It’s good to see all of you today, even those I can’t actually see through the camera lens (those of you watching online and on Star64). Welcome home! We’re so honored you chose to be with us today.
Lots of things seem to be broken right now. My car’s AC was broken and it was blowing hot air (someone said it was like my sermons!). COVID guidelines are getting broken all the time - Do I get a vaccine or not? Do we wear a mask or not?!
But, there are other broken things that are much more serious. Some of our hearts are broken, our way of interacting with civility is broken, some of our marriages are broken, and for many of us here in-person and online, the thing that might be broken most is our finances. And, it was likely broken before COVID - that just accelerated it. I have struggled myself with this huge American idol of money and the love of it. And if you haven’t, you’re lying (that’s another message)!
How do you fill empty hearts, empty relationships, empty checking accounts, and empty wallets? The temptation is to clutch our stuff and hold it tightly, but Jesus is going to offer a better way - the way of generosity. Unleashing that generosity will move you from “I Am Broke” to “I Was Broke.” There is a book by that very name that we will make available to you in a few weeks, and the author, Joe Sangl, will be here in person to share his testimony on Sunday morning, June 6 as well as a Financial Learning Experience that Sunday night – mark that date.
I know what some of you are thinking – "Here we go, it’s a money/giving series!" But, hang in here today. I want something FOR you, not from you. So here’s the big question I have for you - how broke are you right now?
There are three different categories of people I want to talk with today and in this series. And, I’ve got some sermon props to use today here on the table. An aquarium and some plastic men - they’re actually WWF action figures!
The 1st category is those who are underwater with the finances. (Underwater at Whitewater!)
If you’re in this group, you are broke and you know it! You’re struggling to make ends meet and you have too much month left over at the end of the money. You probably have major credit card debt and worry and probably fight with your spouse about finances – a lot. You’re drowning in debt! People in this scenario need to create some stability. Skills to trust God and His principles to get to the surface. Key question is – how long will I stay broke? Because eventually, your finances will pull you under. Because when your out-go exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall!
The 2nd category today are those who are treading water. People in this scenario are not desperate, in fact, they may not even be aware they have a problem and might be broke. They’re making monthly payments on time (probably don’t know the interest rate they’re paying). They have a few extra dollars to go out to eat every week, play the lottery, and take a vacation each year. But they’re likely not saving/investing, giving, or making progress financially. They are surviving, but not thriving. People in this category need clarity. Key question is - What kind of clear financial plan do I need to thrive with my money? And will I discipline myself to do it?
The 3rd category are those I would call walking on water. They’re not underwater, not treading water, and they’ve found a way to RISE above the financial storms of life that pull others down. I am so proud of those of you who have pulled yourself out of the tank and are living ABOVE the riptide. People in this position are doing well financially. They may not be making seven-figure incomes, but they have all they need and more. But, they’re not totally free.
They are broken by another kind of financial bondage. They are ‘afflicted’ with wealth! Folks in this category often worry about the future and feel compelled to earn or save more and more and therefore give less and less. If not careful, they will rely on their money for security instead of the provider of that money. What they need is to talk more about what their legacy could be. Key question - how much do I keep? WHY did God bless me this way? For what larger purpose? Something that will live on long after I’m gone.
We want all these categories of folks to make some decisions and take some steps over the next month. We want to decrease the number of people who are broke and increase the number of people who are generous because Jesus' words are so true. Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than receive." Solomon put it this way in the Old Testament in Proverbs, "One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed." I have not met a single, generous person who was not prosperous. Not just financially, but relationally, emotionally, and spiritually, too. Generous people who give their time, talent, and treasure, tend to be rich in what matters most.
These words from Jesus and Solomon are so counterintuitive, but God (and we) really do want something FOR you (not from you). I know some of you are skeptical. I would be too if I hadn’t tried this myself. So, let me give you a couple of believable lies right here at the beginning because I’ve taught on money for almost 19 years here, and I know the devil will feed you/whisper some lies that sound true, but they’re not.
Lie #1 - All the church talks about is money. This is funny because we haven’t done a series on giving in a long time here, and we seldom mention an offering in our services. I think the church doesn’t talk enough about money and how to manage it and that’s why so many of you, including Christians, are broke. Think about it. Do you know a person who doesn’t talk about money in some way every single day? Is there a family in this church or city that doesn’t have some kind of daily dialogue about a dollar? We talk about it, we make decisions because of it, and we argue (even divorce) because of it. So why wouldn’t we talk about it here - it would be weird not to! So we just wanna normalize this conversation like we do everything else around here. And this is why Jesus talked a lot about money and treasure, more than heaven and hell even. Because our wallet is the leather covering for the idol of our lives. Always has been.
Lie #2 is that money and things can satisfy you. If I just had that new car, new house, new job/salary, that new spouse (maybe not that), I will be satisfied. As if happiness and contentment is just one acquisition away. But, happiness is not found in getting what you want – it’s in wanting what you have. It’s not about attainment, it’s about contentment.
Lie #3 is this - it’s my money, I can do whatever I want with it. Who are you to tell me what to do with my stuff? The truth is everything is God’s. He owns and we manage. Psalms 24:1 says, "The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world and all who live in it." Show of hands now - how many of you believe everything you have or own is really God’s? How many of you think you can take it with you? Then why are we so stingy/tight-fisted with God’s stuff?
So this series is about confronting all those lies and we’ll do it in the context of our yearly journey through three short chapters of Matthew’s account of the greatest sermon ever delivered (not the one JT did last week – although that was pretty good!). It’s the one Jesus gave called The Sermon on the Mount. And I’m going to call it today – The Sermon on the A-mount! So here is what Jesus said and I will start unpacking this today and finish it next week.
First, He gives the principle, then the practice. The principle - Matthew 6:19-21, 24. Then the practice – next week! Secret giving...
Now let me pass on a couple of things I’ve learned after all these years of managing my money and listening to you on how you manage yours. I only have time to hit the highlights and all of these are based on the scripture, but also work whether you believe this book or not - because they are true. Just ask Warren Buffet and some other mega billionaires who have committed to giving a ton of their wealth away. Generosity works. And, it especially works if you are broke.
You won’t spend your way to financial freedom, (get rich quick schemes only feed greed), you won’t borrow your way to financial freedom, you won’t cheat/steal your way to financial freedom, you can’t count on the government to get you to financial freedom, and you won’t gamble your way to financial freedom either. I know the casino is close! And I continue to meet people all the time who say, "David, if I win the lottery I’m gonna give so much money to the church." Good for you – thanks. But let me just say this – we don’t depend on things like the lottery, bingo, and split the pot to fund/fuel ministry here. God provides through the faithful generosity of His people.
I appreciate the kind intent if you win the lottery, but my question is this – how generous are you with the money you already have?! And FYI - the chance of you winning the lottery is even smaller than the chances of me getting eaten by a cicada this week. You’d be far better off investing that money in the market – even in Dogecoin! And since I’m not Elon Musk, I’m not a big fan of that either. The only lottery I encourage you to play is the $1 million vaccine lottery!
So here’s a very short list on what to do if you’re broke, if you’re underwater, or you’re treading water. (Sangl talks about these in his book, too.) Let me give you five things…
1. Make the irrevocable commitment to God to get yourself out of the financial mess you’re in. You have to get sick and tired of being sick and tired. Nobody gets healthy and better without this attitude being employed. Some of us will fight generational habits here as well. We might have grown up to believe that broke is normal and huge debt is normal. It’s not – be weird!
2. Start working today to get out of debt and don’t take on any more debt. Debt-free living liberates your life and increases your potential for generosity. I preached on this several times and even had a campaign here called GOOD (Get Out Of Debt). Because there is no freedom or liberty found in financial bondage, only pressure and payment plans. Now some debt is understandable... (a house, maybe a car, student debt). Some debt is understandable, but some is unsustainable and unwise! But I’m not gonna lie to you – this is hard work. Becoming broke is easy. Digging yourself out requires discipline and help. And the main culprit with this is credit cards. Isn’t that true?! Not a week goes by that I don’t get mail from a card company offering me new credit cards because of my ‘good credit standing.’ If I said yes to all those and then spent the max on all those cards, what fun that would be… for about 25 days. Then I would be broke in a way you cannot imagine. I would also understand what the Bible means when it says the debtor is slave to the lender.
Larry Burkett, the Christian financial expert, said most Christians are now paying nearly 10% of their income each year in interest alone, and that’s why they’re unable to give anything back to God. And honestly, we have a pretty high percentage of folks in the category of giving God nothing. I may be naive, but I am choosing to believe that people are not generous here, not because they’re stingy, but because they’re strapped.
Yes, I know some of you are good money managers and you pay off your card each month. Do you know what some in the credit card industry call folks like you and me who do this and never keep a balance that rolls over to the next month? Deadbeats. I call you a genius! Well, that’s my credit card rant….
3. Put God first. Our first part (the Bible calls this a tithe) belongs to God and I believe if you are not giving something to God, you will never get out of debt. You shovel it out and God shovels it back in, but He’s got a bigger shovel! The truth is some of us give our waiter or door dasher a higher amount than we give God. Something feels wrong about that. So move from tipping to tithing and watch God work. "Test me," God says…
One easy way to do this is to "automate the important" and simply sign up to be an E-giver. But start somewhere. Today. But David, I can’t do 10%. OK – go with 11% then! But, start putting God first.
4. Develop a written generosity plan. We call that a budget, and then live by that budget. There’s a reason the wealthiest people in the world live on a budget. Budgets help you consume less, trust God more, and create margin. Life is better when you "Live with margin and live on mission!" If your only plan to get unstuck or ‘unbroke’ is for Jesus to return to earth this week, you’re in trouble. Proverbs 21:5 says, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.” This is so true. If you take care of your $1s, the $100s follow.
5. Set an attainable timeframe to get out of debt. We live in such an instant, microwave culture; this is going to take some time. But delayed gratification is a discipline God blesses. Take a ‘crockpot’ approach. In the Bible, God instructed his people not to go longer than seven years in debt, and almost anyone can get out of consumer debt in seven years if you put your mind to it. Dave Ramsey and others would advise paying the smallest debt off first to develop a debt snowball/gain momentum, and when you pay the small debt off, use that same money to pay/apply for the next one in line. Set a date down the road and then adjust your lifestyle accordingly. This means you have to differentiate between a need and a want. It will take some discipline and probably some accountability, and we want to applaud every single step you are taking, no matter how small, because the natural gravitational pull of our ‘buy it now, pay for it later’ culture will pull you underwater again.
So this is Part 1 of "I was Broke." I thank God that many of you can say, "I was broke, now I’m not." Those are the people who’ve been saying ‘amen’ today at certain parts of the message. Take one of these steps. And do it today.
Just an FYI – Whether you never give a dime here or anywhere else, I’m sharing these things because I see the difference in my own life, and I want to see you succeed in this, too. I want you to go on a great vacation. I want you to drive a car that doesn’t break down every week and live in a house where you can raise your family and have a large enough table to invite friends and enemies to share a meal - see, I listened last week! You can actually do all these things without living in debt.
I want you to have enough money to retire when and where you want. I don’t expect all your money to be given to God through this church, even though some misguided pastors have taught this, but I do expect you to be generous and bless others as you’ve been blessed. I think our mission here at this church is worthy of your generosity.
So, if you’re underwater or treading water – there is hope. Lean into this series and Joe Sangl’s book. And if you’re drowning right now, that’s what our Life Center is for! You can request resource assistance by calling the Life Center @ 513.738.7500 and make an appointment to come in to complete an application. At the Life Center, you will find a caring friend who will listen to your story, care about you and your problem, pray for you, and explore short-term relief and long-term solutions. Start climbing out of the tank and start living ABOVE it all. Like Peter, start walking on water with Jesus through faith and trust!
There’s nothing wrong with having money – it’s when money has you! God doesn’t need your money, what He wants is your heart. Well-known Christian leader, Martin Luther was fond of saying that for every Christian, there are really three conversations - the mind, the heart, and the wallet! We’re here today to help you with all three! Some of us need to immerse our mind, and heart – and wallet! So, here’s your homework. Every time you touch water this week think about the categories we’ve talked about today.