February 25, 2023


Stewardship Messages ❧ Part 3

Selected Passages ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney

This morning we’re going to finish our brief series on financial stewardship. The one common thread woven through all these messages is the biblical concept of stewardship. Stewardship says I don’t own it, I’m just managing it for someone else. This concept is foreign to a lot of people simply because most of us don’t see ourselves as stewards but owners.  An owner says in his heart: This is mine.  My money, my home, my car, my clothes, my couch, my chair, my table, my refrigerator, my phone.  Much of the reason we see ourselves as owners has to do with our time and investment in all that we have.  I worked for what I have.  I saved for it. I paid for it.  I invested my time and effort to getting what I have.  

That all sounds appealing.  But there is one major flaw in this thinking. You’re really not the owner.  At most, you’re just the temporary manager.  The Bible says God is the Owner.  In fact, He owns it all. The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it(Psalm 24:1). 

There is another problem with seeing ourselves as owners – worry.  For many, their whole sense of identity, worth, security, and happiness are so wrapped up into what they “ownthat the very fear of losing it makes them want to end their lives.  The pandemic threat of Covid-19 really brought this home.  Lead author Prof. Eric Elbogen, from the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC. “Our research shows that financial stressors play a major role in suicides, and this needs to be recognized and appreciated in light of the unprecedented financial instability triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic,… he further speculates, We could well be seeing a dramatic increase in suicide rates moving forward.” Elbogen says people who are struggling with financial tress today have a 20-fold higher risk of attempting suicide than those who are not experiencing a financial strain. (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/financial-hardship-is-a-top-risk-factor-for-suicide-attempts). If you’re whole sense of identity, worth, and security are so wrapped up into what you own, creating ongoing stress, then it is a sure sign you have made money your god. 

Something significant happens in us when we stop viewing ourselves as owners and start seeing ourselves as we truly are – stewards.  Jesus points this out in Matthew 6.  He says, No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?(Matthew 6:24-25). What is Jesus saying? He’s saying the sooner we stop seeing ourselves as owners and start seeing ourselves as stewards, we’re going to have a lot less worry in our lives.  You’re so wrapped up in worrying about where you live, what you drive, how you dress, your priorities are messed up. 

Why is this message so important now? I don’t have to tell you we’re living in unprecedented times.  Everything is changing rapidly.  Wherever you look, we’re navigating uncharted territory whether government, politics, medicine, or finances. What was once normal isn’t.  Normal is a thing of the past.  People are desperately looking for security – especially financial security.  Best-selling author Robert Kiyosaki made an alarming statement about our nation’s longing for financial security. “When people are struggling financially, they are more willing to have a government save them, unwittingly exchanging their personal freedom for financial salvation.”  The willingness of many to sell their freedom in order to have financial security says they will give anything for their love of money – even their freedom.  Their love of money leading them down a disastrous path. 

Hundreds of years ago, when our world was still being explored, it is said medieval cartographers (mapmakers) sketched three simple words on the edges of their maps, “Here be dragons.” Those three words were used to describe the outer boundaries where knowledge ended, and speculation began. After drawing on all of his knowledge, the mapmaker could only write those three provocative words to convey that these areas were at best unexplored, and at worst, perilous.

Yet maps of that same era often held another image— The Lord Jesus Christ. For instance, The Psalter map (c. 1250), so called because it accompanied a copy of the book of Psalms, featured dragons on the bottom, as well as Jesus and the angels at the top. Such a map reminds us of the availability of “true north” as followers of Christ: Yes, there be dragons; but more importantly there is also Jesus. And we can follow him—and find our way.  Jesus said do not be worried about your life.  How can we confidently navigate our finances in today’s uncertain times? Six practical stewardship principles.  

  1. Understand the times.  We can no longer afford to think we’re in a temporary financial lull no different than our nation has experienced in years past.  It is easy to think we’ll get through this one just like the rest.  I’d like to believe that.  But it is clear we are navigating uncharted territory. We need to understand the times we live in and take them seriously.  It seems wherever you look there is no shortage of bad news.  It would be easy for us to stick our heads in the ground like ostriches and try to ignore the changing world around us.  But we can’t.  For a number of years there has been growing talk of replacing the US dollar with a global currency.  I’m not saying that it is going to happen.  But my point is we know the financial world is changing.  What we don’t want is to be caught flatfooted during a major change. We need to understand the times, so we don’t make quick financial decisions that in the words of Robert Kiyosaki we unwittingly exchange personal freedom for financial salvation. In other words, we cannot let the love of money dictate our priorities. The real salvation we need to be seeking with our money is the salvation of others.  Jesus reminds us in the parable of the shrewd manager.  Use your worldly resources to benefit others for Heaven (Luke 16:9, NLT).  

During the days of King David’s early reign, God placed around him a number of significant leaders from the tribes of Israel.  Two hundred of them were the sons of Issachar.  Of the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do(1 Chronicles 12:32, NAS).  God gave them wisdom to act in the best interest of His will for the times they lived in.  Understand the times.

  1. Record your finances. Know well the condition of your flocks and pay attention to your herds;

for riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations (Proverbs 27:23-24). Solomon wrote these words almost a thousand years before Jesus.  In those days, your wealth was tied up in livestock whether cows or sheep.  He is saying you have to keep track of your livestock in order to know where your money’s going.  Write things down.  

My grandfather once owned a large cattle ranch. I remember as a boy looking through his old ledgers that kept track of his livestock.  They were all carefully tallied up.  He understood the importance maintaining a careful inventory of his finances.  If he wanted to know where his money was going, he’d look at his records.  Have you ever said, “I don’t know where all my money goes!”  If you have, you’re in trouble.  God says, “Pay attention to your herds…” Inventory your finances.  Write things down.  

Beware of plastic money!  I recommend you get rid of all your plastic money and keep only one or two cards. Don’t buy unless you know you can pay it off.   

There are four things you need to know to inventory your finances: 1) You need to know what you own 2) You need to know what you owe 3) You need to know what you earn 4) You need to know where it goes.  If you don’t Proverbs 23:5 says what will happen: In the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle (Proverbs 23:5, NLT).  Record your finances.  If you don’t your money will sprout wings and fly away. 

  1. Plan your spending. The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty (Proverbs 21:5).  There’s a lot wrapped up in this verse.  Planning your spending means think carefully about what your spending, how much and where. Don’t overspend. 

I read this week according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that collectively, Americans owe a record high of $1.13 trillion on their credit cards.  Credit card delinquencies are also at a record high.  

Probably the greatest strain on marriages is the inability to handle finances. One of the first things I do with young couples wanting to get married is I have them prepare a budget and then I have them list their financial goals.  Notice he says the plans of the diligent  It’s not enough to make plans. You have to be diligent in following them.  You have to make a plan and stick to it in order to stay out of debt or get out of debt. That means you have to plan your spending as much as you can. 

One study revealed that the average American spends about six hours a week in shopping related activities.  In addition, the more educated you are, the more you shop.  Notice it says everyone who is hasty comes surely to povertyA lot of shopping is entertainment shopping and not need-based shopping.  It’s impulse shopping.  The moment we see the word “Sale” we get excited!  We think we’re getting a good deal.  But in reality, we’re not.  You know who’s really getting the good deal? The smart advertiser! The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets (Proverbs 21:20, TLB).  The truth is, most Americans spend more than they get!    

When our girls were little, we wanted them to learn to plan their spending.  When they had some money burning a hole in their pocket and they see something they wanted to buy, I encouraged them to walk away from it and think about it for a while.  More than once they’ve changed their minds about buying whatever it was.  One lady I read about puts her credit cards in a bowl of water in the freezer.  When she gets the urge to buy something, she has to wait for the ice to melt before she can spend it.  By that time, she’s probably changed her mind. 

How do you plan your spending? Make a budget.  A budget is simply a plan of how to manage and spend my money wisely.  Failing to plain is a plan to fail. A budget is tool for planning your spending. It’s telling your money where you want it to go.  A good budget will help you plan your way out of debt and into financial stability.  One of the ways we’ve used a budget in paying off our bills is we prioritize our most important debt being diligent about paying it off.  Once it’s paid off, we then apply the same money we allocated toward paying off that debt to the next important debt.  By doing that we accelerate paying off our debts.  Plan your spending. 

  1. Save for the future. There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up (Proverbs 21:20). This is the principle of saving.  How good at saving are you?  Most of us are not very good. Executive Director of Denver Institute for Faith and Work, Jeff Haanen says, Less than half of Americans have saved more than 10k for retirement and one-third have no retirement savings at all (Jeff Haanen, An Uncommon Guide to Retirement, p. 16).  As a little boy about five years old my father gave me a penny and challenged me to save that penny for a year without spending it.  He was kidding me, but I took him seriously! Save for the future.  

There are two futures we’re saving for: the future in this world and the future to come in Heaven.  John Wesley, the famous Methodist preacher was committed to investing in Heaven’s future. He believed he should do all the good he could with the money he earned.  For a time he taught at Oxford University.  In the beginning he made about 30 pounds a year ($8,295.97), a comfortable salary at that time for a single man.  He lived simply on this salary purchasing a some of pictures for his room until one cold winter day in 1731 he saw a chambermaid had nothing to keep her warm against the cold but a thin linen outer gown.  Seeing her unprotected against the cold impacted his view on giving. Reaching into his pocket and gave her some money.  Immediately, the thought struck him that the Lord was not pleased with the way he spent his money.  He asked himself, “Will thy Master say, ‘Well done, good and faithful steward?’ Thou hast adorned thy walls with the money which might have screened this poor creature from the cold! O justice! O mercy! Are not these pictures the blood of this poor maid?” From that time on, as his salary increased so did his giving.  His earnings eventually went from £30 pounds to £60, to £90, £120 and finally to £1,400 pounds (that is from $8,295. 97 [£30] to $387,145.00!).  When his income reached £1,400, he continued to live on £ 30 ($8,295) pounds giving away $378,849.23!  Wesley was didn’t want to store any treasures on earth.  As soon as the money came in, it went out.  He said he never had more than £100 pounds at any one time (https://seedtime.com/living-or-giving-more-financial-lessons-from-john-wesley). 

What was he doing?  He was saving for the future in Heaven! Wesley’s example may be extreme, but it shows how committed he was. Jesus said, Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal (Matt. 6:19-20, NLT).  Wisely save for the future in this life and the life to come. 

  1. Be content with what you have. If you live and spend your life for pleasure, you’ll become destitute.This is the principle of contentment.  He who loves pleasure will become a poor man… (Proverbs 21:17). Once upon a time, there was a man who lived with his wife, two small children, and his elderly parents in a tiny hut.  He tried to be patient and gracious, but the noise and the crowded conditions wore him down.  In desperation, he consulted the village wise man. “Do you have a rooster?” asked the wise man.  “Yes” replied the man.  “Keep the rooster in the hut with your family and come see me again next week.”  The next week, the man returned and told the wise elder that living conditions were worse than ever, with the rooster crowing and making a mess in the hut.  “Do you have a cow?”asked the wise elder.  The man nodded apprehensively. “Take your cow into the hut as well and come see me in a week.”  Over the next several weeks, the man — on the advice of the wise elder made room for a goat, two dogs, and his brother’s children.  Finally, he couldn’t take any more, and in a fit of anger, kicked out all the animals and guests, leaving only his wife, his children, and his parents.  Suddenly his home became spacious and quiet, and everyone lived happily ever after. Just as Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so human desire is never satisfied (Proverbs 27:20, NLT).  

We will never be fully satisfied in this life.  If we were, we would be in Heaven.  Ever since Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, we’ve been trying to make this world a substitute Eden.  It will never be perfect until we get to Heaven.  

Does that mean we can’t find contentment here? No. It means we need to stop expecting this to be Heaven.  But we can and are to be content for the here and now. Be sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you(Hebrews 13:5, NAS).  Be content with what you have. 

  1. Keep God first. Honor the LORD from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine (Proverbs 3:9-10).

Many think we should give 10% of our earnings following Abraham’s example in the OT when he gave a tenth or a tithe of all he had to Melchizedek.  Actually, if we gave what OT law required it would much more than10%; it would be about 23 1/3 %.  That’s not the point of the Proverb though.  It says we’re to give God the first of all your produce… In other words, God wants us to put Him first when it comes to our finances.  Why?  So, we’ll remember all we have comes from His hand in the first place.  It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it (Proverbs 10:22, NAS).

Dee and I decided to do this a long time ago.  We’ve discovered again and again if you put the bills first, the money seems to disappear.  We decided to put God first.  The harder it was financially, the more important was to make sure we gave first to God. The NT says it this way: You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7, NLT). 

By the way, if you’re struggling to give, but don’t feel like you can afford to, I have a solution.  One pastor had everyone stand during the offering and reach for the guy’s pocketbook in front of them.  Then he added, Now open the pocket book and give as you always wanted to, but felt you couldn’t afford. 

The point is: Keep God first. “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me! But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” (Malachi 3:8-10, NLT). God says, test Me. This is the only place God tells us to test Him.  He’s saying, “Put Me first and see if I don’t take care of you.”  I challenge you to put God first.  Trust Him.  

All six of these principles are important for financial stability. But there’s one missing point.  Why do we go into debt in the first place?  Isaiah 55 tells us: Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance.  Incline your ear and come to Me (Isaiah 55:2-3a, NAS).  The motivation of debt is the drive to be satisfied.  “If I just get this I’ll be satisfied.” If things really do bring satisfaction, then why are there so many people unsatisfied?  Why are they so empty?  Because things don’t ultimately satisfy.  Only God can satisfy our souls, our deepest longing. Jesus said it this way, “I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness” (John 10:10).  Only Jesus Christ can satisfy the deepest longing in our souls. 

error: Content is protected !!