Sermon delivered June 12, 1999

by Pastor Donald J Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New (International Version unless otherwise noted.

Living Within His Means

Today I would like to speak to you about living within HIS means. So often we try to live within OUR means.

I remember when my wife and I had three children, all in diapers at the same time, all under the age of twenty one months. What a challenge it was to make ends meet. She didn't work outside the home but she surely worked inside the home. One day we just had to have some bread, milk and things like that. We didn't have any money. I remember several days like that. We went through the drawers looking for change. She would say, "I found a quarter." Oh, it was wonderful. We finally found enough quarters, nickels, pennies and dimes to get some bread and potatoes and other small things we had to have. Those were hard times. I noticed one time when we had been scraping through the drawers trying to get enough money to get a few meager things at the grocery store and mainly eating out of our garden.

We went to the grocery store, and the man ahead of us was paying for some things and he took a hundred dollar bill out of his billfold, out of his wallet. And I thought, 'How wonderful to be able to have that kind of money. It would be easy to live within his means.' And as we went out of the grocery store to the parking lot, I noticed that he got into a rather expensive car. And I though, 'I wish I had his kind of money." But I didn't. I thought of how easy it would be to live within his means.

Our problem is that we have to live within "OUR" means! But do we have to live within our means? I would submit that we live within HIS means. The trouble is that we never seem to have enough money. But there is no distinction quite so impressive, and no independence so significant, as living within your means. Try it. Everybody ought to do it.

Look in Ecclesiastes 5:10 Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless. We need help, don't we, with our finances, our money.

The knowledge of how to put all this together fortunately here in the Bible. Did you know that the Bible offers five hundred verses on prayer, a few less than five hundred on faith, but more than two thousand verses on money and possessions. Fortunately there's a lot of wisdom and a lot of advice here.

Our problem is that we always seem to want more stuff. I have a dear friend that I will not mention her name or her husband's name, but I went to visit them in their home not too long ago when we were traveling up north. Every room in her house was filled beyond capacity. There were just a little paths through all the bargains that she has accumulated over the years. Have you ever been in people's houses where there's a little path between all the do-dads and all of the junk that they have? The accumulation as pretty well filled the house. I don't know what all they have. I suppose there's a xylophone back in there. I don't know what all is back in there. I doubt if we know what all is back in there. You can barely get through. They can't even park their car in her two car garage. It's amazing. If only somehow we could be satisfied with what we have. Come to 1 Timothy for some good advice here. Every Christian needs to be content with what we have. 1 Timothy 6:6-10 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Every time I go to the grocery store I look at that item, I put it on the counter there and I think, 'Is this bread?' I guess it better to ask that when I take it off the shelf. That's when I need to determine what "is bread" and what "isn't bread." We need to spend our money for that which "is bread." People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

I want to go through about eight points here on how god will help us to manage our finances.

1 - GOD IS THE OWNER:

That needs to be firmly fixed in our minds. God is the owner. He owns everything. If you really think about it, none of us own anything. All that our heavenly Father has is ours on loan. Our Father is rich in houses and lands. He owns everything. Because our father is rich that makes you and me rich. You are rich in God. So, never feel poor. A Christian isn't poor. Do you feel rich? You should because your Father owns it all. His means are your means.

The late Bishop Edwin Hughes once delivered a rousing sermon on "God's Ownership" that put a rich parishioner's nose out-of-joint. The wealthy man took the Bishop to his house for lunch, and then walked him through his elaborate gardens, woodlands, and farm and pointed out all the acreage he owned and all the things that he had. He said, "Now are you going to tell me," he demanded when the tour was completed, "that all this land does not belong to me?" Bishop Hughes smiled and suggested, "Ask me that same question a hundred years from now."

Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; The lawn mower that you mow your grass with belongs to God. Let's get specific here. Be sure to change the oil in his mower faithfully. You take care of God's lawn mower. You need to take care of the things God has entrusted into your hands. They belong to God. They are on loan from God. He owns everything.

2 - WE BELONG TO GOD

Not only does He own all those things out there, but He owns us. We belong to Him. Isaiah 45:11,12 calls us God's children.- This is what the LORD says-- the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? It is I who made the earth and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts. So we belong to God, don't we. He owns us. So we need to take care, not only of our lawn mowers, we need to take care of ourselves. I appreciate my neighbor, Charlene Anderson starting this walking club. We ought to be all out walking. We ought to be exercising. We ought to be taking care of our bodies because they belong to God. We ought to offer them up as a living sacrifice. Exercise. Eat right. Sleep well. You belong to God. He wants healthy children. Do what you can to take care of yourself.

3 - GOD GIVES US SUB-OWNERSHIP

Think about that. Deuteronomy 26:9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey;. Now, milk is bad for you, they say, and honey is bad for you, so sweet and everything. But somehow they ate it back then. But God gave it to them, didn't he. Does that mean it didn't belong to God anymore? No. So, it's a joint ownership. God has given you sub-ownership of many valuable things. We are stewards to care for the assets of the owner. Because God owns everything, and loans it to us free of charge and free of any interest, our hearts ought to be filled with a willingness to distribute to Him some of the things He has given to us. To return to Him the tithe He that He asks of us and give a liberal and generous offering to God. We are all capable of giving to God. And Whoever is capable of giving, is rich.

A baseball player once said that his ambition in life was to hear his coach say at the time of the player's retirement, "You are the best baseball player I have ever coached." And I think my desire as a Christian is when I am able to meet my Maker that He will say, "Don Gettys, you have been faithful in little things, now I am going to entrust you with bigger things. You may enter into the joy of my kingdom." What a blessing that will be! And I want to be that type of person. I want to be faithful in little things.

I am a steward of God. And God entrusts me with money as a test; for like a toy to the child. Why do you give your child a little plastic toy? It is training for handling things of more value. Isn't that sort of the idea? If he can't take care of that, well, I'm not going to give you something really good because you'll just rip it apart.

4 - GOD PUTS US IN CONTROL OF HIS MONEY.

Does God spend His money? Does God own money? Oh yes, He owns everything there is. Who spends all that money? We do. God puts us in control of spending His money. And I would submit to you that we are in control of the money and money ought not to be in control of us. All the good and attractive things of this world must never be allowed to control, or shackle a true Christian. Do we have any compulsive shoppers here in our church? Are there any compulsive shoppers here, raise your hands? No?! Well, when you go in the store, are you able to contain yourself? Maybe you ought not to go in the store. It's a place of temptation. A true steward will always be free. He or she will never be controlled by money. He will be his own person, liberated from the tyranny that ownership can easily exert. Do you own your money or does your money own you? Money is sort of like fire. It is a very excellent servant, but a terrible master.

Jesus told about a man who was once owned by his money: Luke 12:16-20 And He told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, 'You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! Now why was he a fool? Because he was a good farmer? Because he had lots of good crops? He had a bountiful harvest? Why was he a fool? Let's read on: 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'" This is what will be with anyone who stores up thing for himself and is not rich toward God. We need to be rich toward God. Have you ever made a pledge, have you ever said, "you know, when this happens I fully intend on giving this amount of money to the church." If you made that pledge, you ought to keep that pledge. If you made a promise to God, you ought to keep that promise. And this man in this parable was controlled by his surplus, by his assets. he prepared all those things for himself. He didn't realize that all this bountiful harvest should have been dispersed to people that were in need. And Jesus called him a fool because of his decision of what to do with his surplus. Now, if you have a surplus and you decide to keep it all for your future you are a fool. I guess the real question is, "How much is enough?" Well, you may be thinking, "I need to retire here in a few years and I need to save all the money I can possibly save. I need a hundred thousand dollars in the bank." Well, maybe that's true. But how much is enough? If you get a hundred thousand, will you want more? Does it have to be more and more and more all the time? That's a big challenge to Christians today. Luke 12:21 "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." How do you become rich toward God? By depositing your life in His hands, by depositing your assets in the hands of Jesus and giving yourself to His work.

We are either rich toward God or we are rich toward the devil. It's one or the other. We're either owned by worldly money or we are owned by God and managed by God, controlled by God.

Remember the rich young ruler? He did not own his possessions, but his possessions owned him. The test of whether we own our money is IF we have the freedom and the power and the willingness to give it away. If not, our money owns us. Jesus passed the offering plate to the rich young ruler and he said, "I can't today. You're asking me to give too much.

Modern Americans even when they think they are poor are actually living in luxury compared to most of the world. You should go to some of these other countries. They really have poverty. And our problem here in America with so many of us is that we can't distinguish between greed and need. What is the difference? Each person has to determine that for himself.

Are you owned, are you managed and controlled by money? OR are you controlled by a LACK of money? Should Christians have a lack of money? Well, look at Romans 13:8, good advice in today's 1990's, almost at the turn of the millennium here. The lack of money should not control us. Avoid Debt. Romans 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another. We need to pay as we go, don't we. Doesn't that almost sound like a cash basis? And yet, how many people operate on a cash basis? Christians should not be in debt. We need to avoid debt like leprosy or aids!

Americans have too many plastic passports to poverty: credit cards! You can buy your gasoline with those things. You could charge your groceries. You can do about anything with a credit card. Many people have average balances of over twenty-five thousand dollars! They are slaves. I saw a sign in the window of a store: "Try our new easy credit plan, one hundred percent down and nothing to pay each month. That's the kind of plan you'll like."

Debt comes when we do not distinguish between ENOUGH and SURPLUS. We see and we buy. We charge it. And corporate manufacturer are very good. They have all sorts of numerous do-dads we not only do not need, but that we cannot afford. The "Need Creators" (advertisers) convince us that we really need the things we don't need and we rush out and buy them to satisfy our greed. If there were no greed they couldn't have a hold on us. The need creators could not be successful without our greed.

The consequence is that even Christian Americans are so enslaved to debt that they find it hard to be faithful Christian stewards. We have bought cottages, travel trailers, boats, RV's, condos, land, houses and stuff whose depreciation alone will eat up all the financial surplus and bankrupt us. We have lost our personal freedom. Our "soul" belongs to the company store.

Just about the time we think we can make both ends meet we move the ends. It is our greed that is killing us.

A rich industrialist came to a fisherman sitting lazily beside his boat. He asked, "Why aren't you out there fishing?"

"Well, I've caught enough fish for today," said the fisherman.

"Well, it's only noon. If you go out and fish some more, you could be rich like me. Why don't you go do that?"

The fisherman said, "Well, I don't know. What would I do with them," said the fisherman.

"You could earn more money, buy a better boat so you could go deeper and catch more fish. You could buy nylon nets and catch even more fish. You could buy bigger boats. Soon you'd have a fleet of boats. Then you'd be rich like me."

"Then what would I do," asked the fisherman?

"You could sit down and enjoy life!"

"What do you think I am doing now?" the fisherman replied as he looked placidly out to the sea.

5 - GOD GIVES US POWER TO GET WEALTH

I Chronicles 29:12 Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. That's where we get wealth.

Does God want His people to be wealth? Yes! You look at the people of the Bible. You look at Abraham, you look at Jacob, and Isaac and Job and Joseph and so many of the people of the Bible. Were they poor? Not very many. They were rich! Should Christians be wealthy? Yes! We ought to be, first of all, wealthy in the character of Jesus Christ. We ought to be wealthy in His righteousness. We ought to be wealthy in faith and hope and love. And we ought to be wealthy by other standards. God does not want us to have financial worries. He wants us to have financial peace. God never intended for us to be the poorest of the poor. Wealth is a gift, and it comes from God.

6 - GOD REQUIRES US TO BE RESPONSIBLE WITH MONEY.

Let me ask you a question that I shouldn't ask you: Would Jesus buy a BMW? I've gone to meddling, haven't I. Nothing is more controversial than to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Nothing is more dangerous than to live out the will of God in today's contemporary world. It changes your whole monetary lifestyle. Let me put it quite simply: If Jesus has $40,000 and knew about the kids who are suffering and dying in Haiti, what kind of car would Jesus buy? Would it be a Cadillac? Now I've really gone to meddling, haven't I? Would He purchase a Jaguar? or a Farrari? What would Jesus do? I don't know what God wants you to do and I'm not criticizing those of you that drive BMW's and Jaguars. Maybe you have given more in proportion than everybody else. And God know that, doesn't he. God is our judge, and I'm so thankful for that. (Adapted from Tony Campolo in U (April/May 1988), Christianity Today, Vol. 32, no. 10.)

I heard about a little girl who experienced a major breakthrough in her life when she learned to tie her own shoes. Instead of excitement, she was overcome by tears.

Her father asked, "Why are you crying?"

"I have to tie my shoes," she said.

"You just learned how. It isn't that hard, is it?"

"I know," she wailed, "but I'm going to have to do it for the rest of my life."

My hunch is that some of us feel the same way when it comes to Christian stewardship. We learn that it's exciting to give. But isn't there just a tiny bit of dread because we know we have to do it over and over again for the rest of our lives? It ought to be a joy. Giving is a joy. Jesus says that He loves a cheerful giver. See 1 Corinthians 9:7. (From -- Heidi Husted, "The Sermon on the Amount," Preaching Today, Tape No. 122.)

Come over to 1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. What is that telling us? Did you catch a little phrase in here? "In keeping with his income." The man who makes sixty thousand dollars a year will give far more than the man that makes fifty thousand dollars a year because he has that extra surplus, unless he has sued it to buy expensive things and build bigger barns. Begin your giving to God at the beginning of the week. By Sabbath you will be prepared with a generous gift. 2 Co 9:7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Have you given God a pickle 
    When He deserved a peach?  
If God's in need of peaches 
    And we offer Him a pickle, 
We're trying to buy His blessing 
    With a selfish old plug nickel!

Be careful. I think God needs peaches.

7 - GOD BLESSES GIVERS

If you give to God, you will be blessed. Proverbs 3:9,10 Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. When your barns are overflowing, should you build a bigger barn?

God blessed Jacob and his family. Genesis 45:18 ".... I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you can enjoy the fat of the land."

To close, I want to give you an illustration on fat.

Fat is beautiful. Would you agree? Have you heard that said? Is Fat good? Yes. Listen to Dr. Paul Brand, a medical doctor who has worked with lepers in India. "Fat is absolutely gorgeous," says Brand, "When I perform surgery, I marvel at the shimmering, lush layers of fat that spread apart as I open up the body. Those cells insulate against cold, provide protection for the valuable organs underneath, and give a firm, healthy appearance to the whole body."

Have you ever thought of fat like that? He continues: "But those are just side benefits. The real value of fat is that fat is a storehouse. Locked in those fat cells are the treasures of the human body. When I run or work or expend any energy, fat cells make that possible. They act as banker cells. It's absolutely beautiful to observe the cooperation among those cells!"

Dr. Brand compares body fat to the church, the body of Christ. Each individual Christian in a relatively wealthy country like America is called to be a fat cell. America has a fat deposit of material wealth and spiritual resources. Christians must wisely use those resources to benefit the rest of the body. Attempt to think of yourself as a fat cell in the body of Christ; a dispenser of energy, of wealth, of power. What can a church do if all the fat cells get together. Think about that. When there is a need somewhere within the body respond generously to meet it. Destiny has placed you where you can lift when lifting is needed. Focus on your privilege of directing your stored holdings into the work. The job of a fat cell is to accumulate that it may dispense in times of need. You were created to be a dispenser! Ephesians 4:28, He should do something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

Be like Jesus who came not to be served but to serve- Mark 10:45

8 - GOD REIMBURSES HIS PEOPLE FOR THEIR GIFTS!

Do you believe that? Proverbs 11:24,25 One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. God will reimburse you for your tithe.

Opening Hymn: 15 My Maker and My King
Scripture: Responsive Reading: #821.
Closing hymn: 572 Give of your best to the Master

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