HEBREW BIBLE LESSON Malachi 3:6-18
EPISTLE LESSON I Timothy 6:1-21
SERMON: “Hazardous to Your Wealth”
Every day it seems we get warned about something. Some of those are serious and important; others are quite funny, for example:
Antenna installation warning: “Do not attempt to install if drunk, pregnant or both. Do not eat antenna. Do not throw antenna at spouse.
On a hair dryer box: Do not use while sleeping.
Capacity is based on 4 minutes per song. Do not eat iPod shuffle.
On “Scrubbing Bubbles” automatic shower cleaner: “not a bodywash.”
On a bottle of pills prescribed by a veterinarian for a dog: May cause drowsiness. Use caution when operating heavy machinery.
On an egg carton: This product may contain eggs.
On a washing machine: Warning: High spin speeds. Do not put any person in this washer.
The best one I found – on a Superman costume: Warning: This costume does not enable flight or super strength.
We get warning labels on all kinds of things from cigarettes to medications, from toys with tiny parts to plastic bags that protect clothing when we bring it home from the dry-cleaner’s. But when was the last time you saw a warning on a dollar bill? A $5? $10? $20?
And yet the Bible carries quite a few warnings about money.
“Do not overwork to be rich.” (Prov. 23:4)
“He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase.” (Eccl. 5:10)
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.” (1 Tim. 6:9)
“Let your conduct be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’
So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to
Now I know that most people in America are not listening to these warnings for the following reasons:
91% of Americans make more money than ever before while 66% of Americans are more worried about their finances than ever before.
There has been a 27 year decline in the percentage of income that Christians give to charity.
1.5 - 3.5% is the percentage of income that Christians give to church and religious causes.
17% of Christians say they “tithe” (give 10% or more).
3% of Christians actually tithe (give 10% or more).
30 - 50% of active church attendees have blank annual giving records ($ 0 recorded).
70% of Christians leave nothing to their church or God’s work when they die because they don’t have a will or written estate plan.
American is full of people who are stressed out about money.
Remember Howard Hughes? Worth 2.5 billion dollars at his death, he was the richest man in the United States. He owned a private fleet of jets, hotels and casinos. When asked to claim his body, his nearest relative, a distant cousin, exclaimed, “Is this Mr. Hughes?” He had spent the last 15 years of his life a drug addict, too weak in the end to even administer the shots to himself. His 6'4" frame had shrunk to 6'1" and he weighed only 90 lbs. Not a single acquaintance or relative mourned his death.
All he ever really wanted in life was more. He wanted more money, so he parlayed inherited wealth into a billion-dollar pile of assets. He wanted more fame, so he broke into the Hollywood scene and soon became a filmmaker and star. He wanted more sensual pleasures, so he paid handsome sums to indulge his every sexual urge. He wanted more thrills, so he designed, built, and piloted the fastest aircraft in the world. He wanted more power, so he secretly dealt political favors so skillfully that two U.S. presidents became his pawns. All he ever wanted was more. He was absolutely convinced that more would bring him true satisfaction. Unfortunately, history shows otherwise. He concluded his life emaciated; colorless; sunken chest; fingernails in grotesque, inches-long corkscrews; rotting, black teeth; tumors; innumerable needle marks from his drug addiction. Howard Hughes died believing the myth of more. He died a billionaire junkie, insane by all reasonable standards.
Let’s talk about some myths about money that even though they are not true, often determine just how people handle their finances:
Myth No. 1: It’s my money.
As with most myths there is a partial truth here. The money in my bank account is more my money than it is yours. Sometimes our children think our money is their money. – Not yet. But the key to handling finances in a healthy way is to understand that your money, my money, even Bill Gates’ money is really God’s money. We earn money by hard work, or we inherit money because our parents and grandparents provided for us. Who gave us the ability to work hard, do a good job, to be industrious? God. God gives us the ability to learn how to do a job, the health to perform the job, the opportunity to land the job.
Myth No. 2: You can never have too much money. That is one of the greatest myths of all. C. S. Lewis, one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time, once taught this principle: “One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give, and so fail to realize your need for God. If everything seems to come simply by signing checks, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent upon God.”1 3
Maybe this is part of our national trouble:
We have become more concerned with the Dow Jones Index than we are with the Ten Commandments. We’re more concerned about the rate of interest than we are about the rate of immorality. We’ve become more concerned about gold than we are about God; more concerned about stock markets than we are saving mankind. Too much prosperity can bring too much pride.
Myth No. 3: I have to keep up with the joneses.
Someone has well said, “It’s hard to save money when your neighbor keeps buying things you can’t afford!” Will Rogers rightly said, “We borrow money we don’t have, to buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t even like.”
Myth No. 4: My net wealth determines my net worth. That may be the biggest lie and the biggest myth of all. May I tell you who the poorest person in the world is. The poorest person in the world is not the person who has no money. The poorest person in the world is the person who has nothing but money. There are so many wealthy people today who have a house, but they don’t have a home; they have sex, but they don’t have love; they have fame, but they don’t have friendships; they have the good life, but they don’t have eternal life; they wear gold, but they don’t know God.
Myth No. 5: Money buys happiness. I have a friend who turned 85 years old last April, and one who turned 92 earlier this month. Both have been widowed for about 8 or 9 years.
My 85 year old friend lives in a small house with uneven floors and the smallest bathroom I’ve seen located in a not-so-rich neighborhood. She and her husband had a custom-made tub because the bathroom was too small to fit a regular sized tub. Her husband never went to college, but he was a good, honest man, working a farm for years and driving a mail route. She has two adult children, 7 grandchildren and at least 5 great-grandchildren and she knows just about everybody in town. There’s not one of those chidren/grandchildren/ greats or friends who wouldn’t move mountains to help her if she needed it.
My 92-year old friend lives in a much nicer home in a nice section of town, with many bedrooms, bathrooms, a three-car garage. She has a grand piano in her living room. She also has two adult children, two grandchildren and, I think, two great grandchildren. Her husband of at least 50 years also never went beyond high school, but he was successful in business and made big money. None of the sadness she deals with on a daily basis is because of anything she did, but she is estranged from one of her adult children. One of her two grandchildren was injured in an auto accident 15 years ago and cannot speak, move her arms or legs, is fed only with a feeding tube and requires 24/7 nursing care. If my friend could, she would gladly give every penny she has to restore and heal her granddaughter, and re-establish a loving relationship with her son. Sadly, money cannot do any of that.
Like the other myths, the money can buy happiness myth has a partial truth. It relieves a great deal of anxiety when we have enough to pay our bills, put food on the table, clothes on our backs and gas in the car. It can purchase tickets to Disney World and Cedar Point, and across country to visit with family, but it can’t buy happiness.
Some of you know that I like to shop on amazon.com. I can get anything there from books to potato peelers, from CD’s to . . .I just bought myself a new meat thermometer! So I’m sitting at my laptop writing this message, and I thought, well, let’s just see what happens if I search amazon for ‘happiness.’ Over 165,000 items come up, including lots of books, DVD’s, a moisturizing lotion and even a Pet Paw Print Pet Bed. I don’t know what the whole lot of 165,000 plus items would cost, but I’m sure I couldn’t afford it, and even more convinced that if I had them all, they would not bring me happiness.
There are two tools that you can use that are guaranteed to help you master money. One is trusting, the other is tithing. They both go together and one motivates the other.
“Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from my ordinances and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.” (Mal. 3:7-9)
The only way you can rob someone is by taking something that belongs to them. Since none of your money is really your money, because all of it belongs to God, when we think of it as ours, we take for ourselves what belongs to God. The remedy for robbing God is two-fold: 1) tithing (proportional giving), and 2) to trust God who challenges us to try it and see if God doesn’t bless us more than we can imagine. Proportional giving is not a matter of what you think about giving. It is a matter of what you think about God. Do you trust God that He will keep His word? Do you trust the power of God to meet every financial need that you have? Do you trust the promise of God to honor you if you will honor Him? God invites you to test it out – see if God will not pour out a blessing on you, so much that you cannot contain it. Check it out.
31 Cited by Bill Bright, Red Sky in the Morning, p. 92.