Dodging Money Traps

October 13th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 6: 1-5 (NLT)

1 My child, if you have put up security for a friend’s debt
      or agreed to guarantee the debt of a stranger—
 2 if you have trapped yourself by your agreement
      and are caught by what you said—
 3 follow my advice and save yourself,
      for you have placed yourself at your friend’s mercy.
   Now swallow your pride;
      go and beg to have your name erased.
 4 Don’t put it off; do it now!
      Don’t rest until you do.
 5 Save yourself like a gazelle escaping from a hunter,
      like a bird fleeing from a net.

 

Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

Many of you may not know it about me, but I spent almost eight years of my life in a Christian rock band called Scarlet Thread (formerly Five Smooth Stones . . . then Eleventh Hour.)  Yeah, we had constant identity crises.  Anyhoo, our band was born on the college campus at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where we played weekly for Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship, a coed campus organization similar to Campus Crusade or the Navigators.  In addition to that, we played in a local church every week.  Simply put, we played a lot.  

(Hey, believe it or not, we still have a MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/scarletthreadmusic)

As we progressed in our writing and influence, we began booking more and more shows all across the Southeast, but mainly in Tennessee.  As the “Toyota Van” (you can listen to the song Toyota Van, an old crowd favorite, on our MySpace page) we traveled in accumulated more and more miles, we began the process of recording an album to sell at our shows.  Our last album was a pretty decent project produced by an awesome, Dove Award-winning producer, Travis Wyrick (Pillar, Disciple, etc.) Before that though, we laid down a few other albums that were, well . . . less-than-stellar.  Hence, the setting for today’s story is established.

I theorize that at one time or another, Scarlet Thread was robbed by every studio in the greater Knoxville area.  Producers and studio owners repeatedly quoted us prices and terms and then charged us more later when the project was halfway done and we felt we had no options.  Of course, as young college-aged guys, we weren’t yet wise enough to get everything in writing up front.  We just wanted a CD!

At one point in particular, one of these producers made a covert attempt to steal all of the songs I had written by trying to trick me into giving him all of my lyrics on his company’s letterhead.  Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not one who squabbles over money issues, but in this case, I had had enough. An argument ensued between us in which he demanded more money for our project since I wouldn’t give him the publishing rights to all of my songs (which, by the way, has to be worth ten . . . eleven dollars tops.)  It went down something like this:

“Fine!  What do you think we owe you?”

“Three-hundred dollars!”

“Three-hundred dollars?  That’s ridiculous!”

“Look, you owe it to me!  Pay it, or I’m not going to finish your project!”

“Fine, we’ll pay it!  But don’t expect it anytime soon!”

“Fine!”

And that was that.  I called my band buddies and we vented for weeks over how this guy was a crook.  I told them about our conversation and they all insisted that we didn’t owe him a dime because he had tried to rob us.  I agreed.  

However, something deep in the recesses of my heart just wasn’t right.  A little voice reminded me of what I had agreed to in anger.  “Fine, we’ll pay it!”  I dismissed it as nothing and went about my business, deciding that the other guy’s dishonesty released me from my own words.  The other members of the band hadn’t promised him, I had.  And since we didn’t have an extra three-hundred dollars lying around, I tried to let it go.

A year passed.

Two years passed.

The band kept playing, but then I moved here to Mt. Juliet near Nashville.  We each still play in some way or another, just not in the band together like the old days.  We are all married now.  Two of us have kids.  Life went on.

Four years passed.  Then five.

I’m not sure how long it was exactly, but the voice inside never let me forget the words I had spoken that day.  Whether the other party was right or wrong, I had agreed to pay him three-hundred dollars. It was my fault.  It was a mistake and the other guy’s dishonesty did not mean that it was okay for me to be dishonest too.  I even called him one time and left a message asking him to release me from the debt.  He never returned my call.  Time kept passing.

Probably six or seven years later, I tracked down an address on the internet and mailed him a random check for three-hundred dollars.  Did I do something that deserves praise?  No, so please don’t.  I did what I was required to do– the thing I had agreed to.  I learned a valuable lesson about finances and agreements though that process.

Sometimes, the book of Proverbs is verbose and metaphoric, creating larger-than-life mental images that lead us to ponder the very depths of the universe’s substance.  Other times, it is poignantly practical and straightforward, just saying it like it is.  I suppose that the knowledge that a father is writing this to his son helps us understand this dichotomy between the two different methods of communication.  There is no doubt that this particular set of verses is completely pragmatic.  Solomon has cut to the chase on a very important issue that affects everyone in one way or another.

When it comes to money, Solomon advices us not to “guarantee” someone else’s debt.  Although this is specific regarding debt and loans, its principles are broad and can be applied to all of our financial decisions. Simply put, we should be careful not to make rash financial agreements that tie us down for years to come.  If we do, it’s time for some good, old-fashioned “pride-swallowing.”  Call them.  Go to them.  Even “beg” to be released it you must.  But settle the matter and do it as quickly as possible.

As those who follow Christ, we must never let the “value” of our words expire, especially regarding financial matters.  We must learn to let our word stand strong, even when it hurts us in the long run. You can bet that now I think twice about what I say when it comes to money.  I don’t want to ever be “trapped” again.

Something to think about.

 

 

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~ by johndriver on October 13, 2008.

One Response to “Dodging Money Traps”

  1. We have to be smart in life. When I first read this, I was thinking that giving your word in financial situations is not that big of a deal. It really is if you think about it! It is another hindrance in our lives if we let our “speaking without thinking” get in the way! I want God to help me to have control over my tongue for future financial situations I’m in. I don’t want hindrances hanging over me that I could very easily have avoided.

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