Healthy Finances

This is the rough draft of Pastor Steve’s message, '“Healthy Finances” on January 13th, 2019. You can also watch the message here as well.

So, this is the time of the year where people are optimistic because it’s a new year.  They have a fresh perspective because it means new beginnings. New goals. New dreams.  But you know what else a lot of people are feeling at this time of the year. Just a little bit of stress, particularly as it relates to finances.  Why? Because of what we spent in November and December. We didn’t stick to our budget. We didn’t have a conversation much less a budget at what we would spend on Christmas.  We went on the big family vacation and the bills are rolling in. We splurged on that thing that we didn’t need, but man it sure is great and convenient to have.

Often times I joke that the last two months of the year are our poor months as a family.  In the last six weeks of the year there is Ellie’s birthday, then Christians’, then mine, then Nina’s birthday.  Then there is Christmas and we wrap up the year with Keisa and I’s anniversary. Do you feel my pain? This year, I also have the blessing of car repairs, two of them within four weeks.  On one van I dropped over $700 in tires because of the size of the rim and because they are the tires that stay inflated. Then two weeks later I’m driving my van to work out. I get there and I hear thump, thump, thump.  Are you kidding me? Three new tires, and alignment and $400 later I’m not in a pleasant place. Because in my head I’m adding up all of the tires and birthdays. I wanted to go home and wrap up a tire warranty for each child and say, ‘Happy Birthday’.  

I felt stressed!  Have you ever felt that way or feel that way today?  Part of the reason why we find ourselves in places where we are stressed by finances is that we live at a pace of spending that is not healthy.  It’s not healthy from a practical standpoint. It’s not healthy from a debt standpoint. It’s not even healthy from a Biblical perspective. So today as we look across the landscape of 2019, what would it take to have healthy finances?  To take a step to have a healthier perspective on debt? A healthy approach to savings and giving? Today we are venturing into week 2 of our series called healthy. But here is our focus; Healthy. Finances.

The Bible is loaded tons of practical advice on money but today I’d like to hone in on what Jesus says.   Believe it or not, Jesus talked it multiple times. He talked more about money than he did about eternity.  16 of the 38 parables refer in some way to money/possessions. Now, you may have had some bad experiences with money in church circles.  You may think that the church as a whole pushes it too much. I get that. But regardless of what we have experienced, Jesus spent a lot of time on this.  We can’t ignore it. He gave us very clear instructions on how to have a healthy perspective on money. How to not let possessions control us. That we can trust him to multiply it when we give it away.  That we need to take God centered steps to not let money control us.


So, here is the question to start with.  How can I have health in my fiances? Let’s start with this statement.  Having God’s perspective and practicing God’s priorities results in us experiencing God’s promises.  Let me put it in these terms.  When I have God’s view of money.  When I obey and practice God’s principles when it comes to money. Then, I can experience God’s blessings.  Then I can live in a place where my finances are healthy.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33

We talked about this a few weeks back.  Putting God’s principles first in your life, leads to life.  In marriage. In parenting. Even with our finances. The challenge is often that we want to experience all that God has for us, but not follow his principles.  Including in our finances. ‘Hey God, would you bless me. Take care of me. God, provide for me?’ God is like, ‘yes’, but first follow me in this area of my life’.  Prioritize me (God) there first!

So, that takes us to the next question.  What are those priorities and principles?    In fact, What does Jesus say about money? Let me give you a few today. Number one, Jesus taught that we should exercise wise and careful money management.  Jesus teaches over and over again, a great way to have health in you finances if to know what you spend.  Where you spend it. Every dollar is accountable.

One day, Jesus was being pursued by this very large group of people.  People were starting to follow him and he wanted them to understand what it would cost to follow him. And he ties it into a stewardship conversation.  

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?  For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’  Luke 14:28-30

None of us would do that when it came to building a home.  We’d be the laughing stock in our HOA. But how many homes have we seen sitting half built in neighborhoods over the years?  What Jesus says here happens in our lives when it comes to money. We don’t count the cost well. That verse is how the average American and Jesus follower handles their money.  And in turn, this contributes to not being healthy in our finances.

Well, how can you say that Steve?  Google it. That stats are out there.  Nerdwallet. The US Census Bureau. Check this out. The median salary in America today is $59,030.   That is significant wealth compared to the rest of the world. Yes, you are rich! Yet, 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck.  Here is also some sobering numbers. The average American owes $16,883 in credit card debt. The average car debt in America is $29,534.  The average school loan debt, which now they are saying, is in many ways, being carried even into retirement is $50,626. And here is the kicker.  Last year, the average American paid in interest alone, including their mortgage, they paid $7,942 just in interest. Now, we are all smart enough to know that is not healthy.  If we are going to have health in our finances, then we have to learn to make wiser decisions on how we spend. On what we choose to buy or go in debt for. We have to learn to budget better or even start a budget.    

Number two, Jesus taught that we should not depend on our resources but on God to resource us.  Why?  Because at the end of the day our resources have limitations.  Economies flat line. Companies downsize. Those are resource limitations.  So, instead, put your trust in God whose resources and means of taking care of you are limitless.  In fact, when the other sources of resources are limited, it’s God who can fill in the gaps. In fact, here is what I’ve learned.  It’s those gaps in life that sometimes God allows to develop our faith in him. It’s those shortfalls in life, where we are often fearful, that give God the opportunity to prove to you how he is not fearful.  How he is your resource. But in order for that to happen, we have to trust him rather than our checkbook.

When we go back to Matthew 6 where we started today, Jesus was challenging folks that worry.  That have anxiety. That have fear. Isn’t that where some of us live when it comes to our finances?  And so Jesus challenges the listeners. He says, ‘hey, look at the birds of the air and how God takes care of them.  Or look at the flowers of the field. They don’t stress and worry. God takes care of them. Don’t you think he’ll do that for you?  

If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.   Matthew 6:30-32

Don’t you think that are more valuable to God than a bird?  Than a flower? The obvious answer is yes! So, if that is true, then do you really believe that?  Because if you and I really believed that, then we would trust him more. If we believed that then we would stress less.  Why? Because we know he is our ultimate resource. That verse says, ‘he knows’. He knows the challenges of paying for Christmas tires.  He knows that your kids need braces. He knows your business is on fumes at the moment. And if he knows, and you follow him with what? With faith! He promises to have you back.  Here is a way to get some perspective on this. Do I trust God or my company more? Do I trust his care for me or the government’s care for me more? Am I more at peace in him or what’s in my accounts?  Do I trust his word or my cashflow sheet more? Ask yourself those ?’s and be honest.

Number three, Jesus taught that a key use of our money is to support God’s work through the local church.  I believe this will all of my heart.  I believe that as Jesus followers we are called to be leaders in the community.  We are called to be leaders in the area of generosity. So, when we manage our money in a healthy way.  When we see that God is our resource. Then, we must know that or money means more than what I can do wit it.  

A few weeks back I asked you this question.  What is the cause of Christ? Do you remember?  What is the cause of Christ? The cause of Christ is the local church.  He gave his life for the church. He bled and died for the church. It was his primarily plan to reach the world and there was and is no plan B.  So if that is his cause, what is our cause as Jesus followers? My cause. Our cause is his cause. Therefore since his cause is the local church, our cause is the local church.  Our cause is to invest in the local church so that lives are changed through Christ.

“You are most like Jesus when you give AND when you serve.”

That is powerful and is true because that is how Jesus lived.  What did he say? He said, ‘I didn’t come to be served but to what?  To serve. We are most like Christ when we serve others. What else does it say?  For God so loved the world that he what? He gave us his son. God gave! We are most like Christ when we give.   And here is the key. This is not an either or statement. It’s an AND statement. Serving AND Giving!

The challenge is as Jesus followers, sometimes we feel we get a pass on one of these.  We throw in the OR conjunction. Giving OR Serving right? Remember that Generation X? School house rock.  ‘Conjunction junction, what’s your function!’  We take the AND conjunction of our faith and replace it with an OR.  Do you know what I’ve heard over the years from Jesus followers? Not seekers.  Not new Christians. Jesus followers. Here is how the convo go. ‘Hey, we’d love for you to serve and need you to serve in the local church.  It’s what it takes to make a difference in others.’ Christian response. ‘I can’t, because of _______. Hey, but here is some money. Someone else can serve right?’  Thank you for your giving, but Jesus calls us to an AND, not an OR life.

Here’s another.  ‘Hey, we are trying to reach people, would you give something to make a difference?  By the way, thank you to those of you who gave to the GGO. We will be talking about that in a couple of weeks and celebrating together!  Back to the convo. ‘Hey, would you give? Pray about it and do what God tells you.’ Um Steve, can I get a pass on that? I mean, look at all of the time I’ve given to the local church.  I mean that has to count, right?’ Absolutely-it counts! But here is how that comes across. ‘Well, then can that count towards the giving thing?’ I mean, that should reduce my tab to give to God right?’  ‘Uh, first of all, I don't have the power to do that. Second, I don’t think that’s how it works. We are called to an AND life as Jesus followers, not an Or life.

There is this amazing story in the gospels that Jesus tells that gives us a peek into eternity.  I’ve always been mesmerized by it. Everyone is gathered around the throne of God. On one side is what are called goats.  It represents those who don’t follow God. On the other side of the throne is a group called the sheep who represent those who follow God.   Jesus starts with the sheep; ‘hey, come on in and experience the blessings of heaven. You rocked it. You served me. You cared for me. You loved me.  You clothed and fed me. Come on in’.

“Then the good people will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you alone and away from home and invite you into our house? When did we see you without clothes and give you something to wear?  When did we see you sick or in prison and care for you?’ “Then the King will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did for me.’  Matthew 25:37-40 (NCV)

It happened when you practiced the AND.  When you served AND when you gave to my cause.  When you loved others through my cause. When you clothed people through my cause.  When you served students and kids. When you gave so the local church can do what I gave my life for.   You are the most like Jesus. You are healthiest in your heart. When? When you and I give AND serve the local church for which Jesus gave his life.  

One more, then we will give some application.  Number four, Jesus taught that how we spend our money reveals our loyalties and priorities.  I heard at an early age, that there are two easy ways to see where your priorities lie.  Take a look at your calendar and your checkbook. Why? It’s time and it’s money. Maybe that is a good exercise for some of us to do heading into this year?   

So, generally speaking, if we look at the spending habits of Americans, we can quickly see our priorities.  Take a look at this. The AA spends $1,110 on coffee each year.  Now, I love coffee, but I’m too frugal and cheap to do that.  But it reveals a priority. The average person spends $1,445 per person on annual vacations.  Per person.  I know some of my kids wouldn’t mind that.  That cost, reveals a priority. Then if we go back to what we talked about with interest earlier.  The AA spends over $7,942 in interest.  Again a priority.

So, let’ shake it up a bit.  Do you know what the average Christian gives in a year to the local church?  The average Jesus follower gives 2.5% of their income.  Which when based on a $59,000 income ends up being what?  $1,475 annually.   Can we pause there for a moment and look a those numbers.  Maybe feel a little bit of the discomfort of that? Let me say something direct but with grace.  Generally speaking as Jesus followers in America, we give a little more to the local church and the cause of Christ than we do to Starbucks and Carnival cruise lines and we give significantly less than what we give to the banks.  

Question.  So then how does the church, the cause of Jesus Christ, make a difference in the world?  How do we do that when, generally speaking, Jesus followers don’t see the cause of Jesus as a priority in their finances?   Jesus was having this very conversation with a group of people in the gospels. Take a look.

“Sell 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.  Wherever your treasure (money) is, there the desires of your heart will also be.  Luke 12:33-34 (NLT)

When you give, you are giving to things that are eternal.  When you give, you are doing something eternal that can’t be touched by the economy or by the stock market.  You are proving that the cause of Jesus is your cause. Wherever we spend. How we spend. What we invest in, we can’t argue about.  It reveals our hearts.

So, let’s tie all of these teachings of Jesus into a summary.  What do healthy finances look like?  Three simple words.  Give.  Save. Live.  In order for us to have health in our finances, then I need to follow the priorities that God has created.  I start by giving. Then I save. Then I live on the rest. That plan is connected to God’s promises to take care of us and provide for us.  Let’s start with Give.  We give 10% of our income to the local church.  That’s called the tithe or percentage giving.  It shows a couple of things. One, I believe in the mission of what Jesus gave his life for.  This is a priority to me. Two, it shows that I recognize his leadership in my life. Three, that as I give it away, I’m trusting him to make a difference in others lives and take care of me through giving.  

Second, I save 10%.  Now depending on who you talk to, that saving portion could be an emergency fund of 3-6 months.  It could be savings and retirement. Regardless, it’s extra cash set aside It’s forward thinking.  It’s for when tires need to be changed and it wasn’t in the budget. It’s so you can go on a debt free vacation.  Then, once you’ve given and you’ve saved, then you live on the rest.  The challenge is, we flip the script.  We start with living. We get our check and we go out to eat.  We upgrade our phone. We do the vacay that we can’t afford. We do three travel leagues.  We spend. Then, if we have some left, we give a tiny bit to savings. Then we give, maybe.  If we feel guilty. If the preacher talks about it. Best case scenario, 2.5% to the mission of Jesus.  

Now, I know this challenging.  I know this is hard. This is something I’ve had to work on for years in my walk with Christ.  But I know what Jesus says, it’s spot on. Now, the nuts and bolts of this may be different for each of us.  For some of us, it starts with our thinking. We are so far from this in our lives that we have continue to invite God to change our hearts and minds in this arena.  Some of us, we have to put together a plan to get out of debt. You can’t do alot of what we’ve talked about until you sit down with a financial planner and create a path to get out of your hole.  Some of us need to sit down and create or refine a budget and stick to it religiously. If you are younger, one of the best habits you can do that will impact the rest of your life is to implement this 10/10/80 principle.  It will be such a game changer for you.

Some of us, frankly, we are Jesus followers that have to stop the excuses of not giving.  Because aren’t we saying with our actions? ‘Jesus, thank you for everything you have given to me, but I can’t reciprocate.’  Jesus followers, let’s lead in this arena. 10% is the benchmark. It’s the target. I can easily make that case from scripture and from Jesus’ teaching that we give and we start with the tithe.  If you are already doing that, thank you! However, God maybe challenging you to sacrifice more and trust him more. God may have given you the gift of giving and the assets to be a blessing on a greater level.  Ask God and do what God leads you to do.

And if 10% seems impossible for you at the moment, start somewhere.  Do something. All Jesus followers can do something. All Jesus follower can make room.  Take part of your coffee budget and give. Don’t upgrade, again on your phone, and give. Start at 4% or %5 or 7% and give.  Trust God. And when you do that, here is what I can promise you. God will take care of you. It’s his promise.

Let’s finish with where we started today.  If you and I want some health in our finances this year, then some things have to change.  We have to have God’s view and God’s take on finances. Here is how we said it. Having God’s perspective and practicing God’s priorities results in us experiencing God’s promises. If we do what God asks.  If we go where he leads in the area of finance.  Then we can reap the blessings of his promises. With that in mind, here are a few practical questions for you to process through:  

Questions to think about:  

  1. Am I trying to receive the promises of God in my finances without following God’s priorities?  How?

  2. Which of these teachings of Jesus do I must struggle with living out?  Why? What will I do to overcome that struggle and live the way God wants me to?

  3. What is one thing I can do this week to live like Jesus in my finances?  

  4. Take a look at your finances this week.  How close are you to the 10/10/80 principle?  What are your actual numbers? What step will you take to move towards Giving 10%, Saving 10% and Living with 80%.

Resources:

The Treasure Principle: Randy Alcorn.  

Dave Ramsey:  https://www.daveramsey.com/

Crown Financial Ministries:  https://www.crown.org/




Steve GillComment