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Should You Become a Cash Expert?

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 One summer, James decided to start his own business mowing lawns, pulling weeds (which he quickly learned that he disliked), trimming hedges, and planting flowers and bushes for people. He started with his bicycle and asked a friend to help him construct a trailer, which he pulled behind his bike, containing a lawn mower, gas can, and other tools. 

Some of the things James learned that summer were how fast cash can be spent, how much work is required to get it, and how slow it seemed to get in his pocket. At times he felt as if most of his job was either getting new customers, watching that he didn’t spend too much money, or helping his customers remember to pay him. The other part of his time was spent actually doing the work. 

As a Christian, if you had the chance to take a job that gave you experience making decisions about cash, should you take it? Should you train for such a job by going to college and learning all you can about making decisions that involve money? 

For me the answer is, “Absolutely, but it depends!” Here are some of the reasons.

Cash. It’s a paradox. When we don’t need it, it’s everywhere; but when we need it, it’s nowhere. We can’t live without it. Some can’t live with it. Some people never seem to have enough of it. Most of us wish we had more of it. All of us would rather have it now instead of next year. We all need to know something about handling cash, but some people need to become experts in making decisions about cash and things that can be turned into cash for the benefit of their organizations. 

The Bible says that of all the dimensions of a full, flourishing life, it is only the economic dimension that should have limits placed on it (see Exodus 20:8–11, 15, 17). Spiritual well-being, physical health, mental health, social harmony, and international peace are all good. We should encourage more of these. But economic prosperity must have some constraints so that the other dimensions of true prosperity can be fully experienced.

The writer of Hebrews gave us this counsel: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV).* Jesus Himself said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15, NIV).

The Bible gives examples of people with the capability to deal with money. In spite of the trials he had as a teenager, everything that Joseph touched increased in value (Genesis 41–47). He used his knowledge to benefit his employer and later to help the whole empire of Egypt when it was in a financial crisis. 

Solomon seemed to have the Midas touch too. In contrast with Joseph, King Solomon seemed to let the love of money get the better of him. He had great success, but for the last 20 years of his reign, he sowed the seeds of destruction for the entire nation. Even so, as he looked back on his experiences of hard work to earn money and fame (the book of Ecclesiastes), he realized how small these are in comparison to a relationship with God.

Most organizations that try to earn a profit need an employee who specializes in making decisions about cash—how and when to spend it, where to get more of it (borrowing money or selling stock), and where to invest any surplus of cash that is earned from the business. In the world of business, we call such a person the financial manager or the treasurer. It’s an important job, for sure.

Your local church also has someone who serves as the treasurer. But while church or mission activities require money and funding for these functions, they do not always lend themselves easily to using the same decision-making criteria that are used in for-profit businesses. When leaders of a congregation decide how to spend their money, this requires careful thought. The reason is that the type of “investment” they make is not for a financial gain but rather for the non-monetary values of caring for people and for spreading the gospel. 

A key focus of the financial manager in the for-profit world is to increase the organization’s value over time and how to know when this occurs. With their knowledge of the time-value of money, financial managers are a big help to others who plan for the future. They help the strategic decision-makers estimate the financial value of one business opportunity instead of another. 

They recommend how to use the organization’s property, buildings, equipment, and cash to yield the most beneficial results for the long run. They are the liaisons between the company and others who have cash or who want cash. Because of this, they become experts in investing and borrowing cash.

Now, think about what financial managers can do for the rest of society as a whole! Collectively, cash experts can help their communities—and when scaled up, the nation—increase the wealth of society as a whole. Financial managers help society avoid wasting cash by making stupid investment decisions. 

Financial managers are located at the place where the goals for cash and other goals for a flourishing life sometimes collide. Take for instance the company called Accu-Fab, located in Raleigh, North Carolina, whose story was told in Inc. magazine in 2003. Accu-Fab makes custom metal cabinets for other organizations. The owners are Christians. When times were good for business, it was easy for the owners to spend money on Christian mission activities. They hired a chaplain. They paid for religious books to be sent to their customers. When the market was not so good for their business, the owners had to make drastic cuts in expenses. They faced the excruciating decision of whether to cut wages for everyone or lay off some people in order to save the organization. 

Laying someone off certainly cuts into that person’s flourishing life, at least in the short run. Cutting wages can also put a damper on flourishing. But not doing something would have resulted in killing the business and, in the process, hurting all employees. 

Financial managers participate in the decisions in which more than the financial interests of society must be balanced. Not everyone is prepared to take on this responsibility. Not everyone is prepared to constrain cash goals so that other goals can be achieved.

In spite of his own problem with riches, wealthy King Solomon understood that there are some things more valuable than money. He mentions five of them in his book of Proverbs:

Wisdom: “She is more precious than rubies” (Proverbs 3:15).

• Diligence: “Diligence is man’s precious possession” (Proverbs 12:27).

Speaking knowledge: “There is gold . . . , but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel” (Proverbs 20:15).

Reputation: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches” (Proverbs 22:1).

Truth: “Buy the truth (faithfulness), and do not sell it” (Proverbs 23:23).

I started by asking the question, “As a Christian, if you had the chance to take a job that gave you experience making decisions about money, should you take it?” I still think so, but it depends! A deeper question is, “What will prepare you to keep the more valuable things described in Proverbs a higher priority than cash?” Are you prepared to keep in view the larger goals of a complete, flourishing life, in all its dimensions, over the long run when making cash decisions either for yourself or the company you work for? If not, being an unprincipled financial manager can very well become destructive for yourself, for your company, for society, and most of all, for God. 

* Scripture quotations marked NIV are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Michael E. Cafferky is the Ruth McKee Chair for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics at Southern Adventist University School of Business. Before starting his teaching career, he served as a chief financial officer of a hospital.


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