Luke 12:15
“A man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.”
Prepared by John E. Marshall

The recent movie “The Alamo” depicts Sam Houston as a rough-living, hard-drinking, gun-toting desperado. This portrayal was accurate, but not the end of the story. In later years, Houston became a Christ-follower.

Lyndon Baines Johnson, when President of the USA, hung on the wall of the oval office in the White House, a framed letter written by Sam Houston to Johnson’s great-grandfather, George Baines. The latter had led Houston to Christ, and the transformation was immediate and radical. He went from crude to content, from belligerent to peaceful, from liquor to love.

Houston’s baptism was an event that astonished all who knew him. He then began paying half the local minister’s salary. Asked why, he explained, “My pocketbook was baptized too.”

This in a nutshell pinpoints the question we all need to face. Has our pocketbook been baptized? Have we yielded our financial matters to the Lordship of Christ?

Turning all our finances over to Jesus’ control is the right thing to do, the only acceptable response of a believer. It is also what’s best for our own joy.

Many believers won’t let Jesus be Master of their money because they don’t trust Him. They fear He will require of them duties not in their own best interest.

Christians often believe they care more about themselves than God does. Convinced that ruling their own affairs is their best chance for joy, they live under the delusion that indulgence in stuff can bring them contentment.

Truth is, there is no correlation between wealth and happiness. Vanderbilt claimed, “The care of 200 million dollars is enough to kill anyone.” Andrew Carnegie said, “Millionaires seldom smile.” When young, the Beatles sang to us, “Money can’t buy me love.” They lived long enough to prove it.

In our materialistic USA culture, everything seems to scream, “A little more will make us happy.” Unfortunately, we believe the lie, and keep chasing mirages with our money, but we run out of money before we run out of mirages.

Amassing wealth does not satisfy. We think if we had more, we’d get what we want, but it doesn’t happen. The first billionaire, John D. Rockefeller, said, “The poorest man I know is the man who has nothing but money.”

Jerry Rankin, President of our International Mission Board, visited a poor country where the average salary is nine dollars a month. A pastor, in the throes of poverty, gladly testified, “Because we have God, we have everything!”

C. S. Lewis said, “He who has God and everything has no more than he who has God alone.” Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem, “Richard Cory,” bespeaks the emptiness of material success.

Whenever Richard Cory went downtown,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace;
In fine we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Why do we idolize stuff? What drives us? The rabid pursuit for material satisfaction is a band-aid for pained hearts. Instead of seeking more stuff, take a deep look within. The relief we want is found in the spiritual, not the physical.

To find satisfaction, we must desert selfishness. Otherwise, after the new wears off our latest adventure, we will again become ungrateful for what we have, and begin looking enviously around us for something different, newer, and bigger.

Our own Farris Robertson passes on wisdom a friend once shared with him, “It is more important to want what you have than it is to get what you want.”

We must end the radical, crazy compulsion of always seeking new nerve endings to stimulate. We must not let this unbridled monster of lust destroy us.

How shall we lasso this whirlwind? With focused, God-enabled intent. Self-control will not happen in our lives by accident. Our only hope to regain stability is to let God show each of us a strategy we can implement. I urge us all to seek divine help before we sink any deeper in money trouble. When in this hole, find the best, fastest way to quit digging.

With the Lord’s help, develop a plan. Don’t lolligag, be intentional, focus, do something to get your financial house in order. Take charge of your life. We need to set in motion mechanisms that will help us gain control of our money. We must develop a strategy to tell our money where to go, or we’ll continue wondering where it went.

Without a financial plan, we will continue to mismanage, “more money in” always resulting only in “more money out.” If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll keep seeing the same results.

When we aim at nothing, we hit it every time. Set specific, attainable goals. J.C. Penney said, “Give me a stock clerk with a goal, and I’ll show you a man who will make history; give me a man without a goal and I’ll show you a stock clerk.” I hate this quote. It strikes too close to home.

Setting goals is the first step of financial planning. Alas! It is also the easiest part. The toughest step is achieving goals. Earl Nightingale must have been thinking of money when he said the most important decision in achieving a goal is not what we are willing to do to achieve it, but what we are willing to give up to achieve it. To succeed, we will need miraculous Holy Spirit empowerment to thwart our selfish desires for stuff.

Repent. Pray earnestly. Petition the Lord. Then rise up and seek help. Start by mastering what the Bible teaches about finances. Then learn from your grandparents. The Depression generation has already forgotten more about wisely handling money than the rest of us will ever learn.

Take a financial class. We at Second offer several. Rich Miller can provide you information about them. Read a book. Mark Twain said a person who won’t read good books has no advantage over a person who can’t.

Seek financial counseling. We at Second offer confidential one-on-one Biblical financial counseling. Having a limited number of trained counselors available now, we know we could be inundated with calls, and thus need to limit this to newly married couples, couples getting married soon, single moms, or couples under 30. If you fit these criteria, call Rich Miller.

Debt reduction doesn’t happen by accident. We must have a plan. Intent is critical. We reduce debt only by intending to.

I know most of us cannot eliminate all debt overnight. As your Pastor, my goal for you is not instant financial freedom. My desire is that each individual and family in our church would all turn in the same direction, toward becoming financially free.

This is what our church has decided to do. If our church did not have these special fundraisers, it would take 27 years to erase our debt. With our current level of giving to fundraisers, plus our allotted budget amount, we will pay off our debt in 8 years. We, as a church, are making a concerted effort to reduce our debt as quickly as possible.

We ask each person and family to follow our lead. Seek to do what we are trying to do as a church. With God’s help, let’s take control of our finances. If we do, the Lord will be honored, His work will be multiplied, and we will enjoy greater contentment. Financially free ( it’s a goal worth striving for by all of us.