Today, we are starting the last step of the Discipleship Path, tithing. However, I want to take this opportunity to talk about more than just tithing. Tithing means to give to God what is His in the first place. It’s a set amount that we decide and commit voluntarily to give to Him for His works of mercy.
But we can struggle with the entire idea of tithing if we don’t first understand money. Now, I’m not saying you have to be an accountant or a financial pro by the end of this series, but we do need to understand the purpose of money, whose it is, and what it means in our lives.
The truth is our views of money may not align with God’s. So we’re going to take some time to talk about God’s view of money and what Jesus has to say about it. We’ll discuss three biblical truths: Money is a tool from God that is used to add meaning to our lives, how to be the master of your money instead of your money being your master, and how to manage our money the way God wants us to which will include tithing.
Our time together over the next couple of weeks may be a turning point for you financially. Everyone has a relationship with money and maybe like a lot of people, yours is complicated. I’m going to show you a completely different paradigm than our world, and it changes not just our finances. Honestly, it changes everything.
We often think of money as the “root of all evils” because that’s what we’ve been told. 1 Timothy says, “The love of money is the root of evil.” Not money itself, the love of it. Money is a tool from God, if that’s the case then it’s not evil. It’s how we think about it and what we do with it that is unhealthy.
So you may be excited to be a part of this discussion, or you may not be. I get it. Money, makes people nervous. And agreeing to talk about money over the next several weeks, well, may feel like a punishment. But I promise if you’ll stick with me, our time together may be a turning point for you in lots of ways.
Have you ever wondered if our money could talk, what it might say to us? If money is God’s and it’s a tool for us to use, what would it tell us? For the next few weeks, we’re just going to kind of flip the script. Usually, isn’t it true that you’re the one telling your money what to do? Buy me some groceries, pay the mortgage, go into savings. But what if instead, we invited our money to pull up a chair and give us some advice? What would our money say if our money talked?
Now, the truth is some of us would probably rather not hear from our money. We already know what it might tell us. It would probably sound like a disappointed parent. You know the kind, “I’m not mad; I’m just disappointed.” And for good reason because some of our financial decisions in hindsight really just don’t make much sense.
We’d expect our money to give pretty much the same advice that a financial planner or accountant would, or maybe a wise parent. But what might surprise you, hopefully pleasantly surprise you, is this: What our money would say if our money could talk actually matches what Jesus said when He talked about money 2,000 years ago.
Now, if you grew up around church, you’ve probably heard this before, but Jesus actually said more about money than just about everything else. In fact, He said more about money than He did about heaven, but not because He needed any. In fact, best we can tell, Jesus never even asked for any. He wasn’t after people’s money. He was after something else. More on that later.
Before we get to the first thing our money might tell us if our money started talking, I want to ask you a question, and I know this is going to sound like a strange question, but here’s it is: What do you do with your spare money, not your spare change, your extra dollars, your spare dollars, the ones that you don’t really need?
Now you may be thinking, “Pastor Trish, who has spare dollars laying around? Sometimes, I’ll spare a dollar for a good cause, but I don’t have extra money, and I certainly don’t have any extra money just laying around.”
Ok, that probably a very true statement. You don’t have extra money just laying around, but you do have extra. Have you ever taken a vacation? Do you have a car? Do you have more than one car? Do your kids have a car? Does your car have its own little house (you know, a garage)? Have you ever driven a perfectly good car to a car lot and then left it there and drove away in another perfectly good car, a newer model that you used some of your extra money to purchase?
How about this? When you went to purchase your current cellphone, did you walk into the store with a perfectly good cellphone in your pocket? Of course, you did. You see, people with extra, we don’t wait for things to break. We upgrade. We trade things in.
Or how about this? Have you ever gone to your kitchen, a kitchen that has countertops, a microwave, an oven, a refrigerator, and then ripped it all out and then used some of your spare money to replace it all with countertops, refrigerator, a microwave, and an oven? Do you have so much spare money that you actually pay someone to keep track of it for you, like someone else’s job is to take care of all of your money and invest it so it turns into more extra money?
So, when I put it like that, you know you have spare money. You just don’t feel like you do. And the reason why you don’t feel like you do is a word we don’t talk much about. It’s the ‘G’ word, greed.
It’s hard to see greed in the mirror. I can see greed in your mirror, but it’s hard for me to see greed in my own mirror. In fact, I’ve never had a conversation with anyone who was having financial problems, who said, “You know what my problem is…it’s greed.” Instead, greedy people say things like: “I’m just careful. I’m a good money manager. I’m a saver.” Again, it is very difficult to see greed in the mirror, and yet greed is behind much of our financial struggles, and greed is behind a lot of our financial stress.
Maybe a definition would help. Greed is the assumption that it’s all for my consumption. You see, you can be poor and greedy, or you can be rich and greedy. In fact, greed has nothing to do with an amount of money. It has everything to do with an assumption about money. So your dollars become things. They become a house, they become things in your house, they become a car. You just consume, consume, consume. Or maybe you do the opposite. Some of you don’t spend all of your extra money. You hoard yours. Of course, we don’t call it hoarding. We call it saving.
But the same assumption that drives some people to spend, spend, spend is the same assumption that drives some people, maybe you, to save, save, save because who are you saving it for? For you? After all, it’s yours.
Different habits, same assumption. It’s called the consumption assumption. And most of us are guilty. We don’t feel like we have spare money because we either consume it now, spending, buying, upgrading, or we stash it away in the bank or a 401K to consume later. But either way, it’s for me. It’s for me now, or it is for me later.
But Jesus says that is a faulty assumption, and He points to a completely different way of viewing our money. And when we begin to view our money the way He does, it changes, not just our finances, honestly, it changes everything. It gets us off the treadmill of more, more, more, me, me, me. It’s a completely different paradigm, and it leads to freedom, contentment, and ultimately satisfaction.
Here’s how Jesus introduced this topic.
“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”
There’s our word, greed. He’s saying to those of us making the consumption assumption, spending it all, saving at all, assuming that everything that comes to us is for us, He saying, “Hold up, wait a minute. Life is not measured by how much you own.”
In other words, life is more than stuff. It’s more than our possessions, or even our potential to acquire more possessions. And the fact is most of us, think about this, most of us are going to run out of time before we run out of stuff. We’re going to run out of time before we run out of money. We’re going to die with a whole lot of stuff left over. Stuff someone’s going to pick through, sell, and then perhaps just throw the rest away.
You see, if life consisted of possessions, we would run out of life the moment we ran out of possessions. And while we know that’s not the case, it is so easy to fall into the trap of living as if life is nothing more than the accumulation of more.
Jesus’ point is something our money might point out if our money could talk. If our money could talk, it makes say something like this: “I can add meaning to your life, but I am not the meaning of life.” Money, your money and my money would remind us that it doesn’t get much attention at funerals, does it, other than maybe how much was given away? Earning money, chasing it, spending it, that’s not the point of life.
Money is not the meaning. It is a means, meaning it’s a tool for doing something meaningful. It has the potential to make your life meaningful.
Imagine if that was the frame of reference for your finances, every spending decision, the way you save, the way you plan for the future. Regardless of how much or little you have, what if when you had some to spare, when you had some extra, you thought to yourself, “Wow. I have extra. How can I make the extra a means to something meaningful? How can I make it a means to an end that goes beyond me?”
What would it look like to live free of the consumption assumption, instead of making every dollar that comes your way a means to something newer or shinier, or maybe renovated? What if you begin to view your money as a means to making your life more meaningful, rather than just full of stuff?
Now, if you had been thinking this way for the past 10 years, your personal finances would look very different. In fact, you would have less stuff, but you would have less debt, you would have more margin, and this is a big one, you would actually probably have more savings. More on that later.
Now, I need to warn you: After hearing what Jesus has to say about money, you might have to make some adjustments, you may even have to break a financial habit or two. And if that scares you, it shouldn’t because no one who applies what Jesus says about money to their personal finances, ever regrets it. Their only regret is that they didn’t start sooner.
Besides, you can’t be a fully devoted follower of Christ and not invite Him into the realm of your personal finances. Christ can’t be the Lord of your life when you’ve got Him on one side saying, “Here’s what I want you to do,” and you’ve got Visa on the other side saying, “Yeah. But let me tell you what you have to do because of what you already did.”
Be honest, you felt that tension, right? You feel like God is nudging you to be generous to your local church, maybe a local charity or an after-school program, but before you can find your checkbook, American Express starts nudging you in the other direction. That money is already spent. Or when you’re in your checkbook, you find yourself hesitating to add that extra zero. You feel generous, but you can’t be generous, and you can’t seem to make yourself be generous.
Or in some instances, you just won’t be generous, and why? Well, because you have fallen victim of the consumption assumption. So this is a really big deal. This goes way beyond the realm of personal finances. This is about who’s in charge of your life. It’s about whether your life will simply be full of stuff, or perhaps full of meaning. In this way, financial issues actually become spiritual issues, don’t they?
And Jesus says this. He continues….
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.
Here’s a rich guy who now has even more wealth because the ground produced an abundant harvest. The ground which, by the way, he had no control over.
17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ (this is a problem) 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.
Now, on the surface, it doesn’t seem like we have anything in common with this lucky fellow, but just below the surface…well, let me ask you this, have you ever had a garage sale? Yeah. Have you ever carried a load or two or 20 to Goodwill? Have you ever had a hard time finding space in the attic or the basement for something you weren’t using anymore because the attic or basement was already full of stuff you weren’t using anymore?
So yeah, we may have more in common with this fellow than first meets the eye. Back to the parable.
19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
Which is really a great plan if you think about it, it’s kind of the goal, isn’t it? It’s the American dream. Have enough money to buy whatever you want now, save enough so that you can retire and buy whatever you want later. And if you’ve really done things right, you’ll have enough to make sure your kids are taken care of as well. If you could do all of that, you’ve pretty much won, right? I mean, you’re blessed, right?
Well, so thought everybody in Jesus’ audience, and then Jesus surprised them with this.
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.
It’s like, what? Everybody in Jesus’ audience is taken aback, just like you probably were the first time you read this parable. I mean, he achieved the goal, he’s living the dream. Clearly, there’s some kind of disconnect. But listen to this question,
Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
In other words, you are out of time, even though you’re not out of grain. You are out of time, even though you’re not out of money. And that’s going to be the story for most of us, isn’t it? For most of us, because of family support or pensions or 401Ks or decent investing, we’re actually going to run out of time before we run out of money.
So the question that God asked the rich guy is really a question for all of us, “Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” And the answer is someone else. But not because this guy was generous, because this guy was dead. He didn’t give it, he just left it.
Now at this point, Jesus pulls out of the parable and He addresses His audience and us as well.
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
This is how it will be: Total, complete loss. Everything was left behind. He ate, he drank, he was merry, and then he died. Nothing meaningful to show for his life. This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves, but is not rich towards God.
Jesus is not teaching against preparing for the future. What He is saying is this is how it will be for anyone who only prepares for their future and is not rich towards God. This is how it will be for anyone who embraces the consumption assumption, the assumption that everything that comes my way is for MY consumption.
That’s the mistake the rich man made. He built bigger barns because he thought it was all for him. And in the end, total loss.
Again, if money could talk, it would say, “I can add meaning to your life, but I’m not the meaning of life.”
That’s how we should view our money. Money can add meaning to our life but money is just a tool. The rich man, he never realized this, he thought his money was a gift, not a tool, an entitlement or reward to sit back and enjoy. But Jesus teaches that our money is a tool, and that’s why it can add meaning to our life.
So here’s the question to ponder on as we leave. To what ends do you want your life to be a means? If something is not a means to an end, it has no meaning, no purpose. It’s the rich man’s life. His wealth was not a means to anything other than himself. And in the end, he had nothing to show for himself, but himself. So his life, even with all of his wealth, had no meaning. So when he was gone, as Jesus said, it was a total loss.
Here’s another way to ask that same question: What do you want people to celebrate about you when you’re gone? What do you want people to line up and thank you for in the end?
Most people never stop to ask those kinds of questions. And perhaps you haven’t either. I don’t know how you’d answer it, but I know how you wouldn’t answer it. I know you wouldn’t say, “Well, for me it’s all about accumulation consumption, and upgrades, and new shiny things.” Right?
Here’s the thing. If you don’t figure this out, life will figure it out for you. Your appetites, your desire for more, bigger, newer, shinier will dictate the answer to that question. Culture will pull you toward the, “She ate, she drank, she was merry, and she died” concept. Nobody chooses that on purpose.
That’s why the meaning question really is about your money. Money is a tool. It’s a tool that can add meaning to your life. How you view it and use it is going to make the difference.
Make sure you come back next week as we’ll be talking about one more assumption that most of us make when it comes to our money. And getting that one wrong may be the thing that keeps getting you into trouble. Thankfully, it is easy to fix.