Successful Christian Living, Pt 4 – Stewardship

Sermon Study Sheets

 Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

October 7, 2001

Successful Christian Living, Pt 4

Stewardship

INTRODUCTION

One of the pressures on Christians in the United States is the gross materialism of our society. The problem is not the financial prosperity of our nation. You will not find any Scriptures that speak of wealth as an evil of itself. The problem is the sinful heart of man which turns away from God and toward self-reliance and sinful pleasure. Wealth tends to aggravate this problem because the person’s needs are satisfied and they have greater resources and time in which to pursue their sinful desires. While we tend to complain about being overworked and under-payed, the truth is that when compared to other nations and history, we are a very wealthy people with an amazing amount of “free” time to pursue our own desires.

If we are going to live the Christian life successfully, then we must live differently than our society. We should not love the world or the things in the world and pursue the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. We should clearly understand the purpose of God creating us and saving us from our sins, and then set our goals on fulfilling those purposes.

A successful Christian is a person who has been saved from their sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and, as an adopted child of God, is bringing glory to His name by being conformed into the image of Jesus by submitting themselves to the will of God in faithfully pursuing holiness and blamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the good works He has prepared before hand.

This being true, then it is imperative that we develop the self-discipline needed to flee from sin and pursue holiness. We talked about this last week about being disciplined in our appetites including food and physical pleasure, and our use of time. This morning I want to expand on discipline in our finances, for unless we are also disciplined in this area we will not live a successful Christian life.

People often get nervous when preachers start talking about money because they are afraid that they are going to find his hand in their wallet. Please be at ease because you will not find my hand in your wallet. My God owns everything and he supplies my needs.

GOD DOES NOT NEED YOUR MONEY

God is Self-sufficient.

People in general tend to think that God is like they are. They think God is out to get something from them. But the truth is that while we have needs including food, shelter, clothing and relationships, God does not have any needs and He does not need anything from us. God is self-sufficient. He has no dependency on anything else. He is the great “I Am,” the self-existent One of Exod. 3:14. He has life in Himself (John 5:26). He has no need of anything physical and the triune Godhead already has perfect relationships with one another. God does not need you or anything from you.

God Owns it All

We must also understand that God owns it all. The heavens and everything under them belong to God (Dt. 10:14; Job 41:11; Ps. 24:1; 1 Cor. 10:26). Gold and silver do not impress Him. Wealth does not move Him. If you think you are doing God a favor when you give something toward His work, then be warned. That is pride and pride is an abomination to God. He does not need you or your money. The truth is the exact opposite.

YOU ARE A STEWARD

You Do Not Own Anything.

Since God owns it all, then you do not own anything. James 1:17 says, “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.” Everything you have comes from God. Everything you think you “own” is only on loan to you for the few short years of your life. Even your body is going to turn back to dust.

You Are a Dependent Creature

It is important that you understand that you are a dependent creature. It is God that gives to us. He is the one that provides our food (Ps. 136:25). He holds everything together – apart from Him nothing would exist (Col. 1:17). In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts. 17:28). God does not need us, but we need Him.

You are a Steward Who Will Be Held Accountable

You are a steward of all that God has entrusted to you. That means that though you get to use it, it all actually belongs to someone else, and at some point in the future you have to give an account of what you have done with what has been entrusted to you. In other words, God owns it all and has rights, and we are stewards and have responsibilities. A good steward is required to be faithful (1 Cor. 4:2). The successful Christian is going to seriously follow what God says about what we are to do with what He has entrusted to us. We should view every spending decision as spiritual, because in reality it is. Our fiances are part of the pursuit of holiness and doing the good works God has prepared for us to do. They are a tool for us to use, and a test to see if we can handle the more precious spiritual things (Lk. 16:11f)

MONEY IS A REFLECTION OF YOUR HEART

Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 “for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also . . .”. He added in verse 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” You will never handle anything less significant than money nor more revealing of your heart. Where is your treasure? What or who is your master?

The focus of our attention must not be what the world has to offer, but on the Lord Jesus Christ. Trying to gain a sense of success from what the world has to offer will always be fleeting and in the end be of no lasting value. God wants us to find our success in Him which is of eternal value. He wants the focus of our attention to be on Him. That is why Jesus promised in Matthew 6:33 that as we “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” What we need for life will be provided by God if we put Him first in our lives. An additional reward for this is living in a state of peace and contentment instead of anxiety about what is needed for life (Mt. 6:25f).

Those who use their finances to build their own kingdoms and pursue their own pleasures demonstrate that their heart is far from God. Those that give of their time, talents and finances in pursuit of righteousness and furthering God’s kingdom demonstrate a heart that loves God. Giving of your finances to the Lord’s work is a practical demonstration of your love and trust of God that He will provide for your needs. Your time schedule and your financial records will reveal your heart. What do yours say about your heart? Are you living in worry and anxiety or in God’s peace?

WE GIVE OFFERINGS, NOT PAY TITHES

It is important to understand that as Christians we live under the New Testament principle of grace and not under the Old Testament law. Christians are not commanded to tithe. That may seem heretical to some groups, but it is true. I have found it interesting that those who advocate tithing for Christians are selective in their tithes and limit it to ten percent. They fail to recognize that there were several different tithes prescribed in the Old Testament and that they were a form of taxation, so it was not just ten percent. There were also other things prescribed to be given. Total taxation estimates for the ancient Israelites range from 24-35%.

Abraham and Jacob are often used as examples of tithing since both either gave or promised to give ten percent. However, in both cases, these men gave freely and not under any compulsion. They are fine examples of giving, but Jesus pointed out the widow as the better example, because she gave all that she had (Luke 21:43-44).

The New Testament principle of giving is best described in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, “Now this [I say,] he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. 7 Let each one [do] just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Notice that it is as the individual decides in their own heart. There is no fee or percentage set. It is whatever you desire. The Biblical examples range from 10% to 100%, but again, it is whatever you decide in your own heart. Paul encourages the Corinthians to give bountifully because of the nature of God to bless. Verse 6 is reminiscent of Prov.3:5-10, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your body, And refreshment to your bones. 9 Honor the Lord from your wealth, And from the first of all your produce; 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.” You cannot out give God. He will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).

Notice as well the proper attitude for giving. It is not something that should be done grudgingly or out of compulsion. That is one of the reasons we use the “Faith Box” and do not pass an offering plate. We do not want people to give under the compulsion that comes when other people see what you are doing. In addition, we want people to give cheerfully. I have said it before, and I say it again now, if you can not give cheerfully to the Lord’s work, then please do not give. Giving is a privilege and an act of worship. God does not need your money, but He allows you to be involved in His work, and giving is part of that involvement. He wants your giving to be done cheerfully as part of your worship of Him. If you cannot give with thanksgiving, then it would be false worship, and we have no desire to promote that. Go get your heart right before you give.

PRIORITIES IN CHRISTIAN USE OF FINANCES

If we are going to be successful in the Christian life, then we must live it according to God’s priorities, including our finances. Just as we must be disciplined with our time if we are to reach our goals in life, so we must also be disciplined with our money.

I know that “budget” is scary word for some of you, but it is really a great blessing. The purpose of a financial budget is to set your financial priorities. How much better it is to decide before hand how you want to spend your money instead of falling prey to marketing experts and salesmen who get you to buy all sorts of stuff you don’t need and in the end you don’t want. We have garage sales to get rid of all that unwanted and unneeded stuff. How much better not to have purchased it to begin with. A budget helps you to do just that.

What then are God’s priorities in the use of our money? There are five general areas in a budget. Three of these are Biblically obligatory, (you must pay them), and two are discretionary.

Financial Obligations

Giving to Lord

The first area of financial obligation is giving to the Lord. While it is optional how much you give, for the Christian, giving itself is not optional. We are to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. This includes finances. We don’t wait to see what we have left before we give to God. We give out of our “firstfruits” as we purpose in our hearts and then trust the Lord to meet out needs.

Giving to the Lord’s work not only includes to the local church, but also meeting needs that you become aware of personally. 1 John 3:17 asks the rhetorical question, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” The answer of course is that it does not. This is a matter of the heart, not wealth. The Macedonian church gave for the relief of the poor in Jerusalem even though they were in poverty themselves. In fact they entreated Paul for the privilege (2 Cor. 8:1-5). Ephesians 4:28 tells us that part of the reason that we work is “in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.”

Paying Taxes

God does not say we have to be happy about paying our taxes, but He does say that we should pay them. This is an obligation, not an option. Jesus was questioned on this very issue and He said in Matthew 22:21, “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” Paul adds in Romans 13:7, 7 “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax [is due;] custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”

Paying our taxes also means we pay the full amount we owe. Men may think it fine to cheat on their taxes if they can get away with it, but we live according to God’s standard, not man’s. A couple of years ago, the man that figures my taxes for me as a personal ministry pointed out that because I had not paid enough quarterly on Estimated Tax, I would have to order another form and pay a penalty. I didn’t like it, but I ordered the form, figured out the penalty and sent in the check. Certainly we should take advantage of any legal deductions that we can, for that is simply good stewardship, but we do not inflate or deflate figures to our advantage. That is fraud. That is sin. Prov. 13:11 warns. “Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, But the one who gathers by labor increases it.” My position and your position as being representatives of Jesus Christ is more important than any amount of money we might keep for ourselves by trying to beat the tax code.

Debt Retirement

What does the Bible say about debt? Well, it does not say it is a sin, but it does discourage it because of its ramifications.

The first ramification for the Christian is that it always has to be repaid. Psalm 37:21, “The wicked borrows and does not pay back. But the righteous is gracious and gives.” This means that we must be very careful what we take out loans for, because it all must be paid back. Prov. 22:26,27 adds, “Do not be among those who give pledges. Among those who become sureties for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, Why should he take your bed from under you.”

What a difference there would be if people really honored their commitments and paid back the loans they took out. Bankruptcy has become too easy of a way out for too many people. The only time the Christian should go into bankruptcy is when forced to do so by their creditors and even then they seek to repay all they possibly can for the sake of righteousness.

Let me give you four other ramifications of debt.

1. The interest works against you. That is, your debt level can increase. The price you actually pay for an item escalates rapidly. For example, a 15 year $100,000 mortgage at 10% APR compounded monthly will cost you at total of $193,000. A 25 year loan at the same rate will cost you $272,000 total. A $15,000 three year car loan at 12% will cost you a total of $17,935, and a five year loan it will cost a total of $20,020. If you maintain the average credit card debt of $3,800, at even a good rate of 12%, interest will cost you $482 per year. If you have that amount on a store card which may have a 20% rate it will cost you $912. Do you really have that much extra money to afford that type of interest payment?

2. Debt becomes a trap. Why? Because it is hard to live, pay the interest and pay down the debt. And if your debt was caused from having too high a lifestyle then you invariably continue to increase the debt in the effort to maintain that life style.

3. Debt mortgages the future. What could have been savings and/or discretionary income is paid out in interest and with it the money for investment and future purchases. In a sense you become a slave to it and to your creditors.

Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower [becomes] the lender’s slave.” The point of this proverb is that the rich rule over the poor because the poor become indebted to the rich when they borrow from them. If we define slavery as working for another without being paid wages, consider how many hours a week you must work to earn money to pay interest. You are a slave for that amount of time. The Research Institute of America reports that the average American family pays 1/4 of its spendable income on debt!

4. Debt affects your spiritual life. Debt is often symptomatic of other problems including greed, self-indulgence, impatience, fear, lack of self-discipline, etc. Credit card debt, consumer debt and often even high mortgage debts usually arise because the person is seeking after the things of this world which, as we have already talked about, is not what Christians should be pursuing. As Jesus put it in Matt. 6, those are the things the Genti1es\ungod1y seek after. Jesus adds in Luke 12:15, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”

Business debt and investment debt can also be a problem because too often it is pursued in get rich-quick schemes. It is faster to borrow than to save. Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage. But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.”

Let me give you five questions that should be answered before you borrow for anything.

1. Does it make economic sense?

2. Do my spouse and I have unity about taking on this debt?

3. Do I have spiritual peace of mind?

4. What personal goals and values am I meeting with this debt that can be met in another other way?

5. Have I sought Godly counsel concerning it?

These areas, Giving, Taxes and Debt Retirement are not optional for the Christian. What is optional is the amount we spend in our standard of living and accumulating wealth.

Discretionary Expenditures

Living Expenses

Obviously there are necessary expenses in daily living, but the amount spent on that will vary dramatically from person to person depending on the lifestyle they are trying to maintain. Your mortgage or rent will be directly related to the size and location of your home. Your utility bills will be directly related to your tolerance for heat or cold. You may need a car, but there is a big price difference between a Ford Taurus and any Mercedes. Your food bill will be directly related to the amount and quality of the food as well as who prepares it. Hamburger is still less expensive that Porterhouse steak and a bag of frozen peas is still less expensive than canned vegetables or broccoli in cheese sauce. All of these are less expensive if you cook them and eat them at home than eating them in a restaurant. These are necessary expenditures for living expenses, but there is a lot of discretion in how much we actually spend on “necessary” items.

There are also all the completely discretionary expenditures in the cost of living. How much we spend on entertainment, vacations, sports, hobbies, snack foods, gifts, etc. The amazing thing is that many of these items are thought to be necessary by some people. I know pastors who live on less than what some people spend as discretionary income. It is not that any of these things are evil themselves, but the Christian has to discern not only between what is good and evil, but also between good, better and best.

The tragedy for many people is that their expenditures do not match what they will say is important in their lives. Because of a lack of discipline, they end up wasting their financial resources on things that will not help them reach their goals in life. If you are not already living on a budget, then I challenge you to keep track of where you spend your money for two months and then compare that to your goals. You will be shocked at the waste, but hopefully it will motivate you to be more self-disciplined with your finances. I don’t think any of us really want to stand before the Lord some day and have Him point out that we spent more on our own comfort and pleasures than we did in worshiping Him and advancing His kingdom. I dare say that many of you probably spend more per year on junk and fast food than you do on Christian books and materials that will help you know and walk with God.

Accumulation of Wealth is the last general area for a budget. There are two proper reasons for investment and the accumulation of wealth investment. First, is to create additional wealth for God’s work. Those in Acts 4:34 were selling off real estate investments to provide for current needs among God’s people. Investing to serve God better requires that you first give to meet the current needs God places on your heart, and then invest what is beyond that for future needs. How many of you have considered the church or a missions organization in your will?

Second is to provide for family responsibilities. 1 Tim. 5:8 tells us that a man that does not provide for his family is worse than an infidel. Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,” of course the best inheritance to pass on is a good name (Prov. 22:1). This requires that the family first live on less than their income so that there is a surplus to invest. The investment must be done with the right attitude for the right reasons. There needs to be a purpose for the savings, otherwise we can rationalize nearly anything and squander the accumulated wealth.

In 1 Timothy 6:6-11 Paul warned and admonished, “But godliness [actually] is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. 11 But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance [and] gentleness.

Let us be lovers of God instead of money. Let us become disciplined in our use of finances so that we may be found living the Christian life successfully in pursuing holiness and blamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the good works He has prepared before hand.

Sermon Study Sheets

KIDS CORNER

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) How many times is the word “steward” 2) Talk with your parents about being a steward and what you can give God.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is a successful Christian? What does it mean that God is self-sufficient? What does God own? What does God provide you? What does it mean to be a steward? What does your use of money reflect about your heart? Research: Describe the different “tithes” of the Mosaic law. Why aren’t Christians required to tithe? What principles do Christians follow in their giving? What are the Biblical examples of godly giving? What financial obligations do Christians have? Why do Christians pay all their taxes? When it is okay for a Christian to get a loan? What warnings does the Bible give about debt? When can a Christian file for bankruptcy? What are the ramifications of debt? How much debt are you in? How long will it take you to get out? What are discretionary expenditures? What are “necessary” living expenses? What control to you have over how much is spent on them? What are discretionary living expenses? What percentage of your income is spent on them? Why should a Christian save? Do you have a budget? Why or why not? How can you be a better steward than you are now?

Sermon Notes – 10/7/2001 A.M.

Successful Christian Living, Pt. 4: Stewardship – Selected Scripture

INTRODUCTION

A successful Christian is a person who has been saved from their sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and, as an adopted child of God, is bringing glory to His name by being conformed into the image of Jesus by submitting themselves to the will of God in faithfully pursuing holiness and blamelessness along with serving the Lord in doing the good works He has prepared before hand.

GOD DOES NOT NEED YOUR MONEY

God is Self-sufficient (Exod. 3:14; John 5:26)

God Owns it All (Dt. 10:14; Job 41:11; Ps. 24:1; 1 Cor. 10:26)

YOU ARE A STEWARD

You Do Not Own Anything (James 1:17)

You Are a Dependent Creature (Ps. 136:25; Col. 1:17; Acts. 17:28)

You are a Steward Who Will Be Held Accountable (1 Cor. 4:2; Lk. 16:11f)

MONEY IS A REFLECTION OF YOUR HEART (Matthew 6:21 – 24)

Matthew 6:33

WE GIVE OFFERINGS, NOT PAY TITHES

Total taxation estimates for the ancient Israelites range from 24-35%.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7

Biblical examples of giving range from 10% (Abraham) to 100% (the widow in Luke 21)

Prov.3:5-10

PRIORITIES IN CHRISTIAN USE OF FINANCES

Financial Obligations

Giving to Lord1 John 3:17; 2 Cor. 8:1-5; Ephesians 4:28

Paying TaxesMatthew 22:2;1 Romans 13:7

Debt Retirement Psalm 37:21; Prov. 22:26,27

Ramifications of Debt:

1. The interest works against you

2. Debt becomes a trap

3. Debt mortgages the future (Proverbs 22:7)

4. Debt affects your spiritual life (Luke 12:15)

Discretionary Expenditures

Living Expenses

Would you really want to stand before the Lord some day and have Him point out that you spent more on your own comfort and pleasures than you did in worshiping Him and advancing His kingdom?

Accumulation of Wealth (1 Tim. 5:8; Proverbs 13:22; Prov. 22:1)

1 Timothy 6:6-11


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