CORPORATE MAKEOVER SERMON SERIES
Investing Your Wages Wisely
OCTOBER 4, 1998
I rarely take the liberty to make a broad-brush, all-encompassing type statement. However, due to data that I have received this week, I am going to go out on a limb. Here goes. Eighty percent of you are investing a good portion of your wages poorly. As those words are settling in, some of you might be saying; “Come on, Ed. Who are you trying to kid? I know the markets are volatile, but give me a break. I am a diversified person. You should see my portfolio. I am young but I have money in stocks and bonds and CDs and IRAs and even in real estate and gold.” Yet, I would turn back to my opening statement. Eighty percent of you are investing a good portion of your wages poorly.
Yes. You listen to the financial experts, the bankers and the brokers and the accountants and the trust officers. But they fall way behind, way, way behind the expertise of the ultimate financial strategist, God. What does God say about your investments and my investments? One day we are going to be audited, not by the IRS but by God, Himself. He is going to look at your life and my life and see how we made our money, saved our money, invested our money and gave our money. You see, I am called to tell you what God says about money matters, about worker’s compensation.
I can talk all day but at the end of the day, it is your choice. I have got to let the chips fall where they may. And the beautiful thing about the Christian life is simply this: God does not design us a robots to mechanically and methodically obey His every whim. We have a decision, we have a choice. We have got to talk about finances. I have said it before and I will say it again, giving is talked about more than faith, hope and love in the Bible. One out of every six scripture verses in the New Testament is about this subject. A third of all Christ’s parables dealt with this topic.
Now some of you may say, “Ed, talk about the real problems, man. Talk about drug abuse and divorce and illicit sex and the breakup of the nuclear family.” Well, today, this message is for you because we are going deep. I mean we are going to a subterranean level. We are going so deep we might as well get out a backhoe. That is how deep we are going. And it is going to get dirty and messy because we will have to negotiate around a root, a root discussed by the writer of
I Timothy 6:10. “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” Not money, but the love of money.
Have you ever thought about the pet names we ascribe to this deal called money? Cash. Coin. Fundage. Dinero. Scratch. Mean Green. We love to talk about it. Money is not neutral. It is not benign. It is not just a means of exchange. It’s power packed. It is something that promises so much yet delivers so little. A lot of us lie awake at night dreaming and scheming of ways to make it, to invest it, to save it, to protect it, and to insure it. Money always beckons us, doesn’t it? More. Just a little bit more. I have discovered something over the course of my life. Whatever you have bought, whether big or little, one day the shine will wear off, the newness will fade and a new model will be produced. Money.
Let me go back to what I said earlier. We have got a choice in the deal. Jesus gives us a number of choices throughout the pages of the Bible. I want to hit on several of the choices that we have concerning leveraging our money wisely and specifically investing it.
The first choice for all of us is that we can invest our money haphazardly or strategically. A lot of us do the paper plate thing when we approach life. You know those paper plates that keep the food separate, that keep your pinto bean juice from penetrating your hot roll. Men are famous for approaching life in this manner. We love to compartmentalize, build little fences and barriers. “This is my family life. This is my recreational life. This is the marketplace for me. This is my financial domain. And God, you can have it all except the finances. I want to keep that for myself. I am not going to let that green juice infiltrate any other aspect of my existence.” But God says, “Wait a minute. I want you to be strategic with your funds. I want you to save money. I want you to enjoy the fruits of your labor. But, also, I want you to give. And when we give the entire plate of our lives to God, then and only then, can He fully bless us in every slice and every realm and every compartment of our lives.
Psalms 116:12. “How can I repay the Lord for all of His goodness to me?” That kind of answers the question for us concerning giving. People ask me all the time, “Where should I invest my money? Where should I give my money; to charities, to civic organizations, to education? Those entities are good but another meal, another campout or another biology class doesn’t come close to God’s priority for giving which happens to be the local church. There is no doubt about it. The Bible is crystal clear on this one. We are to give strategically to the church and when we do the church can utilize our funds in a strategic manner.
Don’t you see the mentality of God? We have been talking about work. We have been talking about the marketplace and all of the things that we deal with in it. God has given us work and if we tackle tasks tenaciously, if we understand work as an act of worship, we will express our love to God while we are working. But also, this worship continues because due to the compensation, the money made, the fruits of our labor, we can give and finance the bride of Christ, the church. Thus, my work for God can finance the work of God and both can be acts that express gratitude to the Lord Himself.
You see if we just put our money where we wanted to, if God didn’t give us any advice, then we would just give a little bit here, a little bit there, a little bit everywhere and we would miss and turn our back and thumb our noses on the most important thing in the universe, the emerging of the local body of believers. That is why God has given us His advice and expertise on giving.
We have a lot of different givers represented here now. Some of you, when we pass the plate, will not give one dime. And that is good. Every time we take the offering, whether I am leading or someone else is leading, we say, “If you are visiting with us for the first time, hold onto your wallets and purses. You don’t have to give. Just chill and relax and listen to the music and enjoy the rest of the service.” Then we say, “If you are a member, it is your time to give. You can chill and relax and enjoy the rest of the service while you are giving.” So some of us here are not going to give a dime today and that is OK.
Others give to avoid embarrassment. We kind of feel bad because we have been here for awhile and we know people in our small group or our connection class or work with one of the ministries and they know who we are. So we just put in a couple of dollars. Some of us give like paying dues. We say, “You know, my kid really loves Children’s Church. We just got back from the Father-Son Campout. I am going to give a little bit to the church.” Or, “I love the Singles Ministry. It has helped me a lot. Here is a little bit.”
But the true essence of giving should be a generosity from the depths of our being. Just for a second, picture Christ when they put Him on the cross. He voluntarily opened up His palms, they nailed nails in them and He hung there for your sins and mine. He did it voluntarily. The moment you open up your heart to the Lord Jesus Christ, the moment He steps inside of your life, you begin to open up your palms, your hands voluntarily to worship. You open up your hands in the marketplace and then you open up your hands with generosity. No longer do you have that grip, that grasp on the scratch, dinero, the mean green, the cash and the fundage. You are saying, “God, it is yours because I love You.” We don’t give to get. We give to give more. “For God so loved the world that He gave…” Think about your choice, about your decision. Haphazardly or strategically?
The next choice is that we have is to leverage our wages either sporadically or consistently. I Corinthians 16:2. “On the first day of every week each one of you should tip God.” Is that right? Hello. Is that right? I don’t think that is right; tip God. Change to the next slide. Let me read this again. “On the first day of every week each one of you should throw pocket change to God.” We seem to have somebody messed up in our media area. Maybe the third one will be the charm. “On the first day of every week each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income.” That’s the right one.
“On the first day of every week….”, that’s week. I want to stop at the word week. Turn to your neighbor and say week. God helps me every week in my job. He does. I don’t know how He does it but He does it. He helps you too. I need a weekly reminder that God is number one. If I don’t or you don’t have that we will be messed up. Here is what will happen. If I don’t have a weekly reminder to give, after about seven days, eight days, nine days, ten days, I kind of lose focus. Yet, when I come to church prepared to sing, prepared to experience the drama, prepared to hear a message from God’s word, suddenly money begins to come into perspective for me and into a proper focus. I need this reminder weekly. And that is why God has said that every week you have got to stop working and start worshipping. You have to recalibrate and refocus. And part of worshipping is giving. On the first day of every week each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income. We should set aside that money weekly.
“Well, Ed, I get paid twice a month.” Well, that is great. So do I. I challenge you to set aside a sum weekly. Why? Because every week as I come prepared for worship I will say, “OK, God, you are Lord. You are number one. I am opening up my palms to You just like you did for me on the cross. And now I am being generous back to You, once a week as a reminder to me that you are, indeed, my Savior, my Lord, my friend, my forgiver, my master, my counselor, my redeemer.” Sporadically or consistently? We are to become consistent givers.
You know the Bible says that we are to love our enemies. I don’t know about you but I don’t always feel like doing that. Do you? But the Bible tells me to. I don’t like to do it though. But I do it. You know why? The Bible tells me to. Well, oftentimes, I don’t feel like giving. That’s right, I am the pastor of the Fellowship Church and oftentimes I don’t feel like giving. But I do it. The Bible commands me to do so. And I have been a giver, been generous and I will continue to be so because I cannot express to you the blessings that God has bestowed on my life. I have never met a person who is a sincere Christ follower, who has attempted to live a pure and holy life, who has given consistently to the church, who has not been blessed. I have never met that person. So, if you have, I will be outside shaking hands. Come by and tell me who that is because I would want to talk to that person.
Let’s talk about the third choice. Should we leverage our wages sparingly or generously? That is another decision that you have and that I have. Obviously, God wants us to leverage them strategically, consistently and generously. Malachi 3:8-10. “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob Me. But you ask, how do we rob You? In tithes and offerings.” Wow, that is a scary verse, isn’t it? The word tithe means tenth. It first appeared when Abraham in the Old Testament gave a tithe to the High Priest Melchizedek. It reappears time and time again. It culminates in Malachi.
In a real way the show Real Cops could be filmed while we are passing the offering plate. A lot of you are not investing your wages wisely concerning the local church. Some of you are going, “Bad boy, bad boy, what’s he gonna do when they come for you….bad boy, bad boy, what’s he gonna do when they come for you…” No, God, I promise you, I was going to give. “Bad boy, bad boy…” That would be a bad sight, wouldn’t it? Look at it this way. If we didn’t pay taxes we could be prosecuted. If we didn’t pay our mortgage, we could be evicted. If we don’t pay our dues at the club, we could be ousted. If we withhold tithes and offerings, we are going to be judged. We will be judged. There will be a payday some day.
So a lot of us are robbing God because we are not bringing the whole tithe into the storehouse. “….Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room for it.” God says to test Him. Sometimes I will be washing the car with the hose and my kids come up behind me and they will bend the hose and stop the flow of water. Then I hear them giggling. Then I look into the hose and the water hits me. Our Heavenly Father has turned on the flow of blessing and a lot of us, because we have withheld our tithes and offerings, put a bend in the hose. God wants to bless. God wants to empower. He wants to use you and me to our fullest capacity but He can’t because we are withholding our tithes and offerings. I am going to tell you something. You begin to do this stuff and boom, the water will erupt all over you to such a degree that you can’t even take it.
II Corinthians 9:6-8. “Remember this. Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously….” You see sparingly or generously, that is our choice. “…Each man should give what he decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion.”
I have had an opportunity to tour a number of prisons. I have talked to some prisoners about why they are there. Almost all of them have an excuse. They blame someone else for why they are behind bars. “Well, you see this person didn’t do that. And my parents…” And they give a great many rationalizations. You kind of empathize for a second and then you go, wait a minute now. Every person that I have talked to has given me this noise. Its kind of odd. But a lot of us are robbing God and we are giving these same excuses to God. Some of us say, “God, I will give when the big deal hits. And the reason I am not giving now is because the big deal has not hit. But once it hits, overnight, I will become generous. You can count on me.” Who are you trying to kid? That is hilarious. If you are generous, you can be generous over a little. If you are generous, you can be generous if you are in the middle. If you are generous, you can be generous if you have a lot. Others say, “I don’t give because the church always talks about money. They talk about money all the time.” I did some research this week and over the last three years I have preached five messages on giving, from beginning to end. I have mentioned giving in other messages, but five have been dedicated to the subject. I used to kind of cower from giving messages like this. But now, I have got to tell you. This is one of the elementary commands of being a true Christ follower. To talk about being a Christ follower and not talk about money is kind of like talking about NASCAR and not talking about speed. Let’s talk about NASCAR racing. You know, the cars look nice. There are tens of thousands of people there. But, you have got to talk about speed. Christianity, you have got to talk about giving.
Here is another excuse. “You know, I give a lot. Do you realize that last year I gave $10,000 to the Fellowship Church.” Here is your problem. You have forgotten the relativity of your resources. You think, whoa, I write a $10,000 and to this young lady here, that is a lot of money. But to you, $8,000, $10,000 or $12,000 may be pocket change. God is shaking His head and saying that you are robbing Him, that you are not giving Him the minimum worship requirement. God asks for ten percent off the top of everything that we make. He could ask for ninety, easily. But He asks for ten. So are you really giving a lot?
Here is the last one. “I don’t want to give, God, because I am just worried. YK2, the economy, the sky is falling. I have got the sandbags ready, God. My bags are packed. I am on the rooftop already.” Yeah, those things could happen. But God will take care of you. You see it is a matter of obedience. It is just trust.
“For God loves a cheerful giver.” A cheerful giver just laughs. I have always imitated people. When I was two years old I used to imitate a high school football star. I have pictures of me in front of crowds imitating how he used to walk. Everybody would laugh and say “Look at little Ed. What a crazy guy.” I want to imitate some laughs for you. One friend laughs like this. Hauuuugh. So if the punch line of a joke is, because she said so…..he would go, becauuuse shhhhe saidddd so. I don’t know why, he just does that. The second one laughs like this. If something is kind of funny, this is what he does. Eeheeh. But if something is really funny he will go eeheeh, eeheeh, eeheeh. He will get on a roll. My other friend laughs like this. Heh, heh, oh gosh. The Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver, a giver full of laughter. So when the offering plate is passed laugh. The word in the Greek is hilarious, we get the word hilarity from it. “…and God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.” Here is what God promises. He promises us blessings. And if you withhold your tithes, it will block the blanket of blessing that God wants to put on your finances. Also, it will build the local church, whether it is this church or another church elsewhere. God has called the local church his bride. That is how important it is to him. And it will break the back of greed. It will give a punch to the money monster and God will be glorified in the whole deal.
Do you know why I know that 80% of you are investing a good portion of your money poorly? It is because our financial office told me that 20% of the Fellowship Church members are giving for the other 80%. I will show you visually what this represents. I won’t embarrass anybody. Just chill for a second. Now if I point to you in the audience, stand up. OK, now these aren’t the ones who give for everybody. These people are standing to visually represent the fact that they pay the way for everybody else. That is pretty wild, isn’t it? And we have an incredibly generous church. We have a lot of people giving. We have one of the greatest churches I have ever seen. And I thank you for that. But a lot of you out there are missing it. Don’t miss it anymore. Make the choice. Please sit down. Make the choice to do it God’s way because when you do, He is going to pour out blessings upon your life. He will build the local church. He will break the back of greed. He will be glorified and your life will go from this level to that deep subterranean level where He wants you.