Information security is on everybody’s minds these days. It has been for a while, but the Edward Snowden saga has brought it center-stage.
No matter which position you take on it, the Snowden story evokes strong concerns. We want protection from terrorists; the 9/11 and Boston Marathon tragedies made us feel just how awful it is when physical security is absent. Still, the idea of a police state makes our blood curdle.
We expect government agencies to assure that we can go about our daily lives free from the fear of being harmed. At the same time, granting central government or tech companies the authority to know everything about us in order to keep us safe makes us feel tremendously insecure, too.
When we enter the arena of financial security, we find a similar bent toward unhealthy extremes. We find strong emotional drivers taking charge of our decisions.
Some of us fixate on shaky economic forcasts or we ruminate on how greed-fueled, high-risk banking practices erased people’s net worth in our recent recession. So we fix the problem by not trusting banking or investment vehicles with one cent of our money. Caution becomes extreme because our hearts are ruled by fear.
The trouble with a fear-driven heart is that leads to inaction. We may be pleased with ourselves for not losing any of God’s money, but a holding pattern doesn’t please the Owner either. In the Parable of the 10 Minas in Luke 19, the servant who was given 1 mina and only had 1 mina to give back (due to fear) did not make the nobleman happy!
Hand off security to God
A few of us err in a different direction. We pick up Matthew 6, and focus on where it says: “You cannot serve God and money.” We say in a pious voice, “I’m choosing to serve God, so I’m not to care about money. God takes care of feeding the birds and beautifully clothes the plants, so I’m not to concern myself about money and the stuff it buys. That’s all in God’s hands.”
But here is where we distort the purpose of this phenomenal passage. Christ, here, is calling us to keep God in His rightful primary place of worship, warning us that worry/anxiety about food and clothing indicates a worship of the mammon of this world. But Christ certainly never intended this teaching to undermine His clear mandate to be diligent, productive stewards. He’s temporarily putting things into the hands of us stewards, so that we can do something great with it. In fact, our intentional hard work of stewarding the mammon is one of the ways we worship the Owner.
Security by not letting go
Lastly, there’s the error of retaining control. About 80 percent of planned gifts coming to charities in America come in the form of bequests at the donor’s death. It’s popular to give after we’re gone. From my estate work with Food for the Hungry (FH) I would guess that the percent of funds left to children at death, rather than during life, is similarly high.
Now, when folks are not sure they’ll have enough saved to live on in retirement, a bequest is a very sensible option. We need to be sure we retain enough in our respective nest-eggs to live on. It’s certainly not honoring to God to become dependent on family or the government if, through our work, God provides enough to live on. Once we’re sure we no longer need it, we give the little that’s left.
The problem is that some of us have more than enough to live on, and yet, we still keep it. We hold on to more than we ought to, because we don’t want to relinquish control. So it stays with us until death wrests it from our grasp, or we lock it into foundations and trusts to insure that not even death can rescue it from our control. We fall into hoarding what God had desired to do great things with now! And we know what God thinks about barn-builders who keep putting up bigger barns.
What does healthy financial security look like?
Now, there’s a point to ponder. We’ve talked about how we err in the extremes, but we each have to work out what God-honoring security looks like in each of our financial realities.
Proverbs 29:25 (ESV) announces – “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Are you feeling safe? What emotions are driving your heart in the realm of financial security?
One of the healthy alternatives to giving through your will or trust is to give now in the form of a gift annuity. For those who have a little extra, funding a gift annuity allows you to receive the charitable deduction now, then receive income from it throughout your retirement years. (Or, if you’d prefer you can fund one to provide a supplemental income stream to a senior family member.) It’s a secure, fixed income stream and typically pays a much better rate than CDs. In a nutshell, the gift annuity allows you to make the gift now, leave behind the stress of the stock/bond market, and get a steady supplemental income stream. Let me know if you’d like to explore whether this gift vehicle may be right for you. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-609-7839.