Manage God’s Money
Money’s a tough subject, isn’t it? I mean, it is a tough, tough subject. I know some of you saw the title of today’s message, Take Care of God’s Money, and you were inches from running out the door to Starbucks or somewhere to breakfast. I know it. And that’s all right. That’s cool. But I want to start this morning a little differently than we normally do. I want you to go ahead and take your message outline, that little cheat sheet that’s in your bulletin, take that out, and in the top left-hand corner, I want you to number 1, 2, 3, 4. Just write underneath there, 1, 2, 3, 4. We’re going to begin this week with a quick, four-question pop quiz. Some of you just had a cold chill. It’s a pop quiz. The good news is this grade will not carry forward, nor will your parents receive a copy of it in the mail. But it’s a true/false test. I’m going to make four statements, and I want you to just write down T or F, true or false, based on what you think about these four statements. Are you ready? Here we go.
Number one, true or false, God doesn’t care about money. Number one, God doesn’t care about money. Just knee-jerk it. What do you think? Number two, money is the root of all evil. Money is the root of all evil, true or false. Number three, those who have will be given more. Number three, those who have will be given more. And number four, number four, the Bible says God takes care of those who take care of themselves. True or false, the Bible says God takes care of those who take care of themselves. Okay. You should have four answers, T or F, to each one of those statements. Now I want you to exchange papers with your neighbor because we’re going to check them. And the reason we’re exchanging papers is because your neighbor will not cut you the slack that you would cut yourself. All right?
Number one, remember the statement, God doesn’t care about money. That is false. False. Now, don’t take joy in marking your neighbor’s paper wrong. Goodnight. Mercy springs to mind. False. Jesus spoke more about our relationship to money than any other subject. Jesus in his three-year earthly ministry, the Bible records his teaching more about our relationship to money than any other subject. Number two, money is the root of all evil. False. The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil. Very different. Money is neutral. It’s neither good nor bad. It just is. It’s like dynamite. It may be good. Could tear down an ugly building in downtown Austin. Or it could be bad. Could tear down your house. It’s neutral. Number three, those who have will be given more. That is true. Jesus said in Matthew chapter 25, “Everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.” He’s talking here about the principle of stewardship.
Now, Jesus uses money to represent spiritual realities. If you have been given spiritual gifts and blessings and you steward them, you take care of them and use them to the glory of God, he will give you more. So that’s actually true. And then number four, God takes care of those who take care of themselves, the Bible says, is false. The Bible says that nowhere. Now, we’ve heard it a lot, and a lot of people think they’re being very spiritual when they say it, but it’s nowhere in the Bible. As a matter of fact, God teaches repeatedly throughout the Bible that he cares for those who can’t care for themselves through those who can take care of themselves. This is the Biblical principle of generosity.
Now, go ahead and hand your paper back to your neighbor now that you’re through grading it. Don’t laugh at them. Just encourage them. Say it’s okay. I didn’t get them all right, either. Number one, God doesn’t care about money, that’s the principle of ownership that Jesus talks about all the time. The principle of ownership. The second statement talks about contentment. Contentment. Being content and grateful for what we do have. Number three, as I said, is the principle of stewardship. Stewardship. And then number four talks about the principle of generosity. Generosity. Now, ownership, contentment, stewardship and generosity, those four principles really provide the boundary markers for any discussion of money in God’s economy. And the fact of the matter is that this is a tough, tough subject.
Let me ask you a question. We’re all family here. We won’t tell anybody. How many of you got all four right? Go ahead and raise your hands, loud and proud. Raise them. That’s great. You’re spiritual giants. That’s good. We take our hats off to you. Now, how many of you missed one, only one? That’s good. Good. That is as far as I’m going to push that line of questioning. But do you see how challenging this is? It shouldn’t be a surprise to us that if we wrestle with these issues of ownership, contentment, stewardship and generosity, that as a society we have significant money issues. That’s why the United States Commerce Department a little over a month ago issued this press release. The American press, the AP, headlined this announcement like this: Personal savings drop to a 74-year low. Check this out. This is from February the 1st of this year. People once again spent everything they made and then some last year, pushing the personal savings rate to the lowest level since — wait for it — the Great Depression more than seven decades ago. The Commerce Department reported that the savings rate for all of 2006 was a negative one percent, meaning that not only did people spend all the money they earned, but they also dipped into savings or increased borrowing to finance purchases.
So that means that you and I together, we are saving at the same rate as our grandparents, who went through the Depression. Now, check that out. The Depression. Most of us, we’ve heard about it. Yeah, I think I skipped that part on a test in school. But last time I checked, most of us are living in houses bigger than our grandparents, we’re driving cars nicer than our grandparents, we have better clothes per capita and adjusted for inflation and all those kinds of things, and yet we are saving at the same rate. That is to say, none at all. Everything that comes in we’re sending out, and then some. And yet we as parents are supposed to be equipping our kids, training them to handle money in a God-honoring way? Remember Proverbs chapter 22 verse 6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” But we’re having trouble living this out, much less equipping our kids for it.
You see, the fact of the matter is you and I live in a world where resources are a reality. They just are. Resources are a reality. None of us gets to glide through life untouched by the resource reality. If you’re going to be fed, clothed, sheltered, one day retired, you’re going to encounter the realities of resources, every single one of us. And the fact is that we have to teach our kids the reality that money talks. Did you know that? Money actually talks. Now, I’m not saying that I hear stuff coming from my coins or my dollars, but it does communicate volumes about our lives, about who we are, and ultimately about who God is in our lives. And so this weekend, we’re going to talk a little bit about how money talks. But more specifically, I want to get into how money actually walks. It’s one thing to talk. It’s another thing to walk and to do it.
So on your outlines, look at the first expression that money makes. This is the first thing that comes out of the mouth of money. Money talks as it flows. Money talks as it flows. Money is a resource, right? And every single resource has to have a source. Psalm chapter 50 may be the most important financial principle you ever learn or ever teach to your children. Psalm chapter 50, God gets to the very heart of this issue of money talking as it flows. He’s talking about ownership. Look at Psalm 50. This is a great verse. If you think God doesn’t have a sense of humor, you have never read Psalm 50. Look at this. God says, “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.” Then watch this. God says — I love it. “If I were hungry, I wouldn’t tell you. For the world is mine, and all that is in it.” God says, look, I don’t need your money. You know why? Because your money is my money. God says he owns everything. Everything that you have, everything that your kids will ever have, their iPod is God’s.
Now, the music on it may not be, but the iPod is God’s. God says I don’t need your stuff. I don’t need bulls from your pens or your goats. I don’t need that stuff. You need that stuff. You need me to flow that stuff into your life. God says I don’t get hungry. But if I did, I’m not calling you, because, hey, God’s not calling me going, Mac, could you spare a little change this week? I’m a little short. You’ve got to be kidding me. I own the cattle on a thousand hills, Jack, Jackie. And the hills that they graze on belong to God. It’s all his. It’s the ownership issue. Everything that I have. The truck that I drove into the parking lot this morning is God’s. This brown jacket, even with the red lining, that’s God’s. Now, you may not like it, but take it up with God. It’s not mine. It’s his.
Now, this principle is really tough I think particularly for men. Now, women, you’re not above it, so don’t get smug. But particularly for men, because men kind of have this tendency, we like to say well, I earned it. I mean, I work hard, Jack. I figured out this new market or I’ve strategized within my company and kind of risen to this level, and I’ve earned this money. All right. Look at Deuteronomy chapter 8. It’s almost as if God knows what we’re going to say. “You may say to yourself, my power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me. But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant which he swore to your forefathers as it is today.” This is great. You’re smart. You work hard. You figured something out. You’re a great salesman, salesperson, saleswoman, sales undecided, whatever. Super. Where did you get that ability? Are you really that good that you just crafted yourself, that you gave yourself those gifts and those abilities and those talents? God says it’s all me. So if God blesses someone and they come into more resources, particularly through work and honest earning, that should be a greater indicator of God.
Man, look at what God did. See, our problem is the more we earn, the more we start to think, you know, I don’t like to talk about this, but apparently, I’m the man. Apparently, I am brilliant. I didn’t know. But look at all this money I’ve got in my bank account, the house, the house out of town for the weekends, the boat. Oh, yes, yes. Who knew I was this good? Here’s a flash. You ain’t. Now, you may have some great talents that are particularly marketable. That’s super. God still did that. It’s all his. Money talks as it flows. Also, money talks as it shows. You know, one of the things we need to equip our kids for is to be able to do self-evaluation. If they’re 25, 30 years old, constantly on the phone going, dad, how do you think I did on my project at work? I’m going to send it to you. Or mom, can you help me understand? I don’t know really — if they’re doing that all the time and they’re not evaluating themselves and moving on, we’ve missed the boat.
One of the primary things that money does is it shows who you are. It’s a barometer of the heart. Look at what Jesus said. Luke chapter 12. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We need to teach our kids that. Everything you need to know about my passions, my prayers, my priorities, my plans, all of it is evident in how I spend money. All of yours is evident in what you do with God’s stuff. It shows who we really and truly are.
Now, in our household, we have two children, Emily and Joseph. Polar opposites. Girl, boy. One of them is a natural spender. I’m not going to name names. But one of them is naturally just, man, let’s pull the trigger, baby. Man, this is awesome. I’ve got five dollars. I’ve got it burning a hole in my pocket. Let’s go. The other one, no names, is more of a saver. If you were to give this other one twenty-five dollars, more than likely, three or four months from now this one would still have twenty-five dollars. Just a saver. Just like well, I’m pretty good. I don’t need anything. Neither one inherently is better or worse than the other. They are just different. But the one who is more likely to spend, Julie and I have to do more to teach that one, you know what? What you do with your stuff shows where your heart goes. So understand that. It’s okay that you want to buy stuff and have stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. But just remember, it’s an indicator of where your heart is. Julie and I, Julie is much more a saver than I am. My personality, I’m like, let’s pull the trigger. We’ll figure something out later. Julie’s like, I talked long distance to my sister last night, and we’re going to have rice for dinner tonight.
Now, Julie has taught me that perhaps financially flying by the seat of your pants is not the best alternative. I have helped Julie to kind of lighten up a little bit. I’ll be like baby, you go ahead. Order the salad. It’s okay. Money shows. Shows where our hearts are. Also, money talks as it grows. If you want to grow the stuff that God’s given you, give it. Be generous. God does that. He says this in Proverbs 11, “A generous man will prosper. He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” You hang out with somebody that’s generous, I promise you, I know this to be true. You’re going to enjoy being around them. Not because they’re giving you stuff, but because they’re generous. They’re not in the relationship, they’re not in life for what they can get out of it. They don’t come to church because of what the church does or doesn’t do for them. They are generous people. They’re fun to be around. They have life in them. And God replenishes life. God refuels when we give fuel away. It grows through generosity. That’s a Biblical principle.
Now, I’m going to camp out here for a little while, because money talks as it goes. As money goes out, that’s where you hear money scream. What you do with it, what I do with it. Luke chapter 16, Jesus made this comment. He said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much. And whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you’ve not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth,” money, dollars, greenbacks, skins, dinero, dolares, cabbage, “who will trust you with true riches? And if you’ve not been trustworthy with someone else’s property,” like God’s, “who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Can’t do it.
How much further ahead of the curve will our kids be if we equip them with this stuff, if we show them how to handle it? And make no mistake about it, particularly where money is concerned, the stuff that our kids walk out of the house with is much more caught than taught. You can talk a good game, but they’re going to hear the way you and I talk about money. They’re going to hear you and I talk about, oh, look at that house. Wow. I bet they’re happy. They’re going to hear that kind of stuff and appropriate it. They’re going to make it their own. So know that. We have to teach our kids how money walks. What do you do with it? As it goes, as they allocate it, how do they do that? And I want to give you a very, very elementary plan to put in the hands of your kids. This is baby steps, money 101 for our kids. It’s essentially the 10-10-80 plan. Now, again, I’m not talking about us. We should be beyond this. This is for our kids. Baby steps. Nursery school financially. What’s the 10-10-80? First of all is the tithe. That is the first step in financial management according to God’s word.
Now, if you’re not a Christian, if you’re not a Christ follower, you just made 10 percent. You just got a 10 percent bonus. But for the Christ follower, teaching our kids about how to handle money begins with 10 percent. Look at Malachi chapter 3. God says, “Bring the whole tithe.” Say that. Whole tithe. “Into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit, says the Lord Almighty.” God says it starts with 10 percent. Just 10 percent right off the top. Now, a lot of people ask this question. Not kids, because they don’t get taxed on their allowance or whatever. But people go, do you tithe on the gross or the net? That’s a good question. A lot of people ask that question. I get it. My short answer is this. Do you want the gross blessing or the net blessing? That’s the question. Well, I don’t know.
Look at what the Bible says. Proverbs chapter 3. “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.” Firstfruits. So if you get a salary check, the first 10 percent goes to the storehouse, the church, to God. If your kids get an allowance, the first 10 percent goes into the offering. It’s that 10 percent firstfruits. Now, a lot of people have some questions slash objections to the principle of the tithe. The first objection that a lot of people say is they’ll say, well, you know what? I don’t make enough to tithe. I don’t make enough money to tithe. And I hear you screaming, but that’s why God’s creative genius is so evident in the tithe. 10 percent to you is 10 percent to me. Where our kids are concerned, when we’re giving them an allowance or if they get birthday money or Christmas money, if they will develop this discipline in their lives when it’s little, what did Jesus say? If we’re faithful with little, then we’ll be faithful with much. That’s just a principle. So the thing that says I don’t make enough, that doesn’t hold any water. God says no matter where you are financially, if you will tithe, I will bless you beyond anything you can hold onto. He said I will open the floodgates.
I was in college when I learned this principle. I was making five hundred dollars a month as an intern at a church here in town. And at the time, I was a financial idiot. Now, God loved me, and I was going to heaven, but I was an idiot. And I was not responsible with the money that I had. I was paying for college, and a couple of times I’d been known to bounce some checks, and I started thinking about it. And I started praying over this. I’d been in church my whole life. I’d heard about tithing. And I was buying into the lie. I don’t make enough. Five hundred dollars a month, and I’m going to college on that? No way. But the day that I started tithing on that five hundred dollars gross, I wrote a check for fifty dollars, I quit bouncing checks, I started to have enough. What does God say there? He says I will protect your crops. The pests won’t devour them. I will keep your vines from casting their fruit. I will set up a spiritual covering around your financial needs to provide for everything you need.
Another thing that people say is they’ll say, I don’t make enough money. Some people say, I make too much. Now, they don’t say that out loud, but to themselves they’re like, you don’t know — man, that’s a big, fat check. Just give it? Think about this for a second. If God’s blessed you and you make a lot of jack, okay, let’s just be honest, just you and me talking, nobody else in the room. If God’s blessed you, if somebody is tithing on five hundred dollars a month I was in college or thirty-five thousand a year, that’s a monster, monster piece of that. They’re going to feel that across the month. But if you’ve gotten to the point in your life where you’re making I don’t know, two hundred thousand or two million dollars a year, whatever the case may be, 10 percent? That’s not going to really impact where you eat lunch today. You know what I’m saying? That 10 percent to you is different than it is to the person who’s not making a lot. It’s not as much. Because all of your needs are then taken care of. But that’s where it begins.
Some people, they talk about well, you know, the tithe — this is my favorite one. I love this one. And again, this is mostly from Christians. Non-Christians, this conversation, you can kind of chill out and think about what you’re going to order for lunch. But Christians will say this. And they typically get very spiritual. They’ll go, now, pastor, apparently you were absent from seminary, because you’ve forgotten that the tithe is an Old Testament concept, and praise be to Jesus, we’re under the new covenant, in the New Testament. All right. Look. I’ll be happy to dance with you theologically and Biblically. Love to. Look at what Jesus said in the look of Luke chapter 11. He said, “Woe to you Pharisees.” Woe. He didn’t mean like stop. He meant like sadness. This is not going to be good for you. “Because you give God a tenth of your mint, your rue, and other kinds of garden herbs.” He said look, y’all are so legalistic on the tithe that you tithe on everything down to your spices. I mean, you’re just like — “but you neglect justice and the love of God.” He says, “You should have practiced the latter,” justice and the love of God, “without leaving the former undone.” Jesus endorses the tithe.
Last time I checked, Luke is in the New Testament. It’s not just an Old Testament concept. The Old Testament, even if you want to take that a little step further, how many times does the New Testament ever mitigate or minimize an Old Testament principle? It always expands it. It always blows it up because of grace. So that doesn’t hold any water theologically or Biblically. It starts with the tithe. The second 10 is save. Save. We need to teach our kids to save. 10 percent goes into savings. The first check you write pays God. The second check you write pays yourself. You save. You teach them the discipline, because here’s the deal. Life happens. And they’re probably not going to have to contribute to pay for a new roof or new tires on your car, but it’s going to happen in their lives. They’re going to have unexpected occurrences and circumstances. We need to teach them the discipline of saving. Proverbs 21:20 says, “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” It’s not wise. We’re going to encounter unforeseen expenses. So start setting that money aside. Put it away. Because you know it’s going to happen.
We do that as a church. We have an emergency fund. If a tornado blew the roof off and we couldn’t have church one weekend, we’re set up to be able to weather that. Now, we couldn’t do it for a year. That’s why God invented insurance. But we’re set up to be able to handle those things because of the wisdom of God. Here’s the deal. It just works. If nothing else, there’s a pragmatic attached to this.
And then finally, the last 80. Say 80. 80. 80 percent, 80 percent of the stuff God gives you, of his stuff, you and I get to live on. So instead of looking at that first 10 percent that goes to the tithe and kind of choke on that, look at the 80 percent that he lets us live on. Proverbs chapter 3 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” You see, the money thing is so tough because it’s a heart issue. It’s a heart issue.
That’s why money is the number one contributor and precipitant of divorce. Did you know that? It’s not adultery, it’s not having an affair. The number one cause of divorce that divorced couples cite is financial stress and anxiety, because husband and wife are not on the same page. But this plan that God gives to us Biblically — now, the 10 percent for savings, that’s not set in stone. That’s not a Biblical verse. It’s a good financial principle, a guideline. 10 percent, for Christians, that’s where it begins. God says start there. Firstfruits. And then the rest of the 80, in all your ways acknowledge him. Pray about everything you do with your money.
Ask God, do you want us to make this investment? Do you want us to make this frivolous expense? Sometimes he does. Sometimes a frivolous expense is an investment in the family, spending time together. Doesn’t have to be a lot of money. See, the principle here is this: Every single time we adopt God’s parameters, we find freedom. There’s freedom in parameters. There’s freedom in boundaries. Yes, financially, but also relationally, spiritually, professionally. There’s freedom within God-honoring boundaries. You remove the boundaries, and you’ve got chaos. I don’t know what to do. But you apply God-honoring boundaries, and there’s freedom. And that’s what Jesus Christ is all about. The freedom and the liberation to live this life he created us for. How much further ahead of the curve do we prepare our kids to be when we teach them not to be dependent on their income, but to be dependent upon the source for their income, their relationship with God.