Radio Broadcast

Why Better Things Don't Always Make Things Better, Part 2

Scripture: James 5:1 - 5:6

Money. Is it wrong to have lots of money? Or perhaps put another way, is it better or more spiritual to be poor? How does God really feel about money, wealth, and possessions? Chip explores what the Bible has to say about financial success, spending, and saving.

Message Notes more broadcasts from this series


Let me give you four commands right out of Scripture on the right uses of wealth.  And I want to take the model – because he’s gone negative, negative, negative, negative.  I want to go positive, positive, positive, positive so when we walk out of here, instead of feeling lonely and bad and guilty about our wealth, we can say, “Hey, here’s a practical, systematic way that we can use the God given wealth for good.” 

So with that, are you ready to roll?  Good.  Command number one is save it faithfully.  Although hoarding is condemned, God does say that wisdom demands that we plan for the future with our excess wealth.  Notice what it says in Proverbs 21:20.  “The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.”  Biblical savings is about stewardship, not about security.  Do you see the difference?

As a believer, I need to save for emergencies, for crises, for future needs, to help others, to make better use of my money.  And when I save, I make better decisions.  There is a reason why those commercials say, “You can buy this today and no payments for 18 months.”  It’s because you start buying stuff and having stuff you can’t really afford, but it doesn’t hit you for 18 months.

And usually there’s a little thing in the fine print where you’re going to end up figuring – you’ll pay the interest on that some way, somehow.  They’re going to get you this way, this way or that way.  But when you save, it’s in a novel thing.  What if you made car payments to yourself, so the next car you bought you walked in and said, “How much does it cost?  Here it is.”  And you paid no interest.

What if you saved so that when your washing machine breaks down, you walk in and say, “I need a new washing machine,” and you pay ‘em cash.  And by the way, when you pay cash and when you save and you have that taken care of, what if there’s a big need?  Or what if there would be – imagine like a hurricane would hit.  And millions of people would be displaced.  What if you had money on the side that you could just reach into and say, “You know something?  This is for an emergency.  I thought it was for my emergency.  Lord, I think you must want it for their emergency.” 

And you could give it, not with, “Oh I wish I could do something.”  See, God says it’s important and wise.  Proverbs says, “Observe the ant.”  Right?  What does he do?  They work together.  And they do things at different times of the year so that when the winter comes they have prepared.  So I think it’s very important to save. 

Savings as a steward requires a couple things.  Now this all sounds elementary, but I’ve known some really, really bright people that don’t quite get this.  In order to save, follow very carefully, you have to spend less each month than you make.  I’ll go over that again slowly, okay?  Get that pen out, okay.  In order to save money, you have to spend less than you make.  So if you make $2000.00 a month or $5000.00 a month or $10,000.00 a month, you have to live on less than that so you can take a portion of it and save it.

And I’m not being as facetious as you think I am.  Because one of the things I did to get through seminary is I did some selling of investments and some financial planning.  And what I found is if the people made $50,000.00 a year – that was the window – they spent about $55,000.00.  If they made $100,000.00 a year, they spent about $110,000.00 a year.  If they made $250,000.00 a year, they spent about $300,000.00 a year. 

And it was amazing.  Whatever window that people make, their expenses seem to always exceed what they make.  It’s an amazing thing, but you would have to begin to save.  It will be just a freeing, freeing thing to have money set aside for emergency or future purchases or something someone else needs. 

The second positive way to use your wealth is make it honestly.  This is how we’re supposed to gain wealth.  Notice what it says – “Work brings profit.  Talk brings poverty.”  We’re to work hard instead of steal it.  Notice work hard instead of the get rich quick schemes.  Proverbs 13:11 – it’s not in your notes but you might want to jot that down – it says wealth from gambling or the idea of getting rich quickly disappears.  But wealth from hard work grows.

Or the classic New Testament passage is Ephesians 4:28, “Let him who steals,” literally it’s happening in the church – the grammar here is literally “stop stealing.”  “Let him who steals steal no longer, but rather,” what?  “Let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.”   Work hard, but wisely.

I love Proverbs 23:4.  It says, “Don’t wear yourself out to get rich.  Have the wisdom to show restraint.”  Work hard.  That’s how you gain it.  I know when you can’t sleep and there’s times I can’t sleep.  It’s 1:42 a.m.  You even read the Bible a little bit, still can’t sleep.  It’s now 3:33 a.m.  You’re now thinking what a terrible day it’s going to be and maybe I could watch some mindless thing on TV.  It’ll help me sleep.

And so you turn on the TV.  The quality program between about 2:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. will blow your mind.  And what it is?  “With no money down, I’ll show you how to buy real estate like you never dreamed,” right?  Or “For seven payments of $19.99, this book has the magic formula where you can be a millionaire.”  And then they have these guys with all these testimonies – and I love the one guy, he’s in the boat with all the babes in the bikinis in back going, “Hey, man.  I’ll tell you what I did.  I went to this course.”

What is it?  It’s a lie.  It’s just a lie.  There are no quick fixes.  God says there’s nothing wrong with wealth.  In fact, God says he gives wealth to the Godly and he adds no sorrow to it.  He says, “Try this.  Just work for it.”  Quit trying to get – I don’t know how many believers, even Christian organizations about ten, twelve years ago – a Ponzi scheme soaked tens of millions of dollars promising.  If it sounds too good to be true, just take it.  It’s too good to be true.

People who promised 20 percent return and this return and that return, something smells.  Don’t go there.  There is no free lunch.  Work hard.  Save it.  Make it honestly.  And before I get to the next one, I want to ask you a question.  Because this always lingers in the back of people’s minds – people ask me, “So, how much money can a Godly person make?”  And isn’t that kind of in the back of your mind? 

I mean how much money – I mean, I’m Godly.  You really love God.  It’s really sincere.  How much money can a Godly person make?  I have an answer.  Now this is Chip Ingram.  We’re in James before, you’re going to get Chip Ingram so you can say, “I like this, I don’t like this.  Oh wait.”  My answer – as much as you want.  Of course, there’s an end to it.  You ready?  That’s not the whole answer.

As much as you want, as long it doesn’t hurt your health, your family, others.  And then here’s the key test.  As long as your spiritual growth is outpacing your financial growth.  That’s the test.  ‘Cause money will always reveal your heart.  You can make as much money as you want, as long as your spiritual growth is outpacing your financial growth. 

I think God is looking for people that he can trust great amounts of wealth to.  And they’re few and far in between.  People who – as one guy says, can’t remember who it was.  God is looking for people that will be rivers instead of reservoirs.  People that he can put it in here and it loosely will go through and make it to lots of other people and do lots of good instead of going to something where it all gets accumulated.  Wealth is not a bad thing.  Wealth can be a great thing.  But I would suggest it’s a dangerous thing.  I don’t think we take that seriously.

Mark 4 when Jesus talks about the four seeds that go into the ground – you remember seed number one Satan takes away.  Seed number two, persecution.  Do you remember what seed number three is?  The worries of the world – the thorns, the deceitfulness of riches choke out the Word of God.  It is so hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God because rich people – that’s us – don’t recognize our desperate dependency.

Poor people are rich in faith because they pray and expect and ask because they desperately need God.  When you have enough wealth to take care of yourself, you have to willfully be dependent.  And the thing about wealth is deceitful.  And the definition of deceitful is when it is affecting you, the person who doesn’t know it is you.  Right? 

I mean when you’re deceived, it’s like you think things are going right.  I’m really walking with the Lord.  Everything is fine.  And I feel good.  And when I sing those songs, I have happy feelings in my heart and I’m actually reading in my Bible and I’m serving at my church.  Let me tell you.  God is going to say, “Let me see your day timer, your PDA, and let me see your financial statement and I’ll tell you how you’re doing with me.” 

Because according to Jesus, if you want to see a person’s heart – his spiritual x-ray machine, the spiritual MRI is your financial statement.  Because according to Jesus, here’s your heart and there’s a chain.  And the chain is connected to your wallet.  And wherever your wallet is, that’s where your heart follows.  And if we want to know where your heart really is, what are you passionate about?  All we gotta do is look at where your money goes.

If it’s to golf clubs, vacations, remodeling, this, this, this, this – you can love God, sing hymns, read your Bible, serve in your church.  But your heart is in those things.  If your money is toward Kingdom purposes – being generous to people after taking care of your responsibilities, then your heart is about an eternal perspective and loving God.  It is that simple.  And so you can have as much money as you want.  But just make sure that your spiritual growth outpaces your financial growth.  

Notice number three.  Spend it wisely.  Save it, work for it, spend it wisely.  Notice what it says in 1 Timothy 6:17-18.  “Command those who are rich in this present world,” that’s us, “not to be arrogant or put their hope in wealth.”  Why?  See it’s – God’s not down on us, why?  Which is so uncertain – God doesn’t want you to put your hopes in something that today is getting $55.00 a share and tomorrow is gonna get $2.00 a share and bang, you’re gone. 

He says don’t have them do that which is so uncertain but to put their hope in God who does what?  Richly provides us – circle the word – with everything.  Circle that phrase.  Who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.  Will you circle that word too?  God provides us with everything.  Then command them to what?  To do good.  To be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

The reminder is 100 percent of it belongs to God and it’s not just the part you give.  People I know, people say, “I’m going to tithe.”  And here’s God’s part – there’s the ten percent.  If you’re a tither, here’s just a little eye opening moment – the ten percent is his and it belongs to him.  And the 90 percent is his and belongs to him.  And I will be evaluated for the ten percent or the twelve percent or the twenty percent or whatever God leads me to.

And I will also be evaluated what do I do with the 90 percent?  Am I a wise steward of it?  See, it’s not mine.  I’m his money manager.  I mean, read Luke 16.  When Jesus wanted to teach, he talked about the unrighteous, shrewd servant.  And he said this guy was really smart because he understood he was going to lose his job and so he was going to lose his job, he brought in all the creditors and he changed all the books.  Why? 

Do you remember he said – Jesus said, “This guy’s shrewd.  He took a bad example and made a good moral principle – a spiritual principle.”  This guy understood that his present situation was going to dry up, so he used his present position, platform and money to create an avenue so that when that dried up he would have friends who would receive him.  And Jesus says, “The children of the darkness are more shrewd than the children of the light.”  He says, “What smart Christians do, what smart Christians realize is this money, this world is going to dry up.” 

It’s like confederate money.  I mean, when the union came you can have all these confederate dollars, you just couldn’t spend ‘em.  All the dollars that you have you can’t spend in Heaven.  So you take the money that you have and you realize it’s going to be a short time and you take the money and you leverage it into the future so that – what did Jesus say?  – you’ll be welcomed into eternal dwellings by people who say, “Man, I was one of those hurricane victims.  Thank you so much.  You gave $10,000.00 and it helped this church and shared the Gospel.  And I heard from these angels that you were behind it and I wanted to thank you.” 

And people line up in Heaven and talk to you about how you transformed their life.  And someone from Kenya comes up.  And someone from Australia comes up.  And, “Man, thank you so much because you gave to that mission and this is – and I’m here because of –” that’s the point.  And so – but notice the balance here.  He says not only is it about good deeds and giving richly, command them to do good.  A hundred percent belongs to God.  We’re going to be stewards of it.

But there’s this amazing balance.  This is why people can’t tell us what to do with our money.  There’s this amazing balance.  Doesn’t it say who gives us all things richly to enjoy?  I think there should be tension in every believer’s heart when it comes to money.  And the tension ought to be how can I be radically sacrificial and at the same time radically and deeply enjoy without guilt the good gifts of God?

When I talk to most Christians who have a nice car – “Well, I got it on sale.  And it’s because I help out at the church with funerals.”  Or, “We have this swimming pool.  Yeah, I know this is a really nice house with a swimming pool – for baptisms.  We’ve been putting it in for baptisms.” 

I know.  How about – what would be like this?  How about, “The good hand of my God has been upon me and He’s lavished His grace upon me.  I can’t give it away fast enough.  I have a beautiful home.  I have a nice car.  I’m able to enjoy these rich gifts from a God.  And I remember when I was a young man, I started out at ten percent.  And then as when I got older it was twenty percent.  And as God has blessed my business –” I have a personal friend that after his 21st birthday he started giving one more percent every year to the Lord. 

A minimum of that.  He’s been married 55 years now.  You do the math.  But guess – something happened.  God found a river.  So he probably gives 75, 85 percent of his income.  But he owns real estate all over Michigan, Florida, everywhere.  See, when God finds someone like that, he just delights.  God is not uptight with people being wealthy.  God’s uptight with people thinking wealth makes you significant, will bring security, will give you power, makes you a someone.  And when they waste it and abuse it and don’t use it the way he wants them to.

I think God wants probably more people to be wealthy if he could entrust it where it wouldn’t literally choke out the spiritual life in their heart.  Takes huge maturity to be wealthy – huge maturity.  But I think we have to balance the sacrificial with what’s the passage say?  Who gives us all thing richly to feel guilty about?  Doesn’t it say, “Who gives us all thing richly to enjoy.”  Enjoy.

My priority is in line.  I’ve prayed.  My bills are paid.  I have saved for an emergency fund.  I’m putting away X amount of dollars for my retirement.  And I’ve done the math and I’m not going to have a big – the goal is when I retire, I’ll have for this many years and then I’ve got it all planned out so that that money will be dispersed to good places, to good people that does a lot of good and won’t ruin my kids. 

And by the way, I’m taking steps of increasing faith.  I proportionally give and this year we’re going to give a little more.  And this year we give a little more.  And this year we give a little more.

And I’m going to test God.  And by the way, I’m taking steps of increasing faith.  I proportionally give and this year we’re going to give a little more.  And this year we give a little more.  And this year we give a little more.  And I just want it – and as you do that, here’s what happens.  He just keeps doing wild stuff like giving you more. 

And so he says, “Save it.”  He says, “Earn it with hard work.”  He says, “Spend it wisely.”  And then finally, we’ve touched on – he says, “Give it.  Give it generously.”  Proverbs 11 says, “One man gives freely.  He’s generous, yet gains even more.  Another withholds unduly,” or literally what is justly due, “Becomes to poverty.” 

I love this – verse 25 of Proverbs 11.  “A generous man will prosper.  And he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.”  The Bible is clear on money.  And the Bible is clear on giving.  And you know why?  Is because option A, Jesus is the Lord of my life.  Option B, mammon – or materialism – and all that it represents is the Lord of my life.  And I can’t have two masters.  It’s either this one or that one.  There’s no middle ground. 

And the antidote, according to Jesus – Jesus talked more about money than Heaven and Hell combined.  And the antidote to greed, according to Jesus, is to be generous.  The only way it won’t stick to you is if you give it away.  And so he says, “Be generous.  It’s the antidote to greed.  It’s the only way to live under the Lordship of Christ.” 

I mean, you work, work, work all these hours, right?  You get a paycheck.  That paycheck represents who you are and what you’ve done.  Is who you are and what you’ve done under the Lordship of Christ?  It all belongs to you.  So I take the first portion off the top and I say, “This is a reminder.  It’s all yours.”  And I give and then I do all the things I’m supposed to do, and then I look for opportunities to say, “Okay, now I would like to give more because I love you.”

Not duty.  Not guilt.  Lord, I love you.  You’ve given me everything.  I want to help people.  I want to care.  I’m just – I’m only going to go around once, and whatever I can accumulate – the lie is X amount of dollars and X amount of counts and X amount of things don’t make me powerful.  They don’t make me significant, and they don’t make me secure.

If you lived in the Silicon Valley between 2001 and then when 2002 hit, man I’ll tell you what.  It’s an amazing thing to watch multi-multi-millionaires go “ssshew!” There’s a guy in our church and his job was repo.  And he would go at night and take the BMWs and the Mercedes and the Lexuses.  And he said, “Man, I’ll tell you – these people made all this money in the Silicon Valley.  And I mean, we were on a ride – all those dot coms that never needed to really make any money and everyone’s going public.” 

I mean, like secretaries – everyone’s millionaires.  And he said people just spent it like there was no tomorrow.  And he said, “I have to go in the middle of the night and I hook up all these cars and I repo them.”  And he said, “What I find is there’s the car,” and he said, “I can’t tell you how many of these mansions the people just left.”  Forget the payments, they just got in their car and they left. 

Why?  It’s because God says, “You know something?  Money can’t deliver.  That’s the lie.  I’m your source.”  Jesus said, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.”  Giving is God’s divine vehicle to protect my heart.  It’s his divine means to crush greed and the thorns that will choke out the spiritual life.  And it is his means for every believer to support his church to accomplish his mission in the world.

And he says, “You get to be in on an eternal investment as you learn to give and to give generously.”  Jesus said, “Blessed.”  The word means happy, fulfilled, significance, security, joyful comes more in giving than in accumulating or receiving.  Now I’d like to wrap it up with a question.  And the question would be this one.  The first one was If I had more money, I’d be more happy.  And pragmatically our lifestyles say true.

But the Bible says it’s false.  In fact, pragmatically if you do research – have you read any of those books about following the lives of people who won the lotto?  Oh, my.  It’s like one thing you don’t want – don’t win the lotto, unless you want a divorce and have all kind of relational problems and struggle probably for the rest of your life.  That was the first question.

Here’s the last question.  If I gave away more money, I’d be more happy.  True or false?  It’s true.  Wouldn’t it be just an amazing application if we just all – you think just the few hundred people in here.  What if we all said, “Let’s just start giving away more money.  Let’s just start giving away more.  Let’s just love people.  Let’s get radical.” 

Just kind of start giving it away and kind of incrementally and see what God will do.  And if he gives you more, than give a little bit more.  Wouldn’t it be an amazing thing?  Here’s what I tell you will happen in your heart – the happiness that you think the clothes, the car, the watch, all the advertisement will tell you that makes you a somebody.  You start giving – your money, your time, your heart, your energy.  You would just be about the happiest person.  It’ll just get sickening.  I mean, I’m serious.

The give and it will be given unto you isn’t just about dollars.  It’s a lifestyle of generosity.  It’s a lifestyle of walking into a room, walking into a situation, and asking the question, “What could I give?” instead of “What do I need?”  And those kind of people are the kind of people that I line up to try and get time with just to be around.  Don’t you? 

And you know what?  Most of us, if you want a friend, give friendship.  You want more time?  Give time away.  There’s an axiomatic principle of the Kingdom – whatever you really need, generously give it to others and it will come back good measure.  Press down, shaken together, running over, back into your lap. 

The empirical evidence here is very, very clear that more things and better things don’t make us happy.  And that money always reveals our heart.  And then here’s the summary.  Until you get your financial house in order, your relational life will always be in chaos.  Until you get your financial house in order, your relational life will always be in chaos.  And so ask yourself, “Am I saving faithfully?  Am I earning honestly?  Am I spending wisely?  And am I giving generously?”

And if so, high five the Lord, thank him for what he’s taught you.  And if not, just choose one of those and say, “Lord, I’d like to obey you in this.”  And he will give you grace like never before.