Last weekend we kicked off a brand new series called #LifeMoneyHope, because so many of us feel like our financial situation is hopeless. And we looked at a passage from the Bible in 1 Timothy 6 that challenged us not to put our hope in money, but to put our hope in God, who richly provides.
Sometimes people are critical of pastors and churches when they talk about issues related to money, so maybe you wonder why are we even bothering to talk about it?
We’re talking about it because Jesus talked about it. In fact, when you read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus hardly ever mentions heaven or hell, but He talks about money all of the time.
Do you know why? It’s because the chief competitor with your Heavenly Father for your heart is money. Most of us aren’t trying to choose between following Satan and following God. That’s not what we struggle with.
We struggle with letting money become our top priority rather than keeping Jesus as our top priority. Jesus said “Where your treasure is, your heart is.” He wants your treasure, because He knows that if you give Him your treasure, your heart will follow.
In his sermon, Gene described economic atheists as people who believe in God, who may attend church and small group and might even unleash compassion, but they won’t give God control of their money. They hold that back from Him. Are you an economic atheist? (And let’s be honest, almost all of us are to some degree or another. The real question is how much of an economic atheist are you?)
The first section of the Bible, the Old Testament, is something we often skip over because this ancient text can be confusing to modern readers. The book of Leviticus in particular can be particularly challenging, with its myriad of rules about what cloth mixtures one can and can’t wear and its instructions about how to deal with infectious disease.
While it would be a mistake to try to apply all of the rules we find in Leviticus directly to our lives—goodbye cotton polyester blend shirts—what we can do is look at the why behind those rules. What do they communicate to us about God, about ourselves, and how God has ordered the world?
God has provided us with two economic “fences,” guidelines that, if we follow them, will dramatically improve our financial and spiritual health.
Fence #1: Live within your budget.
Have a volunteer read Leviticus 19:9-10, 13b
Here we see three distinct groups of people:
The poor and the foreigner
The hired worker
In God’s economy, each of those people is provided for. The landowner has their crops, but they’re not supposed to harvest 100% of everything they can, because the poor and the immigrants and the refugees need to have something to eat as well. And the people who are hired to work the land? The landowner needs to pay them on time, so that they’re provided for as well.
But no matter where we look on the economic scale, so many people don’t live within their means, so you have poor immigrants and wealthy landowners alike who don’t have “enough.”
Do you live within your means? Or are you always stretching your spending beyond what is wise? What has been the result of your financial choices?
There is one very simple financial plan that anyone can follow that’s based on the wisdom of God’s Word and the advice of financial counselors. It’s the 10/10/80 plan.
You give the first 10% of all of your income to God.
You save the next 10% of your income.
You live on the remaining 80% of your income.
Most of us do the opposite. We spend money to live. Then we see if there’s anything we can save. And we give from the crumbs that are left over. We don’t trust that God can do more with 90% of our income than we can do with 100% of it. And we don’t give ourselves margin, breathing room so that when something goes wrong, which it inevitably does, we aren’t ruined.
How would your life change if you were to implement the 10/10/80 plan? What changes would you need to make to do that? If you are already on that plan or one like it, do you need to make any changes to increase your percentage of giving or saving even beyond 10%?
Fence #2: Honor the economic cycle.
Have a volunteer read Leviticus 19:23-25.
God’s economic cycle has three phases: sow, grow, and harvest. You plant, cultivate for growth (which often involves painful pruning), and then reap the rewards.
In the “sow” phase, people are sowing into you. Your parents, your teachers, your professors, your aunts and uncles, people are teaching you, feeding you, clothing you, and housing you. Others are investing in you.
But that investment comes to an end. You enter the “grow” season, when you need to spend time investing in your career, saving your money. You will often have to live more simply than your parents do, perhaps more simply than you did growing up. This is the season that you’re in during your 20s and 30s at the least, and very possibly longer.
But if you grow well, if you invest and save and work, then you find yourself in a season of “harvest,” when you can reap the rewards of your hard work.
We all like the harvest season best, but if we begin harvesting before we should, we end up owing more than we make. And instead of allowing God to control our finances, our finances control us. We find ourselves under constant stress and pressure because of our financial situation. We may compromise our ethics because we feel like we’re drowning financially.
Which economic season of life are you in right now: sow, grow, or harvest? What can you do during this season to prepare yourself for the next season? Is there anything you need to shift to make sure you aren’t entering the harvest season before you’re truly ready?
Virtually everyone could take steps to be better stewards of the money that God has entrusted to us.
If you’re in the sowing season, you’re preparing for the rest of your life. Working hard at school, learning how to make wise financial decisions at an early age so that you don’t dig yourself a hole you can’t get out of for years.
If you’re in the growing season, you’re making decisions about your lifestyle that will impact whether you’re able to thrive during harvest season or whether you have to continue to toil, to continue to plant and cultivate because you have nothing to harvest.
And harvest season is where there’s the greatest temptation to simply say, “Everything is fine. I have enough,” but even then, if you don’t give God control of your money, your money will control you. You may need to evaluate your budget to ensure you’re giving generously, not simply spending everything that you have on yourself.
What next steps do you need to take financially? Do you need to make a budget? Cut back on expenses? Give more? Save more? Find a second job? Go back to school?
Spend a few minutes creating a plan to reach that next step. Make sure that you’re setting SMART goals. SMART goals are:
Specific – You’re clearly stating what you’re going to do. For instance, don’t say my goal is to “Do better with my finances.” Say, “My goal is to cut back on expenses so that I can give more away.”
Measurable – Make sure you can measure whether or not you’ve hit your goal. Don’t just set a goal to cut back on expenses, set a goal to cut the money you spend on going out to eat by 20%.
Achievable – Don’t make your goal so hard that there’s no way you are going to accomplish it. If you’re used to going out to eat every night, deciding that you’re never going to go out to eat is probably unrealistic.
Requires Faith – The goal should be achievable, but don’t make it so easy that there’s no point to setting the goal. Cutting the money you spend on going out to eat by 1% can be done by ordering water instead of soda one time. There’s no point. Your goal should stretch you.
Timely – Put a date on the calendar by which you’re going to accomplish your goal. Don’t just say you’re going to cut spending on going out to eat by 20%, say you’re going to do it by July 1.