“More Money: Can I Handle More?”

At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series designed to help us have a healthy relationship with money.

Contrary to popular belief, God doesn’t want us to have less, but more.  God is a God of abundance – not a God of need, but we must have hearts that can handle more rather than being possessed by the lust for more. God gives principles of money management that are not just wise, but also a test of whether we can handle more.  

Discussion Questions:

Work through the following questions and scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

More Money: Can I Handle More?- Next Steps

Gateway South Austin Inspire Service:

Message Notes:

We are in this series on More Money, and last week we talked about God’s desire for us to get rid of the stranglehold money can have in our lives. When we have a healthy relationship with money, we become generous people.

For some of us, we are up to your nostrils in debt (maybe credit card debt, student loans, medical debt), we don’t feel like you make enough money to dig out of the mess, and it’s causing indescribable anxiety.  I want you to know there’s hope. No one’s going to judge or shame you, you’re not alone, it’s a societal challenge right now—but you can get in a better place. 

Maybe you don’t have much debt, but you’re not experiencing true financial freedom—you’re not really free to save much or give much.

  • Believe it or not, God has a lot to say in scripture about wise Money management.
  • Because how we manage money is as much a Spiritual issue as it is a financial one (the Scriptures teach on it some 2000 times which is more than prayer).
  • Most of the reasons we do what we do with our money has to do with what we believe about ourselves, and God (like we talked about last week—where security, love, value, peace really come from). 
  • If you’ll really consider and act on these Biblical principles, you will find real freedom.

Most of us are not free. We are not free to save, not free to give generously, not free from worry when down-turns inevitably hit.

Unless we personally realize this is not a financial, but a spiritual issue, we won’t treat the root causes.

If you look at the stats, somethings messed up with American Financial values:

*If you make $25,000 per year, you’re wealthier than 90% of humanity.
*If you make $47,000 per year, you are the top 1% wealthiest of humanity.
*The average American will SPEND $1,860,000 on goods and services in his or her lifetime. – American Demographics 

Think about that! You will be responsible for handling over a million dollars flowing through your hands. Most of us, many millions. Do we have a plan for it?

Because Despite that, *40% of Americans have not saved enough to cover a $400 emergency (according to the Federal Reserve). Forbes reported Pre-pandemic that *69% of Americans had less than $1000 in savings. The savings rate went up last year with a crisis looming. Yet the *Average American with credit cards had $14,821 of credit card debt.  Add in car loans, personal loans, and student debt and the *Average 30-60 year old had $23,000 non-mortgage debt as of this year.

Something is wrong.

It’s tempting to say, but I don’t have a choice, I just don’t make enough. Yet USA Today reported *The average American spends $18,000/yr on non-essentials. Things we could say no to.

Do you see a problem? It’s not an economic issue. It’s a spiritual issue.

  • I’m not pointing this out to condemn or shame anyone—it’s the cultural water we’ve all been drinking since birth. 
  • But like we said last week, it’s something God’s been warning us about for 1000s of year—good money management starts with the Heart.
  • Financial Freedom requires looking honestly at the forces around us, and not just doing what everyone tells us is normal.
  • You don’t want to be normal – normal is not freedom.
  • Many of you have felt the financial pressure and anxiety with COVID.

God’s wisdom wants to set us free from this. 

FINANCIAL FREEDOM PLAN

So I want to talk you through the same plan that has helped so many get out of debt, but also become the generous people they desired to be.

Declare Your Freedom from Unsecured Debt   

Scripture warns us about debt: “The borrower is the lender’s slave.”  Proverbs 22:7
God’s Wisdom tells us: “Do not be a person who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.  Proverbs 22:26-27 

We can’t live beyond our means in the good times without losing our shirts when the downtimes come.  When you go in debt buying things you can’t actually afford, it will own you—enslave you. That’s what these passages are warning about.

You know, back in pre-plastic times, slavery was a form of indebtedness.  Most of the slavery you read about in the Bible came from a person who got indebted to another person, either for a business venture or due to a crisis, and when they couldn’t pay they only had one choice—become an indentured slave. They’d work until they paid off the debt, then they could go free.

So, has emancipation really happened? 

Hardly. People are still committing themselves to slavery every year–forced to go to work to pay their debts.  That’s why they call it Master Card—did you think you were the Master, did you? No, no, no.  They own us—just try not paying, you’ll see!

But you can declare your emancipation—put a stake in the ground and decide today: “I’m getting free of consumer debt. I’m going to do something about this and make a plan to get debt free.”

Now, some of you are already ahead of me.  You’re asking “Is that saying that all debt is always bad?”  Like is it wrong to have a mortgage or car payment or business loan?  People debate where lines should be drawn, but I think this verse gives a good balanced understanding: 

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another….”  Romans 13:8

In other words, if you have to borrow, pay it off right away—that’s wisdom. 

Most financial counselors would differentiate between debt for appreciating assets (like houses-usually) verses debt for something that loses its value.  So the question should be, is there a good chance the thing you’re buying will go up in value (like a house, or a well-thought-out business loan). That could be Good debt (Dogecoin is not in that category, that’s more like gambling on what Elon tweets tomorrow)—but if you can easily sell it to fully cover your debts—that could be reasonable debt.  But unsecured debt (credit card debt, loans you live off of, buying what you can’t afford) is not wise.

So it’s not hopeless, first just declare you’re going to free yourself.

Make a Freedom Plan

Let’s face it, our spending habits are hard to break so we need a plan. And we’re bombarded by messages to spend more. Advertising Works! You and I get sold on the idea that we need more and more and more to be content and satisfied and happy. Offers appeal to our desire to be valued.

We are offering workshops for financial freedom at gatewaychurch.com/thrive. Not just if you’re in debt, but if want to be wise about the millions you’ll handle. It’s put on by Volunteers whose profession is financial planning, and you’ll walk away from the seminar with a customized plan. It’s private, no one will see your finances, but it helps you make the time to make a plan.

Let me share with you what my friends Joe and Shelly got on that set them free from $30k of debt.

10-10-80 Plan.

It’s a plan that’s based on the wisdom of scripture – but it’s not a legalistic, noose. It’s something I was taught and have followed for years, and I’ve seen many follow it and find tremendous financial freedom.         

The 10-10-80 plan starts by taking your paycheck at the first of each month or pay period and breaking it up three ways.

Most all Christian Financial Counselors will agree that there are two entities that you need to honor first out of every paycheck.

Last week we talked about how money is a tool to use to provide, enjoy, and Love God and People. If you are truly wanting to follow God’s wisdom, the first entity you need to honor is God. We talked about why Scripture says:

Honor God First

“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.”  Proverbs 3:9-10.

And you’d expect to hear that in church probably, but let me tell you why that’s a good idea for your financial freedom. God is real—and when we put God first, he honors that.         

Ever notice how it says “In God We Trust” on every Dollar? That’s weird, isn’t it? Why would we put “In God We Trust” on every dollar bill? Because some wise person understood the spiritual trap we can fall into with money. We can easily look to money to give us spiritual qualities only God can give, like peace, contentment, security, value, self-worth, happiness—money can’t give that.

But it’s easily trusted in place of God—reaches god-like status in our lives.

Last week we saw that God tests our hearts to see if we love and trust money more than God—not because God needs our money, he gives us the ability to make it and wants us to feel truly rich like we saw last week. But when we trust in money more than God, it spiritually corrupts our hearts. 

So God gives a promise and says “Test me”—put me first, and see if I don’t come through.

Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty.  “Then all the nations will call you blessed…” Malachi 3:10-12.

God says—test me–give the first 10% back to me—see if you’re not glad you did.

See if your 90% with God’s blessing does not go much farther than your 100% trusting money first. I challenged you to try it for 3 months, see what happens.

See, our money issues are first spiritual. Why would the 10% wealthiest people on earth have the most debt? Is it an issue of “Not enough?” Or is what God in his love warned us about when we trust in money more than God:

The word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Haggai 1:3-7

God is telling us the spiritual laws of the Universe he created. God says, honor me first with the tithe (10%)—trust God more than the world’s wisdom on financial freedom—test me and just see if I don’t provide all you need and the spiritual qualities that lead to contentment and more than enough to give and save and enjoy.

That first 10% is saying, “God, I want to first honor you and thank you and partner with you to see your Kingdom come and your will done.”

This breaks the spiritual stranglehold money can get on us—we talked about last week. That’s the first 10 of the 10-10-80 Plan.

Honor Yourself

The second 10 in the 10-10-80 = You need to pay yourself 10%. 

You are investing in your future self.

You honor your hard work by putting 10% in a long-range savings.

Now obviously, if you’re in debt, put the 10% toward debt reduction first—but not before God. God has ways to accelerate you getting out of debt when you trust him.  

So make a plan, like Joe and Shelly did to give first, then Pay Yourself.

Proverbs says, If you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you have been trapped…Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter…Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. Proverbs 6:1-8  

So, like ants naturally do, regularly put aside enough money to free ourselves from debt and then save for times of unexpected crisis.

In the FPU seminar, financial counselors usually advise saving 3 months salary, so that if an unexpected medical situation, or auto crisis, or layoffs—you’re covered.

When you get out of debt—paying compounding interest, and you get on the savings side of compounding interest, look what can happen.

Let’s say you have $4000 of credit card debt. And you only pay the minimum monthly payment. How long will it take to pay off that debt?
($4000, average credit card interest is about 18%, right, and your minimum payment is 2% of the unpaid balance).

How long to pay it off?
A).  2 years 
B).  6 years 
C).  15 years 
D).  25 years 
E).  None of the above

It would take over 50 years to pay off $4000 debt, only paying minimum balance. And if you live long enough to pay it all off, you will have paid $15,200 for that $4000 purchase. That’s because you’re on the wrong side of the compound interest equation.

Now, let’s just say you go to one of weekend Financial Plan workshops offered on our gatewaychurch.com/thrive page, get on a plan to pay off the debt. By paying $5 a day you’re debt free in 2 years. After paying off $4000 of debt, you keep saving $5/day and in two years you’ll have squirreled away $4000 in savings. If you got on the right side of compounding interest, kept saving $5 a day, investing in the S&P 500 index fund in an IRA (which has compounded at 10% the past 40 years) and you didn’t touch it for the next 35 years. 

What would you have in your little nest egg? 
A). $50,800  
B). 90,400 
C).  $160,600 
D). $254,800
E). $582,000 

You would have half a million in your savings by just saving $5 a day—but you have to get off the debt side and onto the saving side of compounding interest. If you get on the 10-10-80 plan or some variation of it, and you honor God first, then you pay yourself, you will be amazed.

Now—it all depends on this last choice, doesn’t it?”

Make Courageous Choices to Live on 80%

The key to the 10-10-80 plan or any plan to get debt free and save is learning that you really can live on less—on 80%. Most everyone can—the rest of the 7 billion people on the planet live on way less—so don’t believe the lie that says, “I can’t because…”

Oseola McCarty was an unknown, inconspicuous woman from Mississippi. She had dropped out of school when she was 8 years old spent her life doing laundry for people in the neighborhood. At age 88 she retired with $280,000 in the bank. Oseola determined what she needed to live off of for the rest of her life and then went to her bank and asked the teller to give to write a check for $150,000 to the U. of Southern Mississippi. She gave more than half of all she saved away! When the word got out, a media frenzy ensued.  Oseola appeared on the front page of the New York Times, Guidepost magazine, People magazine, she was invited to the white house and met with the President, and Harvard gave her an honorary Doctorate.
Why?
Because she showed us what’s possible on so much less than most of us have. People were so moved by her generosity that others donated to the same scholarship fund that Oseola gave to. Now it’s called the McCarty Scholarship fund and covers full tuition for several students every year..

We can all live on 80%, but it will require courageous choices.

An FPU mantra, “If you will live like no one else now, you’ll be free to live like no one else later.”

But you have to quit the comparison game. Find your value and worth in God, not from comparing to others. You have to learn to say “Yes to God, and NO to yourself.”

How? Well, if you can’t pay off every card every month:

Cut the Cards

Here’s your pastor recommending plastic surgery. Some of you with a lot of cards will need a radical plastectomy Your face and body are fine—cut the cards.

Some might say, “I need a credit card just in case.”  If you have a tendency to run up debt, keep cash on hand or get a debit card. 

Citibank calculates the average consumer spends 26% more each month if they use a credit card instead of cash–so much for free miles!

It does require Courageous Choices, especially in a world that’s selling the 0-0-110 plan., Give nothing, save nothing, Spend more than you make.

But most of us don’t want to be in debt like that. We want to be generous, wise, content, financially free people. Sometimes it requires courageous decisions to sell a house or car to do a reset for a season, but be proud of those Courageous Choices—they’re buying you freedom later.

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