Being a good financial manager is an important part of successful living – for individuals and for nations. Many Americans don’t have a sound understanding of financial management. In addition, many Christians and Messianic Jews have been bamboozled by the prosperity teachers. Proverbs gives us principles that enable us to properly manage our finances.

Educate Yourself: Buy truth and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding (Proverbs 23:23). In the US, college graduates make significantly more money than those who do not graduate from college. Learn from the Jewish people, who value education and having a profession. For centuries, in many places in Europe, we were not allowed to own property or join the guilds. Often we were expelled from a nation and our wealth was confiscated. But a person could take his education or profession with him and start fresh somewhere else. If you want to increase wealth, getting a good education for yourself and your children should be a priority.

Have A Financial Plan: The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty (Proverbs 21:5). Those who have a good economic plan, who think ahead about how to improve their situation, will have an advantage over those who make hasty, thoughtless financial decisions.

Go To Work: He who tills his land will have plenty of food, but he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty (Proverbs 28:19). Tilling land is hard work. Do you want plenty of food? Go to work and work hard. If you do, you will generally have more than enough to meet your needs. Diligent, hard work is the basic way to create wealth.

Work Ambitiously: Where no oxen are the manger is clean, but much increase comes by the strength of the ox (Proverbs 14:4). Extra effort is the price of growth. People can increase their wealth by working harder, expanding a business and investing in better tools and technology.

Don’t Pursue Pleasure: He who loves pleasure will become a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not become rich (Proverbs 21:17). Wine and oil represent the finer things of life. By pursuing a life of luxury, pleasures and entertainment, you may live beyond your means and your responsibilities may be neglected, which may result in poverty. It is the person who is careful about indulging in luxuries and pleasures and who lives carefully in the present who makes his life more prosperous in the future.

Pretend To Be Poor: There is one who pretends to be rich, and has nothing. Another pretends to be poor, but has great wealth (Proverbs 13:7). The one who pretends to be rich has the newest car, clothes and gadgets; he enjoys a lot of entertainments, but he has nothing saved. Everything is leased; the house is mortgaged (and he has extracted the equity); he has maxed out his credit cards and has little or no money. The one who pretends to be poor lives below his means and invests his money wisely, which increases in wealth. The more you pretend to be poor, live below your means, save and then invest wisely (and in my opinion, the best investment is gold and silver in your own possession – especially silver), the more you will have. Adam Hamilton wrote: “Building wealth is hard work. Few, if any, shortcuts exist and it takes diligence, persistence, and sacrifice over years or decades to amass significant amounts of capital. The only way for a nation, company, or individual to become wealthy is to consume less than they earn. Savings is the key to wealth accumulation.”

Work Honestly: Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, but the one who gathers by labor increases it (Proverbs 13:11). How you get your wealth is important. Wealth acquired by illegal or immoral methods can diminish. Don’t cheat or steal. Don’t go for something-for-nothing or get-rich-quick schemes even if they seem to be “spiritually” based (sending in “seed money” to prosperity teachers and expecting a 30-, 60- or 100-fold return). Don’t gamble or play the lottery. Wealth that is not the result of honest work, saving and wise investment is not likely to be permanent.

Don’t Live On Borrowed Money: The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave (Proverbs 22:7). Living beyond your means, borrowing money that you absolutely don’t need, is the way to financial enslavement.

Beware Of Guaranteeing The Debt Of Others: Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger, hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider (Proverbs 27:13). The garment is used as collateral. It’s taken from the one who has guaranteed someone’s debt and that someone is unable to pay his debt. It’s not wise to risk your financial well-being because you have guaranteed another’s debt, since so many people live beyond their means and mismanage their finances.

Live Right: Adversity pursues sinners but the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity (Proverbs 13:21). A person who is convicted of a felony can severely limit his financial opportunities. Bad habits and sinful activities can be expensive. If, instead of smoking one pack of cigarettes a day ($5 a pack), you invested the money at 5 percent interest, at the end of 10 years you would have approximately $23,000! Besides destroying your will, mind, body and relationships, drug and alcohol abuse will ruin your finances. For most people, a divorce is financially devastating. Having children outside of marriage and having them raised by a single mother is financially challenging. Families led by a single woman have a higher poverty rate than families led by a married couple.

Financial Management Works: A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children (Proverbs 13:22) A good man who lives within his means, saves and invests, and who teaches his children to follow his example, is able to leave an inheritance to his children’s children because of his godly character and hard work.

These Principles Work – But Not Always: Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens (Proverbs 23:4-5). In this fallen, unstable world, wealth can disappear quickly. You set your eyes on it and it disappears. It makes itself wings and flies away like an eagle – fast, high, and for a long time! Expect sudden financial reversals. So, hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

These principles are true. And they apply to individuals and to nations. With that in mind, here’s a brief summary of how the United States is measuring up:

We Are Fulfilling These Principles

Educate Yourself: Although educational standards are deteriorating, we do educate our population. However, we don’t seem to be educating enough people in engineering and math. Work Ambitiously: We are a leader in research and innovation. Outsourcing millions of good manufacturing jobs has damaged us a lot.

We Are Not Fulfilling These Principles

Have A Financial Plan: If we have a national financial plan, other than heading toward a ruinous bankruptcy and currency collapse, I have no idea what it is. Go To Work: According to Shadow Stats, the real unemployment rate is 23 percent. With that many unemployed and underemployed, it’s difficult to claim we are going to work. Work Honestly: Much of our “wealth” is based on artificially low interest rates (cheap money), ever-increasing levels of debt and printing money not backed by anything. We have gone from an agricultural/manufacturing economic to a financial speculation/ponzi economy in which money is made from money. Live Right: We have many sinful behaviors and bad habits, which are hurting us, including high levels of divorce, children raised in homes without fathers, alcohol and drug abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and obesity. Pretend To Be Poor; Don’t Live On Borrowed Money: We have been living beyond our means for decades. We are so far in debt we will never pay off our debt with money that holds its value. Beware Of Guaranteeing The Debt Of Others: The federal government has guaranteed the nation’s banks, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other obligations, which amount to as much as $200 trillion – an astronomical amount that will never be paid in today’s dollars. Expect Sudden Reversals: Our Keynesian economic theory is fatally flawed. The US economy is over-indebted. Our money is not backed by anything. The government economic statistics are fraudulent. Our accounting standards have been corrupted. The regulatory agencies have been captured by crony capitalists and are corrupt. Our banks are over-leveraged and under-capitalized, backing hundreds of trillions of dollars’ worth of derivatives. The bond market is in a massive bubble. Stocks are over-valued. The markets have very high levels of margin debt. A lot of the trading is done by high-speed computers run by algorithms. The world economy is deteriorating. The markets are globalized so that a problem in Europe, China or Japan would impact us here. What could possibly go wrong?