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Ask Chuck: Troubled American

Ask Chuck your money question

Dear Chuck, 

I’m an American who believes our religious and financial freedoms are being threatened. I want to discuss this with our family during our 4th of July gathering. I am grateful to be an American but feel the country I love is quickly disappearing. Any insights for me? 

Troubled American

Chuck Bentley
(Courtesy of Christian Economic Forum)

Dear Troubled American, 

This is the month in which we celebrate our nation’s independence from the British empire and the resulting freedoms we have historically enjoyed…many of which are in fact threatened today.

Hooray for the red, white, and blue! 

I join you in gratitude to God for my American citizenship; we were wrong to ever take it for granted. 

My memories of our Independence Day celebrations are some of the best of my life. Our family traditions included a weekend at the lake, grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, hand-churned peach or banana ice cream, watermelon, and endless fun and games culminating with a spectacular fireworks show. Seldom did anyone give a talk about our freedom; it was assumed that the price that had been paid for it would forever solidify its value in our hearts and minds.  

Are we really losing freedoms? 

Economic freedom is frequently assumed to be a given right in the United States and most of the developed world. It is proven to be the most effective means for stimulating human flourishing. But what if economic freedom is impossible without religious freedom? 

In a new working paper, and summarized in a recent op-ed, Christos A. Makridis shows that religious liberty is a prerequisite to economic freedom. Using a sample of over 140 countries between 1996 and 2018, he shows that improvements in religious liberty pre-date improvements in economic freedom, not the other way around. The article states, “Since religious freedom fundamentally involves granting individuals the autonomy to think and worship in whatever form they wish, it is arguably the most basic of all freedoms.”  

The study reveals that this cornerstone of all our freedoms—the freedom to worship God as we choose—is declining in many developed nations. Between 2010 and 2020, it dropped 16.2% in the UK, 36.7% in France, and 29.6% in the United States. In general, the decline is occurring in developed nations where religious liberty has traditionally been strong.

This is the logical conclusion to the study: Should we lose religious freedom, economic freedom will soon follow.

Our hope is not in America 

America has changed, but, thankfully, God has not. We face financial risks, evil, and threats to our freedom on all sides, but we can confront our problems with wisdom, courage, and faith. Like Joshua, we must “be strong and courageous” as we face the “giants” in this land (Joshua 1).

Jeremiah grieved for his land, but he held fast to what he knew was true: "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’” (Lamentations 3:21-24 ESV).

Practical advice for your family 

The Bible advises that we should all operate with prudence. This is the wisdom to choose the right path to a worthy goal. I wrote about this in my recent book, Seven Gray Swans. A prudent person does not live at the mercy of their circumstances but takes action to be ready for the days ahead in a similar way that passengers buckle their seat belts if the pilot says, “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are expecting turbulence ahead.” Here are some of my general tips. Choose what you think will be helpful to your own family. 

  • Increase your capacity to weather storms

Save, and keep 15 months of annual income/funds in an emergency account that is not at risk of loss and is easily accessible without a penalty. God advised Pharaoh, through Joseph, to save in preparation for the great famine. Keep one month of cash on hand. Store it in a waterproof and fireproof location in your home. These funds will carry you through a disruption in online banking or any emergency that requires that you flee. Keep a small amount of gold coins on hand as insurance against a currency collapse.

  • Get free of encumbrances

Eliminate debt in order to avoid entrapments or obstacles that limit your personal financial freedom, mobility, and choices. Be as liquid as possible in order to have access to resources if quickly needed. Liquidity means having sufficient cash on hand to meet financial responsibilities. Maintaining liquidity above the bare minimum is considered wise in order to guard against unexpected expenses. 

Liquid assets may be cash or property that can readily be converted to cash without substantial loss in value. Illiquid or fixed assets are possessions of value that are held long-term, like real estate or equipment. 

  • Reduce vulnerability and diversify

Diversify investments into different assets classes via publicly traded companies or funds that perform well in scenarios of deflation or inflation. Some experts recommend hard assets like precious metals, art, real estate, or oil and gas as a hedge against fiat currency devaluation. Another strategy is to hedge for downside risk by holding a small position in ETF funds that run contrary to market downturns. 

  • Recognize what you cannot lose 

Live in the moment. Shed the shame of the past and any fear of the future. Find good and godly purposes for any pain or suffering that you may experience. Nothing is wasted in God’s economy, especially loss. God turns it all to good when we love Him and are called to His purposes. Replace any fear of the future with confidence in God’s faithfulness. Hebrews 10:35 tells us: “So, do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” (NIV) 

Faith is of greater value than gold, precious jewels, bitcoin, and financial security we could accumulate. Take life one day at a time, give thanks, and trust the Lord. Your true allegiance should be to a Kingdom not of this world. 

I pray you will have a meaningful discussion with your family as you celebrate all the wonderful freedom we continue to enjoy today. If you’d like to read more practical advice for preparing for the future, check out my most recent book, Seven Gray Swans: Trends that Threaten Our Financial Future.

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Seven Gray Swans: Trends that Threaten Our Financial Future. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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