Friday, May 24, 2013

Margin- Chapter 10

A few friends and I are reading this book together. Each week we are reading one chapter. On Fridays, I am posting my comments, then giving them the opportunity to add their thoughts as well. If you would like to join us or simply find out more about the book, you can read about it here.)

Chapter 10: "Margin in Finances"

- Of these last four chapters, I would say this is the one most of us probably have the best hold on, because none of us have tons of money, and we all have already had to be careful with our money.  Maybe we don't have a lot of margin or wiggle room, but we do handle it well. 

- I think it is so telling of human sinful nature that in America, where we enjoy some of the greatest affluence and comfort in the history of the world, we have a whole range of serious financial problems.

- "Student borrowing has skyrocketed." (Page 133)  Some of you know that I enjoy listening to Dave Ramsey.  He says that our parents' generation got into debt because of mortgages and credit cards.  He also says that the biggest current problem is student loan debt.

- He gave a warning against credit cards, and I believe rightfully so.  However, I realize that there is a very small percentage of people who use them to their advantage and who do not abuse them (pay off every month, use rewards, etc.)  However, I would venture that the percentage of people who do that is less than 5%.  I have no problem with someone using a credit card that way, but I think they need to have the conviction that they will cut it up before they would abuse it.  An open line of credit is an ever-present "temptation" when financial difficulties come.  I am curious as to your thoughts on credit cards.

- I felt like he didn't give a clear answer on some of the questions about financial margin.  In one place, he would say one thing, but something else in another.  This is what I mean:
"When we encounter money along the path of life, we are encouraged to do one of three things with it: turn and walk in the other direction; pick it up and give it away; or use it for the necessities of daily living." (Page 136)
"If, for example, you currently have no savings and pay expenses from a checking account that is monthly drained dry, what happens if there are emergency medical expenses?  You would need to take out a loan and enter into debt.  But if you sustained a savings, you would have margin against such emergencies" (Page 144) If I am to do the three things above, how can I ever have any kind of savings?  Savings is not part of necessities of daily living.
"Some advisors recommend setting aside a contingency fund equal to three to six months of your usual spending for unexpected emergencies.  I personally do not follow this rule, preferring to live closer to the edge of faith."  (Page 144)  So, what does he recommend?  Is not having margin living even closer to faith?  Is he saying he has more faith than a person who has three to six months of expenses?  He said savings is good but hoarding is not- how do we know where one ends and the other begins?
I'm fine with him believing whatever he wants to believe.  I just think if a person is going to write a book on margin, he should clearly lay out his thoughts, and I feel like he has not done so in this chapter.  I think preachers often do the same thing- they make definitive statements about money that if you take to their logical end, we should sell everything extraneous that is not necessary for living, and always spend all our money by the end of the day.  It is easier to say these type of things than to wrestle with the tough questions.  Am I the only one who felt this way?

- He said that he was unwilling to be wealthy and quoted the apostle Paul where he said, "They that will be rich fall into temptation."  He equated being willing to be wealthy to being in temptation, but it seems to me that Paul was talking about those who desired to be rich.  I believe a person can become wealthy, even if his focus is not on wealth.

- He said our list of "needs" is greater today than in 1900, which was greater than in the time of Christ.  However, couldn't we add, that the list then might have been greater than in the days of David, or Moses, or Adam?  My point is that the culture around Jesus doesn't define our needs. 

- We all need to seek God's wisdom as we make decisions about how to use the money He has provided.  Even if we all are doing that, we will still need understanding with one another because we all will spend money differently on discretionary items- things above our basic needs.  I must be willing to respect your families' right to decide on some things, and you should be willing to give us that liberty as well.  Too often, we think we are doing everything perfectly, and anyone who spends money on something we wouldn't is in sin.

- I thought this quote was very good- "The cultivation and expansion of needs is ... the antithesis of freedom."  (Page 141)  Remind you of anywhere?

I've had my say, what say you?

Discussion on Chapter 9
Discussion on Chapter 11


  1. -On credit cards.....We are (well, were, until we moved to a country we can't use them) in the 5% that use credit cards to make money rather than lose money. We have literally make hundreds of dollars over the years using cash-back programs. The cash-back on our BP card was great during deputation (5% back on all we spent traveling thousands of miles). We only use it for necessary or budgeted purchases and ALWAYS pay it off each month. It is not used as credit but electronic cash-on-hand. I went into using credit cards with a heavy fear of debt and set guidelines before ever having one. They are not for everyone, as you said, but we've enjoyed the benefit of having our expenses tracked (credit card statement) and gaining money off it. Unfortunately, the cash-back programs seem to be dwindling and now certain states charge the credit card user a fee to use it (like Ohio does). If I will end up losing money using the card, it's going in the trash.

    -Jacob, I understood the last of the three, "for the necessities of daily living" to include savings. Doctor bills, replacing appliances, retirement, etc. are all necessities of daily living. Do you see what I mean?

    -Jacob, I agree that he blurred things on the not saving 3 to 6 months of income statement. How is having some savings for medical emergencies okay and living by faith but having 3 to 6 months of expenditures for the emergency of losing your job or being sick for some time somehow now condemned or implied as a lack of faith? If one is a lack of faith, so is the other. With that said, I think his point is that we must watch our heart. Hoarding is not so much a numeric figure as much as a refusal to put the money where God wants it to go. Hoarding would be keeping money for something that God does not want you to have or taking ownership rather than stewardship of your finances and not letting God tell you what He wants you to do with the money. I felt his argument against 3 to 6 months of savings was not needed and did not help his point.

    -I did see a difference in what he has written than say, Dave Ramsey. I believe this author had a more biblical basis for what he said in some aspects than Dave Ramsey's, "Live like no one else today so you can live like no one else in the future" (not verbatim). While riches are not sin, I do question motives being biblical if we are working today towards living it up down the road in retirement. If I'm content with having my needs (and more) met today (but not living in luxury), I want to be content in the state of having my needs met without the need of luxury in the future. As Jacob said, the "desire to be rich" part is important, not the riches. If one is not making riches his goal and God still dumps it on him, so be it, but I believe many believers still have the wrong desire.

    -"if you want financial margin, don't buy on impulse." (pg. 146) - Any other men out there guilty of going to the grocery store and coming back with more than the wife put on the list? Not frivolous things, but extra items, nonetheless.

    -I laughed when he said he doesn't think loaning out to people is a problem and yet said he hasn't seen for a year the chainsaw he loaned out. I don't mind loaning out, but if someone creates a reputation for not taking care of things, I think a stewardship principle may come into play here.

    -Overall, I believe that a lot of what he said in the chapter is lacking in America and needs to be said. Even though I would say we do well with finances, we do need some tuning done on my part.

    1. - I see what you are saying about savings being part of "necessities of daily living" but it still seems to contradict what he says elsewhere in the chapter. He made a big point about what are truly needs. If that is the case, anything above food, clothing, and maybe the costs with shelter would be above a need/necessity. Maybe another way to express what I was thinking: what constitutes the "necessities of daily living."

      - While I agree that Dave Ramsey has a more favorable look towards riches and while I do not agree with everything he says, I want to say a couple of things: 1) When he talks about living like no one else so later you can live like noone else, the bigger focus is on being willing to live without things and make sacrifices in order to get your financial house in order. This is especially said for those who are fighting to get out of debt. 2) When he talks about the second part of living like noone else, he always talks about giving like noone else. While there is more emphasis on what one can do with riches than I feel is called for, he always points people to giving to others.

      - I don't struggle getting stuff at the grocery store because I pretty much just always go with her to be able to carry stuff home.

      - Where is the boundary between the "stewardship principle" and the "open hand principle"? I think it is a tough one to answer.

    2. -I would agree that there was a shaky balancing act he tried to play between what things in life above the needs are appropriate for Christians to pursue. While I would not call them "needs" per say, there are basics of life needed to live, which vary from country to country. For example, health insurance is not a need in some countries, but in America, it has become mandatory. We would be stretching things if we started labeling the possession of certain items to be "sin," but I think the consideration and application of biblical principles of not laying up treasures on earth and such are much needed today. Do you think there is a line that would be crossed that would make one "worldly" if they owned certain things? For example, with music, we believe there is a definite worldly and sinful side of music. Then people draw different lines between that and the obviously okay side. We often use the verse in I John that says "love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.." and apply it to music, dress, etc. Would a believer owning a $60,000 car, yacht, learjet, and two beach homes be characterized as loving the things in the world? Is there a definite wrong side? If so, how would we draw lines? I have never considered possession of things to parallel music or clothing, but I am seeing some parallels. "Things" are not wrong, but I am interested in getting some feedback on this one.

      -I have read some of Dave Ramsey's material and heard some lectures, but I am not as familiar with him as you are, Jacob. I see how I took his quote further than he may have intended. Thank you for bringing some balance to it.

      -I would take following stewardship and keeping open hands to be the same. We realize it is not our own anyways so we are willing to let it go where the Owner desires, thus the open hands. It is an attitude and willingness to action rather than a balance in an account. I think the parable of the talents shows this. The one who had the least was the one guilty, not the one who had the most.

    3. I live in America. I have no health insurance. Has God provided for my needs?

  2. I felt like the author did contract himself a bit, yet I also seemed to agree with both sides of what he was saying. I do sometimes wonder if many Christians have saved "too much". (Its easy for me to claim that "someone else" has saved too much.) Honestly, it can be frustrating see how many in ministry (and I am, so perhaps its a bit selfish) live compared with how some believers live. Near poverty vs. luxury. Of course, those with money can always claim that those in ministry shouldn't have given away so much money, and instead should've saved it like they did.

    I did resonate with his reference to living by faith. His definition of such may be up for debate. He defined living by faith as living with less. It is possible to live by faith with great riches, but it cannot come easily. For most of us, the only way we learn to live by faith (in finances) is to have little.

    The Bible encourages both saving and giving. I think the important point is that many automatically think one or the other, and don't truly seek God's will regarding it. I believe in situational ethics. (Prov. 26:4-5)

    As to the credit cards, we've gotten back hundreds of dollars as well. For me, I have no problem putting something on the card when I have cash in the bank to pay for it. It can make returns easy, prevent theft, and allow for easy bookkeeping. You can't beat 5% back on gas!