“The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives,” we read in Psalms. And the topic comes up often in Proverbs: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (22:7). “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (13:22). It takes time, but “steady plodding brings prosperity” (21:5). My husband and I took the Crown life-changing course through our church and for the first time, we discovered just how much the Bible has to say about money and borrowing and planning for your financial future. Economic issues truly are moral issues.
Sadly, far too many Americans spend more than they earn and rely too heavily on credit cards and borrowed funds. And most are not saving enough (if anything) for their futures.
In 2006, as news of rising foreclosure rates began gathering steam, our national savings rate hit the lowest level since the Great Depression -- negative 1 percent. Compare that to the 1.5 percent that Americans were saving in 1933. You don’t even have to go back that far, actually: We were saving 4.5 percent a decade ago. And back in the 1980s, the rate was in double digits, according to Peter Russo, a professor at Vanderbilt University.
It’s clear that we drifted badly from two bedrock American virtues: thrift and personal financial responsibility. And now that the economy is struggling, we’re all … well, paying the price.
Some of the most famous sayings of Benjamin Franklin stress thrift -- and the foolishness of wasteful spending. “A penny saved is a penny earned” is perhaps the most famous, but there are others, such as “Buy what thou hast no need of, and e’er long thou shalt sell thy necessaries” and “He that goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing.” The other founding fathers also emphasized the importance of good character is sustaining a representative democracy. And thrift is clearly a crucial aspect of good character.
It’s also a hallmark of genuine capitalism. “One should be a civilized man, saving something, and not a savage, consuming every day all that which he has earned,” steel magnate Andrew Carnegie writes in his book “The Empire of Business.” According to him, thrift was the “first duty” of those who aspire to wealth.
That isn’t news to those who read the Bible, though. "The wise man saves for the future,” we read in Proverbs 21:20, “but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.” Let’s strive -- and pray -- to conduct our future financial affairs with wisdom.
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