My first job in high school was making t-shirts at the Heart of Illinois fair. At the time, I didn’t understand why the owner paid me cash (I do now!) but I didn’t complain. I worked next to two brothers in a giant lemonade stand who whistled at the girls.
The unfortunate part about getting paid in cash was that I was working at fair ground … you could find deep fried anything within a five minute walk.
My understanding of money at the time was that you made money and then spent money. To be honest, I was better at spending than earning.
Financial planners will emphasize five aspects of money management. I was learning about the first two:
It’s not only teenagers who struggle with this. Many adults never move past the first two stages. A 2016 GOBankingRates.com survey found that 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts — and 34% have no savings at all.
Some people act like the federal government — they spend more than they earn on a regular basis. But the federal government has advantage: they can print their own money. If you do that, you’ll go to jail!
In our culture, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers.
As a follower of Jesus, I believe there is more to life than just numbers. In fact, we are called to live beyond the numbers.
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to look at what it means to live beyond the numbers. We’re going to compare and contrast God’s wisdom with the conventional wisdom of our age:
- Contentment or Consumerism
- God-Dependent or Independent
- Stewardship or Ownership
- Generosity or Misery
Here’s why: God will always write a better story for your life than you could write for yourself. If you do things God’s way, you will get the results only God can provide.
It surprises some people to learn that Jesus taught more about money than any other subject.
When I was a young minister I was reluctant to talk about money. I was told unchurched people came to church with one hand on their wallet. They wouldn’t raise both hands for fear someone would pick pocket for Jesus.
Then I realized Jesus talked about money more than I did.
For Jesus, how we handle our finances is a spiritual decision. Especially as it relates to two aspects of life:
- Security = where do I find my security? In finances or God?
- Source = who is the source of life? My finances or God?
Jesus knows we’re tempted to find our security and source in things other than God. To help us understand, he talks about food, clothing, and birds …
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you — you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. — Matthew 6:25-32
Jesus is not introducing a new teaching. When the Israelites were wandering in the desert, God provided manna every morning.
Jesus is teaching us to trust God every day. This was the principle behind the manna and what Jesus taught in the Lord’s prayer – give us this day our daily bread. In providing the Hebrews with manna, God was teaching them that they had nothing to do with it. They didn’t plant or bake.
Jesus is teaching the same principle: You didn’t do anything to earn God’s favor and provision. If God takes care of the birds and flowers, why should we think he’ll not take care of us?
Four times in eight verses commands us to not worry about our situation. You might be tempted to think, “Easy for you to say, Jesus!” The original word for worry literally meant “to be drawn in different directions.” Worry pulls us apart by pulling in different directions.
Beneath worry is a lack of trust that God keeps his promises. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows that worry is …
- Irreverent. Worry fails to recognize it is God who provides.
Irrelevant. Worry doesn’t change anything. No one has ever changed a relationship, a life, or the world by worrying.
- Irresponsible.Worry burns up energy that could be used in a more constructive way.
I also don’t believe it’s insignificant that Jesus refers to God as Father. When our kids were young, they didn’t worry about what they were going to eat three months or three years later. They weren’t thinking, “What am I going to eat when I’m six?” Children just assume that their parents will take care of that.
When you begin to recognize God as source, you’ll seek him first …
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. — Matthew 6:33-34
It can be frightening to seek first a God we cannot see when we can see a bank statement. Our temptation is to seek what we can see.
Corrie ten Boom understood this. During the Nazi holocaust, she trusted God as she hid Jews and helped them escape to safety. Her fear of the Nazis was driven out by the certainty of her God. She once wrote: “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
God’s track record of dependability is better than any financial, housing, or stock market.
Jesus taught on money because he knew that the way you manage your money reveals whether you are God-dependent or independent.
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. — Matthew 6:24
Jesus understood the difference between an employee and slave. As an employee, you are free to work two jobs if you want to earn extra money. A slave didn’t have that same freedom.
The reason that Jesus taught so much about money is simple: it’s competing with God for your loyalty. It shows if I am God-dependent. Or do I live like it all depends on me.
The question we must answer is this: will we live our lives independent of God or dependent on God?