I’m sure most of you have heard of Howard Stern—He is famous—or rather INFAMOUS—for his vulgar and crude antics on his radio and television shows. I mean, for Stern, nothing is out of bounds. In fact, at last count, Stern has been fined about $1.5 million over the years by the FCC for violations on his radio and television shows—fined for saying or doing things you are not allowed to say or do on the air. But Stern doesn’t care—he can easily afford the fines and he lives by the “anything goes” mantra.
You may remember that back in 1994 Stern decided to run for governor of New York. But when he found out that running for governor would require that he issue a “public financial disclosure statement,” he withdrew his candidacy. He reasoned that a public financial disclosure statement was far too much of a personal issue to be made public.
Now, think about that. Here’s a guy who regularly describes in graphic detail his sexual behavior to hundreds of thousands of listeners or viewers across the country—and yet he feels his personal finances are too personal an issue to discuss in public. I guess I was mistaken. For Stern everything DOESN’T go—SOMETHING IS out of bounds.
The reality is that a lot of people are not all that different from Howard Stern in this. People don’t like talking about the intimate details of how they manage their money. Most of us want to keep our income, spending, debt, and giving habits private. We prefer to keep our checkbooks and credit card statement and W-2’s to ourselves. The same “rule of silence” is found in many churches. I mean, most congregants get uncomfortable when the pastor starts talking about money. In fact, I think I see some squirming beginning already.
A couple of years ago a sociologist named Robert Wuthnow did a study of the attitudes about money that church attenders tend to have. He found that 95 percent of churchgoers have never discussed their personal finances with other members of their church. It’s simply a topic that’s off limits for most people. This is in stark contrast to the the Bible. I mean, in His Word God talks about money all the time. If you doubt that, grab a Bible concordance or a topical Bible—or the equivalent phone app—and you’ll see how much the Bible addresses this issue.
- The Bible talks about prayer by name about 270 times
- It talks about loving other people about 370 times—
- But it talks about how we should use our money and our possessions over 2,000 times.
If you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that Jesus had more to say about money than any other topic except for the Kingdom of God. Out of the thirty parables He told nineteen having to do with finances: the lost coin, the parable of the talents, the parable of the rich fool and many more. I share all this because—and I’m a little nervous to say it out loud—but today and next Sunday we’re going to talk about—wait for it—wait for it—MONEY. Before you walk out—or make mental plans to go out of town next week, let me remind you that we NEED all the help we can get when it comes to money management. Consider the following statistics. There’s a good chance you’ll see yourself in them somewhere:
- More than two thirds of adults in America are basically illiterate when it comes to financial things. They don’t know the difference between a 10K and a 401K
- Only 46% of Americans have any kind of rainy day fund.
- In fact, two thirds of adults would not be able to scrape together $1,000 if an emergency arose. And as you know the typical emergency can cost a lot more than that.
- Most Americans are clueless when it comes to having—and sticking to a budget.
- More than 55% of us will enter retirement with less than $10,000 in retirement savings.
- More than a third say they have NOTHING saved for retirement. I guess they plan to move in with their kids and live on Social Security.
Doesn’t sound too good does it? These sad stats might explain why most people want to keep their financial situation to themselves. It would be too embarrassing to let others see how bad it is. Okay—hopefully that helps motivate you to stay for the rest of this service—and return next week. This morning I’d like us to dig into all the abundance of passages in Scripture that deal with money and compile what we’ll refer to as “The Ten Commandments of Money Management”—ten foundational principles that will help us do a better job of handling our money. By the way I am relying on the writings of Bill Hybels and John Ortberg in this listing.
Are you ready to go? Here’s the first command.
(1) Thou shalt remember Who the OWNER is.
Basic to managing our money is the understanding that it’s NOT OUR money to manage. Let me put it this way. If you think your car and house belong to you; if you think the money in your bank belongs to you; if you think the clothes on the back belong to you—you would be wrong.
Everything we are—everything we have—belongs to God. As Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”
We are stewards of all we are and all we possess. Knowing that—knowing God is the OWNER should help to motivate us to do a better job at managing it.
I remember reading a story a few years back about an elderly woman who had finished shopping and headed to the parking lot. When she did she saw four men inside her car. Well, she dropped her shopping bags, got her handgun out of her purse, and screamed, “I have a gun, and I know how to use it! Get out of the car.” Well, the men didn’t wait for a second invitation; they got out and ran like crazy. Then the woman, somewhat shaken, loaded her shopping bags and got into the car. But no matter how hard she tried, she could not get her car key to turn. Then it she happened to look over and see her car was parked four or five spaces away! Well, she loaded her grocery bags into her own car and then drove to the police station to turn herself in. The desk sergeant to whom she told the story nearly fell off his chair laughing. He pointed to the other end of the counter, where four men were reporting a carjacking by an old woman with thick glasses and curly white hair, less than five feet tall—and carrying a large handgun. No charges were filed. Like this woman, many times we are mistaken about what’s ours. We think our finances are our own to manage—but they are not. They belong to God. In fact, WE are not our own. As Paul puts it in 1st Corinthians 6:19-20, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God.” We must manage our money—our possessions—our lives—in ways that please Him—HONOR Him.
Here’s commandment #2.
(2) Thou shalt embrace thy WORK.
Do you know how the Bible refers to money? In the book of Ecclesiastes it’s called “the fruit of one’s LABOR.” The fact is, the way we GET money to manage—is by working. I hate to pop your bubble but most of us are not going to inherit wealth. Most of us aren’t going to win the lottery. No—the way MOST of us get money is by working and the harder we work, the more money we will have. Proverbs 10:4 says, “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” Proverbs 14:23 says, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”
Now—understand—these proverbs are not saying laziness is the cause of all poverty in the world. There are a lot of people who are poor through no fault of their own. What proverbs like these ARE saying is that—in general—laziness leads down the economic ladder and diligence leads up the economic ladder. The point is that WORKING HARD tends to bring us financial reward.
I have to stop and point out that this phrase, “WORKING HARD”— it reflects how many of us think of work. We think of it as a HARD thing—a BAD thing—something we dread. I mean, have you ever heard of a TGIM celebration— “Thank God it’s MONDAY?” No—our celebrations are at the END of the work week—we look forward to the weekend when we don’t have to WORK. We tend to look at work in a negative light.
Some of us even think of it as part of the curse for Adam and Eve’s sin. But work was around before the fall. Remember the garden Adam and Eve were given to care for and the animals Adam was to name. Yes, work became harder because of sin—but work is a blessing from God—-it always has been. It’s something we should THANK God for.
Think of it. When we work we demonstrate we have been created in the image of God—Who worked six days creating the world. Work is a good thing—it’s a blessing.
Years ago the late Christian author Charles Colson wrote a book called Why America Doesn’t Work. In that book Colson argues it was this work ethic of diligence that many of our country’s founding fathers believed in and embraced—that led to the economic prosperity of our nation during its formative years. Colson writes that viewing our jobs as a calling from God and our work as something we do out of devotion to God develops a strong work ethic. Colson worries that the loss of this idea in our culture may lie at the heart of many of our problems and I would agree. We must embrace the work God gives us to do. As Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you are doing, work at it with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not for people.”
Here’s commandment #3:
(3) Thou shalt not fall into DEBT.
Proverbs 22:7 says, “The poor are always ruled by the rich, so don’t borrow and put yourself under their power.” We live in a day when too many people are devastated by debt. The average U.S. household owes $8600 in credit card debt, up from 6% from 2006. And—one third of those households only pay the minimum monthly payment on those credit card bills. To show you how ENSLAVING debt can be, let’s say you have a credit card debt of only $7,500. If you follow the example of one third of the population and only pay the minimum payment, which would be $150 per month—with an 18 percent interest rate (and that’s low these days) it will take you a little over 30 years to pay it off. And in the end, you will end up paying $23,000. That’s $15,000 dollars that could have been put to a much better use!
Debt can keep you from owning a home—keep you from sending your kids to a good college—it can keep you from helping others who have need—it can cause sleepless nights. It’s a horrible thing. In fact, I think debt should come with a warning from the Surgeon General’s office: “This may be hazardous to your financial, emotional, and spiritual health.” To be good stewards of God’s money—we have to stay out of debt and if we’re in it—we must find a way to get out.
That leads to commandment #4:
(4) Thou shalt seek wise COUNSEL.
Proverbs 11:14 says, “In the abundance of counselors there is much wisdom.” To formulate a plan to get out of debt—go to people who know how to manage money. Seek the wisdom of others. And—before we make big money decisions—do the same thing. Seek out wise counsel. The reality is we’re much more likely to do dumb things if we’re doing them all by ourselves so get with good money managers and ask them for financial wisdom.
When Sue and I graduated from seminary, the first big purchase we wanted to make was get a new car. Our pastor at the time was VERY wise with finances. I mean, he invested in NIKE before it became popular. He deducted the depreciation value of each book in his library every year. I mean, Charlie knew how to handle money. He knew we were looking to buy a car and offered his advice—but I foolishly decided to do it myself. Like most people I didn’t want someone else—especially my boss and pastor to hear about my finances. Well, because I refused his wise counsel we got stuck with a car we didn’t like with a huge payment.
If you need wise Christian counsel, let me know. We have several “Charlies” here at Redland—people who are VERY wise financial managers and I know they would love to help you.
Here’s commandment #5:
(5) Thou shalt teach thy CHILDREN about money.
Now, most parents are very good at teaching their little ones important things. We teach them to talk and walk and eat. We teach them to read and play fairly with others. But too many parents don’t do a good job at teaching their little ones about money.
Listen mom’s and dads. Your kids are little sponges. They watch you and soak up everything they see. So—even when you don’t intend to—you are teaching them. Well, ask yourself—what lessons about money are they learning from your example?
- To be impulsive?
- To be worried?
- To be generous?
- To hoard?
- To flaunt?
We need to teach them to be handle money in a way that pleases the Owner.
I’ve seen kids who’ve learned this vital lesson. Their parents put them on an envelope system or they bought then one of the little banks with three dividers. And whenever their kids get money—from their allowance or from their grandparents or as a birthday gift or whatever—they set aside some to GIVE and some to SPEND and some to SAVE. One of the best things that you can leave your children, is a thorough understanding of biblical, money management principles and an example for them to follow for the rest of their lives. In fact, why don’t you go over these 10 financial commandments with them—one a day? When you get to commandment #10 go back and start over.
Here’s a little motivation to do this. You want your kids to be financially prosperous enough—that they can afford to take good care of you when your retirement fund runs out! Kids whose parents taught them about money embrace this sixth command—here it is:
(6) Thou shalt have a PLAN.
Can I ask you a question? How many of you have a light next to your bed? How many of you have a light in your bathroom—with the switch right there at the door? How many of you have wall sockets so you can plug in all your electricity needing things like phone chargers and blenders and coffee makers and TVs and treadmills? That’s good. The reason you have all that power located in all those places is because when your house was being built the contractor found how to took into PEPCO. And then he decided where to run all those electrical wires—where to put the plugs and the light switches so you could have all the power you need where you need it. He followed a plan.
We need to do the same with our finances. Sadly too many people don’t. Ask a financial expert like Tom Esch or Hugh Faulconer or the Bechanans or Jacqui Galik, “What is the Achilles heel of personal money management?” And I bet they will answer in unison, “The establishment and sticking to a plan—the thoughtful routing of your income power to useful places.”As I said earlier, the sad fact is half of Americans have NO financial guide at all—no budget—no plan for the future.
I read a report this week that said Millennials spend more money at Starbucks than they invest in their retirement. The interesting outcome of this is sort of a “two-fer.” I mean, the caffeine will keep them away now—and not having a sufficient retirement account will keep them awake later. Managing money requires a plan. Let me put it this way. If you don’t manage your money it will manage you. Here’s a good plan to start with. It’s very basic. You may have heard of it. It’s called the 10-10-80 plan. It’s simple: take the first 10 percent of whatever God sends your way right off the top and give it to God’s work. In other words, TITHE to your local church. We’ll talk more about that next week but this first tenth is a symbolic reminder that God is the Owner of all we have.
Sue and I do this—we have for decades—and trust me when I say we don’t miss the money. In fact, we are blessed by giving to God—especially when tax season rolls around. Okay tithe the first 10%.
Put the next 10% in savings. 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.” Don’t be like that foolish man—save at least 10%.
That leaves 80 percent left. For most of us, that 80 percent is way more than we need. And—ask God how to handle that 80%. Don’t think, 10 percent goes to God and I’ll manage the rest. No—ask God to guide you in how to handle ALL of your money. If you have a plan like this and stick to it—you stay out of debt—you have enough retirement—you join God in His work by supporting your local church—well, then you will find yourself free to give in other ways to help people—like supporting other missions or sponsoring an Amani Watoto child, or whatever.
Okay—Here’s the seventh commandment.
(7) Thou shalt declare “ENOUGH!”
This is a vital command because here in America we all have a problem with wanting MORE. It shows in the fact that most of us don’t use our garages to hold cars—we use them to store all our stuff—all that MORE that we thought we needed but gets stashed in a garage or something. Well, this chronic desire for more will suck joy and gratitude out of you. In fact, the Bible compares this desire to a leech. Proverbs 30:15 says, “A leech has twin daughters named ‘Gimme’ and ‘Gimme more.’
You’ve probably never seen a leech before so I bought one this week. This is a leech. A leech will attach himself to you and suck all the life and the blood out of you. Now we’re going to pass this leech around through the whole congregation. Just kidding. It’s ugly isn’t it!? Well, wanting more—striving for MORE—that’s an ugly thing too. And just like a leech—wanting more will suck stuff out of you—not blood of course—but joy, gratitude, and contentment.
Some of you are wondering where I got the leech. I ordered it on Amazon thinking it might create a “leechable moment.” And I think it has done that. We’ve had a “leechable moment.” But this is another “two-fer” deal. Here’s a SECOND “leechable moment.” As much as I love Amazon—I mean you can get ANYTHING there most of it free in under two days—but as much as I love the convenience—I have to be careful because Amazon makes it easy to get MORE.
Amazon can feed the LEECH in our hearts if we’re not careful. We have to learn to say, “ENOUGH! I don’t NEED more clothes—I don’t need more gadgets—I don’t need a bigger home—I don’t need more money.” We need to starve the leech that is in all of us! We must seek to increase our giving and not our acquiring.
This leads us to our eighth commandment.
(8) Thou shalt not try to keep up with the JONES.
As you know, this one is found in the REAL Ten Commandments. Commandment #10 says, “Thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17) The interesting thing to me is that these days the neighbors we tend to covet—don’t live near us.
Let me explain. Harvard University sociologist Juliet Schor has written an interesting book called The Overspent American. She researched the spending habits of the American consumer and says that back in the 1950’s and ‘60s American consumers measured their standard of living by that of their literal neighbors. We called that “Keeping up with the Joneses.” But according to Schor we don’t do that anymore. We don’t KNOW our neighbors well enough in most cases to know what to keep up with—so instead today most consumers compare their standard of living with the people they see in the media, people whose incomes are double, triple, even five times more than what they make. According to Schor, the majority of Americans are trying to emulate the lifestyle and spending habits of the richest of the rich. We want what the people on TV have—we want what the commercials we hear and see say we need to have—and usually it’s things we don’t need and can’t afford. It’s no wonder credit card and consumer debt keeps creeping up.
This week I read about a family who live in Atlanta: Kevin and Joan Salwen. This is their family. One day, while waiting at a traffic light with her parents their 14-year-old daughter, Hannah—saw a black Mercedes coupe on one side and a homeless man begging for food on the other. Hannah turned to her father and said, “Dad, if that man had a less nice car, that other man could have a meal.” Even as they pulled away, Hannah insisted she wanted to do something about the inequity. “What do you want to do?” her mother asked.“Sell our house,” Hannah replied. And—eventually, that’s what the Salwen’s did. They sold their luxurious home, donated half of the proceeds which totaled $800,000 to charity. Specifically, that money was used to help 20,000 African villagers leave poverty. The Salwens bought a modest replacement home. And, even though the sacrifice was great, the benefits have been greater still. A smaller house has meant a more family-friendly house. With less square footage they are literally closer to each other all the time. Kevin says, “We essentially traded stuff for togetherness and connectedness. I can’t figure out why everybody wouldn’t want that deal.” The entire project is chronicled in an upcoming book by Kevin and his daughter, entitled The Power of Half. The aim of the book isn’t to get people to sell their houses, but simply to encourage them to step off the “treadmill of accumulation”—to define themselves by what they give, and not just by what they possess.
Hannah says, “For us, the house was just something we could live without. It was too big for us. Everyone has too much of something, whether it’s time, talent, or treasure. Everyone does have their own half to give; you just have to find it.” The Salwens learned to say ENOUGH!
This leads us to commandment number nine:
(9) Thou shalt look AROUND.
Martin Luther King, Jr. who was assassinated fifty years, ago once said, “The well-off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty—and the deprivation in their midst. The poor have been shut out of our minds and driven from the mainstream of our societies, because we have allowed them to become invisible.”
Sadly, Mr. King is right. We don’t look AROUND enough so we don’t see the needs of others. God WANTS us to look around. Remember, Proverbs 19:17 says, “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD.” The Owner of all we have is pleased when we spend what we have to help people in need.
Way back in 1989, the song of the year was, “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins. Does anyone remember it? In the lyrics a beggar in the street asks, “Can you help me? Isn’t there some place you can send me?” The refrain says, “Think twice; another day you’ll be in paradise.” The song suggests that we will be judged by how we treat the poor, the needy, the hungry. It’ a musical reminder of the story Jesus told in Matthew 25—where our Lord says we will give an accounting to the Owner for how we used our resources to help the least of these.
This leads to our final commandment.
(10) Thou shalt work to be ready for thy FINAL AUDIT.
In Luke 12:48 Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
Okay—here’s the most important piece of financial wisdom you’re ever going to hear, and it’s not from folks you see on TV or read about in books. As I told you last Sunday: You are going to die. Let’s all say that together out loud. “I am going to die.” If the Lord tarries—we will all taste death—and when that day comes we will stand before God—Who has entrusted us with our lives and our possessions. On that day we’ll give a report as to what kind of stewards we have been. I don’t know about you, but I want to hear God say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
I think we’ve all heard about some of the outlandish demands made by music celebrities in their contracts with concert promoters. One of the most notorious came from the rock band Van Halen. Each of their concert contracts insisted that “a bowl of M&M’s be provided backstage, but with every single brown M&M removed.” According to the contract if the band arrived and saw that the bowl had any brown M&Ms in it, they were free to cancel the concert and receive full payment. Now—I know that sounds extreme. I mean, what’s the big deal with brown M and M’s? There was actually a good reason behind the clause. In fact, the absence of those M&Ms could have been a matter of life or death.
David Lee Roth, lead singer of the band explained: “Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. We’d pull up with nine 18-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors—whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through. The contract read like an article out of the encyclopedia. I mean it was VERY specific because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, buried somewhere in the middle of the rider, would be Article 126, the no-brown—M&Ms clause. If we found no M&M’s or a bowl with brown M&M’s we knew there was a good chance they hadn’t read the entire contract and that could be life-threatening. In Colorado, the band found that not only were there brown M&M’s—the local promoters had failed to read the weight requirements and that the staging would have fallen through the arena floor. So—before every concert there was this accounting—and it began by an investigation of the M&M’s bowl.”
Well, we will face an accounting someday. In Matthew 12, Jesus said it will be so thorough that, “…everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” On that day—I want my Master—my Owner to be pleased with my words and my actions—I want Him to be pleased with my stewardship. I want to be able to give a good accounting.