Archives For Money

Sin Is Expensive

Mark Beuving —  October 25, 2012 — 1 Comment

A couple days ago, I blogged about Craigslist’s faulty theological foundation. Basically, Craig Newmark built Craigslist on the belief that people are basically good, so if you give them a platform for interaction, everything will work out. But because the Bible is correct in saying that people have a sin nature, things are bound to go wrong on Craigslist, even as they go wrong in every area of life.

Hamburglar

The McDonald’s Hamburglar

In this post, I’d like to briefly explore the economic impact of sin. In other words, sin is expensive. Certainly sin tears apart our relationships, our psychological health, and most significantly, our relationship with God. But sin also costs money.

In the case of Craigslist, the site has been used as a marketplace for prostitution, which has forced Newmark to make preventative changes to the site. Scammers have also been using the site to swindle sellers out of their goods, which means that Newmark’s team has had to add security measures. All of this means increased expenses.

In his excellent book Truth and Transformation, Vishal Mangalwadi talks about visiting a dairy in the Netherlands. When he walked into the dairy to buy a glass of milk, he found no attendants—there was only a cashbox in which to leave his money and make change if necessary. He observed that this is the most cost-efficient way for the dairy to sell its milk, but once enough people took their milk without paying (or even stole the money from the cashbox), the dairy would be forced to hire an attendant. This means money out of the dairy owner’s pocket, which means higher cost of production, which means higher prices for the costumers, and on and on it goes.

Vishal Mangalwadi

Vishal Mangalwadi

Mangalwadi also describes an experience he had while traveling through eastern Europe by train. He couldn’t figure out the automated ticket dispenser, so he asked a couple of young ladies how it worked. “We don’t know,” they told him. “But don’t worry about it. Just hop over the turnstiles. We’ve been travelling like this for weeks and no one has checked our tickets.”

Do you see where this is going? Once enough people hop the turnstiles and begin travelling for free, the railroads will be forced to hire clerks to check tickets on the trains, which increases their expenses, which in turn ups the price of a train ticket.

Sin is expensive.

The point is, not only was Craigslist built on the faulty premise that people are basically good, but the reality that people have a propensity toward sin is costly in every way. Think of how much money companies would save if they didn’t have to hire security guards. Or how much cheaper our goods would be if stores didn’t have to build compensation for a predicted amount of theft into their prices.

Sin is bad, and we all end up paying for it.

Al MohlerIf you’ve read our blog consistently or if you’re familiar with the vision of our school, you already know that we’re pretty passionate about the student debt issue. It’s killing missionary passion before they can even get to the field, it’s shackling our future Christian leaders, and it’s generally debilitating our nation.

Recently, Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, spoke out against educational debt during the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee and was quoted as saying,

“If your concern is to get young people into the churches or on the mission fields, the greatest enemy other than Satan himself is educational debt, because there are far too many young people graduating who are slaves to that debt when they need to be unfettered slaves to Christ.”

If you’re interested, you can read the rest of the Baptist Press Article.

We got curious and decided to investigate further into the financial aid practices of SBTS. It sounds like Dr. Mohler agrees with us that this is a vitally important issue, so we wondered if any students are graduating from his school with debt, and if so, how many. The statistics for a graduate degree from the seminary show that it’s extremely affordable at an estimated $4,360 a year. The publicly available statistics we found involving debt are related to Boyce College, the undergraduate college of SBTS. The total expenses for a full-time beginning undergraduate student in 2011-12 range from an estimated $16,570 to $21,670 a year, with an average net price of $18,877 according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The school does not participate in the the Federal Student Loan Program known as Title IV, and we applaud them for that unconventional position. 41% of all undergraduate students at the school receive aid in the form of grants and scholarships that do not need to be repaid. But how many of the students in attendance receive aid in the form of other loans (debt) to attend the school?

Among full-time beginning undergraduate students, the answer is 20%. The average amount of aid received by that 20% is $10,354 each, which is about half to two-thirds the cost of attendance according to the estimated expenses listed previously. You can check these numbers at the NCES Financial Aid Report for the school. I know what you might be tempted to think. 20% isn’t a large percentage. It’s a lot less than most other schools, but it’s still debt. If this issue is so import to Dr. Mohler, then why does the school direct students to apply for loans from Sallie Mae, Fifth Third Bank and KHEAA? Why even provide the option? They won’t direct you to accept federal funding, but they’ll direct you to borrow from a bank. And if a bank is an unfavorable option to you, they will allow you to obtain a loan directly from the school with an annual interest rate of 7%. All this is made clearly available on both the Seminary Student Loan Page and the College Student Loan Page of their website.

We applaud Dr. Mohler and agree with him that educational debt is an enemy that the church and Christian institutions of higher education need to fight. We admire his courage for standing up and speaking out against this problem. We are encouraged that SBTS is more affordable than many other schools like it. We wonder if the school would consider going further, and reducing the costs even more? We would also like to take this opportunity to call on all other Christian Institutions of Higher Learning to ask for consistency and a demonstration that the issue is important enough to say to your students, “You can decide on your own whether you will take out a loan to attend our school, but we will not encourage you or help you do it.” We are asking schools to stand with us and demonstrate with your policies and practices that which you idealistically espouse from your speaking platforms. When will more theological schools and colleges stand up and say, “We will do everything in our power to train leaders, and help them graduate debt free”? Dr. Mohler, will you help lead the charge to change your school’s written and publicly advertised student loan policies to reflect the inspiring words you delivered about educational debt? We agree with you and we’re praying God will give you, your board, and your administrators the courage and the financial provision to continue this fight! We hope that leaders of other Christian Colleges will follow this example and demonstrate the same courage and commitment to send graduates out into the world to accomplish God’s mission – debt free.

Labor Day is an annual tribute to the hard working American people. It’s very much appreciated. Most of us do work very hard, so being forced to take a day off of work is a welcome concept.

But I think we can find more in Labor Day than Uncle Sam intended. In forcing us to take a break from our work, Labor Day can serve as a much-needed reminder that work is not everything, that we are more than what we produce, that neither our souls nor our bodies find their entire significance in the workplace.

Many of us have a tendency toward workaholism. We feel the pressure to produce more and more, our priorities are out of place and we find ourselves climbing a ladder purely for the sake of getting higher, or the drive to get more comfortable and accumulate more stuff forces us to work unhealthy hours. Whatever the specific situation, workaholism is nothing more than idolatry. Whether we’re worshipping status, wealth, or productivity, we’re being pulled away from the true purpose of work and the proper object of worship.

When I wrote about the need to find God in the midst of a busy schedule awhile back, I talked about the painting “Office Deity” by John Feodorov. Painted in the style of an icon, “Office Deity” places the C.E.O. on the throne that would typically hold the Christ figure. The angels along the sides bear the accessories of the C.E.O.’s greatness. I love this painting because it is a potent symbol for our corporate idolatry.

So here’s the point. Most of us have the day off. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Be reminded that you are more than your job description says you are. Be thankful for the work you have and the ability God has given you to fulfill your duties. Be ready to re-enter your workplace with a passion to do your best for God’s glory and the blessing of the people you work for and with.

And in the meantime, celebrate your Labor Day with a heart that accepts the wonderful reality that God worked six days in creating the world and rested on the seventh. Embrace that embedded principle of rest and enjoy the time that God has given you to relax and enjoy the life He has blessed you with.

 

When Francis Schaeffer looked at our modern society, he saw a lot of apathy. He would trace the ebb and flow of Western Civilization, highlighting achievements, revolutions, and the longings of mankind. Many idealists, revolutionaries, and power-hungry people have changed the course of history—some for better, some for worse. But when Schaeffer looked at his own generation in the twentieth century, he didn’t see a whole lot of ambition either for good or for evil. Instead, he saw mostly apathy.

Schaeffer identified what he called “two impoverished values” that dominated the middle class in America and in other Western nations: personal peace and affluence.

Our American society is shockingly rich. Of course, we’re too used to it to feel the shock. But you’ve heard it before. As science was put to practical use in the Industrial Revolution, we began producing goods and therefore creating capital on a scale that the world had never known. We take our single family residences, our ratio of at least one car per adult, our electric everything, and our endless supply of running water for granted. We even protest when state colleges raise their tuitions, claiming higher education on our terms as a right.

So to Schaeffer’s point: affluence became one of our highest values. We want to be well off. We don’t need be as wealthy as the Wall Street execs (and we’ll occupy their sidewalks to show how money-hungry they are), but we’re not okay without a specific level of wealth-derived comfort. We take our stuff for granted, and we’ll hang on to our stuff and defend our right to own it, even if that means that other people will have to go without.

Schaeffer referred to this as a “noncompassionate use of wealth.” When we have more than we need, we subtly raise the bar of needs vs. wants. Other people are suffering, and we have the means to help them, but we’re so committed to affluence that we’re not willing to part with our money. We don’t use our wealth compassionately. Look around at our modern society and tell me you don’t see that as a trend.

And then there’s what Schaeffer referred to as “personal peace.” By this he meant that people simply want to be left alone. I’m okay, you’re okay. Let’s avoid all conflict. Even if it means that injustice prevails, I don’t want to get dragged in to any controversy. Just leave me be.

Schaeffer traced this into the political realm, saying that our society would vote for any candidate that could promise them their personal peace. I’ll give you my vote as long as it doesn’t upset my lifestyle. As long as things can stay the way they are, I can get behind anyone.

I err on the side of agreeing with (almost) anything Schaeffer said, but I really think he’s spot on with his analysis here. Apathy does prevail in large swaths of our modern society. The only thing that will get people riled up is a tanking economy or a threat to their personal freedom. It’s probably not wise to try to decide whether an evil regime would be preferable to an apathetic mass populace, but Schaeffer is certainly right to call these two values “impoverished.” Much of what plagues our society stems from our unswerving allegiance to these two values.

Schaeffer’s voice was prophetic. We should use his warning as a wake up call to our society as a whole. But beyond that, Schaeffer’s warning should be heard by individuals as well. How are you living your life? How much do value affluence? What is your level of commitment to personal peace?

Don’t be too optimistic about yourself in this regard. A vague passion is not enough. A generation rose up during the 60s and 70s to protest their parents’ commitment to these two values. They vented their passion, but in the end they took these values as their own. Tomorrow I’ll explain what this movement was about, why it collapsed into personal peace and affluence, and why that is important for the way we live our lives.

 

The American Church is becoming increasingly suspicious of the American Dream. It has always been an ill defined concept, but generally speaking, the American Dream is the promise of a good job, a nice home, a good looking family, etc.

In American History, were taught about the concept of “Manifest Destiny.” The early Americans (non-natives, of course) firmly believed that it was their destiny to spread West, to claim the land that separated them from the Pacific Ocean. Somehow this real estate was theirs by right.

This sense of entitlement dies hard in the American mind. Somehow we have a right to a high paying job, a nice car, a privileged education, etc. And so we do everything we can to climb the ladder. To be sure, we work hard. But hard work alone cannot guarantee material prosperity.

These days, it is increasingly difficult to achieve the American Dream without borrowing in advance. We can’t wait until we’ve made our money to own a nice house and fill it with solid furniture, so we borrow to ensure that we won’t have to wait for it.

More and more people are beginning to see that the pursuit of the American Dream is unsustainable. Our definition of happiness is purely material, and we keep borrowing money to gain that material happiness. And once we have the material goods that we thought would make us happy, we find out that we wanted the wrong things. They’re too small, too outdated, too common. So we borrow again to get the things that we really need. And the process continues.

Where has our pursuit of the American Dream taken us? Well, we have accumulated a ton of debt, but very little happiness. Individuals are in debt. Companies are in debt. Our government is in debt. It turns out the American Dream is bankrupt—both literally and metaphorically.

Christians know that happiness can’t be borrowed. We know that material goods will not satisfy us in the long term. But we still find the American Dream tempting. Too tempting. Too many Christians have wasted too many years and too many dollars in pursuit of a bankrupt dream.

We know better. The Christian community should be a beacon of hope in the midst of a burdened society. We should demonstrate that hope is not the same as wealth. We should personify joy rather than entitlement. We can’t avoid the material, nor should we attempt to do so. But at a time when the world around us is beginning to see the cracks in their lifelong idolatry, we have an incredible opportunity to show people that human beings were never meant to be enslaved to something as elusive and unsustainable as the American Dream. We know what humanity was designed to look like and how we were designed to function. If the church begins to live in light of this reality, then we can be a source of hope and renewal to our neighbors who are enslaved to that which deceptively promised them happiness.