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Todd and four leaders from Watermark's MoneyWise ministry talk about the characteristics of those who are consumed by materialism and debt, and offer some practical advice for finding freedom from desctructive, unbiblical thinking and behavior.
What Stewards Should be Consumed With
How to Tell Whether You are Among the 'Consumed' and Some Practical Tips for Regaining Your Freedom
The Antidote That is Community
Consumed with Debt and What to Do About It
Why God's Love for You Compels Him to Loathe Materialism
Materialism: The Lie That 'This is All I Need'
We are glad that you are with us again today, and we are having a lot of fun. If you have not been here, we are making our way through a little series called Consumed, and we're trying to help folks regain the freedom that God wanted us all to experience as we went through this life and not be sucked into some form of worship or idolatry that will cause us to have not greater joy but greater bondage. We've been talking about the issues of consumerism, materialism, the dragon of debt that so easily can attack each of us, and how we might look at that from a perspective of one who loves us and has our best interests in mind.
To get us started today as we try and set the table, to give you some very practical help, to help you work through wherever you are, I want you to watch this video so you might know that others have been where you might be today, and in the context of being cared for within this body, folks who are extending grace the way God's extended grace to us, they've dug themselves out of pretty impressive hole. Watch this.
Debbie: My husband John and I met in college back in 1995, and we've been together ever since. We got married as soon as he graduated, two weeks after. We moved to Dallas. I started graduate school, and he started a new job, probably within a period of about two months. I grew up in a family that was very frugal, and we didn't have a budget because we just never spent any money. My parents had no credit card debt. My parents saved every penny they earned. We just didn't really do much with our money, and that was just the way it was.
My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a very different household where money was looked at as something to be spent, that even if you didn't have it, you should spend it anyway. He has $5,000 worth of Taco Cabana debt when we got married, so that was tough for me to deal with. I just couldn't imagine credit card debt for food.
As we started going to Watermark, we got connected with community. We became involved in a Community Group with a bunch of other newlyweds, newly married couples. Throughout the course of that, we became involved with other Equipping classes as well, one of with was Crown Ministries. We had, at that time when we took the Crown class, about $130,000 in debt. Part of that was credit cards, part of that was student loans, but of course, you don't get into debt overnight, so you don't get out of it overnight. It did take some time.
One change we did make was instead of living off of two incomes, we decided to live off of one, or less than one. What we did with the other income was pay down debt. We had to dramatically change our lifestyle in order to do that. We decided, "What is the smallest, least expensive place we can live in at this time?" We downsized into a 600-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment.
Another change we made was going out to eat. We were spending so much money. We realized that by looking at our expenses and figuring out what made sense for us as far as an entertainment budget and saw we were spending way too much. We decided we would start eating in a little bit more.
Through a lot of prayer, I started cooking dinner, started making lunches, and I found that I loved it. That was another way God blessed me. I love to make meals for my husband, and it was so wonderful to me. It was also great because it was healthy, it was inexpensive, and it was another way to show I loved him. As we've paid down the debt, we've also been saving for a car so that next April, when the lease comes around after five years, we are able to pay for that car in cash and not have a car payment at all.
The biggest change for us has just been a change of heart. My husband and I have become so close through these years, growing together with God, growing together with our community we've shared this with. We've opened up about other things to the people we've opened up to about this, so our relationships have grown through that.
My husband and I are closer than ever now, and I feel that the Lord really blessed us with how faithful we were to him. He was faithful to us, not in monetary ways, but in other ways, in the strength of our marriage, in our ability to have wonderful friendships with others. To have great counsel in our lives is invaluable. The people we have in our lives are the biggest blessing, and it's helped us so much.
I gain great joy just being with my husband, just spending a quiet evening with him instead of spending money on going out to eat or dancing or buying material things. Those things no longer give me the pleasure that they did before. I think the Lord really blessed us in that, and he's given us joy in spending time with each other, spending time in community with other believers, and just being closer to him.
[End of video]
John and Debbie have a great story of hope for anybody who's out there and has found themselves caught up in the current of consumerism and way downstream from where they ever wanted to be. That's an impressive amount of discipline, hard work done in the context of community, grace, and love, to where that couple is experiencing joy like they've never had before, relationally with each other, with other couples, and with their Lord, where they now know why God has instructions in his Word for something as practical and mundane as money.
By any accounting, having consumer debt in the $5,000 to $6,000 range at any one fast food establishment is a pretty serious problem. I love that. That was just the Taco Cabana debt. We didn't even go to Dillard's with you. There was just a mindset there that, "We can figure that out later." It was causing some real tension, as you can imagine.
You might be out there today and go, "That's just it. I'm not nearly that bad." You might be looking at other folks going, "I'm glad they're here to hear this series about consumerism and materialism because I don't struggle in that area." Let me just say, if that's true… And in a minute I'm going to give you about 15 different ways to evaluate whether you, in fact, do struggle with consumerism, materialism, or being consumed with anything other than what God wants you to.
Let's just say you pass the test with flying colors; this is still a great thing for you today. You're going to get to hear from our MoneyWise team, four of the guys who represent the 30 some-odd people in our body who are passioned, gifted, and trained to help all of us be good stewards with that which God has resourced us with, and to experience the freedom God wants us to have as we deal with that everyday currency, money and material possessions.
We are in a world where that is part of our lives. God says, "That's fine." Money is amoral. It's not bad; it's not good. What you do with it determines whether it's bad or good, and we know that many of us get to the place where money is not our servant, but we are its slave. You're going to hear the four most often asked questions that our MoneyWise team gets from individuals who are struggling in this issue. They're going to give you their responses.
The great news is you don't need to try and take notes. They're going to move very quickly. All of these notes will be posted in the next 24 to 36 hours on our web, just like every other Sunday. You can go and get this information, you can wrestle through it with those you share life with, and if you need specific help on how to apply it to your specific situation, the MoneyWise team is there for you to love you, to help you, and to encourage you like they have helped hundreds since this series has started. You need to know you're not alone. Your situation isn't unique. There are people here who want you to see how incredibly relevant and practical God's Word is.
He wants you, as any loving Father would, to find truth that will help you in an area that enslaves so many. In fact, he wants you to find such excellence in the way you handle money, currency, and the possessions that come with it, that one day he can look at you, hold you up as a model to others, be a means through which others can be pulled out of this whirlpool of destruction, and that he would one day look at you and say, "Well done, good and faithful servant who has stewarded well that which I have entrusted you with.
You have taken the tool of money and used it for my glory. You have taken the test that money is, and you've passed it with flying colors, not to feather your own bed but to further my kingdom. The testimony that you have declared is that there is something that brings you more joy than just self-indulgence."
I want to introduce Van Beckwith, Andy Kerner, Scott Fowler, and Rick Howard to you. They're going to walk you through those four major questions, but before we do, I want to have you think through whether or not you yourselves struggle with materialism or consumerism. I want to give you 15 questions that might help you.
You might be consumed by money and material possessions if you've ever bought a pair of pants that look like this. If you own something like this, you might have, in fact, taken that thing like this and put on the web some place like this. Here's what I want to do. I want to read to you what this gentleman wrote about these pants.
He says, "You are bidding on a mistake. We all make mistakes. We date the wrong people for too long. We chew gum with our mouths open. We say inappropriate things in front of Grandma. And we buy leather pants. I can explain these pants and why they're in my possession. I bought them many years ago under the spell of a woman who I believed to have taste. She suggested I try them on. She said they looked good. I wanted to have a relationship of sorts with her.
I am stupid and prone to impulsive decisions. I bought the pants. The relationship, probably for the better, never materialized. The girl, whose name I can't even recall, is a distant memory. I think she was short. Ultimately, the pants were placed in the closet where they have remained unworn for nearly a decade. I would like to emphasize that. Aside from trying these pants on, they have never, ever been worn in public or private.
I have not worn these pants for the following reasons: I am not a member of Queen. I don't like motorcycles. I am not Rod Stewart. I am not French. I do not cruise for women or anything else in expensive sports cars. These were not cheap leather pants. They are Donna Karan leather pants. They're for men…brave men, I would think. Perhaps tattooed, pierced men. In fact, I will go so far as to say you either have to be a very, very tough, very comfortable person with your masculinity, or very famous to wear these pants and get away with it.
Again, they're men's pants, but they'd probably look great on the right lady. Ladies can get away with leather pants much more than men can. It's a sad fact that men who own leather pants will have to come to terms with. They're a size 34/34. I am no longer size 34/34, so even if I were to suddenly decide I was a famous foreign rock star, I would not be able to wear these pants. These pants are destined for someone else.
For reasons unknown, perhaps to keep my options open in case one day I wanted to become a pirate, I have kept these pants. I have shuffled these unworn pants from house to house, closet to closet. Alas, it is now time to part ways so that I may use the extra room for any rhinestone studded jeans I may want to purchase in the near future. These are your pants."
Now that is hilarious. What's so funny about it is we've all bought stuff impulsively because we thought that thing would bring us joy. We thought it would fulfill us. We thought it would make us more popular with others. Let me walk you through 15 ways, other than if you bought Donna Karan leather pants, you might know that you are subject to consumerism and materialism.
If you won't study God's Word to find instruction on how to handle material possessions, there's a good chance you struggle with materialism and consumerism. If you don't want somebody to speak into your life in a loving way about what is appropriate to own, to need, and to use resources for, it's probably because you don't want anybody to mingle in an area you have adopted as a coping strategy to find some form of life there.
You probably struggle with consumerism if you don't regularly sit still before the Lord, asking him to reveal to you any area of compromise related to your attitudes about and/or actions with money and possessions. In other words, if you've not sat still recently… If somebody worked for you, and it was their job to spend and invest your money, if they weren't checking in with you on a regular basis about where those investments were going, how they were using their money, you would probably say, "I want to talk to you about a person who is a steward of what I have given you."
If you have not recently sat down, pen in hand, journal before you, and said, "Lord, speak to me. Expose me. Show me where I might need to scale back, reinvest, reallocate, rethink how I use what you have given me in terms of time, my own talents, and the treasures I have," chances are, you struggle with materialism.
If you acquire things because they make you happy or bring you comfort, you struggle in a way God doesn't want you to. If this a place you go to get over some pain or find some new source of joy or contentment, you're struggling in a way God doesn't want you to.
If it's hard for you to enjoy what you have because you are afraid it's going to get worn out, damaged, stained, dinged, or lost… If you are one of those people who put plastic over your couches and ask people to shower and sit naked in your living room so they don't ruin your wonderful stuff from Weir's, you probably have an inappropriate view of material possessions.
You're going to go home and share turkey with some of these people, I know, folks who everything they do, they can't enjoy what they have because of the worry that somehow it's going to get stained. If you're a person who is always consumed with what you have and how it might somehow lose its luster, this is a perfect Sunday for you, a perfect series for all of us to wrestle with in our hearts.
If you are stressed out about what you have, and you have a difficult time allowing others to use your things freely, you might be consumed with materialism. If you focus on what others have more than what God has already given you… Everybody always thinks it's the next person who struggles with materialism.
If you drive a Ford F-150, you think it's the guy who drives the Escalade who has the materialistic problem. If you drive an Escalade, it's the person who drives the Lexus. If you drive a Lexus, it's the person who drives the Mercedes-Benz. If you drive a Mercedes-Benz, it's the person who has two Mercedes-Benzes who struggles with materialism. If you focus more on what others have as opposed to being thankful for what you have, you struggle in a way God doesn't want you to with being consumed with money and/or material possessions.
If you cannot clearly share your current financial position… In other words, if you don't know what comes in and what goes out, where your debt is… If you don't understand what you're going to spend each month on certain things you have thought forward about, and you don't want to look and really get your arms around your financial position, it's probably because you know that area's out of control, so you live in denial about it and keep it as far away from you as you can. God would say he doesn't want his children living in that way. He wants them living in the light, full of freedom and hope.
If you refuse to discuss practical details about your financial situation and condition with others, it's because you seek your own desire in this. You quarrel against all sound wisdom because you are consumed by something other than what is best for you. You might be consumed by money and material possessions if you have never determined the level that once you have reached it, everything else is going to be given to further the Lord's glory and name.
In other words, if you think every time you make more money, it is to increase your standard of living and not your standard of giving… If you've never said, "You know what? If I just make it to this level, I will say, 'That is enough,' and everything else God gives me is going to be a tool to serve and further others at a 100 percent ratio." If you don't know what that number is, then you struggle in a way God doesn't intend you to struggle.
I can remember when I got my first job out of college, I was making $10,000 before taxes. I thought, "Man, if I ever made 20…" Some of my friends made even 30, I heard about at that time. That would be all I would ever need, three times what I was making right then. I have to tell you, to my shame, I made 15, then I made 20. I made 25. I can remember when I got a first job that made over 30, and I still felt the same way. "Well, you know what? It's probably 40, maybe 60."
If you don't determine what that level is, you don't know, "Hey, this is all we need, and after that, 100 percent over that goes directly to furthering the fame of the Lord," then you struggle in a way God doesn't want you to. If you think of yourself more as a consumer than a conduit of blessing and provision for others, somebody who is self-indulgent more than a steward, then you struggle in a way God doesn't want you to.
If you've never experienced freedom and joy in giving, then you are consumed in a way God doesn't want you to be. If you've accumulated debt for something other than food for today, clothes for today, or adequate shelter for today, then you struggle with materialism. If you live in a nicer house or drive a nicer car then you think your church should build or ministry should purchase, then you are consumed in a way God doesn't want you to be.
Let me tell you. There are a lot of folks who are very willing to come and take a good, hard look at every single dollar that God's people spend toward some building that might be used to advance his name, and they never evaluate whether they, as God's sons, should live to advance his kingdom in their neighborhoods in the houses they live in or the cars they drive. It's the same money. It's the same thing. We're on the same team.
One of the great indications that Solomon was in trouble and had left his first love is the Scriptures tell us that he spent over twice as much time building his own house as he did the house that was to make the Lord famous in Jerusalem. If you're somebody who lives in a nicer house than you think is appropriate to be used for ministry, drive a nicer car than you think is appropriate to be used to serve God's kingdom, then you struggle with materialism, self-advancement, self-indulgence, and self-pleasure.
If you lack contentment and an attitude of thanksgiving for all you already possess, you struggle with materialism. If you wouldn't sell all of your possessions and follow Jesus Christ if he asked you to, then you struggle with materialism.
Let me tell you this. You might sit out there and go, "If God himself showed up and told me I needed to do that to follow him, I would do it." I really, really doubt that, today, we're going to have a physical manifestation of God, and I doubt even that his Holy Spirit who can speak to your heart is going to say, "I want you to sell everything and follow me," but I'm about to tell you something that God has spoken clearly to you.
You don't have to ask yourself, "Would I sell everything and follow God if he asked me?" Ask yourself this: "Am I already living the way God has asked me to, even when that's well below the standard of selling everything and following him?" Here are the top four questions people ask our MoneyWise team that we want to share with you today.
Van Beckwith: In MoneyWise, the question we get all the time is, "If I could get three spending decisions right, if you could come alongside me and help me get three right, what would they be?" They are houses, cars, and education. Why is that? The reason why is because these are all multi-year decisions. These are truly the gifts that keep on giving, the spending that keeps on spending. If we don't get them right, we can lead ourselves into bondage, and if we do get them right, into freedom.
What does the Bible have to say about this? Ecclesiastes is a great place to start. It says a lot about this topic. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes, as they're looking over the life of King Solomon… And I was going to say the point about taking two times as long to build his house, but he also acquired more Arabian horses than anybody who ever lived. He travelled all over the Middle East, gathering all his heart desired, all his eyes saw.
He was truly one of the richest men ever, maybe the richest man ever to live, but at the end of his life, he looked back and he said, "I was a coveter. That's what I was all about. My acquisition spree that I ran all over the Middle East, trying to fill my barns with, left me feeling empty." In Ecclesiastes 4:6, he says this. This is after that acquisition spree. He says, "One handful of stuff, my stuff, my cars, my house, my education, my horses…" "One hand full of rest is better than two fists full of labor and striving after wind.""Two fistfuls of stuff, if it was accompanied with labor and striving after wind," he said, "enough is enough."
Spending money, this decision about houses, cars, and education, is all about choices. When people come to MoneyWise, we find that's just forgotten. It's forgotten sometimes in my life. It's about choices. It's not about rights. It's not about what we deserve. It's about choices. Newton's third law applies here just as easily as everywhere else. For every action, for every choice, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Money spent on one choice is going to have an effect on your ability to spend money elsewhere.
Let's look at the house. Who taught you to buy a house? Your dad? Your mom? Your sister? Somebody in your accountability group, if you've been coming to Watermark? Or, was it your mortgage broker and your real estate agent? Who taught you how much house you could buy? Was it two times your gross income? Was it 30 percent of your take-home pay? 50 percent of your gross income? Who knows? It was confusing. You look to these experts.
If you apply Solomon's wisdom, that it's better to have one handful with peace, you can come up with some wise homeownership decisions. Let's bring that up. It's less than you can afford. I remember when I moved here in 1987. A guy pulled me aside, and he said, "I'll tell you what about Dallas. Here's the key: you buy more house than you can afford because if you buy more house, your income's going to go up and someday you'll be able to afford it." I am not kidding. That was told to me.
It fits your current earnings. We see people in MoneyWise all of the time, and it happens to us, too, where we realize, "We're going to make more money someday, so let's just buy up." This fits your current, reasonable earnings. It leaves money for other life expenses. One handful with peace leaves money for other life expenses.
Last, it's paid off sooner rather than later. Some people are saying, "Wait a minute. I'm going to pay off my house in 29 years and 7 months, by the grace of God." The MoneyWise team says, "Hallelujah. That's awesome. We are excited for you." Some people are going into the house purchase, and they're buying it with a 15-year mortgage or a 10-year mortgage on purpose, and we're saying, "Great." Some people in this room need to pay it off today; they have the cash in the bank, but it's a matter of just parting with it and moving that over there.
I love this email we got as we're going through this Consumed series. This person had been wrestling with us, went to the MoneyWise seminar last Saturday, and then wrote me this: "It is so easy to get wrapped up in the rat race, not only to succeed at work but also to reach success of the worldly grading scale." I know I feel that.
"We were putting all of our time and energy into buying a house, which everyone has been telling us should be our goal. With this Consumed series, we now see that we were doing things in the wrong order. We were waiting to buy a house for two years." They've actually stopped rushing. "In doing so, we will be able to pay off $12,000 in credit card debt in six months. We're anxiously awaiting the shackles being removed this coming summer." That's a person who's saying, "You know what? I'm going to take the one handful with peace."
How about cars? We love cars in Dallas, don't we? We love to lease them, we love to smart buy them, we like zero percent interest, and we like to convince ourselves that we're even getting the employee pricing on them. We like new cars over used cars, don't we? I do, but cars are an area that, from our MoneyWise experience we know, is associated with pain and pride.
What would Solomon say? Wise living… Get the house right first. You have to get that big choice done first. Why? Because it's going to have a reaction on the other dollars you spend. Second, no leases. I'm sure I've stepped on toes by saying that, but we have seen pain after pain after pain of people in lease situations.
Think used. There isn't a car in the world… Pick the brand-new Mercedes whatever; you can buy it used. Ford, Ferrari, you name it; think used. Last, pay cash for cars. Why do we say pay cash? Why not zero percent interest? Here's why. I have never met a person who when they go to crack open their piggy bank and get their cold, hard cash out doesn't pause and say two things: Do I really need it? Do I really want it?
Last, education… This is not a sermonette on a right kind of education or a wrong kind of education, on you going back and getting your master's or not, or on you putting your kids in a private school or not. What it is is just to simply acknowledge that education in this town is a choice, not a right, and that choice has financial impact. There's no right answer, but it is a choice that has impact on other choices. Last, what we see time and again in MoneyWise, don't forget you might have other children that want to go to those schools because it is a gift that keeps on giving. It is a spending that keeps on spending.
Let me close with this. Hopefully you've noticed one thing. I didn't hold out a certain kind of house as bad, I didn't hold out a certain kind of car as bad, and I didn't hold out a certain kind of education as bad. They're not. It's not good and bad; it's choices. What I'm praying is that we choose one handful with peace instead of two handfuls with stress.
Rick Howard: My question is much more applicable to all of us in a different area because it applies to your heart. My question is, "How can we be content in Dallas? How can we be content in this church, even?" Everyone we talk to, the big thing is we look around, we see all of these folks who have all of the things they want. They have the best car, the best house. Their kids go to school.
Let me tell you something. If you don't get this question right, if you don't find the way to be content the way God intended you to be content, you won't have to worry about any of these other three questions because you will never get the big choices right, you will never figure out about debt, you will never figure out about savings, and you will never figure out about giving. If you don't hear anything else I say, take that away from today because that is the key.
What do we know about discontentment? It's been with us since the beginning. God drops Adam and Eve into the garden of Eden, tells them, "Here's everything you possibly need to live. I will give you all of the joy you want, all the provision you want." What do they do? They say, "God, it's not quite enough. We want the one thing you told us we can't have: that lovely, little red apple over there.
We know from the beginning that we were wired for discontentment, that God knew this was part of our character. It's part of my character. The reason I'm talking about his is because this is my story. I'm not the guy who was raised the right way. If you could be, like the old saying, raised by wolves, that's what I was in this area. I didn't know the first thing about stewardship, I didn't know the first thing about giving, I didn't know the first thing about saving because I wasn't taught those principles, but God has clearly given us wisdom in that area.
My favorite verse on this is from Paul in Philippians 4:11-12. He says, "…for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity…" What great verses because Paul is speaking this verse, he's writing this verse to the Philippians when he is sitting in a prison, and he is waiting for his death sentence to be carried out one day. You understand the context of it; you understand how powerful it is.
What is he really telling us? He's telling us that contentment is not something you acquire. It's not something you can pay for, that you can go out and get in the marketplace. It's something that you learn, and the beauty of our Lord is when he tells us there's something to learn, he gives us that understanding from his Word.
If contentment is learned, where does that take us? The thing we see as we do MoneyWise counseling and we talk to Community Groups and different groups is there are really three main obstacles that get in the way of learning contentment. The first of those is an unwillingness to allow God to change your heart to be content. Frankly, if you don't get this one right, you'll never get the other ones right. You have to let God penetrate your heart.
The second one is a lack of a communication and leadership within families that causes resentment, anger, and bitterness. Let me just tell you, if you don't get this one right, you will have a house that is not a good place to live. The third one is living in isolation in the area of stewardship. A lot of what I would talk about on that you saw last week if you were here to hear them talk about community. They had a Community Group on stage talking about the pain of how that works but the great freedom and the great joy that comes from it.
The fourth one is the unwillingness to allow God to change your heart to be content. What this is more than anything else is a battle for your heart. Satan wants you to believe that all these things that are out there, the house, the car, the things you can get at Best Buy, things your children achieve, are all things that will bring you joy and bring you contentment. God tells you, "You know what? That's not what it's about. Your heart is something that I pursue and that I want. I'm going to let you wrestle with it, but I'm going to ultimately try to call you back."
What are the excuses we hear from folks? We hear people say, "I'm entitled to a certain lifestyle, a house, or a car. It's my right to live in a particular area. My kids need to go to a specific school, regardless of the cost." Those are the barriers people put in front of us as we talk about their hearts.
God knew this was going to be a struggle. Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes, after he's lived a life of acquiring stuff like Van talked about, in Ecclesiastes 4:4, he says: "Then I observed that most people are motivated to success by their envy of their neighbors, but this too is meaningless, like chasing the wind." Chasing the wind is the most wasteful thing you could ever do because you can never catch it.
What Solomon is telling us are two key things in that. I'm speaking not as a guy who studied the Hebrew version of this but as a guy who looks at in very plain language. The two key words there are envy and neighbors. What does envy mean? It means to covet. It means to desire. It means to want the things around you.
Who are your neighbors? It's not the guy who lives in the house next door to you only. It can be the guy who you're sitting next to at the stop sign who's driving the car that's nicer than yours. It can be the guy with the next gadget, who has the thing that you want at Best Buy. It can be the guy at your office who shows you, "This is the thing you have to have, man, or you're just way behind the times." Those are the things that get in your way. Those are the things Solomon was warning us about.
The great thing is that God has given us practical tips, and I'll tell you those. The five that I think are most important, and I'll give credit to my wife for the first one as we talked about this Friday night. The first thing you have to do is you have to avert your eyes from what the world tells you that you need.
It's no different from being an alcoholic. If you had a problem with alcohol, you wouldn't go to a liquor store, you wouldn't have alcohol at your house, you wouldn't order a beer at dinner. You avert your eyes from it. You stay out of the stores if it's a struggle. You don't go home today at lunch and read the newspaper and look at the 14 different flyers that are going to be in there to tell you all of the great stuff you need.
The second one is you pray that God would change your heart, so you are open to his will in this area. Prayer is so amazing in so many areas of your life. People are always willing to pray for their health, for their family, for children, and issues in their marriage, but they never want to submit this to the Lord. That's because we clutch our stuff so tightly.
The third is studying God's Word and other materials. If you want to understand God's heart for this issue, for contentment, you go to Ecclesiastes and you go to Proverbs, and you study them every day. Proverbs is a great book because there are 30 chapters of it, and you can read one a day. Ecclesiastes is, again, Solomon's reflections. Money, Possessions, and Eternity is a great book by Randy Alcorn. You can go online and buy it, or we can certainly help you get it. It will change your view of money and what God thinks about it.
Fourth, find accountability with other believers who are good stewards. Community, that whole idea we keep coming back to. Fifth, equip yourself with practical skills. If you don't know how to do these things, you call us. You go to email@example.com, and we will help you do that. We will walk along with you.
The second big obstacle we see is a lack of communication and leadership that causes resentment, anger, and bitterness within families. I've been blessed in my life with my wife to say, "You know what? My folks did things a certain way, so we're going to try to do something different." Thankfully, in many respects, that's worked for us. I can tell you that contentious nature of a home can never be overstated.
Debbie's comments about being closer to her husband among these issues was perfect. It was right on. I could have just sat down when she started talking because if you, husbands, don't lead, if you don't step up to the plate in spite of the fact that you think your wife is better at this… She's more detail oriented. In your family, you never talked about money. You disagree on how much you spend. Husbands, you are expected to lead in every area of your family. That doesn't mean you leave your wife out of it. You make these decisions together. You communicate on them, you think through them, and you plan, and you will find amazing joy and freedom in that.
What are the practical steps in avoiding this obstacle? The first is I would tell you to work together in setting goals for giving, spending, and saving. Sit down with your wife, figure out what you spend, and then start working from there. "How do we give, Lord? How do we save, Lord? What are the things you would have us do with our money?"
Second, communicate regularly. I don't mean have a once a year talk about it. I mean weekly, daily, monthly. You figure out what works for you based on how you live your life. You will find great freedom in your marriage, and you will find great freedom in how you steward your resources.
Third, I would tell you to set goals for the future. Make choices now that would allow you to meet those goals. We were blessed have taken the Crown class Debbie talked about when we first got married. I can assure you that changed our marriage because we started to think strategically about, "What are we going to do in five years when you stop working, Michele?"
Everyone was telling us, "When you buy that first house… You have all this money. You both make good salaries. Buy the house on two salaries." Start thinking about that as you work forward from that. Set goals on savings for your kids for college. Set goals on savings for replacement. Do those things together.
Fourth, find others to hold you accountable who are wise in this area and ask tough questions. Once again, get back to community. Get back to wise counsel. That really leads to the third area that concerns me, and that is living in isolation in the area of stewardship. How do you avoid that? God has clearly told that we are not to live in isolation in any area of our lives, and this is no different. People are so unwilling to speak up and to allow people to speak truth into their lives here.
The excuses we hear are, "No one's situation is as bad as mine. I'm ashamed of how bad a steward I've been. I don't want my financial problems outside of the church." I would tell you that God intends for these things to have light shined on them in such a way that you're going to be held accountable for them. The people who you share it with should be people you trust and who you know will do a good job for you. They should be people who are stewarding their lives the right way.
Proverbs 15:22 says, "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." That's what your goal should be. Let me close by saying one thing. Contentment is not something easy. In the town we live in, the church we worship in, this is not an easy thing because there are so many things the world is calling us to. But if you do the things we've talked about, if you allow God to really penetrate your heart, that change can take place.
Andy Kerner: I have two topics in one: giving and saving. Questions we have all the time in the MoneyWise Ministry, questions like, "How much should I give? How much should I save? How much is enough?" These are questions I've wrestled with for many years, and continue to wrestle with, but through Scripture study, and as important, accountability of really good friends, these topics have really helped changed my life.
To understand giving and saving, you need to understand that God owns it all. We are stewards of his resources. The answer to that question of how much is, "How much of God's 100 percent do I need to live on?" That will change the way you think. Let's talk about giving. Why do we give?
We give out of obedience. We give out of thankfulness and love for God's provision for us, not because God needs our money, not for our fear or our guilt. In 2 Corinthians 9:7, it says, "Each man should give what has decided in his heart to give." We are called to be joyful givers, a biblical reminder that our lives are really all about God, not about us.
Randy Alcorn, who we quote extensively, has a great quote: "Giving is the greatest antidote for materialism. It can't control you if you don't have it." A foundational verse we talk about consistently in our ministry is from Matthew 6. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven […]for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
So, "How much?" is the question you want to know the answer to. "How much should I give?" The prophet Curly in City Slickers said, "It's the one thing you have to figure out for yourselves." That's what I love about God's Word. It doesn't give you a precise formula or an answer to this, because you need to wrestle with it with God. That's between you and God, and it's going to differ for most of us in this group today.
What about tithing? We've heard about tithing. What is tithing? It's really an Old Testament law, a tenth part, a tenth percent, of our first and our best. It was a good guideline to help God's early people learn how to give. Beyond the tithe, however, there were also freewill offerings that the Israelites gave.
Does tithing apply today? Jesus never really spoke against the tithe at all. He really didn't talk about a floor. He talked about giving sacrificially and generously, which is really more about how tall our ceiling is. We believe that tithing is a good guideline. It's a good place to start, but we think tithing is a lousy place to stop. You may be in a season of life where you need to give 25 percent, or 50 percent, or 100 percent.
As Todd referenced, Jesus told the rich man to sell everything, give it to the poor, and follow him. In the end, the amount you give is really a heart issue between you and God, but don't go at it alone. Seek counsel and accountability from community. Understanding that God is the owner of everything has really changed my approach to giving. It's my complete joy to see how God is able to use me to invest in his eternal kingdom. It becomes a habit and increases my reliance on him.
Let's look at the other side that, which is saving. What is saving? Saving is really just putting aside money today for future spending. God tells us in multiple places in the Bible that saving is wise. "In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has," in Proverbs 21. Joseph was a good example, saving in seven years of plenty for seven years of famine. God has given us wisdom to prepare.
How much should you save and for what purposes? Not all reasons for saving are God-honoring. Fear, greed, pride… Prudently saving for some things are, but saving at the expense of giving is unwise. We coach people on three buckets of savings. We actually say you should fill them in this order.
First, you need to have an emergency set of savings, about three months of income to cover the unexpected things that just happen. Second, you need to have replacement savings. Things break: appliances, cars get worn out. You have to pay for it, so start saving for those. The third is long-term savings: children, education, and retirement.
The question, just like giving, is, how much is enough? How much saving is enough? What's hoarding? Are you saving for a rainy day or a stormy decade? Hoarding is putting aside money for no particular reason, perhaps to meet that self-absorbed goal of financial independence, which is really like saying, "I'm going to rely on my own resources versus relying on God for my source of security."
God speaks directly about that with the parable of the rich fool and his barns. He doesn't want us to build bigger barns for our excess and our wealth and take it easy. He ends with, "You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"
The answer to giving and saving is a delicate balance. We can't ignore the wisdom of preparing for the future, nor can we ignore Christ's contempt for the rich man, the hoarder, because rich hoarders deny themselves the joy and opportunity to invest those funds in eternal places. Scott, Coy, and other men in our body have helped convince me, many years ago, that I was simply building barns that, in fact, were rotten.
How much is enough? My answer to that is just enough. It's a matter of your heart and being aligned with God's heart, but it's important to continually ask that question. It's important to continually ask that question in a sense of community. There is a limit for all of us. There's a stopping place. That's between you and God. If money has ahold of you, if you worry about, you're anxious about it, want more things, then I suggest you give more of it away.
I'll close with this picture. A runner runs a race. They cross the finish line; they break the tape. The runner stops. They don't keep running. We all need to set the tapes in our lives. Then when we've achieved our goals, we need to stop running, stop the race. Resist that strong temptation of Dallas, Texas, to keep moving that tape out in front of you. For those of us who have broken the tape, I challenge you to stop filling your barns and give more of it away.
Scott Fowler: I'm going to talk about debt and try to wrap all of this up, but I want to start off with a story about a spending decision I made when I was just out of college, a bad spending decision. I was wanting to get a different car, and I settled on buying a used Nissan Stanza. Off I go to the Nissan dealership, and I walk in, and for some reason, instead of finding myself in front of the used cars, I find myself standing in front of the new cars. Of course, not just any new car, but I'm on the showroom floor looking at the Maxima that is absolutely fully decked out.
I think these salesmen can spot an easy mark from a mile away. I had one right on top of me, and so we get to get to talking, and he says, "Let's take this car for a spin." My older brother was with me, and he knows me pretty well. I think he could see my resolve melting away by the minute. He comes up to me, I'll never forget this, he says, "Scott, don't get in that car. Don't drive it because if you drive it, you'll never buy that Stanza." I said, "No, I think I can handle this." You can see where this story is going.
I got into the car, I drove it, and I bought it. I bought it with their money, and it was a disaster of a financial decision. It took me years to get out from under it. I tell that story just to illustrate the pitfalls of listening to the world's counsel on how we spend our money. The Bible is very clear about debt and living beyond our means. While the Bible never calls debt a sin, it talks about it with extreme caution.
In Proverbs, it says, "Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender." That's where I found myself. I was the servant of the lender. That was the first of several bad financial decisions I made. In fact, there are consequences of debt that I want to touch on real quickly.
The first is that debt lingers. Long after the excitement of the purchase is gone, long after the new car smell has faded away… You stop even liking the clothes you bought, but you still have to pay for them. The second is that debt denies reality. Because debt in our society is so readily accessible, we're easily able to continue living a lie, continue living beyond our means, to fund the lifestyle we think we deserve, all the while driving ourselves deeper and deeper into financial bondage.
Third, debt presumes on the future. By using debt to fund lifestyle decisions, we're making the assumption that our income tomorrow is going to be enough to cover not just tomorrow's expense but today's expense as well. Again, we are cautioned against this in Scripture. In James 4, it says, "You don't even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."
The fourth is that debt is addictive. The reality is if you're inclined to live beyond your means today for discretionary lifestyle choices, that's not going to change when you make more money. It's the common mindset, like Todd talked about, "When I'm making $20,000, $40,000, $60,000…" Fill in the blank. If you're inclined to live beyond your means, it's hard to break that habit. Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, "Whoever loves money never has money enough, and whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with [his] income."
The fifth is that debt deprives God the chance to say no or to provide through a better way. We are so inclined to use the artificial means of debt to impose our wants on the situation when God might have a completely different plan in store for us. Finally, debt is oppressive. Many of us know this feeling all too well, and I can tell you that I know that feeling. We counsel people all the time who know that feeling in a very, very real and impactful way in their lives.
I want to tell you, that's not the way God designed us to live. In Galatians, we're told, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." This includes slavery to debt, materialism, and your lifestyle. To boil this down, how do you do it? A lot of people come to us and say, "I'm buying what you're selling here. I'm in agreement with you. I need to make these changes. What are the practical steps?" You've heard a lot of them; let me wrap these up real quick.
First, you start with giving. It's never the wrong time to be obedient. Stated a different way, never rationalize disobedience, no matter how much debt you have. Second, know your facts. You have to assess your situation. You have to know what you own and know what you owe. You have to know what money comes in the door. You have to know what money goes out the door.
You need to know about your debt. How much do you owe? What are the interest rates? When are those payments due? Open the envelopes that come in the mail. So often, when you're in debt, it's like, "I don't want to look at that. I don't want to open a credit card bill." You have to open it up. Proverbs 27:23 says, "Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds…" Trust me; ignorance is not bliss. Part of our flocks today are the resources God has entrusted to us.
Third, establish goals. Have a vision. Know where you want to go. What are your goals for giving? How do you plan on getting out of debt? Process this with others. What about savings? What do you need to save for? Fourth, have a plan. Don't just let your spending happen to you. Be proactive about it. Really sit down and think through it.
Like Van said, it's all about choices, and this is something we consistently hear from folks we counsel who apply these things. They say, "You know what? I never would have thought it, because society doesn't tell me this. The idea is that a spending plan or a budget is restrictive, but the reality is just the opposite." If you have a spending plan, it can be one of the most freeing things you do.
Fifth, challenge your assumptions. Recognize that the unexpected will happen. Like Andy said, cars break down, homes cost money, jobs get lost. Those things are going to happen. Don't let your big choices, the big things Van talked about, the house, the cars, the education… Don't let your big choices squeeze out any margin for error in your life.
Sixth, count the cost. It's really hard to back up your lifestyle, so consider well the path you're putting yourself on. Learning the behavior Rick talked about is so critical. Just like it's hard to ever buy the used Stanza when you've test-driven the new Maxima, you can fill in the blank in your own life, what decisions are you making today that are going to be really hard to back off of?
Seventh, and this is kind of where the crunch time comes in… Make hard decisions. Take a sober look at your spending and be willing to make difficult changes in lifestyle. This is where you have to rework your plan to meet the goals you have laid out. I love Proverbs 24:27. It says, "Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready. After that [underline after that], build your house." Again, choices and priorities… You worry about your comforts last.
Eighth, stick with it. Don't be discouraged. Establish the discipline to consistently give, save, and reduce debt. Once you're out of debt, have a plan for what you're going to do with that money you were applying to your debt. It's just like with the raises. Don't let it drift off and vaporize into the thin air of lifestyle.
Finally, you've heard this from every single one of us. It was pounded into us last week. Do all of this in the context of community with wise counselors and accountability. I'll point you to the verse in Ecclesiastes that says, "If one falls down, his friend can help him up, but pity the man who falls down and has no one to help him." We really encourage you to surround yourself with godly community. The MoneyWise ministry is here to help in any way we can.
Finally, remember your role. Regardless of whether God has entrusted you with a little or a lot, your role and your responsibility is exactly the same as mine. It's just the same as the guy who's sitting next to you who might have driven up in a car that cost a whole lot more than yours. We're all stewards of what God has entrusted to us. As stewards, we're all going to be held accountable. Whether we like that reality or not, we're going to be held accountable, and that's one area we don't have a choice in.
Todd Wagner: Thank you, guys. That's good stuff, very practical. You ask yourself, "Why are they making such a big deal out of this?" Because God loves you, and hates anything that consumes you in a way that's going to draw you out of the freedom that he created you to walk in.
This is one of the big ten. You know that. The issue Rick talked about specifically, with contentment, it's one of the big ten. God loves you. That's why he said, "Let me pull you aside here. Do you know it will be better for you if you don't go around murdering people?" We can all sit here today because we're free, because we've chosen not to murder somebody.
Those of us, who by the grace of God have allowed ourselves to stay focused with our hearts at home, who haven't gone through the pain of an adulterous relationship, we're free to continue to deepen in a relationship with our wives without having to go over the painful, broken trust that comes through adultery.
It's one of the big ten to not have your eyes constantly looking at somebody else's donkey, somebody else's ranch, somebody else's woman because when you are covetous, it brings about great pain in your life. It ruins your standard of giving. It affects your ability to be free. It makes you constantly strive after other things, and you miss the big three questions.
Why did God give us the Ten Commandments? Surely to establish his righteousness, but there's so much more. It's because he loves you, and yet, we freely give ourselves to always wanting something else. It's our desire to come alongside of you in saying, "Somebody who loves God has to start drawing a line in the sand and saying, 'We're not going to be swept up into what our world and culture tells us is okay, even for those who are children of God.'"
When Paul wrote to a group of people who were in a society not very different from ours, he said this, "Don't associate with any so-called brother. Don't be a part of a so-called church, where there is immorality that is accepted, where there is covetousness that is accepted, where there is idolatry that is accepted, where there is reviling that is accepted, where there is drunkenness that is accepted, where there is swindling that is accepted. Don't even break bread with such brothers as this."
Why? Because when we all start to go in this direction, we become a ship of fools floating downstream toward bondage. We've done this series so that we might create for you a future for us as a people, where we begin to apply God's Word to this very mundane, practical area of our lives. Why? Because he loves us and wants us to be free.
With these guys, we've come up with this. Imagine a church where every person who is living as a fully devoted follower of Christ and who is unable to make ends meet is cared for in an Acts 2 kind of way. In other words, when those who are down on their luck… A single mom who has to be home to love her kids well so she can't work the same hours as somebody else in a home where a mother and a father are… She's being diligent to love her children well. Her job is not making ends meet in a way that's appropriate. We come alongside her and help her.
Those who are financially crippled are loved in this body. We have said it before, and I am going to say it again: homelessness will never be a problem at Watermark Community Church if you are a fully functioning, grafted-in member, who is walking in wisdom and light with others here. You will never be homeless, no matter what befalls you, as long as any of us have the means to sell our possessions in order that you might have the food, shelter, and clothing that is normal and acceptable for you to get by without being at risk. Never.
It's God's plan for the world. We don't need government or social institutions. We don't need to build a new $30 million homeless center. Where believers live and love together, where folks walk in wisdom… I did not say there are not going to be people who will choose to live self-destructive, self-deprecating lifestyles, who God says, "You let them be homeless. You let them be hungry." It says in 2 Thessalonians, "Let their stomach work for them." But if you graft in with the body of Christ and do all you can to walk with him, you will never be naked, exposed, or hungry here. Imagine that.
Imagine this. Imagine a church where every member is living within their means. In other words, where we don't spend more than we make. Imagine a church where every member pays cash for a car. Imagine where every member owns their own home. Imagine where folks who can't own a home yet because of where they're at in their life stage, they rent a home or their apartment, and they can easily pay their rent because of the wise choices they've made to not use debt to make it happen.
Imagine a church completely free of debt. That is, I believe, what God would love, children who are nobody's slave but his, free of debt, who now then turn to buy an apartment building for those in need in their body. Maybe buy an entire row of houses for folks who need it in their body… Imagine that.
Imagine a church where every member is generous, a growing giver who can be held up as an example to all others in the community. Imagine a church where every member lives with a biblical mindset toward money and material possessions. That's where we're headed. Imagine a church where every member is consumed only with a love for Jesus Christ and a desire to make his name famous.
Would that be a great church? You bet it would. It would be good for us and glorious to God. We're looking at his Word, and we're letting it run through our hearts and each other, that we might take another step toward the freedom that God wants for us. Let me say this. God owns everything, and all of us are growing.
You might be a person out there today who has tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. We're not afraid of you. It's never the wrong time to start being obedient. You might be somebody who when I went through those 15 things, 14 of them described you. Come home. Stop eating with the pigs.
Begin to discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness, and we will not regret it. The truth is we're all in need, and every single one of us needs grace. You will freely find it here extended to you. Will we walk with him in the light and experience the freedom that a realigned focus and deep dependence on Jesus Christ provides us? Let me pray.
Father, we thank you for what you're doing as you allow us to sit before your Word and to look honestly and authentically at where we are, what we've done. There are some choices we have made that have got us in a bad place. We are others' slaves. We have bought things with others' money. We have bought things presuming on tomorrow, and so we have some work to do.
We thank you that you tell us that the way to find freedom is to no longer be conformed to the ways of the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we might prove what the will of God is, that which is good, acceptable, and perfect and leads to a place of peace and prosperity. Lord, would you drive us that direction?
We are not so foolish as to think, Lord, that if we live debt free, if we give 30, 40 percent of whatever you steward to us, that that would ever make us righteous and worthy in your eyes. No, our great debt to you is that we have been consumed by sin. We have all been idolaters in some way. We have all turned away, each of us to his own way.
Lord, we thank you this morning that you have caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him, the risen one, Jesus Christ, that we might receive the grace we need to find help in this moment of being short of the righteousness which you've called us to live. We don't want to just be a frugal, financially wise people. We want to be a broken people who see your love for us and that you've demonstrated your love for us in that while we were yet sinners, you sent your Son to die for those of us who spit in your face.
Lord, all of us are in need of grace at some levels. We thank you that today we have found grace in Jesus Christ. I pray that we would eagerly extend that grace to others who have come under bondage to the law of living foolishly with money and material possessions, and that we would call them back to hope, we'd call them back to you, we'd call them back to your Word, and they would begin to walk in your way, and they would do it, Father, in a community that would love them, care for them, speak boldly to them, but gently, with great respect. We are in need, and we declare that together. Amen.
If you're here this morning and, like the rest of us, you are in a place of need, come and find grace here. You'll find it from those us who are here to walk with you through what we've come to understand is the freedom in giving ourselves to God and his Word in areas even as mundane as money and material possessions. You'll find it everywhere else, too.
Most of all, you need to know this entire series is not about getting into your wallet. It's about transforming your heart and letting your heart fall in love with the one thing we all need, which is a renewed relationship with our Savior. When we are satisfied with him, it delivers us from the bondage of giving ourselves to anything else. If you are in need, will you come and let us introduce you to the great I Am? If you, by grace, have found relationship with him, will you worship him well this week by loving well others who need him, as well? You have a great week of worship.
Whether youre deep in debt or have the tendency to hoard, the Bible is clear that there is a direct correlation between our attitude toward money and our relationship with God. Through these six messages by Todd Wagner, pastor of Watermark Community Church, you will learn Gods heart on the issues of materialism, debt, and being consumed with money and possessions. Our hope is that you will take away practical tools for handling what God has entrusted to you and surrendering your finances to Gods wisdom and direction - ultimately leading you to financial freedom.