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   And Yahweh shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of Yahweh thy Elohim, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them, Deuteronomy 28:13.
   Very many in the faith find themselves instead, the tail and beneath, rather than the head and above only. And their position is attributable to not having heard, observed and done Yahweh’s commandments, perhaps the chief of which is the responsible exercise of dominion and stewardship of what by Him, is received-in-trust.
   I am not an accountant nor a financial adviser, but I am one who has obtained mercy of the Master and also learned firsthand what it means to be the tail instead of the head, and beneath instead of above.

My Testimony
   I have learned firsthand, that the institutions of finance care little of Yahweh’s Triad Principle of Grace, Mercy and Truth, and also that the borrower is servant to the lender (Pro. 22:7).
   Thirty-three years ago, my wife and I became a slave to debt. My story begins in March, 1986. I was employed as an insurance agent for a large mid-west health and life agency. My wife was employed as a math teacher in an area high school, and we were pursuing the American dream. In the spring of that year, we began searching for a home to buy, and after looking at several with a realtor, we settled on the home we have made for the past 33 years.
   On a Tuesday evening in that March, we had dropped off our taxes at the local H & R Block office, and then conferred with a mortgage loan correspondent, paying him $1,500 down on the property we were considering. Returning to H & R Block, we discovered we had a tax liability of more than $3,000...due in three weeks, with absolutely no way of even making a dent toward it because we had scraped very nearly every discretionary dollar to affect the down payment on the house. Yikes! What were we going to do?
   We had often borrowed against our tithe; were delinquent in paying the tuition and fees owed against our children’s Christian academy education; were making car payments on a 1985 Mercury we had purchased 9 months before, and had taken risks writing checks on insufficient bank accounts. And now, we owed more than $3,000 in taxes; the Internal Revenue Service, also cares little or nothing of Yahweh’s economies, extending us a rigorous payment plan of $225 monthly, $180 of which was applied to penalties and interest. We were also required to maintain current taxes due.
   Our captivity lasted for many years, the better part of a decade during which we cashed in an IRA, taking the 10% penalty imposed by the Internal Revenue Code; borrowed money against what little equity we had on our home; and occasioned the use of introductory 3-month and 6-month 0% interest credit cards, revolving these as they expired. All these became avenues with which to defray past due accounts; stay current on taxes, a mortgage payment, tuition, a car payment, groceries, insurance, clothing, utilities. In May, 1987, came the assumption of another debt: a new Chevrolet Suburban I still own, financed through GMAC, with nothing down and 12.75% interest for five years. (Imagine how embarrassing it is to drive your new Suburban to 1st day church — yes, we were first day attendees thirty-two years ago — and have to face the church business manager who knows your delinquency in tithes, offerings, and tuition)!
   One guiding his affairs with discretion wouldn’t permit himself to get to the bottom of the hole and once there, continue to dig! Oh, yeah! We looked prosperous and talked prosperous. After all, wasn’t “G-d” blessing us? But not like so many Laodiceans of whom Yahshua observed, “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” We knew we were “…wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).
   In May, 1988, I went into business for myself, becoming a General Agent with several large insurance companies. My wife had left her teaching position, and began to accompany me on sales presentations, eventually becoming licensed herself and establishing her own clientele.
   In 1989, we had retired the note on the ’85 Mercury and sold it. The ’87 Suburban was paid off in early ‘92; our tax lien had been paid down considerably as we had been able to pay much more than the $225 monthly installment and our credit card debt also. From then, until now, we have been faithful in our resolve to never, ever purchase anything we didn’t have the cash for, confirmed then, by shredding all our credit cards.
   But by the spring of 1993, the feast or famine nature of insurance sales had burned me out. I came home one evening after having spent the day just driving around. I couldn’t even get myself out of the car to the first door. And so, at age 45, I announced to my family I was going to apply to nursing school.
   My acceptance in nursing school was a boost to my self-confidence. Residual renewal insurance commission income and Deborah’s continuing to work supported my nursing school endeavor, our elder son’s university tuition and our second son’s Christian academy tuition. With much studying in disciplines completely foreign to my formal educational experience. Six weeks before graduation I’d secured a nursing position at a skilled nursing facility, and two days later was offered another.
   In March 2001, we refinanced our home to obtain a lower interest rate. A $50,050 mortgage contracted in March 1986 had in fifteen years, only been paid down by $16,000. But eleven months, two weeks and $36,000 later, in March 2002, we paid off the mortgage, with only $900 cash to our name, but we felt rich, very rich, indeed. And for the past 17 years, there has been NO MORE DEBT and neither will there be any more debt!

Acknowledge Where the Money’s Going
   Principal to getting out of debt, and staying out of debt, is to acknowledge where the money is coming from and where it is going! Contrary to what the world will tell you, and contrary to what the “Prosperity Gospel” will preach to you, gain is not righteousness, but righteousness with contentment is great gain, moreover, having food and raiment, therewith be content (I Tim. 6:5, 6, 8).
   Throughout the whole of His Word, Yahweh instructs us not to “dwell carelessly” (Isa. 47:8). Yes, there is a difference between ‘carefree’ — He is wanting us to live ‘carefree,’ casting all our cares on Him, for He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:8) — and carelessly,’ Indeed, He commands us to “walk circumspectly” (Eph. 5:15) and to “guide our affairs with discretion” (Psa. 112:5)…including our financial affairs!
   He promises to supply our need, not our greed. This, exceedingly abundant, above what could be thought or asked, according to the riches of His Glory by Messiah Yahshua (Eph. 3:20; Phil. 4:19).
   So, let’s see what responsible financial integrity and security looks like.
   Before proceeding further, I’ll speak to what some may be thinking. Some think that any pulpit exposition, or literature come therefrom, on the subject of money and its use is contrary to sound doctrine and wholesome words. These are they which misread 1 Timothy 6:10: For the love of money is the root of all evil. But there are fewer topics, themes, and subjects throughout the breadth of The Holy Bible that have received as great or more, treatment that the subject of what some call, ‘filthy lucre.’
   Nevertheless, responsible financial integrity and security begins with a PLAN. It’s true. IF YOU FAIL TO PLAN, YOU HAVE JUST PLANNED TO FAIL!

The First Principle to Responsible Financial Integrity and Security
   Your income determines your expenses, and that is why income occupies the first column. In Ephesians 4:28 and 2 Thessalonians 3:11-12, 10, we read: Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with [his] hands that thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth…For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Master Yahshua the Messiah, that with quietness they work… [For] if any would not work, neither should he eat.
   No one, not even Yahweh, owes you your living. Even in the garden, He commanded Adam to dress and to keep it (Gen. 2:15).

A Brief Digression
   Briefly, we return to the above highlighted portion from Ephesians 4:28, that he may have to give to him that needeth…
   Yahweh loveth a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7). Indeed, and so also, does the receiver of the giver’s benevolence. However, becoming weary in well doing can, and often does, occur when the receiver of the other’s munificence neglects a cardinal principle: Love worketh no ill to his neighbour, Galatians. 6:9; Romans 13:10. But ill is worked when the receiver declines from bearing his own burden (Gal. 6:5).
   And so, interdiction (restraint) must be imposed upon the receiver who perhaps, for reason of NOT having been trained, nurtured and admonished, or maybe who, because of having a predilection toward slothfulness, seeks an advantage. The blesser may have to save himself by bringing correction and instruction, and just maybe rebuke to the taker, and therewith maintain cheerful giving to such who will exercise stewardship of what is received.
   So, if one is not willing, no one can help. But if one is determined, no one can stop. On the one hand, the taker needs a renewing of his mind, and the benefactor needs to prefer his munificence (liberality) toward empowering and not enabling the other. Again, some walk disorderly, working not at all, except to work ill to their neighbor, the one without conscience seeking the abundance of the other to supply his want!
   Sadly, non-profits and government bureaucracies have produced a culture of transgenerational welfare mentality that has transformed a sovereign people into becoming indigent, enslaved to the discretion of them from whom they have their hope and not at all to the will of Yahweh, Whose thoughts are much the more inclined toward the prosperity of His creation than to its impoverishment (Jer. 29:11).
   And so, the conclusion of this matter rests in the Scripture: If there be first a willing mind…a readiness to will, so [there may be] a performance also out of that which ye have… For [I mean] not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: but by an equality, [that] now at this time your abundance [may be a supply] for their want, that their abundance also may be [a supply] for your want: that there may be equality, 2 Corinthians 8:12, 11, 13.
   The Golden Rule expresses well this relationship: Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is Law and the prophets, Matthew 7:12.
   In the faith community, the purpose of one man’s distribution of his abundance is to relieve one’s NEED, not his GREED. Indeed, if we look at the content of James 2:15-16, the emphasis here is on those things which are needful to the body, as in, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food.” And so, in continuing to give to another who will not, after correction and instruction, guide his affairs with discretion, is to become a partaker in that man’s sin of working ill to his neighbor.
   This may sound heartless, but hey, I didn’t write The Book. One should not be enabled through another’s munificence, to continue in sin, taking of another’s blessing to support his own indiscretions.
   As we noted earlier, Yahweh has called us to empower one another; to provoke one another unto love and good works and there’s nothing there permitting us to enable another to continue in impudent conduct (Heb. 10:24).
   And neither, incidentally, the giver permit the taker to put a guilt trip on him, by citing Words, as: He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto Yahweh; and that which He hath given will He pay him again, and: For whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of Yah in him?… As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise… Give to every man that asketh of thee… Do good and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil… Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again, Proverbs 19:17; 1 John 3:17; Luke 6:31, 30, 35, 38.
   Yes, these words have a place but there are certain who are not worthy to eat at the altar set apart from them who will not neglect the first works. So, to appropriate these words and to exclude consideration of correction and instruction, is to neglect rightly dividing the Word of Truth, 2 Timothy 2:15.
Quite, will one find it helpful, to appropriate the spirit of 1 Timothy 5:1-14 in which the Apostle gives a judgment concerning them that are widows indeed!

The Second Principle to Responsible Financial Integrity and Security
   The natural man esteems and grants greater accord to what he can see more than to what he cannot see. Yahweh is Spirit, and it is therefore, in the heart of man, always to give Him what is left, instead of what is right!
   The world applauds your possessing the abundance of things (Luke 12:15). The world tells you, “Pay Yourself First.” The problem is, you’ll cheat. That’s why on a balance sheet, some will list “Discretionary” in the first column, and “Tithe” and “Alms,” in the last. The world stands beside you, and behind you, as you muse to yourself, and to every other who will hear you, Is this not great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? Daniel 4:30.
   But again, the Apostle Paul makes it clear: The love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they HAVE ERRED FROM THE FAITH and pierced themselves through with many sorrows… They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition, 1 Timothy 6:10, 9.
   They that live as if life consists in the abundance of things that can be possessed and who labour toward that end, for things which are highly esteemed by men but which are certain to perish with using, HAVE ERRED FROM THE FAITH!
   For this reason, the follower of Yahweh is enjoined to flee the snare and the root of all evil — the love of money and instead, follow after righteousness, piety, faith, love, patience, meekness, to fight the good fight of faith, and to lay hold on to eternal life, 1 Timothy 6:11-12.
   Little wonder, the Master accorded to us these words: Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also, Matthew 6:19-21.

The Third Principle to Responsible Financial Integrity and Security
   We who have knowledge, are without excuse. Yahweh is saying, beware that you forget not Who fed you and led you; that you muse not within your heart, “My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth,” (Deut. 8:11, 14-17). For we have nothing but what we haven’t received of Him (1 Cor. 4:7). Firstfruits is what is good, acceptable, and perfect. First, be rich toward Yahweh. He is saying, “Pay Me that thou owest,” (Matt. 18:28).
   I remember my first day (Sunday-keeping) days, when the offering basket was passed. Mine were more among the Washingtons, Lincolns, and Hamiltons and not so much, among the Jacksons, Grants, and Franklins. Those of us in the United States understand the values of these currencies. Scarcely for most of us, however, do the Washingtons, Lincolns, and Hamiltons represent the first fruits of our daily, weekly, monthly and annual harvests upon which to pay tithes, freewill offerings and almsgiving.
   While we do suffer at times from other’s actions and we are allowed to be tested by various trials (remember Job?), don’t be surprised if He is not, for your sake, rebuking the devourer (Mal. 3:8-11) if you decide to withhold tithes and offerings from Yahweh!
   Sure, you can borrow against your tithe, but why would you, when He requires the fifth part (twenty percent) (Lev. 27:31) to be added thereto? His usury rate is more than that of a bank, approaching rates imposed by Pay-Day loan outlets, also not a good place with which to do business.
   Someone will surely retort, “Yeah, but ...” — “buts” ALWAYS cancel what preceded it. Listen to what Yahshua says: Render therefore…unto Yahweh the things that are Yahweh’s, Matthew 22:21.
   This is not a word subject to being loosed on earth, and therefore loosed in Heaven! For ever, O Yahweh, is Thy Word settled in heaven, Psalm 119:89.

The Fourth Principle to Responsible Financial Integrity and Security
   First of all, if you consistently have more month left after the money’s all gone, then you’re the tail and beneath and in trouble. More debt is not the way in which to retire debt. You’ll have to scale back, because you’ll never, ever, become the head and above only, if you’re supporting debt relief by maintaining debt.
   So, now that you have recorded your income — for the day, the week, the semi-monthly, or monthly — you’ll have a good idea of the parameters established for expenses.

Following are practical applications of the four principles to responsible financial integrity and security toward resolving to live within your means:
1. Assess your income;
2. Shred the plastic in your wallet or purse;
3. No more coffees and donuts from the C-Store (convenience);
4. No more supporting your hobby or avocations;
5. Cancel/non-renew gym memberships;
6. No more Sunday afternoon joy rides;
7. Skip the trip, you can’t afford it;
8. Plan combined shopping trips;
9. No more going out to breakfast, lunch, and dinner;
10. No more sodas and chips at the C-store when fueling your vehicle;
11. No more lottery scratchers;
12. Cancel newspaper and magazine and internet subscriptions;
13. Change cell phone carriers;
14. Turn off the lights when you’re not in the room;
15. Set the AC & furnace thermostats higher or lower;
16. Don’t fill the tub with so much water, and don’t linger in the shower;
17. When grocery shopping, prepare a list before leaving home, and absolutely buy nothing that’s not on the list. Forgot something? Put it on next week’s list;
18. Shop vehicle/homeowner’s insurance: increase deductibles and co-pays; drop collision and comprehensive coverage on vehicles fully depreciated (if allowed by state law);
19. Don’t purchase new vehicles that depreciate 50% in value the first two years, be content with an old beater; purchase a low mileage two- or three-year-old vehicle that will likely have a remaining transferable manufacturer’s service warranty, and do NOT purchase an extended warranty on the vehicle;
20. Rent/house payment including insurance and real estate tax should not be more than 29% of your monthly gross income; if it is, downsize, refinance, or secure more income;
21. Render to Yahweh what is Yahweh’s, including the ministry-needs of the Assembly as administered by the Presbytery and to them who are His, without respect of person of any for whom also, He paid the price of Innocent Blood;
22. Establish an emergency fund, (save up to 3-6 month’s income) designated only for those unexpected expenses that occur, like necessary home and automotive repairs, out-of-pocket medical expenses, unemployment, temporary disability, etc. — place savings in an interest-bearing, checking privilege money-market account;
23. Seek debt relief through faith-based consolidation counseling for the purpose of reducing higher rates of interest paid to service debt, especially credit card, student loan and Automotive Credit Company interest - if consolidation of all debt into one is not a viable option, pay the lowest balance(s) first as a morale booster, so you can see and feel you are making progress;
24. ‘Lay aside every weight that besets you’ - liquidate unused or unwanted appliances, furniture, real estate, automobiles and apply proceeds to debt reduction to consignment shops, consignment auction houses, garage/yard/trash-treasure sales;
25. If you have student loan liabilities, inquire whether your employer will contribute to, or reimburse your scheduled repayment arrangements;
26. Don’t spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need, to impress people you don’t even like;
27. If you must use a credit card (discouraged to them who are fiscally irresponsible), pay the balance off every billing cycle;
28. Stay current on income, property tax and income tax liabilities;
29. Do NOT go surety (co-sign) a note for anyone, see Proverbs 11:15, 22:26;
30. Consider term life insurance (face value, 3-5 times annualized income…not whole life, or graded whole life) and health insurance, For every man shall bear his own burden, Galatians 6:5;
31. NEVER make purchases against an anticipated windfall, e.g., a court judgment on a liable/liability claim, an insurance settlement, an inheritance, because your rich uncle may have left you out of his will, and your ship may never come in;
32. exercise wisdom in conservative investment instruments for use during years of retirement and for bequeathing a legacy to children and grandchildren; the goal is not to outlive your resources and become a dependent on another’s charity, or upon the commonwealth of the State, For every man shall bear his own burden, Galatians 6:5.
33. advance plan discretionary expenditures, e.g. vacations, trips, etc. — REMEMBER, if you fail to plan, you have just planned to fail;
34. to aid in fiscal accountability, budget and maintain a month-by-month, multi-column account ledger — faithfully recording every expense and all income will give you a record of how well you are doing.

   Yeah, it’s gonna hurt — like chastening, grievous now, but joyous later.
   Some may conclude this was not particularly Spiritually-uplifting homiletics. However, I know, Yahweh, our Elohim, is a holistic Elohim, caring as much that we should, in the words of the Apostle John, above all things prosper and be in health, 3 John 1:2.

-Elder John Reece

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