Author Archives: bradleyfishjr

Calling vs. Occupation: Get This Distinction Straight.

Gary North

On June 19, 2006 I gave a lecture to a group of students who were studying how to get jobs. These students live in the inner city of Memphis. It is one of the poorest communities in the United States. Most of them had no experience in getting a job. Yet most of them were at least 20 years old. Several of them were over 40 years old.

There were 17 students in the room. Only one of them was male.

My goal for the lecture was to introduce them to the concept of the calling. This is different from the concept of the job or occupation. I wanted to make certain that they understood that their occupation is subordinate to their calling. This is not widely recognized.

Whenever it is not recognized, people have a tendency to overestimate the importance of their occupation. They become motivated primarily by money, prestige, or fame. They become sidetracked from the important issues of their lives.

On the other hand, some people are not highly motivated by anything connected to their job. The modern State welfare system enables them to gain a minimal living without working. For these people, a job may seem superfluous. So, when the going gets tough on the job, these people tend to resign. They quit. They go back onto the welfare system. They do not learn the basics skills associated with the job.

The longer they stay out of the labor market, the more likely they will not be able to get permanent employment.

The privately funded organization that invited me to give the lecture is dedicated to bringing to inner-city residents the basic skills of getting a job and managing a personal budget. One of the programs sponsored by this organization is a three-week class that trains people how to get their first job. The organization actually pays people to attend this three-week course. It raises money from donors who want to help people escape the welfare system. Sometimes, people enroll in the course, and then quit after a few days. Even though they are being paid to attend, they lose interest.

All of the people in the class were African-Americans. Because only one of them was a male, I decided from the beginning that my goal was to explain the difference between calling and occupation in terms that would be familiar to black women. I wanted to motivate most of the people who were in that room.

* * * * * * *

What I’m about to tell you is not commonly known. It has been very important in my life, both professionally and financially.

I was trained to be a college professor. My field was history. Today, I’m in business. There is a lot more money in business than there is in teaching in a college. Nevertheless, the important work in my life is still my academic work, and much of it is connected to history.

My calling in life has not changed, but my occupation has changed. What is most important in my career has not changed, but the way that I make my money has changed.

I define “calling” as follows: the most important thing that you can do in which you would be most difficult to replace. I define “occupation” as the way you put bread on the table. Sometimes these can be the same, but not very often. The most important thing is your calling. Your occupation should support your calling.

A hundred years ago, there was no confusion about calling and occupation for most women. The calling for most women was related to their families. So was their occupation. They were wives and mothers. They did not work outside the household for money. They were not paid a wage. In such a case, the calling is the same as the occupation.

But in American life, there were exceptions to this rule. Afro-American women often served as domestics. Sometimes they took in washing. They earned money outside the household in order to help finance the household. This began shortly after the end of the Civil War.

If you asked one of those women what her most important task was, she would have defined that task in terms of her family. She would not have defined herself as a washerwoman. She would not have defined her life in terms of domestic service. If you explained what a calling is, she would have understood that her family responsibilities were her calling.

There has always been a tendency for men to define themselves in terms of their occupations. Yet man change their occupations. When they are husbands and fathers, they’re not supposed to make changes. Like women, their callings are related to their families. But they don’t always understand this.

In my case, my calling is my academic work. The most important thing that I can do in which I would be most difficult to replace is related to my academic career. Yet I don’t earn my living by my academic career. I earn my living by selling information in the area of business and finance. I do my calling free of charge. My occupation supports my calling.

When people understand the distinction between occupation and calling, they are far less likely to make serious mistakes in the allocation of their time. They won’t confuse money with the most important thing that they can do in life. But not all people understand this. I hope you do.


I want you to understand that there is no such thing as a dead-end job. Every job can be a stepping stone to a better job. The limitation is not the job. The limitation is the person who has the job. When you get your job, think of it as a stepping stone to the rest of your career. Think of your career as your calling.

To understand this distinction, let’s consider the career of a pair of billionaires.

Bill Cosby has always understood that his calling is his family. His humor was always tied to family living. He began his career by telling stories about growing up in South Philadelphia. They were very funny stories. They were not particularly racial. His humor was therefore universal. Later, he wrote a book called “Fatherhood.”

In terms of his career, his great gift was his humor. Unlike most people, he found that he could earn a great deal of money with his gift. But this took many years. He was fortunate, because when he began his career, there was a market for comedy records. He gained a national audience by means of these records.

Then he got the opportunity of a lifetime. In the mid-1960s, he was made co-star of a popular television show called “I Spy.” He won an Emmy three times for the show. After that show was cancelled, he kept working. Then, in the 1980s, “The Cosby Show” became the most popular show on television for eight years. The money rolled in. As a result of that show, he became a multi-multimillionaire. Some estimates put his total wealth at a billion dollars.

Cosby’s career was based on his humor. The most important thing that Cosby could do, outside of his family, was to entertain people. He never forgot this. He always maintained high standards. Step by step, the money he made from his occupation increased. His occupation supported his calling: making millions of people’s lives more enjoyable.

Now consider Oprah Winfrey. She is said to be worth $1 billion. She entertains millions of women, but she also uplifts them. Hers is a self-help show, not a scandal-of- the day show. She offers people hope. Her sponsors see her as a way to make money, but her calling is not making money. She has no immediate family, so her calling is her career.

Now she faces a big problem. So does Cosby. When you have this much money, you have enormous responsibility. You are going to die. That money is going to go somewhere. Someone is going to put that money to use. What use will that money be put to?

Bill Cosby is in a better position to solve this problem than Oprah is. His career as an entertainer is probably close to the end. His more recent television shows have not made much money. So, he can devote time to giving away his money, which he does. He has so much money that he can’t give all of it away without wasting it. Giving a way that much money is a full-time calling — not a job, a calling.

Oprah, on the other hand, still has to devote most of her time to her television work. She makes far more money than she can possibly give away. So, what is her calling? Is it entertaining women? Is that the most important thing that she can do in which she would be the most difficult to replace? Or is giving away her money the most important thing she can do? Most people never face this problem — not on this scale, anyway. A few people do.

Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey worked very hard for years before they got rich. They paid attention to their occupations. They put time into mastering their jobs. They got better and better at it. Then opportunities opened up for each of them. They were in a position to take advantage of those opportunities.


In the 1970s, Daniel “Chappie” James became a four- star general in the Air Force. He was an Afro-American. I once saw a film of a speech that he gave. He said that his mother had always taught him to keep knocking on the door of opportunity. But she told him that when you knock on the door of opportunity, you had better have your bags packed. You had better be able to take advantage of that opportunity as soon as the door gets opened. You have to do your homework first.

When you get your job, do everything you can to improve your skills. Master the details of that job. Don’t think that it’s a dead-end job. It isn’t a dead-end job. It’s a stepping stone. Prepare yourself to take each new step. This is the way he become successful in your career.

Once you prove to your boss that you can take on more responsibility, and you can improve your performance, he will be ready to promote you. For every dollar he pays you, he probably makes two dollars. He would rather pay you $50 and make $25 than pay you $10 and make $5. He has no financial incentive to keep you in a low-paying position when you’re capable of moving to a higher paid position. Never forget this. He has every economic incentive to make you more successful if you can make him more successful.

It is possible that he does not have any way to pay you more in his business. It may be a very small business. If you can figure out a way where you can make him more money, tell him. He may not have seen this opportunity. But if it’s clear that he has no way to promote you to a better paying position, then it’s time to look for a new job. As your skills increase, your opportunities will increase.

Your first job may seem like a dead-end job. Remember: There are no dead-end jobs. There are only stepping stones. It is important that you stick with your first job for at least a year. You have got to prove to your boss that you are capable of taking greater responsibility. The way to a successful career is through increased responsibility. You have to prove that you’re competent at simple jobs before you’re going to get an opportunity to prove yourself competent at more complex jobs.

As you move up the ladder of responsibility, never forget your goal. Your goal is not simply to make more money. Your goal is to exercise your calling. Your goal is to do the most important thing in which you would be most difficult to replace. The greater your skill, the more difficult you will be to replace.

There is no guarantee that you will make more money just because you become better at your calling. But in most cases, you will make more money. Or, if you don’t make more money, you will achieve greater influence. I can’t prove this, but I have seen it in my own life, and I seen in the lives of many other people.

This is why it is so important to get that first job and keep it. The first job is the stepping stone to success in your whole life. If you able to get that first job and keep it, your career will open up. You’ll be able to use your occupation to extend your calling.

* * * * * * *

These are basic principles that are not taught in our schools or our churches. I don’t think they are widely understood.

If they were better understood, we would have stronger families and greater wealth. The great irony is that the pursuit of money is self-defeating. When money, a tool of our callings, is defined as the supreme goal of our efforts, we mistake a means for an end. This is what Jesus called Mammon. It is the great rival religion in history.

There is so much that a person can accomplish in this life, if he puts his mind, his heart, and his back to it. But it is so easy to get sidetracked. Like the student who initially pursues grades as a way to climb the academic ladder, but then substitutes grades for knowledge, or term papers for productivity, so is the person who pursues money at the expense of his calling. He confuses a success indicator in serving the public’s economic demand with success in extending his vision of how things ought to be. He gets seduced.

For people in the inner city, they have already been seduced by the welfare State. For them, getting a job is the stepping stone out of dependence on the government, which keeps them impoverished. Yet they need motivation beyond just getting off the dole. They need to understand their callings as much as anyone else does. They need to be motivated by something more than money.

The tragedy of the inner city is seen in the make-up if that classroom: sixteen women and one man.

If you want a hard-nosed analysis of just how bad it is in the inner city, read about Bill Cosby’s “Call Outs.” He is lecturing to black audiences around the country, telling women that they are now the backbone of the inner-city communities. He is catching a lot of flak from the Establishment. But it’s hard to argue against what he has to say.


Muley Sykes: A Man Whose Job Was His Calling

Gary North

Steve Spurgin is one of the most talented performers I have ever seen. He writes great songs, sings them flawlessly, and plays an acoustic guitar better than most, but without flash.

For four decades, he has had a calling. I define “calling” as the most important thing you can do in which you would be most difficult to replace. His calling is to perform. The trouble is, there aren’t a whole lot of people who have seen him perform. It’s not a job that has matched his income with the level of his talent. Like most men who try to make a living from their callings, he has never made it onto Oprah.

One of his songs is about a man with a calling. It is the only song I have ever heard that gets across the idea of the driving power of the calling in a man who has clearly been called. The lyrics grabbed me.

I use this song in a course I teach in the Memphis inner city to adults who do not have jobs. Some of them have never had a steady job. My task, as I see it, is to explain the difference between a calling and a job.

I know their first jobs will not be exciting, high-paying, or prestigious. But that first job is a step in the development of a career. If they see the larger picture, they may not get discouraged and quit that entry-level job.

Spurgin’s song is about a porter on a passenger train, back in the days when passenger planes provided ear-popping experiences for the rich. Trains were for the middle class. It’s title: “Muley Was a Railroad Man.” Here are the lyrics.

Muley Sikes had one gold tooth,
An Elgin watch, and a porter’s suit.
He hustled bags for fifty years,
And he worked the railroad line.

From overalls and cotton fields
To spit-shine shoes and rumbling steel,
His life was made to roll on rails.
And that suited Muley fine.

His old Pap never got so far as
Twenty miles from a sharecrop farm,
While Muley, he’s seen shooting stars
From Denver up to Maine.

He loved the gentle, rolling sway,
The sound the lonesome whistle made.
He knew his calling from the day
That he first saw a train.

Muley was a railroad man,
From Portland to Miami’s sand.
He knew that in this great big land
There’s nothing like a train.

He’d tell the children stories
How the rails were laid by hand.
And they knew his name
From coast to coast.

Muley was a railroad man.
Muley was a railroad man.

He’d spend his off-days at the yard.
And he knew each engine there by heart.
He could have taken one apart,
But they never let him try.

He said, “We’ve all got a gift to use.
Some drive the train; some shine the shoes.
The engineer may get folks there,
But me, I make ’em smile.”

He always spoke about the time
That Woodrow Wilson rode the line,
And tipped him twenty dollars, gold,
He carried ’til he died.

But he’d have praised the Lord
If someone laid a quarter in his hand.
God put him here to ride the trains.

Muley was a railroad man.
Muley was a railroad man.

Muley spent his golden years
Explaining throttles, wheels, and gears:
Caretaker for the train museum
At the Dallas County fair.

He’d tell you how the whistles blew,
The engines roared, and the cinders flew.
When he got to heaven, he just knew
They’d still be running there.

He lived to be a hundred-four.
He died in Ft. Smith, Arkansas.
Laid to rest in his porter’s cap,
A double eagle for his fare.

And when I step off heaven’s train,
He’ll have my bags in hand.
With a smile and a “Yes, sir,
Right on time.”

Muley was a railroad man.
Muley was a railroad man.

Muley was a railroad man.
Muley was a railroad man.

A song never sounds the way we think it will when we read the lyrics. This one is no exception. For a sample of the song, click here.

Muley knew what he wanted to do with his life as soon as he saw a train. Most people never experience this early. It’s love at first sight. I had the same experience at age 18. It changed my life.

Second, he was content to shine shoes, yet he had a mastery of all aspects of the operation. “He knew each engine there by heart.” African-Americans were legally and socially limited in what they could achieve in that era. Porters were an exception. They could have good careers in an undistinguished field. That is sometimes the nature of a calling: undistinguished but good.

Third, he was committed to the customer. “We’ve all got to give to you.” He understood his task: to make them smile.

Fourth, he did his job with enthusiasm for five decades.

Fifth, he stuck with the field after he retired. He tried to show people what was great about trains.

Spurgin wrote this song years after encountering a porter who impressed him as a child. This song is a testimony to what a calling is: God-given. When you find yours, pursue it even after you retire, if you retire.

What’s Holding You Back?

Gary North

Lots of things, of course. We live in a world of scarcity. We cannot get everything we want at zero price. We can barely get anything we want at zero price.

But these same sorts of things are holding back everyone else, too. So, why are a few people so far ahead of you?

The fact is, almost everyone is ahead of you in something. That is the great gift to society of specialization. In a free society, each person is legally free to pursue his interests, using his skills and capital in an attempt to achieve success as he or she defines it. The rest of us are just not interested in matching most people in their pursuit of happiness, excellence, or money. “Do your own thing,” Americans say, and they generally mean it. “To each his own.” They mean that, too.

I am speaking about your thing. What’s holding you back?

Let’s round up the usual suspects.


The bills come due each month. You have to hustle to pay them. “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” (True enough; it grows in the computers of fractionally reserved banks.)

You are out there buying money. You buy it with your innate skills, your time, and your years of experience. You trade time for money.

Almost everything in life is a trade-off between time and money.

If you are short of money in modern society, you are long on time if you’re in the middle class or higher.

In the allocation decisions between time and money, you must conserve the resource that you value most highly. Most people say they worry more about money more than they worry about time. But if they kept time stubs the way they keep check stubs, their records would testify against them. They are profligate with their time far more than they are profligate with their money. They waste more time than they waste money.

The great time drain today is television. Radio preceded television, with similar results. I think of Jack Benny’s running gags about money. “Your money or your life,” the radio thug told him. “I’m thinking! I’m thinking!” was his legendary reply. He got rich kidding about his obsession with money. He got rich because so many people allocated so many hours listening to him, and then went out to buy the products his sponsors promoted.

Jack Benny was a net gainer in the transaction. So were his listeners, or else they would not have listened. But they, unlike Benny, put a low price on their spare time.

There ain’t no such thing as free time (TANSTAFT). It’s our only unrenewable resource. We should allocate it wisely.

If Americans had skipped “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” had gone to sleep 90 minutes early, and had gotten up 90 minutes earlier to work on their businesses and careers, the American economy would have grown by an extra 10 percent per year — minimum — for three decades. The Tonight Show was expensive. I can hear Ed McMahon. “How expensive was it?” I can hear Carson: “It was so expensive that. . . .” I just can’t think of anything funny.

Television is a time-sucking monster. It should be treated as an addictive drug.

If you have a problem with money on the expenditure side, you need help with budgeting and self-control.

If you have a problem with money on the income side, start managing your time better. You are letting time dribble away. Time is money.

In the time-money trade-off, the ignored issue is time-preference. It’s about how you value the future in comparison with the present.

We all value the present more highly than the future because we live in the present. But some people value the future more highly than others do. They are future- oriented. If there is one characteristic that marks the highly successful person, it is high future orientation.

Harvard’s political scientist Edward Banfield a generation ago called this outlook the upper-class mentality. Class position has more to do with a person’s outlook on time than the amount of money in his bank account. Present-oriented people are lower class. Economist Ludwig von Mises called this orientation high time-preference.

Three features mark present-oriented, lower-class cultures and societies: high interest rates, high illegitimacy rates, and low economic growth rates.

So, your lack of money is not your biggest problem. Look elsewhere.


You don’t have a college degree. Or you don’t have a master’s degree. You don’t have a license. You don’t have a certificate.

You are like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz before the witch was dead.

In the good old days, there were fewer degree-granting institutions. The result was greater legal freedom to enter a new field. Only a few fields were closed to outsiders by degree requirements: the ministry, law, and medicine. This exclusion began early: the twelfth century for ministry and law. It took longer for medicine.

Today, the main barriers to entry are institutional: formal certification by one or another government-licensed trade monopoly. Call it restraint of trade.

But because the screening system is widespread, there are lots of loopholes. If you can’t get into one school, you can get into another. Decade by decade, the minimal performance standard moves ever lower in almost every field.

In very few fields is an above-average IQ the primary screening factor: nuclear physics, chemistry, and a few other narrow professions. In most fields, the ability to endure years of mental drudgery is primary.

Money is not necessarily the main barrier. Ignorance of alternatives is. It is possible to earn a bachelor’s degree in four years for under $11 per hour on a part-time basis. But not many people know this. They needlessly pay retail for college.

If you are willing to give up television for four years, you can get through most of the hoops that bar your upward move. But most people are unwilling to do this after age 25. That is their barrier to entry. It need not be yours.

If you lack certification, you can get it. The cost is mainly time. Blame something else.


I think this is the biggest single restraining factor in most people’s careers.

People tend to assume that they have a minimal competitive advantage. They think, “Everyone knows what I know.” They do not recognize the nature of specialized knowledge. They assume that knowledge is widely shared. Access to knowledge in a free society is widespread. The Web has made it even more widespread. But a specific aptitude isn’t. Specific experience isn’t.

Employers pay for specific performance that enables the company to produce whatever it is that specific consumers want to buy at specific prices.

What is your specific advantage? You have one. If you didn’t, you would be working at the counter of a fast food restaurant. You would by pressing illustrated buttons on a computerized cash register. The cash register would make change.

“Anyone can do what I do.” This is not true. Hardly anyone can do it. Even fewer can do it better than you can.

If you were to put in an extra two hours a day on learning how to do it better, you would gain a far greater advantage within three years. But there is a better way.

Most people are more comfortable burrowing deeper into their niche than they are learning how to market their skills. They focus on polishing what they already know. They do not learn the techniques of broadening the market for what they already know.

This is why so few people climb to the top of their field. They become technicians. There is a market for technicians, but employers know that technicians have tunnel vision, especially regarding employment opportunities elsewhere. Even if technicians have knowledge of the market outside corporate headquarters, they lack the knowledge of how to exploit this demand for their own advantage.

Because technicians lack self-marketing skills, they are fearful of being cut off from the umbilical cord of a predictable paycheck — predictable as long as the company doesn’t go under or get swallowed up in a merger.

People lack self-confidence because they lack the following: (1) knowledge of the job market; (2) knowledge of how the techniques for increasing demand for their specific skills; (3) knowledge of what motivates consumers; (4) knowledge of where to start learning what they don’t know. All of this adds up to a lack of self-confidence.

Start working on this. It is probably your #1 problem.

But how? By dealing with subordinate problems.


We speak of having the courage of our convictions. The courage of most employees is minimal because their convictions are minimal. They think: “I’m mediocre. Safety first.”

In my first full-time job, I saw the handwriting on the wall within months of being hired. The pay was never going to be great, although it was the best offer I had. In the region where I lived, wages were high. I was going to fall behind if I stayed.

The job demanded little, but it offered only one path to advancement: replacing the boss. The boss said he was going to stay on until he died, which he did a dozen years later. I knew I had to get out.

I spent a year trying to find a way to get out.

I eventually found a way. That escape hatch proved to be a mirage. I quit again, with no alternative employment. I immediately got another offer. It turned out to be more of a dead end than the first job, but it allowed me to launch my newsletter, “Remnant Review,” which I still publish. “Remnant Review” was my life preserver. Its income let me take more chances. I did not spend it. I saved it.

By the end of the decade, I was making twenty times what I had made when I began. But the pace was faster, and the risk was greater.

If I had kept that initial job, you would not be reading this. I would also not be rich. I would not have written 40+ books. (Ten, maybe.) However, I might not have white hair.

When you perceive that you are facing a dead end, start looking for an off-ramp. If necessary, drive off the highway and go looking for an on-ramp on another highway.

If you can stay on the dead-end road long enough to find a paved off-ramp, that’s best. But it’s not always possible.

I did not leave my first job in search of wealth. I left it in search of significance. I knew I was in a cocoon. Butterflies want to get out. I had spent too many years in graduate school as a caterpillar. It was time to break free.

Most people are unwilling to break free. This is why they become contented with a caterpillar’s life. But they see the sky and long to fly.

Are you afraid of heights? Look for a landing pad close to your cocoon.


Motivation is internal. It is based on an internal assessment of external conditions. You compare where you are with where you could be, given your skills and opportunities.

At the beginning of a career, most people don’t know their limitations. Most people think they are more limited than they really are. What they lack is experience. This is why the military requires boot camp. It is also why it has ranks. Within the ranks are significant barriers: non- commissioned vs. commissioned officers, captain vs. major, full colonel vs. brigadier general. To get beyond each barrier, men must abandon their comfort zone.

The tyranny of the comfort zone is mild but ruthless. Beware the comfort zone.

The most effective period for breaking through a military career barrier is during a war. The enemy produces holes in the chain of command. It is easier to become an officer in wartime than in peacetime. You get promoted if you survive. There is a lot of motivation to survive.

Profit-generating employees rise rapidly in a company that is facing tough competition. College degrees count for less than black ink. It is when market competition is replaced by government licensing that advancement depends on certification.

People say, “I want to be successful.” Yes, they do: at zero price. They want success on their terms, not the market’s terms.

When people say, “I want to be successful, even if it costs me everything I own,” they are serious about success.

Most people are somewhere in between.

Where are you?

If your goal in the future is big enough (external), and if you don’t discount the future steeply (internal), then you are likely to be highly motivated. If your present array of talents and capital is minimal (external), but you are emotionally committed to achieving your goal (internal), then you are highly motivated.

It is problematical to say that positive internal motivation will overcome external circumstances in most cases. Frankly, I suspect that it won’t. But this kind of internal/external motivation ratio is a common characteristic of people who are successful. I see it as analogous to running the race. Most competitors don’t win, but all would-be winners must run.

The main inhibiting factors are these: (1) a minimal goal; (2) minimal capital; (3) high time-preference. In such circumstances, a lack of courage, money, and self- confidence produce paralysis.

I think most people who are not internally driven to achieve a significant goal blame their failure to achieve much on their lack of capital. What is inherently an internal problem is blamed on external circumstances.

When people are not highly motivated, the other inhibiting factors take over.

It boils down to this:


What do you want to achieve?How long will you work to achieve it?What are you willing to pay?The larger the goal, the more the effort is required and the more time is required to compensate for minimal capital.

I believe from my observations that capital is less important than the size of the goal, unless a person is close to the end of his career. Yet even here, no one knows for sure. Ludwig von Mises arrived in the United States as a refugee, almost penniless, in 1941 at the age of 60. Over the next quarter century, he established his reputation here, although it never matched his reputation in Europe in 1930 during his lifetime. Today, a generation after his death, he is better known than he was in 1930. 


Something is holding you back. The question is: How can you overcome the premier inhibiting factor in your life?

It would not be a bad idea to spend the weekend reassessing your capital, your top goal, and the time you probably have remaining to you.

How steep a discount do you apply to your goal? The lower the discount, the more likely you can achieve that goal.

Think back to your decision to get married. Talk about a leap in the dark! How much money did you have? How much education? Not much. But you were highly motivated. You were self-confident — just this once. You showed courage — just this once.

Considering the permanence of that decision, and the high cost of escaping from it, career decisions are minor. Yet men seem paralyzed when facing a career change. They prefer to burrow deeper into their niches if they are willing to do anything extra at all. Worse, they bide their time. This used to be called punching the clock. They inserted a time card into the clock, which stamped the card. The card recorded their physical arrival and departure.

Their mental departure took place long before they stopped punching the clock.

Life Expectancy. When Setting Lifetime Goals, Begin Here.

Gary North

We all know the warning: “Don’t run out of money before you run out of month.” We need to budget our money to match our salary period.

That sounds easy enough, but it’s very difficult for most people. American households are now failing to do this. The household savings rate has gone negative in recent quarters. Americans are not cutting back on their spending. They are spending by drawing down their savings or even borrowing to pay the bills.

I trust you are not among them. But you still should work on budgeting.

The crucial budget ratio is the income/time period ratio. Are you likely to run out of money in any time period?

Let’s apply this to the longest relevant time period for your budgeting: your life expectancy.

Have you ever used an on-line life expectancy calculator to see what the statisticians say about your expected longevity? Probably not.

You should.

It’s best to get a second opinion. Here are two calculators that I have used. Just click.–lifeevents–longevityThe second one is clever. The results, when you’re finished, are in a box in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.

Remember: Half of the people will live longer than the age that the calculator produces.

The older you get, the longer the projection is.

See if you’re doing your best to bankrupt Social Security ahead of schedule.

The Confirmation I Received in June of 1959

Gary North

June 29, 2009

Fifty years ago this month, I graduated from high school. As part of the graduation liturgy, the school held an awards ceremony for seniors.

I won a California state scholarship for college. Several students did. There were other awards. I don’t remember them.

I remember a remark by another student. “I wish I had won an award.” That was an honest statement.

The student was a goof-off. He had never shown any interest in academic things or athletic things. He had never distinguished himself at anything. He had drifted through high school. He had been in only one class with me. He had never said anything in class. He just sat there.

At the time, I thought to myself, “this guy never understood what it takes to achieve anything.” Today, half a century later, his statement to me is the only thing I remember about him.

That incident confirmed my determination to set plans and execute them. A year later, I set my lifetime goal: to find out what the Bible says about economics. I am still working on this project. I have written over 30 volumes on this topic. I have many more to write. This took planning.

Maybe he changed. Maybe he attained something significant. But unless he changed, it is unlikely that he achieved much. Habits set at an early age stick with us. We must actively seek to replace them with better habits.

Goal-setting is rare. Setting plans for attaining these goals is more rare. Sticking with them for a lifetime is exceedingly rare.

Start with lifetime goals. Then shorten the time limit. You attain lifetime goals by mid-term and short-term goal-setting, planning, and execution.

You Need Goals Beyond Debt Freedom if You Expect to Attain and Keep Debt Freedom.

Gary North

 “There is more to life than staying sober.” — James A., AA member

An Alcoholics Anonymous member wants to stay sober. But there is more to staying sober than wanting to stay sober and having a plan to stay sober.

James A. got sober in 1955 and stayed sober until he died in 2005. He told others who wanted to get sober and stay sober that they needed to have goals beyond staying sober. Then they needed a plan to reach these goals.

Similarly, there is more to staying out of debt than wanting to get out of debt.

There are negative sanctions for being in debt. They range in intensity. There are far more positive sanctions for being out of debt. They range in greater intensity.

It’s kind of like Adam in the garden. There was only one thing he was not allowed to do. Everything else was legitimate. There was only one negative sanction facing him: death. The positive sanctions were so numerous as to be effectively infinite. He ignored these goals and went for this one: to know good and evil. Especially evil.

You need goals. You need a plan to reach these goals. You need positive sanctions in your plan to reach your goals.

You know all about negative sanctions for not paying off your debts. But at some point, if you follow the advice on this site, you will reach the goal of being debt-free. Then what?

It is like a fat person who sets a weight goal and reaches it. Then what?

To stick to a plan for getting out of debt and making the negative sanctions go away, you need a plan for achieving personal goals that will produce positive sanctions.

Your first step in setting your lifetime goals is to understand what your calling is. What is a calling? This: the most important thing you can do in which you would be most difficult to replace.

It takes action to convert a to-do list to a changed life. Taking action is the difficult part. Taking systematic action over a lifetime is rare. This is why so few people leave behind the legacy that they could leave. Their lives dribble through their fingers.

Your Job or Your Calling: Which Comes First in Your Life?
Gary North
This is the story of a man who died well . . . and amazingly. . . . keep reading
The Confirmation I Received in June of 1959
Gary North
It was something a fellow student said. . . . keep reading
Life Expectancy. When Setting Lifetime Goals, Begin Here.
Gary North
I did this years ago. It has helped me focus. . . . keep reading
What’s Holding You Back?
Gary North
Debt is not the main restraint. But it’s a big one. . . . keep reading
Calling vs. Occupation: Get This Distinction Straight.
Gary North
If you are like most people, your job is not your calling. What is your calling? To find out, start here. . . . keep reading
Muley Sykes: A Man Whose Job Was His Calling
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Muley Sykes is fictional. The song about him is real. . . . keep reading
Money Is a Result. It is Not a Wise Goal.
Michael Masterson
Here, a multimillionaire tells why money is not #1. . . . keep reading
Cheating Yourself for a Lifetime
Gary North
Focus. Focus. Focus. . . . keep reading
Success in Life: Imagine Your 75th Birthday Party. Prepare an Outline for Your Speech on Your Greatest Successes
Gary North
I gave this assignment to a group of high school students. . . . keep reading
Goals Come in Stages. Smaller Goals Should Precede Big Goals. Becoming Debt-Free Is a Fine Preliminary Stage.
Gary North
We all know this, but most people don’t plan their lives in terms of it. . . . keep reading
Update Your Resumé Soon
Gary North
This is always a good idea. In a bad economy, it’s crucial. . . . keep reading

Get Expert Career Advice for Under $1.00 (2009).
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In a multitude of counselors, there is safety, says the Proverbs. Counselors are cheaper than you think. . . . keep reading

Set Short-Term Goals

Gary North

Let’s review the five points of the biblical covenant model:

1. God’s sovereignty
2. Man’s delegated authority
3. God’s law
4. God’s sanctions (positive and negative)
5. Inheritance in history

This is understood in terms of five questions.

1. Who’s in charge here?
2. To whom do I report?
3. What are the rules?
4. What do I get if I obey? Disobey?
5. Does this outfit have a future?

These five points are inescapable in economics.

1. God’s original ownership
2. Man’s stewardship
3. God’s kingdom: “seek first”
4. God’s blessings: “all these things”
5. The inheritance: “the meek shall inherit the earth”

Making Other Plans

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that (James 4:13-15).

Years ago, an American folk singer named Gamble Rogers wrote a lyric: “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.” The Beatle, John Lennon, made the line famous. He once admitted that it was Rogers’ line.

Rogers learned how true this was when he went into the ocean in Florida to rescue a man from drowning. The man survived. Rogers drowned. That was in 1991. The state of Florida named Gamble Rogers State Park for him as a tribute.

Think of Lennon, who autographed a record album for a man, and who was shot dead by that man five hours later. Lennon had twice asked him, as he signed the album, “Is that all you want?” The man wanted far more.

If our plans are easily overturned by events, then why make plans? Because planning allows us to focus our attention on the costs of everything we do. Jesus warned:

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply [it happen], after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish (Luke 14:28-30).

This is why we need long-term goals, medium-term plans, and short-term plans. They enable us to estimate the costs and benefits of our actions. They let us think more clearly about what we are doing with our lives, and why.

The unpredictability of life can overwhelm us at any time. We are less likely to be permanently sidetracked when we have a plan. We can get back to it after the interruption. We can modify it because our costs are either lower or higher in our new circumstances.

A bad plan is better than no plan, because we can modify a bad plan when we get new information, opportunities, or capital.

In the Book of Acts, there is the story of a man with a lifetime goal: living as a cripple until he died. It was not much of a goal. His plan to achieve this goal was the same every day: to sit and beg at the entrance to the temple. Then, one day, his plans changed.

And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ancle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God (Acts 3:2-8).

Because of his daily plan, he was in the right place at the right time. This completely changed his lifetime goal. He had hoped to survive as a cripple. God delivered him from his affliction. This story is not a case against planning. It is a case for plan modification.

Short-Run Plans Should Fit into Medium-Term Plans

This is the hard part. To make your short-term plans effective, you must take care to fit them into your medium-term plans.

In 1973, I began to write a monthly column. It was part of a lifetime project: An Economic Commentary on the Bible. In 1977, I increased my commitment two ten hours a week, 50 weeks a year. I have stuck with that schedule ever since. I am close to completing the first draft of the project. It is now in the range of 25 volumes, with over 400 pages per volume. Tools of Dominion, a commentary on Exodus 21-23, is over 1,300 pages.

If God wills it, I will finish the first draft, re-write it to make it agree internally — Genesis to Revelation — pay to have it re-typeset,, re-index it (I hate to index), and publish it on-line and in print-on-demand. This could easily take two years. At age 70 — my 1977 target date to complete the project — I should be finished. Maybe this project will turn out to be an example of C. Northcote Parkinson’s most famous law: “Work expands in order to fill the time allotted for its completion.”

This will enable me to complete my life’s work, which I identified at age 18 in 1960, of writing a book on Christian economics. This will be the first such book that is based on verse-by-verse exegesis of the entire Bible: every verse that deals with economics.

I did not know how to achieve my life’s goal in 1960. My wife suggested that I write an economic commentary in 1973. It has taken me over 35 years to get close to the end of the first draft of the commentary. But if I had not begun the commentary in 1973, I know my book on Christian economics would have been inaccurate.

I set a long-term goal at age 18. I adopted a month-by-month plan in 1973. I adopted a week-by-week plan in 1977. Sticking to that plan has enabled me to be in a position to complete my long-term goal. Without the 1973 plan, I could not have done a really good job on my life’s goal. Had I not accelerated the plan in 1977, I would be nowhere near completion.

I had a good goal in 1960. I did attempt to adopt a medium-term plan educationally, but I was sidetracked many times. So was my career: how I would earn a living. My calling has never changed: to write the book on Christian economics.

My long-term goal required medium-term goals: writing individual economic commentaries. These required short-term goals: ten hours per week, 50 weeks a year. They fit together. They were part of a systematic plan.

I can measure progress weekly by inputs: hours worked. The output of this work is problematical. I pay no attention. I can assess the progress of my work by completed books.

I combine input (hours worked) with output: books completed. I assess the quality of my work as I write the chapters. There is feedback at each stage: hours invested, identifying a biblical book’s main economic theme, writing exegetical chapters, editing these chapters for consistency and readability, fitting them into a consistent book, proofreading the book, and indexing the book. Some books have taken me less than three months to write. Two books took me five years each to write: Tools of Dominion and Boundaries and Dominion, a four-volume commentary on Leviticus. Genesis took from 1973 to 1982. Appendix A took a year.

You can see the results — typeset volumes — here: Capitalism and the Bible.

I wrote one book in two weeks in 1987: Inherit the Earth: Biblical Blueprints for Economics. That book provides an overall outline of what I have discovered about Christian economics. If I die before I complete my main book, that preliminary book can guide other Christian economists. They will also have my economic commentary on the Bible.

Do not presume that you will be given all the time you need to finish. Complete medium-term steps in order to serve as your legacy in case you die before you reach your goal.

My one-week plan is numerical: hours spent. I have no quality component. There is visible progress, chapter by chapter.

I do not have to review my goals quarterly or annually. The goals are finished products, so I do not require a quality assessment. My work as a writer, editor, and proofreader serves that function. It’s easier for a writer or an artist to assess his work, project by project, than it is for someone whose output is not a completed project.

I have never set financial goals. I always have assumed that money would take care of itself. It always has. That was because I always tithed and because I have pursued a lifetime goal systematically.

I have been in debt only for my first car (1971-73) and my subscription-fulfillment costs, now cut to one year, maximum, and mostly monthly. I can pay off my one-year subscribers for under $3,500.

If you are in debt, if you have not tithed, and if you have not systematically pursued a lifetime goal, you will have to pay close attention to identifying your calling (lifetime legacy) and your financial goals (the means to achieve your legacy). In your case, money will not take care of itself. You have lots of obligations and few reserves.

The process of selecting short-term goals and medium-term goals is like selecting a path to a final destination. The road map is incomplete. The time available is uncertain. The destination may have to be altered at some point because of circumstances, especially a terminal disease. But you must begin somewhere. You are being pushed from behind: the ticking clock. You only have so many ticks. You must move forward. You might as well move forward according to a plan. This plan is made up of a series of goals.

Homework Assignment

Look over your medium-term goals. Use these as guidelines for your short-term goals. Try to break down these goals into these:


Daily goals should be set the night before. Select three or four things that you must accomplish before the end of the next day. If you miss one, put it at the top of the list for the day after tomorrow.

Expect to be interrupted. Try to have an open hour each day for finishing your daily goals, despite the interruptions.

With respect to each time frame’s goals, use numerical indicators and descriptive or quality indicators. Write them down on a 5×8 card or in a place where you can review your progress. Then be sure to review it.

Make modifications in your plan when you see that your schedule is not working out as planned. You may make more rapid progress than you imagined. Or you may move ahead slower than you planned. Find out what you must do, faster or slower, to move forward toward your lifetime goal.

You may safely modify your short-term goals. It is less safe to modify your five-year plan. It is dangerous to modify your lifetime plan. It defines you more than anything else. If you do not have one, then your lack of a lifetime goal defines you. If you modify it, this re-defines you.

You want to hear these words some day:

Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord (Matt. 25:21)

Well done at what? On what? For how long? Decide now.

For guidelines, go here:

Set Medium-Term Goals

Gary North

Let’s review the five points of the biblical covenant model:

1. God’s sovereignty
2. Man’s delegated authority
3. God’s law
4. God’s sanctions (positive and negative)
5. Inheritance in history

This is understood in terms of five questions.

1. Who’s in charge here?
2. To whom do I report?
3. What are the rules?
4. What do I get if I obey? Disobey?
5. Does this outfit have a future?

These five points are inescapable in economics.

1. God’s original ownership
2. Man’s stewardship
3. God’s kingdom: “seek first”
4. God’s blessings: “all these things”
5. The inheritance: “the meek shall inherit the earth”

Getting from Now to Then

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD. Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land (Leviticus 25:2-5).

The Israelites had to plan for a sabbatical national year every seven years. They had to save enough money or food to get them through that seventh year, when they were not allowed to plant a crop. They could eat from trees, but not from the ground. This law was designed to force them to make medium-term plans. The time limit was six years.

This sabbatical year, in turn, was preparation for the 50th year — seven sabbatical years — when all debts except debts to repay crime victims were canceled (Leviticus 25:8-13).

This was a land law. The land laws of the Mosaic law no longer apply, because Israel is no longer a holy land owned by the families that conquered Canaan under Joshua. Still, a six-year time frame is about right. You could also select a five-year time frame. If you select a more distant end date, you will find that you have to revise it so significantly that it is not a reliable guide to get you to your long-run goals.

Because five years work well in breaking up a decade into two equal parts, I recommend that you adopt a five-year plan. The five-year limit lets you establish specific goals that are attainable.

These goals are supposed to lead to the goals for age 70. They let you see if you are making steady progress toward your long- term goals. Your success every five years tells you that you are on track. Your failures remind you that you must adjust either your goals or your timetable. Either reduce your long-term expectations (not advisable) or else increase your output per year.

Few people set lifetime goals. Fewer still produce a long-term plan to attain them. Fewer still follow these plans, reviewing them on schedule.

The most common medium-term goals are financial and occupational goals. These are easy to quantify. These goals should relate to a person’s transition from job to calling.

Most people have retirement as the long-term goal: age 65. This is unwise. That leaves you only five years, age 65 to 70, to attain your goal related to your calling.

Americans see retirement as a lifetime goal for leisure: life’s vacation. This is a huge mistake. Leisure is not a legitimate goal lifetime goal. Why not? Because of this:

Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it (Exodus 20:9-11).

Got this? Six days of work, every week. Not five. Not four. Clearly, not none. The Israelites had three annual festivals — leisure — that required a long walk to the tabernacle/temple. But they worked until they were no longer capable of working. Search your Bible concordance for Barzillai. He is the biblical model. So is Caleb, who was a warrior at age 85.

Leisure is for restoration and recuperation. It helps us work better. It is not a legitimate lifetime goal. There is too much kingdom work that needs doing. Retirement should mean the end of your job. It should mean a full-time calling.

Fortunately, few people will be able to afford to retire with 100% passive income. So, a better course of action is to plan for a transition. Can you make your calling pay enough to support you comfortably? If not, you must keep working at your job. This has been my approach. I still earn most of my income from one Website: It is not passive income. I must write four articles a day and answer questions on the forums. I have other sites, such as this one, that relate to my calling.

It is almost impossible to save your way to a comfortable retirement based on passive income. I knew that dream was unattainable by age 17. I always planned to keep working. Since 2008, millions of Americans have figured this out. They will not be able to retire. They must stay in the work force, serving others.

Your Transition into Your Calling

Some men think of their prime as age 50. That is because they are thinking of their occupations. This is the period of maximum productivity for most careers.

I don’t know what age women think of as their prime. It depends on their concept of service. They probably do not think of age 50 as their prime.

You should have two prime periods in life. The first relates to occupation (men) or children (women). Then you pass through it. Women go through the empty-nest syndrome. This usually comes before men go through mid-life crisis. Both crises relate to people’s realization that their lives have peaked with respect to the first half of their adult years: occupation. They have not planned for the second half: calling.

If you plan early for the second half, the transition is far less traumatic. I never experienced a mid-life crisis because I had no time for one. I was pursuing both my calling and my occupation at age 50, and both were accelerating.

I suggest that you make your personal five-year plan on the assumption that somewhere between age 50 and 55, you will make the transition to your calling. I don’t mean with 100% of your time. That is too expensive, unless you can get a salary from it.

Find a way to work on your calling from the day you get out of debt (except for your mortgage). I have worked a minimum of two hours a day, 50 weeks a year, since 1977. I have usually invested twice this figure. It can be done. Increase this time commitment to age 50.

Then move more heavily toward the calling in terms of your allocation of time after age 50. Ideally, your expenses will start to decline after age 55. You will not have to work so many hours at your occupation.

My strongly held view is that you should not spend more than 40 hours a week on the salaried portion of your job. (If you are in senior management, and you are building equity, that is different — risky, but different.) The other hours should go to starting a side business to retire into, working on your calling to retire into, and time with your family. Ideally, these are the same project: a family business related to your calling.

It is unwise to devote overtime to anything salaried. You lose your most precious resource: time. Your employer will gain the lion’s share of your time’s value. If your job requires more than 40 hours a week, look for a new job. Otherwise, you will find at age 50 that you are not ready for the transition.

Your side business should be something related to your calling. If it isn’t, then it should generate lots of passive income, or close to passive income, within a decade. It should support you by age 60. Earlier is better. The sooner you can quit your salaried job, the better.

Your calling is more important than your job. You need the job to feed your family and fund your calling. Your legacy will be your calling, not your job, unless your job is your calling. If it is, rejoice. You are unique.

Milestones on Your Path to Your Prime-Time Calling

What will it take so that you can devote your last 20 years mostly to your calling? Return to the three questions.

What do I want to achieve?
When do I want to achieve it?
What am I willing to pay?

These should guide you in identifying the required milestones. The main thing you need is capital. Capital includes the following:

1. Money
2. Education
3. Certification
4. Personal contacts (networking)
5. Reputation

When you have these, you can make the transition.

Homework Assignment

Sit down with paper and pencil and divide up your life into equal sections from now to age 50. At age 50, you must be spending at least 35% of your non-family time on your calling. This percentage should grow, year by year. A good target is 1% per year.

By age 65, you should be devoting 50% of your time to your calling. If you can accelerate this transition, all the better.

What milestones can you identify that are specific, meaning measurable? Work on these:

1. Money
2. Education
3. Certification
4. Personal contacts (networking)
5. Reputation

Get these goals on paper. Get them into a filing system. You should be able to review these medium-term goals every five years.

For guidelines, go here:

You must be able to break them down into one-year milestones. You will review them annually.

Set Long-Term Goals

Gary North

Let’s review the five points of the biblical covenant model:

1. God’s sovereignty
2. Man’s delegated authority
3. God’s law
4. God’s sanctions (positive and negative)
5. Inheritance in history

This is understood in terms of five questions.

1. Who’s in charge here?
2. To whom do I report?
3. What are the rules?
4. What do I get if I obey? Disobey?
5. Does this outfit have a future?

These five points are inescapable in economics.

1. God’s original ownership
2. Man’s stewardship
3. God’s kingdom: “seek first”
4. God’s blessings: “all these things”
5. The inheritance: “the meek shall inherit the earth”

Long-Term Goals

And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch (Genesis 6:12-14).

God was fed up with mankind. But he was not so fed up that he was willing to destroy all mankind. He would preserve one man’s family.

He told Noah what Noah had to do. He expected Noah to readjust his life to complete this assignment. No one had ever built anything like this before. It would take many years. It would take the division of labor within his household.

Perhaps he hired workers. They must have had a good laugh at Noah’s expense.

Noah had to pay all costs. He had to raise the money out of his net income. He therefore had to save. This was a lifetime savings project — not his lifetime: humanity’s. While humanity continued as before, Noah had to sacrifice for the future. Jesus said:

For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (Matthew 24:38-39).

Noah’s task was crucial in human history. Until the day that Christ went to the cross, this was the most important task in man’s history. There could be no half-measures. The work had to be done according to God’s specifications.

And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it (Genesis 6:15-16).

God gave Noah two reasons to complete this task. One was negative. The other was positive.

And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee (Genesis 6:17-18).

This was a long-term project. It would have a positive outcome. Noah would become the father of a new creation. He would serve as a new Adam. Although Noah did not know this until after the flood receded, God would reconfirm His covenant with mankind through Noah. The original covenant said this:

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28)

The new covenant with Noah and his family said this:

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things (Genesis 9:1-3).

This was the culmination of God’s plan and Noah’s precise execution of it. It has come down through the ages to us.

Here is a summary of this plan.

1. A totally sovereign God came up with the plan.
2. He revealed part of this plan to Noah and called Noah to obey his delegated assignment: building the ark.

3. Noah began to work on this task, not knowing how long it would take to complete it or how much it would cost.

4. Noah was given a positive sanction at the end of the process: the reconfirmed dominion covenant.

5. His family inherited the whole earth.

God spoke directly to Noah. He gave Noah a blueprint. God does not speak to us directly. He does give us a blueprint: the Bible.

God expects us to figure out what our lifetime assignment is. He also expects us to implement it. Like Noah, we do not know how much time we have. Like Noah, we do not know what it will cost. It is a lot like getting married. Yet people get married on these terms. Why shouldn’t they select lifetime goals on these terms?

From Short-Term Goals to Long-Term Goals

An individual or a family deep in debt has an immediate goal: to stop the pain. This is a short-term goal. It is a valid goal.

My debt-reduction program asks you to defer the implementation of a plan to achieve this goal until after you are tithing to your local church. Depending on the debt-to-income ratio, it may take a year for an individual or a family to get to a full tithe. Then, and only then, does the debt-reduction program begin.

This is a difficult strategy to adopt and stick to. The pain of debt does not go away immediately. People who are present- oriented may quit. If they do not get immediate gratification, they surrender. Tithing is a good test of your commitment to a medium-term plan rather than a short-term plan.

There should be an offsetting sense of satisfaction as a result of seeing your giving to the local church increase. That should provide a sense of victory. The victory over debt is delayed, but the victory over bad spending habits is immediate.

Once you replace your bad spending habits with good ones, your victory over debt is assured. It is just a matter of time. There is a theological phrase for this: the perseverance of the saints. The phrase refers to eternal life, but it applies to daily living.

You need a short-term goal: to tithe. You need a medium-term goal: to get out of debt after you are tithing. But what of your long-term goals? What are they?

I have already covered this in the lesson on the calling. Did you do the homework? If not, do it now.

Think of how you would give a brief speech to your children and grandchildren at age 70. What would you tell them about the things that you achieved that you are most proud of? What advice would you give them on how they can do the same?

Do you know? If not, your retroactive assessment of your career at age 70 may be disappointing. You will have achieved some positive things, but will they be the best things that you could have achieved, if you were to start today to achieve specific long-term goals?

A recovering alcoholic has a short-term goal: to avoid drinking alcohol today. “One day at a time” is an AA slogan. If temptation comes, the goal shifts: to avoid drinking for an hour.

An alcoholic with no mid-term goals or long-term goals will find it difficult to stick with his short-term goal every day for decades. The long-term goal motivates him to stick with his short-term goal.

This is why you need to decide what your #1 lifetime goal is. This is the issue of legacy or inheritance. I have dealt with this is the previous lesson.

Homework Assignment

Spend some time thinking about this. What are you capable of achieving of significance to the kingdom of God if you work on a plan, day by day, a little each day, until you are age 70?

Have you ever thought about this before?

Write down as many lifetime projects as you can imagine. Then think through which one or two projects are your calling. I define calling as follows: the most important thing you can do in which you would be most difficult to replace. For more information, go here:

What are your skills? What needs to be done for the kingdom? Can you match these?

Narrow this down to at least one project. Then consider if you can take on two.

Discuss this with your spouse. See if you can work out a mutually acceptable plan for each of you to achieve a lifetime goal. Can this be a joint goal?

Planning comes later. First, you must have the goal in mind. Then you must write it down.

That is your assignment for the week: a written lifetime goal to be completed by age 70. Why age 70? This:

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away (Psalm 90:10).

For guidelines for setting long-term goals, go here:

The Blessings of God

Gary North

Let’s review the five points of the biblical covenant model:

1. God’s sovereignty
2. Man’s delegated authority
3. God’s law
4. God’s sanctions (positive and negative)
5. Inheritance in history

This is understood in terms of five questions.

1. Who’s in charge here?
2. To whom do I report?
3. What are the rules?
4. What do I get if I obey? Disobey?
5. Does this outfit have a future?

These five points are inescapable in economics.

1. God’s original ownership
2. Man’s stewardship
3. God’s kingdom: “seek first”
4. God’s blessings: “all these things”
5. The inheritance: “the meek shall inherit the earth”

All These Things

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him (Matt. 4:8-11).

“All these things”: This was the third and final temptation of Christ in Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus later announced this to His followers:

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:31-33).

“All these things”: This is a promise of capitalization. Christians as a fellowship community will receive all the things that they need in their efforts to extend the kingdom of God in history. God does not short-change His people.

This promise re-confirmed what Moses had told the generation of the conquest, just before they invaded Canaan.

The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in his ways. And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee. And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee. The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them: And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them (Deut. 28:9-14).

These positive sanctions are what fund covenant-keepers in the first half of this verse: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.” Without this as the guide, “all these things” become a snare and a delusion. Jesus was clear about this.

No man 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. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? (Matt. 6:24-27).

What was mammon? It was not a local god with a temple. The Jews who listened to Jesus would not have been tempted by such a god. Mammon was and is a way of life: man-centered. Its creed is simple: More for me in history. Mammon is the most widely worshipped god in history. It attracts many followers. It does not take active evangelism to recruit dedicated followers.

Personal Responsibility

The biblical goal for greater wealth is to increase your level of responsibility. All increases in wealth produce greater responsibility.

And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more (Luke 12:47-48).

People who want greater wealth with less responsibility are pursuing a mirage.

By increasing your level of responsibility, you extend the kingdom of God. This is why Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added. The things referred to in this passage are mainly tools of production — kingdom extension.

There are other benefits besides tools of production: a safe neighborhood, better health, longer life, a peaceful marriage, a more serviceable house, more reliable transportation. Some of these things can be purchased with money, but not all. Solomon wrote: “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house” (Prov. 21:9). Then he wrote it again, word for word (Prov. 25:24).

Examine your budget. Where do your interest payments go? To mammon or to God?

Homework Assignment

Go through your budget categories. Mark them by hand: mammon and God. Then decide: “How can I convert the mammon expenditures to kingdom-extending expenditures?”

If you cannot find an answer, ask this: “How can I reduce these payments?” One way is to sell the asset and use the money for debt-reduction. Another is to start speeding up the principal payments.