At Gateway Church in Austin, we began a series called #2016ChallengeAccepted.
You can work through the Next Steps for this message with your family or in a life group.
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Here is the audio from the message I shared at Gateway South:
Here are notes from the message we shared:
The heart of scripture, and the heart of God, God wants us to ENJOY what we can do with money.
If that sounds odd, consider a few passages:
When God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their work—this is a gift from God. – Ecclesiastes 5:19
Then in another place we read…
…God richly provides us with everything to enjoy. – 1 Timothy 6:17
Now with that said, consider an observation about our own lives and the culture in which we live:
When we think about money,
are our initial thoughts about how money is enjoyable in our lives?
I would argue that for most of us, when we consider the topic of money, our thoughts more commonly go to anxiety, stress, or anything but enjoyment, despite what Scripture may say.
The challenge of our current series isn’t just about the topics of physical health or financial health or relational health.
The challenge of this series is to approach these topics spiritually and relationally.
The two components for lasting change include: the foundations are Enjoying God and relational support.
So our main question today is this:
What would our financial world look like
if we let God be God of our pocketbooks?
5 basic categories for a conversation about money:
So, let’s start at the top. What does Scripture say about earning money?
One of the great challenges you and I face with money is the lack of it.
In church circles, we’re at times shy about declaring our intention to make more money. To say so sounds greedy, we don’t want to be greedy.
Truth be told, a message against greed is an important message, but, we aren’t going there today.
Hear carefully this statement from Ecclesiastes..
A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything. – Ecclesiastes 10:19
First time I read this, I had to re-read it.
Did Scripture really just say, “Money is the answer for everything?”
I thought God is the answer for everything.
If anything, this sounds potentially blasphemous, like it is elevating money to god-like status, which is the heart and soul of greed, which Scripture is VERY much against.
What is Scripture teaching here?
Observation 1 – Money is involved in everything we do.
When Scripture states that money is the answer to everything, it’s observing that money is involved in EVERYTHING we do.
Objections: “But I don’t want to be about money!,” the person says.
- “I’m an artist, I want to be about my art.”
That’s good. You should be about your art, but how will you get your canvas, and your brushes, and your paint. It’s going to take money to paint that picture.
- “I don’t want to be about money. I want to make a difference in the world. I’m going to feed the hungry. I’m going to serve orphans.”
Wonderful!!! That’s good. Do that. But how will you feed those orphans? How will you house them? How will you clothe them?
- “I’m not going to be about money. I’m going to be about experience. I’m going to experience this amazing world God has created!”
Great! Do that. Take in the sights. Climb the mountains. Swim the Oceans. But, it’s going to take money to fund your adventure. It’s going to take a budget.
If you’re going to have a family, start a hospital, establish a church, make a movie, publish a song, feed the hungry, start a restaurant, or create band, one of your first questions will inevitably be: “How are we going to fund it?”
This is neither a good thing or a bad thing, it’s simply a reality.
Money is involved in everything we do, so the wise amongst us will give careful thought as to how we handle our money.
Now in light of the fact that money is involved in everything we do, it shouldn’t surprise us that some of Scripture’s earliest words on money have much to do not with spending money but with making money.
Hear carefully what God said early on to his people:
You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. – Deuteronomy 8:17-18
Here at the downbeat of Scripture, some of Scripture’s earliest words, we get the fundamental difference between the way the world perceives money and the way God calls us to perceive money.
Scripture calls us to put God at our center, and to then put money in the outer circle.
The world does this differently. The world puts money at the center, and then puts God in an outer circle, if in any circle at all.
Listen to what Jesus said about money and possessions and see if you don’t hear an echo of what we just read in Deuteronomy. He said:
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:31-33
Observation #2 – Earning money is a spiritual experience.
If we go to God first, and we experience the joy of knowing him, and in that joy, we then ask, “How should I pursue earning money?” When we do this, we are now seeking God as we seek to make a living, this then becomes a spiritual experience.
A person will easily complain, “I’ve had nothing to do with God in my life. I don’t pray. I don’t seek God. But I’ve made a lot of money. God has had nothing to do with my making money.”
This actually points to humanity’s greatest sin.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him. – Romans 1:21
Humanity’s greatest sin is not that we fail to depend upon God for anything,
it’s that we fail to recognize that we depend upon God for everything.
According to Scripture, whether or not you acknowledge your dependence upon God, you do depend upon him.
- “I don’t believe in God,” the person says. “I make money on my own. I’m smart, I know what I’m doing.”
Great! And who is it that gave you that brain?
- “I work hard,” somebody else will say.
Great, but who gave you your strength and your vitality?
- “I have heart, I have passion!”
Wonderful, but who wired you up with the personality you are wired up with?
Our passage states that it is God who gives us the abilities to make a living.
- A great deal goes into this.
- He gives us gifts and talents.
- He orchestrates opportunities.
- He leads us into ideas.
- He protects us from bad ideas.
The exhortation from Scripture is not so much an exhortation to depend upon the God you already depend upon, but to acknowledge and lean into that dependence.
Isn’t it fascinating that when Jesus’ earliest disciples asked him to teach them to pray, in Jesus’ very short and to the point prayer he prayed?
Give us today our daily bread. – Matthew 6:11
Jesus is telling us here, “Pray for money.”
I could make a long list of reasons why a person might have financial difficulty. Somewhere on that list, right near the top, would be that we haven’t genuinely talked with God about money.
Scripture exhorts us to lean into God in our dependence upon him for resources, and this leaning into God will be experienced many ways, not the least of which is by prayer.
“Teach me, God…show me, God…lead me into what you would have me to do, God.”
Observation #3 – To earn money we must work.
It’s kind of a dumb observation, but it’s needed to be stated.
Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. – Proverbs 10:4
All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.
– Proverbs 14:23
When we think about money and finances, we’d be wise to consider the full picture.
There are the above ground realities. I’ll call these the physical realities.
Work. Education. Opportunity.
And there are the below ground realities as well. I’ll call these the spiritual realities.
Financial challenges often find their source in one of these two realities. There are those who pray but don’t work, and there are those who work but don’t pray.
If you’re in a financially tough spot, you’d be wise to self-evaluate a bit.
- Do I have above ground challenges?
- Do I have below ground challenges?
These will not answer every question, but they may very well answer some of the more important questions.
Observation #4 – Don’t buy stuff you can’t afford.
The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.
– Proverbs 22:7
Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you. – Proverbs 22:26-27
We live in a culture where credit comes easy. As a result, we spend more than we can afford.
Let’s go back to our foundation.
When we make the foundation of our lives to ENJOY GOD, this creates a far different life than the person who makes their foundation to ENJOY STUFF.
The wise learn to ruthlessly distinguish between NEED and WANT.
When we confuse the two, we buy stuff we can’t afford.
With any purchase, ask yourself: Why this?
- Why am I buying this car?
- Why am I eating this meal?
- Why am I buying this phone?
When I ask, Why am I buying THIS car, it may very well be that this is the car we would enjoy most, and that’s fine, if you can afford it.
If it’s that you’re buying THIS car, because it’s the one you want the most, but it’s NOT one you can afford, than the “Why this?” question should put red blinking warning lights on your dash board.
Cut a picture out, and create a savings plan so you can actually afford that car.
Observation #5 – Give God the first fruits.
Consider the story of Cain and Able. Abel was a shepherd. He watched over sheep. That was his job. Cain was a farmer. He grew crops. Both of them brought an offering from their work to God, but about their different offerings, Scripture says:
The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. – Genesis 4:4-5
Why was God pleased with the offering Abel brought but not pleased with the offering Cain brought?
In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. – Genesis 4:3
Cain brought his offering “in the course of time” and he brought “some of the fruits of the soil.” God was not pleased with this.
Abel brought from the firstborn of his flock… – Genesis 4:4
Cain brought something to God, in the course of time, but Abel brought the firstborn from his flock.
Cain brought an offering to God, once he felt like he could afford it, in the course of time.
Abel brought God the firstborn from his labors.
Abel’s offering—as the firstborn from his flocks—displayed his deep conviction that his first priority was to enjoy God.
Cain’s offering—given in the course of time—not the first fruit of his field, but something he gave when he finally felt like it, it displayed his lack of faith in God.
Abel was tithing to God, making God his provider.
Cain was tipping God, making God his butler.
One type of giving offended God.
The other type of giving honored God.
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first-fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. – Proverbs 3:9-10
The exhortation is not to give to God “in the course of time” as Cain did. The exhortation is to give to God the first-fruits of our crops.
Observation #6 – If we can’t afford to tithe, it may be because we’re not tithing.
Let’s look at two passages.
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty. – Malachi 3:8-12
How are they robbing God?
By withholding their tithes and offerings.
Tithe is the Hebrew word for a tenth. This is where we get the idea of giving the first $100 from the $1000 we make. Or the $10 from the $100 we make.
They’re withholding their tenth. They’re doing what Cain did. They’re giving here and there, in the course of time.
He explains that he wants them to…
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. – Malachi 3:10
God has a storehouse, he says, and he wants their to be food in that storehouse. In other words, he wants collective impact from their tithes. He wants the Israelites to pool their giving, so their would be a storehouse, where people could get fed.
Now with that in mind, turn to the New Testament, and listen for the echo of this in Jesus words.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. – Matthew 6:19-20
Jesus also talks about storing up our resources, but he tells us to be very careful about how we do so.
We can store our resources in such a way that they are vulnerable to loss, or we can store our resources in such a way that they have eternal impact.
If you’re checking out matters of faith, then we don’t want money to be an obstacle.
If you follow Jesus, the Scriptures exhort us to bring the first fruits of our earnings—not the “in the course of time” kind of giving.
Listen again to what God said through Malachi…
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. – Malachi 3:10
I love that line: TEST ME IN THIS.
It’s God saying, “Bring the first fruit, and see if I won’t fully provide all you need.”
Observation #7 – Tithing is an investment.
Giving isn’t giving. It’s investing.
…store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
– Matthew 6:19-20
Jesus is telling us that the value of our dollars will one day be worthless so don’t hoard those.
Live on what you need, but then invest as much as you can in his work in this world. When we do so, we are storing up our treasures in something that will last.