Rubbing Pennies Together

by Merle Herr | May 2010

Lending is a very old economic activity. The Old Testament even contains some guidelines and stories about lending. Long before lending was organized into lending institutions, individuals with capital needed some way to keep their money working.

Keeping Cash Working
The parable of the talents, along with the principles of stewardship, calls us to be prudent and productive with the assets that God places within our care. This applies to many types of talents and valuables, not the least of which is our cash. Burying your talents or hiding your cash is quite foolish. However, it is even more foolish to place your money into the hands of the imprudent. Rarely do you hear about anyone guilty of hiding significant sums of money under their mattress or in a household safe. Yet stories abound of foolish individuals that unknowingly entrusted their savings into the hands of the imprudent. Nonetheless, there are ways to invest cash without committing the sin of hiding your cash or losing it to the imprudent.
Risk aside, deep within the human heart is the desire to participate in something that matters, something that produces gain and good. A good work ethic requires that both our hands and our cash be productive—not lying idle. In the truest sense, cash is the past work of our hands extending into the future to help someone. Cash is yesterday’s work.

Keeping Cash Cold
Cash can have many productive functions, but one of the best is when it is used to create and further brotherly relationships. Have you ever heard the expression “cold cash” or “just cash?” Such expressions illustrate the fact that much lending and borrowing is performed with little relational context. Borrowed cash is cold when you have no personal relationship with the person or group of people that are extending their hands to you. Do you care that your cash works in a manner that creates economic gain and relational gain? Are you skilled in facilitating agreements that enable your cash to “stay warm”—in other words, building relationships which encourage, enable and bring a sense of belonging to both parties?
On the other hand, it is sometimes fitting to keep cash cold. Sometimes an investor’s identity is best hidden from the borrower in order to protect the investor. Sometimes an investor has cash to reinvest, but does not have the financial wisdom to direct borrowers in prudent decisions. Sometimes it is fitting or the borrower to borrow cold cash from an institution because the institution provides better financial parameters and strategic planning. Since cash is an extension of our hands, it has relational power. You cannot extend your warm hand of cash to another without significantly affecting the relationship for better or worse.

Keeping Cash Warm
In many situations it can be pure joy to help or be helped by someone within your circle of acquaintance. Warm cash can be one of the strands of love that binds a family or friends together. Before the advent of lending institutions, (cold cash makers) most people reinvested warm (relational) cash with relatives, friends, and colleagues. While the rate of return is often similar, warm cash can yield an immeasurable return of connection and camaraderie.
Warm cash is the essence of mutual aid. Mutual aid is a term that did not exist in the early twentieth century. The Amish and Mennonites coined this term sometime towards the middle of the century. While mutual aid has many physical expressions among Anabaptists, cash is no small player. The principle of brotherly mutual aid is quite simple; mutual assistance and benefit between brothers in Christ. The application of cash in mutual aid is equally simple; warm the heart of your brother with cash. One way this is accomplished is through a private loan between an investor and borrower. Some may call this a personal loan. Regardless of the term, warm cash is very personal and very relational.

Why We Get So Emotional Over Money
Some people fear lending cash through a personal loan to an acquaintance. Why? Because warm cash has great potential to cause sorrow and bring conflict to a relationship. We have all heard the horror stories of a borrower that fails to repay a personal loan—and the resultant disappointment and injury to a relationship. This is an inherent weakness of personal loans. However, it is also the inherent beauty of a personal loan. With a personal loan, both parties are in a relationship deeply laden with emotions. Money naturally draws to the surface feelings in the heart. Lending cash will always affect a relationship. Due to our heart’s connection to money, losing it becomes a painful experience. We should not try to stay emotionally detached from the treasure of our labor (money) in the Lord in order to avoid pain when our money is lost by another. For the mature in heart, emotions will always swirl around our treasures. We should grieve and mourn if our money is lost by the imprudent actions of another. When an investor puts heart and soul in his labor and produces a profit, the resulting cash will carry tremendous emotional and spiritual feelings and meaning. For the mature in Christ, cash is never “just cash.” If you find the grace of Jesus in your work, you should find grace in the resultant cash as well.
Should we avoid making personal loans just because of the potential of hurt and conflict? God forbid. If Anabaptists continue to depart from the practice of weaving their hearts together with cash, we will wake up some day and wonder why we are no more cohesive than the next religious group. Work connects us! Cash connects us!! Commenting on the fellowship around cash, my late deacon, Alvin Forry, would say, “You never know someone well until you rub pennies together.”

Keeping Cash Safe
We are not suggesting that you throw caution to the wind and passionately return to reinvesting cash in a brother through imprudent personal loans. Neither are we suggesting that you reinvest cash at safe financial institutions or money markets that simply generate a rate of interest without a hint of relational return. If rate of return is the primary reason controlling your reinvesting decisions, you are lonelier and more isolated than God intended. In practicing stewardship, productivity should not be achieved at the expense of relationships. A high-yielding rate of return with little relational connection and commitment can make you money-rich and relationally-poor.
Anabaptist Financial is a loan pool that provides security for money by blending the cash of many investors into one loan. This spreads the risk on an individual investor across many borrowers. While this weakens some of the relational power of cash, it provides a method for investors to still offer their hand of cash to their brother, while at the same time increasing security. Our tag line is “Stewardship Connections with Integrity.” We are passionate about calling the church back to maximizing “cash connections” without losing cash. Many individuals need the safety of a loan pool such as Anabaptist Financial. Others who are mature in financial wisdom ought to consider a bit more risk with their cash and reinvest more personally and more warmly in personal loans with their brother, neighbor, or some local enterprise. For this very reason, AF offers a conduit loans (private loans) facilitation to further your options of investing your money. After all, if you want a powerful bond of fellowship with your brother, try “rubbing pennies together.” Ω

"Rubbing Pennies Together" from the May 2010 issue of Stewardship Connections, a publication of Anabaptist Financial. Reprinted with Permission.