First and foremost, before we even get into the wisdom principles, I want to establish the fact that it is definitely God’s will for Christians to prosper. This does not mean that saints automatically prosper, or that every Christian should become a multimillionaire. But Scripture does teach that we should aim to be in a position financially in which we have more than enough to meet our needs so that we can be generous and aid other people (read Deuteronomy 28:12-13 and the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10).
I. Scripture shows it is God’s will for Christians to prosper
1. 3 John 2: “The Elder, to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth: Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” There are some who disregard this passage because they say it is not doctrinal but just a greeting. It is humorous to me how people pick and choose what passages they want to believe and exclude. If we are to exclude this passage because it is a greeting then:
A. We do not believe that all Scripture is inspired of God and reflects God’s will for us.
B. Then the greetings in the New Testament epistles should not be counted as inspired either. For example: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” in Galatians 1:3.
C. If the greetings in the New Testament epistles are to be excluded, then we must say that God does not want to dispense His grace and peace to His people.
2. 1 Timothy 6:5 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”
A. Many misinterpret this verse and teach that the Bible says “the love of money is the root of all of evil” but that is not what this teaches. What this verse teaches is that when we put money before God it releases all kinds of evil, as we have seen in the past week, when unbridled capitalism does not work unless it is built upon integrity and ethics between the lender and borrower of mortgages.
B. Loving money has nothing to do with being either rich or poor. I have seen more poor people love and covet money than I have rich people! Many poor people I was with growing up were constantly speaking about how they coveted material things; the rich people that I presently network with are the least covetous of all people I know because they know better than anyone else that money does not satisfy! They are longing for true relationships and purpose in life which alone will satisfy them.
3. 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”
A. There are many who teach that this passage is referring to how Jesus died so that we could be spiritually rich.
B. If this passage is referring to Jesus taking our place and redeeming us by making us spiritually rich, then the redemption process had to include Jesus being spiritually poor because redemption was done by Jesus vicariously taking our place. I don’t know about you but the Bible I read never hints that Jesus was ever spiritually poor. He was never in bondage to sin, depressed, fearful, or backslidden. Even when the Father forsook Him on the cross, He kept His integrity and refused to sin with His mouth, mind, and heart!
C. This passage is obviously referring to the fact that Jesus became materially poor. That is not to say that Jesus was in poverty on the earth; He still had a business as a carpenter, had His own house with His parents, and when He launched His ministry He had wealthy people following Him as benefactors (Luke 8:3) and He had so much money He needed a treasurer to keep the money (John 12:29). When He became materially poor it was because He left His glory in heaven and came to the earth, which would be a step down in wealth and material things because even Solomon in all his glory had nothing in comparison to the riches Jesus had in heaven!
4. 2 Corinthians 9:11 says “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.”
A. In other words, God is looking for generous people so he can put wealth in their hands, enabling them to make a difference in this world!
B. There isn’t any less money in this world; it is just being concentrated in the hands of the few who know how to seize an opportunity.
5. The Rich Young Ruler: Mark 10:17-22: “Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’” And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
A. Some misinterpret these verses to mean that Jesus wants us all to sell everything we own and give the money to the poor.
B. Jesus told him to sell everything because he loved money more than he love God, thus violating the first four of the Ten Commandments which Jesus purposely didn’t quote to him in this conversation when He was analyzing his life.
C. Jesus knew that he would be better off without any money because it was an idol in his life.
D. Jesus said it was difficult for a rich person but not impossible.
E. Mark 10:29-30 actually teaches that it’s easier for a Christian to be wealthy than for a wealthy person to be a Christian. Why would He tell us it’s impossible to be a rich Christian if He says in 2 Corinthians 9:11 that He will make us rich to be generous?
F. The disciples were astonished when Jesus said it was hard for rich people to enter heaven, and they even wondered “who can be saved” because of the simple reason most if not all of the Twelve Apostles were already rich and had their own businesses when Jesus called them to follow Him!
G. Mark 10:24-27: “Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, ‘Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.’”
H. According Mark 10:28-30 God’s motive toward the Rich Young Ruler was to make him richer if he would just learn to trust God by faith: “Then Peter began to say to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You.’ So Jesus answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.”’
6. Do you want to be a Good Samaritan? (Luke 10:30-37)
A. It’s impossible to be a Good Samaritan as told in this story without either using your credit card or having a lot of cash on you.
B. The Good Samaritan put the helpless man up in a hotel for a week, left the inn keeper not just money for the room but for three meals a day, and for medicinal elements to be applied to him (a bill that could run in the thousands today).
C. This shows us that if you are just content to have enough to pay your bills then you are selfish! It’s the rich Christian who can afford to be a blessing!
Broke people can’t help poor people!
7. Is God materialistic? I will go on record as saying that I am very materialistic! I have a house, a bike, cars, jewelry, watches, a washing machine, refrigerator, electricity, a boiler for heat, air conditioners, a back yard to relax in, etc. But, I am materialistic because I take after God, because as the Creator of the universe He is the most materialistic person in the whole cosmos! He is responsible for gold, silver, platinum, all precious stones, etc. He says in Psalm 50 that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and all the earth is His! Not only that, but let’s see what Scripture teaches regarding God’s personal abode:
A. Heaven is paved with streets of gold, walls of jasper, gates of pearl and everyone lives in mansions.
B. Revelation 21:7-21 “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal. Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
C. John 14:1-2: God has many mansions in heaven: “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. But I go to prepare a place for you.”
II. Using our money properly
1. 2 Corinthians 9:11: Does not say that we will be made rich so that we can give it all away.
2. 2 Corinthians 9:10: God gives the sower two things:
A. Bread for food: It is with the bread that we need to learn how to use wisdom; some think that we just have to be faithful to God with 10% of our finances, but God has called us to be His stewards for 100% of our money.
B. Seed to sow: know the difference between seed and bread. You shouldn’t sow it all and you shouldn’t eat it all. For example, if you plant a whole apple instead of eating the apple and planting only the seed, you would receive no extra benefit.
C. How do you know what to give if it’s an offering and not a tithe? Eating the apple tastes good but eating the seed tastes weird.
III. Thirteen wisdom principles needed to prosper in economic chaos
Luke 16:8-9; Proverbs 3:13-16
Even though Scripture is clear that God has called His children to prosper, it takes more than just being a Christian for this to happen. It takes much wisdom and obedience to biblical principles. This is especially needed in this day and age of economic instability and chaos.
This past week the focus has been on the economy with many major financial institutions going out of business. This is because of the greed exhibited when banks began peddling sub-prime mortgages–mortgages that were sold to people without checking out their ability to afford their homes.
Years ago, when I got my first house, I had to visit a bank branch that had a person interview me and look at my financials. Nowadays, because the lending institutions sell my mortgage to other institutions, that personal care is gone because the original bank that sold you the mortgage is no longer involved. This lack of scrutiny and integrity, both on the part of the lender and purchaser, has resulted in millions of foreclosures and banks getting stuck with bad debt. The result has been that people are now operating with a spirit of fear when it comes to their future. The following message deals with how Christians should approach this economic crisis.
1. Don’t operate in fear (2 Timothy 1:7; 1 John 4:16-18)
A. We can’t adequately hear from God or operate in faith when we are in fear.
B. We can’t properly process things and make correct decisions when we operate in fear.
C. God curses those who trust in man’s economic systems (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
D. Also, in reality much of the fear has been media driven. On drudgereport.com on Saturday September 20 it said: “Dow up 40 points in past month, up 18% past 5 years, up 44% past 10 years.” In other words, when viewing the stock market you have to view its health by looking at the whole picture over a number of years to properly gauge the health and behavior of the system as a whole.
2. Don’t attempt to purchase a house or any other item if you can’t afford it, no matter what your lender tells you and no matter how many credit card deals come your way!
3. Have your money in a bank that has at least an AA rating from Moody’s or Standard and Poor’s. Go online and see what it is rated. Banks that have not been affected by the sub-prime market are still in good shape.
4. If you have more than $100,000, diversify banks so your money is covered under the FDIC.
5. Diversify! This point is based on advice I received from my dear friend Rich Mahler, who serves as one of my financial advisors.
A. Diversify your money unless you are an expert and watch your money every day. Ask the questions, Who are we and what are our goals? Do we need the money for the short term or long term? Diversification is putting at least 10% of your money in real estate, oil, gold, venture capital, futures, rentals, and other alternative investments like these.
B. Also regarding diversification, there are 16 sectors in the market; (technology, telecommunications, manufacturing, etc.). Mimic the Standard and Poor’s 500 as to how they are diversified in the various sectors.
C. Invest in other areas by looking at everything as a whole. We need to have the correct percentages in each area. Stock, bond, and retirement investments should compliment each other based on your risk temperament. Diversify your stock and bond portfolio; in stock portfolio there should be a 3 to 1 ratio between growth funds like Fortune 500 companies and mid-sized companies. Look for a mix between stocks and bonds with 50% in stocks and 50% in bonds. But the bond portfolio should be diversified between A and B rated bonds and long-term, mid-term and short term bonds, and high-yield bonds. Stocks should be balanced in two different categories: regular stocks and those that give dividends.
6. You should have enough in your savings account for emergencies like paying your rent or mortgage.
7. Lower your taxable income by maxing out your 401k, IRA and all retirement plans. You can reduce your annual gross income which reduces your income tax.
8. Never gamble! Never take a chance with money you depend on for your future with high-risk accounts. Be conservative with retirement money but more risky with extra money.
9. Have a life insurance policy that will cover all your debt and leave your family and church money when you pass on. (I am planning on leaving the church at least a quarter of a million dollars in one life insurance policy when I pass on so that after I am dead I am still blessing the church!)
10. Have your houses and assets in a trust fund so that your children can have an inheritance tax free or so that you do not lose your house if you have to go into a nursing home.
A. Proverbs 13:22: “A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.”
B. The inheritance in this context is financial wealth not spiritual wealth because the wealth of the sinner is not godliness but cash!
C. We should have enough so that we can save for our great grandchildren.
11. Practice due diligence! When investing in a house or other asset, get more than one expert opinion and read all the fine print before you sign anything.
12. Budget your money properly.
A. Learn to budget your money and not spend more than you take in.
B. Learn to pay on your credit card as a minimum what you charged to it the past month. Pay a little more than that and then you are just beginning to pay down your debt.
13. Live by faith and entrust God with at least 10% of your money. Read Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” You can be wise in all these other points but if you miss it in tithing you are an unwise person because He controls all the financial markets.
IV. In Conclusion
1. God has called us to be faithful with our finances (Luke 16:10-13).
2. If you are not faithful with small amounts of money God can’t trust you with a lot of money.
3. If you are not faithful with another person’s money then neither will God give you your own.
4. If you are not faithful with other people’s business or property then God can’t give you your own.
5. Treat every apartment like it was your own; treat every place of business as if it was your own. Work with a spirit of excellence as if you were a partner in the company. Have the spirit of an owner, not an employee For example, would you give yourself a raise if you were your boss? Many are constantly making phone calls, sending emails, surfing the internet and playing games when their boss isn’t looking. Highly successful financial companies don’t allow personal communications such as cell phone use, text messaging or emails during work hours.
6. If you are not faithful with money God can’t entrust you with spiritual riches.
A. God promises incredible blessings for those who are faithful in tithes and offerings. Read Malachi 3:8-12; 2 Corinthians 9:7-8.
7. If you are disobedient in regards to finances then you are serving mammon more than God.
A. Psalm 50 teaches that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and all the earth is His. He will never go bankrupt. He has the only economic system that is fail proof. This is why a wise person will always put God first in their financial planning.