A Culture Trying to Stand on Sinking Sand

Sep 27, 2023
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Baby Boomers are expected to bequeath more than $68 billion to their children, making Millennials the wealthiest generation in U.S. history. What will they do with their new-found riches? They’re likely to blow it! Research shows that 70% of family wealth is spent or lost by the end of the second generation, and 90% by the end of the third.

The culprits? Uncontrolled spending. Undue investment risk-taking. Poor business decisions. Self-destructive lifestyle choices. Family disharmony and infighting caused by greed for more of the family fortune. The wealth-management industry (yes, there is an entire industry dedicated to helping the rich stay rich) clearly has its hands full. Those who inherit large sums may have wealth at their disposal, but that doesn’t mean they know how to live well.

A high quality of life can be difficult to come by even though we live in the most affluent society in all of history. Why? Perhaps it’s because our society has steadily moved away from the Judeo-Christian ethic upon which our country was founded.

Jesus said, 'Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.'

Consider the differences between society’s prevailing attitudes toward life, work, family, and money versus the historical biblical view. Society and government’s perspective is that we came into existence strictly by chance. Accordingly, we are simply animals seeking to fulfill our needs. Furthermore:

  • Because there is no ultimate purpose or morality, we are free to invent our own. There are no absolutes. Ethical considerations are relative and personal, and they generally play little, if any, role in making career and lifestyle decisions.

  • The goal of work is to do whatever is necessary to achieve “success.” Indicators of success are tangible — money, possessions, and influence.

  • Because life is short, lifestyles are geared to immediate gratification — gaining as much pleasure as possible as quickly as possible. (This leads to higher consumption now and less saving for the future. A high level of debt and continuous use of credit is an acceptable means to this end.)

  • Because time is of the essence, investing choices gravitate to get-rich-sooner strategies with a short-term time horizon. Greed is a common (and understandable) motivator. Economic recessions are dreaded because they thwart progress toward financial abundance. 

Contrast these views with a biblical perspective that maintains we are essentially spirit beings with an eternal purpose, and we came into existence through the creative hand of God. It follows that:

  • Because God has a moral purpose for His creation, an unavoidable law of sowing and reaping prevails. Ethics are based on biblical wisdom and should play an important role in guiding career and lifestyle decisions.

  • The goal of work is to use our God-given talents to serve others or fulfill a calling. Indicators of success are often intangible — peace with God, showing love for others, and contentment in life.

  • Because eternal life awaits, a lifestyle of deferred gratification that is focused on eternal issues is appropriate. (This leads to less consumption now, generating more saving for the future and for giving to Christian ministry. A high level of debt and continuous use of credit is discouraged as an unnatural and enslaving lifestyle.)

  • Our investing choices can be geared to slow-but-sure strategies with a long-term time horizon. Greed is an unacceptable motivator. Recessions are accepted as unavoidable, and prepared for through a strategy of saving and diversification.

Jesus is almost universally regarded as the wisest moral teacher of all time, even by millions who don’t consider themselves Christians. At the end of what we call “The Sermon on the Mount,” He said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Our society and government may ignore His words, but at the personal and family level we still can choose to prepare for the inevitable storms of life by following biblical precepts. Take a good look around you. Rarely has the truth of the old hymn been so obvious: “On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

Written by

Austin Pryor

Austin Pryor

Austin Pryor has 40 years of experience advising investors and is the founder of the Sound Mind Investing newsletter and website. He's the author of The Sound Mind Investing Handbook which enjoys the endorsements of respected Christian teachers with more than 100,000 copies sold. Austin lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife Susie. They have three grown sons and many grandchildren.

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