STATE OF THE UNION
CHECKMATE$ – FINANCIAL HARMONY
APRIL 20, 1997
This past week Americans have talked more about finances than any other week of the year. Why? Because April 15 is that dreaded day when our tax returns are due. For some reason, most of us are apprehensive about stripping before our government. What if I could arrange for all of us to strip before this church? What if I could show on the screen behind me, family by family, couple by couple, single adult by single adult, every check written, every item purchased, every investment made in 1996. How would you feel about doing that? Any volunteers? Most of us would be horrified in disclosing such personal information. Why? What’s the big deal? It is just money. The big deal is simply this. Our money reveals a lot about who we are. If we could see where we have spent our money in 1996, we could tell a lot about ourselves. We could tell if we are frugal, disciplined or extravagant. We could discover if we really enjoy recreation in this area. We could discover how important our cars, our clothes and our homes are to us. We could also find out how we feel about God, couldn’t we? We could find out if we worship God with lip service only or with the resources from our lives.
Money management. Financial self-disclosure. The Bible says that when two people get married, they become one flesh. I believe that they become one spiritually, physically, relationally and also financially. In other words, they become checkmates. That is God’s design for your marriage and my marriage. And when you have two self-centered sinners merging together, you have got some tension, don’t you? Last week we talked about conflict in marriage and this week we are still going to talk about conflict in marriage, but specifically in the area of finances. There is pressure around money.
George Gallop estimates that 56% of all divorces occur due to money matters. Time magazine recently stated that the number one conflict in marriage has to do with arguments over dollars and cents. We are so serious about money management, and especially as it relates to marriage, that we have dedicated an entire weekend where we talk about what the Bible says regarding money. For far too long the church has only emphasized one aspect of money management – the tithe. You go to church after church and they talk about giving money to the church, giving money to a building program, the first 10%. And that is important. I will talk about that subject briefly, but the churches miss God’s overall genius and His thought process on money management. God, that’s right, our loving God wants to have some serious input into your finances and my finances. But for some strange reason we like to compartmentalize our lives, don’t we? We say that we will trust God in the spiritual domain but we will keep our financial affairs ourselves. We say we made the money, it is our money and we will do with it as we please. We give God our relationships, our prayer life but we keep the money to ourselves. But God says no. God says that He wants to have a say so in our finances. Why? Does God want to tyrannize and paralyze our plans for our money? No. God wants to keep you and me from financial fallout and He wants us to experience financial freedom. So having said that, I want us to look today at Proverbs because the book of Proverbs gives us God’s plan, God’s agenda for financial freedom. So whether you make billions, millions, thousands, or hundreds this message is for you. You have got to have a plan. I have got to have a plan. And the plan I am going to share with you is the plan called, the give, give, live plan. Look at your outlines at the first verse. Proverbs 21:5, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” The Bible says that the plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. I would agree with that, wouldn’t you?
Fill in the first line with the word Give. Give God 10%. When I am paid and when you are paid, the first thing that we are to do is write a check out to a local house of worship. We are to give the first fruits of our income to the Lord. Proverbs 3:9-10. “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the leftovers of all of your crops…..” Let me read that again. “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all of your crops….” Not some, all. People ask me sometimes, “Ed, I am really wondering about this. Should I tithe on the net or the gross?” And I say, “Well, let me ask you a question. Do you want God to bless the net or the gross? It is your choice.” “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all of your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” God says that if you give a minimum worship offering to Him, that would be 10%, that He will take care of you. He will supernaturally intervene in your finances. If you don’t, if you withhold what is rightfully His, you are on your own financially speaking.
Why should we give to God. Three quick reasons. First, when we give it is a reminder of the past. I am remembering that God made me, He fashioned me, He gave me the ability to earn money and I am thanking Him for that. It is also a reminder of the present, that I am daily dependent upon Him, His mercy, His grace and His guidance. It is also a gift for the future, that I am allowing God by giving to Him to supernaturally come in and intervene in my money management. God says to give the first 10% to Him. Lisa and I have been doing this for the last 15 years of our marriage and God has richly blessed our lives. Never give due to coercion, never give because you are feeling forced to give. Give out of joy and out of love and out of gratitude to God. Give 10% to God.
The second give. Give 10% to yourself. I give God 10%, then I give 10% to myself. Save 10%. That is giving it to yourself. And put this 10% in some sort of investment, a conservative investment that will make money for you, an interest-bearing account. We move on to Proverbs 13:11. “…he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” Little by little, we make it grow. The book of Proverbs also talks about the ant. We have no problem seeing ants around here, living as we do in Texas. Fire ants are all around us. Fire ants work. They store stuff all the time. And this is the picture of someone who saves money. Saving money is different than spending money. Let me illustrate. If you walk in, ladies, and say, “Honey, I saved $100 on this coat, how do you like it?” That is not saving money. Saving money would be if the store put $100 in this interest-bearing account. Saving money is keeping money close to you, like in your wallet or in your purse. It is not allowing the money to leave you. So technically, you are not saving money when you buy that boat, men, even though you say that you have saved $2,000. He who gathers money little by little makes it grow. So give God 10% and put 10% in a savings account and everything is going well. Here is what happens. Here is the result of saving money. First I learn to live on a margin. I am living on 80%. Secondly, I learn commitment. This is a value that God wants us to live by. The world says to save money for security. God says to save money for stewardship.
I also save money because it has a great payoff. There are some financial benefits. Look at the screen behind me. Let’s say, for example, you are 20 years of age and you make $20,000 a year. Let’s say, hypothetically, that you make $20,000 a year for 20 years. Your boss never gives you one raise for 20 years. Let’s say that you hear this message and you apply the give, give, live formula and you give 10% to the local church. Over the next 20 years, you will have given $40,000 to the local church. OK. You have done that. You write the first check to God. Everything is fine. Now, you write a second check to yourself. You put it in an interest-bearing account. Let’s just say that you make 8% on your money for 20 years. How much money do you think you will have in this little nestegg after 20 years? Whisper it to your neighbor. I’ll tell you $98,845.82. You are talking about a big nestegg. That nestegg is so big a bird can’t sit on it. OK, now let’s say that you are 30 years of age and making $50,000 a year for 20 years. Again the boss says, no raise. Let’s say that you say, “That’s cool.”, and you give 10% to God. Look what happens. You have given $100,000 to God’s work over 20 years. How much money do you think you will have in your interest-bearing account at 8%? You will have $247,114.50. I direct you back to this verse. He who gathers money little by little makes it grow. Next slide. Now you are 40 years old and you are knocking down $100,000 a year. You tithe and here is what you give to the local church. $200,000. Your interest bearing account will have $330,659.54. There is a payoff. There is a serious payoff! Give, give and the third one is live. We live on the rest.
Look at Proverbs 27:23. “Be sure to know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.” Now, I doubt seriously that very many of us have flocks. I have a flock of kids, but no livestock. Maybe some of you do. Here, though, Proverbs is referring to your finances. That was how they measured financial resources back in Biblical times. And by the way, Proverbs was penned by a man named Solomon. Solomon was the wealthiest man who ever walked this planet. He was a brilliant gentlemen. One day, we will do a series on the life of Solomon. I call Solomon God’s solo man. He had everything going for him but then he just got off into never never land and his life was never the same. Anyway, he says, be sure to know the condition of your flocks and to give careful attention to your herds. Know what you own, know what you owe, know where your money is going. You have got to have a plan, Solomon says. And look back at this outline, give, give, live. If I give to God that is a gift of faith. I am investing in things of faith. If I give to myself, it is an investment in the future. And if I live on the rest, that 80%, I am financially free. Just free and there is nothing like that. If every man, woman, child said that they were going to obey this principle and live by this plan for the rest of their existence, then I could say, “Let’s all go home and just relax and enjoy this beautiful day.” Wouldn’t it be fun to do that? I wish it were that easy but it is not. What happens to us? We have a difficult time staying with this plan. Do you know why? Because most of us have this budget busting urge to splurge. These are powerful urges and I wish I could tell you as your pastor that I am above and beyond these urges but I am not. I have financial weaknesses here and there.
You know I wish the Bible were a straightforward book. I say that facetiously. Look at Proverbs 21:20. “…stupid people spend their money as fast as they get it.” You talk about getting in your face. Stupid people spend their money as fast as they get it. I want to show you six ways to totally blow holes in your budget, to totally ruin and wreck God’s give, give, live plan. I call these six stupid spenders. And maybe you will see yourself in one of these. The first stupid spender is the blue light special spender. Growing up in Columbia, South Carolina, the largest store for miles around was K-Mart. I loved K-Mart and I still do. I have fond memories of myself as a boy shopping in their sporting goods department for my fishing stuff. The manager’s voice would come over the intercom, “Attention K-Mart shoppers, attention K-Mart shoppers. We have got a blue light special on blenders. A blue light special on blenders.” And that blue light would be reflecting all over the store. And suddenly from the four corners of K-Mart, frenzied females would come pushing their carts at Nascar speed and they would start impulsively buying these blenders. I knew, even as a kid, that most of these people didn’t need the blenders. They were just caught up in impulse buying. Buy, buy, buy, buy, buy. Have you ever impulse shopped? I have. The University of Southern California says that 9 out of 10 Americans shop impulsively.
Why do we do this? We do it because of the media monster that looms large. Advertisements, for the most part, only talk about one aspect of the truth. The thrill of new threads, the shine of that new car. The sensation of acquisition. Do you know what I am talking about? And we buy into this and believe this and we don’t think about the reality of the product. We don’t think about payment books as thick as this Bible right here. We don’t think about all the money it will take to pay for this item we just impulsively bought. Another reason that we have a tough time with our spending is due to those plastic piranhas, those credit cards. If you would, please take out a credit card from your wallet and just hold it up. Credit cards are really interesting because they come in an array of colors. Our names are engraved on them. They tell us how long we have been a part of the club. And for some reason we don’t think that plastic money is real money. Flash them around for a second. See, aren’t they pretty? And when we pay with credit cards it is kind of a painless thing. The sales clerk just takes it and runs it through a computer, gives it back to us and we sign it and thank her for her help. We think that everything is A-OK until we walk out to the mailbox. We get the bill and have a financial chill. Are you a budget-busting blue light spender?
The second stupid spender is someone that I call a vacuum spender. I am talking about that Rainbow vacuum spender. You see there is a vacuum in your life because you have an unmet need. And because of your unmet need, you buy things. You buy new clothes, a new car. You travel to a new vacation destination. The problem is that when the clothes get wrinkled and the car gets dings on the door, you still have the unmet need that you are dealing with, that lonliness, that emptiness. The vacuum spender is a sad person. Usually it is a vicious cycle of dealing with the feelings and then trying to mask them and cover them by buying things. If you are a vacuum spender, talk to a trusted friend about it. Seek some counseling from a pastor or a Christian counselor and it will serve you well.
The third stupid spender is the in-your-face spender. This revenge, in-your-face spender is kind of funny. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that a gentleman is driving ‘85 Cutlass. He has driven this car for a long, long time. The car is ugly. I am talking about U G L Y. And one day he happens to pass by a BMW dealership and sees a beautiful foreign car and decides that he is going to get revenge on the Cutlass. He decides to buy a BMW at once and have it go right in the face of the Cutlass. And he signs up for the BMW. The payments are going to last for five years. But he thinks that he got revenge on the Cutlass. He lived a pretty frugal life but then one day he just freaked out.
Then we have the recreational spender. That is the fourth spender. The recreational spender is someone who has free time and they decide that since they have free time they will just go to the mall. They go to NorthPark, Irving Mall, Vista Ridge. They have time to shop and so will go and spend some money. If you have that much time, please come by our church office. We have so very many tasks for you to get involved in. Then you will be able to use your gifts and abilities in the ministry. Recreational spenders.
Another spender, the fifth, is the image spender. I know that we don’t have any image spenders here in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, do we? You have to buy a certain watch because your peers wear that watch. You have got to have your yard landscaped like your neighbors. The list goes on and on. But the moment you get that watch, the moment you landscape the yard, someone else has something better and nicer and newer. It is a formula for frustration. You will never get up to the Jones. You see a lot of us are too worried about status. I define the word status as keeping stats on us. God doesn’t do that and you shouldn’t do it either. God wants you to be content. That is being peaceful and joyful at where you are. It is not being lethargic or laid back. It is being goal oriented and visionary. Just say, “God, I thank you for where I am right now. If I remain in this state for the rest of my life, I praise You and I love You.”
The sixth stupid spender is the special interest spender. This is the person who stays by the budget for the most part. But then the person has a weakness. It could be antiques. It could be hunting. It could be even fly fishing. You just blow the budget when you are around these certain items. You are pretty conservative and all of a sudden when you see something that your really like, whoom, you are on it.
Do you see yourself in any of these? I see myself in some of them. Well here is the remedy for stupid spenders. The remedy is to live by the give, give, live plan. Now I want to give you some practical steps to jot down on how to do that.
- Make your finances a joint decision, please. Don’t keep your spouse in the dark. Don’t pull the wool over their eyes and say, “OK, I am going to take care of the finances and I am not going to show you what is going on financially speaking.” That is wrong. That is a sin. You need to fully disclose where you are financially with your husband or your wife. Do that. If you don’t do it, you are really messing up. You are going to cause some problems and tension in your marriage.
- Set some goals. Set some goals in spending. Set some goals in saving. Set some goals in giving. Set goals financially.
- Pray about your finances. Sit down with your spouse and say, “Honey, let’s pray about this.” Pray a prayer like this. “God you have given us everything. And we want to become good stewards of your money. We are here just to manage it for awhile. Help us and show us what to do Biblically speaking in our finances. “
- Learn as much as you can about Biblical money management. You know, for years Christian financial consultants have been talking about the 10,10,80 plan. Give 10 to God, give 10 to yourself and live on the rest. We are very serious about money management here at the Fellowship of Las Colinas. We teach, regularly, a financial freedom seminar. Our next one will be on April 29 at 7pm in Room 700. It will be taught by our Business Administration Pastor. We will provide you with many helpful facts and money management techniques. For example, if you are having trouble with credit cards, you have two options. Either cut them up or pay them off every month. That is just one example. We want you to become a great money manager. But don’t leave this service and say that the goal is for you to become financially free. Yes, it is a goal but it is not the ultimate goal. If you think that is the ultimate goal, you have missed it. Financial freedom is a goal, but the ultimate goal is having the time, the energy and being out of bondage financially so that you can better love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, strength, body and you can better love your neighbor as yourself. We want to get financially free so that we can use our gifts to better serve God.
So how about it? How about it? Become checkmates. Become one financially speaking and God will free you up to be used by Him in a way that can revolutionize your generation.