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  • this morning we’re going to talk about Christianity’s greatest competition
  • many people think that God’s greatest competition is another religion, say Buddha or Mohammed
  • but I would venture to say that in North America, Christianity’s greatest competition is materialism
  • and this morning we’re going to talk about how to get a grip on your finances
  • because money is one of those things that if you don’t get a grip on it, it will get a grip on you
  • Martin Luther once said, “There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, mind, and purse. Of these three, the conversion of the purse is the most difficult.”
  • let’s begin by recognizing that most people are financial failures
  • that sounds shocking, doesn’t it?
  • most people do not succeed financially
  • we live in one of the world’s most affluent societies, and yet very few of us ever achieve a position of being able to live off the resources we’ve accumulated
  • only 2% of people who reach age 65 are financially independent
  • 85 out of 100 people have less than $250 when they reach age 65
  • fewer men are worth $100 at age 68 than they were at age 18 – after 50 years of work
  • in other words, they have worked for 50 years, and have not been able to save at lest $2.00 a year
  • let’s also realize that money is a spiritual topic
  • (Matthew 6:21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
  • in other words, if you want to find out where a person’s priorities lie, look at their credit card statement
  • look at their checkbook
  • if your treasure is on earth, it will be revealed in your checkbook
  • if your treasure is in heaven, that will be revealed as well
  • did you know that 16 out of 38 of Christ’s parables deal with money
  • that more is said in the New Testament about money than is said about heaven and hell combined
  • five times more is said about money than prayer
  • and while there are 500 plus verses on both prayer and faith, there are over 2,000 verses dealing with money and possessions
  • obviously the Bible has much to say about money management
  • what I want to do this morning is talk about different levels of financial management
  • all of us are in different places
  • and by figuring out where we are – whether we’re in financial infancy, childhood, youth, or maturity – hopefully, we’ll be able to take the next step in our development
  • this will be a self-diagnostic, and we’ll all be able to figure out where we are both financially and spiritually
  • by the way, you could end up at different levels in different aspects of your financial management
  • for instance, you could be an excellent financial manager but a poor giver
  • but you evaluate yourself
  • FIRST IS THE LEVEL OF FINANCIAL INFANCY
  • what is an infant like?
  • have you ever seen a generous infant?
  • babies are in the business of getting, and they give very little back in return
  • now, we love infants, but only because we know they’re going to grow up
  • there’s a lot that’s cute about a little baby who’s a few months old
  • but someone who acts like an infant when they’re 18 or 44 is a different story, isn’t it?
  • there’s another thing about infants
  • they get awfully attached to the bottle or their mother’s breast
  • there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s the way God created them
  • that’s where they derive their security
  • but once again, they’re supposed to outgrow that behavior
  • can I show you what a financial infant looks like?
  • (overhead)
  • I define financial infancy as a dependence and love for money
  • it’s being controlled by money, rather than you controlling the money
  • this level of financial management is described by a well-known story in the New Testament
  • (Matthew 19:16) Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
  • (Matthew 19:17) “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
  • (Matthew 19:18) “Which ones?” the man inquired. Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony,
  • (Matthew 19:19) honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”
  • (Matthew 19:20) “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
  • (Matthew 19:21) Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
  • (Matthew 19:22) When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
  • (Matthew 19:23) Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
  • (Matthew 19:24) Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
  • what happened in the story?
  • the rich young man was so attached to his money that there was no room left to attach to God
  • in effect, Jesus was saying to him, “Give me your pacifier,” or in the words a baby would understand, “Give me your sucky”
  • and that’s how the financial infant is
  • in America the coins say, “In God we trust,” but a spiritual infant loves money too much to trust in God
  • (1 Timothy 6:10) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
  • I once spoke on this verse to a fairly affluent group, and you know what they said?
  • “Oh well, that’s an exaggeration. You really can serve both God and money”
  • Jesus was explaining why some people receive the Gospel and some people don’t, and he told a story about seed falling onto good ground and bad ground
  • (Matthew 13:22) The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.
  • a wealth Florida coastal town attracted upscale retirees from everywhere in the country
  • it seemed like the perfect place for the “I’ve Found It” Campaign
  • the 1976 program, you may recall, saturated communities with “I’ve Found It” bumper stickers everywhere
  • people who asked what had been found learned the answer: “New life in Jesus Christ”
  • they found a correlation between interest in the Gospel message and the distance people lived from the ocean
  • in other words, the closer people lived to the water, the less interested
  • the farther from the water they went, the greater the interest
  • why do you think that was?
  • the wealthy people in the condominiums lived closest to the water, while the service help, who worked in the hotels along the coast live in the mobile home parks farthest from the water
  • Ron Pierce from Bibles International spoke to our men last year, and he said that the hardest places to reach with the Gospel are the most affluent places
  • Jesus said so much about money because it is the most insidious, beguiling, persuasive temptation
  • money crowds out God, even though it’s incapable of saving us from sin or satisfying the deep hunger of our souls for true peace, meaning, and purpose
  • (Ecclesiastes 5:10) Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.
  • Bill Hybels calls it the Money Master, and if you follow him you’re violating the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” and the tenth commandment against covetousness
  • how much does a financial infant give to God? Nothing
  • even worse, financial infants sometimes expect to get things back from God or they try to use him for profit, such as in the health, wealth, and prosperity movement
  • now let me warn you: it’s easy to dismiss all of this as alarmist
  • but the Bible time and time again warns against covetousness and materialism, even though we domesticate these sins as house pets
  • so that’s financial infancy
  • FINANCIAL CHILDHOOD CAN BE DESCRIBED BY ONE WORD: IMPULSIVENESS
  • this level of financial management is characterized by my behavior as a youth
  • I had a paper job, and once every month I would collect money from those who subscribed to the Brampton Guardian
  • soon after I would collect the money, it would be gone, and I would say, “Where did it go?”
  • I knew I had money, I knew I had spent it, but I didn’t have a clue where it had all gone
  • financial childhood is characterized by those who take $40 or $60 dollars out of the bank machine and have no idea where it goes
  • or who open their credit card bills and are surprised by the amount
  • or by those who receive a windfall and rush to the store to spend it
  • another word for financial childhood is consumption
  • those who are financial children are consumers, and they frequently consume more than they earn
  • they violate the number one financial rule: spend less than you make
  • somebody has wisely said, “If your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall”
  • those who are financial children have no plan for how to spend money
  • or if they have a plan, they don’t follow it well
  • they end up in debt
  • (Proverbs 22:7) The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.
  • (Romans 13:8) Let no debt remain outstanding
  • when they make a purchase, they calculate not whether they can afford to pay for the entire purchase, but if they can pay the monthly minimum on the credit card
  • they rent-to-own and always have debt from a consumptive lifestyle
  • as far as giving, financial children may give extravagantly, but only when there is a strong emotional appeal
  • financial children otherwise might drop whatever they find in their pocket, a couple of bucks here and there, to the offering plate
  • financial children are those who end up at retirement with nothing
  • the Scriptures warn against the dangers of debt
  • interestingly, those who are most likely to be impulsive are those who make extensive use of credit and those who watch a lot of television
  • (Proverbs 21:20) Wise people’s houses are full of the best foods and olive oil, but fools waste everything they have.
  • (Psalms 37:21) The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously;
  • the majority of people in North America fall into these first two categories
  • THE NEXT LEVEL IS FINANCIAL YOUTH
  • this level is characterized by a quantum improvement over the previous two levels
  • in financial youth, there is control
  • there is avoidance of debt
  • there is a desire to save for the future and to be financially responsible
  • they’ve listened to Proverbs 6, which says:
  • 6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!
  • 7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,
  • 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.
  • the financial youth gives to God, albeit at a rather mindless or legalistic level
  • they perhaps have heard about tithing and decide to aim to give God a certain percentage, such as 10% of their income
  • let me say that financial youth are many times more wise than financial babes or children
  • they seem physically fit, they’ve risen above the realms of those who manage money poorly to those who manage money with, what shall I say, mediocrity
  • the weakness is that they think their money is theirs
  • but there’s still one more level
  • AND THAT’S THE LEVEL OF FINANCIAL MATURITY
  • someone who is financially mature discovers that they are not an owner but simply a manager of another’s property
  • this teaching is clear in the Old Testament, but even clearer in the New Testament
  • please open your Bibles to Luke 16
  • Jesus tells a story about a shrewd manager of his master’s possessions
  • and his point is that all of us are basically managing God’s possessions
  • because everything we have is His
  • we won’t look at this passage in depth, except to look at five things that a financially mature person realizes:
  • number one: the amount isn’t important
  • 10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
  • in other words, you can be success with your finances if you have a lot of money, or if you have only a little money
  • the amount isn’t important
  • financially immature people think that they’ll be better managers of money when they get more money
  • a financially mature person realizes that the amount isn’t important
  • number two: financially mature people realize that some things are more important than money
  • 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?
  • Jesus says that worldly wealth is not true riches
  • it’s like Monopoly money
  • it’s good when you’re playing the game, but when the game is over, what good is it?
  • only a fool would live to accumulate the counterfeit, play money of this world when he could invest it in true riches at the end of his journey
  • (Matthew 6:20) But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
  • third, financially mature people realize that they are not owners of money, but merely managers
  • they realize that God owns it all
  • 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
  • you see, immature financial managers think that 10% or less of their money is God’s
  • mature financial managers realize that everything is God’s, and we are merely managing it for his glory
  • fourth, financially mature people love God instead of money
  • 13 “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
  • but here is the immature person in verse 14
  • 14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.
  • some people sneer and say, you don’t have to choose between God and love of money
  • but the financially mature person knows you can’t be devoted to both
  • you have to choose
  • which are you serving? God or money?
  • fifth, the financially mature person is generous
  • (2 Corinthians 9:7) Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
  • the Scripture does not say that God loves a successful getter or a careful keeper, but we do read that he loves a cheerful giver
  • some financial first aid this morning
  • first, break with your allegiance to money
  • you can’t do anything until your allegiance changes from money to Jesus Christ
  • stop trusting in money
  • second, develop a financial plan
  • this financial plan will have three parts:
  • first, pay God
  • how do you know if you’re giving enough?
  • Corinthians teaches us that are giving is to be regular, sacrificial, and cheerful
  • if you give regularly, and it’s a sacrifice for you, and you can do it cheerfully, you’re giving successfully
  • if you give under compulsion, or if it’s not much of a sacrifice for you, you’re giving the wrong amount
  • second, pay yourself
  • in other words, save
  • many financial experts tell us to take 10% off the top of our paychecks and save it before you even touch it
  • and they say that out of the hundreds of people who have done this, not one has missed the money
  • Bill Hybels suggests the following rule: “Live on eighty”
  • “Giving God ten percent and saving ten percent leaves eighty percent to live on – eighty percent to pay the bills”
  • pay the bills
  • live within your means
  • avoid credit and debt
  • if you follow these three rules, you can’t help but be a financial success