Last week we started with tales of treasure and tales of pirates. Which reminds me, do you know why pirates are called pirates? Because they arrgg. That was free.
So here we are. Week two of Money Month! In case you weren’t here last week or if you are new to Cornerstone, I made a decision a number of years ago that instead of responding to various financial crises in the church by preaching on them that I would take one month each year and develop a theology of giving.
And, if you could handle me preaching on stewardship for four Sundays each Spring, I would leave you alone the rest of the year.
Now I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Why do you have to speak about money at all?” Because it’s an important topic. Moses spoke about it, David spoke about it, Solomon spoke about it, most of the prophets spoke about it, the New Testament authors spoke about it, and Jesus spoke a lot about money. How we make it and how we use it.
So, we can’t arbitrarily not speak about money in church.
I guess in the truest sense, a church could operate without money if you were willing to meet in your living room and not have a paid pastoral staff, but I think to truly worship God, there would need to be a financial element. Even if it meant you gave to give it away. Because from the very beginning of time, worship has contained an element of sacrifice.
The first mention of worship in the Bible is in the book of Genesis, and there it spoke about the gifts that were offered to God.
In the early church, they met in homes and didn’t have paid staff, and yet Paul still talked to them about their financial responsibilities to the church and to God.
This year our theme is Where your treasure is, and we are looking at what is often referred to as the Parable of the Rich Fool.
Last week we looked at how in a culture and time when most people lived a life of subsistence, that is, they worked to survive, this man was actually able to accumulate stuff.
So, the first point was that He was rich, and the second point was that he knew he was rich. He knew that he had an excess.
Then I spoke about how we are rich, maybe not rich in our community but certainly rich in the world, rich because we have a choice of what we wear and a choice of what we eat. And I even bandied around the figure put forward by World Bank economist Branko Milanovic, who said that in order to make it into the richest 1% globally, all you need is an income of around $34,000 a year. Or $16.50 an hour. And I mentioned that if you made $16.50 an hour, that what you earn your first hour Monday morning is the average weekly salary of the average person in the village we partner with in Sierra Leone.
But most of us don’t realize how rich we are, both materially rich as well as rich in our freedoms.
That is probably a part of the greater human condition and isn’t just limited to how we view ourselves.
I’m not sure if anyone here watched last week’s interview with Orpah and Harry and Meagan. I didn’t watch it but later saw an article that referenced part of the interview where Harry said, “My family literally cut me off financially, and I had to afford security for us, in the first quarter of 2020, but I’ve got all my mom left me, and without that, we wouldn’t have been able to do that.”
What he didn’t mention was that what he received from his mother was somewhere in the vicinity of $17,000,000.00
But I suppose when you used to billions, then millions are paltry. And if your family had paid $45,000,000.00 for your wedding, that would certainly put your 17 million in perspective.
Last week’s message ended with Luke 12:17. He (the farmer) said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’
Which is the question that each of us gets to ask in regard to the blessings that God has entrusted us with. What should I do?
For the most part, most of us get to decide what we will do with the treasure God has entrusted us with. We often think that we don’t have many choices, but the reality is that we make choices about our finances every day.
And we all have different financial priorities. Not necessarily better priorities or worse priorities, just different priorities. But part of the challenge does not forget God in the mix.
John Wesley is often quoted as saying, “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”
Expanded, what he said was, “Get all you can without hurting your soul, your body, or your neighbour. Save all you can, cutting off every needless expense. Give all you can. Be glad to give, and ready to distribute; laying up in store for yourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that you may attain eternal life.”
This week we are focusing on the Strategy of our Treasure. Or what will we do with what we have? Because every one of us has the same options as to what to do with our money. What separates us is the amount that we have to work with.
He Could Have Squandered it
And the reality is that what I define as squandering may not be what you define as squandering.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” When you decide to purchase something, there is a financial cost. We know that.
But there is also another cost in the fact that the money you spend on something, you could have been spent somewhere else.
As part of our budget at Cornerstone, we pay an assessment to the denomination. It is called the USF or United Stewardship Fund, and it helps finance our district office, our national office and our Universities. I sometimes compare it to a franchise fee—it what we pay for the privilege of being a Wesleyan Church. When we started Cornerstone, the largest portion of our initial funding came from money that other churches had paid into the USF.
A number of years ago, one of our churches had not paid their USF, and when they were approached by the District Superintendent, the pastor said, “We didn’t have the money.” To which the district superintendent replied, “Yes, you did; you just chose to spend it somewhere else.”
When we lived in Australia, we invited someone we were close with to come and visit. All they had to do was pay their airfare. And they said they’d love to, but they didn’t have the money. Because I was young and my filter didn’t work, I said, “You have the money. You just smoke it.” Sometimes, just because something is true doesn’t mean it should be spoken aloud.
You may choose to spend the grocery money on groceries, or you may choose to spend it on cigarettes, or beer or cable TV or lottery tickets, but don’t try to fool yourself into believing that you had no money for groceries.
You just chose to spend it on something other than groceries.
A Swedish proverb says, “He who buys what he does not need, steals from himself.”
And each one of us gets to define what it is that we need.
Angela and I don’t hide the fact that we like to go south in February, well, obviously not this February. And part of that vacation normally involves a cruise ship.
And I’ve had people say, “we don’t understand how you can afford to cruise.”
And the answer is that it involves decisions that we have made.
We only have one car, and it is a Toyota corolla. We don’t smoke or drink. We don’t have kids in hockey, we don’t own a dog, and we very seldom eat out.
Are those things bad? Well, maybe some of them aren’t the healthiest or wisest choices that you could make, but they are what you’ve chosen to spend your money on.
Every time you spend a dollar, it’s a dollar that could have been spent on something else.
The farmer could have bought a new chariot, or new clothes, or gone on a Mediterranean cruise or built a bigger house. And maybe he would have felt that if he did any of those things, he would have been squandering his wealth.
Instead of squandering his money, He Could Have Saved It for the Future
He could have put it in an RRSP or a Tax-Free Savings account and earned interest on his money.
Sometimes when people hear the Wesley quote, “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” They think that he was advocating having a savings account. No. He was advocating clipping coupons and shopping from the flyers, which is another reason we can afford to cruise.
And some people are savers, and many of the financial experts and gurus would tell us that we need a certain amount of savings for an emergency.
And it’s good to have savings, but like everything in life, balance is a wonderful thing.
Financial Coach Kelley C. Long says, “Too many people who spend their entire lives accumulating cash find themselves at a point when they realize they’ll never see the benefit of all that sacrifice and immense regrets ensue.”
I’ve met people who do all kinds of planning and saving for the future, and then they’re robbed of that future because of some unforeseen reason.
Or they live it up for the moment and spend more than they save, only to end up with little to no money to rely on in their old age. Balance is a wonderful thing.
A friend of ours, along with their siblings, helped support their parents in their retirement. And when their father passed away, they all made sure that mom was comfortable. And when their mother passed away, they discovered that she had over $300,000.00 in the bank.
And there are those who would say that saving or investing for the future is a lack of faith.
There are those who would point to scriptures like Philippians 4:19, And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.
But when Paul wrote these words, there was a plan for retirement, and it was called family.
Historians tell us that in that time and culture when Dad was around 40, he would hand the family business over to the sons to run.
The sons would run the family business, or farm, taking care of their families and providing for their parents’ needs. Dad would go and sit at the city gate and hand out wisdom to those that sought it or didn’t seek it. Again, much like the groups that gather at Tim Hortons today.
Today, there are many different paths to our retirement, and that’s not wrong. Well, unless your retirement planning involves lottery tickets, that might not be wise.
H.A. Ironside was a Canadian preacher from yesterday, and he wrote this, “There is nothing in this parable to warn us against making proper provision for the future; there is nothing here to condemn any of you housewives who put up fruit in the summer to use in the winter; there is nothing to condemn putting something away while one is earning wages in order to provide for old age.”
Saving for the future is not a bad thing, but again, balance is a wonderful thing.
Instead of squandering it or saving it for his future, He Could have Invested it for His Children
There are those that leaving a legacy for their kids is an important thing.
I had a conversation with a man once who was defending his not giving to the church by telling me that it was really important to him that he would be able to leave a substantial financial legacy for his children.
We all have different priorities.
I hope when Angela and I die that there is enough left to bury us, and considering I want to be cremated and my ashes spread in the Bay of Fundy, the CPP death benefit should just about cover it.
Now having said that, there will probably be some left for my kids. I remember turning in a leased vehicle once that was under the number of Kilometres I was allowed, and I tried to use them all before I returned it, but it was tough.
But we aren’t always doing our children any favours with a sizeable inheritance.
John Hartog, an estate planner, recently wrote this about the inheritance that people leave their kids. “By the end of their children’s children’s lives — the third generation — nine of 10 family fortunes will be gone. “The third-generation rule is so true, it’s enshrined in the Chinese proverb: ‘Wealth never survives three generations.'”
Sometimes that’s referred to as the “shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations” adage
Speaking of inheritances, economist Jay Zagorsky states that statistics show when it comes to inheritances, “The vast majority of people blew through it quickly.”
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t have a legacy for our kids, but perhaps the most important legacy is more than money. It was Patrick Henry who wrote, “This is all the inheritance I give to my dear family. The religion of Christ will give them one which will make them rich indeed.”
He Could have Invested it in Others
That was just a fancy way of saying that he could have given some of it away. Technically, if he was Jewish, he was required to return a certain percentage of what he had accumulated to God.
In the simplest sense, that would have been 10%. That’s laid down in Leviticus 27:30 “One-tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to him as holy.
But that would have been just one of the required tithes and offerings.
And as a farmer, he would have been required to leave a certain amount of his crops in the field for the poor.
Each one of us has the opportunity to give. And for the most part, people do. People give to the things which are important to them. Most of us give to a variety of charities and causes every year.
In one recent study, individuals in Canada gave over 14 billion dollars annually to various charities, while businesses gave another 4 billion. Rich people gave a greater dollar amount while less to do people gave a larger percentage of their income. And percentage-wise, the largest proportion of givers, by population, is in Atlantic Canada. And probably none of that was surprising.
And the Cornerstone family does an awesome job, not just for what you give to help Cornerstone fulfil its vision and mission here, but what you give to help make a better life for people you will never meet around the world.
But, there was no indication that giving any of his resources was on the radar. Maybe he had never read Paul’s admonition in 1 Timothy 6:17–19 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.
If anything, Solomon’s words in Proverbs 21:26 would have rung true for him, Proverbs 21:26 Some people are always greedy for more, but the godly love to give!
Those are things he could have done, now let’s look at What He Did with It
Let’s go back to the story, Luke 12:16–18 Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods.”
He made a decision about his wealth, and he chose to invest it building more barns. The problem was that was all he did with what he had. Next week, we will be looking into the dangers of treasure, and we will go a little deeper there.
Here are a few thoughts to end with.
It was Edmund Burke who cautioned us, saying, “If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free. If our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed.”
P.T. Barnum said something similar when he wrote, “Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant.”
Financial Guru Dave Ramsey writes, “You must gain control over your money, or the lack of it will forever control you.”
When the Methodist church began, many who joined were the least the lost and the lonely. They struggled with poverty and needed to hear and heed Wesley’s advice to “Gain all they could, to save all they could and to give all they could.” And many benefited from that lesson.
Missiologist Donald McGavran coined the catchphrase “redemption and lift” to describe the transformative power of the gospel on people’s lives, especially their socioeconomic condition.
Sociologist Rodney Stark provided statistical evidence for redemption and lift in his 2012 book, “America’s Blessings: How Religion Benefits Everyone, Including Atheists.”
According to Stark, Compared to less religious and non-religious people, people of faith:
Engage in less criminal behaviour and more pro-social behaviour
Experience higher marital happiness and lower divorce rates while producing more and better-behaved children
Report more and better sex with their spouse, resulting in less cheating
Experience better mental health, and probably better physical health too
Give more generously in terms of money and time
Are better educated, more successful and less credulous
The result of that behaviour, according to George P Wood, is “A person renewed by the gospel increasingly acts in a self-controlled and selfless manner rather than in a self-serving one, and this produces positive change in their material circumstances.”
And while that seems all well and good, to Wesley, the most evident threat to the Methodist movement was the growing wealth of the Methodists themselves.
Wesley believed that Christianity had within it the seeds of its own demise. He understood the concept of redemption lift and that with that came an increase in wealth. And he understood the dangers that wealth could bring.
And he warned the church of that, writing, “Of the three rules which are laid down … you may find many that observe the first rule, namely, ‘Gain all you can.’ You may find a few that observe the second, ‘Save all you can.’ But, how many have you found that observe the third rule, ‘Give all you can’?”
While most of us won’t have to worry about building bigger barns, every one of us will have to make decisions about what to do with the wealth God has entrusted us with.
And as one person wrote, “It’s not what you’d do with millions if riches er be your lot, but what you’re doing in the present, with the buck and a quarter you’ve got.”