When Money is Tight &
Times are Tough part 3
a Biblical Perspective on Wealth
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
November 2, 2008
the past couple of weeks we’ve been talking about what to do when money
is tight and times are tough. And the reason we’ve been doing this is
because our world has been going through a financial crisis recently,
particularly over the course of the past month.
Right here in
Canada, the TSX is down 30% this year, and 17% during just the past
month. Trade, construction, and manufacturing have all been in decline,
real-estate activity has been down, and the loonie fell to it’s lowest
level in four years. Now, this past week, there’s been a little bit of
a rebound. And hopefully that will continue. But most of the experts
say that’s not likely. They predict that we’re heading for a recession
if we’re not already in one, and we’ve got a rough couple of years
ahead of us.
That’s here in Canada, where our economy is
actually fairly stable compared to other countries. In the U.S., on
some flights the pilot will come on the intercom as they often do to
talk about estimated time of arrival or what the weather’s going to be
like or it’s a call to put on seatbelts. But now pilots are coming on
and saying, “We’re at the close of business day. Let me give you a
market update.” Have you ever hear that on a plane before? The market
may crash but the plane will land safely so by comparison we ought to
look really good. These are turbulent times.
investment firms are getting swallowed up or are going down after
sometimes 150 years. You all heard about the U.S. government pledging a
$700 billion bailout plan and then another $250 billion to try to keep
And it goes beyond Canada and the U.S. This
crisis is global. In the last 12 months, $12.4 trillion of global stock
market wealth has evaporated. $12 billion that was around a year ago,
Even Iceland, a country that’s usually fairly
isolated, has had to nationalize two of its largest banks and is hoping
for a loan from Russia to keep the economy going. You see signs of
I read that the former CEO of AIG… which
had been the 18th largest company in the world until its collapse in
September… their former CEO Maurice Greenberg, saw the value of his
holdings drop $15 billion in one day. He went from multibillionaire to
a millionaire in one day. Now that’s a bad day.
still a millionaire. But there are a lot of people, people like you and
me, who are also going through loss. A lot of people carefully planning
for the future have had their future interrupted. A lot of people a few
months ago were looking forward to retirement, and now they’re facing a
new reality and that finish line’s a lot further off. A lot of people
who a few months ago thought they knew how they’d put their kids
through college don't know how they’re going to do it today.
what I think we see right now is a whole lot of uncertainty. People
wondering, not just concerned about how bad things are right now, but
wondering what’s going to happen next? How long will this go on? How
low will it go? Where is the future headed?
So at this
time of financial uncertainty, I thought it’d be good for us to look at
what the smartest man in the world about money has to say. Who am I
talking about? Here’s a hint: this is a Church. It’s Jesus.
a lot of people don’t think of Jesus that way. But the truth is, Jesus
is the smartest man in the world about money, and he had more to say
about money and money management than pretty much any other topic.
we’re going to talk about what Jesus might say to us this morning in
light of what’s going on in our world. And I think Jesus would want to
start by shattering a few myths. So we’re going to look at a few myths
about money that you and I need to avoid, and then we’re going to get
to a few action steps that would be really good for us to take.
The Financial Security Myth
I think Jesus might to expose the myth that money can ever make anybody
secure. Because so many people actually believe it can.
about it. When things are going well, and all the markets are going up,
we start to live as if we have the right to expect that the economy is
going to continue to expand annually by at least 7%. We live as though
we have the right to expect our bodies to get younger, smoother,
stronger, and slimmer as we age. We live as though we have the right to
expect houses to drop in price when we want to buy one, and then
increase in value 30% every year. We live as if a large enough savings
account, a low enough mortgage, and a safe enough portfolio can make us
secure. But they can't.
Now, the truth is we’re never really in
control of our finances. However, most times, we live as though we are.
And when a crisis comes, like what’s going on right now, the reason
everybody panics isn't that bad things are happening, because bad
things always happen. Bad things happen every day. No, the reason that
everybody panics in a crisis is that the myth of security is exposed,
and all of a sudden we all realize our vulnerability. And that’s a
painful thing to realize.
Now the pain is not good, but the
realization of the truth… that can be really good. To come to
understand that we’re really not in control, that’s a liberating
Jesus told a story about a man who was living in
this myth of financial security. Derek read it for us earlier. A rich
man had an incredibly profitable year. He made so much money that he
had to invent new ways to spend it! He had more than he could ever use.
So he sat back and looked at his wealth, and he said to himself, “I’m
set for life. Freedom 55 came early for me. So now I can just take it
easy, and just eat, drink, and be merry.” But what does Jesus say
Luke 12:16-21 (NLT)
rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to
himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then
he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then
I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. And I’ll
sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for
years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who
will get everything you worked for?’
“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich
relationship with God.”
So Jesus says, “Not only are you not in control of your money, but
you’re not even control of your life!”
let me give you the best investment advice you will ever receive. And
you are not likely to hear it from Warren Buffet, or from Donald Trump,
or from Bill Gates. Here it is: You’re going to die. You are going to
die, rich or poor. And all the money in the world cannot change that.
So you need to place your greatest investment and your greatest
security in something far greater than the here and now. Jesus said…
Matthew 6:19-21 (NLT)
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. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires
of your heart will also be.”
Here in this world, housing values
will go up and down. Bank accounts rise and fall. Financial conditions
ebb and flow. I can't build my life on that stuff. So what’s more
solid? What’s more secure? What’s more permanent? I think Jesus would
tell us to build our lives on what never changes, and what never
changes is the character and the power of our God. What never changes
is the promise of an eternity with Him in Heaven.
particularly because I’ve been speaking on this subject for the past
few weeks, I’ve been flipping to the news stations and checking out the
tickers with market updates and I’ve been looking at charts online. And
I think a lot of people have been doing that… looking to see what’s up,
what’s down, what’s unchanged. That’s a ticker for the financial
concerns of this world.
But what if there was a ticker for the
kingdom of God? How would ticker read. God’s character today:
Unchanged. God’s patience today: Unchanged. God’s commitment to justice
today: Unchanged. God’s heart of mercy today: Unchanged. God’s love for
you: Unchanged. God’s moral compass: Unchanged. The certainty of Heaven
for followers of Christ: Unchanged.
Over the past month and
during this past year, the market has dropped. But nothing in Heaven
has changed today. God is still sovereign. Jesus still sits on the
throne. He is our rock. He is the anchor in the storm. He is our hope.
by the way, the kingdom of God will never need a bail out plan from the
government. It’s doing real well. So don't buy the myth that money can
make you secure. Get your security someplace else. Get it from your
relationship with God.
The “More Will Make You Happy” Myth
me just ask you a question. Do you think we live in a part of the world
that tempts people to want to get rich? Has that been a dominant
temptation in our society here in North America… to want to get more
Yeah, it kind of has been, hasn’t it? I think our
society as a whole has immersed itself in this idea that the path to
true happiness and satisfaction lies in more, more, more, more, more.
is fascinating. I was reading this week that there’s a guy named Thomas
Pinnau, and he’s an executive with the Mars candy company who has a
very interesting title. His title is ‘Vice President of Indulgence.’ No
kidding! Wouldn't you like to have that on your business card? Vice
President of Indulgence, and he’s charged with coming up with ideas
like the creation of what are called “M&M Premiums” that you
buy for up to $100, for a batch of M&M’s. For example, you can
designer M&M’s with your own face on them, so you can consume
yourself if you want to.
there are other incredible things you can buy in this world. You can
buy Tasmanian water that sells for $25 per bottle, because supposedly
it was bottled in a place near where the World Health Organization says
has the cleanest air in the world.
Or in Europe you can buy
what is called Renova Black. Does anybody here know what Renova Black
is? I’m not making this up. It is designer toilet paper. Renova Black.
You can buy it. You can get three rolls for about $20.
East Coast of the U.S., there are builders of luxury-track homes known
as McMansions… these fabulous places that spare no expense… and these
builders have landed on this as their sale pitch, and they put it in
newspaper ads, and they’re quite proud about it, “We sell what nobody
needs.” Isn't that wonderful? “We sell what nobody needs.” Of course,
the human condition is, we need what nobody sells.
the kind of world we live in… where you can buy designer toilet paper.
Where we indulge ourselves with so many options because we’ve bought
into the myth that more will make us happy.
But then Jesus comes along and He says stuff to us like…
Matthew 6:24 (NLT)
“No one can serve two masters… You cannot serve both God and money.”
see, there are two things that have led us to where we’re at in this
crisis, and both of them have to do with us serving money, being
obsessed with money, loving money.
The first is greed. People
bought more house than they could afford, they put everything on credit
and sank into debt, while at the same time big businesses and
corporations leveraged everything and started borrowing as much as $30
for every dollar they owned. Why? Because of greed.
And then the
bubble popped, and that’s when the second factor took over… fear. Greed
got us in a bad situation, and fear merely compounded the problem. Now
lenders don't want to lend, builders don't want to build, hirers don't
want to hire. And people are afraid of what they’re going to lose and
where they’re going to end up.
Greed and fear. And they’re both driven by this myth that more will
make you happy.
The Ownership Myth
VIDEO – from “Finding Nemo”, the seagulls saying “Mine, mine, mine,
the favourite word of seagulls and two year olds around the world.
“Mine.” Nate hasn’t reached that age yet, and he can’t even say the
word, but I can already see the attitude setting in. Like the other day
when I took the phone out of his mouth, he insisted that it was his. Or
when I pulled my laptop out of his grasp, he got upset about that. He’s
staking his claim now to any remote control or any other electronic
device in the house.
But isn't that goofy? A nine-month-old kid
thinking anything belongs to them. Imagine if Nate could somehow take
us to court and claim, “This is my stuff,” it would be laughable. He’d
be thrown out of court, but it just goes so deep inside of us.
an area of psychology that specializes in working with children of
wealth… children who grew up in wealthy families and feel entitled to
their stuff and have all of the kind of emotions and emptiness around
it. There is actually a name for that condition. They call it
One guy I read about, who has done a lot of
research in this area, was talking about how his kids felt like they
were entitled to everything. And his description of it was kind of
interesting. He said it was like they were born on third base and think
they hit a triple.
“Mine.” What do you think God does when we say, “Mine.” Well, here is
what the Scripture teaches…
Psalm 24:1 (NLT)
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its
people belong to him.
The world is the Lord’s. All who live in it are the Lord’s. In Psalm
50, God says…
Psalm 50:10 (NLT)
“For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a
Haggai 2:8 (NLT)
“The silver is mine, and the gold is mine,” says the Lord of Heaven’s
it comes to the Earth, all creation, all its resources, all
commodities, all wealth, all creatures, all human beings, who is the
owner? God. Who is not the owner? Me and you.
I’ll put it this
way: How many of you have ever driven a rental car? Second question,
how many of you ever took that rental car to the car wash to get it
washed? Why not? Why didn't you take the rental car to a car wash?
Because it wasn’t yours. So you’re not paying to get it washed. You’re
not going to obsess over it. It’s not yours.
Here’s the deal
about your money, here is the Jesus truth: Your money is not your money
so don't worry about it. Don’t obsess over it. Don't clutch onto it.
Don't let it create your sense of identity. Don't ever think that your
net worth is your worth to God. Don't get all proud about it when it
piles up. Don't get all anxious about it when it dwindles down, because
your money is not your money. I think that is what Jesus would say. I
can be liberated from the myth that I own anything because God owns
everything. He is the owner; I’m a steward. I am to use it for Him when
He entrusts me with it. It’s not mine.
So those are a few
myths that I think Jesus might want to demolish. Now before we finish
up today, I think there are also a few admonitions Jesus might have for
us… steps for us to take… things that we can do to get kind of
reoriented in the midst of an anxiety-producing financial crisis. One
of them is this…
In a Crisis, Remember to…
Meditate on what the Bible says
an old saying that “you are what you eat.” I believe is is also true,
perhaps even more so, that “you are what you think.”
What do you
think about? If all you think about is the poor state of the economy
and what businesses are going under and how many of your investments
you’ve lost, what’s that going to do to you?
But what if you
decided to meditate on something much more positive, something much
more uplifting… what if you meditated on what the Bible says about
money and about security and about God… what’s that going to do for
you? I think we’d all be better for it.
Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)
your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and
lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy
of praise… Then the God of peace will be with you.
with watching the news these days. You see news and then there’s ads,
then news and then ads. And when I watch the news, it’s all fear, fear,
fear, fear, and I watch the ads, it’s all greed, greed, greed, greed.
And you know, it’s a good thing to watch news and know what’s happening
in the world. But it’s important to also fill our minds with better
Here’s an example of the better stuff: Paul’s words to
the church in Philippi. Let’s read these words out loud together, and
think about them as we read them…
Philippians 4:19 (NIV)
And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in
when I say to meditate on what the Bible says, what I mean is to take a
statement like this one, a really rich one, and then just sit on it for
Paul says, “My God.” Did Paul have any needs? Well, at
the time he writes this Paul is sitting in prison. He has recently
survived a shipwreck. Paul doesn’t have anything. He doesn’t have any
RRSPs or investment portfolio. He doesn't have a checking account, no
savings account, no real estate, no possessions. He doesn't have
anything. He has been beaten. He is waiting to die. So you have to ask
yourself, is Paul crazy… or was Paul in touch with a deeper spiritual
reality that eludes us? Paul says, “My God,” and then I realize that
this not just Paul’s God, that’s my God. Even in my time of brokenness,
even in my time of crisis, that’s the God who loves me. That’s the God
who loves you. And He’s not just THE God, He’s MY God. And He can be
your God, too.
Paul says, “And My God will meet some of your
needs...” Is that what the text said? No, it says “all your
needs.” Paul is sitting in prison. Obviously, Paul has a different
concept of needs. “All your needs.” What’s Paul talking about? What do
we really need? Well, what we really need, and the reason we go crazy
trying to get stuff, is we need to be loved and to be loving. We need
joy. We need richness… not of having, but richness of being. We need
hope, we need forgiveness. And yes, we do have some material needs. But
really, they’re minimal. What we need is to be rich in love, rich in
character, rich in goodness, rich in relationships.
“My God will
meet all your needs according to...” your bank account? How much is
left in the stock market? No. “...according to the riches of His glory
in Christ Jesus.” How many riches is that? That’s a lot of riches.
I think about it and I realize, “I’m rich!” I think about all the
riches God has given me...my life, forgiveness, the hope of Heaven,
courage beyond death, people that I love, I get to be part of this
wonderful church, He’s given meaning and purpose to life, I enjoy the
presence of the Holy Spirit… I’m rich!
And see, the Dow Jones
has no power over any of that. Wild swings in the TSX don’t affect
those things. I think Jesus would say, “Just immerse your mind in
Then, I think Jesus would say this would
be a real good season to think about, to help out, to pray for someone
with greater needs than your own.
Care for those with greater needs than yours
Is this the first economic downturn in the 2000 years of Christianity,
or has the Church faced one or two tough times before now? Let’s see…
Poverty, famine, persecution, epidemic, martyrdom, imprisonment... Not
only have followers of Jesus faced difficult times; it has been
difficult times that have defined the Church. It has been in the
hardest, most difficult, most tough times that Jesus’ Church has shined
the brightest in this shaky, dark world. (In January we’re going to
start to explore how God has used the Church as a beacon of hope
through the darkest times in history.)
So people… even fully
devoted followers of Jesus… have seen rougher times than this. And even
in those times, Jesus tells His followers…
Luke 12:31-33 (NLT)
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you
everything you need.
“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great
happiness to give you the Kingdom.
your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure
for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop
holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth
can destroy it.”
He says, “Sell your possessions and give to
those in need.” Why? Because here’s the situation: When the economy
goes down, the rich are inconvenienced. But the poor are crushed. And
the Bible makes it abundantly clear that God is passionately concerned
about the poor. He has a heart for the poor and He expects His people
will also have the heart for the poor.
Do you realize that we
live in a world where 2 billion people right now are living on $2 a
day? That’s two billion people that God loves. And He expects you and
me to love them, too.
So do I have heart like Jesus’ heart? Do I
care like God cares for people who are losing a home? Or do I just as
soon say, “Probably their fault...” Do I care for those who
lost their job, or do I figure they must not have been doing a very
good job anyway? Do I care about the retiree who just lost a good
percentage of their savings, or do I sit back and wait for the
government to do something?
Do I forget that the education I got
and the opportunities that I received and the thousand other gifts that
came my way were all gifts? Do I think, “I made good choices. I made
right decisions. I am morally superior. Therefore, I don't have to be
concerned for the poor.” Or do I adopt the same attitude that Jesus had
and begin to pray for the poor and care for them and help them out and
even serve them? And we’re just talking about here… We aren't even
talking here about parts of India or Ethiopia or Haiti or places like
What a sad thing if we just cocoon and care about
ourselves. What a terrible example we would set for the world, for them
to see a bunch of relatively affluent Christians whose primary concern
is the setback to our own affluence.
On the other hand, what an
opportunity. What an opportunity for the world to see a church that
actually trusts Jesus so fully that our concern is stronger for those
beyond ourselves, for those who are most in need, than it is for
What is your heart like for the poor? Have you even
thought about them, or have you been pre-occupied with yourself? Even
if you’ve been struggling yourself, there are people worse off than
you. Have you prayed for them? Have you considered what you can do?
we have a couple great opportunities right now for you to exercise some
compassion. We have the shoeboxes, and every family here can fill at
least one box. And they’ll go to children around the world, many living
on less than $2 a day.
Plus there’s the soup kitchen that we’re
helping out at in a couple weeks. I expect every family here could
provide at least one dish, plus you could take the time and serve those
who are in need. That’s not something you should do if you have time;
it’s something you should make time for.
What an opportunity for
the Church of Jesus to shine as it has always done throughout history,
especially in the hardest times. I think Jesus would tell us that.
Cling to God and you won’t need to be afraid
John 6:16-21 (NLT)
evening Jesus’ disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. But as
darkness fell and Jesus still hadn’t come back, they got into the boat
and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. Soon a gale swept down
upon them, and the sea grew very rough. They had rowed three or four
miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the
boat. They were terrified, but he called out to them, “Don’t be afraid.
I am here!” Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and
immediately they arrived at their destination!
So here you have
the disciples. They’re out on a boat and a terrible storm hits. So
they’re running around in a panic, afraid for their lives, thinking
they might go down with the ship.
And then along comes Jesus, as
He always wants to do when His followers are afraid. And what does He
say? “Don’t be afraid. I am here.”
He says, “Don't be afraid.
Don't be afraid of the storm. Don’t be afraid of the mess you find
yourself in. I’m with you. Fear not.”
Did you know that is the
most common command in the Bible, 366 times it is given, one for every
day of the year including one for leap year... “Don't be afraid. Fear
not.” God says, “I’m with you. You cling to Me, and I’ll get you
You’ve heard me quote this verse before… it’s one of my favourite
passages when it comes to weathering a crisis…
Isaiah 43:1-3 (NLT)
not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you
are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you
go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk
through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames
will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of
Israel, your Savior.
Whatever your need, and whatever your
anxiety about your finances and your worry about the future, whatever
kind of crisis you find yourself in, financial or otherwise, remember
that God is with you, and you don’t need to fear. He’ll get you through
it. And I know “My God will supply all your needs according to the
riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.” Amen.
[Adapted primarily from "Where Is God in
Financial Meltdown?" by John Ortberg]