There are at least three taboo subjects in the Church that we’re not supposed to talk about- money, sex and politics. Proverbs gives us the opportunity to talk about at least two of those, and maybe all three of them. We’ve done the sex talk, Proverbs 5-7, as Solomon is talking to his son about matters relating to his sexual integrity. But you can’t do a study of Proverbs very well and sort of skip over all the financial counsel that this 3000-year-old book gives to us. The book of Proverbs is chock full of financial wisdom- God’s perspective on our finances and money and material possessions and all of that. In fact, the Bible has a lot to say about this. Years ago somebody identified over 2000 verses in the Bible that talk about money and wealth and our material possessions and our relationship to it. Just a disclaimer here on the front end, I’m not addressing the subject this morning because we have some capital campaign we’re rolling out in a few weeks and we’re trying to get everybody…no, I love to talk about this subject because, first of all, it was my undergraduate degree, financial planning was. And when I came through my secular university with that degree and then landed upon all the Bible has to say about this subject, I just love this stuff, not only to apply to our family life personally, but also to help coach individuals and couples and families in wise financial management from God’s perspective. But, you know, we’ve always said that’s one of the things we shouldn’t talk about in the Church. And I understand the sense of distrust and all of that when the preacher talks about money. There is no agenda this morning. We’re just in the book of Proverbs. And we’re just gonna talk about what God has to say. And I hope this is helpful to you and your family and to your marriage and to your situation.
Somebody also once said that money makes the world go ‘round. Do you believe that? Well, if you ever went to musical Cabaret and listened to one of the songs and the lyrics to that song, you might believe it. “Money makes the world go ‘round,” it says. “It makes the world go ‘round; a mark, a yen, a buck or a pound, a buck or a pound, a buck or a pound, it all makes the world go ‘round,” it says. “That clinking, clanking sound makes the world go ‘round.” Well, if it does—and that’s up for discussion—but if it does, we need to know what God has to say about that clinking, clanking sound, whether it’s a buck or a pound or a mark or a yen or whatever it is, even a dollar, we need to know what God has to say. We need His financial counsel, because it all belongs to Him anyway. You know that, don’t you? We are merely stewards. We are managers of a sacred trust. And we will be held accountable one day for how we have managed this things called money. Sixteen of the 38 parables that Jesus told have a money or stewardship theme to them. And it’s all pointing to, many of them, to the second coming of Jesus Christ and that day when the Master will hold us accountable for how we have managed His wealth.
Why does the Bible talk so much about money? Well, I can think of two or three reasons. First of all, Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:24, He says, “No one can serve two masters.” He says, “You’ll either love the one and hate the other. You’ll be devoted to one and you’ll despise the other. You cannot serve God and money,” Jesus said. He didn’t say it’s difficult to serve God and money. He says you can’t do it. Either God is first in your life, or money is gonna be first in your life. But if you try to put both of them on the same plane, it just doesn’t work. You’re gonna hate one or despise the other. So, you know, Jesus’s words point us to this tricky thing called money. It can easily become an idol in our life if we’re not careful. Also, the Bible tells us that money can be disappointing. If you put all your trust into money, you might just be disappointed. Proverbs 23:4-5 says, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich. Do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” Isn’t that the way money is? Have you ever had some money in the stock market, and suddenly the stock market decides to correct itself. And those wings start to sprout on your money, and it just flies off to the sky like an eagle. And you’re reaching after it. Where did it go? Where did it go? Money can disappoint you that way. You put all your trust in your savings and your bank accounts and your retirement accounts, you know, one day it may just all disappear. It may just all fly away. If I read the Bible correctly, there is a coming economic crisis and earthquake, even as we go to the end of the age, that will just devastate this world. All the financial experts, Wall Street and in other places, they don’t know what’s about to come just prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ.
And then the Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 6…it warns us with these words. It says, “Those who want to get rich, they fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. Yeah, there is a buyer beware warning on money that we all need to be aware of. You know, you make it the focus of your life to want to get rich and to want to have more money, and you may fall into a temptation and into a trap. It goes on to say, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” That’s why it’s important to decide who is really the master of your life. Is it Jesus Christ, or is it the almighty dollar?
So we’re gonna talk about some of those things from Solomon’s perspective in the book of Proverbs. By the way, how many of you want to experience financial freedom? Anybody here? Every hand should go up, because the alternative is financial bondage. All right. So how many of you want to experience financial freedom? All right. Well, here is what the Bible says about freedom. I wrote down some of these verses. John 8:32 Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” I know that applies to our salvation, but it also applies to a lot of areas of life. You know the truth about something, and that’ll set you free. You know the truth and money and finances and our relationship to it, and you’ll be on your way to experiencing financial freedom. 2 Corinthians 2:17, “Where the spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Luke 4:18, “He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the captives.” I know a lot of that applies to our salvation and not being slaves anymore to sin, but here is what I’ve discovered over the years. The devil loves to mess with our finances in a way that he creates financial bondage. Even so in marriage relationship where a husband and a wife are maybe not on the same page financially. They’re not financial soul mates, they’re financial inmates because they have different financial personalities. They spend and make money differently and view money differently. And they’ve just gotten into a snarl in their marriage relationship. The number one cause of divorce today is financial stress. So if for no other reason you need to hear God’s financial wisdom just to bring peace to your marriage and to your family and to be well on your way to experiencing financial freedom God’s way. That’s what I want to talk to you this morning on the front end.
And as I share these thoughts, just understand I’m not sharing them as a pastor in an ivory tower somewhere where I took a book off the shelf and, you know, I’ve got this financial lesson to teach. This is stuff I’ve been living out for 30 years. And I say 30 years because for about a decade before Cathryn and I married, I was a young adult in the business world. I had a financial planning degree from Purdue University. And I came out and just came in contact with guys like Larry Burkett and others who were teaching biblical financial stewardship. Larry is one of the pioneers on radio teaching, you know, Christian financial concepts. And when that intersected with my secular training and financial planning, I thought, wow, this is really cool stuff. And what I’ve discovered over the years in every church that I’ve served is there is great financial pain in every congregation because we’ve all made financial mistakes. And we’ve gone down a financial path not according to God’s wisdom, but maybe according to the world’s wisdom or maybe according to Wall Street or maybe according to our own foolish financial sense. And so, you know, these are things that Cathryn and I have applied in our family and in our marriage for more than 20 years. It’s things that I’ve been living out for more than 30 years.
Here is what I’ve learned about financial freedom. Biblical financial freedom is four things. Number one, it’s free of debt. Free of debt. Proverbs 22:7, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.” In other words, you are a prisoner of your past as it relates to your debt. Debt makes you a prisoner of your past. And it takes about two seconds to get into debt, as long as it takes to sign that credit card or to sign some other debt obligation. It takes years to get out of debt if you don’t already have the money in the bank to pay off the debt obligation. When the bill comes. So debt makes you a prisoner of your past. If you want to be financially free, you have to avoid the debt monster out there. And you have to figure out a way if you’re in debt to get yourself out of debt. I want to suggest to you. That you cannot be completely free in Christ and in financial bondage at the same time. It’s one of the things the devil loves to do to create bondage in our life is to mess with our finances in a way that, well, as many Americans are trying to do, try to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak. Oh, not yours truly. The Joneses are trying to keep up with the Smiths and the Browns, right? But everybody is trying to keep up with somebody out there.
So let’s talk about the proverbial Joneses for a moment, John and Jane Jones. We got a picture of the up here? We got John and Jane Jones. Are they coming? There they are. Aren’t they a happy-looking couple? Just came back from a shopping spree at the local mall. Good-looking couple there. They’re about to hop into their latest SUV and drive back home to their nice, big 4- or 5,000-square-foot house. They look like what we want to strive for. But if you look under the hood of their financial life, it tells a different story. In fact, let’s take a look at a few things here. They’re probably their early to mid-40s. Both of them work. They have kids in daycare. But they are like 76% of Americans today that have less than $1,000 in the bank. That’s the latest statistic. 76% of Americans have less than $1,000 in the bank. No savings. No retirement. They’re living paycheck to paycheck. They’re in debt up to eyeballs with 23% interest on credit cards, multiple credit cards. They are house-poor. You know what that means? They bought more house than they could really afford. Oh, the mortgage company told them they could afford it. But they’re drowning. And that mortgage payment they have makes them think twice about going to Chili’s with the family, let alone going on vacation very much. They have two car payments. That means they are driving themselves to the poor house. I can show you a way to always pay cash for your car. I don’t have time to do that this morning. Talk to me after the service.
They worry about money. They have a home equity loan. You know, they dipped into that equity in their house, and now they have two payments. They’re on the verge of bankruptcy if the truth be known. And the stress in their marriage. Oh, they look happy. They’re coming home with all these sacks full of sale goods. But the stress in their marriage is bringing them to the brink of divorce. Number one cause of divorce in marriage today is financial stress. So everybody is trying to keep up with the Joneses or the Smiths or the Browns. The Joneses are heading to the poor house. Most Americans are.
So if you want financial freedom God’s way, we’re talking about being free of debt. Listen to how Solomon counsels his son. Proverbs 6, “My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor…” This is somebody who cosigns on a note for somebody who can’t get a bank loan. And they come to you with a sad story. “Oh, I got this great business idea,” or, “I need this loan,” or…there is a reason the bank won’t loan them the money. Don’t cosign on that note. But if you do, if you “have given your pledge for a stranger,” Solomon says, “if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor. Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler.” Can you just sense the urgency in Solomon’s mind, looking at his son and saying, “Stay out of debt, and if you’re in debt, do whatever you can to get out of it”? Get out of debt. You’ll never be financially free, and I’ll even suggest spiritually free in Christ completely, until you get on that path to being debt free. I’m not saying you don’t have a mortgage, but a reasonable one. But you are living a debt-free life.
Number two is free from the love of money. Hebrews 13:5, “Keep your lives free from the love of money, and become content with what you have.” Now, that’s a word, isn’t it? Contentment. It’s one of those strange things that most people in our culture… “Contentment? What’s that?” Contentment is the antidote to consumerism. Consumerism is that things in our culture that pushes us and urges us to trade in, buy up. And you need the newest and the latest, you know, smartphone and the newest and the latest model of the car and all that. And there’s just this relentless pressure from Madison Avenue and New York City to buy this and trade up that. And it’s called consumerism, and it’s the engine that drives our economy. The problem is it drives us to the poor house if we’re not saving and investing and always buying. So contentment is the antidote to consumerism. And the Bible tells us that the love of money…not money itself, because money is neutral. The love of money and the things that money buy is the root of all kinds of evil, the scripture says. Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
So if you want to experience financial freedom God’s way, it’s free of debt, free from the love of money. Here is the third one. Free to give generously. Acts 20:35, the apostle Paul is quoting the Lord Jesus Christ. He says, “Remember when he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than it is to receive.’” How many of you believe that is true, that it’s more blessed to give than it is to receive? All right. That’s great. Now, if I were to look into your financial life, I took a little peek into your checkbook, would there be evidence in your financial life that you really do believe that’s true that it’s more blessed to give than it is to receive? You see, that’s where the rubber kind of meets the road, doesn’t it? It’s easy to say, “Oh yeah, I want to blessed life. I want to experience the blessed life.” But when Jesus says, “Okay. It’s more blessed to give than to receive,” then we’re gonna have to approach these finances and this money thing in a slightly different way. We’re gonna have to learn to give generously. There was an old limerick that said, “There once was a man, some thought him mad. The more he gave, the more he had.” Isn’t that great? But that’s very biblical, very biblical. Because the Bible says Jesus Himself said, “Give, and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” You see, you can’t out-give God. Give and it shall be given unto you. Some people think it’s nothing but madness. You talk to a secular financial planner, and you tell him, “Hey, I give to God first.” He’s gonna think you’re crazy. “You’ll never reach your financial goals that way.” Well, I’ve got a different story to tell you. Wall Street says that if we’re gonna be prosperous, we need to learn how to buy and sell. No, the Bible says we need to sow and reap. 2 Corinthians 9:6 says, “Remember this, whoever sows sparingly reaps sparingly; whoever sows generously reaps generously.” And that was in the context of a major section of scripture, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, where the apostle Paul is addressing matters related to giving. And he points to the farmer as an analogy of what’s true in the natural world and in the farming world is also true in our financial world. Whoever sows sparingly reaps sparingly, but the farmer who generously scatters his seed can anticipate a generous harvest. Now, I’m not a prosperity theologian. Please understand that. But I am a biblical theologian. And there is nothing more clear than what the apostle Paul says in that context. It’s all about money. Sow sparingly, reap sparingly. “Give and it shall be given unto you,” Jesus says. “Good measure pressed down, shaken together…” The measure with which you give, He says, is the measure with which it will be given back to you. That’s biblical economics. And it runs contrary to everything we think. Because it was Wesley who says, you know, “Make all you can, save all you can, and give all (0:19:00.1) you can.” But the world says, “Make all you can, can all you get, and sit on the lid.” All right. But that’s not the way it works in the spiritual realm. And God has an economic plan that will lead to your financial freedom if you follow it.
Number four. Free of debt, free from the love of money, free to give generously, free to have fun, to have fun with what God has blessed you with. I remember years ago a listener called in to the Dave Ramsey Show. Dave is a nationally-recognized radio host on financial matters and biblical financial matters. He is a follower of Jesus Christ. And a listener called in and he wanted to buy a Harley Davidson. This guy just, you know…he wanted a motorcycle. And he says, “Dave, I’m thinking about buying the Harley.” He says, “But it’s really, really expensive. Can you give me some guidance here?” And Dave asked him some diagnostic questions about his financial life- “How much do you make? Are you in any debt?” “No, I’m doing really well.” But the guys was still just not sure about buying the Harley. And Dave (0:20:00.0) finally asked him. He says, “Well, what kind of financial net worth do you have?” And the guys says, “I don’t know. Somewhere around 19 or 20 million dollars.” And Dave just about ate his microphone, and he says, “Dude, buy the Harley!” You know, have fun with what God has given to you as long as everything else is in its proper place, right? You can have a lot of fun with credit cards, but, oh, payday is coming. But when you’ve order your financial life according to biblical principles—and we’ll talk about that further in a moment—and when God has blessed you and…it’s not gonna stretch the budget for this guys of 20 million to buy a Harley. Go have fun with it. You don’t have to feel guilty about having fun with what God has blessed you with. In fact, Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too I see is from the hand of God, for without him who can eat or find real enjoyment.” So financial freedom- free of debt, free from the love of money, free to give generously. And then when everything else is in its proper order, free to have fun and enjoy God’s blessing.
Well, how do you get there? You’ve got to have a financial plan. Do you have a financial plan? The old adage “if you fail to plan…”—finish it with me—“…you plan to fail.” Right? That’s true financially as well. If you fail to plan financially, you are planning to fail financially. You are planning to be a part of the 76% of Americans who have less than $1,000 in the bank and will be completely dependent on the government to support them in their later years. How’s that working for you?
So you’ve got to have a financial plan. And everybody has one whether they realize it or not. Some people have what I call the ostrich financial plan. When it comes to their finances, they’ve just taken their head and stuck it right in the sand. They say, “Oh, you know, I’m just not very good with numbers. All that. It just stresses me out to think about a budget.” And then they get real spiritual with me. “God will take care of me. I don’t have to worry about all that stuff.” No, God is waiting for you to get a plan, okay. In fact, He encourages us to have a plan. Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” And then Proverbs 21:5, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” Okay? You’ve got to have a plan. Yeah, you always leave room for God in His sovereignty to work in your life, but it’s important to plan, to have a plan. Some people are on the “fake it ‘til you make it” financial plan. You ever seen that one? That’s when you’re spending money you don’t have to buy things you can’t afford to impress people who really don’t care. But you’re out there faking it ‘til you make it. Driving the latest automobiles, you know, the brand new whatever because you saw the commercial on television and you’ve got to have one. Walking around with the latest technology. Living in a house that you’re really house-poor. You’re faking it ‘til you make it, and nobody really cares. Nobody is all that impressed, okay. But you’re trying to keep up with the Joneses or the Smith or the Browns. That’s some people’s financial plan.
The financial plan that Cathryn and I have lived off of for more than two decades, one that we practice even to this day, I call it the 10/10/80 financial plan. It’s very simple. Based on biblical principles. And I just want to share it with you today because this works, okay. It works. It orders your finances according to biblical principles. And if you have the courage and the faith to follow this, it really puts your financial future in God’s hands. And, yes, my God shall apply all of my riches according to His glory in Christ Jesus, as long as we follow His financial plan. You step outside of that, and you’re on your own. But God obligates Himself to take care of His kids when, you know, His kids follow His plan.
So here is the 10/10/80 financial plan. Number one, give to God first. That’s the first 10%. Where do I get that? Well, we’ve been in Proverbs 3:9-10 earlier in this series, but let’s go back for a review. “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine.” This is the firstfruits principle. Honor the Lord with the firstfruits. In other words, the first—and I’ll say 10% and explain why in a moment—but the first 10% goes to the Lord. You give to God first. I said it earlier in this series. You can’t say God is first in your life if He’s last in your budget, if all you give to Him are the leftovers.
I remember a story years ago. Paul Harvey, the famous radio commentator out of Chicago, was told the story about a lady who discovered at the bottom of her freezer in her basement she had a Butterball turkey that had been in there, I don’t know, eight or ten years she guessed. And she decided it was time to pull it out there, defrost it, and, you know, fix it up and feed it to her family. But she was a little bit concerned that, you know, it had been in there for a really, really long time. And she wasn’t quite sure whether it was still edible. So she called up the Butterball turkey hotline, talked to a customer service rep there, explained the situation. Well, they had never received a call like that before. And so, you know, they put her on hold for a couple minutes, got all the supervisors together. They came back and said, “Well, ma’am, this is a really odd conversation and an odd call. We’ve never had an experience like this before. But we stand behind our product. We think that it’s still edible. But if you do, you know, choose to feed it to your family you’re kind of on your own. We can’t guarantee anything.” And she said, “Well, I kind of thought that was the answer you were going to give to me. So my other alternative is just to give it to the church.” True story. True story from the lips of Paul Harvey. And it makes me to never want to go to a church potluck again. You never know what’s coming out of somebody’s kitchen, right? Just the phrase “potluck” scares me. But it kind of describes the way a lot of us give to God, doesn’t it? It’s the leftovers. And, again, you can’t say He’s first in your life if He’s last in your budget. And not only that, but God’s economic principles will not kick in for you unless you put Him first. Listen again to Proverbs. “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine.” Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” He said that at the end of a section of scripture where He’s dealing with worry. You ever worry about money? Having enough money to do this, that or the other thing? Jesus said the antidote to worry is put God first in your life. Just seek Him first and His righteousness, and then He’ll take care of the rest. He really does.
Now, I say give to God first, and that’s the first 10%. Why 10%? Well, that refers to the tithe principle in the scripture. And in the Old Testament a tithe was an apportionment, which meant a tenth. And back in the Old Testament under the Law of Moses, there were several tithing laws that were given to t people of Israel. I look at it as when God wanted to teach His people to give generously, He gave them to tithing laws. And the Old Testament Israelites lived under those laws for many, many years. But 400 years before it ever became a law under the Mosaic Law, it was a lifestyle practiced by none other than Abraham and Jacob. Read the story of Abraham and Jacob. As a way of honoring God, they gave a tithe of their income, a tenth of their income to the Lord as a way of honoring Him. As a way of acknowledging to Him that He’s the owner of everything and I’m just a manager managing a sacred trust that You’ve given to me. Tithing is a principle throughout the scripture. It’s the minimum expression of generosity found anywhere in the Bible. Anybody who is considered generous in the Bible started with 10%. It’s a starting point in our giving. It’s been a starting point in our giving in the Jones family. And we want to, and have many times gone beyond that. In Malachi 3:10 the Lord says, “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” You have a hard time trusting God with your finances? Okay. He says, “Put me to the test.” It’s the only time in the Bible where the Lord gives us the permission to test Him. And I’m glad He does, because it’s hard sometimes to trust the Lord with our finances, to get that paycheck and the first check that you cut is to the Lord. That’s a step of faith right there. It doesn’t take any faith to wait until the end of the month and see if you’ve got something left over to drop into the offering plate. That doesn't take any faith. It takes faith to give to God first. And that’s what God wants to do is to stretch our faith. And if He can do it through something tangible and practical like our finances, boy, that’s a win/win for Him.
So we give to God first. I’ve said to people for more than two decades in ministry, take the 90-day giving challenge if you have a hard time trusting the Lord in this area. Tithe for 90 days. And if a financial disaster befalls you, call our business office and we’ll send you your money back. I confidently make that guarantee. Why? Because the Lord says, “Put me to the test and see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” I’ve seen it happen over and over and over and over and over again in our family and in so many other families.
So this 10/10/80 financial plan, yeah, the first one is a little bit of a stretch for some of us. Give to God first, and give Him that tithe. Secondly, pay yourself. You give to God first with the first 10%. Then with the second 10% you pay yourself. That’s called savings and investments. You have to plan for the future. In fact, you need two portfolios in your life. You need an eternal portfolio. That’s giving to God. That’s what Jesus said when He says, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” I take that to mean there is a heavenly 401k account that opened up when you became a believer in Jesus Christ. Question is, are you putting anything into it? Will anything be in that account when you arrive in heaven? Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven. That’s your heaven portfolio, your eternal portfolio. The other portfolio you need is an earthly portfolio. This is savings and investments. This is just wise financial planning. This is a choice you make not to live paycheck to paycheck and to even go beyond that and to spend more than you have, but to live within your means and to understand that you’re gonna have to plan for the future. Proverbs 21:20 says, “In the house of wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has. To put it in our vernacular, in the house of the wise are savings accounts and investment accounts and retirement accounts and college savings funds. But a foolish man lives paycheck to paycheck and never puts anything aside for the future. Again, 76% of Americans, less than $1,000 in the bank. That’s a scary place to be. I say to young people, “Start this when you’re young. When you get your first job and even your first job out of college, start.” Because the way to build wealth the Bible way is not through a “get rich quick” scheme. It’s not by buying a lottery ticket. Come on, that’s gambling. That’s not trusting a sovereign God to lead you. That’s putting your trust in chance. We don’t do that as Christians. The way to build wealth the Bible way is little by little over a long period of time, getting compound interest and time to work in your favor. Making wise financial investments according to God’s financial principles. You do that and you start early in life, you're not gonna have any problems. Yeah, there may be some financial setbacks here and there. But if you haven’t done this, you might need to accelerate some of this plan. Do some catch-up, all right. But start by giving to God first. You might have to pay yourself a little bit more and get your living expenses down here because payday is coming, all right. There is coming a time when you won’t be able to work as vigorously as you are now. And you’re gonna need that nest egg. Not to retire, but to re-fire for the next thing that God has for you in life, right?
So in the house of the wise are stores of choice food. If you’re not inspired by that, just consider the ant. Proverbs 6:6, “Go to the ant, O sluggard,” you lazy sluggard; “consider her ways,” just a little bitty ant. It says, “Be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” Even the ant, the little bitty ant plans ahead and stores up for the coming winter. Joseph did this in the Old Testament. Remember Joseph when he rose through the ranks of, you know, Potiphar’s prison and all that and became second in command in Egypt and God shared with him a vision of seven years of famine coming. So what did Joseph do? He was wise enough to store up grain for the next seven years so that when the hard times came Egypt could feed the world. Pretty wise thing for Joseph to do.
I want to suggest you do need three kinds of savings buckets. First you need an emergency savings. Why? Because life happens. The car breaks down. The washer and dryer and breaks down, or there is an unforeseen medical expense. And given the Affordable Care program we’re under today, which is not all that affordable, I mean, probably you or your employer are paying up to $15,000, maybe $20,000 a year just for the premium. And then you’ve got a 3-, 4-, 5-, $6,000 deductible on top of that. You’re spending 20- to $25,000 before the plan pays a single penny. And you have one little minor surgery that takes you into the OR, and you're gonna get a 3-, $4,000 bill. You’ve got to have emergency savings because life happens. You also need retirement savings. Now, retirement is not necessarily a biblical concept. God has a plan for us from the cradle to the grave. But there is that time in life when you might not be able to generate as much income as you are right now, and you need to plan for that time to sustain yourself financially. That’s savings and investments. And if you didn’t start early, you need to start today and accelerate that. Because that day is coming. And then college savings in another one. I’ve got two kids, you know, in college. Or one that is finishing high school this year and another one that is a freshman. Oh my. The college bills are upon us. Well, we started when they were, boy, I don’t know, three hours old opening up that 529 plan and putting as much as we could in over the years, little by little over a long period of time. We got partway there, but, you know, we still have to figure out a way to finish out those college years. You’ve got to plan for that.
So you give to God first, you pay yourself second, and then you live off the rest. That means adjusting your standard of living. One of the best decisions Cathryn and I ever made financially—and we haven’t always done it right—but it was the first house that we bought. At that time we were newly married and we were DINKs- double income, no kids. That’s a great place to be, all right. Great place to be. We both had a professional income. I was pastoring my first church; she was in the corporate world. And we had a lot of disposable income. And we wanted to buy our first house. And I remember the mortgage company saying, “Wow, look at all this buying power you have.” But we also anticipated the day, Lord willing, when He would give us some children. And Cathryn had a desire to be a stay-at-home mom. And so we resisted the urge to buy this, and we bought a house qualifying with my income, maybe a little bit of hers, okay. And that’s how we’ve bought our house every time, always, you know, below our means. It’s a wonderful way to live, okay. But you have to consciously make that decision. And you have to come together as a husband and a wife and get on the same financial page. I know that’s not easy for everybody. My prayer for you is that you would be financial soul mates, not financial inmates, fighting with each other, experiencing stress and a lack of peace in your home around that issue. Do whatever it takes. If you’re an engaged couple or you’re looking forward to getting married one day, make sure that you have that financial discussion with that potential mate. Because money is the number one cause of divorce in our culture today. It’s financial stress, financial stress. Everybody needs a long-term and a short-term financial plan. A short-term financial plan is called…yeah, I’ll just say the word. Budget. And everyone goes “ugh.” It’s the big groan. I understand that. Think of it as a wise saving plan, okay. A budget is a wise savings plan that tells you where your money goes before you wonder where it went. Okay. Do I need to say that again? A budget is a wise savings plan where you say, “This is where my money’s gonna go before I wake up one day and say, ‘Where did it all go?’” Well, if you’re in that place where you say, “I don’t know where it all went,” then you need a budget. And a husband and a wife need to come together and make financial priorities and make financial decisions and then spend accordingly there.
A simple plan. Simple, simple plan. But know there are some decisions for you to make in the room today. Again, my heart and my prayer as a pastor is that you will experience biblical financial freedom and you’ll experience a peace. The devil will be far from your finances. It’s not to say that you won’t ever have a financial catastrophe or times of stress or unemployment or whatever. But you plan for that. Just like the ant stores away, you plan for all of that. And there are some things you can’t plan for. I get that. There are some of you that are in debt not because you made a poor financial decision, but because circumstances fell upon you, maybe medically or otherwise, and you're in the position that you are. God wants to help you there. He has a put a preponderance of wisdom not only the book of Proverbs but all throughout the scriptures to help us to be financially wise people, to be good and faithful stewards of this sacred trust that He’s given to us. Free of debt. Free from the love of money. Free to give generously. Free to have fun. You’ve got to have a plan. It’s a simple, simple, practical message today. No agenda here. Just passing on some stuff that we’ve learned through the pages of scripture. We haven’t always done it perfectly, but I’ll you what. This works. This works. And my prayer is that you put it into practice today. Let’s pray together.
Father, thank You so much for Your Word. Thank You for giving us divine guidance in every area of our life, including our finances. Help us to be the kind of wise people who put this into practice right now. And, Father, there may be somebody here today who is in a world of hurt financially. And You’re using a message like this maybe to bring them to a whole new source of wisdom and knowledge and information that they’ve never considered. Not to just help them to get healthy financially, but also bringing them to that intersection in their life between their financial life and their spiritual life. And that’s an important intersection for us, Father. To understand that we have more than just financial issues to deal with, but that, as human beings created in the image of God, we need to get right with You because we’ve sinned against You. Oh, maybe not just in the foolishness of our finances, but in so many other ways. Born into this world sinners who need a Savior. And born into a world with worldly philosophy. Mr. Worldly Financial Wiseman. And maybe that person is here that has bought into so much of what the world says that they’re not just in financial trouble, but in trouble in a lot of other ways. And in some strange way, maybe You’re using this message, Father, about something as practical as money to move someone closer to the cross today where Jesus Christ died not only to make us financially free, but, more importantly, spiritually free. Free from the bondage of sin. And, Father, I pray that today would be a freedom day across our church family. That nobody here would walk out of this place as a sinner still in the entanglements of this world, but they would find freedom at the cross of Christ. It is for freedom that Christ came. And I pray that today would be a day of salvation in that. So, Lord, lead us in this time of response to make spiritual decisions that You’ve called us to make. Give us the courage to do that. Give us the faith to do that. And we pray this in Jesus’s name and for His sake, amen.