Money – Getting It Under Control

Eighth in a “Life’s Problems” series
Delivered August 29, 2004 by Rev. John Schmidt.

Sermon Text:
I Timothy 6:17-19
and Proverbs 16:3, 21:17, 22:7

Sermon Notes are at the end.

Well, we have been talking about life’s problems for a number of weeks and I think those of you have been paying close attention are starting to realize that we have been talking about the smaller problems. These are the problems that we actually have some control over. The last week of the series, which will be next week, I am going to be talking about the problems that we really don’t have any control over, the extreme problems, those big problems that hit us in life that make us wonder where is God in all of this, and so next week we will focus on that to kind of close out this time that we have been thinking about the various problems that we face in life, even as Christians.

Following that, we are going to have a week that we have on mission focus where some of the young people who have gone out and done some mission service this year, there is going to be testimonies and a grouping together on that week that’s going to take the place of my normal sermon, and we are going to hear the word of God through the experiences of some of the people who have gone on mission trips. And following that, we are going to have a five week series where we are going to look at the Book of Colossians, we are just going to move through the Book of Colossians and during that series, since September is the month that we are focusing in on small group life among dozens of other things that we are focusing on, there is going to be a Bible study available on the website for small group use or for personal use that will track with the sermons for the five weeks of the Collossians study. So sometime in early September those studies will start coming up on the website and they will go with the sermons so, if you want to study that in your small groups, please do that.

But, today we are on the second week of dealing with money. Last week we focused on the fact that money is a spiritual issue, that our attitude about money can affect our relationship with God. We can’t just put it aside and say; oh we can do whatever we want with money because it doesn’t connect with the spiritual life. It does. This week we are going to focus in on what the Bible says about controlling money, what’s some of the practical advice that’s actually in the Bible, a document where some of the older parts of the Bible are over 4,000 years old and so we are going to be looking at some really old wisdom on this issue of handling money, because some of the basics are going to be the same in any economy at any time in history. Now what we are going to be looking at is not an MBA sort of thing. You know if you want that you got to talk to somebody else, because certainly I don’t have any expertise. This is not even going to be like a good session in financial counseling or management. What this is, is it is going to be on basic stuff, but it’s the basics that are so important to us getting our financial lives under control. So we are going to look at four things. Three of them are going to be just basic wise sayings that we find in the Book of Proverbs. We are going to look at three of those and then the final thing we are going to look at, the fourth item is going to be a command that we find in the New Testament.

Let’s pray. Lord we thank you for your Word and we are going to be looking at it together. We pray that you open our eyes to the things that are important in your Word. Help us to believe you and to respond in obedience, for we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well the first part, the first point comes in Proverbs 16. That’s around page 460 in your pew Bible if you want to look at that. Proverbs 16, verse 3 and it says this.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” Here is a basic bit of wisdom that says that planning is good and that as responsible Christian people our planning has done something, is something we do under the authority of God. So we commit what we do to God and this includes our financial life. So what’s the problem here?

Here’s the problem. We’ve got no financial plan, many of us and what is the solution? The solution is to prayerfully budget. In a healthy lifestyle there is always money left over at the end of the month and if we get to the end of our pay period again and again and there is no money left, and we find ourselves short again, we need to know why. We have to have that capacity to somehow analyze what’s going on in our lives and the way to do that is to start gathering the data about how we spend and start comparing that to some picture of what we should be spending to live within our income. We especially need these targets in our weak areas. We hardly need the target in areas where we are strong and have a lot of self-control already. For example, Debbie and I don’t need a target for how much to spend every month on cigarettes. We don’t smoke. It’s not an issue. What we do need a target on is eating out. You know people ask me what my hobby is and I sort of say it’s hiking you know or it’s, no I really do like hiking, I really do. No, you know I work on the computer. I do finances on mine, I got all kinds of answers and most of them are kind of true, but the real hobby is eating out. Debbie is a good cook. My second best hobby is eating in. So we need a target there to just be honest and to live within our budget. I could spend all you would ever pay me on eating out and then on working out to try to control it. We all need some point that reminds us when we have hit the limit and so that means we have to have the discipline of setting up a budget and then comparing our lives to that budget.

Now God can give us insight into this, as we pray about it and ask for God to show us. We can get some insight and some sense of what would be good priorities in our lives and then we need to stick to it. Now, this is a no-brainer. You didn’t need to come to church this morning to hear this because you knew this already. But how many of us are living that way? Making a budget and then learning how to live by it.

Let me go to a bit of common sense advice. It comes in the Book or Proverbs again but this time the 21st chapter. So turn a few pages over, the 21st chapter, the 17th verse.

“He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich.”

Now this isn’t a passage that talks about drunkenness and all. That’s wrong too, but that’s not the focus on the passage here. The passage here talks about being too interested in pursuing a lifestyle of pleasure, good food, good wine, good circumstances, comfort and exciting experiences. Anybody who dedicates their lives in that direction are going to inevitably run into financial problems. There is an over indulgence that we can have in life and so the problem here then is overindulgence and the solution then is to simplify our lives. We live in a society that is based on overindulgence and over-consumption. That’s what our whole economy is based on. 20 minutes of every hour we watch on television is commercials. Every magazine we open up half of the pages are advertisements. We are constantly being bombarded with signals to buy. As we leave any building that we are a part of, as we hit the streets we are bombarded with advertisements. When we watch movies, the products that the people use in the movie are placed there by advertisement so that the computers, the cars, the soft drinks are all advertisements. They want us to see their product in use and they pay for that privilege. We are surrounded.

In our society one of our names is consumers; the American consumer. It shows where our identity is. We are in a country that views shopping as a recreational activity. Recreational shopping. If you are feeling bad, go to the mall and that’s going to make you feel better and it’s going to fill that void in your heart. We live that way. You know over-consumption for us is like breathing. I know some pastors in other parts of the world that have to save up for a year in order to buy a bicycle. I own three cars in two states, and I am like many of you. It’s obvious that things like mending clothes, which for most of human history mending clothes was a part of lifestyle. It’s no longer part of our lifestyle. If you get a hole or get something… it’s gone. I don’t even know, you know darning is one of those historical words that I know about. Many homes have more TVs in it than people. And I feel so self-righteous that I am not one of them. But in my house there are two computers plugged in and there are two computers in the basement being stored and then each of my kids have a computer and I just gave a computer away last year. That’s way too many computers. And we live this kind of lifestyle.

Over-consumption isn’t a matter of how much a thing costs, it’s a matter of whether we really need it or not. So we need to simplify our lives a bit and we need to slow down on replacing things that really don’t need to be replaced yet. We need to buy what we need and not just what we want and we need to discern the difference between quality and just showing off. You know, there is a lot of ego spending in the world and none of it will ever be a Christian character witness. We need to be discerning on how we spend our money. Sometimes it’s a real simple thing, as simple as eating more meals at home. Maybe it’s as simple as getting basic cable service instead of the full digital arrangement.

There are different choices that face us, but we need to face those choices because it’s not just a matter or earning more and more money, because no matter how much money you can run into this problem. I don’t know whether you all noticed it in the paper just a few weeks ago, but two athletes both had multi-million dollar contracts, both facing bankruptcy because no matter how much they earned, they had discovered a way to spend more than they were earning. So that brings up the other bit of common sense advice we find in Proverbs. Proverbs 22, verse 7.

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

The picture here is that when you are in the situation that you have to borrow money, you pull yourself into a situation where you come under a form of bondage, but when you are in debt you are not really free in your financial life. So the problem here is debt and the solution is to cut particularly, particularly cut credit spending. About six years ago I got a credit offer in the mail and I was sort of surprised when I saw it because you know when you get ten of these a day you can kind of compare them to each other, and I was actually still at the point that I would read them instead of just shredding them and I was reading it and this one just wasn’t as good a deal. The credit limit was a little lower and the interest rate was a little higher and I am thinking that this bank is not even in the competition. Why are they even bothering to send me a letter when all the other ones are giving us a better deal. Then I looked at it more closely and I saw that it was to my daughter. She was a freshman in college. She had no income whatsoever and she was being offered a pre-approved credit card with a several thousand-dollar limit. Now, credit is a real problem right now. I was talking to a pastor a few days ago. He has a congregation of 150 people and two families in that congregation have faced bankruptcy this year. In great part because of credit problem, credit cards.

Now, there are some older folks in this congregation, my age and above, I will just use that as a marker, and they are feeling sort of self righteous looking at these young families saying, “Oh man when we were younger we didn’t have problems with credit.” Well, that’s because everybody was smart enough not to give you credit. It’s insane to give a college freshman credit. Anybody who walked into my room when I was a freshman would have known, this guy is not trustworthy. He can’t find his T-shirts. He’s never going to be able to find the bill. And so younger families are facing stresses we never had to face before because credit has become so easy to get, but it’s a trap because ultimately you have to pay it back. Ideally, the only debt we should have would be our house mortgage. Most of us are not going to be in that place anytime soon, but what we need to do is to cut the amount of debt that we have and a critical part of that is to cut credit card spending, it means to cut the cards, put them in a drawer so you have to pull them out and to go back home and pull it out of the drawer and carry it back to the store before you use it. Do whatever you have to do, because credit card spending is going to be the place that is most dangerous because it makes you believe you have money that you don’t have.

Part of what God wants for us in all of life is freedom and that’s also true in our financial life. God wants us to be free to spend our money on real needs. He wants us to be free to have the money to prepare for the future. He wants us to be free from abnormal pressures and worries about money. And he wants us to be free to help other people, but to be free; we have to attack our debts. And I use that word deliberately. We need to attack it. View it as an enemy and get rid of it as fast as you can. Now thats the common sense stuff. People will agree on that, Christian or not, all through the ages there has been that sense of what common sense money management is all about.

But I would like to turn to the New Testament now to 1st Timothy, chapter 6, verses 17 to 19 and now look at a command that comes in scripture. 1st Timothy, 6, 17 to 19.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

The problem here is trusting money and the solution is learning how to give. Behind the issue of controlling our money and managing our money is the issue of trusting God. This hit me when I went to a worship service at an African American congregation called “Abounding Love” in Baton Rouge. It was a new congregation and our church had a relationship with them and so one week a bunch of people from our congregation went to their church and another week a bunch of people from their church came to ours and we exchange pulpits and everything else like that. And as I was there, before the offering every week and I went there a number of times, they would say a little creed of sorts. Now I don’t remember the exact words, but this is more or less what they would say before they gave their offering.

“I know God provides for my every need. My future is secure. The promotion will come. A new job waits for me. The check is in the mail and I am a trustee of the blessings that God has given, as I hope for the blessings he’s yet to give.”

And what that showed me was that for them they were affirming week after week that giving wasn’t the fact that we are showing God that we are willing to share a little bit. You know God I like church, I care about the poor, I will give a little bit or I will share a little bit. It wasn’t about that at all. As they gave, they were affirming the fact that they really believed that ultimately God was the one providing for them. That God was the provider. It’s a matter of getting it straight that we really believe that God is a provider and a faithful provider. Take a look at what is says in verse 17. “Command those who are rich in the present world not be arrogant and put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” Now, this isn’t a picture of God giving us the absolute minimum so we somehow get by. Here is God who richly gives to us and He gives to us everything we need and God’s intention is that is not that we barely scrape by, but that we actually enjoy what we receive. God is generous. Now, it’s not all material things that God gives back to us because we are complicated beings and we have needs on all kinds of levels and God is committing himself to give back to us richly on all these levels as we live the life he calls us to live.

The passage here also tells us that we are not supposed to put our hope in wealth. And the word hope here means the assurance that what is promised will actually be delivered. And so it tells us not to have that attitude towards money, that we really believe that what it promises it will actually deliver because it doesn’t. If we put our hope in money it means that we believe our future happiness depends on having more money. Now, if we put our trust in money it means that we believe that more money will make us happier, that it will protect us from harm, that money will introduce us to the right people and that money will fulfill our hearts desire. Now none of us here would ever say that publically, or at least not in front of a whole group, maybe in front of a small group you might say that. We don’t talk that way, but what about our actions. I am not talking about what we say; I am talking about what we actually do. How do we actually use our money? Sometimes I think we act as if God really won’t provide for us.

I think about a time when I was five years old. My brother is five years younger than me and my mother went in to the hospital to give birth to my brother. And I can still remember the day that as the afternoon wore on, I went out the back door, I hopped the fence and went into the next back yard and went up and I talked to our neighbor Miss Ann. I said, “Miss Ann my mom is in the hospital today and nobody is going to feed me.” She is looking at this chunky little five-year-old who never missed a meal. She thought it was funny and eventually my family thought it was funny. But my dad was hurt at first. My dad was home and he was there to care for me and here I am a little five-year-old and I really believed that he was not going to take care of me. Do we ever really act that way with God? The way that by what we do we are saying, “Well, I don’t think God is going to take care of me.” If our hope is in God it means that we are going to assured that he’s going to provide what he promised, that if he has promised it, he’s going to deliver it, that he is going to take care of us, that what he says here is true, that he is a generous provider of all kinds of things for us to enjoy and that if we take the risk of living his way, of living generously, that we are going to receive generously on all kinds of levels of our lives and we are going to enjoy it.

There is an incredible amount of joy and satisfaction that comes as we free up our lives particularly in this area of finances. And we first need to do some common sense things that successful people have done. We need to set up a budget. We need to simplify our lives. We need to cut down on our debts. But as Christians there is a deeper more fundamental issue that is going on. We need to trust God. God has created us. God has created all the things we see outside around us; the abundance of things that we enjoy. God created us to have appetites and he knows what it is to have the pleasure of meeting the needs of those appetites. God knows color. He understands color and style and the joys we have about that. He knows our need for security. God knows all of these things and on top of that, he loves us enough the way that he sent Jesus Christ to take our place, to die in our place because our selfishness and the way we have hurt ourselves and other people and hurt God is so serious that that would eliminate the possibility of having a relationship with God. God took that so seriously that Jesus took that burden on himself and has become God’s solution so that despite the problems that we have had, despite the sin in our lives, we can have a relationship with God. He loves us that much and it’s this God that says that he will be our provider. Here in this life he will provide. And on top of that he is teaching us that nothing we give or sacrifice goes unnoticed or unrewarded. I want to read to you two verses in this passage again. Verse 18 and 19.

“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”

Now we expect to get that when we goto church, where you come and somehow or another in a sermon tell you to do something good. There is no surprise there. You go to church and somewhere in the sermon, do this thing that’s good. But take a look at the next verse, because it’s in the next verse that we get the surprise. In this way, they will lay up a treasure for who? Themselves.

If you give, you lay up treasure in heaven for yourself. There is no loss in God’s economy. It’s an investment. It might not be money. I haven’t a clue what treasure in heaven actually means, but we can trust God that it really will come across as treasure. There is no way of losing because God has promised that he notices every sacrifice of time, every time in love we stretch out to do a little more to serve. Every time we give generously, God notices and he will reward.

Now if we haven’t given our lives to God, that’s the first step. If God loves us this much and God is willing to provide in this way and he’s taken care that nothing goes unnoticed, how can we not take the step of entrusting our lives to God? He’s provided a way for us to be forgiven. And to not be distanced from God anymore, but to have a close relationship where we know we have been forgiven and we can have all that past erased and begin with a new slate and not only begin with a new slate, but begin with new internal power to live in a new way that hurts us less and hurts other people less. But if we have made that choice, there is always more choices ahead. And in this case, it’s that choice to believe God, to trust him and to enjoy the freedom he can work out in our lives, even our financial lives.

Let’s pray. Gracious God, we do give to you these concerns before us, we give to you first our lives and if we haven’t made that decision before Lord, help us to wrestle with what it means to turn from a self-centered way of life and to turn 180 degrees and have a God centered way of life, a way of peace and abundance and of rest because you will show us your love and draw us in to a relationship with yourself. And as we grow to know you better, help us to trust you more and to obey you in all the parts of our lives, particularly today we focus on this issue of our finances. Help us to not trust in money, but to give to you generously. For we ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sermon Outline Notes:

Problem: No Financial Plan
Solution: Prayerfully budget
Problem: Over indulgence
Solution: Simplify
Problem: Debt
Solution: Cut credit spending
Problem: Trusting money
Solution: Learning to Give
Hope is the assurance that what is promised will be delivered.
Learning to give is a faith issue.
Do we really trust God?
To dig deeper into this topic and for further help, see our recommended reading list – topic: money/finances. Check out the list and find a book that will help you grow in your walk with the Lord in the area of finances.

Also, we will be planning a one-day seminar called “Journey to Financial Freedom” on Saturday, October 2nd. Watch for details to come.

Saddleback Church has some useful tools for handling your finances in their Financial Skills and Tools section. In particular, see the “Personal Financial Profile” and the “Monthly Budget Ledger” under “Download Financial Tools.”