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TEXT: Psalm 24:1-2

SUBJECT: Money Matters #1: The Basics

How much do you care about money?

Some people care for it too much. They love money and trust it; they admire people who have it and look down on those who don't. They identify themselves by what they make or what they buy with it. Money is their life, their religion, their god.

This is not a figure of speech, but a simple fact. Our Lord Jesus Christ said,

No man can serve two masters: for either he will love the one and hate the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other-you cannot serve God and Mammon!

You must not be overly interested in money!

Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?

Of course they are. There's more to life than working and shopping and saving and investing and thinking about money. Much more!

But, in affirming this, we have to beware of going to the opposite extreme-of thinking that money is too dirty for God's touch or too silly for the Lord's concern. In fact, money is not too dirty for God and not beneath His dignity to notice. If you've read the Bible, you know this, because it is chock full of things about money!

If used wisely, Nave's Topical Bible is one of the most helpful books you can own. As the title indicates, it's the Bible laid out by topic. If you thumb through it, you'll find pages and pages of Scripture on riches and poverty and covetousness and generosity and other things that involve money.

Money should matter to you because money matters to God. That's the title of the study we'll begin today and carry on (I hope) for the next few weeks: Money Matters.

Before we get to today's topic, however, let me tell you what my goal is (for sure) and what my plan is (at the moment).

My goal is not to increase your giving. Most of us could give more than we do-and we ought to give more than we do! If the sermons increase the offering, that will be a good side benefit. But that is not the goal of it. What I want the Word of God to do in your soul and mine is to disciple our money or to make us better stewards of what we have. The Lordship of Christ is not limited to reading the Bible, praying, or going to church! It includes making money, spending money, and giving money away.

My plan is to broadly explain what the Bible teaches about money and not to get into the intricate details of whether it's better to buy a house or to rent one; whether leasing a car is wise or foolish; how many credit cards you should have-if any; or how to plan for your retirement. These are important issues, but frankly, the Bible does not address them. These are matters of liberty, subject to the rules of wisdom and love. To preach, "Cut up your credit cards" or is nothing but legalism and man's opinion-neither of which rightly belongs to the ministry of the Word!

And so, the topic is Money Matters and the goal is to bring your spending, saving, and giving under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

If you wanted to learn Greek, where would you start? You could start by translating the word, halas, which is "salt". That's one place to start, but don't you think there might be a better place? How about starting with the alphabet? That's seems wiser to me.

This is the problem with a lot of financial counseling or preaching. It starts with a budget or with tithing. But these are too far advanced for the beginning student. We need to go back to the beginning-to the big ideas which guide our money decisions. Whether it's giving to missions or renting a video. The first principles apply to everything.

To my way of thinking, there are four things you need to know about your money. The first one is the most obvious and also the most overlooked,

YOUR MONEY BELONGS TO GOD.

GENERAL TEACHING

The term, your money, is a misnomer. You've got no money. There may have a twenty in your wallet, a thousand in the bank and seventy-five cents in the sofa, but that money does not belong to you! It belongs to God.

The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell in it.

Listen to the words: "earth, world, fullness, those who dwell in it". This pretty much covers things, doesn't it. If your money is not on earth or in the world; if it didn't come from the earth's fullness and wasn't made by anyone who dwells here, then maybe you'd have a case for private ownership. But you don't. Everything belongs to God, because-the next verse says-

For He has founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.

God made and preserves all things, then all things belong to Him. Unless He gives up His rights to them. Which He doesn't do!

Closer to the subject of money, Haggai 2:8 has it,

"The silver is mine and the gold is mine, says the Lord of Hosts".

The issue there is giving to the Lord's Temple and the poverty that supposedly keeps the people from doing it. But they can do it-and ought to-because the silver and gold God wants for His house belong to Him-and, if they give some to Him, He will generously re-pay them with more of it. Because silver and gold-the currency of that day-belong to the Lord.

The Lord not only claims our dollars and cents, but also the things they buy, Psalm 50:10,

For every beast of the forest is mine and the cattle on a thousand hills.

In that culture, cattle were not the hobby of gentlemen farmers, but a man's income, savings, and retirement. God says "They all belong to Me!" They may have a rancher's brand on them, but the cows belong to the Lord!

God's ownership of things was emphasized in Israel, Deuteronomy 8:10 calls the people to remember this,

When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God, for the good land which He has given you".

The Israelites lived in the land, but the land belonged to God. And that's why He could evict them when they didn't pay the rent of obedience! The exile was not the work of a Divine Bully, but of a Landlord whose tenants did not pay Him!

Even though the Land of Canaan was most often referred to God's ownership, other lands were too. Deuteronomy 2:9, 19 tell us the Lord gave one land to the Moabites and another to the Ammonites. If He gave the places to the foreigners, they must belong to Him.

This is not a fine point of Christian theology, for even pagans knew the world belonged to the God of Israel. Ezra 1:2 is sharp and clear,

Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth, the LORD God of heaven has given me."

The word, LORD, is the one in capitals-it is Yahweh or Jehovah who gave the world to the Persian Emperor.

The idea of God's ownership of all things is carried over into the New Testament.

For of Him and through Him, and to Him are all things. To whom be glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:33).

Charge the rich not to trust in uncertain riches, but in the Living God who gives us all things freely to enjoy (I Timothy 6:17).

MONEY DEPENDS

Your money depends on many things and all of them are in God's hands. For example:

Natural Resources. Fishermen can't make a living without fish. Farmers cannot make a living without land. Miners cannot make a living without minerals. And you can't make a living without a million things you never think about.

All these things were created by God, sustained by Him, and brought to you by His Providence.

Your money also depends on Your Work. In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. That's true; you work, maybe you work hard and long and smart. But who gave you the body and mind and opportunity to do the work? The Lord did, that's who!

You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who give you power to get wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18).

This power to get wealth is based on a million things He is in control of-and you're not! From a heartbeat to a brain wave to breathing, to sleep, all these things-and many more-are His gifts.

Your money also depends a great deal on the cooperation of other people.

If you're an employee, someone has to hire you. If you're a salesman, someone has to buy your product. If you're an investor, someone has to sell stocks and bonds and properties. If you're a doctor, patients have to come to you. If you're an heir, someone has to leave you in his will. If you win the lotto, millions have to lose the lotto!

All these things depend on the Lord's blessing. What if the Lord turned your customers against you? What if He killed your boss? What if He bankrupted your company? If you're a mortician, what if He gave everyone an extra long life?

What would you do? You'd be ruined. Thus, no matter how hard you work, what you make depends on what the Lord gives.

Your money depends on keeping it. What if your wallet falls out of your pocket? What if a burglar ransacks your house? What if an embezzler takes your bank account to Cuba? What if inflation wipes out your savings? Paul was right: riches are uncertain!

Even things you never think about affect your money, things like weather or natural laws, not to mention peace and an orderly society.

How much work does a carpenter get when it's pouring rain? What could an architect do if gravity went on the blink? Do you think the shop would stay open after a nuclear war? And what if you couldn't get to the office because a riot was going on all the time?

All of these things are outside of your control-way outside of it! Yet your money depends on them all. If God gives you the power to get wealth, your wealth you get belongs to Him.

In short,

Who made you to differ one from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now, if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of Lights with whom there is no variation or shade of turning.

Come on now, you who say `Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit, whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.' Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that'.

Your money belongs to God-not to you. That's the first principle of Money Matters. The second, I don't need to develop as fully.

YOU ARE REPSONSIBLE FOR WHAT YOU DO WITH GOD'S MONEY.

In one of our Lord's parables, a farmer scolded his envious farmhands by saying,

Do I not have the right to do what I will with my own?

The workers agreed to work all day for one denarius. If the boss wanted to give the same pay to men who worked fewer hours, what was that to the others? They lost nothing; the money was the owner's-and he could pay it out any way he wanted to.

If your money is yours, you can do whatever you want to with it. But therein lies the rub: your money is not your money! It is God's money.

We are stewards or managers of God's money. And, just as a servant has to answer to his master, we have to answer to God for what we do with His money.

We know this because God commands us to do some things with our money and to not do other things with it. What you say to me if I came up to you and commanded you to sell your car and buy a computer with the money you got for it?

You might ask me why you should do it, but, more likely, you'd say mind your own business! But, would you tell God to butt out? Of course you wouldn't! But why not? Because your money is His money! And that means you're responsible to God for what you do with it.

This is the second principle of Money Matters. Number three needs a little more time to explain. Here it is:

GOD'S WILL FOR USING HIS MONEY IS REVEALED IN THE BIBLE.

Some of His will is easy to find out. For example, He commands you to well, uh, pay my salary--Let him who is taught in the Word communicate to him who teaches in all good things (Galatians 6:6). He commands you to not buy idols-Little children, keep yourselves from idols (I John 5:21).

Many such things are spelled out in the Bible and when we ignore them, we disobey the Lord and mismanage His money.

But most things are not so black-and-white. Should you buy your groceries at the Raley's next door or drive across town to shop at Costco? Does God want you to buy a car, take the bus, or walk? Should you send your kids to college or make them pay their own way? If you get a $100 tax refund, it is better to: (a) take your wife out to dinner, (b) put it in the bank, or (c) send it to a missionary? What is the Lord's will for that money?

The Bible does not speak to these things directly. But that does not mean it is silent. The choices I've outlined above are answered by God and in His Word.

So, what verse tells me to shop at Costco instead of Raley's? Or the other way around? Many verses do. Which ones? The ones that deal with wisdom and love.

Is it better to go to Raley's or Costco? It all depends. If you're a nursing mother, it's probably better to shop at the closer and less crowded store because your baby will be screaming for milk in the next half-hour. You might spend twenty dollars more at Raley's, but it seems to me the baby's comfort and the father's sanity are worth way, way, way more than that!

What about the tax refund? Most preachers would say it's better to invest it in missions that to sock it away in the bank or waste it at a restaurant!

Maybe. Maybe not.

If your wife hasn't been out of the house for months, I say taking her out to dinner is a better investment than helping missionaries in Mongolia. And please don't say you'll send $90 to the missionary and take her out to McDonald's! It is not the same thing! Your wife has a claim on you strangers don't have-not even strangers in Gospel ministry!

If you want to use the Lord's money wisely, read the Bible and read it with sensitivity.

Every money choice should be made in light of God's Word. Where it speaks directly, submit to it right then and there-even if you'd rather not. Where it speaks indirectly, apply the tests of wisdom and love to your choices and you cannot go too far wrong.

But don't be a crooked lawyer about it-fixing on one verse, ignoring others, and twisting the sense to your wishes.

This the third principle of Money Matters. I've got one more.

YOU OUGHT TO BE A GOOD STWEARD OF GOD'S MONEY.

It is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

Underline the word, faithful. No one is perfect; no one's knowledge is complete and no one lives up to the knowledge he has. This applies to every part of life, including the ones that involve money.

You don't have to be a perfect manager of God's money to be a good one. But to be a good steward, you've got to be five things:

You've got to be sincere. You've got to really want to please Him and not just say you want to. The Pharisees drew near to God with their words, while their hearts were far from Him. Don't be a Pharisee!

You've got to be practical. Wanting to be a good steward isn't enough. You've got to do act on your desire. Faith without works is dead.

You've got to be humble. If you don't know how to balance your checkbook or draw up a budget or get out of debt or give to the church, you need to ask for help-and then take it-without being defensive and all prickly about things! Gifts are given to individuals to help the whole Body of Christ. If you're too proud to take the offered help, you're too proud!

Side note: If you've got the know-how to help people with their money, you need to do it with humility, patience, sympathy, and love.

You've got to be honest. If you sin, confess your sin to the Lord and He will pardon you. If you make a stupid impulse buy-instead of defending yourself-confess it to the Lord and try to d better in the future. And if you can, get your money back. He who covers his sin shall not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes his sin shall have mercy.

You've got to be hopeful. God's grace is bigger than your bills and the death of Christ is stronger than your habits. This means you can grow in grace and bring your money under the Lordship of Christ.

God bless you, everyone! For Christ's sake. Amen.

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