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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
May 7, 2006
Christian Stewardship, Pt. 1
This morning I would like to pick up where we left off last week in our series on finances by expanding on how to have financial peace. There are many things that could cause us to worry about the security of our financial future if we do not have the right state of mind. Consider the following.
In 1986 the national debt was $2 Trillion. In 1996 it was close to $5 trillion. Today it is over $8 trillion. That is just shy of $28,000 for every man, woman and child in our country. At a repayment of $1 million per day, it would take over 22,000 years to pay back the debt. At $1 billion per day it would still take 22 years. “Someone must pay this debt through a literal repayment (future taxes), a deceitful repayment (future inflation) or cancellation (political upheaval). There are no other alternatives. The debt will not merely disappear.” – Ron Blue
To quote Professor Alexander Tyler of Great Britain (c. late 1700’s) commenting about the Athenian Republic,
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves a largesse from the (public) treasury. From that moment on, the majority will always vote for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy and is always followed by a dictatorship.
The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through this sequence: From BONDAGE to SPIRITUAL FAITH; from SPIRITUAL FAITH to GREAT COURAGE; from GREAT COURAGE to ABUNDANCE; from ABUNDANCE to SELFISHNESS; from SELFISHNESS to COMPLACENCY; from COMPLACENCY to APATHY; from APATHY back again into BONDAGE.
The government is not the only one overspending. CONSUMER & CREDIT CARD DEBT
Total consumer debt in Oct. 2003 was $1.9773 Trillion – that was $18,654 per household. In 2004 43% of Americans spent more than they earned averaging $1.22 spent for every $1.00 earned. In 2004 there was $800 billion of outstanding credit card debt. Average credit card debt in 1990 was $2,550. The average in 2004 was $8,000. In 2004, the average American has 2.7 bank cards & 3.8 retail for a total of 6.3 credit cards. 40% of credit card holders pay off the entire balance each month. 57% do not. 3% are more than 30 days delinquent.
Did you know that for several decades Sears had made more by providing their customers with credit than from the actual merchandise sales? In 2004, Visa & Master Charge collected $27 billion in interchange fees. Last year, Bank of America alone made $9.4 billion in credit card related revenues. If you add the profits made by all the major credit cards together their profit was about $208 million per day in 2004. That is up from $34.5 million per day 20 years earlier. Now you know why you keep getting those credit card applications in the mail!
Of people with financial problems:
40% have borrowed more money than they can even make payments on.
According to financial consultant James Rickard, there are two characteristics of a doomed economy. 1. Overspending 2. Using credit to do it. If you were not anxious before, you probably are now! But wait, there’s more.
These figures are from 20 years, but I doubt that they have improved. Of Americans retiring at age 65: 2% – financially independent. 30% – depend on charities. 23% must continue to work. 45% – depend on relatives. It has also been said that fewer men are worth as much at age 68 than they were at age 18. In other words, after 50 years of working they saved less than a teenager who worked a couple of years at an entry level part time job. It has also been calculated that 11 out of 12 wives will become widows and will remain widows for an average of 11.5 years. The average age of becoming widows was 52.
In 85% of divorces, the reason has something to do with money
Last week we examined our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 6 regarding finances. My emphasis was to show why the Christian does not need to worry about the things necessary for life. To review briefly, in verses 19-21 Jesus warned us about laying up our treasures on earth where they could be destroyed or stolen. In addition He warned that our hearts would be where our treasure was located. Is your heart set on the things of earth or on the things of heaven? In vs 22-24 Jesus stated plainly that a man could not serve two masters. Though men like to think of themselves as autonomous, the truth is that they are going to serve either God or mammon – the riches of this earth. Your master will be the one that you obey (cf. Rom. 6).
In verse 25 Jesus commanded us not be anxious & worried about the necessities of life. Our minds should not be pre-occupied with what we will eat and drink or the clothes we will wear. He went on to explain that the God that takes care of the birds and the flowers would also take care of you. Psalm 104 explains that God extends His grace to all mankind and provides for both man and beast. That is God’s nature and his general response to His creation, but it is not a promise to every individual within creation.
Matthew 6:33 is a special, but conditional promise for those that will follow Him. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” For those who make God’s kingdom and living in personal holiness as a reflection of that kingdom the first priority in their lives, God promises to meet all their needs for life. Maslow’s pyramid may describe the unregenerate who are left to provide for themselves, but for all who strive to be godly, the primary need is not food, clothing and shelter, it is God Himself. God wants us to be occupied with Him and not how we will gain the mundane needs of life.
The solution to financial anxiety then is to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness and learn to trust Him for our needs in the present and the future. That is easy to say, but it is not so easy to live that out. Over the next few weeks I want to tackle some of the various reasons that we do have a hard time trusting God for our finances. To tell someone in financial distress “don’t worry, trust God,” reduces Biblical truth into a cliche that may or may not have application to their life. If they are not seeking God first, then they have reason to worry. And even if the statement is true for them it gives little practical direction about how they are supposed to respond and what they are supposed to do with their finances. I want to explain practical ways of how we are to be Biblically wise with our finances. The use of Biblical wisdom is one of the ways in which we do seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.
The first issue to tackle is our understanding of success. Let’s face it. Everyone here wants to be a success. No one strives to be a failure. What is success? Webster says, “a favored or desired outcome; also: the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence 3: one that succeeds (which means, one that “attains a desired object or outcome.”
True success then is to have a goal in mind and achieve that goal. The question then becomes, “what are the proper goals?” Too often, we get caught up in the “American dream” and tend to think of success in terms of accumulation of great wealth or position. We set our sights on achieving particular financial goals and accumulating certain objects. That is why we tend to worry so much about material things. We are successful if we have a nice house of a particular size in the suburbs. We are successful if we have a particular type of car. We are successful if our home is filled with all sorts of items that will bring us comfort, convenience and entertainment. Electronic gadgets are often high on that list, but of course with them we also know that true success only comes when you can also find the right remote control to operate all the stuff!
One of the reasons people are anxious about their finances and their lives is that they are operating with the wrong definition of success. They are using the world’s standards instead of God’s. The Christian is to have a very different definition of success because we have very different goals we are trying to achieve. Success for the believer should not be defined in terms of materialism, or for that matter, fame, power, or pleasure either.
Christian Goals : What goals should a Christian have? There are three
3. To serve God and man (Mk 10:45; Matt. 22:37, 39)
1. In Matthew 22:35-38 Jesus responds to a question and reveals the foremost goal for a Christian. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him [a question,] testing Him, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment.
This is to be the priority of life though it is the exact opposite of mankind’s inherent sinful, selfish nature. Man loves himself, and so his ideas of success will revolve around what gives him fame, fortune, power and pleasure. The pressure of the world is great so that even Christians are enticed by these ideas of success, but with the aid of the Holy Spirit we become less self-centered and more God centered as we walk with Christ. Our goals become less and less concerned about our fame, fortune, power and pleasure and more and more centered on God’s will, His glory, pleasing Him and seeing His power demonstrated.
2. For the Christian then, true success may be well defined as becoming conformed to the image of Jesus Christ for Jesus did do God’s will, glorified and pleases Him and demonstrated His power. Romans 8:29 tells us that one of the inherent aspects to salvation itself is to become like Jesus. Success then for the believer is not defined in terms of doing it your own way, but doing it God’s way and becoming like Jesus Christ. Your character is to become reflective of His character. You are not successful when people are impressed with your position, what you own or what you have done, but rather when they can see Jesus Christ living in you.
3. The outcome of loving God and becoming like Jesus Christ is being a servant of God and other people. Jesus added to the Great Commandment in Matthew 22:37 that the “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ James 2:8 calls this the “royal law.” Paul says that keeping this commandment would fulfill all the law including the law of Christ spoken about in Galatians 6:2. Jesus said in Mark 10:45, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” In serving others the Christian becomes reflective of Jesus Christ.
Success then is not how many people you have under your authority, but how well you serve God and other people.
What does all this have to do with finances? Simply this. Our financial state is no longer a measure of success. The accumulation of wealth is no longer a goal in life but simply a means to an end which is to serve God and others.
All this makes even more sense when look at the second issue we must tackle. We do not “own” anything. We are simply stewards / administrators / managers / trustees of what God has loaned to us the short time we are here on this earth.
Turn to Matthew 25:14. I want to show you four principles that arise from The Parable of the Talents.
First, God owns it all (Matt. 25:14-19) 14 “For [it is] just like a man [about] to go on a journey, who called his own slaves, and entrusted his possessions to them. 15 “And to one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16 “Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17 “In the same manner the one who [had received] the two [talents] gained two more. 18 “But he who received the one [talent] went away and dug in the ground, and hid his master’s money. 19 “Now after a long time the master of those slaves ^came and ^ settled accounts with them.
The “it” referred to is the kingdom of heaven and the “owner” referred to is Jesus Christ who was about to go away and return in the future. There are three sub-points to the principle found here that God owns it all.
A. God is the owner & has rights and we are stewards and have responsibilities. The talents belonged to the owner and not the slaves. The slaves had a responsibility to carry out the owner’s desires.
B. Every spending decision is spiritual. Since the money is not yours, but simply what God has entrusted to you, every use of it should be reflective of God’s desires and not just your own.
C. Your checkbook (receipts) reveals your heart. Remember that Jesus said in Matt 6:21 that where your treasure is, there will be your heart also. Christian financial counselor Jim Rickard has well said, “We will never handle anything less significant than money, nor more outwardly indicative of our inward spiritual condition.”
Second, We are in a growth process (Matt 25:20-21). 20 “And the one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me; see, I have gained five more talents.’ 21 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things, enter into the joy of your master.’
As the servant was faithful with a little he could be entrusted with much more and that is growth. Three sub-points to this principle are that money, & material possessions are:
A. A TOOL – Philippians 4:11,12. Paul learned to be content in God’s provision. “Not that I speak from want: for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” Paul grew through his experiences. We are to grow through ours. You are not as mature as you will be in the future, but you are to be more mature than you were in the past.
B. A TEST- Luke 16:11,12. “If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who will entrust the true riches to you. And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? Your use of your finances test your ability to handle the more precious spiritual things. If you can properly handle the relatively unimportant material things of this life, all of which are temporal, then God will entrust to you the care of spiritual things which are of eternal value. If you cannot, then God will not entrust the true riches to you. Again, this is not a matter of you succeeding by the worlds standards, but rather you succeeding according to God’s standards. Outward signs of wealth are not indicators of spiritual maturity. They are often signs of the opposite. The issue is your trust of God and using what He has entrusted to you wisely for His purposes instead of squandering it according to your own pleasures.
C. A TESTIMONY – Matthew 5:14-16. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” As you use your material resources with Godly wisdom to achieve spiritual goals – God’s kingdom and His righteousness – then you bring praise to God. You become a testimony to Him as He works through you.
Third, it is not the amount of finances but the manner in which they are used that is important. Matthew. 25:22-23 – “The one also who [had received] the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted to me two talents; see, I have gained two more talents.’ 23 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave; you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
Success from God’s point of view can be achieved regardless the size of your bank account or assets. The amount of money you earn does not impress God whether it is $20,000; $40,000; $60,000; $100,000 or even $ 1 million per year. God’s concern is your faithfulness. This issue is your stewardship of what He has entrusted to your care.
Fourth, Faith Requires action. Matthew 25:24-30: 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, `Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; 25 ‘And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground; see, you have what is yours.’ 26 “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I scattered no [seed.] 27 ‘Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my [money] back with interest. 28 ‘Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’ 29 “For to everyone who has shall [more] be given, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 “And cast out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
If you do not actively put your trust in the Lord’s promise to provide then you demonstrate your lack of faith. How is such faith put into action? You must actively and deliberately put God’s kingdom and His righteousness first in the manner in which you live your life. Even your financial decisions are to be made with God’s kingdom and righteousness in mind. You then trust Him to fulfill His promise and take care of your needs for the common necessities of life. This action begins with prayer as described in Phil. 4:6,7 which tells us “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” As my mind is controlled by the Holy Spirit and my thoughts are centered on God’s will and not my own, then I can and will follow through on the action of putting God’s kingdom and righteousness first. It becomes a matter of faith and priority.
The story of David Livingstone is largely forgotten today except that he was a great African explorer of the mid 1800’s who had not been heard from for several years but was eventually found by Henry Stanley. At 10 years old Livingstone began working 14 hour days in a cotton mill. He had an interest in learning and would spend any free time reading. He became a Christian early in life and set his heart on being a medical missionary. At 23 he was able to begin studies while continuing to work between sessions. He lived frugally and learned to trust God to meet his needs. Seven years later he left for South Africa where those lessons would be put to even greater test.
Livingstone suffered many personal disappointments and trials over the course of his life. There were times he was financially destitute. There were people who failed to keep their promises, those who turned against him, and not only the hardships of ministry, but also of exploring wilderness to bring the gospel to people who had never heard. He suffered personal sickness, sometimes severe. Then there was the death of his beloved wife. Yet in all of this he kept his focus on the mission to which God had called him. He wrote in his diary on his birthday the year before he died, “. . .my Jesus; King; my Life; my All. I again dedicate my whole self to Thee. Accept me, and grant, O gracious Father, that ere the year is gone I may finish my work. . . “. A year later he was found on his knees dead. He died praying. It was said of him” “He needs no epitaph to guard a name Which men shall prize while worthy work is known; He lived and died for good – be that his fame; Let marble crumble: this is Living – Stone.”
He did not acquire the world’s goods or anything the world would define as success. Even the great fame he gained as a great explorer was only used to further his mission in Africa. He turned away from all the personal benefits that acclaim could have brought him to return to Africa and continue his mission is obscurity. But he was a great success according to God’s standards.
Success in life is not determined by your financial state. It is determined by your love of God, by how much your reflect Jesus Christ in your daily life, and by how faithful you are at serving God and others. You need to set both your long term and short term goals to achieve true success. The spiritual health of yourself, your family and those around you is much more important than your comfort and prestige. That does not mean that you cannot spend money on things just because you enjoy them, but it does mean that the priorities God has set must be fulfilled first. What are your goals?
Remember, you do not own anything. You only control it temporarily and then you will be called before God to given an account of how you used it. What will you say? Praise the Lord that He is gracious and merciful, and if we ask He will forgive us for our failures to live according to His will, but even so, let each of us resolve that from this point on we will press forward as God’s stewards in putting His kingdom and His righteousness first in our lives.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch.
Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up. 2) Count how many money and finances are mentioned. Talk with your parents about how you can be a good success in life.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
How much is the National Debt? What is the average amount of consumer debt (excluding mortgage)? What is your debt load? How much of that is on credit cards? How long will it take you to pay your credit cards off? Your personal loans? What does it mean to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”? What are the benefits of doing that? How does society define success? How do you define success? How does God define success? What are your goals in life? What should be the goals of a Christian? What, if anything, should change? What does it mean to “own” something? If we do not actually “own” anything, then who does and what is our responsibility to Him? Are all spending decisions spiritual? Why or why not? What do your receipts (checkbook, credit statements, etc.) reveal about you? How does God use our finances to help us grow? How can you learn to be content? How do your finances test your faith? How does your use of finances bring glory to God? What is God’s primary concern about your use of your finances? What is the nature of a faith that has no corresponding action? How does God respond to such a person? Who was David Livingstone and what did he do? What was the world’s view of him? What was God’s view of him? What will you need to do in order to be “successful” in life? What will God say to you when you stand before Him?
Sermon Notes – April 30, 2006
Christian Stewardship, Part 1- Matthew 25:14-30
Review – Matthew 6:19-34
Ownership – Matthew 25:14-30
2. We are in a Growth Process – vs. 20-21
A. A Tool – Phil. 4:11,12
B. A Test – Luke 16:11,12
C. A Testimony – Matthew 5:14-16
3. It is not the Amount, but the Manner of Use – vs. 22-23
4. Faith Requires Action – vs. 24-30
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