The Federal Reserve released its Flow of Funds report for the first quarter of 2017. The report documented that household wealth, in the United States, increased to $94.8 trillion—an increase of 2.5 percent from the previous quarter and 8.3 percent from the year-ago estimate. On the asset side, net worth was boosted by a $1.3 trillion increase in the value of held corporate equities and a $0.5 trillion increase in the value of owned real estate.
Non-financial household debt increased at a seasonally adjusted 3.2 percent which was down from the 3.9 percent last quarter. Non-financial business debt increased at a yearly rate of 6.2 percent (up from the 2.2 percent last quarter) as businesses appear to be more optimistic. Federal government non-financial debt fell 3.3 percent and state non-financial debt fell 3.5 percent. Overall non-financial debt increased 1.4 percent, which was half of last quarter's rate.
The nearly 16 percent stock market rally, since the election, has benefited everyone. Investors, businesses and middle-aged workers with retirement accounts have all gained. Cheap money policies of the Federal Reserve have encouraged home ownership. But many argue that monetary policies have inflated stock and real estate prices and hurt individuals with fixed incomes. Future fiscal and monetary policies will largely determine the rate of growth of wealth in the United states. Since a large proportion of the current rate is dependent on stock and real estate prices, the growth rate in wealth has considerable uncertainty.
True wealth is not related to money. True wealth comes from developing a growing relationship with the Lord. A believer in possession of true wealth will magnify the Lord through his/her actions, expand the Kingdom, and bless the poor regardless of circumstances.
Earthly wealth can be a blessing or a curse. Money is a tool which can be used for good, for selfish fulfillment, or for bad. Obtaining money can bring glory to the Lord or the enemy depending on the ways in which it is acquired and disbursed. The Lord talks much about wealth and money in both the old and new testaments. Many principles can be gleaned from the Word.
- Insure that our love, allegiance and confidence is with the Lord. Money is only a tool.
"But you must remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to get wealth" (Deut. 8:18a).
"No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money" (Matt. 6:24).
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in nor steal, for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:19-21).
- Believe the promises in the Bible concerning wealth.
"Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments. His offspring shall be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house, and his righteousness endures forever" (Ps. 112:1-3).
"Jesus answered, 'Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left a house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields, for My sake and for the gospel's sake, who shall not receive a hundred times as much now in this age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and fields, with persecution, and in the age to come, eternal life'" (Mark 10:29-30).
- Be a good steward of your time, skills and money. Remember the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-28). A talent was a unit of money. The parable has been broadly interpreted to include many things, but the parable was originally about financial stewardship.
"So if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who will give you that which is your own?" (Luke 16:11-12).
"Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10:23).
- Give generously.
"But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Cor. 9:6).
"Now He who supplies seed to the sower and supplies bread for your food will also multiply your seed sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness. So you will be enriched in everything to all bountifulness, which makes us give thanks to God" (2 Cor. 9:10-11).
Let us build wealth in God's way, in His timing and for His glory.
"The riches we impart are the only wealth we shall always retain," said Matthew Henry.
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.
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