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Opening thought: Money’s fun … if you’ve got some. Problem is, most people aren’t having fun. They may look like they are. They may act like they are. But when they’re too scared of the bills to walk to the mailbox in the afternoon, life doesn’t look very fun, does it? Some sources say that 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. That means if you look down the row at the families sitting beside you right now, seven out of ten of them have too much month left at the end of the money.
That’s why money problems consistently rank as one of the leading causes of divorce in North America. That’s why college students all over the nation are carrying record-high credit card balances. That’s why bankruptcy continues to be rampant in our country. The US Treasury reports that from 1998 to 2008 there were over 14.3 million bankruptcy filings in the US Bankruptcy Courts.
The problem isn’t money. The problem is our own bad behavior with money. Our behavior is the key. Dave Ramsey says that personal finance is 80% behavior. It’s only 20% head knowledge. So, what behaviors do we need to examine in order to get our finances in line with God’s way of handling money?
There are over 800 Scripture passages about money. Jesus talked more about money than He did any other topic, including heaven, hell, temptation, sin and salvation. Clearly, money is a big deal. Sometimes, though, people in church get confused about this. Let’s be honest. When you found out that today’s sermon was about money, did you leave your wallet at home? In church, we sometimes think that a sermon on money is just a plea for more giving. For Jesus, though, teaching about money was an essential preparation for a Godly life. Like the old saying goes, “Show me your checkbook, and I’ll show you what’s important to you.”
In a sense, your checkbook is a little window into your soul. The Bible doesn’t have a complicated, hard-to-understand formula for how to save and invest. What the Bible teaches about money is shockingly easy to understand. It’s just
really hard to do. Why? It’s because of our behavior. I learned a long time ago that if I can get control of the guy in the mirror, I can win with money.
Contextual Notes: Scholars tell us that Proverbs 22 begins a new section in this book of wisdom. And it starts with what? With wisdom about handling money.
Key Truth: Solomon wrote Proverbs 22:1-16 to teach Israel to prioritize the value of one’s name over money, to guard against the slavery of debt, and to embrace the blessing of generosity.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about handling finances.
Key Verse: Proverbs 22:1, 7, 9
Pray and Read: Proverbs 22:1-16 in sections along with sermon points
1. Cultivate the value of a good name (Prov. 22:1-2)
2. Guard against the slavery of debt (Prov. 22:3-7)
3. Embrace the blessing of generosity (Prov. 22:8-16)
Exposition: Note well,
1. CULTIVATE THE VALUE OF A GOOD NAME (Prov. 22:1-2)
a. Here is made clear that a good name is better than having lots of money. A good name will give many more things than money, but it could produce a good living as well. The important thing to remember is that we are all equal no matter how much we have. Snobbery is always foolish.
b. ILLUSTRATION: Back when I worked as an Americorps VISTA volunteer in Spartanburg, SC, as a guidance counselor for adult students working on their GEDs, we had a very kind Swiss man who volunteered at our school who was introduced to me as a very honest man who had retired from selling textile looms back when the textile business was flourishing in the South. He had a reputation for astounding mill managers by telling them if a competitor’s product was better than his or if there was a better price than his out there. His personal integrity was so well known, that procurement managers at the textile mills would gladly purchase his machines at a much higher price than his competitors because they knew they could trust what the man told them about them.
c. APPLICATION: On God's balance sheet, a good name is more valuable than your bottom line (Prov. 22:1). It is more important that you keep your good name and lose a sale, grow a good name through integrity and not make as much money than to make the huge sale and ruin your name. In the long run, it will hurt you.
2. GUARD AGAINST THE SLAVERY OF DEBT (Prov. 22:3-7)
a. 22:3-5 – Important characteristics that affect one’s finances are prudence or simplicity (22:3; 27:12), humility, fear of the Lord (22:4), and guarding one’s soul (22:5). Thorns (v. 5) is a rare word that may mean hooks and symbolize (with snares) his difficulties. He who guards his soul avoids the danger.
b. APPLICATION: Cheerful optimism that does not take any thought of danger will suffer for it. Wisdom leaves a safety net because there is such a thing as Murphy’s Law.
c. Prov. 22:6. A familiar verse about parenting, and we often do not connect it to its context here. This verse is set in the midst of the great value of having a good name over the worship of money and just before a warning about the slavery of debt. This verse is in the context of handling finances. And it is important. The word train is the same word used for dedication of the Temple (1 Kings 8:63; cf. festival of dedication John 10:22), so this is a religious duty of dedication of your child in the way he should go. Some say that the Heb. suggests we should train according to the child’s way or stage of growth, but it is important to understand that in Proverbs there are only two ways – the way of righteousness and the way of foolishness.
d. APPLICATION: Are you training your children and grandchildren how to handle money? Are you helping them understand the thought process you go through to choose the best deal at the grocery store or with a purchase? Do you teach them the hook and the chain at the end of every credit card? Yes, the verse is still a general principle, and some children turn away from the training they receive, but our job as grandparents and parents is to do the training, even in the area of money. We should respect a child’s individuality or bent, but we are not to respect their self-will which will get them in trouble.
e. Prov. 22:7 – Debt has become common. In fact, what our grandparents called sin we now call a responsibility to carry some debt to build a credit history to show our creditworthiness. The Bible is not favorable to financial indebtedness. Paul says in Romans 13:8: “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another.” God does not want his people saddled with the curse of debt (Deut. 28:44-45). Debt is associated with great need even enslavement (2 Kings 4:1-7; Neh. 5:2-12). Laziness leads to debt (Prov. 6:6-11; 14:23; 20:4, 13) as well as co-signing loans (Prov. 6:1-5; 11:15; 22:26-27). If you have debt, the Bible counsels you to make every effort to pay it off (Matt. 5:25-26; Rom. 13:8). Failure to pay when you can is wicked (Psalm 37:21). We are called on not to exploit others with high interest rates and taking a debtor’s livelihood in lieu of money owed (Deut. 24:6; Psalm 15:5; Job 24). Debt in Israel was to be totally forgiven every seventh year (Lev. 25; Deut. 15:1-18), giving the debtor the opportunity for a new beginning.
f. ILLUSTRATION: Amanda and I were in Walmart in a poorer part of Durham a few years ago when we happened up on a sign which read, “Free 2 liter Pepsi for opening a credit card.” What an insult! There is this TV commercial of a beautiful woman dressed in black who leaves her beautiful mansion to get into an expensive black car to then get into a black helicopter to fly out over the ocean to drop in the water and be picked up by a black yacht. Then the commercial ends. “Freedom. American Express Black card.” You don’t find freedom with a credit card. You find great misery and bondage, keeping you from doing the things you want to do. “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.” “I owe my soul to the company store.”
g. APPLICATION: You need to do everything you can to get out of debt. Proverbs 6:1, 4–5: “My son, if you become surety for your friend, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, give no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.” Matthew 6:24 says “No one can serve two masters.”
h. You can’t believe everything you hear. Think about it for a second: Who taught you that borrowing money was a good idea? Was it your broke finance professor or your broke parents? Marketing tells us that borrowing money is something everyone does and that it’s something we need to do to be happy—that it will help us get ahead. But when surveyed, 75% of the wealthiest people in the world said the most important key to winning with money is getting out of debt and staying out of debt. Have you ever heard anyone say that the reason they “made it” was that they got into debt? Is a stimulus, borrowing billions, working for our federal government? Have you ever met a millionaire who made his fortune with cash-back points! Society tells us otherwise. Our broke family and friends tell us otherwise.
- The truth is that if you tell a lie often enough, loud enough, and long enough, the myth becomes accepted as truth. People are believing the lie and spreading it. They’re not doing it to be mean—they’ve just bought into the lie themselves and accepted it as truth. So, good men and women just start repeating the same old lies like these, “1. You need to build your credit score. 2. You need a safe car, so you should buy new or lease. 3. You need a credit card to buy anything. 4. Nobody pays cash for a car, let alone a house!
- Take the FICO score, for example. We act like a good FICO score is a magic key that will unlock any financial door, but that’s a lie. A FICO score is nothing but an “I love debt” score. 1. The calculation for the score has absolutely nothing to do with your income or your potential for success. 2. It is 100% based on your debt—what kind of debt you have, how long you’ve been in debt, how much debt, etc. We give debt and that little credit score way too much power in our lives. We worship at the altar of debt as our provider instead of realizing that God is our provider.
- What would it be like to have no payments? Sometimes people get confused and think they need to borrow money to do what God is calling them to do. But if God wants you to do something, He will send you the money! Debt is a way of saying that God didn’t give you enough. So how do you get out of the trap of debt?
- Act Your Wage. Proverbs 21:20: “In the house of the wise are choice stores of food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” 1 Timothy 6:6: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” We’ve all done “stupid with zeroes on the end,” but you can learn to live on less than you make.
- Set up an emergency fund. Save up $1,000 as a beginner emergency fund. This is your padding between you and life. If you don’t have a dime in savings and the car breaks down while you’re paying off your debts, what do you think you’ll do? Answer: You’ll use your credit card. Don’t do it!
- Get on a Budget. Sometimes people do stupid things and then ask God to bless it. Luke 16:10: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” Be responsible. Be an adult. Make a plan on paper, on purpose before the month begins. Agree on it with your spouse if you are married.
- Quit borrowing money. You can’t get out of a hole while you’re digging out the bottom. Emergencies are going to happen. Plan for them with an emergency fund and don’t rely on credit. Prayer really works. Your heavenly Father is crazy about you. He’s waiting to talk to you about your life. Tell Him what you need help with.
- Sell something. Find the stuff in your life that’s just cluttering up the house and get rid of it. Most people could have a $1,000 beginner emergency fund tomorrow if they’d just sell the stuff they aren’t using.
- Take a part-time job. Increase your income to help you get some traction. I’m not saying you should become a workaholic, but if you have debt, then you’re sitting in a mess. You’re going to have to work a little harder to clean it up!
- Remember, this is a temporary thing. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. List your debts from smallest to largest balance. Put minimum payments on everything but the smallest one, and pay that one off as quickly as you can. You need to knock out some debts quickly so that you’ll have some quick wins. If you’ve got 10 debts and it takes you a year to knock out the first one, you’re going to lose your momentum. Go for the quick wins! After you knock out the first debt on the list, you take all that money you were throwing on it and move to the next one. Every time you pay off a debt, you have more money to put toward the next one. That’s why it’s a snowball—as the snowball rolls over, it picks up more snow. By the time you’re a few debts down your list, your snowball starts to look more like an avalanche! That snowball will keep rolling and rolling until you knock out every one of those debts!
- Save and Invest. It’s important to save money in several different ways: 1. Save for an emergency fund. Like Grandma said, save for a rainy day. 2. Save up and pay cash for things. Why? You spend less when you use cash. A recent study showed that you spend 47% more at McDonalds when you use a card than you do with cash. Why? Because you feel it. It hurts. Some studies show that in general you spend 12–18% more when you use plastic Use cash! You spend less, and you can get a deal!
- Save up and invest for your future. Proverbs 13:22: “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” You can’t do that if you’re in debt all your life! You can change your family tree by breaking the chains of debt for good.
- Be diligent. Proverbs 13:4 tells us that the diligent prosper. Be diligent with your effort and ask God to bless it. Don’t just sit around whining to God about it. Get to work and ask God to get involved. He won’t get involved with your whining. He will get involved with your actions.
3. EMBRACE THE BLESSING OF GENEROSITY (Prov. 22:8-16)
a. Prov. 22:9 – the key here to blessing is generosity. Lit. “a good eye,” a Hebrew symbol for generosity just as an “evil eye” is of stinginess (Prov. 23:6). Note Matt. 20:15.
b. APPLICATION: I overheard someone say recently, “I’ve been giving my money to the church for years, and I expect to get something back out of it.” That statement is in error in two ways. First, once you give your money to the church, it is no longer your money. The church is not a social service organization or some kind of place to deposit your money where you can expect to have some kind of benefit coming back to you for what you put in. I’ve got some upsetting news for you. Once you give your money, it is no longer yours. You might give things to others with a string or a hook attached to it, expecting some return for yourself, but that doesn’t work with the Lord. By the way, that money you gave was never yours to begin with. It was a resource He allowed you the privilege of stewarding for a short time. It all belongs to Him, and using money as a weapon for yourself is more akin to verses 8 and 10 than verse 9.
c. ILLUSTRATION: If you deposited $1000 at a bank and then went later to get it and it wasn’t there, would that be a problem for you? The banker says, “Well, I work at the bank and we don’t make a lot of money, and we needed to go on a cruise. I needed a new car, and my kids needed to go to college. I didn’t have the money, so I took the money you entrusted to me and used it for whatever I wanted. Is that okay?” How does that make you feel? Well, let’s change names just for a second. Instead of you and a banker, let me show you how it really is out there. The person the money belongs to represents God, and the banker represents you and me. You see, God entrusted His resources, money, stuff, time and talents to us. We’re just holding His stuff. It belongs to God. He owns it all. Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof.” We have a fiduciary trust responsibility with everything God’s given us.
d. APPLICATION: Think about it: How much could you give, save, and blow if you had no payments? What could the people of God do for the Kingdom of God if they were debt-free? Make the question a part of your prayer life this week and see what God may want you to do, if only you were free to do it for Him. There’s a myth out there. Here’s the myth: The way to have more is to hold on more tightly. When we hold our money with an open hand, sure, we may lose some. However, we have room for more to come in. When we hold our money with a closed hand, we’ll hang on to what we have, but we aren’t open for more to come in. When it comes to money, we all get a little tight-fisted. We feel like we have to protect what’s “ours.”
e. Prov. 22:10 – Quarrels is a common word for judgment or cause in court. The LXX: “Cast the coffer out of the council.” A persistent troublemaker must be dismissed.
f. Note the use of words and the heart in the context of finances in verses 8-14. Wickedness (v. 8), mouthing (v. 10), Laziness (v. 13), immorality (v. 14), and ends with wealth (v. 16).
g. 22:15 – There are four words in Proverbs for a fool. The one used here (‘iwwelet) is one who is insolent, rebellious, impetuously insisting on his own way.
h. APPLICATION: Children are headstrong and self-willed, and the need to learn self-discipline as well as proper judgment. It is not wrong to use the ‘rod of correction’ (corporal punishment or spanking) in disciplining such children. At the same time, this kind of punishment is not necessary when the child is responsive and willing to learn.
i. 22:16 – Why are both wasting their money? Because oppression and bribes bring about poverty.