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    Oct 15, 2017

    Wisdom and Finance

    Passage: Luke 15:11-32

    Speaker: Vivian McCarthy

    Series: Enough

    Category: Stewardship

    Money should never be an end in itself. Rather, it should be a means for accomplishing an end – specifically, for accomplishing our life purpose. ~Adam Hamilton, Enough

    Last week we talked about how easy it is to get tempted away from sound financial practices – how easy it is to give in to the temptation of “I want it now” as expressed today in the story I shared with the children – the Prodigal Son. We also showed how it’s abundant life that God wants for us and Jesus came to help us find – and how a life that gets stuck in “financial foolery” can be anything but abundant, plagued by money worries.

    So, today, let’s talk about wise financial practices as suggested in scripture.

    Genesis 1:26a and 27a - God spoke: "Let us make human beings in our image…God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God's nature.

    Genesis 12:1, 2a, 3b - God told Abram: "Leave your country, your family, and your father's home for a land that I will show you.  I'll make you a great nation and bless you. All the families of the Earth will be blessed through you."

    Do you ever stop to consider your purpose in life? I know that some of you participated in small groups using Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life, but that was quite a while ago, and though our basic purpose may not change, perhaps our focus changes from time to time, necessitating a new look at our purpose.

    The creation story in Genesis 1 says that our purpose is to reflect God’s image in the world and in the story of Abram in Genesis 12, we see that we are blessed to be a blessing.

    Our purpose is not simply to live for ourselves but to live for the benefit of others.

    So, how have you articulated your purpose in light of the scripture? And how does your life – your whole life, including your financial life give witness to that purpose? Maybe a better question is: if someone took a look at your checkbook, what would they conclude about your purpose?

    Our money is the means to accomplishing our purpose, and in order to accomplish our purpose, we have to set goals and make a plan to accomplish them.

    In his book, Enough, Adam Hamilton tells how he learned to make a plan. He says:

    When I was in high school, I wanted to go on a trip to Mexico with my Spanish class. My mom was divorced, and money didn’t come easily. I was working at a fast-food restaurant, and I knew that in order to go on the trip, I would have to raise much of the money myself. Mom would help, but she could not pay for all of the expenses. I also had a goal of giving 10 percent of my income away. These were two important goals, and my mom had a simple plan to help me.

    She took two envelopes and wrote “Mexico Trip” on one and “Tithing” on the other. She told me to fund my envelopes and savings account first, and then I could spend whatever was left. So every week I would cash my paycheck and put 10 percent in my tithing envelope, a percentage into savings, and a chunk into the Mexico trip envelope. Whatever I had left was my spending money for that week. I was able to tithe each week and save enough money for the trip, including some extra spending money, all because my mom helped me to devise a plan to accomplish my goals. She taught me the importance of setting goals and funding my goals first, before spending the rest of my money.

    It was a simple plan, but it was elegant in its simplicity! The important thing is that we make a plan – not just rely on our good intentions.

    Hamilton offers six financial planning principles that are basic - and, if you’ll pardon the pun – right on the money.

    2 Corinthians 9:6-7 - The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

    Principle Number One:  Pay your tithe and offering first.
    In order to put God first in our lives, we have to put God first in our living and first in our giving. Too often, we give God the leftovers. To put God first means giving to God first and living on the rest.

    Proverbs 27:23-24 - Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds; for riches do not last forever, nor a crown for all generations.

    Principle Number Two: Create a budget and track your expenses.
    I remember walking into a Church Council meeting one evening somewhere on the district. They were discussing finances, and they showed me their expenses. What they could not show me was their budget. In fact, they told me they didn’t need a budget because they knew what their expenses were. And, there was no month-to-month picture of how they were using their money, so if something didn’t get paid, no one but the treasurer had any idea whether they were behind on the bills.

    To have a reliable financial plan, we need to plan for our priorities as well as track where our money is going.

    Matthew 6: selected verses -  "You can't worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you'll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can't worship God and Money both.  "If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.  What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving.

    Principle Number 3: Simplify your lifestyle (live below your means).
    We will talk more about this next week when we talk about contentment, but the passage from Matthew sums it all up!

    Proverbs 21:20 - Precious treasure remains in the house of the wise, but the fool devours it.

    Principle Number 4: Establish an emergency fund.
    We were almost there. We had struggled with some things financially, but we had a plan. Then we had a couple of upsets, including some of the same kinds of things I hear some of you talk about: tires, damage to the house, unexpected health expenses, and so on. We didn’t have an emergency fund. So we began to set money aside in an account we didn’t look at much. Actually, I set up 2 sub-accounts in that account, 1 for emergencies and 1 for Christmas. And it has been a blessing! Money was literally in the bank when we shredded a tire or one of the kids needed unexpected, expensive medical treatment. As the bank president in Mary Poppins would say:  [just play the first portion of this fun Dick Van Dyke video and you'll get the idea]

    Proverbs 22:7 - The poor are always ruled over by the rich, so don't borrow and put yourself under their power.

    Principle Number 5: Pay off your credit cards, use cash/debit cards for purchases, and use credit wisely.
    I Googled “how to pay off credit cards” and found quite a few sensible suggestions on how to do that. There is also a simple strategy outlined in Hamilton’s book which will be available in our library at the end of this series. I can attest to the exhilarating feeling of eliminating credit card debt. Yes, we use cards occasionally, but now that there is no debit, per se, we pay the balance every month. It’s a great feeling of freedom!

    1 Timothy 6:9-10 - But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

    Principle Number Six: Practice long-term savings and investing habits.
    Hamilton says, “we do not save merely for the sake of saving. There is a word for that: hoarding… Hoarding is the practice of fools and those who fail to understand the purpose of life. Saving, on the other hand, is meant to be purposeful.

    “There are three types of savings we should have: 1) emergency savings, which we have already discussed; 2) savings for wants and goals; and 3) retirement savings. The first two categories keep us from being a slave to the credit card company. Saving for wants and goals is setting aside money in advance for things we know we will need or want, rather than buying them on credit.”

    The third category, retirement savings, has become even more important as we are living longer than ever before. Start early and save every month – even as early as your very first job. It’s amazing how savings grow. Have you seen this ad for Prudential?

    These are six simple but wise strategies for financial health and freedom. Perhaps some of you found some wisdom for your own financial life. Remember. The Prodigal Son came home and made a new start – maybe that’s what we need as well!