Part 2: “Spend me!”
If you’re short of money, here’s some advice from Ben Franklin. He said that there are two ways of solving money problems: augmenting your means that is, making more money or diminishing your wants; either will do. Make more money or spend less. Today we’re going to talk about spending money. All that we have belongs to God. We don’t own it, we just manage it for Him. How does God want us to spend His money?
Why would a church talk about money? Because it’s an important part of our lives, and the gospel speaks to all of life. The gospel, the good news, is that God has acted in Jesus Christ to save us. He has come to our rescue, reconciling us to Himself, and giving us a new life in Christ. We become new creatures in Christ—the old is gone, the new has come. All things become new, every part of our lives, including my money and stuff. God talks about money and possessions in the Bible a lot—over 2000 verses! So it is important for us to talk about it and understand how God makes this part of life new.
This is part two of our series, “Money Talks!” Money talks, and it says, “Spend me!” For most of us, when we get money, it starts shouting, “Spend me! Spend me!” It burns a hole in our pockets! When you get some extra money—an unexpected windfall—what is your first thought? “What can I buy with this?” Spend me! How many of you think first of saving it? The savers among us! How many of you think of people you could help? The saints among us! But most of us are spenders.
I told you last week that John Wesley said, “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” What is missing? He didn’t say, “Spend all you can.” He didn’t have to; we do that naturally! That’s the part we have to rein in.
1. Money talks: it says, “Spend me!”
“Spend me! The easiest thing to do with money is spend it. And we do. We are a nation of spenders, of recreational shoppers. The shopping mall is our playground! We spend! Some people spend all they make—they don’t save or give, they spend it all! Some people spend more than they make—they are in debt up to their eyeballs. The secret is to spend less than you make. Let’s say that together: spend less than you make. Only then will you have any money to save or give. But it is easier said than done. Money talks and it says, “Spend me!”
You might think that in a recession, we’d rein in our spending. Think again.
ILL: A December, 2010 article in Newsweek argues that after a brief period of cutting back Americans are starting to spend again—whether they can afford it or not. Some experts call it “frugality fatigue”—in other words, we’re tired of cutting back, and we’re ready to splurge again. The authors argue, “The truth is that spending may be hard to contain. Entire generations of consumers have grown up with the idea of instant gratification and the credit culture that comes with it.”
These are some of the key statistics from the article:
American households have reduced their debt (from $12.5 trillion in 2008 to $11.6 trillion in September of 2010), but most of that came from home foreclosures and defaults on credit cards.
From the start of the recession, we have continued to increase our spending in categories such as: Telephone equipment (up 16.6 percent), pet expenses (up 14.4 percent), and child care (up 12.8 percent).
Although 89 percent of Americans say they’re watching their expenditures, spending has increased anyway.
More tellingly, the authors include two stories that epitomize our runaway spending.
First, Maria Diaz, a 30-year-old waitress who was forced to move in with her mother, said, “I keep waiting for things to get better, and they just don’t. After awhile I just decided, ‘Screw it. I need some new clothes. I’m going to get them.’ My mama’s not happy, but I don’t care. You stop spending, and you stop living.”
Then there’s the story of Harry Dugan, a 50-year-old respiratory therapist from New Jersey. Although he’s “underwater” on his mortgage and he tried to curtail his expenses, he recently “had a bit of a relapse”: he purchased a $900 television and a $21,000 car. “It was an impulse buy,” he confessed. “If I could go back, I’d get something cheaper.”
The article concludes with a warning: “Yes, spending is great fun, until the bill arrives. That’s a lesson we’ve learned the hard way. Or maybe we haven’t.”
(Matt Woodley, managing editor of PreachingToday.com; source: Stefan Theil, “The Urge to Splurge,” Newsweek (12-6-10))
We are a nation of spenders, buying things we don’t need with money we don’t have. Our problem is not that we don’t earn enough, but that we spend too much. And when we earn more, we just spend more. We have to learn to spend less than what we make.
We are a nation of spenders. We are called “consumers;” what an interesting label! The consumer lifestyle is characterized by:
Greed (“I want more”).
Discontent (“I’m tired of this old stuff”).
Impulse spending (“I’ve got to have it now!”).
And is almost always funded by debt.
Is anyone else an impulse buyer?
ILL: If I go to Costco or REI (insert the name of your favorite store here) without a list that I’m determined to stick to, I’m in big trouble. I see all kinds of cool things, and think, “I need that!” What makes it worse is that there are many items that Costco stocks one time, and when they’re gone, they’re gone. If you don’t buy it when you see it, you may not get another chance. They do that on purpose—for all of us impulse buyers!
Impulse buying gets us in a world of trouble financially. We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have. I’ve learned not to buy something when I see it the first time. Walk away. Let it simmer for a few days. Think about it. Pray about it! Ask yourself if you really need it. Can you live without it?
Money talks; it says, “Spend me.” And we do.
2. God talks: He says, “Manage my money as I lead you.”
The first thing we have to settle is the issue of ownership: whose money is it?
A. God is the owner; you are the manager.
The Bible teaches that God is the owner, and we are His managers. He created everything and gives it to us, not to own, but to manage as He wants.
Jesus teaches this clearly in a couple stories he told. In Luke 16, Jesus tells the story of the unjust manager, who was fired for mismanaging his boss’s money. The story teaches that we will answer to God for how we manage the resources He gives us, and that we are to manage it all faithfully and with an eternal perspective. The story starts:
Luke 16:1 There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions.
Whose possessions were they? They belonged to the rich man, not the manager. The manager was playing fast and loose with someone else’s money, and it got him fired.
ILL: I have a friend who is a financial advisor and he oversees my retirement savings. He gets paid to manage the money, but it’s not his money; it’s my money.
What if he started dipping into the funds for himself? Fired. Why? It’s not his money! What if he does a terrible job and loses money? Fired. It’s not his money!
That’s what happened in Jesus’ story. The manager was wasting his boss’s money. It wasn’t his money to waste; it belonged to his boss.
The second story is in Matthew 25 and it begins this way:
Matthew 25:14–15 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.
When the master returned, two of the men had invested his money and had a profit to show for it, but the third man had buried his money for safekeeping in his backyard. He did nothing with what he’d been given, and had nothing to show for it.
Whose money was it? The master’s. The servants were managers, not owners.
Jesus teaches us that what we have came from God and belongs to God; God entrusts His money, His possessions to us, and asks us to manage them for Him. It started in the Garden of Eden, when God entrusted the care of the world to human beings. But whose world is it? This is God’s world, not ours. He created it and entrusted it to us, to care for it as He intends. From that moment on, we have been managers, not owners. It all belongs to God, starting with you.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
You are not your own. You were bought at a price, a very high price: the life of God’s own Son. God bought you for Himself with the life of His Son.
You are not your own! You belong to God, lock, stock and barrel. You are His. And everything you have is His—your time, your talents, your treasure, your life—it’s all His, on loan for you to manage as He wants.
We think our lives are our own, but they really belong to God. We tend to think of our money as our own, but it really belongs to God and we are managing for Him. When you realize that all you have—your time, your talents, your treasure—all of it belongs to God and you’re managing it for Him, it changes your perspective big time. Folks, it’s not your money. It’s not your house. It’s not your car. It’s not your stuff. It all belongs to God. And when you get that, really get that, it changes everything. I’m not an owner, I’m a manager.
I’m managing God’s property. And I don’t want to waste His money or His possessions. God is the owner, I am the manager. Say that with me. If we really believe that, then we understand that financial success is using God’s money as He directs. How does God want us to spend His money?
Here are three principles related to the three major spending mistakes. Ron Blue discusses these in his excellent book, Master Your Money.
B. Determine your standard of living.
The first principle is to determine your standard of living. We need to answer the question: how does God want me to live? If we don’t determine this, we naturally fall into a consumptive lifestyle characterized by undisciplined and selfish spending. We live in a consumer culture, an acquisitive culture that pushes us to spend all we make and to accumulate more and more stuff. More! More!
When do you have enough? When do you say, “I don’t need more; I have enough”? When are you content with what you have?
Luke 12:15 Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions. Do you believe that? Does your spending reflect that? I confess that I get caught up in the consumer lifestyle; I want more. But more stuff doesn’t bring life; more stuff doesn’t make you happy.
The first step in spending money wisely is to determine a standard of living. Said another way, we need to determine our values, goals and priorities so that we can make appropriate plans. And as Christians, we begin that process by acknowledging that all we have belongs to God and prayerfully discover what He wants to do with it. As Christians we ought to determine our standard of living under the direction of Jesus.
ILL: Years ago I heard Tony Campolo talk about this and it really challenged me. Tony was a professor of Sociology at Eastern University and is a well-known Christian author and speaker. At the time, Tony was earning over $100,000 a year from his teaching, writing and speaking. But Tony and his wife sat down and discussed their values and what an appropriate standard of living would be for them, and decided they could live happily on $25,000 a year. They invested the rest in helping the poor in their community and in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
It’s a matter of values. What was important to Tony and his wife was not driving a new car or having all the latest toys; it was helping people and advancing God’s work. Does anyone else find that challenging?
Let me say that I’m not as good as Tony! My standard of living tends to be determined by what I make, rather than my faith! But I’m convinced that Tony got it right. We should determine our standard of living by our values and our faith, not our income.
Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Jesus challenges our desire to acquire, our passion for accumulation. Do you know that one of the fastest growing businesses in America is storage units? Did you also know that even though family size is smaller, the size of our homes has increased? Put those two facts together: we have bigger homes, but we have so much stuff that we have to rent storage units to hold it all. Jesus challenges our desire to acquire and store more stuff: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.”
ILL: Every now and then, I look at all the stuff stuffed into our house and wonder where it will end up.
Have you ever been to an estate sale? Someone dies, and all their treasures are set out for strangers to buy at bargain prices. This thing that I just have to have and pay top dollar for ends up being sold for pocket change to a stranger.
And what doesn’t sell at the estate sale is hauled to the dump.
One man taught his daughter the true value of things by a trip to the dump. They spent an afternoon at the dump not dumping garbage but observing waste. Dad gave his daughter a pencil and pad and asked her to list every item she could identify. The results were astounding. There was a plastic swimming pool, a barbecue, several lawn chairs, Barbie dolls, bicycles, skateboards, toy refrigerators and stoves, radios and televisions…the stuff young dreams are made of. Driving home, they pulled alongside a double trailer truck, piled high with the crushed remains of 10 cars. Dad leaned over and reminded his daughter that the beautiful car they were riding in was ultimately headed for the same fate. The whole day was a powerful reminder that everything we own will one day be junk. All the things that have captured our attention and dominated our lives will someday smolder in stinking mounds of garbage at the dump!
Moth and rust destroy, thieves break in and steal, stuff breaks and wears out. So Jesus says, don’t let that be your treasure! Check your values and then determine your standard of living accordingly. Break out of the consumptive lifestyle!
So here is the first challenge when it comes to spending: think and talk honestly about what a Christian standard of living would look like. What would Jesus do? How would He live? What would He do with my income? How does God want me to spend His money?
C. Live by a plan (budget).
The second principle is to live by a plan: this is the dreaded “B” word—live by a budget. Once you have determined an appropriate standard of living, then you have to plan how to reach that goal. That plan is a budget. A budget is a theological document; you create it with God’s direction: “God, how do you want us to live? How do you want us to manage Your money?”
A budget is not restrictive; it is freeing! A budget guides you and tells you when you are on course, just as a road map does when you’re driving in an unfamiliar area. Not having the map creates frustration and anxiety; the same can be said about living without a budget.
The average family’s ambition is to make as much money as they’re spending.
ILL: Many of us feel like the couple who was planning their budget. The husband said to his wife, “Let’s start with the basic necessities: food, clothing and shelter. We can choose any two.”
A budget will help you control your spending and will actually stretch your money. According to some financial counselors, a budget creates a 15-40% increase in disposable income just by directing your spending.
If you have no plan, no budget based on your values, then you are planning to live as an impulse spender. When you buy things because they strike your fancy, appeal to you, or catch your eye, you are not only being irresponsible with God’s money, but you are headed for financial disaster. Changing this one thing–becoming a planned spender rather than an impulse spender–would be worth the price of admission today!
Ron Blue in his book Master your Money outlines a four-step process for financial planning, a map for getting from where you are to where you want to be.
1. Summarize your present situation. You start with where you are. Many people have no idea how much they owe or own! I won’t ask today how many of you balance your checkbook each month…but if you don’t, you don’t really know what you have in there!
2. Establish your financial goals. This is where you want to go. These goals of course, ought to be a reflection of your values and are formed under the leadership of Jesus.
3. Plan to increase your cash flow margin. This is the plan on how you are going to get from where you are to where you want to go. Write out a budget in which you spend less than you earn so that you have a positive margin to invest, save and give. Key words: plan to spend less than you earn!
4. Control your cash flow. Devise and use a system that allows you to live within the budget you wrote. There are many ways to do that. Many people effectively use the cash-envelope system: you put a designated amount of money in an envelope marked for a certain purpose, such as gas, food or clothes, and then you use it only for that purpose. When the envelope is empty, you stop spending. You can do the same thing in your checkbook by having several different ledgers that work like envelopes. Or you can do it on your computer with a program like Quicken, or Money. You have to discover what works for you, but you must put your plan to work, or your budget will be just a good idea and nothing more.
Where do you start when it comes to planning your spending? When you write your budget, I believe there are four priorities that the Bible says we are to pay first.
1. Giving to God. Proverbs 3:9-10 says “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Give God the first fruits. Malachi 3 says that God expects us to give the first tenth of all our increase to Him, and if we keep it, we’re robbing God. First, you give to God. Why God first? Because it’s God’s money! And those who don’t give first, rarely give; they spend it all. First, give to God. It’s not your money; it’s non-negotiable.
2. Taxes. Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,” (Mark 12:17) and Paul said in Romans 13:7 “Give everyone what you owe him: if you owe taxes, pay taxes.” Taxes are a priority; don’t take my word for it, ask the IRS. It’s not your money; it’s non-negotiable.
3. Debt retirement. Psalm 37:21 says “The wicked borrow and do not repay.” If you don’t repay those who have loaned you money, you are stealing from them. Debt retirement is a priority. Romans 13:8 says “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.” If you have debts, you must repay them. It’s not your money; it’s non-negotiable.
4. Savings. Most of us spend first and save if there is anything left. But the Bible says in Proverbs 6:6-8 that we ought to learn from the ant and save first. And I recommend that you do it automatically: have it done by payroll deduction or automatic transfer from your bank account. We’ll talk more about this next week.
When you write your budget, take your gross income and deduct these four things first; make them automatic. What you have left is your net spendable income. Plan your living expenses so that they are less than the total of your net spendable income. In this kind of a plan, (plan slide here) your living expenses are the fifth priority rather than the first priority. Why? Living expenses are discretionary; that is we are free to choose our lifestyle, at what level we will live. But as Christians, we are not free to choose whether or not we’ll give to God, pay our taxes, and repay our debts. And we should be wise enough to save before we spend it all.
Write your plan under God’s direction, and then live by it. Stop spending impulsively.
ILL: Several years ago Reader’s Digest had an article titled, “Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires”. The biggest secret? Two words: Stop spending! “Every millionaire we spoke to has one thing in common: not a single one spends needlessly.”
Spend to meet your needs, not satisfy all your wants. It’s our unbridled spending that gets us in trouble. Stop spending! If you are in debt and living from paycheck to paycheck, and are unable to give and save, here’s the first thing you have to do. Stop the bleeding! Stop going into debt. Stop spending needlessly.
You all know that the definition of insanity is doing the same things but expecting different results. If you want to get your finances under control and manage faithfully, you’ve got to make some changes! You can’t keep eating at the same restaurants, buying new clothes, spending freely on entertainment, and racking up debt on big purchases. Stop spending!
If you can’t pay off your credit cards when the bill comes at the end of the month, I would encourage you to invite some of your friends over, throw a little party, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, take out a cookie sheet and spread out all those little plastic credit cards on the cookie sheet, stick it in the oven. Then you can all join hands and sing Kumbaya and celebrate the new freedom that you have because you’re free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, you’re free at last. Stop spending.
Learn to live on less. The two biggest items in most budgets are house and cars. Many people are over-extended on their house and cars. So move to a cheaper house and buy a cheaper car.
And don’t buy things that aren’t on sale. I rarely pay full retail for stuff; I’m a cheapskate and I wait for the sales, or I buy used. Did you know that everything you want eventually goes on sale? You just have to be patient! You can’t buy on impulse. So buy on sale, not on impulse.
Manage God’s money and stuff faithfully. Set a budget and live in it.
D. Get out and stay out of debt.
The third principle is to get out of debt and stay out. Debt paralyzes us financially. Eighty percent of us owe more than we own. This is such a big problem that we’re going to talk about in two week. Money talks, it says, “Free me.” We’ll talk in two weeks about freeing yourself from the bondage of debt.