Money Lessons From The Bible, With Bob Lotich
Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, TomDrake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.
In today’s episode, my guest and I tackle money lessons from the world’s most well-known book, the Bible. Bob Lotich is the founder of Seedtime, a resource for people who are looking for Biblical wisdom on how to handle their money.
I asked Bob what the Bible has to say about topics such as going into debt, hoarding, even the principles of budgeting and financial planning. We discuss the importance of giving, and the idea that it’s more blessed to give than to receive.
Lastly, Bob sets the facts straight about an oft-misquoted Bible verse. Is money really the root of all evil? Listen in to find out.
Even if you’re not a Christian, you’ll get something out of this episode, as it’s packed with practical advice that will help you manage your money and help others.
This week’s show is sponsored by Borrowell, Canada’s leading credit education company. My wife and I receive our free credit scores and credit reports, along with an update each month via email. I look forward to these updates, to see whether my credit score has improved or not. You can do the same. Get your free credit score from Borrowell today.
- Is money really the root of all evil?
- What does the Bible say about debt?
- Bob explains the feeling of paying off his own debt, including his mortgage.
- Bob shares stories from the bible that can offer a lesson on budgeting and planning your finances.
- What did Jesus mean when he said “It’s more blessed to give than to receive”?
- Bob explains the principle of sowing and reaping.
- What does the Bible say about tithing, and why is it such a controversial topic?
We’ve had a lot of experts on to provide various money lessons but what lessons can be gained from the most known book in the world. To help discuss what the Bible teaches us about money I’ve brought on Bob Lotich from Seed Time. Even if you’re not Christian, this episode provides a lot of solid advice about how to handle your money and use that money to help others.
Welcome to the Maple Money Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom.
Today’s show is brought to you by our sponsors at Borrowell, Canada’s leading credit education company. My wife and I both signed up to get our free credit scores and credit reports and we receive an update each month via email. I love getting emails each month from the Borrowell team letting me know if my score has improved or not. Get your free credit score at maplemoney.com/borrowell. Now, here’s Bob Lotich…
Tom: Bob, welcome to the Maple Money Show.
Bob: Thank you for having me.
Tom: I wanted to talk with you today about what we can learn from the Bible towards our personal finances. It’s not just for Christians. Obviously, Christians will get a lot more out of this but I think there’s a lot of helpful information even if you’re into other religions or you just believe in having a money mindset or anything like that, or just how to be a better person and how to use your money to do better things. I think we can learn a lot from here.
Bob: Yeah, I completely agree.
Tom: So I think one of the big ones I’ve always found interesting in the Bible is the love of money is the root of all evil. It’s one that gets used a lot just in regular circles. What are your thoughts on that?
Bob: Well, the misquoting there is that “money is the root of all evil” when technically, it’s actually “the love of money” that’s the root of all evil. I think we all know that. I think we look at some of the stereotypical kind of executives on Wall Street and at Enron and situations like that where we see people who maybe are just really lustful for being rich and really are in love with money. It just seems to lead down a really bad path. But one of the interesting things, I think, is that a lot of us who maybe aren’t that wealthy or affluent just kind of think that we’re off the hook. But, realistically you can love money if you have a lot of money or you have no money. So I think it’s something that we all should think about, evaluate and just continue to check ourselves to make sure that we’re not going down that path.
Tom: And one of the things that I’ve often heard called evil is something like credit cards. It reminds me of what you just said because it just depends on what you’re doing with it. It’s not using a credit card that’s wrong, right?
Bob: Yeah, going back to previous point, money itself is not evil. It’s loving money, according to that verse. It’s the same with credit cards. I don’t think it’s a good idea to carry a balance to and be paying 15 or 20 percent interest rates on your credit cards. But, if you’re using it like a charge card and getting the rewards from it, I see a lot of benefit to be gained there personally.
Tom: What can the Bible show us about debt itself? Maybe you have used your credit card incorrectly and now you’ve got this extra debt. What can we learn from the Bible there?
Bob: The Bible never really has anything good to say about debt. It doesn’t say it’s a sin. It doesn’t say anything like that but it’s just never really talked about in terms of, “Yeah, just go and get a whole bunch of debt because we’ll be able to do some really cool stuff,” which I think we all know is wrong. In my case, when we got married we started to pay off all of our debt. I wanted to get out of debt. We had student loans, car loans, credit cards and all these different debts so we just worked toward paying it off. By 2012 we ended up having all our debt paid off and we actually paid off our mortgage too. We were 100 percent debt-free. This was amazing and it felt so great. It felt like we were just floating. The famous Bible verse says that the borrower is slave to the lender. That’s in Proverbs somewhere if you want to look it up. But any of us who have had a whole lot of debt can relate to that bondage, especially if you have debt collectors calling. You feel like you’re a slave to that debt. Anyway, after we paid off our mortgage I felt so free like this entire weight had been lifted off. I felt like I was floating—it felt great. And then we moved three years later. So we had three years of being 100 percent debt-free. We moved to another city with a higher cost of living and chose to buy a house and take out a mortgage and immediately I could feel that burden back. We didn’t have any other debt. It’s just a mortgage payment. It’s not like it’s that big of a deal. But, within months I said, “We’ve got to get this thing paid off. And, I’m never going into debt again. That feeling of not having a debt and not having to owe anyone is just so good. I never want to come back to this place.” And so yeah, it’s just one of the things where I feel the Bible encourages us to seek out a path of eliminating debt because debt was a very regular occurrence for a lot of people back then. It was used very differently then but it was a thing that was still there. So, all I have to say is it’s an encouragement for us to stay out of debt. And personally, I’ve seen a lot of benefit from it so that’s how I want to live my life.
Tom: And that verse, being so old, is probably more relevant now than it ever has been.
Bob: Yeah, the last 50 years or so with the rise and prevalence of credit cards and how insane so many of us have become with using them for everything, there is absolutely so much relevancy.
Tom: I’ve said on the show before, I’ve never had a huge debt issue. I had some debt and I certainly paid it off. But my issue was buying a lot of things that I didn’t need, especially in college. It felt a bit like hoarding. Some of the stuff I’m still trying to get rid of 20 years later. And still, it sits in boxes. Does the Bible say anything about hoarding?
Bob: Yeah, I think are the handful verses that I can kind of tie to that idea. I’ve never thought of it specifically in terms of hoarding but I think for Christians and believers, anything that comes between us and God is a problem. I think it’s probably the root of hoarding in a lot of ways. A lot of times it’s just putting your trust in something else. Maybe you have been fearful of running out and therefore you have to save so much. I think, fundamentally, that just kind of works against faith. Those are my thoughts—what first came to mind when you asked that.
Tom: Hoarding is not too far off from greed. I know there’s a lot more. One of the lines that I grabbed was, “He who is greedy for gain, troubles his own house.” That’s similar to what you just said about hoarding. It just reminded me of how it gets in the way and kind of brings you down a little.
Bob: Yeah, absolutely.
Tom: The next thing I wanted to cover was the savings side. Another line I grabbed was, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” It seems like another line where that can apply to personal finance (as I see it) in being a benefit of financial planning and budgeting. Is there anything there you can elaborate on?
Bob: You can see planning all throughout the Bible. You can go way back in the Old Testament and see where Noah gets a heads-up from God to build this ark because there would be this crazy big flood. And, regardless of whether or not you believe this story is actually true, there’s a lesson to be taken there. It’s the same with Joseph in Egypt. For those who might not be familiar, basically, he rose up through the ranks, through the prison, and became Pharaoh’s right-hand man. He helped Egypt prepare for a seven year famine by saving for seven years. You see that all throughout the book of Proverbs. There’s just a lot of talk about the wisdom of saving and preparing for the future.
Tom: Now, all of this sort of helps us improve our personal finances but at some point there comes a time to give back. I know there’s a lot in the Bible about giving, can you go into that?
Bob: Are you looking for anything specific?
Tom: Yes, maybe the joy of giving. I know with my business we give 5 percent back to financial literacy causes. It feels good that we’re helping out for a certain cause. I know there’s a lot in the Bible about that Joy of giving.
Bob: Well, I think one of the most interesting things is that, in red letters– and what I mean by that is, in older Bible’s they would put Jesus’ words in red letters. So, in red letters, He said, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” I think it’s real easy just to kind of take that something Jesus just said and blow it off but if you actually think about what that means, it really doesn’t make sense, at least for me. When I first heard that I thought, “Really? Would I rather give $10,000 or get $10,000? I think if you just see things from a short-sighted perspective it’s really easy to just assume that getting something is better and that I am more blessed. I’m enjoying my life more because I got $10,000 than if I gave away $10,000. I think it’s actually just a short-sighted perspective. If you actually see things with a longer term horizon and you actually see them the way they really are then I think that’s when you truly begin to understand that it’s actually better. Basically, if you see your life from 10,000 foot perspective instead of just this moment, this week, this year even. And, if you’re 80 years old and looking back on your life, I think that’s when it’s actually clear to see and understand. That’s one thing that’s just always kind of been fascinating to me. Something else I think is really crazy is that the Bible says that as we give we will have more which is completely counterintuitive. I just gave away $10,000 and you’re saying that I’m going to have more? But, yeah, there are tons of verses that promise us that as we give, we’re going to be given back to. My website is called Seed Time. It’s based off of a Bible verse in Genesis where it says there will always be seed time and harvest. This whole idea of sowing or reaping is a biblical thing. The key to reaping more is sowing more. So God really does have this kind of seed time principle in effect with our giving, but also in all kinds of other areas of life as well. So that’s really interesting.
Tom: Yeah, the point you brought up about being 80 years old kind of makes me think, do you just want to have a big bank account or do you want to have this legacy where maybe you’ve helped people in various ways? It could be giving money. It could also be volunteering and everything.
Bob: Yeah, and I think as we mature— I’m 37 right now and I feel like I have some level of maturity. I still have a ways to go but at least I’m out of my teenage years so I’ve made some progress there. But I think as you mature and have moments where you are able to have a positive impact on someone’s life and you sense joy from doing that, I think that’s where that’s headed. That’s when you can start to see some of the fruit of that and really feel like it is actually fun. When I can use something I have to really improve this person’s life or even save this person’s life, that’s when I think it gets really fun.
Tom: Yeah, for sure. I’ve felt the same with giving personally, but also through the business—you’re able to do something. In the case of my business, sometimes it’s as simple as filling the needs of the food bank. I’ll go to the store and purchase certain items they truly need (that were listed on their website) and bring that in. You know you’re helping someone out. And it feels great.
Bob: Yeah, absolutely.
Tom: For those that are Christians, what about tithing? I’ve heard 10 percent. I know I don’t do that personally and I’ll admit that. What are the rules there?
Tom: There is a lot of debate about tithing. It’s probably the most controversial topic I’ve ever written about. I’m sure non-Christians just think it’s just insane but even among Christians it’s a very, very heavily debated topic. Where I land on the whole thing comes from a verse in Malachi. It’s Malachi 3:10. It says; “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. If you do this I’m going to open up the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing have an import a blessing you can’t contain.” Personally, in my life I have seen that. I have experienced that. I think I started tithing a year or two before I got married and she had tithed before that. So when we came together we just continued tithing and we actually worked to go beyond our tithe. We would just continue to stretch our giving higher and higher and higher. And in our experience I just feel like we have experienced where the windows of heaven have been opened and we’ve just had an abundance of blessing pour out on us that feels like we can’t contain. I feel like we have lived that verse personally. So I’m a huge proponent for it now. I’m not an advocate of it being a very legalistic, law-bound thing where you become a Christian and you have do this. I definitely don’t think it’s a sin not to. It’s absolutely not something that keeps you from going to heaven. It has nothing to do with that. I view it more as an opportunity for us to do something, again, that is completely counterintuitive and makes no sense in the natural, but to trust God in this area and see what he does. My jaw has dropped with what has happened as we continue to test him in that area. And I should add that that’s the other part of that verse. That’s the one part in the Bible where it says that we can test God is in this area of giving. Namely, that’s been our experience and that’s what I talk about because that’s what I know.
Tom: Yeah. Even if some people are not Christian, going back to the idea of charity, if you could afford to make 10 percent, that could make a huge difference around your local city or your country. Or if you want to take it as personal finance we could also say that it’s still shows the importance of saving 10 percent towards your retirement. There is still this idea that giving that 10 percent gives you a benefit in the future. Let’s switch this around. I just want to cover a bit of how this can affect business. One of the things I see a lot (in what I know of the Bible) is about ethics. One of the lines I grabbed was, “Dishonest money dwindles away but whoever gathers money little-by-little makes it grow.” That could really apply to business ethics and how you run your business.
Bob: Yeah, how we run our business is like how we run our lives and how we make decisions. I didn’t realize this before I was a business owner and you might not have either, but basically, a business is an extension of you. Your own honesty, your own approach to how you treat people… That just funnels down and trickles down throughout your business. Even if you have employees, it all just kind of comes from the top. And I didn’t realize that as much before I started my first business. But knowing that, I don’t really separate one from the other anymore because I can’t expect to have a business that is basically run with sound ethical processes or approaches to things if I’m not doing that in my own life. Just the basic principles of how to walk in love with one another, how to treat each other and the golden rule—all these thing just make for a good business. If that’s your goal (which I think it should be) I think those are businesses that will have longevity. You can build a business in the short-term, screw people over, try to scam people and you can probably make a lot of money in a short time but you’re not going to last. You’re not going to be around in 10 years doing that. To me, it just makes a lot more sense to do things the right way and to think long-term with it all. That’s very much a biblical approach.
Tom: I think more than ever, nowadays, people are looking for those ethical businesses. They want to feel aligned with the purpose of that business.
Bob: Yeah, just the social entrepreneurship and all that stuff. And it’s great that so many businesses now are almost built on the idea of giving back. It’s almost like some entrepreneurs have figured out that we don’t need to start a not-for-profit to help this particular cause because they can build a business and actually probably have more impact. I’m thinking about Tom’s Shoes and some of those big ones that have made a big impact. I’m glad that they did it the way they did.
Tom: The final thing I was thinking of for business was the idea of rest. I’ve said on the show before, I work a day job and then I spend time with my family and work in the evenings and on weekends. The Bible talks a lot about the importance of rest, specifically the on the seventh day. But even beyond that I know you also are big fan of sabbaticals as well. Can you explain what that is and how that helps?
Bob: Yeah, I could talk for a long time about this but I’ll be brief. I never really understood the Sabbath thing, really, for maybe the past few years. I just always viewed it as this outdated religious obligation to not work on Sunday and it didn’t really make sense to me. I probably ignored it most times. In the last couple of years I’ve read a couple books about it and I feel like I’ve grown a little bit in this area. I’m seeing it completely different now. I see it as an opportunity to have faith. Now I’m really good about not working on Sunday. I dedicate that day to play, basically. And I might have the best opportunity in the world to come up on a Sunday for me. Like, the New York Times people may want to get a quote for an article they’re putting out tomorrow. And God help me, if that happens I’m going to turn it down because it’s the Sabbath. Honestly, I’m not checking my email anyway so I won’t even know about it. But the reason that I would do that is because it’s an opportunity for me to stand in my faith with God and to basically say, “God, here’s a deal. You told me to do this and if you told me to do that I trust that it’s going to work out better for me if I do this than if I don’t. So even though it looks like I might be getting quoted in the New York Times I’m just going to trust you have something better in store as a result of that.” That has been kind of my approach in how I’ve changed with it. Now, selfishly, what I’ve discovered is taken a one month sabbatical for the last six years and I don’t know that I’ve ever done anything better for my business than taking that long a time off. Not working, not touching e-mail, just doing nothing. Every single time by week two or three I am chomping at the bit with so many ideas. I am so rested and refreshed. I am so excited to get back to work. I am so absolutely fired up basically to run my business and to do what I’m supposed to be doing. Selfishly, that’s the main reason I keep doing it. It’s just been so beneficial for my business. It’s really hard to do and it’s scary to take that much time off but I can tell you from experience, it takes some time to get things organized in a way that can do it maybe would delegate in a certain way but it’s going to be okay. Your business is going to survive. You have to take the necessary steps to do it but it’s been so good for my business.
Tom: I bet. I’ve seen a small bit of that just in pulling back how much I’m working and not staying up till 2:00 AM every day—that kind of thing. But by working less, sometimes I’m accomplishing more with just a clearer mindset. I can imagine having a month off. I’d probably be jotting down all these ideas.
Bob: Yeah, the amount of ideas I get is just crazy. I think there is a verse in Ecclesiastics that Stephen Covey borrowed, which is basically this idea of sharpening the saw. The verse– I forget how it goes, but more or less it is saying, “Spend some time sharpening the saw and not just swinging the axe all day long.” And that’s what so many of us do these days because there’s always stuff to do and there’s always more stuff that we can actually get done. So this idea of folks spending time on sharpening the axe—that’s what rest is—what it does for us. There’s just so much value there.
Tom: Can you let everybody know where they can find you online?
Bob: Yeah, seedtime.com, Etsy, Instagram, Twitter or whatever. We’re doing a lot on YouTube right now so you can find us over there as well.
Tom: Great. Thanks for being on the show.
Bob: Thanks, Tom.
Thanks as always for listening to this show. And thanks to Bob for helping sift through the Bible for money advice. You can find the show notes for this episode at maplemoney.com/boblotich. For this week’s call to action I want you to consider your own finances. Are you donating to a cause that matters to you? It could be a church or maybe towards cancer research or even your local SPCA. For most people the federal tax credit is .9 percent on donations over $200 for the year. You’re donating less; consider carrying that into future years to better take advantage of the credit.