2 HAVE AND 2 HOLD SERMON SERIES
ATTACK OF THE KILLER FEES – MANAGING YOUR FINANCES
MAY 21, 1995
When Lisa and I were first married, like most young married couples we lived in an apartment. Three years later after we had purchased a couple of dogs, one being 140-pound rottweiler, the other being a 70-pound mutt, we decided to look for a house. We searched throughout the Houston city limits and we found a 35 year old home and we bought this house, because it had a big back yard and we could kind of fix it up over the years. And sure enough, we lived there for awhile. I’ll never forget the first time we ever decided to do yard work though. I don’t really love yard work that much and Lisa coaxed me and encouraged me to out in the back yard and start the lawn mower and begin to mow. There was an old tree house in the left portion of our backyard. I didn’t think that much about the three house, it was kind of falling apart. I start the mower and begin the lawn. And all of a sudden while I’m mowing, I get hit about three times by a bee. I am talking about a major league sting. Buff. Buff. Buff. Since I am kind of allergic to bees and I begin to kind of dance around and jump around and I run inside and say, “Lisa, there must be a bee hive somewhere in our yard and I’m allergic to bees.” And she say, “Honey, you probably just got stung a couple of times, maybe it was just a random deal, go back and continue mowing the lawn.” So I went back, cranked the mower again. This time the dogs start yelping. The bees did not attack me, but the dogs started rolling around. There are bees all over them and I ran inside. “Lisa, this is a major ordeal. Why don’t you go back outside, Lisa, you start the mower up and let’s find the source of these bees.” So I dress up my lovely wife in a sweatshirt, pants and hat. The only thing you can see are her eyes. She walks out and folks, she cranks the mower and when she cranks the mower, a swarm of angry bumblebees leap out of this old, dilapidated tree house and they begin to attack Lisa. But she is impervious to pain because of all the clothing. She is running around, the dogs are yelping again. She finally charges the house, I open the door and she runs in, I close the door. However, about 10 bees are now inside. The bees are hitting the windows. We had a serious problem on our hands. We finally kill the 10 bees that made their way inside the house.
So, Lisa gets on the phone and she calls the man who specializes in outdoor pests. Pest control. This man is a great guy named Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith had a bad leg that he had injured in the Vietnam war. And we told him that there was an angry hive of bees in this tree house and he advised us to just calm down and he would handle the situation. “I have dealt with bees for the last fifteen years around Houston. Bees won’t sting me, I know their habits. I have this special formula.” And we said, “OK”. He climbs a ladder and he peers into this treehouse. Buzz.
Buzz. Buzz. He fell off the ladder, started rolling around and the bees were so aggressive (true story) he had to send one dead bee off to Texas A & M to see if the bees were killer bees. They were not killer bees but they were the angriest bees he had ever seen in his life. It is scary to be attacked by bees. I have been there. Maybe you have too.
But today I am going to talk about something that is even scarier. To be attacked by killer fees. Killer fees. Because it doesn’t matter if you make billions, millions, thousands or hundreds, if you are married you are going to be attacked in one form or another by killer fees. And we need to discover the source of these killer fees to see where they attack. Gallop estimates that 56% of divorces every year in our country are due to conflict and arguments over finances. It is a major problem, a major source of arguments in marriage.
When you think about killer fees you have to think about their three-fold strategy of attack because killer fees sting us, they immobilize us and they can wreck havoc on your marriage, on my marriage, on you life and my life. Today, though, I want to look at the sources of killer fees.
There are basically three sources of killer fees use. The first source is plastic. The killer fees attack through plastic. Do I need to explain what I am talking about? Credit cards. Credit cards. You get married and you begin to use credit cards when you buy certain items. You watch and see what happens. Because credit cards are kind of interesting little cards. They are pretty, red, white and blue, gold, platinum. They have our names engraved on the bottom of the card and even how long we have been card members. And they have a prominent area of display in our wallets. They are painless to use. In fact, when you use some cards you get frequent flier miles and discounts on automobiles. Our world loves for us to use credit cards. You buy something and you hand the credit card to the store clerk and the clerk runs it through a computer, gives you back the card and says, “Sir, will you please sign your name right there.” You sign your name, no problem, you have the item. A credit card is the way to go. And you go on your merry way. However, thirty days later, you bring the mail in and you hear a slight buzzing noise that sounds muffled. And you think, could there be a wasp in our house? Is there a fly somewhere? And you look, and there is the bill. Yes, you have been attacked by killer fees. You have been attacked by credit cards.
Studies show that Americans who have credit cards spend 26% more money than those who do not have credit cards. The Bible says this in Proverbs 22:7 “The borrower is servant to the lender.” The borrower is servant to the lender. Basically we have two options with credit cards. And I want to challenge you to apply these options. Number one. Pay them off every month. I will say it again. Pay them off every month. That is the first option. The second option is take a giant pair of scissors and cut them up. Some of you need to get serious about this because your finances are out of control. Instead of you telling your money where it ought to go, your money is kind of running away from you. You have no clue where your money is and you are overextended. You are in major league debt because of credit cards. Because of being able to purchase things so easily. Painless. It is easy. I’ll just give you a card. I can just sign my name. No problem. I can go on my merry way.
A couple of years ago a financial consultant reminded me about the warning that appears on a pack of cigarettes. He said “Ed, you know on those cigarettes there is a little surgeon general’s warning that smoking is hazardous to your health?” He said, “I contend that we should put little stickers on every credit card which would read, Warning, overuse can be hazardous to your wealth.” And I agree with him. If you have credit cards, great. Pay them off every month. And if your finances are out of control, cut them up.
The Bible never says, though, you should not borrow money. I have heard people say, “Well the Bible says time and time again never borrow money.” The Bible says borrow as little as possible and if you do borrow money, make sure you can pay it back. But never let the debt thing get out of control because the debt will begin to rule and run your life. And there is no kind of pressure that compares to being under the gun financially. And I want this church to be jam packed full of single adults and families who are good stewards of their finances. The world talks about security financially, we want to talk about stewardship. Because everything we have is God’s and He wants us to become good stewards of our finances. Have any of you been attacked by those plastic piranhas in your wallet?
Another source of the killer fees is the media. That’s obvious. The American Association of Advertising estimates that the average person in our society sees over 7000 commercials a day. Seven thousand a day and Hollywood hires the best producers, the best writers, the best actors to get involved in these commercials and they have one goal in mind, to create discontent. The intend for the viewer to say, “I have got to have that.” “I need to buy that.” “I can’t live without that.” Advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry.
This past Easter in one of our six services I was shaking hands as people exited and who of all people shows up at our service but the Hollywood actor, Dennis Hopper. And I couldn’t believe, of all places, here we are in Dallas, Texas and Dennis Hopper lives in LA but he is at our service. And I talked to Dennis about those Nike commercials, have you seen him on those deals? He wears the referee’s uniform and smells the shoes and does all this wild stuf. Why did Nike pay him about a million dollars? Why did Dennis Hopper do that acting job? Why did they create this commercial? Because they want to create a need in your life. “I can’t live without those brand new Nike air-max, Jordan, Scotty Pippin shoes. In fact, if I wear those I’ll be able to jump like Scotty Pippin and Michael Jordan.” I hate to say this but Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippin could dunk the ball if they wore a pair of women’s high heels. So the shoes are not necessarily the deal.
Jesus said this in Matthew 10:16. He said, “Be as wise as serpents”. You talking about something that is a wise creature, it is a snake. “Be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” When you see a commercial, look at the unpictured side of the commercial. For example. How about beer commercials? Beer commercials have to be the best commercials going. One of my favorite commercials is the one with the guy driving a $70,000 sports car and he has about 3% body fat. He pulls up to a quaint, cool, yuppie bar and steps out. He walks into the bar, people greet him. Beautiful women come up to him and kiss him on the cheek and he says “Yes, I’ll have a _____ beer.” They bring the _____ beer to him and the announcer says, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” What is that commercial saying? It is saying that if we drink this particular type of beer, we can drive a $70,000 sports car, we will have 3% body fat, we will have all these beautiful women kissing us, a lot of friends and a great time. That is what it says. It is not showing you, though, the other side of alcohol that sometimes occurs. When that person maybe couldn’t stop with one and he decides to knock down about fourteen beers. When that person goes home and abuses his wife or maybe drives on our freeways drunk. The unpictured reality.
How about the car commercials. You will see these cars zig-zagging through the Swizz Alps and you go, “Man, I’ve got to have this new car because it has this new sound system, it has this new braking device, it has more horse power. If I could only have that car.” It is fine to drive the car but look at the unpictured reality. The payment book if you bought the car would be about as thick as a Bible, you know. Be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. The next time you see a commercial, commercials are fine, ads are fine but look at the unpictured reality.
There is a third source of the killer fees, peers. Peer pressure. I like the word peer. Because the word peer in my lingo kind of means we peer at each other to see what the other person has. Hummmm. “They have that home. They drive that car. They are a member of that club. I am just as educated, I’m just as smart, I’m just as young, I need that, I want that.” And we have this never ending cycle of the gimmies. We compare and we classify ourselves and we think, I have got to have that. II Corinthians 10:12 “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves. When we measure and compare we are not wise.” I deserve that. Have you ever said that before? I deserve that.
How did this materialistic mentality take hold in our world today? America is definitely the most materialistic, money-hungry nation on the planet. Why? Let me give you a typical example of Al, the average American child. Al, the average American child, grows up and during the impressionable years most of the conversation he hears around the breakfast table centers on money, what it can get, what it can buy. He comes to the conclusion that money really talks. Then he sees his father kind of climb up the corporate ladder and because his father is climbing ladder he gets raises and he moves across the country to a bigger house. Then a bigger house. Always upscaling. And the little man thinks well, I guess money is more important than spiritual roots or family roots or relational roots. Sounds good to me. And Al, the average American child, grows up. He considers college. He talks to his parents about college and his parents say, “You need to go to that university and major in that subject because it will yield the highest income. Even though you might not like the field, it is worth it if you make some serious money.” He graduates, gets involved in this career, makes a lot of money, gets married and then he teaches unknowingly and unwillingly this value system he learned from his parents to his children. Then as an elderly man he looks back over his life but he never really realizes that he has been led around through life on the short leash by something called the money monster. It can happen, folks, it is real. And I see so many of Christ’s followers being led around by this materialistic, money driven mentality.
How do we take care of these methods of attack? How do we take care of the plastic? How do we take care of the media? How do we take care of the peer pressure? There is one repellant that we can use. It is not Raid. It is spelled
B U D G E T. Every time I spell something I get nervous because I am a horrible speller. Budget. Can you say that word with me? Budget. I want to talk to you about a budget because the Bible says that we should live on and follow a budget. A budget.
First, when you set aside a budget, pray about the situation with your spouse. “What, you mean I should pray about my money, I have never prayed about my budget. Why do I say that?” Because everything we have comes from God anyway. “Well, I am a self-made man, self-made man, that is me.” Who gave you the drive, who gave you the initiative, who gave you the talent? Everything comes from God. God has blessed you. It is because of His sovereignty, His grace that you are where you are. Pray about it. “God, where do you want us to spend our money? What do you want us to do? Where do you want us to put limits and where do you want us to really be generous?” Pray about it.
Also set some goals. Set some mutual goals. Agree together about some goals for saving, some goals for spending and some goals for giving. Have you ever done that? A couple of times a year Lisa and I sit down and we hammer out a budget. And we live by that budget. And we have a good time abiding by the budget. And we feel wonderful after we have gone through the process. The process is not always fun, it is not always easy, but it is something that will serve you well.
What kind of budget should we have? We should live by the give, give, live budget. The give, give, live budget. This is a Biblical budget. The give budget. See Roman numeral I on your outline? When I get paid the first thing I should do, the Bible says, is I should give 10% to God. I should give 10% to God. And the Bible says give it to your local house of worship. If you are a member of this church, you should give the first 10% of your money to this church. If you belong somewhere else, give it there. The Bible is plain about this concept. It is called tithing. Every time I talk about giving I see those who are generous and they are kind of smiling, thinking yeah that’s great. And those who don’t give are going, whoa, man, talking about money. Just relax. The Bible says that we should be cheerful givers and if you are a cheerful giver God is going to take care of you. He is going to bless you. The Bible says in Proverbs 3:9-10 “Honor the Lord by giving Him the first part of all your income.” You see the amount is insignificant. If you make a million dollars a month or if you make ten dollars a month, the Bible says the first 10% should go to God. Why? Does God need our money? No, God does not need our money. God uses money to test us to see if He really is Lord of our life. Because Jesus said if your treasure is in a certain place then it indicates that your heart is in that same place. We can look at our financial portfolios and tell what is number one in our lives. Is it travel? Is it clothing? Is it a home? Is it a car? Or is it the Lord Jesus Christ. And a lot of people are wondering why doesn’t God bless my finances. Why doesn’t God give me opportunities? Why doesn’t God do this or that? Oftentimes it can be traced back to the lack of generosity, the lack of giving to the local Body of Christ. Honor the Lord by giving Him the first part of your income. “And He will fill your barns (or you condos) with wheat and barley and overflow your wine vats with the finest wines. I believe God talked more about giving than any other subject in the Bible because when we give we are more like God. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave…..” Surely we don’t have anyone here who has a disease called cirrhosis of the giver, do we? Does anyone have that? That was kind of bad, wasn’t it? When I get paid I give the first 10% to God.
The second thing I do is, I give myself the next 10%. So I give the first 10% to God, I give the second 10% to myself. I’m talking about saving money. The Bible talks about saving money. Have you ever seen fire ants here in Texas? Fire ants? Raise your hands. Thank you. God bless you. Fire ants are everywhere. Fire ants are interesting creatures. Just take a step back and watch the fire ants. The fire ant saves. The fire ant does not have a leader, a CEO or a coach. But the fire ant saves and puts stuff away for when he needs it. Proverbs 6:6-8 “Take a lesson from the ants. Learn from their ways and be wise.” I read the other day that the average European saves 16% of his annual income. The average Japanese man or woman saves 25% of their annual income. The average American saves 4% of their annual income. “For though they have no king (continuing the quote) to make them work, they labor hard all summer gathering food for the winter.” You need to put your money in an interest bearing account to get your money working for you. And as you begin to save you will learn the principle of contentment. The Bible says over and over again, be content. We have to be content with our contents. We need to say, “God, I want to live on a margin, here is my budget, I’m giving my first 10% to you, I’m giving my second 10% to myself.” And then, the remaining 80%, that is what you live on.
God loves to give you gifts, He loves to give me gifts. Money is not the root of all evil. The love of money is, but money is not. Money is neutral. The question is, though, do you have your money or does your money have you? That is the issue. And God wants us to enjoy the 80%. Are you enjoying it? Are you really enjoying it? Proverbs 21:5 “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste (that means credit cards, impulse buying, spending because of peer pressure) leads to poverty.” Have you guys ever been to K-Mart before? That is my favorite place to buy fishing tackle. One of the things that has always intrigued me about K-Mart is the blue light specials. All of a sudden you are shopping looking at the fishing lures and this announcer will come on the loudspeaker. “We have a blue light special on aisle sixteen, on aisle sixteen, on ladies bathrobes.” And you will see the ladies turn their carts like sports cars and speed to the bathrobe section. And the blue light is spinning and people are going nuts and you will see people buy ladies bathrobes even though they don’t need them. They are buying them. They are buying them. And they come home and they have fourteen ladies bathrobes. They got caught up in impulse spending. They got caught up in spending with haste. If you spend with haste, it leads to poverty. Live on 80%. How many of you have automobiles? Most of you. How many of your automobiles have a gas gauge? What if I told you, go home this afternoon, take a hammer and just smash the gas gauge and drive with a smashed gas gauge for a year. Would that be fun? Whoa. “I’m not sure how much I have in here. You know, I don’t know if I should floor it or kind of ease off it.” You would run out of gas, you would probably say words you wouldn’t really want to say and you would get upset and angry and you would start kicking the dog and yelling at the kids. Because, what’s wrong? The gas gauge is all messed up, it is smashed. A lot of us though spend our entire lives without a spending gauge. No perimeters, no boundaries. Just, hey if it’s there, 129 easy payments, that’s for me. Totally out of control. It is my prayer that you will take this message of finances, this message the Christ talked about more than He talked about heaven or hell and apply it in your marriages and in your personal life.
The bottom line, though, is that from a spiritual perspective we are all in debt. We all have a debt that we cannot pay. I don’t care how much money you make, how good I am, how good you are, how many times you have been baptized or how many times I have been baptized, or how many hours I read the Bible or how many hours you read the Bible, there is a debt that I cannot pay, that you cannot pay, a spiritual deficit. And I deserve to live my entire life, even into eternity, being bankrupt. The good news is this. God saw a bankrupted sinner named Ed Young and God said you know I love that sinner so much I am going to do something. I am going to send my Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for all of his sins and to pay that debt. It will cost me My Son and His spilled blood on the cross but He will come back from the grave. If Ed Young or Al, the average American citizen, or Alice, the average American citizen, comes to a point in his or her life where they turn from their sin, where they realize they are in debt and they can’t pay it and they receive what God did for them through Christ, they will have eternal life. They will become multi, multi trillionaires and you can multiply that exponentially, as far as wealth goes, because they are now a part of the family of God. All this stuff we talked about is fine and dandy but until you come to know Jesus Christ personally it is all for naught. Do you know Christ? Do you really know Him? Make sure you settle that issue and that account today.