I want you to answer this question with the very first response that comes to your mind. I don’t want you to answer it with what you ought to say, what a Christian is supposed to say. I am going to ask the question once and I want you to give the most immediate reaction that comes to your mind honestly – true or false. I want you to say it in your mind not blurt it out.
Here’s the question: “If I had more money, I would be more happy.” True or false?
I hear false. Then why is it that everyone wants more money? If you were sitting around with some friends or looking at your bills, or you were thinking about how nice it would be to kind of either upgrade something or turn in that older car and get a little bit newer car you would automatically equate more money with being more happy.
Exhibit A: Old Headlines
“In 1923, the world’s most successful financiers met in Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Those present included the president of the largest independent steel company, the greatest wheat speculator, the president of the New York Stock Exchange, a member of the President of the United State’s cabinet, the greatest bear on Wall Street, the president of the Bank of the International Settlement, and the head of the world’s largest and greatest monopoly.”
According to one source, collectively these tycoons controlled more wealth than there was in the United States Treasury. And for years, newspapers and magazines had printed their success stories, urging the youth of the nation to follow their example. They did a study. Two decades later on these powerful and rich men.
The results were stunning. The president of the largest independent steel company lived on borrowed money for the last five years of his life and died penniless. The greatest wheat speculator died abroad insolvent. The president of the New York Stock Exchange was released from Sing-Sing. The member of the President’s cabinet was pardoned from prison so he could go home to die. The greatest bear in Wall Street committed suicide. The president of the Bank of International Settlement committed suicide. The head of the world’s greatest monopoly committed suicide.
All seven success stories ended tragically. Names that were once synonymous with wealth, power and influence in the end were associated with humiliation, crime and violent death. See, I think most of us know intellectually the answer to the question, “Would I be more happy if I had more money,” intellectually and spiritually is no. But I think pragmatically, the answer to how we respond it and how we live our lives is yes I would be more happy.
Exhibit B: Today’s Relationships
The Lie: My significance and value is measured by the quality and quantity of the things I possess. Possessions provide security and power, so I can be safe, personally satisfied, and rule my world.
My value (my worth, my significance) as a person is reflected in what I wear, what I drive and how much I make. My happiness in life is dependent upon having the latest toys, the nicest stuff and financial security. And today we’ll learn that those very subtle philosophical values and mindsets are at the core of destroying some of the most important relationships in your life.
Overview of the passage:
Read the passage
Who is the intended audience? The unbelieving rich that were persecuting Christfollowers
What is the historical background? These followers had been disowned by families, separated by death (martyrdom), thrown out of their homes and lived with the threat of being killed for their belief in Christ on a daily basis.
The Truth: God IS NOT opposed to wealth. Many of the greatest believers in the Bible were wealthy; but God IS opposed to the misuse and abuse of wealth.
Chuck Swindoll makes a great observation. He says there’s four kinds of people in the Bible with regard to wealth. There’s people that are poor, without on the outside, and they’re poor within. In other words, the point is they don’t have any economic wealth. But they don’t have any spiritual wealth either. He said there’s people who are rich without – they have strong economic physical wealth, but they are poor within. They don’t have a relationship with God.
He says third, there are people who are poor without. In other words, they are poor financially, but they are rich spiritually. And then this final observation – there are people that are rich without – very, very wealthy and they are rich within in their relationship with God.
A Warning: Misused wealth brings God’s judgment!
Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you .James 5:1 NLT
The Wrong Use of Money: Four major Don’ts
1. Don’t Hoard It!
2” Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. 3 Your gold and silver have become worthless. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the day of judgment.
James 5:2-3 NLT
In the day that this was written they didn’t have bank accounts so if they were rich they would store their wealth. Their wealth was usually grain that they made food out of or clothes or cloth to make clothes out of. They would have way more than they needed but because they had the ability to get it they would store it instead of sharing it.
This mentality is certainly alive today. There was a lady working in a clothing store and one day a woman walked in and started buying. She bought racks and racks of clothes. The clerk asked her if her house had burnt down or was there a tragedy. The woman replied, “No, I just want this stuff. I have four walk in closets at home and I just wanted these clothes today.”
Could it be that even Christians are guilty of hoarding in our day? All of us have a secret line that we think is what we need to have financially. We’ll talk about, “I need X amount of money for this situation. And then I feel secure if I have X amount of money. And then after I have that, and then I also have my retirement working and I have . . . – then I’m willing and ready to be generous with others.”
The more and more and more you get does not produce more and more generosity. The more and more and more you get, what it produces is your safety net gets bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. And it’s interesting. You would think that the percentage that you’re giving would increase and increase and increase and increase the more you get. But actually what begins to happen is people realize they have more and more and more to lose. Warning number one – don’t hoard it.
2. Don’t Steal It!
For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. James 5:4 NLT
Remember the parables Jesus would tell where you would come out into the field and at the end of the day you got paid? That’s how people got paid. And what people would do is they would go and they would do their day’s work. And then the guy who’s rich and powerful would say, “I am not going to pay you today.” It’s exactly what it says – you withhold the wages from your workmen.
But unlike us, they didn’t get their paycheck every two weeks or once a month and write out their bills. They didn’t go home and have a cupboard full of food. They made the money that day for that day’s food. In fact, later on you’ll learn the definition of a rich person in New Testament times is you had a second change of clothes and you already knew for the day or the next day after today, you already had the food stored. That’s considered rich.
Most people lived hand to mouth. Most of our world lives in such a way where they have to ask, “What am I going to eat today? I’m going to work today. I get this money and when I get this money I’m going to buy the food. I’m going to take care of my family. Now they have enough for tonight and morning’s breakfast and lunch.
And that’s why – notice the cries of the field workers. What would you do if you were a man and you worked all day and you needed X amount. And there’s no food at home and you know the day is gone. And then you come home and the big rich guy hasn’t paid you and what are you going to do? You’re a little poor guy, he’s a rich powerful guy. Not paying you today. You go home and you cry.
The cries of the harvesters are being heard by the Almighty God or heaven’s armies. And he’s telling these people, “I tell you what. I’m going to come and I’m going to bring about justice.”
Don’t steal to get money. Don’t cheat to get money. We all know people that are the worst when it comes to borrowing money and not paying it back. There are people that have a mentality that says the government owes me money and instead of working to better myself or get a better job I’ll just live off the taxes that other people pay. I understand the concept of people finding themselves in a whole and other stepping up to help out but I don’t understand people that live off the system year after year and make little or no effort to help themselves.
3. Don’t Waste It!
“You have spent your years on earth in luxury, satisfying your every desire. You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. James 5:5 NLT
This is a picture of people that have so much money that they spend it without even thinking. I watched one of those show recently where they go through some rich person’s house and you see their house, their pool, what’s in the refrigerator and their cars. This happened to be a magician and he is not even a house hold name for most people but his house was incredible and there was a chef in the kitchen and television’s that came up out of bookshelves and then they got to the cars. There were over fifty vehicles. They were all black. There were Rolls Royce’s and Bugatti’s and Hummers and Cadillac’s. There were multiple chopper motorcycles. It was obscene.
If you missed the point, it’s self indulgence. It’s the idea of excess and waste. It is suggesting lewd and immoral self gratification. This is the idea of people that have so much and eat so much that they just fling it here and fling it there. They stick their finger down their throat so they can eat some more.
This is a picture of the rich and the famous. This is the little stories that we get where so and so met so and so, and they were a little bored one night so they flew to Paris for lunch the next day. It was great. Had 100 of their friends come with them. It’s this sense of you’ve got it, flaunt it.
What’s the application for us as believers? For me, the application is just because you can afford it doesn’t mean you should buy it. I think what’s developed in our country and developed even in the church is what I call the buffet mentality. Do you know what the buffet mentality is? You paid your $8.00 or your $9.50 or your $12.50. Or if it’s one of those Sunday brunches, $22.00, right? And there’s a table here and they’ve got shrimp and roast beef and chicken. And they’ve got seven kinds of meat. And over here, they’ve got 49 kinds of dessert. And then you can have eggs over here, you can have waffles over here. There’s fresh fruit over here.
And there’s more food than 49 people could eat in like, 49 days ever. But you’ve paid your $22.00 or $9.50 and what do you feel the need to do? You have to make sure you get your $9.50 worth. So you put stuff that doesn’t even go together – a piece of ham and a shrimp and an egg. But you like all three and it’s a buffet and you go and eat that. And you watch kids there and they eat about half the plate. And the servers come by and they take half the plates off with food and people line up for round two and round three and round four. And they ought to give you Pepto Bismol and Alka-Seltzer to go but they don’t.
And you get your $22.00 worth and you stuff your face. And you feel uncomfortable. But it’s not just how we eat. Why? Why do we do that at a buffet? Because there’s so much and you can have. . . what’s the whole point of the buffet? Eat all you want, right? And if it’s there to eat, whether you’re still hungry, whether you need it or not you are thinking, “I am going to get my money’s worth.”
And because it’s there, there’s a compulsion in human nature to do something with it. And I think what’s happened is the buffet mentality has gotten where if we have money, we’re deluded in thinking it’s our money. IF you are a Christfollower It’s God’s money.
A hundred percent of all that you have and all that I have, is God’s. Well you say, “I work for it.” Okay, who gave you the talent? Who gave you the job? Who gave you the oxygen? He’s the Lord of all the earth. “Silver and gold is mine,” Deuteronomy 8. Everything belongs to him. And so what he’s saying to these people is, “Don’t waste it. Don’t hoard it. Don’t steal it.
4. Don’t Abuse It!
“You have condemned and killed innocent people, who did not resist you.” James 5:6 NLT
Literally in James day, when someone refused to pay someone else it was over time like a sentence of death. People would work and not get paid yet they had debts owed to other rich people who would have them thrown in jail and then they couldn’t work and it was a viscous cycle.
Do you know that all over the world there are cardboard cities with people living in little shelters made from cardboard and corrugated steel or anything else they can drag home to make a “house” out of? Often times in major urban areas these just spring up with displaced people and it is the worst of the worst living conditions. Millions of people live this way and for most of us we never see it. We don’t think about it and ultimately we really don’t care. We have our little American castles and we take care of our own.
In these areas around the world often a rich person may come along and decide that they want to build on the land where the squatters are living and so they bribe someone and one day they show up with bulldozers and in a matter of hours thousands of poor people are displaced. (Refugees)
This is a very depressing passage. And this passage that we’ve read is happening all around the world, especially in third world countries. It’s happening probably more here than we’d like to believe.
Because as Christians, for that life of security and significance, we hoard. We must hoard something because our garages are full of all this stuff that we get out about every six or eight months and try and get other people to make our junk their treasure.
Sadly I think some of us can be guilty of stealing and not know it. I mean does every employer here pay people what they’re worth, making sure they have the kind of benefits they need.
Everybody here who works and has an employer, do you put in a full day even if the supervisor is gone? Or do you come in a little late and leave a little early? You know what that’s called? It’s called stealing. Anybody here use company phone or company credit card on yourself? You read the research in the business world. Billions and billions and billions of dollars are stolen by employees by their just little things they do – it’s called a lack of integrity. The hoarding, the abuse, the stealing, the wasting.
How much unconsciously has the buffet mentality kind of gotten to our bloodstream, and when we have a little extra we just do this and do that. Because every moment of every day, what are you getting? Advertisement, advertisement, advertisement, advertisement, advertisement.
You have a watch, in fact you have three of them, but you need a new one. You got a blouse, you have like four of them but you need a lighter shade of this or that. You have like, four pair of shoes that go with everything but you get one for this outfit, this outfit, this outfit, this outfit and this outfit. I mean, like how many feet do we have?
But what happens is it becomes normal, doesn’t it? It just becomes normal. And I think there’s warnings here for us as believers. Now this could end on a very negative note, but it’s not going to.
I want to flip this around and ask and answer the question – if that’s the wrong way to use money that brings God’s judgment, what’s the right way? What would be the four positive ways that we could leverage this amazing wealth?
We are all wealthy in this room. We’re all very wealthy. Now what we do is we find someone more wealthy and we think we’re middle class. I mean, I’ve known people personally who are only worth $10 or $12 million and they just feel like, “I don’t have much. I mean, now real wealth is –” and they’ll talk about someone with $100 million.
I’ve known people that have $100 or $200 million and they say, “Wealthy? No, no. Now Gates and Buffett, now that’s wealthy. I mean when you have a big capital B in your portfolio like in billions, now that’s wealthy.” And it’s just a game that we play. And so we think, “Well people making like over $250,000.00 now, they’re wealthy.” And I got news for you. Just go and read the statistics and look at the average median income in America and then see what yours is. And I’ll just tell you one thing. You are wealthy. I am wealthy. And you know what? That’s not bad.
It’s just a stewardship. It’s just God has made us wealthy and what we ought to ask is, “Lord, how do you want us to use this wealth in a very positive and good way?” And so what I want to do is I want to flip this around and let me give you four commands right out of Scripture on the right uses of wealth. And I want to take the model and apply it to your life.
The Right Use of Money: Four Major Do’s
1. Save it faithfully!
“The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.”
Proverbs 21:20 TLB
Saving is not hoarding. Biblical savings is about stewardship not security. Do you see the difference? As a believer, I need to save for emergencies, for crises, for future needs, to help others, to make better use of my money. And when I save, I make better decisions. There is a reason why those commercials say, “You can buy this today and no payments for 18 months.” It’s because you start buying stuff and having stuff you can’t really afford, but it doesn’t hit you for 18 months.
And usually there’s a little thing in the fine print where you’re going to end up figuring – you’ll pay the interest on that some way, somehow. They’re going to get you this way, this way or that way.
What if you saved so that when your washing machine breaks down, you walk in and say, “I need a new washing machine,” and you pay ‘em cash. And by the way, when you pay cash and when you save and you have that taken care of, what if there’s a big need? Or what if there would be – imagine like a hurricane would hit. And millions of people would be displaced. What if you had money on the side that you could just reach into and say, “You know something? This is for an emergency. I thought it was for my emergency. Lord, I think you must want it for their emergency.”
Saving as a steward requires that you: Spend less than you make! Why do we always increase our “needs” the more money we have?
2. Make it honestly!
“Work brings profit; but mere talk leads to poverty!” Proverbs 14:23 NLT
“Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.”
Ephesians 4:28 NASB
The bottom line of this word from God is get to work. Don’t live off the government. Don’t subscribe to ever get rich scheme that’s out there. I know some people that would have been a lot better off sleeping instead of watching TV in the middle of the night and buying into every get rich quick scheme that promise you great wealth if you just buy their book or go to their seminar.
There are no free lunches so to speak. Work hard. Save what you make. Make it honestly.
I think God looks for people that He can trust to bless with money. The people God blesses with money are the people that will turn around and use that money to alleviate the pain and suffering of others. I’m not talking about being abused by people that always have their hand out but about those of us that have means being willing to share it with others in genuine need or crisis.
God is looking for people that will be rivers instead of reservoirs. People that he can put it in here and it loosely will go through and make it to lots of other people and do lots of good instead of going to something where it all gets accumulated. Wealth is not a bad thing. Wealth can be a great thing. But I would suggest it’s a dangerous thing. I don’t think we take that seriously.
3. Spend it wisely!
17”Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” 1 Timothy 6:17-18 NIV
The reminder is 100 percent of it belongs to God and it’s not just the part you give. People I know say, “I’m going to tithe.” And here’s God’s part – there’s the ten percent. If you’re a tither, here’s just a little eye opening moment – the ten percent is His and it belongs to Him. And the 90 percent is His and belongs to Him. And I will be evaluated for the ten percent or the twelve percent or the twenty percent or whatever God leads me to give.
And I will also be evaluated on what do I do with the 90 percent? Am I a wise steward of it? See, it’s not mine. I’m God’s money manager. I am amazed continually at people who profess to be Christians but play with their tithe like it doesn’t matter. I am more that amazed by that.
The bottom line is that there will be people that God wanted to touch and help but because we have done whatever we want with our money and there is no accountability they may never hear from God. On the other hand when people give the Bible teaches that we are investing it in others.
All the dollars that you have you can’t spend in Heaven. So you take the money that you have and you realize it’s going to be a short time you have on earth and you take the money and you leverage it into the future so that – what did Jesus say? – you’ll be welcomed into eternal dwellings by people who say, “Man, I was one of those hurricane victims. Thank you so much. You gave $10,000.00 and it helped this church and shared the Gospel. And I heard from these angels that you were behind it and I wanted to thank you.”
And people line up in Heaven and talk to you about how you transformed their life. And someone from Kenya comes up. And someone from Australia comes up. And, “Man, thank you so much because you gave to that mission and this is – and I’m here because of –” that’s the point. A hundred percent belongs to God. We’re to be stewards of it.
But there’s this amazing balance. This is why people can’t tell us what to do with our money. There’s this amazing balance. Doesn’t it say who gives us all things richly to enjoy? I think there should be tension in every believer’s heart when it comes to money. And the tension ought to be how can I be radically sacrificial and at the same time radically and deeply enjoy without guilt the good gifts of God? Here’s how you can do that.
4. Give it generously!
Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. 25 The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. Proverbs 11:24-25 NLT
When I talk to most Christians who have a nice car or something – “Well, I got it on sale. And it’s because I help out at the church and let people use it.” Or, “We have this swimming pool. Yeah, I know this is a really nice house with a swimming pool – for baptisms. We’ve been put it in for baptisms.”
I know. How about, “The good hand of my God has been upon me and He’s lavished His grace upon me. I can’t give it away fast enough. I have a beautiful home. I have a nice car. I’m able to enjoy these rich gifts from a God.
I am aware of a man that after his 21st birthday he started giving one more percent every year to the Lord.
A minimum of that. He’s been married 55 years now. You do the math. But guess what– something happened. God found a river. So he probably gives 75, 85 percent of his income. But he owns real estate all over Michigan, Florida, everywhere. See, when God finds someone like that, he just delights in it. God is not uptight with people being wealthy. God’s uptight with people thinking wealth makes you significant, will bring security, will give you power, makes you a someone. And when they waste it and abuse it and don’t use it the way He wants them to.
I think God wants probably more people to be wealthy if He could entrust it where it wouldn’t literally choke out the spiritual life in their heart. It takes huge maturity to be wealthy – huge maturity. But I think we have to balance the sacrificial with what’s the passage say? Who gives us all thing richly to feel guilty about? Doesn’t it say, “Who gives us all thing richly to enjoy.” Enjoy.
My priority is in line. I’ve prayed. My bills are paid. I have saved for an emergency fund. I’m putting away X amount of dollars for my retirement. And I’ve done the math and I’m not going to have some ridiculous amount but the goal is when I retire, I’ll have for this many years and then I’ve got it all planned out so that that money will be dispersed to good places, to good people that does a lot of good and won’t ruin my kids. And by the way, I’m taking steps of increasing faith. I proportionally give and this year we’re going to give a little more. And this year we give a little more. And this year we give a little more.
And I’m going to test God. And by the way, I’m taking steps of increasing faith. I proportionally give and this year we’re going to give a little more. And this year we give a little more. And this year we give a little more. And I just want it – and as you do that, here’s what happens. He just keeps doing wild stuff like giving you more.
Why don’t you try trusting God, giving what you are supposed to, saving what you need to, learn to live generously and with a loving heart.
“It is more blessed to give than to receive”
-Jesus Christ, Acts 20:35c NLT