#34 Financial Accountability

By Stephen Phinney

“Everything was numbered and weighed, and all the weight was recorded at that time” (Ezra 8:34, NASB).
“In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:2, NASB).
If you’re like most people, you probably hate paperwork.  Recordkeeping is simply a “pain” in a world that is filled with business.  I can tell you this; those who do keep adequate records are admitting to understanding the value and purpose of money.  Recordkeeping is primarily for the master: a boss, husband, government, or board of directors.  It also allows us to visually see exactly what God has entrusted to us.
A record, or accounting, system is the basis for a means in which others, primarily God, can hold us accountable for the provisions entrusted to us by God.  People who seek and strive to be rich and increase in their goods, while avoiding accountability, tend to become either emergent or lukewarm.   
“So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:16-17, NASB).
Most of us consider our personal financial status to be private and no one’s business but our own.  The truth of the matter is – that is not true.  All Christians should be willing to have their entire lives be an open book, including their finances.  Using what God has entrusted to us involves using all of the resources God has given (spiritually, psychologically, and financially), according to His divine PURPOSES. 
Which do you think Christ would consider more valuable: a million dollars safely invested in a secure stock or a cup of cold water to a thirsty soul?  If you think like I do, your mind might conclude that we could take the million and quench the thirst of thousands; but the real to life answer is Christ would rather we give the one cup of water.  The question is: “When is the man thirsty?”
“Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!” (James 5:3, NASB).         
God’s original design of multiplying money is by trading, buying, or selling – not by stocks and bonds (inflation).  In fact, inflationary wealth is a form of stealing.  When there is no means to make money off of people’s losses (stocks/bonds), God’s people are more apt to increase their wealth through earnings and productivity, resourcefulness, and let’s not forget – savings. 
Many use the parable Jesus told in Matthew 13 as a reason for making money off of other people’s losses (stocks/bonds).
"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:44-46, NASB).
I can’t tell you how many times I have had someone use this passage as a reason to sell everything they have to invest in a stock that will “double” or even “triple” their investment.  I am always amazed at how we humans turn Jesus’ examples into depraved concepts in which to prosper ourselves. The message in these parables (the hidden treasure in the field and the pearl of great price) is in the unfolding of their spiritual value.  If properly translated, they would read this way:
The Kingdom of Heaven is the Great Pearl hidden to the eyes of man, and if a man finds this Pearl of Great Price, Jesus Christ, he will sell everything he has, give it to the poor, and give his life to Christ. 
If you remember, this is the very thing Jesus required of the rich man in Matt. 19:21, “Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me’ " (NASB).
The key in these stories is that the wise money manager sold what he had and purchased something of FAR greater value.  The real question always comes back to, “What is of the greatest value?”  When we lose sight of this, we start stockpiling worthless things. Some even rent storage units to hold all their treasures.  A mentor once told me, “If you haven’t used it in the past year - sell, trade, or give it away.”  Good advice. 
The majority of the “Christian Church” populous today is emergent/lukewarm – that is for certain.  As I watch the church lose its salt in our postmodern world, I am reminded of what Jesus said to the church of Laodicea:
“I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see”  (Revelation 3:18, NASB).
The fact is that life requires trading, selling, or giving things away of lesser value, for things that our hearts consider to be of greater value - even if it is a smile on someone’s face.  It really becomes difficult, in many cases impossible, to live like this if we do not keep good records of the stuff we have.  Yes, I am advocating that people inventory ALL their stuff – junk and valuables.  This way if someone states a need, walk over to that file, read down the list to find the item of need, read where the item is stored, and go get it.  How does one function being this organized?  Simple - when “decluttering,” bring the file folder with you.  On the inventory sheets inside the folder, include two columns: the item name and where it is stored.  Also, consider adding a third column: the date the item was stored.  Some folks like to do this with freezer items or whatever tickles their fancy.
ACCOUNTING FOR THINGS:  People who can account for all their stuff are actually able to live within their means more than those who live on the edge of impulsivity.  One of the most practical ideas is purchasing pre-purchased stuff. Did you know that 30% of all unnecessary purchases are already stuffed in a cubbyhole somewhere at home?  People are either too lazy or they simply do not have adequate records of locating that “needed” item.  Once at the store, they deceive themselves into thinking a newer one will better serve them.  It used to be that people were too proud to use pre-owned stuff. Now, most don’t even want to use their own pre-owned stuff; everything must be new.  This is why manufacturers purposely make things to last a maximum of one year.  They have the same stats I have.
MAKING A PLAN: God said to make a plan and He will come and direct our steps.  So when I look at the average person who comes into my office for help and see how out of order their lives are, I quickly see how much of their lives are not managed by God. 
“The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, NASB).
It doesn’t matter if it is God or man, managers cannot direct the steps of their people if there is no pathway.  Wise people make plans, count the cost, and submit the plan to the boss (God).  Fools spontaneously walk and don’t bother making a path.  The only path they make is the one behind them.  These people call themselves ungifted in the area of organization.  Actually, that is an excuse and they know it.  People perish without a plan!
It is difficult for most people to realize that when they make a plan and submit it to God, He has the provisions and sufficient funds to support the plan in ways the human cannot.  The general rule is that if there are not sufficient funds and resources for a plan, then the wise steward should not move forward with the project – at least at that time. Spontaneous and unplanned people know this deep down inside and this is why they just “jump in.”  This is also why those of us who struggle with being impulsively spontaneous get mocked!
"For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish' ” (Luke 14:28-30, NASB).

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