When Money is Tight & Times are Tough part 1
Respond as a Follower of Christ
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 19, 2008

Zig Ziglar tells the story of a son who wanted to surprise his dad with a special gift on his 60th birthday. He wanted to give him a copy of his family tree, tracing his genealogy back hundreds of years. And so the son went out and he hired a professional company to put it together, and when it was done the researcher who compiled the study reported back to the son. He told him, “I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news for you. The bad news is that your dad had an uncle named Harry that no one in the family ever knew about. He was a horrific criminal. He spent time in the State Penitentiary and he was put to death in the electric chair.”

Well, the son was upset when he heard that. “This is terrible!” he said. “That ruins everything. I can’t possibly give my dad a birthday gift like that. Not with that information in there. Forget it.”

“Wait a minute!” the researcher replied, “That’s the bad news; I haven’t told you the good news. The good news is that I think I found a way to write about Uncle Harry in a way that your dad would be fine with it and it still maintains the integrity of our research. This is what I’ve got: ‘Uncle Harry occupied a seat in a government institution. He was connected to his work by the strongest of ties. His sudden death came as a real shock.’”

You know, sometimes words get twisted and manipulated in order to put a positive spin on something that’s really negative. And we’ve seen a lot of that over the past month or so. We’ve seen politicians and world leaders attempting to put the best face on the financial free fall that’s going on in the world.

Along with that, there’s been a lot of finger pointing and blame placing. Which would be kind of entertaining if real people weren’t losing real money. One day the stock market is through the floor. The next day it’s through the roof. Record swings in both directions. But mainly, in a downward trajectory. In the States, banks and big businesses are fine one day, and the next day it’s being bankrupt or it’s being rescued by a government bailout or it’s being bought by some other institution. Plus, credit has dried up. People can’t get loans anymore. Mortgages are being foreclosed on. It’s tragic what’s happening.

Thankfully here in Canada we haven’t been devastated to the same extent as the U.S. and Europe. But that doesn’t mean we’re unaffected. The TSX has plunged right along with the Dow. And the truth is, we can’t escape the gravitational pull of the financial situation to our south.

Now, why would we as a church take the time to talk about the financial crisis and how to handle our money? I mean, managing money doesn’t sound very “spiritual”, does it? Shouldn’t churches stick to the spiritual and avoid tackling issues like this?

Well, let me answer that this way:

There are two things that I hope can always be said about the preaching here at Sunrise – First, that it’s Biblical. And second that it’s relevant.

And the great thing is, if we get the first part right, then the second will follow. Because the Bible is packed full of practical, relevant stuff for us today. In fact, the Bible is just as relevant today as it was when it was first written. That’s one of the proofs of its inspiration. And it has a lot to say to us about our lives today, regarding pretty much every area of our lives.

You see, the Bible doesn’t separate what you might call spiritual things from other perhaps more practical issues of life. Because God doesn’t see a distinction there. We tend to compartmentalize different areas of life, but to God, it’s all life. It’s all integrated. So in His Word… in the Bible… He address issues of relationships and sexuality and business and ethics every bit as freely as He address issues like forgiveness and salvation and Heaven and Hell.

And if you’re going to follow Jesus, that means you follow Him in every area of life. And that means in the area of money, too. Because the Bible has a lot to say about the issue of money. In fact, if you count it all up, Jesus had a lot more to say about money than any other topic, including salvation and heaven and hell. So while your initial response might be to question why a church would address the current financial situation in our world, the answer is because God addresses it.

So for today, and over the next two weeks, we’re going to be talking about “When Money is Tight and Times are Tough.” We’re going to discover the wisdom of what God tells us in His Word. And you’re going to find that even when things look pretty bleak, there is still hope. And there are still principles that God reveals to us that can guide us through these tough times.

So we’re going to start this morning by asking…

As a Follower of Jesus, What Should Be My Response to the Financial Crisis?

1.    Set the example by trusting God, not money.

Look, a lot is happening. People are even drawing comparisons to the Great Depression. But don’t allow it to throw you into a tizzy. If you panic, if you despair, if you become consumed with your finances and live in a state of fear, what example are you setting for others? What message are you sending? If you profess to follow Jesus and claim that ultimately He is in control, then what are you saying by getting caught up in the panic?

You’re saying that you don’t really trust God. You’re saying that you don’t really believe He’s in control. You’re saying He can’t really work all things out for the good of those who love Him like He promised.

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.

With all this talk about being financially secure, it’s important to remember that your security is not in finances. It is God who blesses you with financial gain and it’s in Him that you should place your trust.

Philippians 4:19 (NLT)
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

But you know, it’s kind of a Catch-22. God wants to bless you, and often times He wants to bless you financially. But the danger is, all too often when people are blessed financially they take their eyes off of the Blesser and focus on the blessing.

Jesus put it succinctly when He said…

Luke 12:21 (NLT)
“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

Your true wealth is your relationship with God. That’s eternal. What happens here with your monetary wealth is only temperal. So trust God, not money.

Mark 8:36 (NLT)
“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”

So that’s the first response: keep your priorities straight. Trust God, not money. You should also respond this way…

2.    Do what you can to pay off all your debts

You know, the problems today are amplified because of the load of debt people are carrying. Look, if you lose your job but you have everything paid off, you’re not going to be happy about, you’re going to struggle a bit, but you’re going to make it.

However, if you lose your job and you’d got a load of debt, you’re in serious trouble. Even if you don’t lose your job but your income is simply reduced somehow, you’re in for some pretty hard times.

And a lot of people are facing that right now. It’s a major problem in our society. That was true even before this crisis. It’s just magnified now.

• In 2003, for the first time ever, the average Canadian household owed more than its annual take-home pay.
• We carry 74 million credit cards – three for every Canadian over the age of 18.
• Each time you use a credit card, you charge an average of $102.00, which is up from about $50 just 20 years ago.
• Between 1997 and 2001, Canadian credit card debt increased 90%.
• We’re piling on debt twice as fast as our income is growing.
• Credit counseling agencies say they're busier than ever.
• Students are often graduating with debts of $25,000 or more.
• As of 2004, the average Canadian household carried a debt of 69,450.00.

And it’s pretty much the same south of the border.

• The average American carries eight credit cards and 20% of them are maxed out.
• On average, they owe $8562 on their credit cards alone, and they’re paying about $1000 in interest each year.
Our society has been living on credit, going deeper and deeper in debt, and that’s a big part of what led to our current situation.

And these financial problems seep into every area of life. One Gallup poll revealed that 64% of all married couples argue over money issues. At 54%, it’s the #1 cause of divorce.
(Contributed to Sermon Central by: Mike Harris)

The related stress can cause health issues, it can rob you of peace of mind, and it can tempt you to do things that are less than ethical just to try to keep up.

You see, the problem with debt is that it leaves you trapped and enslaved.

Proverbs 22:7 (CEV)
…those who borrow are slaves of moneylenders.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s always wrong to borrow money, but it does mean that you should pay it off as quickly as possible. Even if it means you’ve got to make some big sacrifices, pay it off. Because as long as you owe, you’re a slave.

So let’s say you have a credit card debt of $10,000, you have an interest rate of 18%, and you’re going to make the minimum monthly payments. How long is it going to take you to pay it off? Four years? Seven years? Twelve years? Fifteen years? How long?

It will actually take you close to 23 years to pay it off, and you will pay a total of $9800 in interest. So you’ve pretty much doubled the cost and taken a quarter of a century to pay it off, and that assumes you don’t put anything else on the card in the meantime!

And all of that time, you owe your creditor money. You’re working to earn money for someone else. And as long as you owe them money, that’s the way it’s going to be. You will in effect be their slave.

Debt is dumb, and it’s smart to pay it off. But not only is it smart, it’s the right thing to do. It makes financial sense and moral sense to pay off your debts.

Romans 13:7 (NLT)
Give to everyone what you owe them…

Because when you don’t do that, you become a thief.

Now, when a financial crisis hits, it becomes harder and harder to pay your debts. That’s why it’s best to not have them to begin with. But just because it gets harder doesn’t mean you can ignore this verse. You still have a responsibility to give to everyone what you owe them.

I expect we’ll be talking more about how to do that over the next couple weeks. But in addition to paying off your debt, you also need to…

3.    Avoid accumulating more debt.

Let’s be honest here. What is it, more than anything else, that leads to debt? Greed. Plain and simple, it’s greed. In fact, it’s the greed of Wall Street and Banks and consumers that led to this crisis. You want more and more because you think you’re entitled to it, you think you deserve it, and you think it’ll make you happy. But Jesus says…

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

So get that straight. Buying more and more stuff is not going to add one bit of meaning to your life. If anything, it’ll distract and clutter up your life instead.

“There are two ways to get enough: One is to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”
~ G.K. Chesterton

4.    Be generous toward God and others

Just last Sunday I talked about how generous you are when it comes to giving toward specific needs… how you’ve generously supported missionaries, how you’ve given to each other when someone’s in need, how you give of your time and resources to serve those who are far from God. Some of you display remarkable levels of generosity, and that’s fantastic. Our God is a generous God, and He wants His followers to display that same generosity.

But here’s the thing: When a financial crisis hits, the tendency is to stop being generous, and to instead start clinging to what you have. You start hoarding your possessions. There’s no way you’re going to give or share anything. But the problem is, that just rots away at your soul.

Ecclesiastes 5:13 (NLT)
Hoarding riches harms the saver.

So even in the face of a financial crisis, let me encourage you to continue to be generous. Oh, the specific numbers may change because you simply have less at your disposal. But keep a spirit of generosity toward others.

And remain generous toward God. The Bible instructs us to tithe, which means to give to God through the church 10% of everything you earn. And this is one of those “Trust Me” things that God says. You can’t explain on paper how tithing actually helps you live better, but it does.

“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, in The 10 Secrets Revenue Canada Doesn’t Want You to Know, pp. 73-74

It doesn’t make sense, does it, how giving away 10% of your income helps you to live better and make ends meet. But God says “Trust Me, and that’s exactly what will happen.”

Malachi 3:10 (NLT)
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”

The only time in the Bible where God says “Test me”, and it’s in this area of tithing.

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.

Underline the word “firstfruits.” That means that you don’t give God what’s left over at the end of the week. He doesn’t want your leftovers. That doesn’t honour Him at all. He’s honoured when you give to Him first… right off the top. And when you do that, He will help you in the other areas.

And in both these passages… in Malachi and in Proverbs… notice the order in which things happen. Do you wait for God to pour out a blessing on you and then give to Him? No, you worship Him by giving to Him first… regardless of how much you have… and then comes the blessing.

And yes, I believe tithing is practical even when you are in debt and even in times of financial upheaval. In fact, according to these verses, tithing may be just what you need to do to get through this time.

So be generous. Be generous to God and to others.

And the final thing we’re going to look at this morning will be of no surprise to you. You hear this all the time, but do you actually do it? Because whether you’re in a financial crisis or not, you should always…

5.    Live within your means

Dave Stone is the pastor of Southeast Christian Church, a mega-church in Louisville, Kentucky, and this is what he had to say just recently about this as it relates to the situation in the U.S.:

“Our appetite to have more and more has become greater than our ability to afford those things. And the result is that most Americans fell into a pattern of buying more house than we could afford, of upgrading to a nicer vehicle, or charging things when we should have been paying with cash.”
~ Dave Stone

Does that sound familiar? Maybe that’s been you’ve been acting. If not, then you certainly know someone who’s gotten themself in trouble by living this way. They’ve lived beyond their means. There’s an old adage that says…

Old adage:
If your output exceeds your income, then your upkeep will be your downfall.

And for far too many people, that has become a reality. They’ve never been content with what they’ve had; they always wanted more. And now they’re in trouble.

Hebrews 13:5 (NLT)
Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have.

Live within your means. So what does this mean for you?

•    It could mean that you downsize the house you live in.
•    It could mean that you get rid of that second car or trade that expensive car in for a reliable second hand car that gets you from point A to point B.
•    It may mean that this year you don’t go on your dream vacation. Instead you go on an affordable vacation.
•    It probably means that you make adjustments in the small ways.
•    Save the Café Mochas and desserts for a special treat once in a while instead of every time.
•    Maybe you can get rid of your cable for a while… save yourself $40, $50, $60 per month.
•    Or what if you start clipping coupons?
•    How about if you break those nasty habits that cost so much?
•    Why not use the library instead of buying your books?
•    Perhaps you need to eat out less. And when you do eat out, why not get water instead of a soft drink?
•    And if someone says to you, “We’d like to have you over for dinner sometime,” respond by saying “How about tonight?”

Look, I’m not suggesting that you take a vow of poverty. And I’m not saying that you have to give up all the pleasures of life. In fact, I’m planning on going out for lunch later today. But what I am saying is, live within your means. Spend less and save more.

Proverbs 21:20 (NLT)
The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.

Live within your means. In fact, I would say live so far within your means that you have room to be generous, to prepare for future emergencies, and to put away into savings. That may mean that you make some drastic changes. But if that’s what it takes, do it.

We’ll continue next week talking about what to do When Money is Tight and Times are Tough. But as we finish up here this morning, I want to show you a video. It’s a video of Max Lucado, who some of you are familiar with. He’s a pastor, a tremendous writer, and is one of the leaders in the Christian Church today. I believe this video is of him speaking at his church in Texas. Take a look… this will be our closing prayer today.

VIDEO – “You Have our Attention, Lord” http://maxlucado.com/nationalprayer/

[Much of this message is adapted from “A Country In Crisis” by Dave Stone]



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