"Managing Money God's Way" part 2
A Biblical Perspective on Finances
by Greg Hanson

Last week we started a brand new message series called, “Managing Money God’s Way”. And throughout this series we’re talking about some biblically based financial principles for how you should manage, use, spend, save and invest the money God has blessed you with, whether it’s a lot or just a little. How much money you have really doesn’t matter; what matters is honouring God with it and following His advice for wise money management.

Last week we talked specifically about tithing. Tithing is the practice of regularly giving God the first ten percent of everything you earn. If you make $100, then a tithe would be $10. If you make $500, then a tithe would be $50. If you make $1000, a tithe would be $100. You get the idea.

When I was just a young boy, my parents taught me about tithing. So if I received an allowance of $2, I would automatically give 20 cents to God through the church. If I mowed a lawn and was paid $20, I’d give $2. Parents… now is the time to begin teaching your own children about tithing.

And this isn’t about being legalistic; it’s about learning to be generous. It’s not about meeting a budget; it’s about partnering with what God is doing in this world and through this church. We talked about all that last week, but the most important thing we talked about and perhaps the most important reason to tithe is this: Tithing is a catalyst for spiritual growth.

Tithing is essential for spiritual growth. If you’re going to grow into all that God wants you to be, then you’re going to honour Him in every area of life including when it comes to your finances.

And you know, even secular economists understand that there’s something special about giving a tithe.

I’ve told you before about how a while back, I was reading a book I had checked out of the library. And it wasn’t a Christian book. It was just a book about finances, written by a Canadian author, mostly dealing with legal ways to reduce the amount of tax you owe.

And I was shocked when I came across a whole chapter on tithing. I wasn’t expecting that at all. Here’s what the author said…

Tithing is the systematic, regular giving of one-tenth of all your income back to God. Tithers believe that God is the source of all their prosperity, that He can be trusted to supply all their needs, and that His promises are universal. If you’ve never tithed before, you need to put it to the test…
Ask people who tithe faithfully and they will tell you of the ten, hundred, and thousand times returns they have received by giving. Universally, tithers will also all tell you that if you tithe you’ll live better on the 90% than you ever did before on the 100%.
The prosperity benefits of tithing are so significant that it would be worth it even if it came without any tax benefits.
~ David Voth
The 10 Secrets Revenue Canada Doesn’t Want You to Know, pp. 73-74

Remember, that wasn’t from a Christian book. It was just from a book about financial management. And it doesn’t make sense, does it, how giving away 10% of your income helps you to live better and make ends meet. But in the Old Testament Book of Malachi, God says, “Trust Me, and that’s exactly what will happen.”

I showed you a video last week of a skit three accountants did in their church. They did a rap about tithing. Apparently, that video I showed you was so popular that those accountants rewrote the song and released it as a music video. Here it is…

[VIDEO – TITHE RAP (farm version)]

Okay, so that’s a recap of last week.

Today we’re going to talk about finding a balance between spending and saving… between being overly extravagant and being miserly.

Now, if we’re to be honest, very few of us have a problem with being miserly. There are a few people… usually people who have lived through times of serious financial hardships or depressions… who find it very difficult to spend anything at all. They become tightfisted and become miserly. But that’s not the case for most of us.

Most of us struggle at the opposite extreme. We live by the motto, “I’ve I got it I must spend it. If I want it I must have it.” And so the danger for most of us is that we end up living paycheque to paycheque, all the while going deep into debt and having no wiggle room—no freedom—to deal with emergencies, help out those in need, or do anything else with our resources. Plus, we’re setting the stage for financial hardships in our future.

Jesus told a story about a man who has this problem of being overly extravagant. It’s found in Luke 16…

Luke 16:19 (NLT)
Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury.”

Whatever this man wanted, he bought. There was no holding back; he spent whatever he had on whatever he thought would bring him pleasure.

Now, who do you think struggles with being overly extravagant? Men or women? Actually, we both do. Studies show that women are going to spend unneeded luxury items more frequently. But men… men may not purchase them as frequently, but when they do they are the more expensive items.

I see this in my own home when it comes to buying stuff for our kids. Shera might come home a couple times a week with a new toy or book or outfit for the kids. And she’s not really spending all that much on any one item… five, ten, twenty dollars. But it all adds up.

Me, on the other hand… I think they’ve got enough toys and books and outfits. So I don’t tend to buy those kinds of things. But what I did do was come home with a riding horse you can plug into the TV and play a game with. I don’t spend on trinkets, but I do tend to spend on bigger items. (And much cooler items.)

So men and women both can struggle with being overly indulgent. And some struggle with being miserly. But people at both extremes, whether you tend to be miserly or overly indulgent, have the same problem. They put too much value on things.

What Does the Bible Say about How We Handle Our Wealth?

1.    Live a simple life, not an indulgent life.

Just to clarify, I’m not saying to be simple; I’m saying to live simply. If someone calls you simple or simpleminded, they are not paying you a compliment.

Living a simple life is something to aim for. But what does it mean, anyway?

It means that instead of accumulating more and more stuff, you begin to de-accumulate. It means you clear away the clutter. It means you break the hold that materialism has on you. It means that, instead of looking at having more as the road to happiness, you become content with less. It’s recognizing and living by the truth of Jesus’ words…

Luke 12:15 (NLT)
“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

One of my favorite authors is Keith Drury. I’ve read several of his books, as well as a weekly column he writes online. This is what he wrote about this whole idea of living simply…

“Simplicity is intentionally paring down our lifestyle toward the essentials to free ourselves from the tyranny of things and focus more on spiritual life… It says that we believe happiness is not found in the abundance of our possessions but in the fewness of our wants.”
~ Keith Drury

Isn’t that so true? Over the past five or six weeks, I have experienced something I’ve never experienced before. For the first time in my life, I’m living without cable. That’s right… when I was growing up, my family always had cable. When I moved out on my own, I got cable. When I got married, I got cable. But back in the Fall, we decided that we would try life without cable for a while. Oh, we still have Netflix, so we can still watch several shows or movies on demand. But the cost is much less. And you know what I’m really surprised at? How much time was freed up for other things.

Maybe next year we’ll decide to get cable hooked up again. But if we do, it’ll be with a much healthier perspective on television. This little experiment in simplicity has already been beneficial for us.

Here’s something else Keith Drury wrote…

“We pile up possessions so they can serve us, yet we eventually become servants of the things we own.”
~ Keith Drury

And that’s a sad reality when your possessions possess you. And the more you get, the more you want. Until it becomes all-consuming. And you wind up spending money you don’t have to buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like. Where’s the joy in that? Where’s the logic in that? Where’s the freedom in that?

1 Peter 2:11 (NLT)
Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.

That includes the desires of greed and coveting what others have and basing your personal value on the value of your belongings. There are going to be times that you absolutely crave to own something… that 50” HD 3D TV… that candy-apple red sports car… that state of the art popcorn maker… it can be just about anything. When that craving hits, fight against it. Resist it. Don’t give in to greed.

Now, if you give it a bit of time and check for deals and determine if you really need it and can afford it, and you’ve talked it over with your spouse, and if you’re using money responsibly in other ways, then maybe you can go ahead and buy it. But don’t buy it on impulse. Don’t but it to impress people. Don’t buy it because it’ll make you feel good. Don’t buy it out of greed. Buy it because it’s a legitimate purchase you can use and afford.

1 Timothy 6:6-8 (NLT)
Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.

Learn to live a simple life… content with what you have… living within your means… having a little wiggle room so you’re not thrown into a financial crisis if circumstances suddenly change for you. While avoiding going to the opposite extreme and becoming miserly, learn to pull back and be content with less.

If you do, you will discover a newfound freedom in your life, you will be able to be at peace within yourself, your stress levels will go down significantly, you’ll be able to funnel your money in much more useful ways, and you will learn more about what it means to truly trust God to provide for you and to base your self-worth on who He says you are and not on how much junk you can accumulate.

2.    Live a generous life, not a selfish life.

Earlier, I started talking about a story Jesus told about a rich man. But this man’s problem was not that he was rich. It was that he put too much worth in his riches. He was greedy and extravagant, he was self-absorbed, and he did not use his wealth to help others.

Luke 16:19-24 (NLT)
Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.
“Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and his soul went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.
“The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’”

Notice that this rich man even knew the beggar’s name. But that didn’t matter to him… he still ignored the beggar’s needs, he didn’t invite him into the house, he didn’t offer any help, didn’t give him a hot meal… he didn’t even offer him any of his used clothes that he wasn’t using anymore. He did nothing but focus on indulging himself.

This man’s problem wasn’t that he was rich. In this same story Jesus talks about Abraham being in Heaven, and Abraham was one of the richest men in the Bible. So this man’s problem wasn’t that he was rich, it was that he had no compassion. It was that he showed no generosity. He didn’t care for the poor.

1 John 3:17 (NLT)
If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?

I’m a fan of Rick Warren. He’s the pastor of one of the largest churches in North America and probably the most influential church… he wrote the best-selling book “The Purpose Driven Life” that many of us have read… he is a frequent guest on talk shows promoting Godly values and principles… he conveys the truth of God’s Word in practical ways… and he has spearheaded tremendous compassionate ministry around the world.

A while back, though, I had a friend of mine express to me how much he didn’t like Rick Warren. And one of his complaints? That Rick Warren made so much money off of “The Purpose Driven Life.” That book was on the best-sellers list for months, so of course he made a lot of money on it. And this friend of mine had a problem with Rick Warren living a well-off, comfortable life. He didn’t think any Christian or Christian leader should have that kind of wealth.

And you know, I can understand where he was coming from in a way. Because there have been a few… not a huge percentage, but a few… religious leaders who have “fleeced the flock” so to speak. They’ve taken advantage of the donations of others and have used the funds for their own luxuries and pleasures. They’ve misused and misappropriated the funds.

So I’m guessing that this friend of mine was lumping Rick Warren in with them. But really, is it wrong for Rick Warren to grow rich off of the proceeds from his book?

Well, if all he ever did was hoard the money and indulge himself, then yes. That would be wrong. But that’s true no matter how much money you have. Because we are all called to be generous. Last week we talked about being generous toward God, but we’re called to be generous toward others, too.

But the truth is, Rick Warren gives away 90% of his income. (He calls it a “reverse tithe.”) Since he made so much off the book, he decided to pay back his church everything they had ever paid him by way of salary, he doesn’t receive any salary from them at all now, and he funnels a lot of money into his church, into other ministries, and into missions and compassionate ministries around the world.

Granted, even the 10% he keeps is a hefty sum. But knowing all that, is it okay for Rick Warren to buy a new car and go on expensive trips? Sure it is.

In that story Jesus told, the man’s problem was not that he was rich or that he had nice things; it was that he showed no generosity or compassion. Honouring God with your finances is not about giving everything away and living in poverty; it’s about using those funds as he directs.

For some people, yes, that means giving it all away. But that’s not true for most of us. Most of us are simply called to be compassionate and to give generously to needs to the best of our ability. If you like to travel, maybe it means you go on a trip every couple of years instead of every year. Or maybe it means you don’t buy a top-of-the-line computer but instead you buy one that’s a notch or two below it.

Being generous means making some sacrifices and deferring some purchases, but it doesn’t have to mean living in poverty.

1 Timothy 6:17 (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.

God wants you to enjoy what you have. After all, He’s given it to you. What He doesn’t want is for you to become obsessed by it or to use it wastefully.

One of the pastors I like to listen to is Bob Russell. In one of his sermons, he talked about ten questions to help distinguish between sinful extravagance and godly enjoyment.
[from Uncommon $en$e part 2]

Ten Questions to Help You Distinguish between Sinful Extravagance and Godly Enjoyment:

1.    Why am I buying this?

Am I buying it to make myself feel better? Am I buying it to impress other people? Or am I buying it because I can afford it and the timing is right?

2.    Is the purchase consistent with my financial status?

In other words, you don’t buy a mansion if you’re earning minimum wage.

3.    How will this purchase impact my witness for Christ?

If I had a $2 million dollar house on the waterfront, drove a $150,000 convertible, had a second home in the Bahamas, wore nothing but custom-made suits, had a membership at every golf course on the Island, and had diamond rings on all of my fingers, that would probably hurt my preaching a bit. People don’t respect a person who’s bankrupt.

4.    Will this purchase enhance my closest relationships?

Will it bring me closer together with my spouse or will it drive us apart? Will it cause my kids to become spoiled?

5.    Have I been extra generous with my resources prior to this purchase?

The more extravagant the purchase, the more generous you should be.

6.    Will this purchase limit my ability to respond generously to an emergency appeal in the future?

A year ago this month, there was a massive earthquake in Haiti. And we received donations of supplies and money to help out. Something’s wrong if there’s another situation like that that comes up and you say, “I’m sorry I can’t help, but we’ve put everything into a Caribbean cruise and we can’t afford to do anything more.

7.    When was the last time I made a similar expenditure?

Is buying unnecessary items becoming a habit?

8.    Have I waited and prayed about this or am I purchasing impulsively?

9.    Will I genuinely enjoy this purchase or will I continually feel guilty about it?

10.    Where is this item in my list of priorities?

You may really want that new multimedia centre, but do you perhaps need to replace that 40-year old refrigerator first?

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (MSG)
Tell those rich in this world's wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they'll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.

Here’s a question: How much are you going to leave when you die? The answer is, all of it. You can’t take any of it with you. So use what you’ve got now in ways that will that… that will make a difference for eternity. It’s not about accumulating the most toys; it’s about using what you have in significant—generous—ways. As Jesus advised…

Matthew 6:19-20 (NLT)
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”

Okay, Now, let me talk a bit about what’s going to happen here in a couple weeks on Consecration Sunday…


Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson