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TEXT: Matthew 6:33

SUBJECT: Money Matters #4: Spending

Four or five weeks ago, we began a study called Matter Matters. I called it that because it really does: money matters. You know why it matters to you, but I'm mostly thinking about God. Money matters to Him, too, because we matter, and few things in life will affect us more than money-one way or the other.

Last time we looked at making money and how much of it the Lord wants you to make. Today, we'll move to the other side and have a look at spending money.

This is not a tithing sermon in disguise. By spending, I don't mean giving to the church (though you ought to do that). I mean all of your spending-from the Mexican Restaurant to the gas bill (pun intended)!

And so, how much does God want you to spend and what does He want you to spend it on? These are the questions we'll take on today. But before we do, let's step back for a moment and look at the big picture.

THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST

All of your spending is under the Lordship of Christ. Most believers are a little fuzzy on this. They know that some of their money belongs to the Lord and needs to be spent His way. As far as they go, they're right.

But they don't go far enough. The Bible plainly teaches that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. Not only of all people, but of everything all the people do, think, say, feel.or spend. Many verses can be named to this effect. Luke 6:46 is one of them.

Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord' and do not do the things that I say?

Underline the words, do not do. He won't have us think of His Lordship as a nominal thing-like the Queen of England who is the official Ruler of the United Kingdom, but has no real authority. No, the Lordship of Christ is a real and practical thing. He demands more than respect: He wants obedience! In the details of life. Including what you do with your money.

I won't labor this. The central theme of the Old Testament is the Lordship of God over all things. In the New Testament, a finer point is put on the doctrine, for God rules all things by His Son.

Jesus is Lord!

LORDSHIP AND THE WORD

How does Jesus Christ exercise His Lordship over us? He does it in the same way God has always ruled: By His Word. What's the first chapter of the Bible about? Most people would say, creation. But I don't think so. Creation is in the chapter, of course, but the chapter is about something else.

It's about the Rule of God and how He does it. How did God make the world and under what power did light and darkness become separate or the water and the land, and so on? The Lord made and arranged it all by His Word. And God said, 'Let there be light!' And there was light.

This theme is picked up in the Law. The Jews must not resort to astrologers, soothsayers, mediums, witches, and so on. Do you know why? Because they didn't need them. Their God did not speak in comets or tea leaves or tarot cards or goat intestines! He speaks by His Word!

And He rules by His Word. Psalm 33:9,

For He spoke and it was done;

He commanded, and it stood fast.

The Lordship of God's Word is seen most clearly in the New Testament:

In the coming of Christ, The Word was made flesh.

In the Great Commission, the Church is spurred to go into all the world-but not to paint religious art or to compose Christian music or to dramatize the Life of Christ-but to preach the Gospel to the lost and to teach the ones who believe.

Your spending is under the Lordship of Christ, therefore, only insofar as it is under the authority of His Word.

THE RULES

The Word of God tells you how to spend your money. Unless you're wealthy, most of your spending is under the Bible's direct teaching.

It tells you what you should not spend your money on. I thought of four examples.

You shouldn't buy illegal things. Some doctors say marijuana is not bad for your health and, in some cases, it's good for you. They may be right, I don't know. But I do know this: In the United States, marijuana is against the law. And Romans 13 tells us to obey the law.

You shouldn't buy things you can't control. The Bible does not forbid all drinking. But some people cannot control their drinking. One glass of wine soon gives way to three bottles of wine! For that person, buying any wine is sinful. Because it is presuming on God and Matthew 4:7 says, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.

You shouldn't buy things that hurt other people. There's nothing wrong with a motorcycle, but if it scares your wife to death, it's wrong to buy one because I Peter 3:7 says, Dwell with your wives according to knowledge.

Now for the one you were hoping I overlooked: You shouldn't buy things you can't afford. If you buy things you can't pay for one of three things will happen (and they're all bad):

If the Word tells you what not to buy, it also tells you what to spend your money on. We covered this last week, and I'll skim over it for now. According to II Thessalonians 3:12, I Timothy 5:8, and Ephesians 4:28, you ought to support yourself, take care of your family, and give to people in need.

The two rules could not be simpler: Buy the things you need and don't buy the things you can't pay for.

A QUALIFICATION

This is the rule, but it's not hard and fast. Like the Ceremonial Law of Israel, there are exceptions to the rule. One day, Jesus Christ worked on the Sabbath because His work of healing a crippled man was more important than the Letter of the Law (cf. John 5).

The same is true of living within your means. You may have to break your budget from time to time. Emergencies happen and you have to respond to them in wisdom and love-and big picture thinking. I don't have a million dollars-but I'd put it on the credit card to save my son's life. Because his life is more important than my budget.

Other things are less serious, but they too, allow for spending money you don't have. The transmission goes out on your car. You can't afford the repairs, but you've got to have a car to get to work. So you spend money you don't have in order to make enough money to pay it back in time.

There are exceptions to the rule. But mark this well: Spending more than you is the exception, not the rule!

THE PRINCIPLES

The Bible does not give you a rule for every dime you spend-and it doesn't make every decision for you. But this does not mean the Word is silent. It isn't. Here's a case study:

A newlywed couple is looking for an apartment. One has two bedrooms and rents for $1400/month. The other is a one-bedroom place and it goes for $1200. They have enough money for either one of them.

Does the Bible tell them which one to rent? No it doesn't. But if offers principles to inform their choice. The principles are wisdom and love.

Which is the wiser choice? It all depends on their circumstances. If the higher-priced apartment takes their money to the breaking point (but not over it), then certain things are likely to happen. Financial woes tend to produce stress and that often leads to crankiness, and that to fighting, and that-sometimes, to divorce. Are they willing to risk their marriage or its happiness for another bedroom?

On the other hand, the smaller place might create even more tension. Maybe the husband works at home and having his wife underfoot all the time drives him crazy. Maybe they need to stretch their budget to keep things quiet and happy at home.

The other principle I mentioned is love. The Lord wants us to live in love. Which apartment better promotes love? Once again, it all depends.

The cheaper apartment would give them more money to help people in need. But the more expensive place might be better for showing hospitality and helping an aged parent.

So.which one do they take?

Either one! After thinking through the issues and praying for God's blessing, they take the one they like better and they don't look back.

Does this mean they made the right choice and everything will turn out great? No. Because there is no right choice (or wrong) and acting in wisdom and love is not a warranty against all problems.

In short: Where God does not speak directly, He gives liberty to choose what we want (within the boundaries of wisdom and love).

LUXURIES?

Now, what about luxuries? Some Christians are quite comfortable with them-and the more the merrier! Others feel guilty about them-how can I justify a BMW when others are in need? Some don't think about them at all. And others are bitterly against them-especially if they belong to other people!

So how about it? Is it sinful to own a mink coat? Must everyone take the bus? Is it wrong to eat caviar? Is Saks Fifth Avenue a den of iniquity and Goodwill a colony of heaven?

Does the Bible praise luxury or condemn it? It does neither. It assumes luxury and it warns us to beware of its dangers. What are the dangers of luxury?

Pride, contempt, and dependence. A man with a Rolex can take pride in what he paid for it-even if a Timex keeps better time! He can look down on the poor slobs who buy their watches at the Dollar Tree. He can become so used to luxury that he needs it and can't live without it. This is what the Proverb has in mind,

When you sit down to eat with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you; and put a knife to your throat if you are a man given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies for they are deceptive food (23:1-3).

Be careful when you dine with the king. It will make you think you're royal too, that your neighbors are below you, and that you'll eat like this every day.

So, instead of passing judgment on others for their lavish lifestyle, take a look at yourself. What effect are your things having on you?

One more thing here: A word to the judgmental. Before you start condemning a brother for his Mercedes Benz, remember you've got a Chevrolet. And in most of the world, that's a luxury! Be careful about rolling stones; they have a way of rolling back on you!

DISCIPLESHIP AND SPENDING

If you believe in Jesus Christ, you want to honor Him with your spending. Under the relentless barrage of advertising, you may have forgotten Him and His will, but deep down, don't you want to please Him with what you buy and what you don't?

If you do, I have some advice that may help you.

First of all, take inventory. Many Christians are surprised at how quickly their money disappears. They get paid on the fifteenth of the month, and by the twentieth they've spent it all-and have no idea where it went!

If you're going to spend your money wisely, you've got to find out where it went. The only way to do that is to keep a record-a written record of your expenses (especially the nickel and dime ones!)

Pore over the log in your checkbook and the credit card bill. Don't just look at the amount, but look at what it paid for. This is the duty of self-examination applied to your spending. The prophet Haggai told people who were misspending their money, Consider your ways. You'd do well to take that advice.

In the second place, draw up a budget. Not everyone needs a budget, but if you overspend, you need one! No one is perfect and, your impulses will get the best of you from time to time. A budget, however, is still helpful. It is like the Law of God. It will not save you, but it may slow down your sinning!

I Timothy 4:7 says, (in the KJV),

Exercise yourself unto godliness.

This means train yourself for godliness. That includes planning and accountability. A budget will help you with both.

Thirdly, get the technical help you need. God has given some people expertise with money. They know how to lower your interest rates or how to make your equity work for you. They know the laws of bankruptcy and how to work out a deal with your creditors. I'm not one of them! I don't know what amortize means and I'm can't say what the letters APR stand for!

But some people know these things. Not all of them are saved, but that's beside the point. Their gift is God-given, and He gave it to them because He loves you. Christ is made Head over all things to the Church. That is, Christ rules the unsaved for the good of the saved!

Use the gifts of God. There's no shame in not knowing how to get out of debt. The shame is in the pride that won't seek help.

Fourthly, repent of the sins that make you overspend or spend foolishly. Pride is one of the sins; covetousness is another; envy is a third. The list is long. You can finish it yourself.

Finally, seek your contentment in what money can't buy. Paul says covetousness is idolatry. And he's right. People are buying things to make them happy or secure. But happiness and security are not in the things you buy! They're in God. If you can find your happiness in Him, you won't look for it in catalogues, showrooms, outlets, or bookstores!

That's the power of Hebrews 13:5,

Let your conduct be without covetousness and be content with what you have, for He has said, 'I will never leave your nor forsake you'.

Is the Living God big enough to satisfy you? Yes He is. Seek your contentment in Him! If you do, your spending will take care of itself.

Put first the Kingdom of heaven and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

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