Jesus and Money
In Luke 16:1-13, we have an example of Jesus’ teaching about money. There’s a difference of opinion as to what exactly Jesus is commending about the manager in the story but the application of the parable is very clear: (1) all of us will be called to give an account of how we have served him and what we have done with our resources; (2) preparation for that day of account should involve wise use of our resources, especially in the area of finances; and (3) wise use of resources, demonstrating a life of true discipleship, will be rewarded with eternal life and joy. Jesus then added a few other lessons after he finished the story: (1) How we handle small things is an indicator of how we will handle larger things (vs.10); (2) God looks at how we manage the financial resources (‘worldly wealth’) he puts in our hands to determine how much spiritual responsibility (‘true riches’) he will give us (vs.11). Money is a test of spiritual maturity. It reveals our heart and the quality of our character; (3) How we handle or manage other people’s things is a test of our character and maturity (vs.12). If we can’t do well with what belongs to another person, we probably won’t be given our own; (4) Finally, Jesus observes that you can’t serve God and money, in the sense of making an ultimate commitment to both at the same time. Obviously, Jesus is saying that a real test of our discipleship is our attitude towards and our management of our finances. You can tell a lot about a person by how they spend their money. It’s more than just numbers. It reflects values. As part of another teaching on money, Jesus said, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” In other words, your money follows the desires and values of your heart.
Jesus talked about money and possessions in 16 out of 38 parables and 1 out of every 10 verses in the gospels refer to this topic. He talked more about possessions and money than about heaven and hell combined. He did this because how we handle our money matters.Your Personal Money Makeover
We live in one of the richest countries in the world. Over half of the world’s population lives on just a few dollars a day. Every one of us is ‘rich’ in comparison. Yet despite that fact, many Australians, including many Christians, are under financial pressure. When we experience financial difficulties, every area of our life is affected. Thankfully, there are biblical principles to help us achieve financial freedom and for living wisely on the resources we have.
On the negative side, the Bible teaches us that money can become like a monster that rules our life if we allow it to. Money can be addictive (Ecc.5:10), deceptive (Mt.13:22) and destructive (1 Tim.6:9-11), and it’s only temporal (Lk.12:16-21). Money can be difficult to master and that’s why the Bible says that the “love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim.6:10). If you don’t control your money, it will control you and it has the potential to destroy you. Riches can be a threat to your relationship with God. That’s why the Bible has many warnings about the dangers of wealth. You don’t have to have money to love it. Both poor people and rich people can be lovers of money. So, should we all be poor? Not at all. God doesn’t mind us having money as long as our money doesn’t have us. Money is not the problem; it’s our attitude towards it. Money is essential for survival and the expansion of God’s kingdom. It depends on our motives, our priorities and our values.
On the positive side, the Bible teaches us that if we serve God, money can become a blessing in our life. The Bible shows us that God desires to bless his people. God prospers us for a purpose. Money can meet our basic needs (Dt.8:10-20), provide for our enjoyment (Ecc.5:19) and enable us to meet the needs of others (1 Tim. 6:17, 18) and resource God’s work on the earth.A Financial Assessment
About 10 years ago, we shared a series of messages focused on a personal money makeover. It’s worth looking at this again. A money makeover starts with an assessment of where you are at right now financially. You will benefit from a very simple financial check-up. This is what you need to know about your finances:
1. What you own – your assets. This includes cash, house, car, furnishings, tools, investments, money you.
2. What you owe – your liabilities. This is what you owe – a personal or bank loan, or credit card debt.
3. What you earn – your income. This includes wages, investment returns, gifts, government support, royalties, etc.
4. What you spend – your expenses. Expenses include all your living expenses, loan or debt repayments, etc.
#1 and 2 are referred to as your Balance Sheet. Hopefully, you have some ‘equity’ or a positive ‘net worth’. The percentages and proportions are more important than the actual amounts.
#3 and 4 are referred to as your Profit and Loss Statement. Hopefully, there is a ‘profit’, because you are spending less than you are earning. The percentages and proportions are more important than actual amounts.
Doing an assessment such as this takes time but it is worth it. Get some help if you need to. Make use of a simple computer program, consider taking a basic accounting course or purchase a basic book on financial management. Remember Jesus said how we manage your financial resources is very important.
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A Balance Sheet statement is very important as it is a snapshot of your current financial position. However, it is simply a result of what we do on a day-to-day basis with our finances, which is shown by our Profit and Loss Statement. If you’d like your assets to increase and your debts to decrease over time, then you need to ensure that your income is exceeding your expenses on a regular basis then apply the resulting profit to those goals.
keep getting smaller.Establish and live by a BUDGET
If you don't take control of your money it will take control of you and your life. Money is a great servant but is a cruel taskmaster. A budget is the most important and effective tool for getting your finances under control. A budget is simply a plan for earning and spending money. It provides limits and boundaries, which give security. There are many Scriptures on planning (Prov.15:22; 20:18; 21:5; 27:23-24. Jer.29:11. Lk.14:28-30).INCOME – How to Acquire Money
Human labour is the means by which we earn money. It is the key to the earning side of the financial equation. God is a worker. He worked for six days (on His creation project), then rested from his work on the seventh day (Gen.2:2-3). We were created to work (Gen. 2:5, 15). The primary means of acquiring income is through work. Work was not a result of sin. It is part of God’s plan for our lives. He works and he wants us to work too. We are created to make a contribution and to add value to the world. In return we receive finances for our efforts.A Plan for Financial Freedom
Most people will earn millions of dollars in their working lifetime. However, what we do with that money is what is most critical. That brings us to the second part of our budget which is our expenses. We need a plan for doing three things with our money - Spending, Saving and Giving. Most people only do one thing with their money - spend it. In fact, a lot of people spend more than their income and as a result they’re drowning in an ever-enlarging pool of debt. Consider starting with something like the 10-10-80 plan.1. GIVE - first, give at least 10% to God.
God gives us our very breath and the power to acquire wealth (Dt.8:18) All that we have comes from him and therefore belongs to him (1 Chron.29:14-16). Giving God the first part of our income is a regular reminder to us of this reality. In doing so, we honour him as our Lord and as the source and owner of all of our resources. In Old Testament times, ‘tithing’ (giving 10%) was a law for all Israelites. In the New Testament, the emphasis moves toward generous giving. Followers of Christ are instructed to give to God’s work - proportionately, generously, sacrificially, willingly, regularly, cheerfully, and wisely, excelling in the art of giving (see Mt.6:1-4, 19-24. Mark 12:41-44. Luke 19:8. Acts 2:41-47; 4:36-37; 11:27-30; 20:35. Rom.15:25-27. 1 Cor.9:11-12; 16:1-4. 2 Cor.8-9. Phil.4:18. 1 Tim.5:17-18. 2 John 5-8). Giving 10% (‘tithing’) of our income to the work of God is an excellent principle of good financial management (not a law). Abraham tithed 430 years before the law and Jesus affirmed the principle of tithing (Mt.23:23. Lk.11:42). The new covenant of grace brings us to a higher law - a place where we give not because we have to but because we want to.
The subject of giving can be approached from two different perspectives - human wisdom or the wisdom of God. The natural mind says, “Giving means I make a loss.” The truth is when you give or invest in the God’s work it is not a loss but it is actually a deposit in your heavenly account. God records it and there will be return for you (Mt.6:19-21. Lk.6:38. Phil.4:10-19). God can make your 90% go further than you can make your 100% go without his help and blessing. Secondly, the natural mind easily says, “I can’t afford to give” or “I’ll give when I’ve got some surplus.” However, God challenges us that when we give in faith even when we are in a time of need, his miraculous provision begins to come our way. He only asks us to give of what we already have, not what we don’t have, and as we go first, in faith and obedience, we release his blessing into our life (see 1 Kgs.17 and Mk.12:41-44).2. SAVE - secondly, take at least another 10% and pay yourself by putting this in a savings or investment account.
Prepare for the future by adopting a savings and investment plan (Prov.21:20). Savings creates freedom, reduces pressure, enhances joy, is a powerful witness and enables you to give. Make a decision to become a saver and get a plan to make it a reality (Prov.13:11; 21:5). Spend less than you earn, then save and invest the difference over a long period of time. Ants have small bodies and small brains but they are very smart (Prov.6:6-11)! They store up (save) for the winter months. We humans have bigger bodies and bigger brains but sometimes we’re pretty foolish. We have nothing saved up for the future. Growth financially takes time and continued effort. If we are faithful with what we have, God will give us more (Mt.25:21).
Investing is about getting your hard-earned money to work for you. There are a lot of ‘shonky’ investment schemes out there that promise you a fast track to wealth (Ecc.5:13-14). If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. However, there are many investments that can yield good returns. Do your research, obtain good advice and learn about different investment types - both their potential returns and risks.3. SPEND - use the remaining 80% or less to pay everyone and everything else.
This is for the rest of your normal living expenses – food, clothing, housing, transportation, debt reduction, entertainment, holiday, extra giving, etc. You’ve already honoured God and paid yourself. You can now enjoy life a little because you’re on plan. You’re living wisely.
Beware of the major “budget busters”, especially “impulse buying”, which refers to unplanned expenditures based on emotion. Just because you can afford it doesn’t mean you should buy it. If you buy something on sale, you are not saving, you are spending. Advertising motivates us to buy things we often don’t need and seeks to make us dissatisfied with what we have now. Material things always oversell themselves and rarely deliver on their promises over the long term. Avoid situations that encourage you to spend. Be satisfied with what you have. Focus on what you have not on what you don’t have.
Use debt strategically (to increase assets) not destructively because debt puts you in bondage (Prov.22:7), it puts you under pressure (Prov.23:4), it can sabotage your peace and joy (Ecc.4:6), it can damage your Christian witness and it hinders you from being able to give (Lk.10:25-37). If you are in debt, make a decision to get out of debt, get a plan, get some help and don’t give up (Prov.3:27-28. Rom.13:6-8).
If you can’t live on 80% of your income you have to make some changes: Either earn some more income – find a higher paying job (upgrade your skills, if necessary, to make yourself more qualified), work extra hours or start an extra job (possibly part time). These are all possible options but consider the ramifications of each choice. The other option is to reduce your expenses, which may require you to ‘down-size’ your living standards (see Ecc.4:6). If your standard of living is creating great pressure and stress in your life and relationships, why not lower it. Right-size your living expenses to match your income.
Most people think that the solution to their financial problems is to earn more. However, it’s not what you earn that matters - it’s how much you spend. If you consistently spend less than you earn, and save or invest the rest, you will gain financial freedom. It has nothing to do with how much you earn. Overspend just a few dollars a day and you can be thousands of dollars in debt in a number of years. On the other hand, put aside a few dollars a day into savings and you’ll save thousands of dollars in a number of years.Conclusion
It may take time … but having and working a financial plan is the path to financial freedom and God’s blessing whatever your situation. Notice the plan is not the 80-10-10 plan. The order is important. Put God first in your finances. Then change ratios over time as you’re able - 15-15-70, etc. This is pretty simple: a 10-year old can do it. Every person’s financial situation is unique. What is right for you may not be relevant for someone else, but these principles can work for just about everyone.
My motive in sharing this message is to help you personally – because a lot of people live under tremendous financial pressure and all of us need to learn principles of wise financial management. It is not because the church is desperate for more money. We are healthy financially. Yes, we can always use more, so don’t stop giving, but that is not the primary purpose of this teaching. Notice that the focus is not just on giving, because, as important as giving is, it is only one part of the wise financial management.
If you’re doing well financially, well done. Be a blessing and help to others around you. If you’re not doing that well, begin making some changes right away. If you’re under financial pressure or if you have a lot of debt, obtain some financial advice and help to work your way out of your current situation.
There are many things in life more important than money. You can have an enjoyable and fulfilling life without having a lot of money. There is more to life than money and possessions including pleasing God by living right (Prov.11:4; 16:8; 28:6), enjoying quality relationships (1Cor.13:13), as well as experiencing inner peace and contentment (Prov.15:16; 23:4-5. Phil.4:11-13. 1 Tim.6:6-10).Discussion Questions
1. The Bible talks a lot about money. How do you feel about it being talked about in church?
2. Discuss both the dangers and the benefits of wealth.
3. Read Jesus’ teaching in Luke 14:28-30 about considering the cost of discipleship and discuss what relevance it has to wise financial management.
4. Read Paul’s comments on work in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 and discuss its application to today.
5. In what situations is it appropriate not to be working and be dependent on someone else for income?
6. What are some principles of promotion in the work place? How do Paul’s comments in Colossians 3:23-25 relate to this?
7. Discuss the problem of gambling in Australia. What are some of its causes and consequences?
8. What are the benefits of managing resources wisely? What are the consequences of not doing so?
9. How can the church community (including the Life Group) provide a place where each person is encouraged and helped to be blessed financially?
10. Why do you think some Christians struggle with the concept of ‘tithing’ (giving 10% of their income to the church)?
11. Share some testimonies that illustrate how giving can release God’s blessing in your life.
12. What are some things you would like to do in the future that will require money?
13. Why is saving so hard for most people?
14. What are some lessons about financial investment people in the group have learned (including both successes and failures) that may be helpful to others?
15. What are some questions we can ask ourselves before buying a particular item (‘shopping tips’)?
16. What are some ways we can reduce our expenses so we are living within our means?
17. Finish by praying for financial blessing on each person’s life as they honour God with their finances.