Study Guide: Kingdom Economics Panel Discussion

Sunday March 21, 2010 | Greg Boyd, Guest Panelists, Mary Anderson

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

During the series, many people have sent in questions about their personal finances. Today we heard from a panel of people from Woodland Hills who responded to those questions with Kingdom of God principles.

Extended Summary:

Many people have been sending in questions about their personal finances to WHC. Today we heard from a panel of people from WHC who responded to those questions with Kingdom of God principles. Five questions were presented and responded to:

Question #1
“My wife and I live paycheck-to-paycheck on one income. We’ve always tried to live within our means, but we’re barely getting by. We aren’t able to save for emergencies and we know that’s not wise. Is it foolish to consider moving into an apartment to reduce our costs? Our son and daughter have only known life in a house with a backyard and pets.”

Response #1
In this first response we heard the story of a couple that took seriously the challenge to simplify their lives. They worked hard at reducing the number of their possessions and eventually decided to move out of their large house and into a mobile home on a lake. As a result, they reduced their possessions by 80% and their monthly expenses by 75%! This process took years, but it started with the decision to move in the direction of simplicity. As it happened, the husband was laid off from his job and the fact that they had downsized so much meant that they could get by without that job and the husband was free to pursue training as a Christian counselor, which was his primary passion.

Greg mention that at the initial stages of change like this, its important not to jump too quickly to conclusions but to move gradually in the direction of simplicity. As you make progress in that direction, more radical decisions become possible.

Another panel member made the point that it is important to include the whole family in the process of deciding to change lifestyles like this. If the kids are old enough, they should be included in the conversation too.

Question #2
My husband and I have made some poor decisions and have a number of debts. They can feel overwhelming, though, and we’re not great with finances. Where do we even start?

Response #2
A panel member responded that the two ways out are either to increase your income or reduce your spending. If you (the wife) are able to get a job that might help, but doing that presents other problems too. You may have to add a vehicle, pay for parking, childcare, lunches, etc. And there will be more stress and less time with the kids if you have them.

Greg reminded us of his previous messages where he challenged us to “get real” with our finances and invite others into the process.

Another suggestion was that you “fire yourself” from running the finances. We are usually too close to our spending habits to look at them objectively. We too easily confuse wants with needs. Things that we often don’t consider letting go are: lattes, eating out, sharing resources with neighbors and friends, renting a room out, moving in with others, cancelling the cell phone/cable, etc. These things all add up over the course of a month or a year!

Question #3
I’m in a small group that’s been together for awhile, and we want to take additional steps to live our lives in a more connected way. Can you offer us some ideas?

Response #3
Try the book: Good Sense for Small Groups.
Some small groups pool their resources and even help each other get out of debt! In Acts 2 we see that the early Christian communities shared all things in common. There’s no reason we cannot move in that direction today too. We can share things like money, housing, snow-blowers, lawnmowers, vehicles, and so forth. These things strengthen our communities as well as reduce the amount of “stuff” we all have to take care of.

Question #4
The debt we owe on our house is overwhelming. It feels like the one hurdle that keeps us from the stewardship we long for. Is it wrong to allow your house to go back to the bank?

Response #4
This question was responded to by Greg in last week’s message. The short answer is pay the debt if it is at all possible. If its not, you should contact someone in the Care area at WHC and they will be able to point you to some resources that may be able to prevent entering into foreclosure.

Question #5
What’s the best way to buy a car? Take out a loan to get a new car with a warranty? Buy an older car that I may have to pay for repairs on? What about leasing?

Response #5
Buy a used car and pay for it up front if possible. If you need to take out a loan, when you’ve paid the loan off, keep making the same size payments but put the money into savings so that the next car you buy you will be able to pay for with cash. Leasing may be good if you own a small business and can write it off as a business expense.

General comments at the end were as follows:
Pay extra on debt whenever possible! Don’t just pay the minimum due. For example, if you pay one extra payment’s worth on your home mortgage each year you’ll cut the remaining time of the loan in half!

Reflection Questions:

  1. What stood out to you most from the panel discussion?
  2. Which of the questions struck closest to home for you? Why? What steps are you taking to move towards simplicity in this area?
  3. What are some things we have as members of this small group that we could share with one another instead of each duplicating what others have? See question/response #3 above.
  4. In response #2 the advice to “fire yourself” from running your own finances was given. What do you think of that advice? Are there people in your life who you are willing to share your financial situation with so you can benefit from their advice? If you already do this, how has that worked out for you? If you haven’t, why not?
  5. Question/response #1 was all about simplifying and downsizing. Do you have a story to share about this sort of move? What are some things you’d like to be freed from that you could donate or sell to make your life simpler?