We are on 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. And since everyone has a relationship with money, we should 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 view. So in this series, we’re looking at God’s view of money through three biblical points:
- Money is a tool from God that is used to add meaning to our lives
- How to be the master of our money instead of our money being our master
- How to manage our money the way God wants us to.
I’m going to show you a completely different paradigm than our world. It changes not just our finances, honestly, it can change everything. What we are talking about here could literally be a turning point for you in life.
What would money say if money could talk?
If money is God’s and it’s a tool for us to use, what would it tell us? We’re flipping the script. Isn’t it true that usually you’re the one telling your money what to do? Buy me these clothes. Pay the electric bill. Go into my 401K plan. But what would our money say if our money could talk?
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 I think our money would say matches what Jesus said 2,000 years ago about money. That’s because money’s not the root of all evil like we’ve assumed. Only the love of money is.
Last week, I asked you, “What would you do or what do you do with your spare money, your extra money?” And then, I went about proving to you that you actually have spare money or you had it because all of our money is now accounted for. We either spent it or we’re paying off what we spent it on a long time ago. Or maybe we’re saving it for a vacation, or a rainy day, or retirement.
And I used a word to describe this destructive cycle. The word was the ugly ‘g’ word, greed. Greed, as we discovered, is the assumption that everything that comes our way is for our consumption. That every single dollar that comes my way is meant for me, that every dollar that comes your way is meant for you. It’s meant to spend now or it’s meant to save for later so you can spend it later. But either way, it’s for you, it’s for me.
Now, of course, Jesus disagreed with this whole idea. In fact, He told us that life does not consist in an abundance of possessions. In other words, life is not about stuff. Life is not about what you have. Life is not a race for newer, shinier, upgraded, renovated stuff. Life is so much more than that, and you know that.
Jesus said, “Your money is just a tool.” In fact, if money could talk, it would remind us, “I can add meaning to your life, but I am not the meaning of your life.”
Now this week, we’re going to discuss a second thing our money might tell us if our money could actually talk. And if our money could actually talk, it would likely tell us this. “The moment you think you own me, I actually own you.”
Now to illustrate this, I want us to look at the way the typical American handles their finances. This is going to be a little bit disturbing. Check out this graph. The vertical side is your money and the horizontal line is your time. Now, hopefully in your lifetime, your income and spending will look something like this. The older you get, the more income you have and the less spending you have.
The truth is, most of us allow our income to actually match or drive our spending. In other words, if you make $50,000 a year, you’re going to spend $50,000 a year. $100,000 a year, you’ll spend it. $200,000 a year, you’ll spend it. To which you may respond, “Not me. If I made $200,000 a year, I would save a lot of it.”
Maybe, but probably not. I say probably not because your current habit would follow you right up the pay scale, and that’s not the only thing that would follow you. Financial pressure would follow you as well, which will come as a shock because you think, “If I made that much money, how could I possibly have any financial pressure?”
You would be surprised. People who make that much money, but have spent it all on things like car payments, big mortgage, second mortgage, they feel extraordinary financial pressure. For some of you, this is your story. You are making more money than you’ve ever made and you feel as much financial pressure or more as you’ve ever felt. In fact, it’s worse because if you lose a $50,000 a year job, you can go find one of those. You lose a $150,000 a year job, or maybe a $200,000 a year job, it’s like “good luck.” Those jobs are few and far between.
The more money people make, if their spending follows their income, the more pressure they actually feel. Now, for some of us, the graph actually looks more like this. Our spending actually exceeds our income. And in fact, sometimes it’s because income drops, maybe we’re laid off, or you decided to leave your job, or change careers, but often it’s because we spend and borrow until we’re upside down.
And the next thing you know, you don’t just have a money problem, you have all kinds of problems. You have a marriage problem. Every conversation is about money.
Lots of folks with lots of stuff, have lots of financial pressure. You see, when your life is like this, you actually become a slave. You have purchased or borrowed your way into slavery. Visa, American Express, a student loan, they’re actually your master.
Now, they don’t want to be your master, that’s not why they’re in business. They’re in business to facilitate your happiness, to make things easier for you, to help you get through school, or maybe own a home. But when your personal finances look like this, they now have become your masters.
And you know what? You don’t like them. What’s worse is that you don’t even know who “them” is to not like. And they don’t know who you are either. You’re just an account number. If you don’t believe me, call them and tell them your name. And what’s the next question they ask? “What’s your account number?” To them, you’re just a number, not a name. And even worse, you’re a slave. You can’t buy this, you can’t drive that, you can’t vacation here, your kids can’t go to school there.
At this point, who’s running your life? People that you don’t even know, companies you don’t even work for; the mortgage company, the credit union. You’re a slave to a group of people, you don’t even know. And worst of all, you did this to yourself. It’s why if our money could talk, it would warn us, “The moment you think you own me, the moment you think you get to do whatever you want to with me, I actually own you.”
Now thankfully, Jesus addresses this and spoiler alert: According to Jesus, we don’t actually own our money. It’s not actually ours. We think it is, and why wouldn’t we? Think about the words we use, “You earned it. You made it. You put in the hours. Your name is on the paycheck. It was deposited into your account.”
So of course, we think we own this money and stuff to which our money and our stuff might reply, “But I’ll still be here when you’re gone, so who really owns who.” This is how we know we’re not the owners. We leave it all behind. We don’t own it. We just manage it, and we only manage it for a little while. Which begs the question, who are we managing it for? Jesus answered that question for us in a parable.
Now, it’s a parable that I know you’ve heard before, and so try not to allow your mind to rush to the end. Here’s the parable Jesus taught that really lays the foundation for where we’re going in this session. He said….
Matthew 25:14–15, 19
14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone.”
Now in a parable, there’s always a God figure, and then there’s always an us figure. Someone in the parable represents the folks in Jesus’ audience, and someone in the parable represents God the Father. And if you read the whole parable in context, it becomes very clear that the wealthy man, the one who’s going on a journey and entrusts his wealth to his servants, represents God. And the servants to whom the wealth is entrusted, well that’s me and you.
Now notice, he doesn’t give them his wealth, and this wasn’t a loan. He just let them manage his money for him for a little while, while he was gone. So what percentage of the money did the servants own? 0%. What percentage did the master own? 100% It was all his. This is important. In fact, this is actually the whole point of the parable.
15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.
So essentially, the master gets his guys together, he hands each of them a portion of his wealth and says, “While I’m gone, I expect you to do with my wealth what I would do with my wealth. I want you to manage it the way you think I would manage it. And when I return, you’ll have an opportunity to report on how you did.”
Now, if you know this parable, you know what happens next. When he returns, he discovers that they all didn’t manage his money the same way. Two of these three guys did really well. In fact, they doubled their master’s money. But one of them doesn’t do quite so well. He buries it. Literally.
19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money.”
And this is where the point of the parable becomes oh so clear. The servants didn’t get to keep the money they’d been managing. They didn’t even get to keep the extra money they’d made on their master’s money. It all went back to the master. Why? Because 100% of it belonged to the master and 0% belonged to the servants. They were managers. They weren’t owners!
Now I know, that when we read this parable, there’s a tendency to get all caught up in the unfairness. I mean, one guy got five, another guy got two, and one only had one. In fact, some of you are kind of stuck there right now, aren’t you?
You look around the world, you look around your community, you look at your friends and you think, “It’s just not fair. I work just as hard as they do, and their salary’s twice as big as mine. I mean, if I had that much money, if I had that opportunity…”
But Jesus says, “No, that’s not the point.” The point of this parable is simply this. It’s not the amount of money that each of these servants was asked to manage. That was outside of their control. The issue wasn’t how much they managed. It’s what they did with what they were asked to manage.
Now, think about this, if you sat down with a financial planner who was managing your money, and you asked to see where your money is invested, and he or she said, “Well, you know, I’m not really that organized, and I don’t really keep track of all those details, but it seems to me…” As soon as a financial planner says, “It seems to me,” you’re going to fire them because when you manage someone else’s money, you are responsible and you are accountable so you better know exactly where that money is and how it’s doing.
But what about you? Do you feel responsible and accountable for how you are managing God’s wealth, the wealth that He has entrusted to you? Or are you the kind of financial planner that God would have to fire? I mean, could you give an account of where your money has gone, or is it just gone?
If all of this just seems a bit overwhelming, no worries. We’ve got another week to talk about it. And this week, I want you to do something with me, something specific to help you focus on this principle. We’re going to spy on our money together. That’s right, we are all going to spy on our money. We’re going to keep track of where we typically spend it.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, or perhaps you’ve even leaned over and whispered to the person next to you, “You know, there’s an app for that.” And there is. In fact, there are several apps for that, and feel free to download one of those and use it this week.
But you may be thinking, “Pastor Trish, I don’t need to do this. All of this shows up on my Visa bill or on my bank statement. I don’t need to track it, it basically tracks itself.” But that’s not the point of this exercise.
Knowing you can know is not the same as actually knowing. The fact that you have access to how much you’ve spent in different areas is different than sitting down and looking categorically at how much you spent and where you spent it.
So this week, I want you to keep track, I want you to spy on your money. Because when it comes to money, we should never find ourselves saying, “Well, it seems to me…” Or, “I’m not really sure.”
I mean, let’s face it, a certain amount comes in, and then we send it places. Right? A certain amount comes in and then you, or you and your husband, you and your wife, you decide where it goes. So when it comes to money, there should be no mystery.
There is mystery when it comes to love and romance. There is mystery when it comes to raising kids. In fact, there’s a lot of mystery when they become middle schoolers and high schoolers. But when it comes to knowing where your money went, there should be no mystery. And this is true whether you have a little or a lot.
Remember the parable. How much money each servant was managing was irrelevant. What mattered was what they did with what they were asked to manage. Jesus could not have been clearer. The reason you should keep track of where your money is going is that it’s not your money. You’re a manager, not an owner, so you should know where all your master’s money is going.
This exercise is going to help greatly for what we’ll talk about next week: How to manage our money the way God wants us to.