Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Mind" -> What Should We Lend

"But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back" --Luke 6:35

There are many things in life that are easy to talk about:  What are you doing this weekend?  What is your favorite type of music?  Where do you want to go on vacation?

However, some areas of conversation will immediately throw off negative interactions in many circumstances:  What is your religion?  Why do you believe that?  What do you think about race relationships?  What do you think about sex and when it can be used?

And there is the money questions.

Money signifies our time and effort.  It is our focus of power.  It allows us to control or not control our lives.  A flow of money can make one highly dependent or highly independent.

"The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender."--Proverbs 22:7 

When you give money to somebody, and you expect them to pay you back, they become indebted to you.  This indebtedness is power over them.

Now, I was raised with very simple rules on lending to people.  I was the son of a depression era child, and a grandson of a man that made his money with only an eighth grade education.  On my maternal side of the family, my mother would agree with my father on this, but only for opposite reasons.  My father did and trained pretty much what his father taught him.  My mother saw the problems from not following these rules on her side.

Rule 1:  Give and never expect it back

I really only broke this rule once, and it was a complete disaster.  Here is what happened.  I was in a circumstance where a friend wanted to borrow some money to buy a computer, when computers were first coming out.  The kids of today may not remember, but the first personal computers were very expensive and didn't do much other than word processing and spreadsheets.  There wasn't even and internet..  He was an extremely likable person, and seemed to have a very good reason for why he needed to borrow the money.  I lent him the money, fully expecting to get the money back.  However, as it became the time to pay back, there was a problem, and suddenly he could not pay the bill.  Now, the amount of money that he wanted was worth maybe 3-4 days of my salary at the time.  I had a good job and my wife had a good job.

The problem is that I expected to be paid back, and when it did not happen the way that I expected, it made me upset at the person.  I could afford to give the money, but somehow I felt that the person had really let me down and had misled me about their ability to pay me back.  It was as if this person had stolen from me, and it made me mad.  It had permanently ruined any possibility of a relationship with this person.

Recently, I had a friend come to me and ask me if he could borrow a substantial amount of money for an investment idea that he had.

"I'll pay you back in 3-4 months.  I just need a bridge loan," he said.

Now, this person is generous and generally reliable, but he wanted a big chunk of money, roughly a month's worth of salary.  He is well placed at my company, and he should be able to have money to to do stuff.  The risk, I would imagine, would be low.

"You know, I've been taught by my Grandfather and my Dad to never lend money," I said.  "I'll think about it overnight, but I want you to know that this is just something that I've been taught never to do."  I did think about it overnight, and I went back and told him no.

"I am proud of my heritage," I said.  "I just can't do something like this because I've stressed to my own kids that this isn't the type of thing that you should do with friends."

Interestingly, he understood.  He said that he knew that lending money is risky to friendships.

Let's say that you think I am too hard nose.  Well at least I hope you aren't stupid.  While this was a friend with a good job, I still don't know what is really going on in his life.

If I lent a large some of money to him, I would want to make sure that he was spending it on the right stuff.  I would be watching him everyday and wanting him to show that he understood that this was a big chunk of money.  If he went out for lunch and didn't bring a brown bag, I would be thinking to myself "He's spending my money.  I don't think he should be doing that."

If he played golf, I would be thinking, "He playing golf with my money."

This is the reason why you need to give without expecting it back.  If you don't expect it back, you won't sit and say "Well that person is spending it wrong."  Once you give the money away, it is their money.  This means that you need to let it go, and the worry and stress is gone from you.

However, this is an interesting experiment, because it made me think about how much my friendship with him was worth.  I made up my mind that I would be willing to give him one day of my wages if he really needed it.  This was free and clear.  In some ways, it would be like going over to a friends to help them move for a day.  You shouldn't expect that you'll get a return.

Rule 2:  Give to those that are needy

"If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. 36 Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you. 37 You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit." --  Leviticus 25:35-37

The interesting thing about my friend that was borrowing money is that there is not reason for him to borrow money.  If I had agreed to lend money to him, I would have asked him a series of financial questions.

"What is your salary?"
"What are you buying?"
"What is your leverage?"
"Why do you think this is a good deal?"
"Have you plotted out your cash flow?"

I'm sure if I dug into his reason for having money, he would be making choices that I found very unsatisfactory.  Thus as I found more and more, I would be convinced that he was making a bad decision.  Generally, people that try to borrow money like this don't have good money sense.  In this case, I know this individual is very heavily leveraged, and if the economy goes a bit south again, he will be destroyed.  He is gambling that the economy will stay the same or get better.

Thus once I started to get into his finances, I would have had a conflict.  Not because he needed money, but because I felt he was doing something stupid.  He was doing something that I would never do.

Therefore, if you are going to lend, you should lend to the those that are needy.  The poor are not trying to blow their own money (in most cases).  They are trying to simply figure out how to live.  If you combine this with the original passage from Luke at the top of the post, you'll have what God's plan is for us.

We lend to the poor.  Now, the poor may chose to pay us back.  If they do, then they say something about themselves.  I believe that their reward is just, and God will honor that they wish to own no man a debt.  However, if they cannot pay you back, you have done your duty as a Christian and allowed them to live.

No, I did not lend to my friend with a good job.  However, my wife and I do contribute to and make this our place of giving.  There is no more important calling that to wish our Brothers and Sisters both spiritual health, but also heath of physical body.

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