The Minister's Personal Finance

The Minister's Personal Finance No. 1

As a leader in the cause of God, the minister has always to bear in mind the force of his personal example including his finances.

By Claude Conard

As a leader in the cause of God, the minister  has always to bear in mind the force of his personal example. He is set as an example "to the flock." The effectiveness of his preaching and profession is determined by his individual practice. This is the ultimate criterion. The word of the Lord's messenger is clear: "You must live that which you teach. Remember that new converts look to you for an example." —"Gospel Workers," p. 461. Thus the worker's personal relations with others and his dealings with the church and the world are always in review. The responsibility is a heavy one; but the grace of God is abundant.

The realization of his powers of example will lead the worker to avoid every tendency which he would deplore in those under his charge.

He will beware of pettiness in his personal and financial dealings, but will be frank and open in all his contacts. He will take pains to trans­act every item of business in a straightforward, businesslike way. His conduct will bear wit­ness that he is a Christian.

Carefulness in his personal finance is a point which any child of God, much more a leader, cannot guard too assiduously. The spirit of the times forms a treacherous quagmire which will snare the most cautious into its pitfalls if he is not fully aroused and does not rely humbly upon the power of a merciful God to keep him from slipping. Through lack of business training and the stress of circumstances, a worker may be led into inconsistencies which divide his interest and cripple his strength.

Many times the laborer's income is limited, and there is great temptation to run charge accounts, to buy on the installment plan, or to enslave himself with some other of the many ingenious methods of modern manipulators to trap the unwary. A sad spectacle indeed is presented by a worker's family frantically en­deavoring to parcel out the monthly receipts over store bills, clothing accounts, furniture, radio, or automobile payments, with chits for this and that, and other commitments which the slender resources will not compass; or to see a minister of the gospel actually dodging his creditors because of unpaid balances. Some­times even the personal integrity of a worker is challenged and the cause of God brought into disrepute because of the unwise entanglements in family finance.

The income must be the basis of all sound financing. Unless there are reserves,—which many families are not fortunate enough to possess,—no home can long maintain a pro­gram which calls for a larger outgo than the current receipts. Grave dangers threaten when more is contracted than the present income will cover. There is the temptation to overdraw on the salary account, or to apply advances on legitimate expenses for personal use, some­times even to retain the Lord's tithe or offer­ings, or to resort to other questionable meth­ods, until the worker awakes to the realization that he is hopelessly involved, his spiritual force is waning, and his usefulness is being impaired. Through the Spirit of prophecy the Lord is explicit in His warning:

"Those who have not educated themselves to live within their means, will surely have to do this, or else engage in some other employment." —"Gospel Workers," p. 460.

Some feel that their allowance is inadequate for the family needs. It is true that in most cases the remuneration is not sumptuous; but it is surprising how many people, even in civi­lized lands, are living comfortably on less than the average Seventh-day Adventist ,worker's salary. The secret comes from binding about the personal wants, and refusing to be drawn away from simplicity in home and individual requirements. One of the highest officials in the General Conference was heard to say that he presses his own clothes and polishes his shoes at home, and limits his personal allow­ance to eighty cents a week.

However desirable it is to be connected with the organized work, if a worker finds it im­possible to bring his personal finances within his income, rather than continue as a burden upon the cause of God, he may deem it more honorable to step out into some other line of work where he can be an independent and self-respecting helper.

Buying on the installment plan is the favor­ite method of some to secure desirabilities which they would not otherwise feel they could afford. Such persons should consider well the background of this popular practice, and deter­mine in the full light of the facts whether in­deed they are able to meet the heavy penalty of such a system. It must be recognized that very few if any selling concerns are philan­thropically inclined to the extent that .they will borrow money to finance the buyers of their goods without passing on to the purchasers their full share of the charges.

In its warning against a proposed government plan to encourage installment buying, the private business News Letter of March 15, 1934, issued by the Review of Reviews, says:

"The soundness of installment selling is open to question. It assumes a steady income on the part of the purchaser; secondly, it is necessary for the finance company to charge an interest rate which averages 15 to 16 per cent of the sales price of the article. This is no more than is necessary to cover risk and the use of credit; nevertheless it means that a worker must take $115 out of his income to make a purchase which costs only $100 in cash."

Those who have made use of mail order houses, such as Sears, Roebuck, and Company, are familiar with their schedule of approxi­mately a 10 per cent extra charge above the catalogue price for articles bought on their regular part-payment plan. Stores are to be looked upon with question that purport to sell at the same price on long-term payments as for cash. It is certain that these concerns are not in business for the fun of it, and most likely the cash customers are helping largely to finance those who are buying on time. It is therefore not beyond probability that credit patrons are not being treated any better. The most satisfactory market service is usually found in shops that compete with other stores for cash, and that charge a reasonable extra rate to credit and partial-payment customers. Unless one is buying equipment which will begin at once to bring back financial returns,—and this should usually lie outside the activities of Seventh-day Adventist workers,—the safest and most courageous plan is to apply to oneself for a short time the discipline necessary to lay aside regular sums until the required amount is in hand, and then buy the article outright at the cheapest cash price. Thus he becomes the self-respecting and absolute owner, rather than living month after month under the relentless lash of pressing due bills, and the threat of losing altogether the coveted treasure with the amounts that have been invested in it.

The buying of a home property is sometimes a strain which is not at first fully realized. A family home may be very desirable, especially where there are young children; but its cost of acquisition and maintenance is frequently the smaller part of the consideration. Workers with uncertain tenures of service are often called upon to engage in labor elsewhere, and the handicap of a home property may be a source of embarrassment to the organization with which they are connected, and a deterrent to progress in their own usefulness.

A minister's automobile is often a source of embarrassment to himself and a cause of stum­bling to his congregation. He may try to per­suade himself and others that it is nobody's concern what he does with his money, if he is fortunate enough to have any; but all too fre­quently its use proves to be at the expense of his calling. It is regrettable that many a work­er's fine automobile has given a false light to his profession, and has robbed him of his spirit­ual power. Contrast the expressed approval of the church constituency when it was learned that a high official in the mission treasury drove a car of the Ford class, to the question­ing attitude of the large congregation to whom a conference official, on finding that he did not have a certain book which he wished to use, remarked from the pulpit that he must have left it in his other car.

The financial investments of a gospel worker are watched with keen and critical interest. Too often they still further divide his atten­tion, and are a source of anxiety and weakness. If they should partake of the nature of specula­tion, they add sorrow to the thoughtful and an example to be emulated by the careless and prodigal.

The spirit of paternalism is playing a large part in economic conditions of the world today. With Seventh-day Adventists it is likely to take the form of special bonuses, extra auto­ mobile allowances, excess rent subsidies, medi­cal care, etc. Where it is necessary, it would seem wiser for conferences and institutions to adjust wage rates, and then discard altogether extra remuneration except in extreme cases, and encourage the workers to stand forth in their independence of special favors and con­cessions.

That better times are in prospect is an un­certain promise. The background is too in­secure for substantial hope. If, during periods of adjustment, a temporary easement of condi­tions is in evidence, let advantage be taken of it only to strengthen our position for future eventualities. We are not warranted in extend­ing our personal wants beyond current accrue­ments, if we would not find ourselves in worse embarrassment than we have known hitherto. Financial safety lies in budgeting our income to meet necessary expenses and providing a bit for emergencies, rendering to the Lord His own, and paying cash for all our requirements. Then we may expect the Lord's approval: "Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."

* Nearly all consider themselves competent to con­duct their own business affairs, and frequently resent any counsels offered, however excellent they may be. This prevailing sentiment appears to be shared by not a few religious workers who incline to feel that their call to the gospel ministry has in some way brought to them special business and administrative judgment. Consequently, to point out inconsistencies is not usually a pleasant task. and to accept kindly criticism is generally rather difficult. Because of this inclina­tion, there is often reluctance on the part of any one else to give helpful suggestions or warnings regarding loose and uncertain financial methods. Only after re­peated urgings has the auditor of the General Confer­ence consented, out of long experience. to contribute three articles touching some of the dangers to be avoided and the tendencies which are so prevalent in these perplexing times.—Editors.

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By Claude Conard

December 1934

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