Is God’s Word Foolishness?

You can guess that the truth in the Bible is often at odds with the advice and opinion of popular sources. The working world often considers God’s word foolishness, as having no value for our everyday lives. Friday, August 26, 2022’s Word Among Us presents a reflection on 1 Corinthians 1:17-25 that expresses this paradox well. Here is the first part of that entry:

“What is the wisdom of this world? A lot of contemporary wisdom seems to revolve around being in control and being master of your own destiny. It might be slick advertising telling you that you need the newest phone and the fastest internet speed to stay on top of the latest trends. Or it might be in the form of self-help programs telling you to find happiness by taking charge of your life. Either way, power and wisdom seem to be found in self-determination and control.

How different that is from the message of the cross, which reveals to us God’s own wisdom!”

In my book It’s Not Your Money I present an interesting “World Says vs. God Says” dynamic. One example of this tension in the financial planning realm is the very practical and common advice to pay yourself first. What that means is that we are to contribute to our retirement plans by payroll deduction and/or have an automatic draft of our checking accounts go directly to savings. This is to happen first before any net pay hits our accounts. The thinking is that we don’t see these dollars and so aren’t tempted to spend them. It is our self-determination to build up funds for the future. And it is sound financial planning practice.

Except, it is not what God asks us to do. God says we are to pay Him first. Here are just a few of the many Bible verses that tell us this truth plainly:

Exodus 23:19     The choicest first fruits of your soil you shall bring to the house of the LORD, your God.

Leviticus 2:12    Such you may present to the LORD in the offering of the first produce that is processed.

Deuteronomy 18:4   The first fruits of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the first shearing of your flock, you shall also give him.

Proverbs 3:9      Honor the LORD with your wealth, with first fruits of all your produce.

On the surface, this is scary stuff. Too many people don’t even pay themselves first. Their budgets are too tight. They worry that if they tithe and give alms before any other bills are paid or any amounts saved, then they may not have enough to support their lifestyle choices, much less to provide for future college expenses and retirement. They write off this Biblical teaching as foolishness, as Old Testament law not applicable to us New Testament people.

We know that Jesus did not come to do away with the law (Mt. 5:17). Truly, the New Testament takes this pay-God-first teaching even further. We Christians are not only to pay God first, but we are to give Him everything as He gives everything to us. That’s a topic for another reflection, but for today, let’s just admit that what God asks us to do – pay HIm first – is at odds with sound financial advice. It is thought to be counter-cultural, out of touch with financial realities. The world considers it foolish. But the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom (1 Cor. 1:25).

When I bought into this foolishness and took the step of faith to pay God from my first fruits, I gained a sense of freedom and peace that surprised me. Freedom comes to me because paying God first prioritizes my spending. I put my weekly offering to the church, as well as donations to charities first in my budget, and then I pay myself second. Knowing that I am both giving back to God for all the blessings and benefits He gives to me, and that I am saving for the future then allows me to spend the rest of the budget almost any way I choose. In structuring my spending plan this way, I gain a sense of peace of mind. I believe I am doing what God asks of me, and as a result, I get the peace that comes from being obedient to His word.

So, can you be foolish by the world’s standards? Take courage. Trust God at His word. Step out in faith and put giving first in your finances. Maybe even consider signing up for online giving? Regardless of how you give, whether by cash, check, online, stocks, and QCD’s, give of your first fruits to the church and to charities that feed, clothe, house, and help the poor.

Giving makes us active participants in the mission of the Church. It makes us a part of something larger, more majestic, and holier than ourselves. Giving is an act of praise and worship. It is an expression of gratitude for all the blessings God gives to us.

How big an impact could you make if you obeyed God’s commands to give to Him first? Think about how much better our communities would be if we all would act so foolishly. We would change the world because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom (1 Cor. 1:27).


¹Reprinted with permission of The Word Among Us, 7115 Guilford Dr #100, Frederick, MD  21704 Issue Date (e.g. July 2022),, 1-800-775-9673

Interest Rates are on the Rise!

Interest rates are on the rise. That is because inflation is at its highest level since the early 1980’s. You know this reality by how much more you have to pay to fill your car with gasoline. It hit me the other day when I had to pay $13 for a hamburger at a local dive. That supposed gourmet burger used to cost $10. But $13!! That gives me pause. I need to change my eating-out and spending habits to combat this assault on my cash.


The Federal Reserve uses a variety of weapons to fight against rising prices and rampant inflation. Their main weapon is to raise interest rates. They’ve done that once already, and have signaled many more rate increases to come. What does this mean to you?


When the Fed raises rates, Banks respond by raising the interest rates they charge on loans. The first loan category that gets hit with that increase is credit cards. Credit card rates are already high. But they are set to skyrocket in this inflationary environment. If you carry any credit card debt, brace yourself. 


Why should you be wary? Consider the average credit card scenario. The average balance carried on credit cards is $5,500. If just the minimum required payment is made, at the average 16.3% interest rate, it will take 16 years to pay off and cost over $6000 of interest expense. Think about that. That is an extra $6000 cost for you to enjoy the $5,500 worth of stuff and fun you financed. Could that $6000 be put to better use? 


Higher interest rates will only exacerbate this impact. The same calculus is true for student loans and adjustable-rate mortgages and home equity lines. You need a sense of urgency  to get rid of this debt. And you need a plan. You could play the game of transferring credit card balances to promotional rate come-ons of zero percent for six months. But it is far better to pay off these balances. 


Snowball Your Debt

To eliminate debt, financial planning best practice is to employ a strategy commonly called “Snowball your Debt.” The first step is to list your debts from smallest to largest, and include columns for “actual payment” and “minimum payment.” The first objective is to get that smallest debt paid off pronto. Use cash reserves if you have enough. Sell assets if you can. Do everything possible to pay off that smallest debt. Then, apply that debt’s payment to the next smallest balance. Also, pay just the minimum on all the other balances, applying the excess payments to that next smallest debt to get it paid off as soon as possible. When that is accomplished, apply that payment to the next debt, and so on. Here is an illustration of how this strategy works:


Snowballing your debt is a tried-and-true strategy. It is hard work. It demands commitment and discipline. But, it is worth it. And being debt free is Biblical. Proverbs 22:7 says that the borrower is a slave to the lender. No one wants to be a slave. But debt enslaves you by obligating you to pay back the debt – no matter what. So, pay it back and be free. Think about how much better your life will be when you are debt free!


I asked earlier if that $6000 of interest expense could be put to better use. What more could you do to help build God’s kingdom if you were debt free? You could redirect some of those payments to help ministries that serve the poor and the most vulnerable. You then become a participant in their mission. What a great opportunity to be a part of something so impactful. 

Time is of the essence. Rates are going higher. Please get serious and take the necessary steps to pay off your consumer debts. There are a few entities that can guide you if you want help developing a plan tailored to your needs. One in particular is Compass Catholic Ministries. They have great resources to help you. Their six-week Bible study Faith and Money Matters will walk you step-by-step along your pathway to financial freedom. Learn more by visiting their website

#Inflation #RisingInterestRates

Tithing is like Tailoring

The reflection in The Word Among Us for Sunday’s 10-15-17 Gospel reading suggests that the wedding garment in Matthew 22: 1-14 represents the essential elements of our life in Christ. It is a garment of obedience, of repentance and purity.

Garments often require tailoring. Pant and skirt lengths need hemming, waist lines (hopefully) need taking in, cuffs shortened. When we examine our actions and motives, what alterations are necessary? Are they obedient to God’s word? Are they pure, seeking the good of others? The wedding garment is a proxy for repentance, the change of heart required for entrance into the Kingdom. What change, what tailoring do we need – especially regarding our finances?

Tithing is like tailoring our budgets. Every spending choice is a stewardship decision. Lifestyle expenses may need to be hemmed so that our budgets better fit with God’s will for how we use our money.

Tithe in obedience to God’s word.

Tithe to support His works of mercy serving the poor and vulnerable among us.

Tithe because It’s Not Your Money.

Standing in the Breach

In the months since the 2016 Presidential election many articles in Catholic publications seem to have a common thread of concern for reduced government funding of social service programs. One such article from the Catholic New Service contained interviews of Catholic Charities USA CEOs who spoke about their March 29 “Hill Day”. On that day, Catholic Charities leaders pressed Congress to support federally funded social services for affordable housing, food programs at schools and in rural areas, immigration and refugee protection, senior citizen needs, and more.

Their concern stemmed from a preliminary budget plan that called for $54 billion in cuts to discretionary spending, thus putting aid to the social programs in jeopardy. What if money is taken from the departments and organizations that serve people who depend on these vital programs? One CEO said of the likely increased burden on organizations like Catholic Charities caused by reduced government aid, “I don’t think you can expect charitable organizations to do it all.”

That caused me to think, why can’t the Church and charitable organizations do it all? Further, if I am, and we all together are the Church, what does it mean to be a member of the Church?

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops tell us what church membership requires. In a word, it is called stewardship which they define as:

What it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. A generous sharing of resources including money is central to its practice. Helping the Church’s mission with time, talent and money—what membership in the Church involves.

So I wonder, should government be the preferred provider of social welfare?  What if the government does cut aid to social programs? Will we—the Church stand in the breach like Moses did in protecting and providing for the Israelites (Ps 106: 23) and share our resources, including money, in support of the Church and charitable organizations to pick up the slack and provide for the poor, government support or no?

Robert McCann, CEO of Catholic Charities of Spokane urged Congress to view the budget as a values-based document. He suggested that our budget reflects what’s most important to us.

I agree. Our household budget does, in fact, reflect what is most important to us. In reviewing our budgets, would we find a priority for supporting the mission of the Church—what the Bishops tell us is required of us as stewards in grateful response to the many gifts God has given?

McCann goes on to say, “We can solve homelessness in the country, but it’s going to take an intentional effort.” The emphasis is mine. Can’t we solve any social/charitable need with intentional effort?

Amen! If our budgets are to reflect a priority of supporting the Church’s mission, we must intentionally include giving to the Church and other charities. It should not be an afterthought. Where our hearts are, so is our treasure.

In thanksgiving for all the gifts and benefits God gives; in recognition that God is the source of all we have, all we are, and all we will be; in our effort to be authentic Christians, will we step up and give in support for the least of our brothers and sisters by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, welcoming the stranger? Will we give intentionally and proportionately?

Give in support of the Church’s mission to serve the poor.

Give because It’s Not Your Money.

Fearfully Generous

There is no better example of trust in God’s provision than the widow in Mark 12: 42. How could this woman be willing to give all she had except that she trusted that God would provide for her somehow—even if she didn’t understand how.

Many of us put only left-over change into the collection plate, and maybe give token amounts to a few charities. We reason that if we give more, then we won’t have enough for our own needs. Or we may believe the old adage that God helps those who help themselves. Or we may feel it is the government’s responsibility to care for the needy.  After all, we pay taxes that support government welfare programs.

What drives these attitudes?
I submit it is because we live in a general spirit of fear. In my work as a Financial Advisor, I often hear clients’ concerns for our country and how our political dysfunction and its financial mismanagement will lead to the imminent collapse of our economy. Their fear is that chaos worse than the depressions of 2008 and the 1930’s will result in government confiscation of accounts and even lead to soup lines. The general sentiment of these clients is a feeling of being overwhelmed. They envision a bleak retirement of having to work as a Walmart greeter.

Who benefits from this kind of outlook? Who is set to gain by having a significant number of our citizenry scared and paralyzed by fear?

I agree we have much to worry about in our world and our country, including a general decaying of morality in our society. But remember, none of this is new. Solomon assures us in Ecclesiastes 1: 9 that there is nothing new under the sun. There is always something going on in our world to cause worry.

Should we throw up our hands, sigh in exasperation, and give up in despair? No! Rather, we should do all we can with our God given talents and abilities to work for the common good. And like the poor widow, we should do so with an unshakable trust that God will provide.

Fear is the Enemy
Fear is the enemy of a generous spirit. It is the manifestation of our lack of trust. It paralyzes us from acting and makes us want to hoard our resources. Consider the widow in 1 Kings 17: 9. She was resigned to the belief that she and her son would eat the last of what they had, and then die. Elijah told her, “Do not be afraid.” He instructed her to give him that last of her resources; that if she did, God would provide.

Why would she trust Elijah, a total stranger? How could she justify giving the last of her food to him, believing the ridiculous promise Elijah made that if she did so, her flour and oil would not run out? It had to be that by Grace, she trusted that God would honor her generosity.

What great examples these two women are for us today. They refused to succumb to fear and acted generously beyond reason, beyond what their resources would seemingly allow. And why not? What good would hoarding have done for them? As Solomon warned, it would all have been chasing after the wind.

We, too, should heed their example. We should cultivate an attitude of generosity. We are not to allow fear and greed to direct our actions, or be excuses for inaction. Greed saps us of any sense of generosity we may have. It causes us to be cynical and to question God.

Being generous is not dependent on the amount of wealth we have. Many of us can relate to the rich man in Mark 12 who gave out of his surplus, knowing that he still had plenty for himself. However, lack of wealth is not justification for parsimony. Jesus did not run after the widow and say something like, “Oh honey, really. Take your money back. I appreciate your gesture, but you’re too poor. Why don’t you just keep your money?” Instead, He praised her generosity for all generations to come.

As to the idea that God helps those who help themselves (not in the Bible, by the way), how would God do that? Isn’t it our generous actions in service to others the help that God sends?

Generosity is a disposition of our spirit. It reflects our general outlook on life. Do we trust God’s promises or not? Do we acknowledge that all we have is because of God’s generously giving to us the talents and abilities that allow us to earn and serve?

If so, our grateful response is to give of all of our resources, including money. Let us give and give lavishly. Let us give and trust that God will honor our generosity.