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The series That Makes Good Sense teaches from the book of Proverbs on the essential nature of godly wisdom to live life well. The series reminds believers that wisdom is about choosing to live rightly, righteously, and timely so that God is honored in all areas of life.
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Proverbs chapter 3:9:10. We’re coming shortly to a close in our series in a Book of Proverbs. I trust it’s been profitable. This has been a wonderful study in a book that is so earthy and practical and a book that once they give us wisdom for daily living is a book that’s going to have to direct us financially. And this is a book that does just that. And so I want to come back to this subject. The subject that is so pertinent to all of us. A man said that his salary run into five figures, his wife and four daughters, and I think we can all identify with that. We all feel the squeeze of financial pressure and we need God’s mind and wisdom on how to get a grip of our money last, or money get a grip on us. Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first fruits of all your increase so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.
Number of years back, a book come out entitled The Day America Told the Truth. It was a book that explored the values that governed the beliefs and the behavior of most Americans and the tenure of truth about this book on America telling the truth is that it doesn’t make very encouraging reading. This book tells us that only 13% of Americans see all the 10 commandments as binding on us today. 91% lie regularly at home and at work. A third of AIDs carriers admitted to not telling their lovers. Most workers admitted to goofing off for an average of seven hours, almost one whole day a week and half admitted to regularly calling in sick when there was nothing wrong with them. The survey went on to pose this question, “What are you willing to do for $10 million?”
Here’s the discouraging results. 25% said they would abandon their families. 23% said they would be willing to become a prostitute for a week and 7% said they would be willing to kill a stranger. Isn’t that amazing what people would do for 10 million? In fact, if you think of that last statistic, 7% would be willing to kill a stranger. That means that when you’re in a gathering of a hundred Americans, seven of them would be willing to kill you for the right price. If you multiplied that to a thousand, it would be 70. Seems to me that that survey is a very vivid reminder of a pressing reality and that is that if we do not put a proper value on money, money will begin to determine our values for us. Money has that kind of power because money is not simply a medium of exchange. It’s a dearly issue of influence, an issue that determines what we hold dear, an issue that will betray ultimately the bottom line of our heart’s commitment.
I would urgently say to you this morning that if you and I do not learn to manage our money, our money will turn around and begin to manage us. That’s why we need God’s wisdom on our wealth. Proverb 16:16, we identified it last week. “How much better to get wisdom than gold and to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” We need God’s wisdom last our wealth be used up wantonly and wickedly and wishfully. So let’s come back to the Book of Proverbs here. As God gives us principles and practices for financial fitness, we looked at two of them the last time. I’ll simply identify them without rehearsing them. We looked at the possession of money. We were reminded that everything we own, we don’t own. Everything we possess, we don’t possess. We reminded ourselves that God is the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills.
The earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof. The silver and the gold, they’re gods. We’re simply stewards. We’re simply managers. We’re simply put on God’s earth to manage His kindness and His goodness towards us so that He might be glorified. His kingdom might come and our neighbors might be loved as we seek to love God. We remind ourselves that if we will acknowledge that principle of God’s ownership and our stewardship, then every spending decision becomes a spiritual decision. When you’re in the mall, we need to remind ourselves to serve God and not money. We not only looked at the possession of money but looked at the purpose of money. God has given us wealth. God has given us health so that we might enjoy it and employ it. God blesses us so that we might bless others. God gives so that we might give God is generous so that we might be generous.
He wants us to enjoy what he gives and he wants us to employ what he lands us. We saw that our money ought to be used to bless the church of Jesus Christ, to alleviate the poverty that marks this earth because Jesus told us the poor we will always have with us and our money has been given to us by God so that we might meet our domestic needs towards our wives and our children and towards our parents in their old age. And so you and I were encouraged to step back to remind ourselves that we are money managers for God, to remind ourselves that God has already designated where he wants us to invest what he has invested in us, the church, the poor, our family.
Well, we’re moving on now to what I call the pursuit of money. Commerce and trading of material things as we have noted in an earlier study, it’s part and parcel of life on earth. God sees no wrong in material wealth. In fact, God expects man to pursue and possess material wealth and health. The Bible would have us know that money is not the root of all evil or the amassing of it or the having of it. Rather it is the love of money. It is making it a god rather than using it as a tool that makes it an evil thing. Money is mutual. Morally speaking, it depends on our hearts. It depends on how we use the money we have in our hands. The love of it can lead to all kinds of evil. First Timothy 6:10, “Therefore that seems to me that as you and I eke out a living, as we manage God’s resources and blessings, we have to be cautious and we have to be righteous.”
If it’s Gods and he’s given it to us for righteous purposes, then we ought to be guarded and we ought to be godly in our pursuit of material possessions and we develop those two thoughts. We must be guarded in our pursuit of money and we must be godly in our pursuit of money. Let’s take up the idea of being guarded. As we’ve said, there’s nothing wrong with money. It’s what you do with it. It’s the motives that lie behind your spending of it or you’re dealing with it that determines its moral quality. There’s nothing wrong with it in and off itself, but it can become a catalyst for all kinds of evil if we pursue it without godly ambition. In fact, the Book of Proverbs warns us about the danger of desiring money in an ungodly fashion. Look at Proverbs 23 in verse four and you’ll see what I mean.
Here’s one example of what I’m talking about. In fact that it is echoed by Paul in first Timothy 6:9 where he warns the believers at Ephesus not to desire to be rich. Well, we have that similar thought here in Proverbs 23:5, “Do not overwork to be rich.” Yes, it is normal and natural to pursue financial security so that you might bring what God has given you into His store high so that you might meet the needs of your family soon, so that you might alleviate the poor through loving your neighbor with financial giving.
But in all of those pursuits, keep it all in check. Do not overwork to be rich because according to verse five, riches certainly make themselves wings. They fly away like an eagle toward heaven. We need to be guarded. There are dangers when it comes to finances. In fact, according to Proverbs 28 in verse 11, one of those dangers is that, “As a man accrues money, he begins to find his security in that money and he begins to trust his own ability to manage his life and he loses sight of God and he takes credit for what belongs to God in terms of his glory.”
The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor has understanding money can ruin a man’s life and legacy. It can leave him trusting in himself. It can rob him of true happiness and distract him from the true purpose of life itself. In Proverbs 1:19, “So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain, it takes the way the life of its owner.” Isn’t that paradoxical? People are pursuing money, material wealth, thinking that that’s where you find life, but the book of Proverb says, “No, if you pursue that apart from God and you overwork to be rich and you put too much value on material things, you’ll actually rob yourself of life.”
It will leave you trusting in yourself. It will distract you from the true value of life itself. In fact, it can bring trouble to your home. Proverbs 15:27 is a verse worth marking. Every dad should take a good look at this verse. Proverbs 15:27, “He who is greedy for gain troubles his own home.” For money, marriages have been ruined, children have been neglected. Money often lies at the root of modern divorces, financial pressures, money was pursued, relationships weren’t cultivated. There was a love of money, not a love of one’s wife or one’s child. And so the Book of Proverbs warns us to be guarded in our pursuit of money. It can rack a man’s home and it can ultimately leave him spiritually bankrupt. Look at Proverbs 13:7, “There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing and there is one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.”
The Book of Proverbs reminds us that true wealth lies in what you possess spiritually. If you’re rich towards God, if you’re rich in faith, if you have an inheritance in heaven, that faith is not away. If you have none of those things yet your bank balance is fat. The Book of Proverbs says, “In the scheme of things, looking at life from heaven’s perspective, you have nothing.” You’ve got to be very guarded with money. It has a way of warming itself into a man’s heart, racking a man’s home, messing up a man’s values, switching the price tags of life itself. It can lead to a loss of contentment. It can lead to the loss of trust in God. It can lead to a loss of balance in life. It can lead to a loss of eternal perspective and it can lead to a loss of usefulness for the kingdom because even over in first Timothy six, we are told that some have strayed from the faith because they overworked to be rich.
Look folks, money is like nitroglycerine. Think about this. Money is like nitroglycerine. Handling it doesn’t kill you, mismanaging it will kill you. And money’s like that. The Book of Proverbs warns you about that. Craving to be rich can be a destructive thing and that’s why wisdom in the Book of Proverbs is not greedy for gain. If it’s God’s mind to make you rich, that’s a good thing and if you’re faithful in the small things, God just may bless you with more so you can manage his blessing to the blessing of others.
But wisdom warns about being greedy for gain apart from the will of God. Men need to be careful as we said by way of introduction, that their possessions don’t begin to possess them. Let me give you a little checklist of questions just from this regard. It will help you to remind yourself that nothing that is God’s is obtainable by money, and nothing that’s ultimately important has a financial price tag to it. Let me ask you these questions and ask yourself them so that you’re guarding your heart.
Number one, do money thoughts consume me each and every day? Am I jealous when others are blessed and seem to have an advantage on me? Do I define success in terms of what I have rather than who I am in Christ? Do I neglect my family in the pursuit of money? Have I closed my eyes and shut my heart to the needs of the poor? Do I attempt to buy with money what only God can give? Do I live in paralyzing fear of losing my savings or experiencing a financial reverse? Do I come on Sunday morning and give God the leftovers from a table that he spread in his mercy and his goodness? Am I willing to borrow to a point of bondage to have what I want materially? Am I willing to sacrifice things better than money for money? Those are all great questions and they will help you and I to guard our hearts against overworking to be rich.
There’s an old Jack Benny skit that illustrates what we’re talking about here. Maybe some of you have seen it in the past where Jack is walking along within the skit and suddenly he’s approached and attacked by an armed robber who orders him to give up his money or his life. There’s a long pause. The robber gets agitated and said, “Well, your money or your life,” to which Jack replies, “Don’t rush me. I’m thinking.” It’s amazing and it’s comedy, but it’s kind of comedy with a poke at our lives because sometimes if we’re not careful, we can get ourselves to position where we actually begin to think, “Money or life? Money or love? Money or my children? Money or my wife?” Money, money, money. The Bible warns us to be very guarded about it because the love of it brings all kinds of evil, which brings us to the second thought here is we think about the pursuit of money.
Not only must we be guarded in our pursuit, we need to be godly in our pursuit. There’s a right way to make money and God will honor it and there’s a wrong way to secure financial wealth and God will curse it. You and I need to make our money in a way that honors God. Look at Proverbs 10:2. Proverbs 10:2, this is practical, isn’t it? “Treasures of wickedness profit nothing.” The Bible is saying that there is no profit in securing financial success and financial security if you do it in a way that God cannot bless. Because remember, your arms are too short to box God and what you get He can take away and like the story of King Midas, everything you touch may turn to gold, but the wealth there’ll no satisfaction in it. You can’t eat gold, you can’t love gold. You can’t find peace and gold. So the Bible warns us about being godly. It warns us about not gaining our wealth at the expense of justice and honesty and integrity.
The Bible warns us not to sacrifice our honor, our self-respect or our good reputation for the purpose of making a buck. Look at Proverbs 16:8 and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Here’s a warning. Better is a little with righteousness than vast revenues without justice. Better to be content in the will of God with little than define yourself out of the will of God with much. Look at Proverbs 22:2. Again, a similar thought, what are you willing to give up for financial gain? “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches. Loving favor rather than silver and gold.” In the pursuit of material gain, a man must value his reputation and character above everything else. It matters a great deal how money is made and so for a few moments let’s actually think about that.
The Book of Proverbs tells us how to make it and how not to make it. How are we to make our money? Number one, through hard work and honest work. Diligent and intelligent work is one of the proper ways to gain wealth. Proverbs 10:4-5, just one example of that and we’ll leave it there. We read it earlier in a study on the prophet of Libra. “He who has a slack hand becomes poor, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He gathers in summer. He who gathers in the summer is a wise son. He who sleeps in the harvest is a son who causes shame.” The God of the Bible is a working God. We are made in His image and the God of the Bible expects us to work just as He works and God will see to it that life won’t work if you’re not willing to work. God’s power to provide for us is usually demonstrated in the strength he supplies so that you make flex your muscles in a good hard days work.
So how do you make your money and know that you’re making it in a godly way, in a way that God will bless and multiply if you’re willing to work hard and do an honest hard days work. For the only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary. I like the man who say it every morning, “I get up and look through the Forbes list of the richest people in America. If I’m not there, I go to work.” You’ll never get there if you don’t go to work. You must be godly in your pursuit through hard work. The Book of Proverbs tells us that you can receive money justly and in a way that God is pleased with if you receive it through a family inheritance. That’s nice. Some of us may have indeed even enjoyed that. Some of us may be praying fervently for that, but that’s another way to make money.
Look at Proverbs 13:22. We read it I think a week ago, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” God’s goodness to one generation can spill over into the next and you and I can gain good money, not dirty money, good money if we work hard and if God in his providence should bless us through an inheritance. A wealthy businessman was asked the secret of his financial success. He said, “I can attribute my success as a millionaire to a pattern consisting of four Ds. Dedication, determination, discipline, and the death of my uncle who left me $990,000.” Huh? Nothing wrong with that. Money through hard work, money through an inheritance finally here, money through savings wisely invested. That’s another means of making good money. Money that God can bless and multiply. In Proverbs chapter six, we’re told to go and look at the ant. Proverbs 6:6-8, there’s a number of reasons because if you look at the ant, you’ll see the ant is busy and industrious. There’s a great lesson there to be learned.
Things come through hard work. Laziness and poverty are joined together. Another thing about the ant is they have no commanders. They are servants to each other. They are organized. There’s no competition among ants. Another great lesson, but here’s the other lesson. They’re very unthoughtful. They think ahead, they gather in the summer, they gather in the autumn of the harvest time according to Proverbs 6:8, preparing themselves for a cold and barren winter. And so here we have a principle of saving and wisely investing. I’ll give you one verse that ties in with thought. Go to Proverbs 13:11. Initially you’ll probably miss it if you’ve got a King James or a New King James. It reads this way, “Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, but he who gathers by labor will increase.” Proverbs 13:11.
The word labor there is a Hebrew term that means in the hand or the steady hand. In fact, the NIV probably catches the flavor of it when it translates that verse like this, “He who gathers money almost in his hand, little by little will see it grow.” That’s the point of that. He who gathers by labor, by a steady hand, by applying himself little by little as he goes exercising wise, discipline and the sermon over his money, his money will increase. In the Book of Proverbs, will encourage you and I to consistently, regularly and wisely set some money aside not only for a rainy day for those things that just happen in life that you haven’t put in your day planner, but for that time when you retire and are more dependent and one of the ways that you will be able to deal with life in all its dimensions is through saving and wise investment by thinking ahead.
If you splurge with no thought of tomorrow, you are not a wise person and you are not handling your money in a godly God glorifying manner. In fact, let me give you an example of what we’re talking about in terms of steady wise investment, just in case you don’t see the wisdom of what the Book of Proverbs is saying. If you’re 20 years old this morning and you’re earning $15,000 a year, do you know that if you invested from the first day you received your wage packet, 10% of that income and you did it consistently for 45 years and you invested that money with a reasonable yield of return in terms of a good interest bearing account that when you reach 65 you will be a millionaire. Do the math. There’s such a thing as compound interest. There’s such a thing as exponential growth.
The more it builds up at some point it begins to… It walks at another point, it begins to trot at another point it begins to run financially speaking and it will meet you when you’re 65 through a modest investment of 10%, wisely invested rightly set aside, you will have no worries for the future. In fact, one article I read said this, “If you were willing to sacrifice your mochachino every morning, you’d probably retire a multimillionaire.” It’s amazing what little amounts set aside and saved will do for you. In the book of Proverb says, “Do that. That’s wise, that’s godly.” In fact, Jesus hints at that, doesn’t He? Write this verse down and look at it later. Matthew 25:27, it’s the parable of the talents. Again, it’s this thought of stewardship that God has made us money managers, stewards of his manifold grace. He’s looking at our lives to see how we’re doing. There’s going to come a day when he’ll call us into his office and he’ll ask us to give an account his investment in us and our investments for Him.
And you’ve got this servant that irritates his master in the story, the servant who didn’t want to risk anything. The servant who saw no return on the money. The servant who just sat on it, what did he do? You know the story. Dug a hole in the ground, put his money in there and the master chastises him for his disobedience and his foolishness in the master says, “You know what? Okay, you’re maybe not be as adventurous and as risky as the others, but you know what? Could you not have used though just a little bit of your gray matter and going down to the corner bank there, put it in there, get four, five percent on it, then you’d something to give me, but you just sat there and did nothing with it.”
And so the Lord seems to be fully aware of the principle of steady and wise investment, but if that’s the way to make money through hard work, perhaps in God’s providence through an inheritance and by taking what you’ve received by your hard work or an inheritance and wisely and steadily invest in it, there’s a way not to make money. There’s a way the Book of Proverbs condemns. Number one is if you make money through falsehood and fraud, Proverbs 13:11 is just one example of what I’m talking about. Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished.” God will see to that either temporarily or eternally. In Proverbs 21:6 you read, “Getting treasures by a lying tongue is the fleeting fancy of those who seek death.”
Proverbs 20:17, “Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth is filled with gravel.” In fact, elsewhere in the Book of Proverbs, you know this, God condemns the skills that have wits that are not their true wit. And so people get shortchanged in that business transaction. They don’t get a full pound of flour. They get something less than that and God hits the greed that prompts a man to rob another man through fraudulent business dealings. God hits shitty accountancy. God hits money that’s laundered. God hits dirty money. Money ought not to be made through falsehoods. Secondly, money ought not to be made through exorbitant interest, writs or abusive loans. This is another big theme in the Book of Proverbs. It’s called usury where you loan someone something and they borrow that off you at an interest rate, but that interest rate is exorbitant. Where you take advantage of the fact that that person’s over the barrel. They’re in dire straits and they need what you can only give and so you fleece them and the Book of Proverbs condemns that.
Look at Proverbs 28:8, if you want to see what I’m talking about. “One who increases his possessions by usury and extortion, gathers it for him who will pity the poor.” God is saying again, “I will take it from you. It will not profit you. I curse it and I condemn it.” Proverbs 22:16, “He who oppresses the poor to increase his riches and he who gives to the rich will surely come the poverty.” What is the way to oppress the poor by exorbitant interest rates, by abusive loans, by taking advantage of them and their disadvantage state. Perhaps a modern equivalent of this might be price gorging when people who are in desperate need of something and someone decides to make a fast buck by charging many times what the goods would normally be worth. It happened in Florida. Some of us question the fact today that although the oil companies have reserves, they hiked the price.
Axon Mobile just made 33% profit margin in one quarter, the second biggest profit margin in business history. One wonders if they’re not cashing in on an emergency, who knows, but they need to be careful. We need to be careful about taking advantage of people’s plight and people’s problems. The word of God encourages us in our financial dealings not to be fraudulent, not to be those that exploit the problems of others. And finally, the Book of Proverbs encourages us not to gain money through money that we cannot pay back or we don’t intend to pay back. Look at Proverbs 3:27, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in the par of your hand to do so, do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go and come back and tomorrow I will give it when you have it with you.'”
There’s a debate on this, these verses over who is being spoken of. Who is the object of the idea the good that is due. Some would argue it’s a needy neighbor. It’s someone who’s in a state of need and therefore if they come to your door and they want your help, you shouldn’t say come back tomorrow. You should meet the need of your neighbor if it’s within your ability to do that. But there are others argue and I lean towards this that the good that is due could well speak of wages that you owe to workers that you have failed to give because you’re gaining interest on their money because it’s still in your bank account or it could deal with bills that are due and you are holding out. And so the Book of Proverbs warns about that. It warns about gaining money through other people’s money, the money that you owe them. And so you and I need to be careful.
In fact, the only reason some people have money is because they haven’t paid other people’s money back to them, whether that’s a bank or whether that’s a credit card agency or whether that’s Uncle Sam and the tax department. They’re actually buying things on borrowed money that they haven’t yet paid back and they are being negligent and careless and they are defaulting on their loans and the Bible says, “That is dirty money.” It is not a godly way to handle your financial responsibilities. Now what’s the point here before we move on? It’s this that you and I need to be guarded and godly in our pursuit of money because we cannot expect the blessing of God that makes rich. Proverbs 10:22, “If we are not willing to be rich towards God and if we are not willing to be obedient in the handling of our financial dealings.”
Remember in the end, disobedience robs God of his glory and that robs us of the blessing of God which makes rich and adds no sorrow to it. It’s a principle that you and I need to understand. You can never rob God without ultimately robbing yourself. Therefore, be guarded in your pursuit of money and be godly in your pursuit of money and that’s a question that you need to keep asking yourself, “What will I lose in what I gain if I do it without God’s blessing?” I like the story of one of the popes who was an avid pitman of the arts. He was walking around the Vatican. He was surveying his many artistic riches that he had amassed. He was in the company of another bishop and pointing to all this treasure that the Vatican had amassed. He said, “Brother, no longer can the church of Jesus Christ say silver and gold have I none,” to which the subordinate bishop replied, “But yes, such as the key is also that the church cannot say rise up and walk.”
We can lose in what we gain when we seek the gain not which God does not bless. Which brings me finally to the pitfalls of money. The pitfalls of money. As we’ve said on a number of occasions, money is a good servant but it’s a bad master. It’s a tool that if we will use wisely and widely, God can advance his purposes on earth through our investments. But if we’re not careful, that tool that has been given to us to build up God’s kingdom can become an idol where we can serve our own selfish purposes rather than sacrificing for God’s glory.
Our possessions can begin to possess us. We can become enslaved to material things. In Proverbs 15:16, here’s what we read, “Better is a little with the fear of God than great treasure with trouble.” There are pitfalls with advancing financial blessing and so we need to watch out for those pitfalls. There is great temptations in money. I think two of them are debt and discontentment. Debt and discontentment. The Book of Proverbs speaks about the pitfall of mounting debt. Go with me to a verse that if it has no application to you this morning, God will use it in your life to counsel others because this is a spreading problem that the issue of people getting into debt. And Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rules over in the poor and the borrower is servant to the lender.”
Debt can become enslaving. If you and I don’t reign in our desires to a mass material wealth and material blessings, you and I can borrow ourselves to a point of bondage, to a point of enslavement and the Book of Proverbs warns us about that, that can make a slave out of a man. In fact, that was literally true back in the Old Testament because if a man get into financial dire straits, he often sold himself into the servitude of his lender. And according to Exodus 21:2-7, “That could last for six years and in the year of Jubilee. His debts were erased and his time of servitude would be over.” And so this is a very real, very real picture that the Book of Proverbs is drawing here that if you and I are not careful, we can fall into the pit of debt and we become slaves to those we have borrowed from, and that is word of warning to our culture and even to Christians within that culture because in America today, many are drowning in a rising tide of debt.
In fact, according to my research, the average American family carries a balance of yet thousand $100 on their credit cards that have yet to be paid. Do you know that 25% of every dollar spent in America is used to service consumer debt? Let me talk to you about the financial bondage that the average American family is in. If they’re paying 18% interest on that $8,100, they’ll spend $1,500 a year just on interest alone and if they pay just a minimum balance every month, it will take them 13 and a half years to pay off the balance.
That means on a debt of $8,000, they will literally pay almost $18,000 on interest fees alone to pay off the 8,000. Sounds like bondage to me. Sounds like a form of slavery to me where every day you wake up in the servitude of MasterCard or American Express or Visa and your freedom has been taken away to bless others, to alleviate the poor, to bless the church, advance the gospel, meet the needs of your family now, and in the debts to come. Some will die in debt and instead of leaving an inheritance, they will leave their family tied up in a noose of indebtedness.
What kind of heritage is that? You and I need to awake to this fact. I like what Adrian Rogers said, “The modern American has been described as driving a bank finance car over bond finance roads on gasoline he just bought with a credit card on his way to open a charge account at the department store so they can have installment purchased furnishments in his saving and loans home.” Boy, that’s a sad commentary in our culture. The Book of Proverbs says, “No, be wise, work hard. God may top up your work with the gift from a former generation, but whatever you’ve got, make sure you see it and wisely invest or else you will become servant to the lender.” See it Spurgeon said, “Poverty is hard,” so it is, but debt is horrible and so it is.
I’ll tell you why debt is horrible because it’s poor stewardship. When you consider the interest rates you’re paying, you’re paying too much for what you want. That’s not good stewardship of God’s money. Secondly, it robs a man of his freedom. It makes him a slave to the lender. How can you be a servant of God if you’re a slave to man in your financial dealings? Thirdly, it will close God-given and gospel promoting doors of opportunity. You know what? There are doors that are being flung by God’s sovereign purposes in our generation. Countries are not open. Opportunities are multiplying to take the gospel across the world. There are young men staffing up to go to seminary, young women staffing up to go to the mission field and you know what? The church of Jesus Christ, there’s so much in debt to the world that we cannot finance those things or we’re not financing those things. Something wrong with that isn’t there?
The Book of Proverb warns us about that, and another problem with that is that it presumes upon tomorrow because you’ll never be free unless you’ve got so many months and years left to pay your debt off but God didn’t promise you tomorrow. So if you’re in debt and you’re not there tomorrow to pay it, guess what? Somebody in your family’s going to pay it, or the credit card company’s going to pay it, or Uncle Sam’s going to pay it, which means I pay it and the reason of my taxes to pay off the national debt. Somebody gets hurt because you’re not being fiscally responsible. The Book of Proverbs says, “Watch out for the pitfall of debt.”
Before we move on to the last thought, let me help you cut dime on debt. I did like the story of a scam that was detected in New Zealand. There was a newspaper advertisement that was a hoax at advertised a sure far way to cut your bills in half. Simply send in $3 and we’ll send you the sure fair way to cut your bills in half. And as people sent in the $3 the police got involved because everyone that sent in their $3 got a pair of cheap scissors sent through the meal. Somebody was scamming them. Well that’s not going to do to cut your bills in half, but I’ll give you some things that just might. Think about these, this is a sermon in itself. I’m just giving them in bullet form.
Number one, don’t spend what you don’t have. I mean that’s a no-brainer, right? I mean you shouldn’t even have to scratch your head over that one and yet we’re doing it all the time. Yeah, I’m amazed how many people you’ll find in the mall on any given hour of the day, not that I’m there on any given hour of the day, but the information I have tells me that most Americans spend six hours a week shopping in malls, spend about 45 minutes playing with their children, by the way. Where’s all that money coming from? In fact, a year ago when I was back in Scotland, I was on my vacation. It was a springtime, it was down in the city center of Glasgow. The place to me looked like it was Saturday afternoon and I asked myself the question, “Does anybody work in Scotland anymore?” Half the people were unemployed drawing social security checks done spending it. What little they have.
They’re not investing for the future, they’re not thinking about tomorrow. They’re buying stuff they don’t need with money they don’t have. And if you’re going to beat debtor’s deal, then don’t spend what you don’t have. Secondly, pay cash for your purchases. Use credit cards as a simple utility. If you’re going to have a credit card, pay the bill off completely at the end of the month. That’s what I do. I have one credit card and they haven’t made a dime from me yet. I get my miles from them. That’s the way it works. And if you use discernment and are thoughtful, you’ll realize you want to pay cash for your purchases because if you don’t use cash for your purchases, that $50 dinner at Max & Erma’s is put on your credit card, which you don’t pay, will have an extra 18%. So you’ll tip the waitress 10 or 15% and you’ll tip Visa and American Express another 18%.
Don’t spend what you don’t have. Pay cash for your purchases, destroy your credit cards. I’ve touched on that. Destroy your credit cards. You need to because they are dangerous. I like the line that goes, “There was a perfect marriage except for one feminine flaw. He was fast on the deposit, she was quicker on the draw.” We need to be careful. We need to destroy our credit cards and if we have them, we simply use them as a tool, a utility. They serve us rather than us becoming slaves to the lender.
Number four, avoid impulse buying. Avoid impulse buying. So many people, it’s amazing, isn’t it? That kind of vicious cycle that this becomes in people’s lives where they’re in debt, they get depressed over that and yet they’ll go down to the shopping mall and spend the money they don’t have for things they don’t need so that they can kind of feel better about themselves. Avoid impulse buying. Don’t deal with depression that way. Deal with it biblically and ask God for grace to tighten your belt. Eat more at home. Don’t buy things that are not necessary or essential.
Number five, avoid borrowing money to purchase depreciating items. I think there is necessary debt. I think we need to be careful with the praise and Romans it says. “You owe no man nothing or anything.” I think a mortgage is a necessary debt unless you got an inheritance from Uncle Harry. It’s hard to go right out the door, isn’t it? And buy yourself $150,000 home or a quarter million dollar home. That’s a necessary debt and in most cases houses appreciate so it’s a good investment, but most things depreciate. New cars depreciate as soon as you drive them out a lot. A lot of things depreciate and when you understand that you’re better buying things with cash that have a depreciating value to them, that’s wise financial investment and action. And sixly, prepare a budget and stick to it. If you have a budget, you’ll not be impulsive or reactionary. If you have a budget and a beginning budget might be 10% set aside for the Lord’s work, 10% set aside for saving and wise investment and 80% as operating expenses. That’s a good budget. A beginning budget.
Those figures might change as time goes by, but have a budget and stick to it. You know what? If you aim at nothing, you are sure to hit it. If you’re going to wallow in financial problems, you will sink deeper and deeper and deeper. Brings me to the last thought, will quickly deal with it. The pitfall of discontentment. Not only does the Book of Proverbs warn us in our pursuit of money about the pitfall of debt, it warns us about the pitfall of discontentment. What is discontentment? It is a spirit that says, “I don’t have enough.” It is a spirit that says, “Others shouldn’t have what I don’t have.” It’s tied in with jealousy, envy, covetousness. Discontentment is a quarreling with God ultimately, right? Because what have we got that we have not received.
The rich and the poor, the Lord is a maker of them all says the Book of Proverbs. God entrusts riches to differing degrees with different people and when you and I are not happy with our lot in life, discontentment is a quarreling with God’s providence and it’s provision toward us. In the Book of Proverbs encourages us to be careful to that end. In fact, it’s interesting. In Proverbs 30:7-9, you have this prayer by Agur, conscious of his own heart, ability to forget God in wealth or doubt God in poverty. He prays this prayer of contentment.
Proverbs 30:7, “Two things I request of you deprive me not before I die, remove falsehood and lies far from me. Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with the food allotted to me. Last I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or last I be poor and steal and profit in the name of God.” This man understands the temptation that money is. It’s a temptation when you have too little of it and it’s a temptation to trust yourself when you’ve too much of it. It’s a tyranny if it’s not put in its proper place because it leaves you wanting more of it and more of it.
The Book of Proverbs in Proverbs 27:20, “This hell and destruction are never full so the eyes of man are never satisfied.” That’s a challenge, isn’t it? We need to pray to God for a spirit of contentment. We need to accept what God has given us. We need to manage it well. If we manage it well, God may and his providence and his kindness give us more, but whether with more or less whatever we have, God is given is it? God is good. God is kind. Therefore, it is with a spirit of moderation and a spirit of happiness that we live within the providence of God and we ask him for contentment. And Paul say that to Timothy and the Ephesians that contentment with godliness is great gain, and yet so many people are discontent. Our world beats us through advertisement to a point where we feel that we’re not rich enough, pretty enough, stylish enough, comfortable enough, such a competitive spirit in our materialistic world that it’s not enough to be good, it’s got to be the best.
We need to guard our hearts against this. And one of the ways we can do it is by accepting what God has given us and be satisfied with it. How do you make yourself rich? Think about this as we close. Well, you can make yourself rich by how much you have increasingly, or you can make yourself rich by reducing what you want. You can make yourself rich by wanting more or you can make yourself rich by accepting what you have. Contentment makes a poor man rich. Discontentment makes a rich man poor. A happy man is a man who wants what he’s got. An unhappy woman is a woman who wants more than she’s got and never stops wanting. The Book of Proverbs says no. Lord, give me neither poverty nor riches. Help me to accept what I’ve got.
A man talking to his boss one day. A boss who was greedy and grasping said to him, “You know what? You may not realize this, but I’m richer than you are.” The boss sneer on him said, “I cannot be friend,” to which the man replied, “Because I have all the money I want. You don’t.” It’s a great principle that echoes the Book of Proverbs. Contentment with godliness is great gain, because contentment is a realization that you have what God wants you to have where you are within his scheme of things. And godliness is the realization that you know what in Christ your net worth far exceeds what Bill Gates has got, what Elton John enjoys. You have an inheritance that faiths not away reserved for you in heaven. The debt of your sin has been erased. The righteousness of Christ has been credited. The spirit of God has been deposited. All those things are ours if we’re godly and then Christ.
And so with what we have materially and with what we have spiritually, we are people who enjoy much and I trust that’s your perspective. This morning in fact, just as I pray, I want to lay a challenge before those this morning who may not know Christ. You need to realize this morning, whatever you have in your bank account on the right side of the ledger, there is another book in heaven. And if you’re apart from Christ, all that has entered on your behalf is on the wrong side of the ledger.
The wages of sin is being recorded and payments someday will be death and separation from God. And it doesn’t matter this morning that you’re gaining the world, if you haven’t yet erased the debt of your soul before God through faith in Jesus Christ, who although he was rich yet for sake he became poor. I trust that you will put your faith where God has put your sin and that’s in Jesus Christ so that His righteousness and His riches and His spirit can be given to you as a free grace. And you can say with the Puritan sitting down to his dinner, all this, and Jesus too, that marvelous contentment and godliness is great gain.