Wisdom for Your Personal Finances

Mark Buckley
June 23, 2019
Series: The Other Hours

My topic today is Wisdom for Your Personal Finances. I’m going to be talking about finances. A lot of people cringe if they think a church is talking about money because they think the major motive is for people to give money to the church. That is — yeah, we want people to give generously to Living Streams—but that is not the primary motive for this message today.

I was thinking about three objectives I have. My goals for you are to help you maximize the impact of your life; to help free you from anxiety and insecurity about money so you can enjoy the peace of Christ; and to protect you from wasting your time, talents and money from bad financial decisions, unfruitful entanglements and wasteful purchases.

If this has an impact on you like I hope it will, it will free you. It will help you maximize your potential. It will help free you from anxiety. And it will help guard you against wasteful entanglements and bad decisions. Do we make bad decisions as believers? Yeah. 

We were teaching David and I, a Financial Forum a few weeks ago. One of the questions that was asked was, “Can you tell me your worst financial decision?” And I have a whole list of bad financial decisions. I chose the one where I forced the sale of a house for a hundred and something thousand dollars, and now that same house is worth more than a million. But because I forced the sale, someone else got the full benefit. 

I could tell you about lending out tax money that Kristina had saved to a guy I was sure was going to pay us back. And I said, “No, I don’t need the collateral of your guitar,” and she relented. Of course I didn’t have the guitar or the tax money after a few months because he never paid us back. And I could go on and on and get it gets worse, unfortunately. 

Even though, when I was a kid, I started working really hard at a young age—mowing lawns, saving the money—getting a paper route, saving the money—working in a grocery store, saving the money—by the time I graduated from high school, I had thousands of dollars. I was able to make loans. I was able to travel. I was able to buy a car. I could do practically anything I wanted. But there was one major problem with the finances I had saved. They had become polluted. 

You know something pure, something good, something you worked really hard for can be polluted. It says a few flies will make all the perfume stink. I had started cheating later in life. I cheated when I played poker with my friends on occasion. I cheated some of my paper route customers. I cheated when I worked at the grocery store by taking some drinks and not paying for them. All the money I had worked so hard for became sort of uncomfortable. I had a bad conscience about it.

Following Jesus when I was twenty years old began to free me from the grip of money, from the grip of greed, from financial insecurity. We lived in a discipleship house according to Acts 2 where we shared everything in common. We shared our cars. We would work and bring a paycheck back to the house. It would go to the needs of everybody. That was really, really good for me. I needed to start over. 

But even in starting over, and even though God has blessed us as a family, blessed us with the church, I’ve still wrestled from time to time with insecurities. Just this last week, I was talking to my daughter, Kelly, who’s a really good business woman. I said, “Kelly, I just don’t know how things are going. I suppose if I sold everything I have, I could probably make it to ninety.”

And she looked at me and said, “Well, Dad, what makes you think you’re going to live to ninety?”

And I said, “Well, my mom’s ninety-four.”

She said, “Dad, she’s mellow. You are so uptight. You are so stressed.”

The bottom line was, “You don’t need to worry about money because you’re going to die soon.” You know what I mean?

Anyway, I’m going to give you five principles that I think are principles of wisdom. These are things I taught my kids and some of you are my spiritual children. You’re sons and daughters of the faith and these are things I want you to have embedded in your life and working out personally.

1. Honor the Lord with your wealth. Proverbs 3:9&10 says this:

Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops, then your barns will be filled to overflowing and your vats will brim over with new wine.

Let’s pray:

Father God, I thank you for this congregation. I pray, Lord God, that your word would help free us from insecurity and fear. Help us, Lord. Transform us into generous, wise givers who will invest in your kingdom and see an expansion of your kingdom in our lifetime. I ask, Lord, that you will guard us from those who are evil and those who would mislead, so that your truth will not only free us, but that you will bring blessings so that we can be a blessing. In Jesus’ name.

So, Proverbs 3 is talking bout honoring the Lord with your wealth. What does that mean? I think it means tithing. Abraham tithed. Jacob tithed. Melchizadek received the tithes. He was a blessing. And if you become a blessing like Melchizadek was to Abraham, you’ll be blessed financially like Melchizadek was by Abraham.

God’s desire for us is to bless us, make us so we can be a blessing to others. That was his promise to Abraham right in the beginning. So I believe it’s tithing. Some people say, “Well, that’s Old Testament.” The truth is, it’s Old Testament, it’s New Testament, and it works in the real world.

Honoring the Lord with your money is a lot more than tithing. For me, honoring the Lord was learning to be in unity with Kristina so that we made decisions together; because the impact of our decisions affected us both. As I learned to be in unity with her and learned that her discernment could give me a heads up when something wasn’t healthy, somebody wasn’t being honest, it has ended up saving us a lot in the long run.

Honoring the Lord with your wealth, in my opinion, means you pay your bills on time, because you’ve made a commitment. When you’re making commitment, those who swear to their own hurt and do not change, they are people that are blessed by God. So sometimes we make commitments and we wish we hadn’t; but when you have a bill, when you have a commitment, you pay it on time. 

It means paying your taxes on time; because we’re all supposed to be citizens who contribute to the well-being of the nation that we live in. The Scripture in Romans 13 says that the authorities are servants of God, and they’re there to bear the sword against the evil-doer and to commend those who do right So we owe them, as well. 

Honoring the Lord means all of those things.

Number 2. Be trustworthy with your money, Luke 16:11 says this:

If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?

There’s a contrast between worldly wealth—which is money and possessions, things that are going to perish—and true riches, which are eternal. They are spiritual gifts. It’s the power of God. It’s the insight of the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge. It’s healing grace. It’s prophetic ability to build people up. There are true riches, a lot more valuable than money. But the Lord uses money as a measure to determine whether or not we can be trusted with something even more valuable. 

Just like we give a kid a little bit of responsibility. If they can handle that, they get more responsibility. And with more responsibility comes more freedom, more opportunity, and more ability to enjoy all of life. 

When I was a young believer, we were in the Jesus Movement. We didn’t have a church, but we would borrow a lot of different churches. On one particular Tuesday night, our pastor—the guy who was leading us, he wasn’t an official pastor, he was a seminary student who was leading this Bible study—he said, “You know, we’ve been using this church now for months. I think we should take an offering and we should give it to the church for their light bill.” So everybody said, “Great.” They took an offering, and then, when the offering came in, he said, “Well, Mark, would you mind giving this to the church during the week, when their office is open?”

I said, “Sure, I would be glad to do that.” He gave it to me. It was mostly nickels, dimes and quarters and a few one dollar bills. It was just basically a big pile of change. It didn’t fit in my pocket. I put it in my truck. One thing leads to another. The next Tuesday night, we were back in there and it was a stormy night. It was windy outside, it was raining outside, and in the middle of the Bible study, all of a sudden the power went out. We were in complete darkness, and then a couple of moments later it came back on. 

The pastor leader guy said, “Wow, it’s a good thing Mark paid that light bill last week.” 

And I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh! I forgot!” You know, I had stashed the money in my truck and I never thought twice about it. It put the fear of God in me. The Lord had given me this money. This was the first time I was ever responsible for money that really was given as a gift to God. The next day I shot over to that church, gave them this whole bag of money, which probably was about $12 or something. 

But since that time, I’ve had people hand me money a few times. You know, tens, twenties, hundreds, and checks for thousands, and tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands of dollars. And I’ve taken it with the same seriousness that I took that money to that church on that day. I don’t want the lights going out on my life and me being held accountable to be trustworthy and failing the Lord when it comes to that.

Luke 16:12 

If you’ve not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

I was at a pastors’ conference one time and it was being comp’ed by some wealthy foundation. They were paying for everything. I went out with another couple to dinner and it was held at a very nice resort in Tucson. We went to order dinner, and the guy that I was with ordered the most expensive thing on the menu. It was literally, like, elk plus prawns. And I looked at it and I thought, “Dude, how can you do that?”

And I knew how he could do it, because in his mind it was, “Hey, this isn’t my money.” In my mind, this is a responsibility, as Jesus said, if I’m not trustworthy with someone else’s property, or their money, who’s going to give me my own?

So I look at the prices when I go. And I look at the health, Those are my two criteria when I order: What’s the price and what’s the health benefit?

Verse 13

No one can serve two masters. Either you’ll hate the one and love the other, or you’ll be devoted to the one and despise the other. You can’t serve God and money.

And there is a conflict oftentimes. Not all the time. We all have to work. And we all make money when we work. That’s not wrong. That’s a good thing. We have to be wise about it. We have to be diligent about it. But sometimes there’s a rub. Sometimes the Lord’s calling us to give, or the Lord’s calling us to say, “No,” the Lord’s calling us to rest even though we could make more money if we work harder, the Lord’s calling us to take a vacation and invest in your kids; and you’re wondering, “Well, what’s the benefit?”

I’ll tell you the benefit as a dad whose kids are all grown up and gone. Once they’re grown up and gone, they are grown up and gone. And you’d be very fortunate if you ever get another vacation with your whole family together. Now’s the time, if you’re a young family, to invest in your family, as well as in providing for them.

Number 3, third point. Be generous and rich in good deeds. First Timothy 6:17 says this:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant, nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Command those who are rich. Most of you would say, “Well, that’s not me!” Well, when you remember the context in which this is written, the richest people in the world had no cell phone, had no car, had no airplane, had no television, had no air conditioner. You take away all those factors, and all of a sudden, you’d feel poor. They did not have the same food sources. They didn’t have a refrigerator. They didn’t have a freezer. They had never tasted ice cream. They were poor people, you know? 

They were still considered rich because they had more than enough to live on. We’re all rich. It’s just a matter of degree. Therefore, a command to those who are rich applies to us. That’s my point. Not to make anybody feel bad about it. Because he’s basically saying don’t be arrogant or proud. Don’t put your hope in the wealth, because it’s uncertain. Put your hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

So who is our God? Who is our Father in heaven? He’s the one who didn’t just make one super high protein banana. He made a banana and a peach and a berry. Not just a strawberry, but a blue berry, a blackberry and a raspberry. He didn’t just make a desert. He made a beach and he made mountains, he made lakes, he made streams, he made us male and female, and he made sex and he made it all for our enjoyment, to bless us, to show us his goodness and grace and enable us to really have fun in life. 

People say life is tough. Life is tough. Life his painful. But life is also very enjoyable. And our God wants us to enjoy it. He didn’t make us and sacrifice his Son for us so that we would just gut it out, so that we would just endure until the day we die and look forward to heaven. I’m looking forward to heaven. I’m hoping to have a reward when I get to heaven. And because I know I’m rich in the eyes of God, then I have certain responsibilities. 

In Luke 16, Jesus also tells a parable about a guy who has got good clothes, l he’s got good food and there’s poor guy dying outside his door and just wants the crumbs his dogs are eating. And when they both die, the rich die goes to a place of torment forever, and the poor guy goes to Abraham’s bosom forever. And it’s just like a heads-up warning to the rich guys, “Don’t neglect the people who are poor.”

Now, I don’t think that means that we are supposed to give money every time we see someone standing by the street corner with a sign. I would rather fund, which I do, Phoenix Rescue Mission, or Church on the Street, or a ministry in our church that’s helping poor people, where there can be some accountability—and actually give them the opportunity for life transformation. “You really want to get on your feet? You really want help? Well, we’re going to help you. We’re going to help you in every good way.”

Verse 18:
Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous and willing to share.

Kristina’s been staying up in Christopher Creek lately. (And by the way, if you think of it, we’d appreciate your prayer because she has some heart issues and she’s struggling.) But in this little community in Christopher Creek, we have a little cabin, and we have friends in the church that have houses and cabins around the area. And what’s so beautiful about it is that they all share. If Kristina needs tools, she goes over to the Stavros’s. She’s using an ATV from the Emmons’. If she’s doing her laundry, she goes over the Kesslers’. And everybody shares. Everybody gets together at night and shares dinner. And if you’ve got friends that are staying with you, they get invited to dinner too. It’s such an expression of the fulfillment of the blessing that a community can be. 

We used to go every summer to San Diego and we would stay with some friends. And bunch of Living Streams people would rent places on Pacific Beach and Mission Beach. What was so funny to me is how much everybody enjoyed it. They paid thousands of dollars to get these little two-bedroom apartments right next door to their friends’ two-bedroom apartments, and they would have dinner together and kids would be running back and forth. Basically, for two weeks every summer, rich people paid money to live like poor people live all the time. Really. Because poor people living in apartments, they’re always sharing and kids are running in and out, and they all love it like, “This is wonderful!” Because half of them would sit in the sun and they wouldn’t even go in the water most of the time. It was just being in community. The blessing of community.

Verse 19:
In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Treasure for the coming age. When I think of Living Streams and our history, I think of David’s parents, Billy and Patty Stockton, who donated a brand new truck, who donated a brand new van, who would give away their cars. Every time they would upgrade a car, they would give us good cars. They bought a house and donated the house to the church. And because they bought a house and donated it to the church, we were able to buy our first church building. And because we owned that first church building and built up equity, we were able to buy this building. And now they’re in heaven and now they’re hearing the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servants.” Because they invested when we really needed it and their investment was multiplied hundreds of times, because they met needs then, and it has continued to grow in the equity of the Spirit.

Don’t wait until your ship comes in to do your giving. Do your giving while you’re living, and do your giving now; because it’s like buying Microsoft or Facebook when they’re first doing their IPO’s. You know what I mean? Netflix has gone up 14,000% in its first fifteen years. Anyway. That’s a whole ‘nuther subject.

Number 4 (We’re just doing 5.)

Recognize the dangers of debt, entanglements and the love of money. These are some dangers. This morning, as I was getting ready to leave, I see our cat bending over in the sink, drinking water out of a glass that had some dirty spoons, forks and a spatula in it. There is clean water ten feet away on the counter for the cat. I’m like, “Dude, get over to the clean water.”

I’m using this to illustrate that, sometimes there are sources that are more pure than others. If you’re lazy or you’re sloppy, you’ll drink from something that you might be sorry for.

Proverbs 22:7
The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.

What is the danger of debt? The danger of debt is that you lose freedom. You become slave to the lender. It says in Romans 13:8

Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another.

Sometimes, when we’re starting out financially, we need to say, “Okay. I don’t have the cash for something. I’m going to live by faith. By faith I’m going to buy an older car, and trust that it’s going to get me where I need to go. And even if it breaks down somehow, God is going to provide. Because the alternative is to buy a car that’s going to cost me 20-something thousand dollars, and by the time I get it paid off with interest and all the rest, it’s going to be over $30,0000 (if you do the math).” 

And you would have been a lot better having a little, old car that was paid off, break down a couple of times and Uber-ing yourself to work when it’s getting repaired in the shop, than you are spending a bunch of money and paying a bunch of debt. And sometimes God wants to provide for you. He literally wants to provide for you.

Kristina and I had dinner with a guy, I saw him this morning and he probably remembers the dinner. We both were in California at the same time. I said, “Can you guys meet us?” We were on vacation. He said, “Well, we would love to, but I don’t have gas money.” And I said, “Man, I’ve been waiting for somebody to say that to me for years. You get yourself to where we are and I will pay, not only for the dinner, but for the gas.”

Do you know why I was waiting for somebody to say that? Because too many people are charging things and putting them on credit cards that they can’t afford to pay off at the end of the month. So they are paying interest for years and years and years. There are people that might want to bless you if they knew what your situation was. 

2 Timothy 2:4
No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs.

What does that mean? That means we’re called to be free—soldiers of Christ, available for the Lord. We shouldn’t sacrifice our freedom. Some partnerships, some business arrangements are actually traps. They are entanglements waiting to ensnare you.

The first time this Scripture came alive to me, we had a bunch of discipleship houses in Novato, San Rafael and Peteluma, California. This guy who knew about our ministry came to me. He was married to a girl that I had gone to high school with. He wasn’t a believer. He said, “Mark, Ive bought this motel right in the center of Novato.“ There were only two motels in the whole city. He said, “I’d like to do a partnership with you. You guys manage it and I’ll give you some rooms available for your ministry.”

Free rooms. It sounded great to me. We had no financial risk. Long story short, I’m praying about it, all of our people are excited, and this Scripture comes to me: No soldier entangles himself in the affairs of this world. And I’m like, “Get out of my mind. I can’t wait to do this deal.”

Long story short, I had to say “no” to him because I couldn’t shake this Scripture. “I’m sorry, Ron, we’re not going to be able to do it.”

Within that very year, the economy crashed, the motel crashed. It was not only having trouble getting anybody in the rooms, but there were weeds growing up. He went into a major financial crisis. I would have signed a five-year deal to manage a place with no money that would have taken us a ton of work just to maintain and look decent. We would have had almost no benefit. The Lord saved me from that. But it was hard. It’s hard, because sometimes the word of the Lord comes to us and it’s not what we want to hear. 

Jesus said in the parable in Matthew 13:22
The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.

Wealth has an inherent deceitfulness. Deceitful means it appears to be one thing, but in reality it’s another thing. Every new thing you buy appears to make your life so much easier, so much more wonderful. But if it’s an expensive new thing that you just bought, you’re going to have to insure it, you’re going to have to wash it, you’re going to have to clean it, you’re going to have to park it someplace, you’re going to have to deal with your frustration if somebody backs into it, if somebody borrows it and doesn’t return it right. It ends up consuming a whole bunch of your time and energy, and our time and energy and our freedom and the grace and peace God’s given us are really a bigger and more important treasure than whatever that deceitful thing was.  Yeah, we need new things sometimes. But we have to be careful not to believe a lie about the cost of those things.

David quoted this earlier today, 1 Timothy 6:9-10
Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and many foolish and harmful desires that  plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

Why do people want to get rich? Well, believers want to get rich because you’re going to have so much to give to the kingdom, supposedly. Don’t make that your goal. One of the things I’ve learned about people who give a lot, they don’t talk a lot. They don’t say to me, “Oh, Mark, if you’ll pray for me, pray about this deal. I’m really hoping this deal…I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that and I’m going to do the other thing.”

I guarantee that almost never happens. It’s not that my prayers don’t work. It’s that God doesn’t honor the desire to get rich. He honors those who work hard, who are faithful, who are responsible, who develop a generous heart. That’s who he honors. 

5. Your wisdom, reputation and faith are all more valuable than money.

Proverbs 3:13-17

Blessed are those who find wisdom, for those who gain understanding, for she’s more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She’s more precious than rubies; nothing can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand. In her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways. All her paths are peace.

Why is wisdom more valuable than money? Because it can give you long life. It can give you peace. It can give you deep, meaningful, significant relationships. I have a friend by the name of Al Ells, who is full of wisdom. On his board are all these wealthy people that support him. Why do they support him? They support him because, when their marriage was in crisis they came to Al and Al gave them wisdom. When their business was in a major struggle and employees weren’t getting along, they came to Al and Al gave them wisdom. So they love this guy because he shows up for them.

If you grow in wisdom you’re going to have all the resources you need for life, because you become a great asset to your family, to your friends, and everybody who knows you. 

Proverbs 22:1
A good name is more desirable than great riches. And to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. 

A good name. That’s your reputation. Now, I was a greedy kid. When I became a believer I didn’t have, all of a sudden, this wonderful reputation. But this is what I did. I aligned myself with the best name there is. And you can align yourself with the best name there is—the name of Jesus.  

And if people realize that you love Jesus and you will treat them the way Jesus would treat them—which is to care for them, to encourage them, to bless them, to give to them, not to manipulate them, not to use them, not to deceive them—if people realize that you live for Jesus because your relationship with Jesus is more important to you than making money or manipulating anybody or even making a name for yourself—just like they invited Jesus into their heart, they’ll let you get into their heart, into their life. Just like they want to be close to Jesus, they’re going to want to be close to you. They’re going to want to be your friend because you have the name that is above every name: Jesus.

That’s an incredible privilege—that we’re part of his family. That’s why the Scripture gives us all kinds of warning, like: Don’t defame his name. He cares about his name. There’s power in his name. At the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. 

Here’s our last verse, 1 Peter 1:7. The Apostle Peter is talking about trials.

These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith, of greater worth than gold which perishes even though refined by fire, may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Your faith is more valuable than gold. 

We had a lady in our church for many years, Louise Loper. When she was sixty years old, her husband died and she decided to become a missionary. That’s what she always wanted to do. She sold their home to fund her mission trip and she gave away all the rest of the money. After ten or twelve years on the mission field, she came back and she was living in a little apartment here in Phoenix. She became part of Living Streams. She used to pray for me every Sunday morning before the services. We had a little prayer meeting. I loved her prayers. They were full of faith and power. When she was in her nineties, I went to visit Louise before she died. She was in a home with about five other people, being cared for by some loving Christians. She said, “Mark, look out that window.” We were in her bedroom. “Look out that window. Do you see that tree? Isn’t that a beautiful tree? Do you know that every day there’s a bird that lands in that tree and that bird sings to me? Do you know that every morning they bring me a fresh pair and it’s all sliced for me.”

And she went on and on about this awesome place she lived in and how wonderful her life was. And I kept thinking, “Louise, you’ve got so much more coming when you get into heaven. This is just a little bit of a taste.” But the real gift was that God had given her the ability to appreciate her circumstances. The pear. The bird. The tree. The window. The place in life. That’s the gift of God. That’s the treasure. It’s not how much we’ve got. It’s the ability to appreciate your friends, your spouse, your family, your job. Wherever you are in life, being right here, right now, today. The kingdom of God has come in Jesus’ name. Amen?

Let’s pray together:

Lord, your goodness and grace enrich our lives in so many ways. You forgive our sins. And Lord, today we want to just say, ‘Forgive us for being greedy, For being insecure, For being fearful.’ 

Help us, Lord, to give generously. To trust you with all our hearts. You are the treasure, Jesus, the Creator of all things. 

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