Holistic part 4
How Should I Manage Money
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 3, 2010

Money. The Bible has a lot to say about how we should handle money. Oh, it doesn’t tell us how to diversity our portfolio, but it does talk about getting out of debt, refraining from extravagant and unnecessary purchases, avoiding wasting money on interest rates, being generous with your children, learning to be content with less, doing your research before spending money on big ticket items, paying back what you owe, the dangers of impulse spending, the advantages of long term investments over short term gains… there’s a lot more wisdom in the Bible about money than you might think.

In fact, Dave Ramsey—a popular radio host and money expert who’s been a regular contributor at CBS—has counted about 800 passages in the Bible dealing with money. Of the 39 stories or parables Jesus told, over half of them deal with the topics of money and/or work. (http://www.daveramsey.com/church/scriptures/)

We’ve been talking for the past few weeks about living a holistic Christian life. A holistic faith is all-encompassing… it doesn’t just apply to one specific area of your life but to all of life. It’s about following Jesus and living for Him not only in what you might call “spiritual” areas, but in every area. In fact, in the Bible there is no concept of there being segregated areas of our lives. Our lives are meant to be an integrated whole.

Galatians 5:25 (NLT)
Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

So far in this series we’ve talked about how a holistic Christ-follower strives to honour God every day in every way. When it comes to your relationships, your family, your career, your recreation, your future plans, your life goals, your marriage, your Internet habits, your television viewing, the things you think about… in every way.

Last week we talked about honouring God in the way we spend our time, by making it a priority to gather with other believers every Sunday, by setting aside time each and every day to spend it with Him in prayer and reading the Bible, and even beyond that being wise in the ways we spend the rest of our time, too. I used the example of a marriage… if I give my wife my complete and undivided attention for an hour every day, that might be honouring to her. But if I then go and give that same focus and attention to another woman, that’s not so honouring. So you honour God in your schedule not just by the way you spend time specifically with Him but how you spend the rest of your time, too.

So that was last week. Today, we’re talking about honouring God with our money. And maybe that right there is a good place to start. Is it really our money?

Your first reaction might be, “Of course it is! I worked for it, I earned it, it’s my money.” But the truth is, it’s a little different than that.

Deuteronomy 8:18 (NIV)
But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…

Psalm 24:1 (NLT)
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.

A word you hear from time to time is the word “stewardship.” What is stewardship? Well, a steward is a household servant who cares for the owner’s property, or a steward is the person on a cruise ship or an airplane who is responsible for caring for all the food provisions, or who works at a hotel and takes care of all the property there.

In other words, a steward is a manager. They care for property that does not necessarily belong to them but they have been entrusted with the responsibility to care for it.

So when we use the term stewardship in reference to money, we’re talking about how as a Christian everything we have really belongs to God… we’ve committed it to Him, and we recognize that every blessing we experience really comes from Him…

James 1:17 (NIV)
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…

It comes from Him and belongs to Him. So like any good steward, we’re going to care for God’s property by using it the way He has asked us to.

Jesus talked a lot about money. But not everyone liked what He had to say. One person that we often refer to as “The rich young ruler” or simply as “the rich man” came to Jesus and asked Him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And so Jesus, who knew the man’s heart, told him right up front…

Mark 10:21 (NLT)
“Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Now, I probably wouldn’t have answered the way Jesus did. In fact, I know I wouldn’t have. I probably would have talked about how important it is to put your faith in God and decide to live for Him… I would have tried to get to know the man a bit better and develop some kind of a relationship with him… I certainly wouldn’t have responded like Jesus did.

So what did Jesus do wrong? Nothing! Jesus told the man exactly what was keeping him from receiving eternal life… his greed. And the man didn’t like what he heard so he turned and walked away. He was offended. But the problem wasn’t with what Jesus said, but with the man’s greed.

You know, sometimes people are offended when churches and pastors talk about money. But it’s not really talking about money that’s the issue. Sometimes people just don’t like to hear it because it makes them confront something that is wrong in their lives.

So while acknowledging that this can be a sensitive issue, we’re going to talk about it anyway. Because you cannot live a holistic God-honouring Christian life without being a good steward of what God has entrusted to you. Do you understand that? If you are telling God to back off and stay out of your money business, you will never grow to spiritual maturity.

So what does the Bible say about how we should manage money? It has a lot to say, and I’m just going to highlight a few things this morning. Starting with…

1.    Give to God first.

It should be the very first item on your budget. Give to God first.

1 Corinthians 16:2 (MSG)
Every Sunday each of you make an offering and put it in safekeeping. Be as generous as you can.

That’s talking about giving to God through the Church. Now, you probably expected me to talk about this one. We are a church, and churches depend on donations in order to function. We’re no different here at Sunrise. We need money to survive.

But I don’t want you to give in order to help meet a budget. I mean, we do have a budget. And every year we have a church meeting to review where the money went over the past year and what our budget is for the next year. The church is accountable to you in that way, and you can know that we do our best to use the money you give wisely. We forward a significant amount to take the hope of Jesus to unreached people in countries around the world, we put a lot into equipping you and helping you grow, we have a variety of ministries from music to children to outreach in our community. We have our Sunday morning costs like our facility rental, sound equipment, our multimedia, our refreshments, even our bulletins and sermon notes and pens. Then there’s our licensing fees and memberships… yeah, we have a budget.

But meeting that budget should not be your motivation for giving. I think you should give for two reasons…

•    Because I love Jesus.

You give gifts to the people you love. That kind of generosity is an expression of love. And besides, as the owner of it all anyway, He has asked that you as His steward to set aside the first 10% of your income to give to Him each week.

Now, a lot of people wait to see what they have left at the end of the week. And then if they can spare it, they might toss God a few bucks.

But the Bible talks about a tithe being the first 10% of your earnings. In fact, in the Old Testament this is referred to as the “firstfruits” of your income. Why? Because sometimes it was just that. It might be fruit, or maybe grain, or maybe a goat. Because that’s what people grew and that’s what they had. So I’ve got to say this: Please do not bring me a goat. (I already have two kids.)

You know the great thing about this? It doesn’t matter how rich you are. We’re all on equal footing before God. 10% would be a different amount for each one of us, but it’s equal giving. And we give it as an expression of our love, our obedience, and our worship of Jesus.

Proverbs 3:9-10 (NIV)
Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

In other words, honour God in your giving and He will bless you in return. Now don’t misunderstand; this is not a get-rich-quick strategy. It’s simply a principle that when you give to God He gives back to you.

“When you are a wise steward, it honors God, relieves tension, gives you self-confidence, eliminates guilt, enhances your witness, and enables you to give more generously.”
~ Bob Russell

•    Because I believe in the ministry of the church.

Again, this isn’t about meeting a budget; it’s about financing ministry. Do you support what we’ve been called to do? Do you want to see lives changed and needs met and hopeless people finding hope and people growing in their faith and making a difference in our community and in our world? If so, then you’re going to give toward that. You’re going to support it.

Some of you really need to start giving to God. You need to give because you love God and because the Church can’t effectively minister without the resources to support it.

But there’s another reason, too, and this isn’t in your notes. But you need to give to God because otherwise you will be stagnant spiritually. Your spiritual growth will be stunted. Because when you refuse to put God first in your finances you are telling God that your finances actually come first.

Rick Warren actually talks about four habits of a disciple… four practices that can help you grow as a Christ-follower. You know what they are? Prayer, Bible Reading, fellowship with other believers as part of the Church, and… tithing. If you want to grow, you’ve got to be tithing.

Deuteronomy 14:22-23 (MSG)
Make an offering of ten percent, a tithe… Bring this into the Presence of God, your God, at the place he designates for worship… In this way you will learn to live in deep reverence before God, your God, as long as you live.

Or as the Living Bible puts it, it will teach you to always put God first in your life. Honouring God by giving to Him is an essential part of spiritual growth and maturity.

Okay, we spent a bit of time on that. So what else does the Bible say about how we should manage money?

2.    Strive to live a financially responsible life.

Well okay, but what does that mean? Several things. I think we’ll be doing an entire series on this after Christmas, so let’s go through them quickly this morning. Living responsibly means that you should…

•    Aim to be debt free.

That’s not a pipedream. You can be debt-free. You might have to live on rice and beans for a while, but by minimizing expenses, maximizing earnings, and paying down your debt, you can be debt-free. Probably a lot sooner than you think.

Proverbs 22:7 (GW)
A rich person rules poor people, and a borrower is a slave to a lender.

Romans 13:8 (NLT)
Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another.

•    Eliminate spending on destructive habits.

How much does a pack of cigarettes or a six-pack of beer cost these days? They add up quickly, don’t they? Think about how much you could save by eliminating those expenses.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT)   
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.

•    Don’t waste money gambling.

I’m not much of a fan of the lottery, because you’re throwing away money on the chance you could win. And sometimes people do win. But for the vast majority of people—I’d guess it’d be like 99.9 per cent—they lose much more than they win. That’s why the lottery makes money—people lose it.

Proverbs 21:5 (NLT)
Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.

And this goes back to the concept of stewardship. If everything you have comes from God and He has entrusted it to you to manage, then you’re not going to use it in wasteful, irresponsible or dishonest ways.

•    Budget and plan ahead.

The dreaded “B” word. But you should have a budget based on your projected expenses, allowing for emergencies, and then stick to it.

Luke 14:28 (NLT)
“For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?”

•    Invest wisely and earn interest.

Jesus told a whole story known as the parable of the talents about this. We don’t have time to read it this morning, but you can read it for yourself in Matthew 25.

See Matthew 25:14-26

•    Save for the future.

Whether that be for retirement or the proverbial rainy day. In the book of Genesis, we’re told about Joseph who was second in command in Egypt. He stored away 20 per cent of the country’s grain during a time of prosperity so that there was enough saved to get them through a seven-year famine. We would all be wise to save what we can for the future.

See Genesis 41:37-57

•    Earn money through honest work.

Some people try to do as little as they can and still earn money. They cheat their employer, they cheat the government, they cheat themselves. The Bible teaches that God values hard work.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-11 (NLT)
Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.” Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business.

So by working hard you’re not just earning an honest living, you’re also keeping yourself out of trouble. Pretty good side benefit.

3.    My heart follows my money, not the other way around.

Conventional wisdom says you invest in the things you care about. But the truth is, you care about the things you invest in. Take a look at how Jesus put it…

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Notice your treasure goes first, and the heart follow. Where you treasure is, there your heart WILL BE also.

So in terms of giving to God or to anyone or anything else, figure out not just what you care about but what you want to care about. If you want to follow Jesus… if you want Him to be the center of your life… if you want to please Him in the way you live… then you’re going to give.

If you want to be known as a generous person, then you’re going to give even when you don’t particularly want to. And as you do, you’ll discover the joy of giving and generosity will become part of who you are. But don’t wait until you feel generous before you give, because if you do it’ll never happen.

4.    Guard against becoming obsessed with money.

In other words, don’t get greedy. Don’t make the acquisition of wealth your primary goal in life.

Oh, and this doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. Rich people and poor people can both become preoccupied with wealth… the rich in protecting what they have and multiplying it, and the poor with the misguided notion that if they could only have more money then they would be happy and their lives would be complete.

Ecclesiastes 5:10 (NLT)
Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!

I’ve already mentioned the importance of working hard and earning an honest living. But don’t go overboard with that. Maybe you know people who are so focused on earning more and more money that they work 24/7, they miss out on the lives of their children, they destroy their relationships, they miss out on life because of their pursuit of money. Maybe you are that person.

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus says you’ve got to decide: are you going to serve God or are you going to serve money. Because you can’t serve them both. You have to decide. And Jesus went on to say…

Matthew 6:33 (NLT)
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Psalm 127:2 (NLT)
It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.

We talked about that some last week, when we talked about taking a day off each week and using it for worshipping God and for soul-enriching activities.

Exodus 23:12 (NLT)
“You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working.”

And study after study shows the wisdom of this advice. You’ll be healthier, happier, and you’ll actually be able to accomplish more by taking a break than if you never take a break.

5.    Financial responsibility does not do away with generosity.

So as wise stewards of what God has entrusted to us, we invest it well, we save for the future, we refuse to waste it in meaningless ways… all of that is true. But we are also to use the resources God has put at our disposal to help others in need.

Even if you’re digging your way out of debt, take advantage of opportunities to be generous. And when you’re finally debt-free, you can be all the more generous.

I think this is actually one of the reasons God asks us to tithe—it teaches us to give. It’s good practice for generosity. He’s a generous God—He’s given us so many blessing and even gave His life for us—so He expects us to be generous, too, when it comes to giving to Him and giving to others.

2 Corinthians 8:7 (NLT)
Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.

Timothy was an apprentice to the apostle Paul. Timothy was just a young man but was put in charge of a local church. So Paul wrote a couple letters to Timothy, which are included in our Bible today, and gave Timothy some instructions on how to teach and train the people in the church to live holistic God-honouring lives. Here’s just a couple verses…

1 Timothy 6:17-18 (NLT)
Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.

Some of you… you may already be doing all this. You may already be good stewards of what God has entrusted to you, no matter how much it is. Others of you, you need to get on board.



Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2010 SunriseOnline.ca