What’s the Secret to Financial Freedom? | 05.14.23 | Master Your Money pt.1
Ecclesiastes 5:10; Proverbs 21:20
Pastor Drew Williams
When Megan and I were planning on getting married, we talked about money a lot, because we didn’t really have any. And our parents didn’t really have any money, either, so we knew that we were saving up to pay for our own wedding.
Now, we still wanted a big party, and we still wanted it to be a memorable event for us and all our guests, so even though we were on a budget, we didn’t want to skimp on certain things.
So we got our photographer that we really liked, and we got our favorite BBQ restaurant to cater, but we opted to have a friend cook all the sides and appetizers to save money.
Then we went with a budget DJ so that we could afford an expensive videographer, and then just had tables and chairs set up on the lawn of our church. So we pretty much had a backyard BBQ, but our backyard wasn’t big enough, so it was in the backyard of the church.
And I remember talking with Megan, because she actually had more money saved up than me, so she was writing more of the checks for the deposits of these things, but I on the other hand had bought the ring and was making plans for our honeymoon, and sometimes our “conversations” would sound a bit more like yelling than I care to admit.
But, we survived the process, and the day was wonderful.
And then, when we got the video back from our videographer, after the wedding was done, we were really disappointed with the quality of the video compared with the amount of money we spent on it. And I found myself complaining about the things that didn’t go right, the things we shouldn’t have spent so much on, the ways we could have spent that money better…
And all of the stress was based around money, or the lack of it.
And I had to wonder, does my money master me? Or do I master my money?
We’re starting a series today that will be our most practical teaching series on finances that we’ve ever done.
And we’re doing this because EVERYONE feels pressure when it comes to finances, whether the economy is messing with your accounts, or whether supplies are more expensive this planting season, or whether you’re just trying to stay on top of the normal bills, kids activities, and the unexpected expenses that seem to keep coming up.
EVERYONE knows what it’s like to feel like our money is actually calling the shots when it comes to our stress, our plans, and our hopes.
And we aren’t the only ones who know it: the Bible is FULL of teaching about money.
Out of the 38 parables that Jesus spoke, 16 deal with money. There is more said in the NT about money than heaven and hell COMBINED. There is 5 times more 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.
[SLIDE 4] Title Slide again
So THATS why we’re starting this series called Master Your Money, which will deal with four practical things you can do right now to not only get a better handle on your finances and feel a bit less stressed, but it’s four ways you can align your life with Biblical principles so that money doesn’t master your life.
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That’s why you want to be here all four weeks of this series. Don’t miss one of the steps. Or, if you do miss, make sure to catch it online because you don’t want to miss the help or the transformation that God wants to do in your life these next 4 weeks. Do Not Miss It!
These 4 practical steps are from the book, Master Your Money, by Ron Blue, who is a financial counselor, author, and speaker who has influenced many of the popular voices who teach about finances today.
If you already know of a financial “guru” who is famous on the radio or online right now, Ron Blue was probably a huge influence on them.
Now, a few years ago, Ron worked with 12Stone church in Atlanta and Pastor Kevin Myers to do a walkthrough of some of the concepts for churches, and I’m very grateful for the help and resources from them so that we can learn this content, so I’m going to let Ron introduce himself a bit more and give us a snapshot of his background.
>> PLAY VIDEO 1 <<
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“God’s principles work.” And we’re going to spend the next 4 weeks as Ron helps us unpack things that can dramatically transform our lives.
But the first step to moving forward is discovering where you are now. And there are 5 different stages you could be in, so let’s see where you land.
>> PLAY VIDEO 2 <<
And we can see how we would ALL want to progress up the ladder to the next stage. But…where are you on the journey?
When I graduated college, I had a decent amount of debt, and a not-so-decent income. And right before Megan and I started dating, my norm was getting to payday with about 4 or 5 dollars left in my account. I was STRUGGLING.
And when Megan and I were getting serious and thinking about marriage, we had been able to get some things in order and SURVIVE a bit better, almost feel STABLE.
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We were saving for our wedding, but we were putting off paying down our debt, so we were constantly moving back and forth between stages.
How many of you know what it’s like to move back a stage? It happens to all of us.
But you want to know, “how do I get from Surviving to Stable? And how do I get from Stable to Secure? And how do I move from Secure to Surplus? Or maybe you’re in that stage now and you’re wondering how to leverage what God has entrusted to you, so you can land in the next stage of SIGNIFICANT.
Using this framework, it gives you next steps. Knowing where you are helps you know how to proceed. So ask yourself, “Where am I right now? And what’s my next stage?”
But you’re also going to want to know HOW to get to your next stage. What are the things I must do? Well, Ron is actually going to give us the answer in 5 Biblical principles for finances. So you probably want to write these down.
>> PLAY VIDEO 3 <<
So when you’re looking at the stages to see where you are and how to get to the next stage, remember that you’ll be doing that your whole life. But the answer for HOW to get to the next stage is these 5 Biblical principles. Let’s go over them again:
Spend less than you EARN. Avoid the use of DEBT. Build MARGIN. Set long-term GOALS. Give GENEROUSLY.
These are so foundational and so helpful, no matter what stage you’re in, that we’re going to spend these four weeks unpacking the 5 principles. That’s why you can’t miss a week!
So let’s start with the first principle: Spend Less than You Earn.
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Now, I’m going to be real with you right now. I’m going to spell out exactly what I’m trying to do today: I’m going to ask God to convince you, by the grace of God, to make a personal decision to spend less than you earn, and then begin to practice it.
This is going to be a battle because our whole society tells us that you can WANT something today and GET IT tomorrow.
But this decision, to spend less than you earn, and the practice of that is FOUNDATIONAL to your financial strength. And not doing it is the reason we’re often in trouble.
You might disagree with you. You might say “I’m not going to do that.” But what is the alternative? If you don’t spend LESS than you earn, the only alternative is to spend MORE than you earn. Spend what? Spend MORE than your earn.
When I was in high school, some friends and I planned a tubing trip on the river. Now, I don’t know how you all might do it around here, but we did it on a BUDGET. The tubes we got were old truck innertubes from tires. Just the plain rubber. No netting. No handles. No pouch for a little drink.
It was a bit of a drive to get to the part of the river we wanted to get to, because we were planning on floating about 2 or 3 hours down the river and meeting up with some other people and then just floating on closer to home.
I’m pretty sure I forgot to pack sunscreen. I didn’t have a hat. But all those thoughts went away when we got to the river because we weren’t ready for what we saw. It had rained a BUNCH the few days before, and now the river was swollen, almost to flood level, and the banks of the river had risen so much that there were full on trees only sticking halfway out of the water. And the water was RUSHING by, and it looked like chocolate milk from all the mud that was being churned up by the speeding current.
Obviously, this was not a river we should be getting in.
But…we were 17…and no one wanted to be called the chicken…so…we got in. And from the first moment we got in, the river swept us along in a super strong current. I was terrified. My friend almost hit one of the tree trunks as we zoomed by.
And even once we were fully in the middle of the river, the dangers didn’t stop. At the first bend in the river, three of us got stuck in eddys, which are currents that go against the flow of the river. If the river is slow, it just means you get stuck and it’s annoying.
But these were like little whirlpools, and when I hit the first one, I got sucked under. But I held on tight to my tube, so I popped up again, just in time to get sucked under again by another one, but this time I wasn’t ready, and I lost grip of my tube.
The swirling current held me underwater for what felt like forever. I was scared. My lungs were burning. I thought about the fact that I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to my mom. It was bleak.
And just at the last minute, the strongest part of the current pulled away from me and I felt myself floating up through calmer water, and I finally broke the surface and took a huge breath. And I heard my friend Felipe calling my name, because he had grabbed my tube as it floated by him. I was able to swim over and grab on, and then we started making our way out of the middle of the river that was still moving super quickly so that we could get to the banks and start looking for our friends.
We ended up all being reunited over the next few hours, and we decided to hike back to the main road and walk to the nearest town instead of get back in the water. Our adrenaline was high from terror of it all, and we were grateful to be alive.
And you’ve got to realize: when you’re under peer pressure, you tend to go beyond your limits, and you can nearly drown yourself.
And that’s how most of us live our financial lives. We go beyond our limits because of the peer pressure of how “everyone else” lives their lives, or buys the things, or spends their money, and then we find ourselves drowning.
And do you want to know how we try to escape it?
We look at the phrase: “Spend less than you earn.” And we say, “Oh, I need to EARN more! The problem is that I’m not EARNING enough!”
I want to read some names of people you might have heard before. And I want you to tell me what they all have in common:
Michael Jackson Dave Ramsey Cyndi Lauper
Walt Disney John Wayne Michael Vick
Francis Ford Coppola PT Barnum MC Hammer
Burt Reynolds Rapper 50 Cent Meat Loaf
Bankruptcy. Even though all these people made A LOT of money, they never solved the problem of spending less.
Earning more is NOT the first thing to solve. It’s a good pursuit, and earning more can definitely help you reach goals, but it’s not the FIRST problem to solve, and Scripture tells us why.
Turn with me to Ecclesiastes 5 on p??? Of the OT to see why earning more isn’t the silver bullet to our financial weakness.
[SLIDE] Ecclesiastes 5:10
Let me rephrase it this way: “whoever spends more than they earn, will never earn enough.” It’s not bad to earn more. It’s not ungodly to earn more.
I’m just saying that if you don’t commit to the first step of spending less than you earn, you will always raise your spending with your income. You make more, you spend more.
The problem isn’t earning; it’s how you manage it.
And Ron is going to talk about that, and makes a statement that blew me away when I heard it:
>> PLAY VIDEO 4 <<
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“Every spending decision is a spiritual decision.”
I don’t know if you’re like me, but I grew up thinking that the good Christian thing to do was to give God some of my money. I grew up believing that I was supposed to “tithe”, which means to give 10% to God. And once I did that, I would use the rest of “my money” for the things that I wanted.
Give God his portion, because it’s a rule and you’re a good rule follower and when you follow the rules, it makes God happy and then the rest is for you to decide what to do with.
But when things are tight…well, God might just have to wait for his portion. I’ll just have to ask for forgiveness, or make it up to him later.
Maybe you’ve had the same thoughts, to give God “his portion” and then use the rest as you see fit. But what if ALL of it is God’s portion? What if everything we have belongs fully to God and we’re just being asked to manage it?
That seems to be what Ron is trying to teach us and I agree with him that Scripture makes it clear that EVERYTHING belongs fully to God.
[SLIDE] Psalm 24:1
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.”
And even if you don’t believe that, it’s still TRUE. We don’t own anything: because when we leave this earth, we don’t take anything with us. We were just managing it for the real owner.
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God owns it all, so every spending decision is a spiritual decision. I’m either walking with God and following his lead in every area of my life (including my finances), or I’m not. And if I’m not, am I really walking with God?
In his book, Ron says that “There is nothing more spiritual about giving to your church than buying a car, taking a vacation, buying food, paying off debt, paying taxes, and so on. These are all responsible uses of his resources. He owns all that I have.” MYM 23
Every spending decision is a spiritual decision. When I heard that, it made me rethink all my spending decisions! Have they ALL been based on an understanding that I’m just managing what God has entrusted to me?
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Or did they reflect the fact that I, like most people, tend to live as if God owns a PORTION of all “this,” and then I get to do what I want with the rest of it?
“Once I give to God, the rest is mine!”
And I know not everyone listening is a Christian, and there’s many people who are wrestling with the ways their faith influences their life. But if you’re a Christian, listen to this statement that Pastor Kevin said. I wrote it down: “Maybe our personal finances are in trouble, because while we have the name of Jesus on our lips we have the values of this world in our finances.”
Maybe we talk like Christians, but we don’t LIVE like Christians in our finances. We don’t apprentice to Jesus in our finances.
And we can come to church, we can talk like Christians all we want, but if we manage our finances according to the values and methods of the world, our finances will be in a mess, pushing us beyond our limits.
I like the way Pastor Kevin put it, he said “[that] would be as if we prayed for healing, but drank gasoline all week, poisoning our bodies and then coming together on Sunday and praying, “oh God, heal us and save us.”
If we did that, I think God would tell us to CHANGE OUR BEHAVIOR.
We have to be willing to change our behavior – you have to be willing to spend less than you earn.
And this is HARD because the world spends BILLIONS and billions of dollars every year marketing stuff to us and telling us we don’t have enough, or that we “need” something new, or that we won’t have a good summer with our family if we don’t buy that…new toy…nice vacation…better whatever.
And we believe that lie that we don’t have enough which causes us to make poor decisions and act of poor behaviors because we think that what we have is “owned” by us, and we go beyond our limits.
[SLIDE] Proverbs 21:20
Proverbs 21:20 puts it this way: “…fools spend whatever they get.”
GK Chesterton, a British writer and theologian, said, “There are two ways to get enough. One is to accumulate more. The other desire less.”
British historian Richard Evans commented this way, “May we never let the things we can’t have or don’t have or shouldn’t have spoil our enjoyment of the things we can have and do have.”
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So, we end by asking: What choice are you going to make? Are you going to make the personal decision to spend less than you earn? Or are you going to choose to spend more than you earn?
Where are you in the Financial Stages? And where do you WANT to be?
And if you’re wondering where to start, how to get a handle on your spending, or how to discern ways to direct your generosity to the mission of God, make sure to spend the next few weeks with us as we continue to learn from these Biblical principles.
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Because the good news is that money is a tool that God uses to transform us and transform our community through us.
God is our Abundant Provider. It all belongs to him. He provides enough for us to take care of our needs AND to be a part of the mission he calls us to.
God has entrusted all you have to you, and he’s inviting you to fully apprentice your whole life to him, so that you can learn, by his grace, how to take small steps of obedience so that your life is transformed to look more and more like Jesus every day.
Isn’t that good news?