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TEXT: Ephesians 4:28
SUBJECT: Money Matters #3: Work
A few weeks ago we began a study called Money Matters. I chose the title carefully because it really does-money matters. It matters to you and me; and it matters to God. It matters to us because we depend on money. Thirty five years ago, people sang,
All I need is the air that I breathe
And to love you.
The ones who just sang it now know better. They got haircuts, put on suits and ties, and went to work. The people who lived by it-if any--have long since died of starvation! Money matters to us because we can't live without it. The best things in life are free, but you've got to pay for everything else!
Money matters to God because we matter. Few things in life affect us more than money. Money has helped many people on their way to heaven and it has stuffed many others into hell.
Whether you like it or not, money matters.
When you think of submitting your money to the Lordship of Christ, what comes to mind first? Many believers think of giving. I'm a good steward of God's money because I give ten percent to the church. I'm very much for giving, but that's not where stewardship begins.
Others look to their budgets-they give to the church, of course, but they want to use all their money for Christ-and not just ten cents on the dollar. You're getting closer with this answer, but it's not quite there.
In fact, money matters start-not with giving or budgeting-but with working.
All money is the gift of God and the fruit of human labor. It's not a fifty-fifty proposition: The Lord gives you half your money and you work for the other half. No, it's a hundred-hundred proposition: The Lord gives you everything you have and everything you have is worked for-by you or someone else. Which Proverb is true?
The hand of the diligent makes rich?
The blessing of the Lord makes rich?
Both are true. They're looking at the same thing from different angles. From above, all he can see is a generous God; from below, all he can see is a man working his fingers to the bone!
If money matters to God, then how much of it you make matters to God. Does the Bible tell you how much you ought to earn? It gives no dollar amount, of course, but it does tell you how much you need to make.
Before we get to that, however, I have a disclaimer. Nothing I say should be used to pass judgment on others. Many career and income problems are the result of bad health or misfortune or discrimination or other things you're not aware of. Don't speculate! Don't try to figure out why Peter is unemployed or why Andrew only makes minimum wage. I Thessalonians 4:11 is good advice for everyone,
Study to be quiet, mind your own business, and work with your own hands.
If it is wrong to judge others, it's okay to judge yourself. You know the facts of your own life (more or less) and you can make an informed evaluation. Maybe your low income or spotty work record is the result of circumstances beyond your control. Or maybe not. It might be the fruit of your laziness or pride or stubbornness. If it is, you need to repent of it-right now. But repenting isn't enough, you need to repent in hope. The Lord will pardon you, and He may save you from the mess you've gotten yourself into. If He chooses not to, He'll be with us in the mess, and that's good to know.
How much does the Lord want you to make? He wants you to make exactly $67,851.95 a year, plus retirement, medical and dental coverage, and two weeks paid vacation!
This is the kind of answer we're looking for, but of course, it's not the kind of answer God gives. But this does not mean He is silent. He tells us how much we need to earn-if we can. And how much is that?
Three passages provide a pretty full answer. They are Ephesians 4:28, II Thessalonians 3:10-12, and I Timothy 5:8. Let's look at each of them briefly.
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
Some of the Ephesians made a living by theft. Paul says stop doing it! From now on, they're to work for a living, and make enough money to help others who cannot help themselves. He doesn't specify the amount, but they need to earn enough to relieve the poor.
If anyone will not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now, those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.
The Thessalonians were very excited about the Second Coming of Christ. Some of them were too excited! They were sure the Lord would come any day now, and looking for that, they quit their jobs. But, of course, He didn't come as soon as they thought He would, and not working became a habit to them. This led to boredom, which in turn, led to gossip and meddling in the affairs of other people.
In the name of Christ, Paul commands the loafers to get back to work, so that they can eat their own bread (and not mooch off others). For our purposes, this means: you need to make enough money to take care of yourself.
If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Here the topic is Christian widows. In every church, there were aged women whose husbands had died and who now had no way of supporting themselves. They have to be cared for, of course they do! But who is supposed to do it? It's either the Church or the family. If there is no family, then by all means, let the Church do it-but only if there's no family. Otherwise, the family is to take care of it's own.
From this we infer that you need to make enough money to take care of your family. Now, I didn't say, to meet all of their demands and fulfill their every wish, but to give them the necessary things of life.
How much, then, does the Lord want you to make? He wants you to make enough money to take care of yourself and your family, with a little left over for charity.
THE REALITY CHECK
This means you have to be realistic. If you cannot make a living with what you do, you need to do something else. The Lord does not command you to follow your dreams or listen to your heart; He says Obey My Word and make a living.
You may not need to give up your dreams. T.S. Eliot was the most important poet of the Twentieth Century. For most of his life, he made a living as a bank clerk. Nathaniel Hawthorne may have been America's greatest novelist. He was a customs agent, who inspected ships and collected tolls. Even Paul made tents for a living while preaching on the side!
Maybe you can follow your dreams at night or on the weekend; maybe you can put them off for a while; or, maybe you have to give them up-once and for all.
If you do, just remember: the Lord feels your pain and He'll work all things together for your good. At the moment, you cannot see how-no one can at the moment! But, from the standpoint of eternity, no believer will be disappointed with what God has done with his life. Now we wonder and doubt and murmur, but then we'll say, He has done all things well.
The Puritan sermon was usually made up of two parts: doctrine and use. The preacher would present a Bible teaching and then apply it to the congregation-to the saved, to the unsaved, to husbands, to wives, to masters, to servants, to the young, the aged, on and on they would go. One man found 63 uses for one doctrine!
I won't be quite that thorough! But let me apply the teaching as best I can. The doctrine-you know-is this: God wants men to make enough money to live on and to help others.
First, a word to parents: Are you preparing your kids to make a living when they grow up? There's a Jewish proverb that says, The man who does not teach his son to work teaches him to be a thief. That's right, he does. He doesn't mean to, but that's the likely result of the father's neglect.
At one time, it was easy to give your sons a trade. If you were a farmer, they worked alongside you. If you made shoes, they worked in the shop with you, and so on. In the modern economy, this is no longer possible. Most men cannot bring their sons to work with them. And that's a shame. But that doesn't mean we can't prepare them for work. We can.
Start with character training. Some qualities are needed across the board-flipping burgers, doing nuclear research, playing football, working in a sweat shop, it doesn't matter. Everyone needs to: (1) show up for work, (2) be on time, (3) take orders, (4) cooperate, (5) work hard, and (6) stay at it until the job is done.
These are things we can teach our kids when they're little. Be reliable, keep your promises, listen, obey, get along, stay with it, don't whine, don't blame others, and so on.
In addition to this, parents need to stay involved with their kids as they get into high school and part-time work opens up for them. Grades matter. Classes flunked in 1977 can affect a man's work options in 2004. Entry-level jobs show up on later resumes. The boy who goofed off at McDonald's may not get the job at Microsoft ten years later because of it.
If you have any knowledge of colleges or trade schools, you need to help your kids choose wisely.
You can not allow them laze around at home till they're 21 years old! Weak bodies and flabby minds don't get jobs or keep them!
We need to pray for our kids' adult careers and income.
My advice to young people-teenagers, and twenty-somethings-is pretty much the same. Maybe school bores you to tears and the only thing you really like to do is talk on the phone.
For now you can get away with your choices. But they will dog your steps for the rest of your life! How many young men have "taken a semester off college" never to go back? What effect does that have on his future earnings and family prospects?
Movies will tell you you're only young once! That's right, you are, but the meaning is different than the movies say. They say, It doesn't matter what you do at 19 or 22. But the Bible and wisdom say the opposite: what you do then is even more important than what you do later, because it will affect much more of your life than what you do at 45 or 60.
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth!
If you can't make a living on what you make, you need to do one of two things (or both):
Make more or spend less. You can make more, in the short term, by taking a second job. It's hard, but many have done it before, and it can be done. In the long run, it's probably better to change jobs, go back to school or find ways to move up in the company.
If you're making as much as you can, but still can't make a living, you need to cut down on your spending. Robert E. Lee told his son it is easier to bring your expenses down to your income than to raise your income up to your expenses.
There is no shame in honest poverty. It's wrong to be lazy or without ambition, but to work a low-paying job is not wrong and is nothing to be embarrassed about. The Lord was a poor man; Paul was a poor man; the Reformers were poor; Whitefield and Wesley were poor. 90% of the people in the history of the world have lived and died poor.
If the Lord has not given you a good income, be content with what He has given you. If He has made you a poor man, live like a poor man. Don't move up in the world by buying things you can't pay for.
If you can make a living, thank the Lord. Better people than you are have not enjoyed that blessing. Some lived in caves and dens of the earth, and went about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, tormented, afflicted. Remember, it is the Lord who has given you the power to earn your living. Don't presume of the future and don't look down on people who make less than you do.
If the Lord has given you a good living, He hasn't done it so you can squander it on yourself. He's given you money to help others. So help the people who need it. Give some of your mney away and do it without a proud look or a condescending lecture.
We all need to pray for the men, especially, who can't find work or make ends meet. Most of them are not lazy! They want to work. And they want to take care of themselves. Don't look down on the poor, lest you look down on God!
COMFORT AND EXHORTATION
God does not look down on men who cannot make a living. Even if it's their own fault, the Lord pities them. This is one of the major themes of the Old Testament. Israel is one people-not a collection of persons. And the people are to sympathize with the poor and take care of their own.
Think of the laws of gleaning. The Israelite farmer was not to strip his land, getting ever last crumb off it. Why? Because there were poor people who needed what the farmhands left behind! They had a right to the crops they did not plant, water, or harvest! Why? Because the land belongs to God! And He wants it to feed His people. Even the ones who are down on their luck.
Think of the laws of bill collecting. If a poor man borrowed from his neighbor, the lender could collect his debt. But within limits of mercy. He couldn't take the poor man's upper or lower stone, because without it, the man couldn't grind his flour and would starve! He also couldn't take the man's coat, because without it he would freeze. Do you honestly think every poor man in Israel was poor through no fault of his own? Of course not! Some were lazy and others were stupid. Yet the Lord cares for them.
When God came to His own, He had the same tender heart for the needy. When Mary of Bethany anointed the Lord with precious oil, the disciples got mad: Why was this waste made? It could have been sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor. But what does the Lord say? He says Mary didn't waste her money on Him. But that's not all He said: He said, The poor you have with you always and you can always do them good.
He taught helping the poor. And He did it Himself, though He was a poor man. When said to Judas, What you do, do quickly, the disciples didn't hear Him. But going on past experience, they thought the Lord said, Make a donation to the poor.
The Lord cares for the poor. Both the deserving poor--and the undeserving. If you don't think so, remember the first name of your church: Grace!
If you're in a hole financially, the Lord is down there with you. If you dug it yourself, He still loves you, and He's willing to help you out.
If you want out.
Everyone wants out, but are you willing to make the hard choices that it requires? If you are, start now. Confess your past sins to the Lord and pray for the grace to repent of them-not just to be scared or sick to your stomach, but to change for the better.
The Lord is good to sinners! To lost sinners and to sinners who are saved. The Lord is good to sinners of every kind, including lazy sinners, proud sinners, stubborn sinners, and sinners who won't take the help He offers them.
Nobody can live on God's justice-nobody! So why don't you live on His mercy? And why don't you respond to His mercy with thanksgiving, obedience, and hope?
Your money matters to God. Not only what you do with it, but how much of it you make. So find the Lord's will for your work, and whatever your hands finds to do, do it with all your might. And the love of Christ be with you. Amen.
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