Psalm 24:1
It’s All His. Act Like It.
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

For my money sermons this year, I am indebted to Rich Miller, our minister of Finances, to the Second Eleven leadership team, and to David Platt for his stunning book “Radical.” It has sold about 500,000 copies and made number five on the New York Times bestseller list. I’ll reference it in these sermons.

Humor helps ease the tension of money lessons. One Sunday a Pastor resorted to announcing, “Men, we have found a wallet.” As the men reached for their wallets, Pastor said, “Since you have your hand on your wallet, this would be a good time to take the offering.”

Psalm 24:1 (Holman) The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord.

This is the first underlying principle of money and giving. Everything belongs to God; we are His managers. It’s all His. Act like it. Once a believer admits “Nothing is mine,” it is easier to loosen our grip on stuff. At some point we need to decide it’s not about us. No one can be an effective Christian while cruising down the path of always wanting more.

I often say, “You, the people of Second, are the most giving people I’ve ever known.” As we begin a new year, I challenge us to give even more, to go higher and farther than we ever have before. We’ve come too far to turn back now.

I once dreaded preaching about money. At best I convinced myself I was the shepherd of a flock and thus had to talk about unpopular topics. I don’t feel this hesitation anymore. I now preach about money with heartfelt expectation, believing God will use the sermons to bless His people. For too many of us, unwise financial decisions are putting our lives in danger of being decimated.

Let me be up-front with you. I am convinced the most fulfilling life we can live is when we live a self-controlled lifestyle that results in our being able to show utter reckless abandonment in our giving to God and others. If we are to enjoy life at its best, we need to develop a whole new way of thinking.

In “Radical” (p. 18) David Platt challenges us to ask, “Do we really believe Jesus is worth abandoning everything for?” The question is not, “Have we been asked to do it?” The question is, “Has the thought ever crossed our mind?” Or are we totally caught up in a society driven by me, money, and anything goes?

Our lives should be distinguishable from the way unbelievers live. Few things give us better opportunity to “show our separateness” than how we use money. Material possessions enable us to put tangible skin on spiritual claims.

“Can we afford bigger, nicer things?” is the wrong question to ask. Just because we can buy things, does not necessarily make it right. Even lost people live up to the standard of buying affordable, more expensive items.

A higher standard is required of believers. The news is abuzz with reports about the 57 billionaires who have now committed to leave at least half of their estates to charity. This movement was begun by a few unbelieving billionaires. Why can’t we believers leave half of our inheritances to charity, or at least some? Why would we let unbelievers define for us what generous giving is?

It is sad when we act more like citizens of an earthly kingdom than of a heavenly one. Our styles and tastes are to differ from the world’s. The Kingdom to which we belong is not of this world. God grant us grace to live accordingly.
Our financial priorities should surprise lost people. Our CPAs should be shocked by how much we give away. I pray these sermons will help us do this.
Our Master said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). This is true for me as the leader of this flock as much as it is for you the lay-members. Do I stand to gain from your increased giving? Yes, my salary depends on it, and it will enable us to do things I want us to accomplish as a church. It would be hypocritical for me to say I have nothing to gain from your giving.

But I have firmly resolved, when I preach about money I will do my best to give more to you than I might receive from you. If these sermons don’t help you, they’re not worth much. I promise I will try to give you my best, to help you enjoy your money, improve your quality of life, and live gladly before the Lord.

I want to help you who are going through hard times. If the economy has dealt you a serious blow, do not take my challenging words as a browbeating. Let me serve you. What helps, use. What doesn’t help, disregard for now.

Through the years I have tried to give specific financial ideas that I have hoped would help you. This lets me give to you, not only receive from you.

We in the USA have a six-fold money problem. One, too much eating out. Take lunch to work with you. Drinking only water will make about every fifth meal free. Nixing the premium coffees will make about every third meal free.

Two, too much college loans. Students, have a job earning money. Utilize work/study programs. Don’t put extras (for instance trips) on your college loans. Seek out all scholarships available. Many who go to school in order to become missionaries can’t do so once they graduate because of too much college debt.

Three, too much clothes. We are the only country where we can say in the same paragraph “I have nothing to wear” and “We need more closet space.” Last year’s designer clothes are being worn this year by the poorest of the poor in struggling countries around the world.

In a non-English speaking country, I saw a man whose shirt had written above an arrow pointing to his stomach, “Baby here.” I saw an African wearing a shirt that said, “Irish to a T.” Among the world’s poor, I have seen Harvard and Yale sweaters. In the Serengeti, I saw a Mizzou shirt. We could learn from one of the wealthiest ladies I know. She buys her clothes at a secondhand store.

Four, too much house. A good, manageable house payment, including taxes and insurance, is 25% of take home pay. The number one mistake cited by home buyers is, “We spent too much.”

For young married couples, too much house too soon is the number one cause of money troubles. They too often try to buy within three years a house costing what it took their parents thirty years to be ready to purchase. Each month, pay extra on your home mortgage. Begin with $100 per month extra, or at least round up your payment to the nearest hundred.

One man said he would never let his offerings to church be less than his house payment. He claimed if he couldn’t give that much to help God’s house, then he shouldn’t live in a house that nice.

Five, too much car. The average car payment is $378 a month. If we invested $378 a month for 30 years, we could have over $1,000,000. John Maxwell says, “Hope you like the cars.”

Vehicles are often a stumbling block for men. In financial matters, girls tend to nibble, guys tend to gulp. A man will often honestly say, “I rarely want anything. I don’t ask for much,” while his $37,000 pick-up sits in the garage.

Pay off cars as soon as possible. Round up your monthly payment to the nearest hundred. Later add $50 to that amount.

Ruth and I have had great success in spending no more than $9,999.99 on a car. For USA cars, prices drop dramatically in their third year after production, because this is when rental cars are dumped on the market. Ruth and I have had great success buying cars three to five years old. This custom makes depreciation our ally. I know what you’re thinking. “Pastor, it’s none of your business what I spend on a car.” This is absolutely true. Therefore, don’t tell me what you spent. This sermon is to help you, not me. Don’t bite the hand trying to feed you.

Six, too much credit card. Three-fourths of credit card users don’t pay off their balance each month. Use cash as often as possible. We spend 30% more when using credit cards than when using cash. Plastic is painless. Cash hurts.

Credit card companies are not villains, but they do have a plan for our life. They do not want us to default. They want us to pay them forever. This is why many card issuers require a monthly payment of only two percent on the balance.

They want us in debt to them as long as we live, but we decide whether or not this happens. We are not victims. Don’t blame credit card companies for our bad judgments. If we borrow from them, we are using their money, not ours.

Whatever the cost, determine to retire credit card debt. Set your face like flint. Do plastic surgery on your plastic. Begin by first paying off the card with the smallest balance. After this first one has been paid off, apply its monthly payment, as well as the extra money that was going to it, toward the next higher balance. After the second is paid off, apply what was being paid on the first and second to the third card, and so forth. If these steps are followed, the average family will be free of credit card debt in less than five years.
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