Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Money Money Money

One of the areas that is most out of control in peoples lives is their finances. They overspend, don’t save, and are into debt up to their eyeballs. Many people don’t even know how to accurately balance a checking account, or how to keep track of their spending by using a (check book) ledger. Not to mention, not having a budget.

Okay, you are 45 years old and you’ve been saving $2.26 per week for five years. Are you kidding me? How can you be that age and not have any money?

There are two main lessons that people must learn when it comes to their personal finances – and this is the absolute truth:

#1. You must put God first in your finances.

First of all, it’s a command. Secondly, God wants all of you, including those things you hold most dear – like money. One of the most forceful things Jesus ever said about money is found in Matthew 6:21 – “where your money is, there your heart is also.” How we manage our money reveals where God is in our priorities. Thirdly, there is a practical benefit to putting God first in your finances – learning discipline. When you tithe you are practicing financial discipline, and discipline is the bedrock to good financial stewardship.

#2. You must get out of debt – especially unsecured debt (i.e., credit cards).

About 80% of Americans live from paycheck-to-paycheck. They are so deep in debt - up to their eyeballs - that there can’t even be a ripple on the surface of the lake or they will go under. Not a good thing.

A home mortgage is acceptable debt, because you gain equity in the home. Besides, not everyone has got $200,000 laying around to pay cash for a home. So if you want to get out of the weather and have a warm place to sleep at night, you’ve got to borrow in order to buy a home. A basic rule of thumb on the mortgage is this – your monthly payment should not be more than 30% your monthly income. Less is even better. Make plans to be mortgage free at some point in your life.

Sometimes we even have to carry a loan on an automobile – after all, not everyone has got $20k-30k just laying around somewhere. And even if you do, you might not want to come off that much of your cash; instead choosing to remain liquid. But it should always be remembered that automobiles, unlike homes, are not investments. As soon as you drive off the lot with your new car you are upside down on the loan – meaning the car depreciates so quickly in value that you now owe more on the car than it is actually worth. Best case scenario, if you have to borrow money to buy a car, pay it off and then drive it for years and years afterwards. Drive it until you have to recap the steering wheel. I have 180,000 miles on my 1998 Tahoe – that baby is now eleven years old. I’m going to drive it until I get 225,000 miles out of it. Guess what I’ve been doing all these years that I haven’t been making a car payment? You’re right, I’ve been saving the money.

Credit card debt. There is nothing good about it. Nothing. Credit card companies use predatory lending practices to prey upon the unsuspecting by offering easy credit, easy money, and requiring no collateral. The catch? High interest rates, hidden costs, arbitrary fees, double cycle billing, penalties, and changing terms in the contract – all designed to keep you on the leash for the rest of your life.

Thousands of years ago Solomon wrote, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). Unsecured debt means you will be “working for the man” for the rest of your life - not working for yourself, but for “the man.” Not good.

When we don’t have debt, or when we have little debt, there is incredible freedom in our lives. We don’t live in fear of losing our jobs. We feel more secure as retirement years approach. If we want to change jobs or careers, we can simply do so. If you want to just pack up and move, you can. Plus, with so much of our money freed up, we can become more generous and charitable. What’s not to like about all that?

I hope more people in PCC will begin practicing these two principles: put God first in your finances, and reduce your debt.
  • Don’t let money ruin your marriage
  • Don’t let money rob you of your love for God
  • Don’t allow yourself to become enslaved to debt
  • Liberate yourself

The economy is no problem for God. I don't know what 2009 is going to be like for our nation. President Obama says it might get worse before it gets better. He's probably right. It may not be a good year for others. But it can be YOUR best year ever.

"I've never seen the righteous forsaken nor God's seed begging for bread" (Psalms 37:25).

Embrace this.

If you’d like to find out HOW TO, here’s what you can do:

1. Take Discovery Seminar 201 the next time it is offered. There is an entire section on how to put God first in your finances.

2. Take Financial Peace University being offered in our next semester of small groups. Begins February 3rd. You can stop by the display table in the sanctuary this Sunday morning to ask questions. This program offers practical steps on how to become debt free. Video preview this Sunday after 2nd service.

3. Buy a book on the subject. There is plenty of material available.

4. JUST DO IT. This is not rocket science. It does't take a genius. It takes discipline. Good financial stewardship is 20% knowledge and 80% discipline. You already know enough. Now just get with the program . Liberate yourself.... begining today!