About a week ago, we officially passed through one phase of the year and entered a new one. Last week, the Christmas season officially began. Now, some of you probably think that the Christmas season began long before then. But two things make me think it just started a week ago. First, Santa Claus came to town two weeks ago today. Second, last weekend was the American Thanksgiving – the time at which everyone seems to turn their attention to Christmas. If you haven’t started thinking about Christmas by now, it’s unlikely the Christmas spirit is going to kick in anytime soon.
Christmas time is spending time. American Express Canada recently released a poll revealing that the average person will spend over CDN$1,300 this Christmas on gifts. Many people enter the New Year with what the Credit Counseling Service of Toronto calls a “holiday hangover”. Personal Canadian debt has increased by 30% over the past few years. It seems that no matter how much you make it never seems to be enough. Gallup released a poll recently that said 64% of all couples argue over money. It is a major issue of concern in marriages – finances. In fact, they’ve discovered that it’s the number one cause of divorce – 54% of marriages divorce over money. It’s almost as if the vows have been changed – “Till dept do us part.” So today we’re starting a new three-week series I’m calling “Figuring Out Your Finances.”
Now, why are we talking about this, especially in the Christmas season? Three reasons. Today, we as a congregation donated and gave money for the Building for Life Campaign. Tonight we are going to be able to announce the results for this campaign. Many of you made tremendous sacrifices and commitments of faith today. We want to give you tools that you can use to be financially successful as you take this step of faith.
The second reason is because, for many of us, we need this yesterday. If you’re like most people, you’ve never been taught what the Bible says about how to handle your finances. If you have, you’ve likely heard negative or the guilt-inducing messages. As we approach Christmas and go into January, it’s possible that many of us are just surviving financially. Laurie Campbell, program manager at the Credit Counseling Service of Toronto, says, “A lot of people are barely managing throughout the year. They go overboard at Christmas, and then they’re done in.” We need to discuss this because it’s a personal issue in most of our lives, especially around Christmas.
The third reason that we need to discuss this is because it’s a spiritual issue. The Bible says that God uses money to test you. God uses money to see how spiritually mature you are. He uses the issue of money management, how you handle wealth, as the acid test of whether He can trust you with genuine spiritual blessings. It’s all through the Bible but Jesus said this in Luke 16:11. It says, “And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?” Jesus is talking about money management. He’s saying that if you’re not wise in how you handle your money, why should God trust you with genuine riches – spiritual riches? If you’re not wise in how you handle your money, it will severely limit the amount of spiritual blessings you will receive.
Next week we’re going to look at breaking out of the debt trap. Then, on December 17, we’re going to look at God’s promise to meet your needs, both financially and spiritually. This is especially appropriate at Christmas. The Bible says, “Since God did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32).
Today we’re going to talk about how to avoid a financial collapse. A week ago, the National Post did a case study on a man named Robert Moskal. When his marriage and business failed, Moskal began to live off his credit cards. He began to shift debt from higher-interest credit cards to low-interest credit cards. Even though he was earning $70,000 a year, he began to accumulate a mountain of debt that is now sinking him. Today, he has credit card debt of $31,000, and his minimum payments on his credit card statements total $842 a month. He says, “I don’t want to go bankrupt, but I don’t see any solution to it.”
Your financial situation today may not be as serious as his, but there are many of us who are building a financial foundation that is so unstable, it will one day lead to financial collapse. There are practices that you can follow – practices that you probably know about – that will keep you from financial collapse. The interesting thing is that these aren’t just human ideas. You don’t have to go buy a book on how to manage your finances. The Bible itself contains a lot of wisdom on how to manage your finances.
The wisest man who ever lived was King Solomon. He wrote a book called Proverbs and wrote down the wisdom of God. Solomon was not only the wisest man; the Bible tells us he was the wealthiest man. The Bible says that he drank his drinks out of gold goblets and he ate on gold and silver plates. Not only did they have to wash them after each meal, they had to polish them. This is indulgently rich. Here is the wisest man whoever lived who also knows the most about wealth more than anybody else. He wrote it down in Proverbs.
This past week I read through Proverbs, and every time I came across a proverb on how to handle money, I wrote it down. What does the Bible teach about how to attain financial security? The Bible gives us four keys to avoiding a financial collapse:
1. CULTIVATE THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE
The first key to avoiding financial collapse is to keep the right perspective about money. The way that you look at money will determine how you spend your money. Your attitude toward money will be the greatest factor in your financial stability. I’ve noticed that there are three wrong perspectives that we need to correct.
The first wrong perspective is the perspective of PRIORITY. A lot of people make the mistake of placing financial success at the top of their list. You don’t even have to be rich to make this mistake. You can be poor and still have “financial success” as your number one goal. A lot of people are putting their financial success ahead of their families, their health, and their spiritual life. But money doesn’t come close to being the most valuable asset you can accumulate. Proverbs 8:10 says, “Choose my instruction rather than silver, and knowledge over pure gold. For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can be compared with it.” Proverbs 16:16 says, “How much better to get wisdom than gold, and understanding than silver!”
God says that money isn’t the most valuable asset on this earth. In fact, his wisdom is far more valuable than any wealth that you can accumulate. In fact, if accumulating money is your top priority in life, you’ve got problems! Proverbs 30:7-9 reads:
O God, I beg two favors from you before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.
Never ask God to make you rich! If you’re rich, it’s hard to keep your priorities straight. It’s hard when you have a lot to remember that God is more important than all the stuff that you have. Most people who win the lottery mess up their lives. Why? Because money can mess up your priorities. Accumulating money should never be your top priority.
The second wrong perspective people have about money is the perspective of SUPPLY. If you’re like me, you think that you get your money from your job. If you’re really honest about it, you think that your employer is lucky to have you, and that you’re worth every nickel that you make. Truth be told, you think that all your money comes from you. But the reality is that everything you have not only comes from God, but it is God’s. God takes care of his children, and he can give them more than they need. Proverbs 8:21 says, “Those who love me inherit wealth, for I fill their treasuries.” Did you catch that? God fills the bank accounts of those who love him. Proverbs 10:3 says, “The LORD will not let the godly starve to death, but he refuses to satisfy the craving of the wicked.” God provides for his people. He is the source of everything you have. This is such an important principle that we’re going to spend an entire message on this in two weeks, on how God supplies our needs. You need to cultivate the perspective that everything that you have is God’s, and that God will provide you with everything that you need.
The third wrong perspective people have about money is the perspective of PERMANENCE. If you have investments, you know that investments and returns are structured around the idea of risk. Safe investments usually have lower rates of return. Risky investments have higher potential rates of return, but you’re never sure if you’ll see that return. The Bible tells us that there is no such thing as a truly safe investment.
Proverbs 23:4-5 says, “Don’t weary yourself trying to get rich. Why waste your time? For riches can disappear as though they had the wings of a bird!” You can underline, “Don’t waste your time. The Message paraphrase says, “Riches disappear in the blink of an eye; wealth sprouts wings and flies off into the wild blue yonder.” Proverbs 11:18 says, “Evil people get rich for the moment, but the reward of the godly will last.”
What’s your perspective on money? I want you to give yourself a score. Rate yourself from 1 to 5. If you feel that you’re okay at this level, give yourself a 5. If you’re not doing so well, give yourself a 1. Mark yourself on your perspective toward money.
The Bible teaches a second key to avoiding financial collapse:
2. COMPLETE A FINANCIAL PLAN
The second step to avoiding a financial collapse is an obvious one: complete a financial plan. Now, some of you are probably asking, “Where does the Bible say that?” Proverbs 21:5 says, “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” If you want to be financially prosperous, it will require some planning on your part. You’ve got to take the step of planning your financial future.
How should you plan? This is going to be the meat and potatoes of the action steps you will need to take. I’ll give you the information, but then I’ll tell how we’re going to support you in this. THE FIRST STEP IN PLANNING IS TO INVOLVE GOD. I’ve made the mistake hundreds of times of planning without involving God. You can’t afford to complete a financial plan without involving God in the process. Proverbs 16:9 tells us, “We plan the way we want to live, but only GOD makes us able to live it” (The Message). Unless God guides you in your planning, your plan is going to be worth nothing. Your financial plan has to begin with God.
THE NEXT STEP IN DEVELOPING A FINANCIAL PLAN IS TO KEEP GOOD RECORDS. Proverbs 27:23-24 says, “Know the state of your flocks, and put your heart into caring for your herds, for riches don’t last forever, and the crown might not be secure for the next generation.” Obviously, a lot of people in that day were ranchers or shepherds. We aren’t like that today. Today, God would say, “Know the state of your stocks.” Te idea is know where your money is going, know where it’s coming from, be conscious, be aware. This is the starting point.
Do you ever find yourself saying, “I just don’t know where all my money goes!” That is a giant warning light that you are in trouble if you don’t know where all your money goes. You are not keeping good records. People say money talks. It doesn’t talk, it just sneaks away quietly. It doesn’t tell you it’s leaving either! You need to begin to keep good financial records.
What do you need to know? You need to know four things: what you own, what you owe, what you earn, and what you spend. You need to keep good records and write it down. There are computer programs today that make this incredibly easy. But you need to know the state of your flocks.
THE THIRD STEP IN DEVELOPING A FINANCIAL PLAN IS TO PLAN YOUR SPENDING. Proverbs 21:20 says, “The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.” A seminary professor once told me, “If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall.” He was just stating this proverb in a different way. Don’t spend whatever you get. Have a plan for your spending. If you don’t plan your spending, you are headed for financial catastrophe.
If you are spending more than you make, you really only have one of two choices. You can make more money, or you can spend less. Now, there are over a dozen proverbs that connect good work with making a good income. The Bible is full of admonitions to work harder in order to make enough. Proverbs 10:4, for instance, says, “Hard workers get rich.” But you will never make enough money to buy everything you want. That’s why we need to restrict our spending. Spend less than you make.
“Fools spend whatever they get” (Proverbs 21:20). You could almost close your Bibles and go home. That’s our lesson for today. This is God’s IQ test. How smart, how intelligent are you. If you are spending everything you’ve got the Bible has a word for that – stupid. Dumb. Not smart!
How do you break the habit of impulsive buying? Of spending more than you’ve got? How do you spell relief? You spell relief, BUDGET. What is a budget? A budget is simply planned spending. It’s planning your spending. A budget is telling your money where you want it to go, rather than wondering where it went. Everybody needs a budget. You need a financial budget in 2001, telling your money where you want it to go rather than wondering where it went. If you want to break this habit of spending more than you’ve got, if you want to build resistance to sales and resistance to impulsive buying, you’ve got to nip it in the budget.
These are steps – Biblical principles – that every single person here can take. Involve God. Start to keep good records. Plan your spending. Now, it may seem overwhelming to think of doing this if you haven’t started up until now. But you can start. One of the best books you can buy on this whole subject is called Master Your Money by Ron Blue. It’s a book that’s been recommended by people like Chuck Swindoll, Howard Hendricks, and Charles Stanley. It’s a book that, if you take it and apply it, you will see a dramatic difference in your life. If you want to order a copy at cost – for $12 – just sign your name on a communication card and write “Master Your Money” and we’ll get one to you.
Next year we are planning on running a Sunday Night Impact course taught by Lois Tullo on how to handle your finances God’s way. Lois has an MBA and is a chartered accountant. You can sign up right now, on the back of the communication card in the bulletin, to enroll in this when we offer it. Just sign your name and write down “finances class” and put it in the offering at the end.
Now, mark yourself on this one between 1 and 5. If you don’t have any financial plan, and you sort of spend it as you feel like it, give yourself a 1. If you have a budget, give yourself a 3. If you have a budget and you follow it, give yourself a 5. Mark yourself on this key.
You need to begin to cultivate the right perspective, and then to complete a financial plan. The third key to avoiding a financial collapse:
3. COMMIT THE FIRST PORTION TO GOD
This is the third key to avoiding a financial collapse. Now, most people think that the less I give away, the more that I will have. But the Bible teaches the very opposite. Listen to Proverbs 11:24: “It is possible to give freely and become more wealthy, but those who are stingy will lose everything.” The Bible teaches that we become richer by being generous. The world tells us to hold on to as much as possible. The Bible teaches, though, that the more we give, the more God supplies, so that we will have even more to give away. That’s why financial success and generosity are inseparable. God wants you to be generous with what you have, because if you are, God will give you even more.
Where should you be generous? You need to be generous with the poor. Proverbs 28:27 says, “Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing. But a curse will come upon those who close their eyes to poverty.” You and I don’t have an option when it comes to deciding what to do with the poor. God tells us that we need to develop a compassionate attitude toward those who are poor.
Where else should we be generous? The Bible tells us that we need to commit the first portion of our money to God. Listen to Proverbs 3:9-10: “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything your land produces. Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with the finest wine.” We are commanded to give God the first and the best part of what we make. Many people think that we should give God leftovers. After all the bills are paid, then we should see if there’s anything left over. But the Bible commands us to give our first and our best to God.
In fact, this is the one area in which you can test God and prove his existence. Malachi 3:10 says, “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse…If you do…I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you!” This is the only place in the Bible where God invites you to test him. We are commanded to give our first and our best to God, and then God will keep his end of the promise. “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in.”
There are three reasons why you need to do this. These reasons have to do with your past, your present, and your future. First, in my past, it’s a statement of gratitude. Whenever I give, it’s saying, “God, I realize all this came from you and if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have any money anyway. So in gratitude realizing it all really comes from you, I give you the first and the best portion back.” I can say I’m grateful but if I don’t give God the first and the best, I’m not grateful. I’m kidding myself.
In the present, it’s a statement of priority. It says, “God, I want you to be number one in my life so right off the top, the first part of my money goes back to you as a statement of priority that you’re number one in my life.” I could say God’s number one but if I’m not giving him the first and the best, he’s really not number one. What I do with my money and what I do with my time really show what’s important to me.
It’s also a statement of faith in God in the future. “God, you’ve made all these promises – this is one of them – that you’ll take care of me if I put you first in my money. So, I’m going to give. I’m going to give the first and the best portion back to you in a statement of faith that I believe that you will take care of me in the future.”
Years ago, when Charlene and I were married, we made a commitment to give God our first and our best. I have to be honest and say that there were times we could have used that money. But God is always the one who has been paid first. And we have never been let down. God has always taken care of our needs.
Whatever you want God to bless, you need to put him first in that area. If you want God to bless your marriage, you need to put him first in your marriage. If you want God to bless your schedule, then you need to put God first in your schedule. If you want God to bless your finances, then put him first in your finances.
You cannot afford not to do this. If you’re too afraid, then you simply don’t understand God’s heart enough. God says again, “Honor GOD with everything you own; give him the first and the best. Your barns will burst, your wine vats will brim over” (Proverbs 3:9-10 The Message). You really haven’t seen God provide until you start to commit the first portion to God.
Now, mark yourself on this from 1 to 5. If you know that you’re supposed to do this, but you never have, then give yourself a 1. If you give God the first and the best – you’re committing your first portion to God, then give yourself a 5.
One more key to avoiding financial collapse:
4. CONTENT YOURSELF WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
This one comes from another book that Solomon wrote – the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes 6:9 says, “Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless; it is like chasing the wind.” Enjoy what you have. God wants you to enjoy everything that he has given you. Some of us are so busy getting things that we don’t take time to enjoy what God already has given us. We’re so busy accumulating more that we don’t take time to enjoy what we have.
Why don’t we content ourselves with what we have? We always think that happiness is just one purchase away. We get used to thinking that contentment is a future condition once we have everything we want. When you’re single you want to be married. When you’re married you want to have kids. When you have kids, you want the kids to leave. When the kids leave you want the grandchildren to visit. When the grandchildren visit, you want the grandchildren to leave. We always something that we don’t have. The Bible says, “Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have.”
The Bible also says, “Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless.” Did you know that the average person spends six hours a week in shopping-related activities. The more educated you are, the more time you spend shopping. We spend a lot of time dreaming about nice things. And sometimes we end up buying them. Advertising is very effective at getting us to dream about nice things. That’s why they spend billions of dollars on advertising. It works! But the Bible says, “Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless; it is like chasing the wind.” Start to enjoy what you have already. You don’t need to go out and get some more.
Hebrews 13:5 says, “Be satisfied with what you have.” The Bible tells us that things will never ultimately satisfy you. Isaiah 55:2 says, “Why spend money…on what does not satisfy?” Only God can really satisfy you. Only God can take care of what really matters in your life. And when you let God take care of what matters most, he takes care of everything else too.
I want you to mark yourself on this one. How content are you with what you have? Give yourself a 1 if you’re always shopping for more. Give yourself a 5 if you can say that you’re truly content with what you have.
I want to say to you today – especially those under financial pressure – that these principles work. I don’t know what situation you’re in, but if you begin to follow God’s financial principles, you can avoid a financial collapse. You can know God’s blessing in your finances. In the next two weeks we’re going to look at how to break out of the debt trap, and at how God provides our needs.
As we close, I want to pray for you. I want to pray that God will provide for your needs. You need Jesus as your Savior. You need him to become the Lord, the CEO, the CFO of your life. You need a chief financial officer who is going to look after you and your needs. Jesus says, “Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern” (Matthew 6:32-33).
I’m going to pray for those of you who are in financial difficulty. Father, you see these people. I don’t know their individual situations but you do. Many here today are experiencing financial stress and difficulty today. As they begin follow your principles, I pray that you would turn around their finances. Replace their debt with the light. Replace their pressure with your peace. Help them to get out of the hold and onto your pathway to financial freedom.
Lord, whatever our financial situation, help us to put money in the right perspective. Enable us to develop a financial plan that will work. Help us to give you our first and our best, and help us to enjoy what you have given us.
If you want to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord, your CFO, your chief financial officer, would you pray in your heart, “Lord, I’ve tried running life my way. Today I invite you to become the Lord, the manager of my life. I thank you that Jesus died for my sins, and I give my life to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”