fund that is held and invested to be returned to you in your old age? Or is the money you are presently paying into Social Security being paid out in benefits to present old-age pensioners? Are you looking toward the future in faith that there will be enough people to pay Social Security taxes in your old age to support you?

Unfortunately the idea behind the Social Security system seems to be that the children lay up for the fathers rather than the other way around.

Even with working people today paying money into the system to be paid out to the older generation, the Social Security system is still in trouble! The last generation is being supported by this generation whereas the biblical principle says that this generation should be laying up for the next generation to come.

The idea behind the Social Security system wasn’t all bad. The population was expanding, and we had adopted a policy of an expanding economy in which the money supply expanded, wages went up, productivity went up, etc., etc. The theory was that this generation could easily take care of the last generation because of expansion. It hasn’t exactly worked out the way its originators intended. For one thing, who could have foreseen Roe v. Wade which has led to some forty million abortions and will leave us radically short of the number of wage earners needed to keep Social Security solvent? Whatever made us think that we could expand our population indefinitely? What made us think that we would always have an economy where the money supply expanded, wages went up, productivity went up, ad infinitum.

Why did Paul say that the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children? Why did Solomon say that a good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children? Perhaps we can understand it by taking a look at the way our own society works.

Fixed Income Victims

All of us are well aware of the plight of elderly people in our country who are trapped on fixed incomes. They got that way because long ago our leaders adopted an approach to economics which theorized that if you could increase the money supply and expand the economy then the growth in the economy would provide more wealth for everyone. To some degree, it worked. We all complain a great deal about the price of things these days, but when we compare the number of hours we have to work to buy things, we are better off than we were fifty years ago.

Not long ago a relative of mine was complaining about the price of gasoline, and I paused to ask him how long he had to work to buy a gallon of gasoline when he was a young man. He got a far off look in his eyes as he contemplated it because the truth was he had to work nearly a whole day when he was a boy to buy one gallon of gasoline. When we sit around complaining about rising prices, I’m afraid we have forgotten about our rising wages. Most of us are generally better off than we were twenty-five years ago, unless we happen to be stuck with a fixed income, or with Social Security which just can’t keep up with our rising financial needs.

If you happen to be one of those people who are stuck on a fixed income, this economic system is an unmitigated disaster for you.

We’re doubtless stuck with the Social Security system, but let’s stop for a moment and contrast it with another way of doing things: the way of pursuing investments for your children’s inheritance, something which many of us probably feel we can’t do. But, before you write if off entirely, let’s look at this principle in terms of some concrete examples.

Suppose a person on Social Security was receiving $900 a month in benefits at the time he died. How much would the adult children of that person receive after his death? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Now, suppose for a moment there were no Social Security and you, throughout your lifetime, had to find your own way of producing that $900 a month retirement income. How would you have gone about it? If you had said to yourself earlier in your working years, I’m going to invest enough money to produce $900 a month when I’m age sixty-five, how would you have gone about it?

The first question is how much money you would need to produce $900 per month in secure income. No one can forecast interest rates, but you can make some intelligent estimates. The average return on U.S. Government 30 year treasury bonds for the past 25 years has been 8.5 percent. At that rate, you would need to have $128,000 invested to get the $900 a month you are looking for.

I know, that looks like an impossible goal, so how would you get that kind of money? Well, take your contribution to Social Security as an illustration. If, over 25 years you were to earn an average $20,000 per year, you would pay $255 dollars a month in Social Security and Medicare taxes (both yours and your employer’s contribution). At retirement, at age sixty-five, if you are able to get $900 a month, you are getting the equivalent return on $128,000 except that it isn’t yours and it won’t be your children’s.

That same $255, invested in at an average of 8.5 percent annual rate, at the end of 25 years would amount to over $263,000. This could give you an income of over $18,000 a month compared to Social Security’s $900 a month. Which do you think is the better deal?

If you are 25 years old when you start this and have 40 years for it to accumulate, you will have just over a one million dollars at age sixty-five. And here is the kicker. When you grow old and die, you will leave all that money to your children and your children’s children, just like the Bible says. With Social Security, you leave nothing. Imagine where you would be today if your parents and grandparents had followed this sound biblical principle. If the entire nation followed this principle, we would be awash in investment capital.

But, of course, we are stuck with Social Security. All we can do is try to supplement it with our own savings plan. You may think it is tough to build up the kind of nest egg that will keep you comfortable in your old age, but all it requires is time and consistency.

How to Do It

Suppose you want to have a retirement income, over and above your Social Security of, say, $20,000 a year. At an average rate of return of 8.5 percent, that would require a nest egg of some $235,000. Sounds impossible, right? If you took $490 a month and put it in a coffee can and buried it, you would have that $235,000 in 40 years. But if you could invest $58 a month at an average of 8.5 percent for 40 years, you could have that same $235,000 nest egg. Behold the power of compound interest over time.

Now, where can you find that $58 a month? The average family these days is paying that much or more in credit card interest alone. Cut up your credit cards and pay all you can on that debt until it is gone. Make it a lifetime policy that you will never pay interest on anything except essential transportation and essential housing.

Consider what happens to a young married couple who load up their credit cards to finance their furnishings in their first apartment. The $4,000 limit on their combined cards vanishes quickly. The first month they pay the minimum required payment, but then charge items back up to the limit again. Suppose they follow this pattern for the next 20 years.

Effectively, they have paid cash month by month for their purchases after the first month. But they have paid a total of $16,000,for their first month’s purchases. Four thousand for the items, and $12,000,in monthly interest charges. Not a few couples do this, year in and year out.

Here’s an alternative. Buy a mattress and put it on the floor of the bedroom. Sit on the floor and eat your meals off an orange crate. Buy some pots and pans at the thrift store. Haunt garage and estate sales. Much of what you need to furnish your first place can be found for pennies on the dollar. Pay cash for everything and do without until you can afford it. Want books? Go to the library. Want entertainment? Watch the paper for free events. Marriage is an adventure and you will look back with a degree of pride on the sacrifices you made when you were young.

What do you do with the money you save? Invest it.

What This Means to You

Now, let’s think this through a little bit further. Suppose you were saving this money and had it in your hand all this period of time to do with as you saw fit. Over the years it would begin to build up to a fairly substantial sum; at 15 years it may amount to over twenty thousand dollars. Long before that, though, you are going to wake up and say to yourself, Wait a minute. Here I am sitting in this apartment paying rent when I can take that money and invest it in my own home. Then the rent I’m paying will make my monthly payments. Right. If you are renting an apartment or a house, you are already paying your landlord’s mortgage, his insurance and his taxes. You might as well pay them on your own home. It is easier than you think.

When you buy your own home, you increase the rate of savings and, incidentally, you are likely to radically improve that 8.5 percent rate of return you were receiving. How does it work? Suppose you managed to get an FHA loan and put $3,950 down on an $60,000 house. You get several immediate benefits. First, all of the interest you pay on your loan may be an income tax deduction. For a young working couple who itemize deductions, the income tax savings can make a difference. Second, a small amount of money is being paid on the equity of your home every month and is as good as socking the money away in a savings account. A 15 year mortgage offers a much better break in this department than a 30 year mortgage.

But the biggest potential gain is still to be considered. Over time, the value of real estate tends to appreciate. Suppose you keep this home for five years and it appreciates at a rate of only five percent per year. At the end of five years, your home is now worth sixty-six thousand dollars. That represents a gain of $16,000 in five years on your original $4,000 investment. And you are living in your own home, not an apartment or rent house where you are making someone else’s payments. The numbers will vary but the principle remains the same.

What have we learned? In the process of changing our thinking and beginning to lay up an inheritance for our children’s children, we improve our own standard of living! We are actually living in, not on, our children’s inheritance. Historically, studies have shown that people who own their own homes are better off financially than those who don’t.

Biblical Social Security

Interestingly enough, there is a biblical approach to Social Security needs, and it happens to be another important key to financial security. When God established the nation of Israel, He gave it certain laws of economics to insure their eventual prosperity. Most people are fairly well aware of the tithing system, which existed long before Israel came into existence as a nation. What many people are not so well aware of is that there was another type of proportional giving required of Israel. It was to take care of, not the retirement of all their old people, but the exceptional needs of their poor, the stranger, the fatherless, the widow, etc. The underlying principle of the care of the poor is espoused in many ways in God’s Word, both Old and New Testaments. Peter and Paul were both very in favor of taking care of the poor in the Church (Galatians 2:10), and Paul was quite vocal in his representations to the early ministry about the care of the needy in the Church.

In Israel’s economy, the requirements were very specific. The account is found in Deuteronomy 14:28:

At the end of three years you shall bring forth all the tithe of your increase the same year and shall lay it up within your gates: and the Levite (because he has no part nor inheritance with you) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.

This has been called the poor tithe or the third tithe. It was not something one did every year. In fact, reading the Scriptures alone, one would get the impression that it happened once in a seven-year cycle. Some commentators have suggested that it was the third and sixth year in a seven-year cycle, but that is merely a rabbinical interpretation. There is no way to derive a poor tithe in the sixth year out of the scriptural references.

The children of Israel were exhorted at all times not to reap the corners of their fields (Leviticus 19:9). They were to leave them for those who were poor to come and glean. In the seventh year, they were to allow all their land to lie fallow. They were not allowed to sow nor to reap any harvest, but they could take as much from the fields as their family needed to eat. The remainder was left in the fields for wild beasts, their own animals, and the poor to come and eat (Leviticus 25:1–7). These were routine matters. However, it would seem that in the third year of this seven-year cycle, one tenth of all their increase or profit was laid up into a central treasury and retained for the permanent use of the poor.

Translating this into modern terms, you have ten percent of one seventh of your total income for seven years. This comes out to 1.43 percent of your total seven-year income. It’s not a lot of money. For a person making $12,000 a year, it only amounts to $171. That seems little enough for a person to set aside for the poor. With all the exhortations we have for the care of the poor in the New Testament, should a Christian be found doing less than God required of ancient Israel? What is very important to notice is that God looked upon this minimum standard as a critical factor in the prosperity of His people. Read carefully the account found in Deuteronomy 26:12–15. Here the Israelite is told,

When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, the widow, that they may eat within your gates and be filled; then you shall say before the Lord your God…

There follows a prayer which seems to involve the claiming of a very specific blessing from God. A blessing that seemed to be dependent upon the fact that the Israelites never forget to take care of those less fortunate than themselves.

Why is this a key to financial security?

If there be among you a poor man…thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide to him and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need.…Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.

Deuteronomy 15:7–10

The poor tithe assured that they would have something to give when they were asked.

The Mosaic poor tithe reveals to us God’s minimum standard of care for the poor. His Social Security system, if you will. Even this does not satisfy the Christian’s obligation. Jesus said,

Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Matthew 5:42

Very late in his ministry John told Christians,

But whoso hath this world’s goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

1 John 3:17, 18

Invest

At this point we should stop and consider another biblical key to financial security. Simply stated, it is, Don’t just save; invest!

Jesus gave two separate parables which vividly illustrate this point. The first is the parable of the pound (Luke 19:12–26). The other is the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14–30). In these two parables there was a man who was given a sum of money who saved it but did not make it grow. One man laid it up in a napkin, and the other man buried it in the earth. To the one man, the lord said, Wherefore then gavest thou not my money into the bank that at my coming, I might have required mine own with interest? (Luke 19:23). To the other, he said, You ought therefore to have put my money to the exchanger, and then at my coming I should have received my own with interest (Matthew 25:27). The significance of these words to a man living in our own economy is crucial. In our world, if you bury money in the ground, you are still being robbed by inflation, the greatest bank robber of all time. You can’t stand still, you must go ahead, or you’re going to drop behind. It’s a fact of life in our world.

Why did the two men in these two parables find themselves under God’s condemnation? Where did they make their mistake? Both parables seem to make it very clear: They were afraid to take a chance on losing. But the fact is in this world’s economy, you are destined to lose. It takes action and risk on your part in order to get ahead.

Make no mistake about it, Jesus would never have chosen these analogies in His parables had He not meant for people to be good stewards and to try to make their money grow. In a healthy economy, money is put to work. It’s not buried in coffee cans in the backyard.

There’s no time like the present for you to take a look at the future, your own investments, and how much you’re putting into Social Security, and say to yourself, There has to be a better way.

Beware of Inflation

You may not have any choice about the Social Security, but you had better realize that, by the time you get around to drawing it, it will do little more than allow you to starve a little more slowly. You’ve got to have something besides Social Security if you’re to enjoy life after retirement. And remember that Social Security will do absolutely nothing as far as God’s exhortation to lay up for your children and your children’s children.

Inflation is no doubt the greatest enemy your children have. You can work and slave, save and invest and lay money aside only to find much of its value eroded by inflation by the time your children receive it. Here again we find the importance of listening to the age-old admonition, A good man lays up an inheritance for his children’s children. If you’re thinking in these terms, you’re going to be forced to take inflation into consideration and see if you can find some way of protecting that investment for your children’s sake. As it’s going to turn out, it’s also going to protect your own standard of living at the same time.

There are investments that are relatively inflation-proof. For example, some people have found that if they take their nest egg that they have at age 65 and buy a few pieces of rental property the income from that property can provide them quite a good rate of return on their investment. In addition their effective income is increased by the tax shelter advantage of real estate investment. Still further, as inflation goes up they’re able to raise the rent and thereby protect themselves from being left behind by the economy. In the process of protecting themselves, they also protect the investment for their children. As inflation continues, the property becomes worth more and more dollars, and so their children’s investment is more secure. And best of all, after you have made a down payment on a rental property, the tenants will make your monthly payments for you in their rent.

The key to all this is deceptively simple. It’s the simple understanding of the principle that God expects you to leave an inheritance for your children’s children.

Notice we call it a principle. There is no place in the Bible where it is codified into some sort of legislation–how in the world would you legislate it, anyway? Yet we have to understand what it means to strive to follow the will of God in our lives, and those who do will take very seriously a statement in God’s Word where He defines what makes a good man.

Generosity vs. Responsibility

This whole argument probably sounds a little strange coming from a religious organization. Most of us are used to religious organizations putting the bite on us or squeezing us for all we have. A lot of religionists like to quote certain scriptures to show examples of generosity as though all of us were to follow these examples at all times.

Didn’t Jesus, for example, commend a widow who cast all her substance into the Temple treasury? He certainly did (Mark 12:43). He called this woman to the attention of His disciples. He commended her, saying that she had cast in relatively more than anyone else that day because she had out of her poverty cast in everything she had.

It was commendable for her to do this. But could there be a circumstance when it would not be commendable to cast everything you have into the treasury? Was Jesus intending to say by this commendation, I want all of you all the time to give everything you have into the treasury? Intuitively, we know that was not what Christ meant. We know from Christ’s example and from Solomon’s proverb that saving and investing for our children’s children–the building up of an estate–is included in God’s will for man.

Well, then, one may ask: Didn’t Jesus say that we should not lay up for ourselves treasures upon the earth?

Let’s read what Jesus actually said, and let’s understand.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust do corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:19–21

Now, are we to take from this that Jesus did not intend for us, during our earthly sojourn, to retain any of our income for ourselves? Did He not intend for us to save? Did He not intend for us to put our money to work as good stewards? Does this mean that He did not intend for us to save for our children?

When you take money and you put it into a bank or into land as an investment, are you not laying up treasure upon earth for your children? Is this a contradiction in Scripture?

Later in this passage Jesus goes on to say,

No man can serve two masters; he will either hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life.

Matthew 6:24–25

A better translation of this verse is, Take no anxious thought for your life. In other words, Jesus is saying, Don’t worry about your life. Paraphrased, He is saying, Look, don’t be anxious about how you’re going to live, what you’re going to eat, what you’re going to be putting on. Don’t worry. Trust God.

But is Jesus trying to say that we are to be irresponsible financially? Satan took Jesus up on a pinnacle of a hill and said, Cast yourself down, for it is written, His angels will bear you up that you will never dash your foot against a stone. Jesus responded, It is written, you shall not tempt the Lord your God. Would Jesus then suggest that we should tempt God financially by spending or giving all that we have and then saying, God will take care of it?

Somehow, intuitively, we know that is not what Jesus is saying. But what is He saying? How do we put all of this together? Unfortunately, many religious leaders will use these scriptures to try to squeeze people into giving more and more to the Church, encouraging them to give till it hurts and to sacrifice. But the truth is that God’s way is for His people to give tithes and thank offerings from their increase; that is, from their current income. God’s way is not to erode the capital of His people or the inheritance of their children.

By capital, we mean your savings account; we mean the equity in your home; we mean the equity in that piece of land you bought for your retirement, the one you thought you could leave to your children if something happened to you. Your capital includes equipment that you bought for your business, the automobile you drive, all the accumulated wealth you have put together which could be laid up for your children’s children. God expects us to tithe and to give generous offerings out of our current income and in response to our present blessings. He does not expect us to erode or give away our children’s inheritance.

A Fool’s Game

The preacher that encroaches on the capital of his membership is playing a fool’s game. First, because he cares nothing for the people. Second, he is eroding his own future support. In the years to come, these people who have sold off property to give to the Church will have less to give at a future time. Third, this preacher is threatening your own well-being in your old age; and, fourth, he is taking away the inheritance of your children.

It’s too bad you haven’t heard more about these principles of financial security from the preachers. Unfortunately there have been some serious financial abuses by religious organizations in the past. As a result, as it was in the days of Eli’s sons, Men abhorred the offering of the Lord (1 Samuel 2:17).

But, when we put it all in perspective, it may make a little more sense. Sacrificial giving is good, but God does not expect you to sell your house and give it to the Church under most circumstances.

None of this is intended to say that you would never dig into your savings to give. The Israelites certainly did when the time came to build the Tabernacle and did it again when the time came to build the Temple. There were sometimes some special offerings. But these special occasions were spaced out, not merely by years, but by generations.

In the earliest days of the New Testament Church, for example, we find people selling houses and lands and putting all the money into a common pool (Acts 4:34–37), but there’s no indication that was a practice of the Church in subsequent generations. In all the period of time covered by New Testament Scriptures, there seems to have been only this one instance where people did this.

There probably was not more than one time in a generation where that kind of sacrifice was called for. There no doubt will be times when people should give everything they have, but I suspect it would be very rare in the history of man. And it will always be the choice of the individual concerned. And it will only happen when you have it to give and after your other responsibilities have been fulfilled.

What do we mean by these other responsibilities?

In writing to Timothy, Paul makes a simple, very direct statement which is crucial to our understanding: But if any provide not for his own and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel (1 Timothy 5:8). Paul says you are held accountable to God to provide for your own. It will not be an acceptable excuse for you to say, Well, I gave my money to the Church.

Pressed to Sacrifice?

If you’ve ever gotten on the mailing list of some of the present-day religious organizations, you find that most of them have a great deal of financial difficulty. Because their people do not necessarily follow a tithing system of regular giving from current income, the organizations find it difficult to plan. They find themselves in continual financial difficulty. Consequently you get pleading letters urging you and others to give, crying out how important their message is and how terrible it will be if it goes off the air. Crises develop, impassioned letters are written about giving until it hurts. People are urged to sacrifice.

And guess who sacrifices when that type of thing takes place? Guess who it is that hurts when we’re talking about giving till it hurts? It’s the good hearted, the generous, those whole-hearted and open-handed people who generally would give you the shirt off their back. They’re that kind of people. They’re generous, they give, they sacrifice, they’re the kind of people who sell houses and land to give to a religious organization. Heirlooms have been sold, that beautiful diamond that had been handed down through two generations is sold off or given to some religious organization that was simply having trouble building some sort of monument. Is that God’s way?

When you see people denuding their savings account, selling their homes, selling their land and jewelry and heirlooms, things they might have left for their children, don’t always assume that’s what God wants.

Perhaps you’re thinking, I see your point, but as we approach the end-time should we then, in those circumstances, give all we can for the final push?

Let’s consider that carefully. First of all, what did Jesus have to say about this subject? He said we would see all manner of signs such as famine, pestilence, wars and rumors of wars, and yet warns us that the end is not yet. He then gives us other signs that are going to take place at the end-time and tells us that when we see these come to pass we will know that the end is near. Yet in spite of this, He says, No man knows the day or the hour of Christ’s return.

The fact is that I believe Jesus Christ is coming back to this earth in my lifetime. But I have to face the fact that I’m not the only person in history who ever felt that way. For the past 2,000 years, there have been men who expected the coming of their Lord momentarily. And so we have to understand that merely because we think it’s coming, and because we expect it’s coming, doesn’t mean that we can start making decisions on that basis. We are supposed to be ready for Christ to come at any time. And yet we are not permitted to stop working, to flee to a mountain top and wait for His return, to neglect our responsibilities to our families.

The End-Time

Suppose that we did know the time of Christ’s return. Suppose we were certain. Does that mean that we would no longer need to consider the admonition that a good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children?

There is a specific instance in prophecy that will help us to understand. Jeremiah, who prophesied not only to his own generation but also prophesied of the end-time, was required to act out, as were other prophets, one of his prophecies. The fascinating account is found in the 32nd chapter of Jeremiah’s prophecy. The account reads, beginning in verse 1,

The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of Zedekiah, King of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. For then the King of Babylon’s army besieged Jerusalem: and Jeremiah, the Prophet, was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the King of Judah’s house.

We find Jeremiah in jail! Zedekiah had arrested him because of his prophecies. Jeremiah had been prophesying for months that this army outside the city was going to be victorious. The army would take the city and all the inhabitants were going into captivity. Jeremiah’s message was, Give yourself up to the Babylonians, and you may save your life.

There was no doubt in Jeremiah’s mind about what was going to take place. The foreign army was real. It was present. It was going to be victorious. Jeremiah had prophesied,

Zedekiah, King of Judah, shall not escape the hand of the Chaldeans but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the King of Babylon…and he shall lead Zedekiah to Babylon…and there shall he be until I visit him, saith the Lord: though you fight with the Chaldeans, you shall not prosper.

With all of the certainty of captivity and deportation, there was a very important consideration that must not be neglected. The Word of God came to Jeremiah saying,

Behold Hanameel, the son of Shallum your uncle, shall come to you saying, But my field that is in Anathoth, for the right of redemption is yours to buy it. So Hanameel, mine uncle’s son, came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the Lord, and said unto me, Buy my field, I pray you, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin, for the right of inheritance is yours, and the redemption is yours; buy it for yourself. Then I knew that it was from the Lord.

Jeremiah needed some kind of confirmation that it was from the Lord, because what he was being called upon to do seemed rather strange. Normally, one would ask, Why buy land? Here I am in the city of Jerusalem, and the land outside is under the feet of the Babylonian soldiers, and I am to buy it?

Jeremiah followed through:

I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle’s son, that was in Anathoth and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver. I subscribed the evidence and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances. And I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open: and I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch, the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseian, in the sight of Hanameel mine uncle’s son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the book before all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison.

All the formalities of transfer of title, recording of deed, etc., were taken care of publicly and meticulously on the transfer of this property. Why? Why was it so important?

Jeremiah answers,

And I charge Baruch before them saying, Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; that these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days. For thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.

Why was God requiring Jeremiah to do this? It was being done as a symbol to the people. God was saying through this that there would be 70 years of captivity. Although the people who went into captivity at this point would, for the most part, not be coming back, their children would return. Houses would be built and lived in, vineyards would be planted and enjoyed in that land during the return from captivity. What Jeremiah was demonstrating to these people was that their children would come back into the land and inherit it.

What must we never forget is that as we come down to the end of this age our own children will live over into the new world. There is no reason for us to sell real estate because we believe Christ is coming back. There is no reason to give it up because we believe our land is going into captivity. The same scriptures that prophesy the return of Christ, the defeat of certain nations and the captivity of their people also foretell that the people will be relieved from captivity, returned to the land, and that their children will again inherit the land of their fathers.

Jeremiah was called upon to buy and seal up a piece of property, setting it aside for the future, even though the end of their civilization was at hand. Even so, although we face the end of our own civilization, we do not face the end of the world. After the return of Christ, there are one thousand years of prosperity ahead of our children. So it really matters not whether we’re right about the time of Christ’s return. There is no reason for people to sell off properties or put them into some big push at the end of the age.

It may well be that some generous person one day may be moved to do that sort of thing. But God does not require it of him. What God requires is that a good man lay up an inheritance for his children’s children.

The Children’s Children

I know that building a nest egg in this economy is a tough proposition. I know that many of my readers don’t have 40 years to invest. And even following the principles we have laid out here, you may end up with a very small nest egg plus your Social Security. But it is better than nothing. It may not even be enough.

But suppose your father had managed to maintain a small retirement fund and at his passing it had come to you. Maybe it comes to you when you have 20 years left to do something with it. Coupled with what you are able to do yourself, that can make a very big difference in your old age, and it will make a huge difference to your children.

Now suppose this pattern had started with your great-grandfather. Do you have any idea what a difference that would make to you today had your father and his father laid aside even a small inheritance to pass on to their children’s children?

It’s shocking to consider, but if your grandfather and your father had followed this simple procedure, and you had carefully conserved and built what they left to you, your regular tithes today might have been a greater gift to God than everything you currently own.

This is not to say that a time may not come when you have been so blessed and feel so strongly such a surge of generosity that you reach back into your capital and give a generous offering. This is especially true when you know you’ve taken care of your family–you’ve taken care of your children, you have some land laid up for them, your children have jobs and are doing well, etc. Then it makes sense for you to say to yourself, I really want to dig down deep and give something special to God’s work. It may be at a critical time. There may be a moment when just a little bit extra will make all the difference in the world. You may not want to be left out when that kind of an opportunity arises.

But the best way to be sure that you’re in a position to help when the time comes is to follow the second key to financial security: A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.

How shortsighted is man, and how farsighted is God! Paul was so moved when he thought on it that he wrote,

Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways passed finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Who has been His counselor? Who has first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:33–36

The First Key to Financial Security

Now that I’ve told you about the second key to financial security, you may be wondering what the first key is. The First Key to Financial Security is to make God your partner in everything you do. How do you do that?

Once upon a time, there was a man named Jacob who was traveling far away from home. He had two reasons why he was out there. He was going to his kinsmen to find a wife, but he was also fleeing from his brother. On the way, he camped out near a spot that would later be called Bethel. As he slept, he dreamed that he saw a great ladder that went from the earth into the heavens and there were angels ascending and descending the ladder. And as he watched he saw the Lord God at the top of the ladder and God spoke to him saying:

I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

Genesis 28:13–15

This is a confirmation of what God had previously told Abraham, his father, but it was a mighty big promise. Jacob immediately realized this place was special, calling it the very House of God (Bethel).

And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

Genesis 28:20–22

First comes the blessing of God. Then Jacob’s response which included what might be a conditional vow. If, he said, God would be with him and keep him in the way he was going, would give him bread to eat and clothing to wear, if God would bring him home in peace, then he would give to God ten percent of everything God gave to him.

The tenth or the tithe was already a well established custom in the ancient world. His father had defeated an enemy and had given to Melchizedek, the Priest of the Most High God, one tenth of all the spoils of his military adventure (Genesis 14:19–20). The tenth was an acknowledgment that God had given him the victory.

Now here is the question we must ask. Do we want God to be with us in the way we go? Do we want him to bless our crops and herds, our stock market investments, our savings, our homes, our lands? Then what are we willing to do in return? Note that Jacob didn’t promise to give God anything until he received something. The blessing of God comes first, then the tithe in response. If you believe that God has given you nothing, then you owe Him nothing. But which of us is prepared to say that?

There is a curious thing about the tithe in the Bible, and it often gets lost in the need for churches and ministries to raise money. Tithing was the law of the land and the law of God, but compliance was entirely voluntary. There was no Internal Revenue Service in either the Old Testament or the New Testament. Tithing was the personal response of the individual to God. It was an act of worship, an acknowledgment of the blessing and the sovereignty of God.

So what if one doesn’t tithe? Does it matter? It only matters if you care to have God as your partner. You want God to bless you in your family. You want Him to bless you in your health. You want Him to bless you in your relationships. Why should you leave God out of your financial affairs?

God once spoke to the Prophet Malachi about this very theme. Here is what He said. I will let you read it and then make some observations:

I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.

Malachi 3:6–12

There are several important points to make here. One is that you don’t rob someone by keeping what is your own. It is a staggering thing to consider. No one who is reading my words is going to go into a church and steal something that belongs to God. Yet God here condemns a people for robbing Him of the tithe. That means that God considers the tithe as His property.

Next, the result of the failure to acknowledge the sovereignty of God with the tithe resulted in a curse. This is not to say that God actively cursed them, but because they had left God out of this part of their lives His blessing was not there. The devourer (like a boll weevil) had eaten up and destroyed crops. Fungus had ruined the grape crop. All natural disasters. But the clear implication is that things can be different for the man who makes God his partner.

I know that someone will object saying that this is merely an old covenant idea and not binding on Christians. But then neither is prosperity or financial solvency binding upon Christians. This is a question of faith. Why would you NOT want to make a financial covenant with God?

Then there is Jesus. In His severest judgment of the Pharisees, He said this:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Matthew 23:23

Jesus taught that the tithe ought to be done.

The Last Word

In reality, financial security in this world is fleeting. No one can ever be sure he has all the answers. No one can ever be sure he has enough money. But there is a way that gives us an edge. That way is to allow the Bible to be our guide. And there are two great principles here that we can follow that can at least give us the hope that we have done our best while we look to God for His blessing and care. The first is to make God your partner, to include your finances in your personal covenant with God. The second is to invest for the next generation.

No one can do more. After you have inserted these keys in the lock and turned them, you can rest confident that you have done all that God might expect you to do and you can now rest in His care.


Author
Ronald L. Dart

Ronald L. Dart

Ronald L. Dart (1934–2016) — People around the world have come to appreciate his easy style, non-combative approach to explaining the Bible, and the personal, almost one-on-one method of explaining what’s going on in the world in the light of the Bible. After retiring from teaching and church administration in 1995 he started Christian Educational Ministries and the Born to Win radio program.

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Image Credits: Joel Montes de Oca