What the Love of Money Means

John Piper in his book Money, Sex & Power makes an interesting observation. He asks, “Have you ever pondered the possibility that the first and the last Commandments are virtually the same, and function as kind of an enclosure, or bracketing, that makes the other eight commandments in the middle possible?”

I had never thought of that. Upon reading, reflecting upon the idea, and studying the Commandments, I suspect Piper may be on to something, at least as far as the inseparably close relationship of the first and last Commandments. I have some doubt about the bracketing concept or that they are “virtually the same”, but I will leave that as a topic for another day.

What I want to do here is look closely at those two Commandments and do the pondering Piper asked about.

Exodus 20:3
3       “You shall have no other gods before me.

Exodus 20:17
17     “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

They don’t look or sound the same and, at first glance, there appears to be no similarity. However, think about the focus of the heart. What is the focus of the person’s heart who loves other gods? What is the focus of the covetous heart? That is where the similarity begins to appear and Piper starts to look like he is onto something. As usual, the heart of most of our problems is a problem of the heart. See What About the Heart?

First, let’s examine the First Commandment and the heart of a person who puts anything before God. If someone puts anything before God, it is rebellion against God’s sovereignty. Such a focus elevates whatever stands before God into a false god or idol. This is the concern clearly expressed by Jesus when He preached on our focus and our heart’s direction:

Matthew 6:33-34
33     But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 
34     Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

God is very uncompromising about our hearts.

What makes this analysis interesting is that the Tenth Commandment is equally uncompromising. The heart of someone who wants more than he has (more than God has given him), may very well be a heart that wants it badly enough to disregard God. According to Dictionary.com, to covet is to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others. The primary Hebrew word commonly translated as “covet” is chamad, or hemdah, which means “covet”, “lust”, and “strong desire.” An inordinate desire is a powerful, demanding desire for something to which you have no right or claim.

The traditional Jewish view of the danger of covetousness and the reason for this prohibition is that the Commandment stands as a high fence protecting us from our desires which could lead to violation of other Commandments such as theft, adultery, lying and even murder. For more detail, see Jewish Encyclopedia.com.

Both of these Commandments focus on the heart – on thoughts and not the actions. The other commandments are more (but not entirely) about actions and the things we should or should not do, whereas these two bookend commandments are all about the heart. We should never forget that Jesus addressed the focus of the heart in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. He made His message about the heart as well as actions.

Matthew 5:21-22
21     “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.
22     But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

To covet, you must elevate what you covet to a point of being your god. That is likely why there are more than 2,300 verses in the Bible about possessions, property and money, far more than even about heaven and hell combined. That is why the love of money is identified as the root of all kinds of evil, 1 Timothy 6:10, and why money is a common topic of warning from God.

And that is why Jesus emphasized a point about the fear of wealth and said,

Matthew 6:21
21      For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

After making many mistakes and following false trails and going down many dark alleys of failure, Solomon eventually understood the truth about money and his own heart.

Ecclesiastes 5:10
10     Whoever loves money never has enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless.

You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24. Make your choice and please choose wisely. Give us a call at the Idlewild Foundation. We would love to help with any questions you may have.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Traps That Lead to Debt

I remember when I was a freshman in college, I applied for a credit card. I was shocked when I was turned down. I vowed then that I would never use that particular card, a vow I have stuck with for 50 years to date. Instead, I should have written a thank you note to the company because that “insult” forced me to use cash and learn the real value of money – and to avoid debt. These were all good lessons!

That insult/lesson saved me a lot and cost that credit card company even more. In hindsight and having seen many other people struggle with credit card debt, it gave me an opportunity to see how easy it is to fall into the traps that lead to debt. “Traps” is the correct word. Debt is a monstrous slave master. It seeks to captivate and devour the innocent and foolish and it does that well. Few people really want to go deeply into debt. But many people fall, literally, deeply into debt because the tricks and the traps of modern consumerism are brilliant.

Let’s look at a few of those traps.

Student Loan Debt

Nationwide, the student loan debt is almost $1.5 trillion across 44 million borrowers. The average student loan payment is $351 per month. I doubt anyone realistically expects any result other than much of the debt eventually being passed off to taxpayers. It is a mass of debt that is unpayable for many and financially crushing for even more. See The Student Loan Debt Crisis Is About to Get Worse by Riley Griffin.

For the class of 2017, the average debt was above $39,000. The highest balances due were for students who attended for-profit schools. Unfortunately, many students graduated with degrees that offered few, if any, high paying jobs.

The student loan traps have included creating hope for high paying jobs that do not exist, the failure of schools to help students weigh the risk of debt against the likely income, and the lack of clarity involving repayment options, leaving many students paying far more than they should for an education of questionable value. The proliferation of for-profit schools added to the problem greatly.

He Who Dies With the Most Toys, Wins

No, he who dies with the most toys, still dies, or at least that is what one of my favorite t-shirts tells me.

You are not your stuff. However, the American way is to earn more so you can buy more, making saving, giving, and financial wisdom hard to achieve.

Most Boomers grew up with one TV (ours was black and white), three channels from which to choose, one phone in the house (ours was a party line), and a car without an air conditioner (which in Florida mattered a lot). Now, we are sold on the “need” for a large flat screen smart TV in almost every room in the house (a much bigger house than the one in which we grew up), hundreds of channels plus DVDs and Netflix for virtually unlimited entertainment, at least one phone for every person, a smart critter named Alexa in the house, and more cars than will fit in a home’s garage and driveway. How has this happened? Through very carefully and skillfully targeted marketing.

Social media has only made it worse. Rich Relevance, an e-commerce consultant, says that Pinterest shoppers will spend on the average $170 per session while Facebook shoppers spend “only” $95 per session and Twitter shoppers spend $70 per session. See How social media sites make you spend more.

The modern American spend-before-save mentality is powerful and appears to be winning.

I Can Handle This!

Independence in thinking and decision-making can be financially destructive. Parents do want their children to grow up and become independent, but there is little logic in young adults rejecting all advice from their parents without regard for common sense. Why “reinvent the wheel” and why refuse to learn from the mistakes of those who have already been there and done that?

The Bible promotes the concept of seeking wise counsel. Proverbs 1:5 and Proverbs 20:18. But instead, our society promotes independent thinking, even independence to the point of rebelliousness. See Teenagers: Why Do They Rebel? by WebMD.com.

Bigger Is Better

Over the last generation or two, the American dream has transformed from a dream of equal opportunity for that “good life” in the future after earning it, to wanting that good life right now. People used to start small in their home ownership. Then, as their incomes grew, they moved up. That is far from the normal way of thinking now. Normal, modern American thought is to buy big because a large mortgage is okay.

Well, it isn’t, and many of the “buy big” home owners discover that the mortgage is just the beginning. After that, there are utilities like electricity, water, sewage, garbage. And don’t forget that grass that grows way too fast in Florida’s hot, wet summer months. And then comes insurance, real estate taxes, maintenance and repairs, and the need to actually have furniture to use in the home. Then, things start to break and wear out!

Most advisers recommend that these costs attributable to your home be less than 30% of your net income. That is likely too high because that level does not allow for stewardship, just survival. It might be an acceptable level if you factor God and your future out of your life and neglect saving and giving, but that is unwise. Haggai 1:5-6 shows us God’s response to His people when they chose to live well and neglect Him.

Haggai 1:5-6
5    Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 
6    You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.

A better percentage for these home-related expenses is 20-25%. That allows you to give to God as well as to save. See It’s Time to Start Saving on saving for emergencies as well as on saving in general, for the future, and especially for retirement.

I Love That New Car Smell

If you love that new car smell, buy a spray container or attachment that has that new car smell. It is a lot cheaper than that new car.

The reality is that cars are very expensive. It isn’t just the car payment, it’s the gas, oil, tires, brakes, maintenance, tags and registration, license renewal, parking, and insurance. It’s also the fact that the minute you drive off the new car lot, your car loses value, perhaps as much as 10% and by the end of your first year of ownership, it has probably lost 20% of its original cost. The loss is less for a good used car, but the simple truth is that most cars depreciate – lose value – rapidly.

Your car-related expenses should never be more than 15% of your net income.

Childhood Training

This one is not new to American marketing, but it slapped me in the face this past Christmas as we looked to buy presents for family, friends, and charities. I discovered the “joy” of children’s toys. For toddler girls, there were purses loaded with “essentials” like a make up compact, a smart phone, car and house keys, a wallet and either a credit card, a debit card – or both! Of course, they were all toys, but they were toys with a marketing purpose with a second (or perhaps silent, primary) purpose of training children on what is the new normal. Or perhaps rather than call it training, it should be called indoctrination, because that is what it is.

Avoiding the Traps

First, don’t think you can handle it alone, but don’t automatically either accept or reject advice. Proverbs 1:5. The wise counsel you seek should include multiple sources, including some people who have already been down the road you are about to travel. The wise counsel must be someone who is not afraid, or even hesitant, to say “no!”

Second, avoid decisions under pressure or on impulse. If you set in your mind that you will always seek wise counsel, impulse purchasing will become almost impossible. Include God as one counselor by praying – a lot – before major financial decisions.

Third, have a financial plan and a budget. That is a wise move at all ages, from first starting to spend as a child to seniority even when you may think you have plenty of money. For ideas on creating such a financial plan, see It’s Time to Start Saving. In short, build into your plan giving to God and giving to yourself for the future through saving.

Fourth, include God in that plan. Luke 12:13-21. He is Lord of all, and “all” includes your finances.

Fifth, save. The idea of saving money is not exciting. I know of no one who stays up late dreaming about the exhilaration of opening a bank (or even an investment) account. On the other hand, I do know people who lose sleep because they had no savings and then an illness or accident puts them upside down and in heavy debt. Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University strongly promote having an emergency savings fund. Don’t just take that advice, take the Financial Peace University course. In 2021 taking the course is online and free at Idlewild Baptist Church.

Finally, either cut up all of your credit cards or perhaps just keep one credit card. If you do keep one and you are at risk of using it at a time when you might not be able to pay off the full monthly bill, leave the card at home when you shop. Pay cash and you’ll spend less.

Will you avoid every trick and all of the traps? Probably not, but you can avoid some traps and make your financial future brighter.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Are You Ready for Retirement?

Even before the pandemic, a disturbingly high percentage of currently working Americans, about 30%, said they believed they would not have enough money to survive in retirement. Add to that the 27% of people already retired who do not believe they will have enough to make it through their retirement without going back to work and you have a large percentage of Americans who haven’t figured retirement out (or they figured it out way too late). Unfortunately, the 2017 Wells Fargo study that generated those results was taken down by Wells Fargo, but not before I read it and was overwhelmed with the bad news. Factoring in the truth that the pandemic is likely to have made those number much worse, and it is time to act.

My personal experience says Retirement 101 is a tough course, but it is a very important course to take and pass. In fact, since you only get one shot at it, this is a course you need to ace.

In that same Wells Fargo survey, 34% of responding workers admitted that retirement was their top priority. Frankly, that was a lower percentage than I expected. Regardless, that means Retirement 101 is important to them as well. The sum of the responses in that survey tells us that many retirement failures will likely be due to lack of financial preparation. Likely many others will be due to a lack of emotional preparation.

The financial failures are predictable because studies show that 3 out of every 4 retirees start retirement with less than $100,000 to supplement Social Security and other pensions or retirement benefits. Assuming a retirement age of 65, that is at best a slight help on an annual basis as a supplement to Social Security, barely $4,170 per year based on normal life expectancies and using the 4% rule.

As a result of their struggles, 72% of the retirees responding to that Wells Fargo survey said they wished they had started saving sooner and saved more. Their financial shortcomings in retirement arose when there simply wasn’t enough money to match their desires. That can result from a variety of causes, including inflated expectations, not enough savings, poor investment performance, higher costs than expected, especially in medical expenses, among many other lesser causes. Let’s learn from the mistakes of others and plan to retire better.

The emotional failures largely come in part from the failure of the new retiree to have planned to do more than retire from work. It is important for the retiree to retire into something.

An abrupt stop is a great mistake.  I think it’s wise to keep your hand on the plough.  If you have quit your job, find something like it to do part-time or find substitute activities, such as volunteer work or getting involved in politics… Keep busy; stay involved. 

 B. F. Skinner (1904 – 1990), U. S. psychologist and writer

As a comic wisely put it, “The fellow who can’t figure out what to do with a Sunday afternoon is often the same one who can’t wait for retirement.“ So, let’s take a look at Retirement 101 and see how to succeed.

The short answer is for you, with proper financial planning and preparation, to choose your passion, not your pension. You are not being put out to pasture or even choosing to be put out to pasture, you are prayerfully learning what God wants you to do with the rest of your life. It is important to set aside secular concepts of (and concerns about) retirement. It isn’t about your yard and garden, your family or traveling, and it certainly isn’t all about golf (laughingly referred to as the four “g’s”, gardening, grandkids, the Grand Canyon, and golf). The real point of your life lies in the other “G” word, God.

A second factor in the emotional failure of Retirement 101 is the inability of people to adjust to what I call the “formerly empty nest syndrome.” With both the husband and wife at home and together a lot more than during work years, the changes can be dramatic and unwelcome. That is partly why retiring into something is critically important. Couples will face new challenges and struggles and have to adjust to them in a new way – constantly together. In fact, as you grow older, retirement becomes more about the companionship, sharing and support than about gardening, grandkids, the Grand Canyon, and golf.

Start with finances

First, you need to address the financial concerns. The question, “Will I outlive my money?” is a serious concern in an increasingly expensive world. That question goes hand-in-hand with questions and concerns about the survival of Social Security. Assuming Social Security survives, financial concerns remain because Social Security was never more than a safety net. It wasn’t designed or intended to be a full retirement plan, only a means of providing the “social insurance” to the elderly. See Social Security Can’t Do It All – A Primer.

But the world was very different in 1937 compared to our world today. To put matters into proper perspective, consider that when the first benefits were paid in 1937, the retirement age was 65. But that same year, in 1937, the life expectancy was only 58 for men and 62.1 for women. Life expectancy is far longer now but the full retirement age has crept up only slightly. When enacted, the idea underlying Social Security was that most American men would work until their deaths. That is far from the case now. If you add in legitimate concerns about inflation, see Inflation and Your Retirement, and these concerns become pressing. 

The current age for the start of normal Social Security benefits is 66 and 2 months. That will rise gradually to age 67 for those born in or after 1960. Social Security can start as early as age 62 now, but the reduction in benefits is substantial. See the Social Security estimator.

Now, however, life expectancy is well into the 80’s for people approaching retirement today. According to data compiled by Social Security:

  • A man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 84.3.
  • A woman turning age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 86.7.

And those are just averages. About one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, and one out of 10 will live past age 95. That partly explains the rises in Social Security taxes. It also explains the common concern over having enough money to be able to afford to retire.

Planning for Retirement

One major consideration is that many people did not plan for their retirement. While Jesus certainly did tell us to live for today, Matthew 6:34, He certainly did not tell us to ignore tomorrow. Planning is Biblical. See Psalm 20:4, Proverbs 6:6-8, Proverbs 15:22, Proverbs 16:3, Proverbs 21:5, Jeremiah 29:11, and Luke 14:28. The best retirement planning should start long before your 60’s, long before your 50’s, long before your 40’s and even before your 30’s. See Your Financial Future By The Decade. Every lost year of retirement planning is lost savings. Lost savings translate into reduced retirement income. Reduced retirement income may mean reduced ability to enjoy all of that additional time you have.

Many people think their monthly savings can’t be increased. That is unlikely. Most people have more room than they think to increase their savings. See Ideas for Living Better Through Stewardship, 7 Steps for Financial Progress, It’s Time to Start Saving, Planning Your Financial Future and …, and Saving More, 10% Isn’t Enough). If increased savings really are not possible, then the next step is for expectations for retirement to be adjusted.

Adjusting your expectations and your plans

The answer to some concerns about when or even whether someone can retire may be perspective or attitude more than money.  People may need to re-examine why they are concerned about their future in the areas of work, money, and retirement.

Philippians 4:6-7
6       Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 
7       And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The Lord has proven His faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23
22     Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23     They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Next, start with this concept, one that is contrary to modern American culture and thinking; work is not a bad thing. Work is actually good. Know this, work was given to us by God, as are our abilities to work, and with work we are able to support ourselves and our families and also serve our Lord. For greater detail, see Called to Work, Part 1 and Part 2.

But it isn’t necessarily paid work that is your next calling. Crown Ministries refers to repurpose-ment rather than retirement. They make a strong case that retirement should become a time of service and sharing. The all-volunteer leadership of The Idlewild Foundation could not agree more.

So, when you start to focus on retirement, look at a variety of topics far beyond just financial concerns and leisure time.

Consider how long will you live

Of course, no one knows how many days you have except God. However, that does not mean you should ignore the future, nor does it mean you should worry about the future. Many factors weigh into life expectancy, including your current age and gender, your family medical history, your personal health, your activity level, your race, your education level, and whether you engage in behaviors that statistically increase your mortality such as smoking and drinking.

Your family health history and your general health are significant factors. Regardless, it is worth starting with averages. A 65-year-old man has a 50% chance of living until age 87 and a 25% chance of living until age 93, according to Fidelity. A 65-year-old woman had a 50-50 chance of making it to age 90, and a 25% chance of living to 96. A married couple making it to age 65 has a 50% chance of one partner making it to 94 and a 25% of one partner making it to 98.

There are life expectancy calculators of a wide variety and quality.  For example, MyLifeCalc.net, Social Security’s Life Expectancy Calculator, and MetLife among many others that can be found with a search engine. One thing that is easy to do with those calculators is see the statistically likely impact unwise behaviors such as smoking and obesity may have on your lifespan. A life well-lived is a life that has a better likelihood of a good retirement.

Consider what will you do

Start with the basic concept of repurposement, not retirement. Never forget the parable of the rich fool who made great plans for his future. He omitted one “detail,” God.

Luke 12:15-21
15   Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
16   And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.
17   He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18   “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.
19   And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”?’
20   “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21   “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Your skills and abilities don’t stop at age 66. In fact, they may be far greater at 66 than at 20 because there is enormous value in experience and wisdom that only time and God can give you. God has something ahead of you that is far better than gardening, golf, the Grand Canyon – and even better than the grandkids.

Consider what will you be able to do

What you will be able to do will depend on your health and your abilities. Again, part of the process of being prepared for retirement lies in taking care of your health while you are younger. Only God can be the determiner of factors like some cancer and major illnesses and injuries, but you can take steps by reducing major health risks by avoiding smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption and high blood pressure.

Again, as with saving money, the time to start is well before retirement, not when you turn 60. You need time to consider many possibilities and perhaps try a few in spare time. As you approach 66, begin to think of activities and services in which you can safely engage. Look for a particular interest or passion and you will find opportunities. Service activities in town, mission trips out of town and even out of the country, volunteer work inside and outside church are all good opportunities to give back to the community and people you have worked with and to God with whom you have walked for so many years. Make that list realistically and find a ministry or service about which you can be passionate. Thomas Edison was a rare individual with amazing wisdom and talents. He wisely said, “I never worked a day in my life, it was all fun.” Not nearly everyone can say that about their normal work life, but they should be able to say that about their retirement life activities.

Find your passion, where your heart is, and give of yourself with all of your heart. Colossians 3:23-24. Find a future with God and service to Him and His people in it.

More things to consider:

There are some things to consider before and during retirement to make a real retirement possible.

  • The Bible. Live with a biblical approach to your finances. Be out of debt before you retire, have adequate savings for a savings account, and think ahead to the cost of medical insurance and treatment as you age. Don’t overbuy your home so that you have to plan on downsizing, at least not unless you like to pack, move, unpack and hang pictures.
  • Overspending. Spending too much, especially on yourself, while you are younger has at least two problems. First, it reduces or prevents you from saving for the future. Second, it raises your current lifestyle and your expectations for retirement. If you must, cut spending early in your work life to avoid a lifestyle that cannot be sustained in retirement.
  • A Finish Line. Set what is called a lifestyle finish line. Draw a line at a reasonable income when you are young. Then, as your income rises, hold the line! With the extra income, increase your savings and also your generosity. For an amazing example of a family setting an income lifestyle finish line, see the 17-minute video on the Barnhart family.
  • Early inheritance and other possibilities with money. More than 90% of American wealth is passed through estates. There are at least three possibilities to change that, at least to some degree. One possibility is to give your children their inheritance, or some of it, early. Tax law limits the amount you can give without having to file an estate tax return and pay taxes on it. For more information on the gift tax, click here. That maximum amount is currently $15,000 per year, $30,000 per couple. If you start early enough you may be able to both reduce your probate estate significantly and at the same time, benefit your children when they need the money the most. A young couple with little children and a home mortgage (or a couple a few years older still with a home mortgage and now with a child or two in college) could probably use $30,000 per year a lot more than when they are in their late 50’s or 60’s and their children have left the nest and even completed college.
    A second opportunity with risks as well as benefits is to be your children’s banker. You can loan them money for their large purchases such as a home or automobile. They can pay you a higher interest rate than you can make with most investments and you can loan them money at a lower interest rate than they can typically get.

There is risk with this because you have to ask, “Am I going to foreclose on my son and daughter-in-law and take their home if they fail to make payments?” Many family disputes have begun around money and many families have been fractured by financial disagreements. Regardless, if your family communication is strong and you can communicate comfortably with your family about finances, this may be something you want to consider.

A third opportunity is reflected in the articles Giving to Your Grandchildren and Are you going to give your kids money to burn? Ask yourself, “As our children get into their late 50’s and even their 60’s, do they really need our money?” Add to that, “Is giving sizeable sums to a young grandchild going to help or hurt? Maybe a worthy charity or ministry could use the money more than your children or grandchildren. 

  • Make a real bucket list. I added the word “real” because it is better to fill a bucket with service helping others than with our own pleasure. Make your list personal and purposeful. What is a skill you have always wanted to learn but have not had the time to dig into it. What is something you have really wanted to own but haven’t. But remember, one of the bigger goals later in life is to simplify and have fewer toys to break and repair! Think of things you really, really have wanted to do but have missed. Consider adding that you want to read through God’s Word a few more times before you spend eternity with Him. Add to that places that are really meaningful to you, including a mission trip you wanted to take but have missed. Consider the following two facts when you write your bucket list:

The Lord has been very good and faithful to you.

And

You will be with Him for eternity.

Consider also the wisdom of Solomon:

Ecclesiastes 2:10-11
10  I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
11  Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

What we do here is important. It is Godly and right to make a good living and work hard. But there is certainly more to it than just that. We are here for a purpose. See What is the purpose of man, according to the Bible?

Furthermore, God has made all of what you have possible by giving you the intelligence to earn and the health to work. Deuteronomy 8:18. Think of a way to “pay it forward” by acts of service. Again, think of repurposement, not retirement.

  • Have a Checklist For a Proper Mindset. Make you own checklist, but start here:

 >  Depend on God, He is worthy. Psalm 96:4.
 >  Live a life of prayer. 1 Corinthians 7:5.
 >  Be flexible and allow time to be your friend and not an enemy.
 >  Be in community with others, in a small group or class, stay active and keep reading and studying, especially God’s Word. Hebrews 10:23-25.

  • Make a legacy. The old joke is that life is short, so you should eat dessert first. But dessert isn’t the best part of life (although it is easily in the top two or three). As we live, we are continuously creating our own legacy. Our legacy is the part of ourselves that is left behind in the hearts and minds of those whose lives we have touched.

Life is too short and uncertain for you to delay the process of building your legacy. Ecclesiastes 9:12.

Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you. 

 Shannon L. Alder

Consider the following to help you to build your real bucket list and your legacy at the same time:

    • Is Jesus Christ really my Lord or just an occasional companion?
    • Can I hope to stand before God and hear, “Well done my good and faithful servant”? Luke 19:17.
    • What do my family members think of me?
    • What will my family members remember most about me?
    • Do I need to apologize to anyone?
    • Has my life been lived to the fullest extent or has it simply happened?
    • Has my life been lived so that I want others to follow in my footsteps?
    • Is it time to change my life to begin to create the legacy I hope to leave?

The day of our death is the day when our lives are measured. It is only God’s measurement that makes a difference for all eternity and His measurement of us is based upon our faith, not our works.

John 6:2:28-29
28    Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29    Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

Even though it is a fact that God determines our eternal legacy, who God created us to be and how He called us to serve is demonstrated in how we will be remembered. So, ask yourself one question:

How do you want to be remembered?

We all will leave a mark upon those around us. Everyone will leave behind some size or shape of legacy, whether good or bad, small or large. Do you want to be remembered as a follower of Jesus, true to His commands and His Word or as someone who just got by with the minimum? So, ask a second question:

Are you investing your life in a way that will build the legacy you want to leave behind?

Read more on this topic at Make This a Legacy Year for You.

  • Build God into Your Estate Plan

The Idlewild Foundation was formed in part because leadership at Idlewild saw that people were leaving money to family, hospitals, universities, and different charities — but not to God. As it turned out, many people just were not thinking of giving part of their accumulated estate to God as a normal part of their estate planning. That is changing. The church that has been central in the lives and faith of many, Idlewild Baptist Church, can, with the faith and help of the thousands saved and serving at Idlewild and now throughout the world, continue and expand its ministries.

Leaving money to God to fulfill some of His mission here on earth to reach people with the gospel is exactly what should be done. He is patient as well as persistent and faithful – and we should be the same. 2 Peter 3:9. Help us help Idlewild reach people for Jesus Christ.

Retirement 101 may prove to be one of the most challenging courses you have ever taken. With God’s help, you will pass with flying colors!

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Make This A Legacy Year for You

There is a song I love that was sung by Steve Green, Find Us Faithful. It is a great encouragement as he beautifully sings,

We’re pilgrims on the journey
of the narrow road,
and those who’ve gone before us
line the way.
Cheering on the faithful,
encouraging the weary,
their lives a stirring testament
to God’s sustaining grace.

Surrounded by so great
a cloud of witnesses,
let us run the race
not only for the prize,
but as those who’ve gone before us.
Let us leave to those behind us,
the heritage of faithfulness
passed on thru Godly lives.

It is the chorus of that song I especially love,

O may all who come behind us
find us faithful;
may the fire of our devotion
light their way.
May the footprints that we leave,
lead them to believe,
and the lives we live
inspire them to obey.
O may all who come behind us
find us faithful.

What a great expression of Christian legacy. Legacy is a topic I have written about several times because I have heard interest from readers and people I speak with on behalf of The Idlewild Foundation. Don’t wait until “next year,” “next month,” or even “next week. Start today and make this a year in which you focus on how you will be known and remembered. May those who follow in your footsteps find you faithful!

Here are a few ideas to start your legacy.

Think about your family. As only three of an endless number of possibilities:

  1. Can you help provide a Christian education for grandchildren? 
  2. Is a family member considering adoption but struggling with the cost?
  3. Is there a family member with special needs who could use some support? 
  4. Is there a family committed to foster care, serving as foster parents –  opening their homes and their hearts to children at risk.

Spend a few minutes and think back to the last missions conference you attended. At Idlewild we call them Global Impact Conferences.  Think of a booth you visited or a story you heard that excited you and warmed you heart about someone’s special service. Now write that name down. Call someone in that ministry and find out how you can offer support that will be meaningful and that will hit the sweet spot in that ministry that caught your attention. Consider joining in that ministry with more than financial support. If you are short on cash, I don’t know of many ministries that couldn’t use more prayer support, “feet on the ground” in terms of short-term missionaries, or even local administrative support.

Meet with your financial advisor or a representative of The Idlewild Foundation to learn how wise estate planning can create a tax-wise series of gifts for family and ministry and, in doing so, increase the net donation and the impact of the estate with a gift of highly appreciated assets such as real estate, traditional IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, or appreciated stocks or bonds to Idlewild or to the Foundation.

Consider giving to an endowment, or permanent fund, such as The Idlewild Foundation’s Permanent Fund. Such a fund can support Idlewild or the ministries of your choice indefinitely. Read more at The Idlewild Foundation Permanent Fund.

A donation to The Idlewild Foundation’s scholarship fund can ensure that your money will help educate an Idlewild member who is active in the ministries of the church and in a small group, and who has a financial need to complete college or attend technical or vocational training. The Idlewild Foundation has given out hundreds (more than 400) of scholarships totaling over $1.1 million in eight years and will continue to do so as long as faithful people give to this worthy fund.

Or make an impact in the life of a child and donate to Fund 1:27. That fund, starting by the Foundation in 2021 is for the foster care ministry at Idlewild Baptist Church and also the surrounding communities. Not one dime of any donation goes to a Foundation salary or overhead. We are almost fully volunteer and work hard to make sure that donations go 100% to ministry. Foster children (and there are over 8,000 in the Tampa Bay region) face special challenges. Many came from a substance-abusing or abusive environment and they can have special needs. We support Trust Based Relational Intervention® therapy for families with a need, help with respite care, have a support group, help the families build Care Communities and otherwise provide a range of support to try to interrupt the cycle of abuse – hurt people do not have to hurt people! To learn more, go to our website for foster families that will be opening in August 2021.

Please consider a legacy gift that will demonstrate your faith, and light the way for those who follow you. In this very difficult world, your display of your faith, your legacy, may make an eternal difference for many.

To learn more, contact us at The Idlewild Foundation at (813) 264-8713. It is our ministry and legacy to help you find and support yours.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Be Generous and Live Well

One of the more striking statements that I have read is “I’ve never met an unhappy generous person.” How true that is! If people would just focus on that idea alone, they would realize that generosity is a very good trait to have.

There are many other good reasons for generosity aside from happiness. And a person cannot normally be transformed from a miser to a generous person in one, two, three, or even four easy steps. It is a growth process that requires time and maturation.

We are called by God in Ephesians 5:1 to “be imitators of God, as beloved children.” God has directly called for us to be generous not only in giving to the church but in all aspects of our lives. The apostle Paul urges us to “excel in the grace of giving.” 2 Corinthians 8:7. We are to “be generous on every occasion”. 2 Corinthians 9:11. Generous people are promised blessings. Proverbs 22:9, Proverbs 11:25, Deuteronomy 15:19, Psalm 112:5, Luke 11:41, 2 Corinthians 9:6 and 1 Timothy 6:17-18. We are to measure our goals according to His love, His compassion and His sacrifice.

If you ever wonder how generous God wants you to be, just look to the life of Jesus Christ for the example we are to follow. The cross is the true standard of God’s generosity.

Focusing on some of the benefits of being generous may provide some additional incentive and promote the idea of generosity. The benefits of generosity are numerous:

It supports your health

In recent years the BMC Public Health Journal published a study on the effect of volunteering on general health and happiness. The results were hardly surprising and fully support the idea of being generous with your time and skills. Regardless of the type of volunteer work performed, the results showed a lower mortality rate among volunteers. The study does not suggest how or why that result occurs, but the average improved life expectancy is striking.

Doing volunteer work appears to result in both a better self-image and better results in life. In the book The Paradox of Generosity, authors Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, say that volunteering improves well-being and life satisfaction. Then they add that doing volunteer work is also linked with decreased depression and a lower risk of dying early. The authors wrote that “since people reporting stronger social relationships have a reduced risk of mortality, the social aspects of volunteering may contribute to the observed survival differences.” They have no “proof” of the cause of better health, not any more than the authors of the BMC Public Health Journal article did, but there is no coincidence that these two studies reach similar conclusions independently.

The real result they reached is that the Bible is right:

Proverbs 11:25
25     A generous person will prosper;
 whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

One of the ways this appears to happen is the next benefit of generosity; generosity joins us in community.

It joins us in community

Community matters. Yes, there are stresses that arise from the social interactions of an imperfect community (and there are no perfect communities on this earth). However, the blessings of community far outweigh the few negatives. Furthermore, being in community is also an act of obedience. Jesus told us “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40. See also Hebrews 10:23-25.

Modern science is coming around to support the Biblical position on community. The book The Paradox of Generosity makes this point as well.

“If the top 10 percent of most generous Americans were to stop giving money, the entire sector of society and economy based on voluntary financial giving would simply collapse.”

While that may be partly an overstatement, the losses in the charitable sector of our society would be dramatic with resulting negative impacts throughout society.

In addition to that, there are obvious benefits to teamwork in virtually every area of American work, play and social activity. Cooperation and coordination of action benefits the givers and also the recipients of generosity, thereby benefiting all of our society.

Which gives us the next benefit of generosity almost seamlessly.

It makes work and play better

This goes hand-in-hand with the idea that there are benefits to community and our society as a whole. Anyone ever working in any workplace anywhere knows the value of support from co-workers, supervisors and even from subordinates. DeGarmo is a global employment recruiting, assessment and consulting firm. Their article How Does Coworker Support Influence Organizational Outcomes?, argues that co-workers’ support (or lack thereof) can influence:

  • Role perceptions
  • Work attitudes
  • Individual effectiveness

That article is a short summary of a longer research paper reaching the same conclusions.

Just as being helped makes someone a better employee, doing the helping also makes the helper employee happier and more productive. Happy workers stay on the job longer because they feel more committed to and engaged with the workplace. Many of the functions of business improve through the creative interaction of people cooperating in pursuit of a common workplace goal. People can learn from each other, share collaboratively about problems and reach cooperative agreements about the best ways to solve problems.

There is nothing surprising in those conclusions. No one who has had to fight through interference by co-workers or fight against an obstructive supervisor would disagree. Employees who are generous and cooperative are the best.

Ecclesiastes 4:12
12     Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

The truth is that helping others makes everyone happier. Helping people at work creates a healthy work environment and establishes a mental reward system.

Certainly, in sports the same is true just as in the workplace. It is hard to imagine a successful sports team without teamwork. Everything written about people working together holds true about people playing in team sports.

It lowers stress and energizes you

Generous people have lower levels of the hormone cortisol, associated with stress according to social psychologist Liz Dunn. She did a creative experiment and gave people ten dollars. They were told they could keep the ten dollars or give away as much of it as they wanted. Consistent with all past research, she found that the more money people gave away, the happier they were. And the more money people kept for themselves the more shame they felt. The people who felt shame had higher cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol levels for a lengthy period of time interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease and more according to Psychology Today.

Additionally, generosity energizes the giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6 tells us that “whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” That verse actually accurately describes the way life works. St. Francis of Assisi said, “It is in giving that we receive.”

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant speaks of studying thousands of people and examining givers, takers and matchers. Matchers are the persons with a balance of giver and taker. He says that the most successful organizations with higher profits, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and all other measurable metrics, are those with givers who coach and support others. He describes this and a lot more about givers in a TED Talk that can be found here. Grant makes it clear that he defines success as being about contribution, not about competition. One key point from his TED Talk is wonderful, “You don’t have to be Mother Teresa or Gandhi, to be a giver, you just have to find small ways to add large value.”

That would be energizing.

It makes us more like Christ

Generosity draws us toward the character of God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.” John 3:16. You can never be more like God when you are generous with other people. The gift of Jesus to us was a very generous gift.

Titus 3:4-7
4       But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 
5       he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 
6       whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 
7       so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

Literally, the gospel means “good news.” It really is the best news because due to the gospel, we are recipients of God’s overwhelming generosity. He gave us life through His death on the cross. The cross is God’s guarantee that He is willing and able to provide immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. Ephesians 3:20.

Romans 8:32
32     He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

There are unmistakable, scientifically verifiable benefits to generosity at home, at work, and at play. Generosity has enormous benefits to society, to those being helped and especially to the generous person. John Bunyan said, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

If you would like to learn more about this idea of generosity, give us a call. The Idlewild Foundation was formed in part to promote radical generosity. We have seen the transformational effect of generosity and believe that the best life is a life well-lived through giving to others. We would love to share even more with you.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Money Can’t Solve Most Money Problems

Surveys have established that at incomes below $50,000, most people consider “enough” income to be about $5,000 more than whatever they are making. Once income get close to $100,000 income per year, the income most people need to have “enough” income rises to $10,000 more than they are earning. “Enough” is a moving target.

It isn’t hard to figure out where this takes you. How much is enough? I don’t know, but it is always a little bit more than you have. Wealth and financial freedom are “just around the corner.” “I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.” “I’m almost there!” “Just a little bit more!”

Right!

Why is this a behavioral reality? It is because people tend to think of money as a goal and not as a tool. If you think of money as a goal, you fall into the “just a little bit more trap.” On the other hand, if you realize that money is a tool, then your focus changes from money to how the tool can be best used. Instead of a little bit more, you focus on what money can (and can’t) accomplish and you can see whether the tool will actually work to help you reach the real goal.

The sad truth is that money doesn’t solve behavioral problems. If a person has a lot of consumer debt, the problem is not lack of money; it is lack of discipline with the money he or she has. Give that person more money and it will be spent. The proof is in the numbers. In 2018, the savings rate is averaging close to a miserably low 3% of income.

There is a sarcastically written but fascinating behavioral principle know as Parkinson’s Law. In 1955 Cyril Parkinson wrote in The Economist that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Readers loved and ultimately expanded on the idea. One of the later corollaries of Parkinson’s Law is “expenses rise so as to meet income.” That is sometimes referred to as Parkinson’s Second Law. While those “laws” were written in a humorous sense, there is a painful truth to Parkinson’s Second Law about income and expenses.

Stated differently, Parkinson’s Second Law in the current United States would probably be that “debt rises so that monthly expenses, including debt repayment, consume income.” If most people make more, they spend more, often even more than their income.

Therefore, money doesn’t solve the behavioral problem; it can’t. Instead, the answer lies in self-honesty, perhaps in counseling, and in having a plan.

What kind of a plan? One of the best plans for people of any age seeking to be financially free was set out by authors Greg Baumer and John Cortines. The two men are very different in their self-identified “money mindsets.” One started as a spender and the other as a saver. Together they recognized the flaws in their money mindsets and realized that God has called them, and all believers, to be servants rather than savers or spenders.

They studied the Bible and traced how God has given us guidance to find the right way to handle money. Early in their lives, they established a personal “finish line,” a maximum amount to spend regardless of income, an accountability system to encourage sticking with it, and what they call a Board of Directors for Life of friends. They wrote how this came about in their excellent book, God and Money: How We Discovered True Riches at Harvard Business School.

Does this approach make sense in the real world? Of course it does. Think of the lottery winners who spent themselves into financial destruction in only a few years. Think of those, including sports stars, actors, business successes, making hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars a year, who end up broke. It isn’t the amount of money, it is the heart of the person towards God and money.

If you want to learn more, invest in a copy of God and Money, take the time to seriously consider your own money mindset and begin the process of self-reflection on how you would answer the following questions:

Does your spending reflect your faith?

Do your credit card statements and your bank statements show a focus on self or on the kingdom of God?

If God were to ask you how you are investing in His kingdom, would He say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” after hearing your answer?

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

What About Our Kids? – Teaching Generosity in a Very Selfish World

The property laws for children’s toys highlight an amusing view of a serious problem. The laws of property ownership from a child’s view are:

1. If I like it, it’s mine.
2. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine.
3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
4. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
5. If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
6. If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.
7. If it looks just like mine, it’s mine.
8. If I saw it first, it’s mine.
9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.
10. If it’s broken, it’s yours.

Deb Lawrence, Missionary to the Philippines with SEND Int’l, quoted in Prokope, November/December, 1992, Page 3

These laws have been described, perhaps accurately, as evidence of original sin. These reflect what many, if not most, children will do instinctively. It is that instinctive selfishness that parents must vigilantly look for and avoid. It is that instinctive selfishness that parents must teach their children to overcome.

Unfortunately, it is a modern trend for some parents to believe that they should allow their children to develop their own beliefs and desires without the parents’ instilling (supposedly) any predispositions. That is a commonly expressed concept especially directed at religious beliefs. It is also seriously wrong and works to the detriment of a child’s maturity and judgment. It is the worst thing a parent can do.

If parents don’t influence their children, they leave that job up to a very twisted world. That is because if parents don’t influence their children,

Advertisements will,
The media certainly will,
Movies and television will,
Their neighbors will,
Other children will not hesitate,
Satan will,
Politicians will, and,
Educators of unknown faith and interests also will.

Do you trust each and every one of those outside influences to do a better job influencing and guiding your children than you can? Even more on point, do you trust any of them to do a better job than you can? Training up your child is your responsibility. Proverbs 22:6. Yes, it is the child’s teachers’ responsibility, one the teachers are educated and trained to meet; but you as a parent should start long before your child starts school. You will have many, many more hours and opportunities to instill life lessons into your child.

One area where parents can and should have a major impact is on their children’s attitudes toward their stuff and on their view of generosity. The way young children learn first and best is from their parents. Observation is a child’s primary means of learning, and they see far more than most parents realize.

So, how can you teach giving and generosity? The answer should be obvious; by giving and by being generous yourself, especially when your children are nearby. Teaching giving by giving is a great and fun way to educate your children. The lesson comes from more than giving them money, even if they are to put the money in an offering plate. That doesn’t teach them to give their own money; they are merely delivering your gift. For them to learn giving and the joy of giving (Acts 20:35), they must actually give their own money or possessions.

Here are a few ideas for teaching giving:

1. Make sure your children see you write the check and put it in the offering plate. If there is no offering plate in this pandemic and post-pandemic world, make sure your children see you write the check and put it in an envelope. Giving online is simple and easy, but it is also invisible to your children. Many parents I know make a point of giving visibly so their children see it. If you insist that you will only bank online, engage your children in your budgeting and payments, and especially make sure they see that you give online to your church.

2. Then take it to the next level. Involve your children in the family giving decisions. Let them know that you are giving, at a minimum, a ten percent tithe. That means you share with your children what your income is and how you computed the tithe, a combined math and generosity lesson. Children need to learn how decisions on family financial matters are made and how the family budget is managed. Let them learn from you!

3. Consider establishing a family giving fund with the National Christian Foundation. Have a family conference, perhaps monthly, and involve your children in the giving decisions. Let them choose a charity for giving over and above your tithe; it can be a mission fund or even a secular charity. The goal is to make giving be a part of normal life. After all, we have life – and life eternal – because God was amazingly generous with us. John 3:16. If you are uncertain how to set up a giving fund, call us, or check out our menu tab Ways to Give at idlewildfoundation.com.

4. If you give your children an allowance, or, even better, if you make them earn an allowance, they should tithe, save and give out of that allowance. Let them give 10 percent as a tithe, save 10 percent towards a future purchase or goal, and give an additional percentage so they can see the immediate results, perhaps a gift to a homeless person or a widow in need. See 7 Steps for Financial Progress and Ideas for Living Better Through Stewardship for some details on saving wisely.

5. The giving a family does should not be of just money. We are also to be generous with our time and our talents. So find a widow in need at your church (trust me, your Pastor can find more than one) and fill a need she has. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen, cut grass for a disabled veteran, volunteer at your church for Sunday morning service, write to a missionary from your church or who has visited your church, go on a short-term mission trip, support an orphan or a family overseas. World Vision can make that easy, but still a very visible and touching lesson for your whole family. The possibilities are endless.

Make what you do a family activity. Make it a part of your family conferences to discuss what and how often you will do this activity.

6. Make giving a Bible lesson. For example, teach your children Malachi 3, especially Malachi 3:10:

Malachi 3:10
10  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

7. But don’t stop there. Share with your children your stories of how God has blessed you and your family. Share that the blessings are certainly not dollar for dollar or always financial. In fact, share that most often the blessings returned to you by God are not financial. They should not ever be taught an expectancy of a dollar return on a gift.

8. The giving lessons don’t stop with that one verse. There are over 2,300 verses on giving, possessions and money in the Bible. Most make excellent additional life lessons.

9. Make giving and generosity a personal and family habit. Behavioral scientists try to teach that it takes about six weeks to develop a strong habit. In the case of giving, it likely takes quite a bit longer because it may not occur every single day. Make this a life lesson, not a short-term experience or, even worse, a short-term experiment. By giving weekly, serving regularly, being a servant, and sharing your life and experiences with your children, you improve the quality of their home life (and yours) and vastly improve their vision of the value of life.

10. Pray with your children about giving decisions and over the giving opportunities that you and they will see and consider. Here is another area where you are teaching life, giving, prayer and reality, all in one part of every day, prayer time.

11. Create a family journal where you record what you give in both treasures, time and talents, and start adding to that family journal the blessings that God shares with your family.

12. Even over summer vacations, continue your family giving and serving. People’s needs and your church’s needs don’t take a break during summer, so service shouldn’t be seasonal. Take breaks when they are needed, and certainly God does allow you to rest, but service and giving more often energize than exhaust when your heart is right.

13. Learn, buy or develop games that teach stewardship principles. For a few ideas, check out this link oureverydaylife.com.

God’s creativity in His ways of teaching and reaching us is endless. Since we are made in His image, we have innate creativity and can, with encouragement and heart, as well as prayerful thought, come up with many creative ways to show our children a Christian world view. Please feel free to share some of your ideas with us. We will share additional ideas as time passes, so keep reading. God will bless you, He has promised that.

Psalm 37:26
26  They [the righteous] are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Winning The Financial Game

As always, how you define “winning” will determine not only how you can win the game of dealing with money and finances in our world, but even whether it is possible for you to win that game. If your definition of winning is to become unspeakably wealthy, while it may be possible, it is highly unlikely and probably not worth the long-term cost. If you define winning more realistically, it may be possible.

It is all about choices and ultimately, choices are determined by priorities.

So, start with one simple question, “What is your top priority in life?”

Once you have that question answered, many of the rest of the difficulties in life align themselves. Let me suggest an answer to that question. More accurately, let the Apostle Paul give you the answer.

1 Corinthians 15:3-5
3  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
5  and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.

If you settle on that answer, most other issues in life fall into place because God’s Word has given us many commands, instructions, and recommendations for the other decisions of life. After that one question and answer about your top priority is settled, the only remaining question is whether you will obey God.

So, let’s look at how our finances align themselves once we put God as our top priority.

1. We will see that we are not owners, only managers

This is both Biblical and logical in the eyes of the world. The standing joke is that there are no U-Hauls following hearses. That may be a joke but it is also true; you just can’t take it with you. When you die, you will leave everything to either your heirs, your charity of choice, or the IRS.

Rather than being an owner, you are a steward or a manager of the things God has given you. He is the owner. Psalm 24:1. As stewards we remain managers over His creation and His people. God put us in that role back in Genesis 1:26-28 when He declared that we were to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth. Then, after the fall, Adam was told that he was destined to work the land. We have been working ever since.

Our stewardship comes both naturally from the fact that we are in a world created by and belonging to God and from the role described for us Biblically. 1 Corinthians 3:9 describes our relationship working alongside God. We are fellow workers, co-laborers, with God.

Paul used the Greek word for stewardship, oikonomos, in addressing his role in preaching the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:17. Paul describes his calling as the discharging of a trust, which is stewardship. Elsewhere Paul also describes his role as the administration of the grace God had given to him. Ephesians 3:2. Paul is placing God in the role of the master who has delegated some management responsibilities to Paul. Paul holds the role of being the manager – the steward – of what God has given to him. Paul understood his role; do you?

You should understand your role because God has made it clear. Many passages and parables reaffirm that role; we are stewards of God’s grace toward us.

2. We will honor God with the first of our earnings

The common Old Testament phrase for honoring God with the first of our earnings is that we are to give Him our firstfruits. See, for example, Exodus 23:19 and Leviticus 2:12.

The practical truth is that someone will receive the firstfruits of your labor. It may be a creditor, a family member or even you, yourself. Instead, it should be an offering to the Lord for all He has given to you.

Even if you are convinced that you cannot give to the Lord, He has an answer for that thought. His answer is a challenge back to you.

Malachi 3:10
10  Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

“Try it, you’ll like it.” God has dared us to test His promise. That is a fair offer. Try it with sincerity of heart and see if God doesn’t come through with blessings.

3. We will plan for and respect the future

After more than 60 years of life, I have learned some things. I have certainly fallen short many times in knowing what I needed, but one fact I have learned well is that the future is coming. It may seem a long way off, but it is still coming.

That means you need to start saving now. The harsh realities of compound mathematics also make it important for you to start saving as soon as possible, at the earliest possible age. See 8 Financial Moves to Make in Your 20’s for the incredible way compound interest can impact your savings. Start now and save a little. The minute you think you cannot save any more, read Ideas for Living Better Through Stewardship for a few new ideas that might help you save a little more.

One of the key ideas is for you to start budgeting. Without budgeting you will, at best, struggle to be prepared for expenses as they sneak up on you. The process of creating a fully accurate budget requires enough effort that you will rarely be surprised by bills (except for emergencies). The process of maintaining that budget will keep it on track and make you more able to see where your money is going and where you can reduce expenses.

Another key idea is for you to spend cash and not use your credit card, not even if you always pay the bill early each and every month. Why? Because people spend more money day after day with credit cards than with actual money. There is something about the act of handing over dollar bills that makes the purchase seem a bit harder, and that makes a large purchase a lot more difficult. See Do It The Easy Way And Pay.

The future is coming and the time to prepare is now. The old saying that the best time to plant a shade tree is 40 years ago and that the second best time is right now fits the idea of saving. Start now!

4. We will work diligently

If you are a manager or owner, you will treat employees well and work hard. If you are an employee, you will treat co-workers well and work hard. Not only does that type of work make you a more valuable employee, probably higher paid, and one with a better chance of holding onto your job during hard economic times, but it is Biblical. The Apostle Paul told us:

Colossians 3:23-24
23  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,
24  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

“Whatever you do” includes your vocation and “all your heart” means just that. Be passionate about your work because ultimately it is the Lord you are serving. This point was expressed with excellence by Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said,

“If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.”

If you are unable to do that and think your job is beneath you, then you have two Godly alternatives; find a better job or a develop a better attitude. Staying miserable about a job where you spend many hours every week is hardly an option to consider.

5. We will work toward being debt-free and towards a state of being financially free

The saying that we should be neither a borrower nor a lender is not directly from the Bible but there is an element of Biblical truth to it. It actually comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3, line 75. Regardless of the source, it is good advice. The borrower is a slave to the lender, Proverbs 22:7, and certainly no one wants to be a slave. Likewise, no one should want to be a slave master either.

It is almost impossible to avoid all debt in our modern economy, especially in the purchase of a home, but your goal should always be to get out of debt as quickly as possible. See The Disaster of Debt, Getting Out of Debt, and 8 Moves to Make in Your 20’s (read it even if you are older than 20).

But is it enough to just be out of debt? No. You need savings to protect against falling back into debt in the event of an emergency or surprise large expense. Again, see 8 Moves to Make in Your 20’s and other resources on the website of The Idlewild Foundation. As already noted, the future is coming and you need to plan and prepare for retirement, college expenses for children, medical needs, etc. You are never too young to start those preparations. However, your goal is not financial independence.

Once you give it some thought, you will see that it is far better to be financially free than to be financially independent. Those who are financially independent are believers in the almighty dollar. They seek control over their environment and their own future by safeguarding themselves. Instead, it should be your goal to be financially free, meaning you are free from the imprisoning influence of money. Make money a tool, not a goal. It is a means to an end, not the end itself. Anything more than that is dangerous because money is deceitful.

1 Timothy 6:6-10
6  But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7  For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
8  But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
9  Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
10  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

That is a lot. But there are many ways to receive assistance and guidance throughout the long process of growing financially. Take a Financial Peace University course at Idlewild Church. It includes guidance and help with budgeting, paying off debt and many of the issues raised in this article. Alternatively, try Crown Ministries. Crown’s Money Map can get you started toward becoming financially free. It is free. And Crown Money Map offers help with all aspects of growing financially free. Download yours today.

6. We will live that same life at home with our spouses, children, relatives, neighbors and friends

The way children learn is amazing. One of the funniest and most honest videos I have ever seen on YouTube is the video of two babies learning to sneeze – by copying their father! The father sneezed, then the babies started copying him, sneezing repeatedly, over and over and over, smiling because they had learned how to do something daddy does! It was on YouTube for years but has unfortunately been taken down.

And that is how most young children learn – by copying their parents. Unfortunately, many parents don’t realize that their little children are at times learning a few bad practices by observation. They are also seeing that what some parents say at church and in the public are different than how they really live. One of the damaging truths is that many young adults turn away from the church because they saw their parents at home and at church – and the difference was enough to cause them to label their parents and the church as hypocritical.

Your children are watching you give, they are watching everything. The old Danish proverb, “Better be a sinner than a hypocrite” is simply wrong. If you are a hypocrite you are a sinner.

Matthew 7:3-5
3  “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
4  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
5  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Jesus made His lack of patience with hypocrites clear. Be who you say you are – always.

7. We will become generous with God and His creation

When you look closely at life and see all that God has done for you – think John 3:16 – and you realize that the eternity that lies ahead will be even greater, it is easy to realize just how blessed you are.

Do you love God? Really? That old saying “you can give without loving but you cannot love without giving” is true. He has given so much out of His love. We were all made in His image, and so we should be strongly inclined to be generous in response. See our Resources for Giving Generously, Joyfully and Wisely.

For many, finances will be a lifelong struggle. Just know that there are many people who would help if you asked. The Idlewild Foundation is here if you will call. (813) 264-8713.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972. 

A Great Start to 2021

New Year’s Resolutions to Kick-Off the Year

What are your New Year Resolutions for 2021?  Lose weight – check, exercise more – check, and get in better shape – long overdue! Those three resolutions are there for me almost every year. But then life happens! Sometimes I keep such a resolution for a few weeks or maybe even a few months with strong encouragement. After that, the busy days of spring begin to take over.

Instead, join me and make one of your resolutions for 2021 to review family financial and estate plans. Significant life changes (and even significant market or legal changes such as increasing income tax rates) are something that should trigger in our minds the question, “Do I need to change my will or trust?” or “Should I change any of my beneficiary designations?” If you need an easy way to keep track of your bequests and beneficiary designations on bank accounts, IRAs and financial or investment accounts, make a list. It is best done on a computer file so you do not have to re-do the entire document each time there is a significant change, but then print it and keep it with your estate and financial documents just in case your computer files are somehow lost. For a few additional thoughts on this topic, see A Few Estate Planning Pitfalls (especially #3) and A Few More Estate Planning Pitfalls.

Also, think about adding a few fresh ideas in which your entire family can become involved! Here are some things we are trying that I can offer as suggestions to prayerfully consider.

  1. Serve: Serve together as a family, a small group or just as a group of friends.  Find a ministry that touches your heart and about which you can be passionate. Schedule yourself to serve regularly in this ministry with your family, a group of friends, or involve your small group. On a simpler note, you can visit a friend you haven’t seen in a while, perhaps someone out with an illness or injury. Always remember that stewardship is a L.I.F.E activity that is not limited to dollars and cents. It involves your Labor, your Influence, your Financial resources, and your Expertise, your entire L.I.F.E. Stop by the MVNT booth in the Gatheria at Idlewild. Learn how you can discover God’s gifting to you and put your gift(s) into joyful service. You can give an hour a week – yes, you really can.

2. Broaden your view: Look for new opportunities to broaden your stewardship. Never neglect giving your tithe to your home church. Check out Does the New Testament Teach Tithing?, More on the Tithe – Tithes and Offerings 1, and More on the Tithe – Tithes and Offerings 2. Know that God has also called us to give over and above the tithe. Read and reflect upon Deuteronomy 15, Matthew 23:23, and Luke 12:33-34.

3. Give generously and wisely: When you find a ministry that touches your heart, consider giving as well as serving. You can give in different ways. Instead of just monetary giving, consider giving an appreciated asset, stock, or a piece of property. This type of giving may be better for both you and the charity than if you sold and donated the net proceeds. This strategy may reduce your tax burden if done correctly (and wisely) and increases the amount the charity receives – and what that charity can do. Not sure how to do this? The Idlewild Foundation can show you how. Just give us a call at (813) 264-8713. And never forget God in your giving.

4. Learn about Giving Funds: Explore the possibilities of a Donor Advised Fund that will allow you a deduction now, but choose who you want to support and how much you will give at a future date. This kind of fund can be an efficient means of setting up recurring donations and makes record keeping for taxes easy. Learn more at Ways to Give, or just give us a call. Now, with the new administration in Washington and with there being a great likelihood of either direct or indirect tax increases, more than ever you need to examine tax-wise giving. We can help!

5. Share your experience with others: If you have a life example of how God has blessed you and how you have given back to Him, share your story. Tell your small group, your friends, and your family about how you’ve been blessed and how you’ve been able to bless others.

6. Accelerate your life: In 2021 as Idlewild completes its debt elimination program, Accelerate, and increases its kingdom investments, join Pastor Ken in that goal. Be a part of Accelerate! Give over and above the tithe to accelerate payment of the last of the debt and allow Idlewild to enter a new phase of even more service to the kingdom.

Here’s another idea! Why not spend some time reviewing your spending for 2020? By looking at your bank and charge card statements you’ll get a pretty good picture of where your money was spent and what your priorities have been. Did you find ways to glorify God through any of your spending? Did your spending in 2020 give more glory to yourself than to God? Could you do better? Give God the credit He is due. He made your income and your abilities possible.


Deuteronomy 8:18
18     But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth …


Give God the credit He is due. He made your income and your abilities possible.

Take some time to sit down with your family and discuss ways to manage your money more effectively. Consider speaking with someone from the Stewardship Ministry of Idlewild Baptist Church or with us at The Idlewild Foundation. We can give you tips and ideas in managing your money. And don’t worry. You won’t be bludgeoned until you agree to give money to the Foundation! On the other hand, you will learn ways that you can further God’s kingdom by sharing His blessings with others – with open hands!

You can contact us at The Idlewild Foundation, (813) 264-8713 or email me at jcampbell@idlewild.org. Make 2021 a year to celebrate!

 

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40 year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus.  He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016.  He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.

Save $ in 2021

Saving money is a challenge. The money seems to (and does) build up slowly and the temptations to cheat and spend rather than save are like dieting temptations, easy to find and hard to resist. Here are a few practical ideas to keep your savings increasing and to help you hold the line on spending. When you save on one of the ideas here, save the money toward an emergency savings account, your retirement or a special trip and vacation.

Try these ideas and save:

1. Your car insurance rises every year even though your car is older and is worth less. You would think at least the collision coverage would decrease. It will, if you decide to shop around at least every three years. You may not want to decide based upon premium cost alone, because there is a lot to be said about receiving good service; but if money is tight, shop around. 

2. If you have emergency savings, go with high deductible collision coverage. You can save a lot that way. I will admit it may cost you if you have an at fault accident, but if you go several years without an accident, your savings will far exceed the amount of your deductible. If you don’t have an emergency savings fund, start one now.

3. Shop your homeowners coverage as well. Those premiums tend to rise more than the value of your home. Home insurers, like car insurers, count on your not wanting the hassle of changing carriers.

4. Drop your magazine subscriptions. Check and you may find the very same magazine is available at your nearest public library. Or, alternatively, spend a quiet evening at a local bookstore, reading your favorite magazines for free.

5. Hold a garage sale. Go through your closet and find clothes you have not worn in a year. The chances are you will never wear it if you haven’t worn it in a year. Pull the junk out of your closets you never use and out of the attic that you stuffed up there and see if there is someone else who wants your junk. You won’t make a lot, but you will make more than doing nothing will make for you. Alternatively, try eBay or sell online. A second alternative is for you to donate what you have to a Christian thrift store and take the deduction on your tax return if you are able.

6. Check your Internet, cable and phone plans. You can almost always improve your plan and save money if you check once a year. Ask yourself if you really need that landline. We dropped ours over a year ago and discovered we received fewer junk calls during dinner.

7. Get a free energy audit from your power company and see where your electric use can be trimmed. Consider adding attic insulation if your house is old, many types of older insulation settle and lose R-value, costing you money every month. Alternatively, you could do something really radical and turn off the lights when you leave a room.

8. Drop your gym membership and take up walking. It is easier on the knees and hips than jogging, can be done well into your 70’s, and is free!

9. Keep your tires properly inflated, put the right gas in your car and maintain it based upon the manufacturer’s recommendations.

10. If you use AAA for emergency roadside service, go to an AAA location and check out their available gift cards. You get a 3 to 5% credit in AAA dollars towards your next year AAA bill. If it is a card for a restaurant you are going to eat at anyway, a store you will shop at anyway (or even Amazon Smile), or a gift card you would give as a gift anyway, you will save an annual AAA fee in a fairly short time, certainly less than a year.

11. While I am on the topic of gift cards, buy them at a discount from a discounter like giftcardgranny.com. You can at times find meaningful discounts on hundreds of gift cards including Walmart, Target, and many large retailers.

12. Buy used, not new. A used car, if checked out carefully, is a great savings over a new car. New cars lose thousands of dollars almost the same moment you drive the car off the lot. If the car isn’t too old, you may still have some warranty left – always check. If buying a used car, always check the obvious things such as the tires. Many dealers will put new tires on a car if you spot a worn or repaired tire.

13. Used books are readily available at thrift stores, or, even better free books, magazines and videos are available at the public library.

14. Buy an Entertainment Book and eat out for 50% at many restaurants. Try Entertainment Books and see what restaurants and services are covered in your area. In the Tampa Bay area there are over 150 restaurants and services offering substantial discounts. You quickly save the cost of the book, try new places and then save a lot more.

15. Save without the hassle of coupons. There is a rather remarkable website worth checking – Savingstar. You can go to their free website, check the products you want to buy from a store and get cash back after you shop. You can link your store loyalty card or upload the receipt and save. The stores available can be seen from the site and include Publix, WalMart, Target, CVS, Walgreens and literally hundreds of other retailers.

Saving just requires that you try. The problem is that we tend to get so busy, that time is a commodity that is hard to find. But if you can find the time to try a few of these ideas here, you can save a lot. If you have additional ideas, call or email us and we will pass them on.

About the Author

John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.