Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Stewardship: Destroying The Spirit of Not Enough

I have never done something like this before, but I really believe that there is a spirit in our generation that’s crushing Christians.  Not just Christians, really this spirit is one of the spirits of our age and in this post, I want to expose that spirit, and I want to try to help those who are suffering in this way.

How many of you readers think your job doesn’t pay you enough?  How many of you are struggling with your finances?  How many of you are living “paycheck-to-paycheck”?  You only have enough to make it until you get paid again.  What happens when you lose your job?  What happens if someone gets really sick?  When something like that happens you face a real crisis, right?

“How are we going to make it?  There’s nothing in the bank!”“How are we going to pay the bills associated with this?”

This is where most fights take place in a marriage.  Most of our fights are around money.  You look at your financial situation and you say, “We don’t have enough!”  There’s no money for anything other than scraping by.  No money for a family trip: No money for a nice dinner out,  No money for giving (and I’m not just talking about the church.)  Financial planners will tell you that giving is the best way to move forward financially.  They will tell you to build in some room for giving.

The problem is that there’s a spirit at work in our generation.  There’s a spirit that’s choking us:  The Spirit of Not Enough!  This is the spirit that says, “You don’t make enough – You need more.”  It’s the spirit that steals your contentment – You’re constantly complaining about finances.  This spirit kills your marriage and family – Divorces often center on financial problems.  This spirit destroys our lives – You suffer depression and unhappiness.  All of this is because of the Spirit of Not Enough.  Where does this spirit come from?  Who does the Bible say steals, kills and destroys?  Today, I want to post on stewardship.

God Supplies Us

Matthew 25:14-15 (NKJV)
25:14 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.

We can look at this in the following way:  First of all the scripture talks about talents.  In this case, talents are not abilities like playing the banjo or acting.  A talent is a measure of weight; approximately thirty-five kilograms (about seventy pounds).  Depending on if the talent was Gold or Silver, it had a value – It was worth something.  In 2017 dollars a talent of Silver would be worth US $14,407.00.  So these servants were given a great deal of money.

Secondly, the money was given to them according to their abilities.  It wasn’t given to them based on their need.  It was according to their ability to do what?  Juggle?  Sing?  No, it was given to them based on their ability to manage it. How do I know that?  Look at verse 19:

Matthew 25:19 (NKJV)
25:19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

If the money was given to them based on their need, there would be no settling of accounts.  As more need came up, more would be given.  The master came and settled accounts with them.  He’s saying to them, “Let me see what you’ve done with my money.”  The money belonged to the master.  Where does your money come from?

Psalms 50:9-12 (NKJV)
50:9 I will not take a bull from your house, Nor goats out of your folds. 10 For every beast of the forest is Mine And the cattle on a thousand hills. 11 I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. 12 "If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine and all its fullness.

This is God speaking and He clearly says, “The world is mine and all its fullness!”  Fullness means wealth, abundance, and prosperity.  All of the wealth in the world belongs to whom?  God!  Your money isn’t really yours – It has been entrusted to you, in the same way, that the master in the parable has entrusted his money to the servants.  It is given to you to manage!

We’re stewards of God’s money.  What is a steward?  According to Merriam-Webster Dictionaries, it is one who actively directs affairs; a manager, actively directs affairs.  Actively directing includes planning and investing:  making more out of what you have.  It’s about making sure that you have enough.

Before I started pastoring I was a businessman.  At one point in my career, I managed a transportation department for a non-profit organization.  Every year that non-profit reserved money to operate the transportation department.  They would say, “Here is your budget for the year!”  If I used it all in one month, I would be unable to operate for the next eleven months.  If I wanted to add something that pushed me over the budget, I had to “find” the money somewhere else.  So I would have to plan my expenses and revenue for the next year.  I had to plan so that what I was given would be enough.

I believe that the first key to being a good steward is to recognize that what we are given is enough.  This is about contentment.  Think about this, how much anger and bitterness do we create when we constantly think, “I don’t have enough.”?  Contentment is the first thing I mentioned that’s stolen.

It’s not wrong to look at what you have and want to make more; after all, that’s what’s expected of us.  It’s what a manager does.  He/She makes smart decisions with what he/she has in order to make it grow.  A manager doesn’t cry about being given more but puts what he already has to work for him.  A manager manages.

That means you have to have a plan – This is how I’m going to spend this money; this much to expenses and this much to invest.  A savings account is a type of investment; it pays interest.

The man gave the servants according to their abilities to plan, to invest and to manage.  If you want more, then you have to manage what you have effectively.  The servant who was given five talents had a greater ability to manage it than the servant who was given one talent.

The Wisdom of Investment

The money was given to the servants to steward; to manage.  They took what they were given and made it work.  Two of them made the money work for them, one did not.

Matthew 25:16-18 (NKJV)
25:16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise, he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money.

Two of them were effective in managing the money.  They used it to trade.  They increased the amount.  The other man didn’t do anything with it.  He buried it.

There’s an expectation that we’ll make wise decisions; that we’ll use the money appropriately and use it to bring an increase.

I said that planning was a big part of managing money.  One type of a plan is a budget:  This is my income – This is how much I have.  These are my expenses – This is what it takes to operate.  The money I have minus my expenses leave an amount that can be invested.  That’s a plan, “I’ll take what I have, use it to pay my expenses and to invest in the future.”  That’s planning.  We call it a budget.  I make this much.  My expenses are this much.  My investment is this much.

As I said before, I was a businessman prior to serving as a pastor.  And I’m going to reveal to you the basic tenet of a successful business.  If this were a college course it would be Business 101.  Here it is:  Increased Sales and Reduced Costs means Greater Profits.  That’s how business works; it’s really not complicated:  More money coming in and less money going out.  That’s how you make money.

Unfortunately, what happens in our lives is often the exact opposite.  We have reduced revenues and increased expenses.  Something I learned in my very first management position I have taken with me throughout life:  Expenses can be controlled.  You can use the air conditioner less often.  You can turn off the lights when you’re not in the room.  You can set up a food budget and buy only within that budget.  Here’s the biggest thing, and the most painful.  You can cut up your credit cards.  That will stop you from buying things you can’t afford.

Credit cards make it easy.  “I want it now.  I can pay for it later… at eighteen percent interest.”  Debt is what devours our paychecks.  Who does the Bible call the Devourer? 

Having a lot of debt is like burying your money.  You’re giving away to the bank what you could be investing.  Have you ever heard the phrase, “Credit Card Slave”?  The Financial Commission of Taiwan has coined this phrase, “credit card slave”.  A Credit Card Slave is a person who can only pay the minimum payment on their credit card.  You can never get out of debt that way because you’re only paying the interest and nothing on the purchases.  The problem with that is that you’re not managing the money.  The bank is managing the money – for themselves not for you.  They’re increasing their revenues, but you’re not decreasing your expenses.  You’re not being a steward.  You won't be able to give a joyful account of the money when God calls to “settle accounts.”  Remember whose money it is!

…a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them (emphasis mine.)

The money that you have is not yours – It’s God’s.

When the man called for an accounting what happened? 

Matthew 25:20-23 (NKJV)
25:20 So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' 21 His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' 22 He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' 23 His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.'

When the servants who made a profit presented it to the man he rewarded them, “Enter into the joy of your lord.”  They were joyful; they were happy.  Joy is found in properly managing money.  It goes back to contentment.  It goes back to good marital and family relationships.  It goes against depression.  It’s wise to properly steward the money God has given to you!

It’s a Sin to Squander God’s Money

Now look at what happens to the servant who buries the money:

Matthew 25:24-27 (NKJV)
25:24 Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.' 26 But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming, I would have received back my own with interest.
The man rebukes the servant – “You should have at the least given it to the bankers!  That’s the minimum investment.  You should have done something with it!”  He calls him wicked and lazy, and then:

Matthew 25:28-30 (NKJV)
25:28 Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

Two things have happened here:  First, what he had was taken from him.  He lost everything.  All that had been entrusted to him was taken away.  We are expected to manage the money.  If we bury it and don’t manage it, we will not receive any more.  When we allow debt to control us we will eventually wind up losing everything:  bankruptcy; nothing for retirement.  Sometimes we even lose the family, everything is gone. 

Here’s the worst part of all of this:  where is the place of weeping and gnashing of teeth?  It’s Hell.  God considers a lack of proper stewardship to be a sin.  It’s a sin to squander God’s provision for your life.   That’s a sobering thought, isn’t it? 

That’s the first thing, but look at what else happened.  What he had was given to the one who increased by five what he was given.  If we properly manage what we are given then God is able to entrust us with more.

If you’re reading this and right now you’re in a situation like this don’t despair.  Don’t condemn yourself!  I’ve struggled in this way, myself.  The wonderful thing is you can repent.  I know that a lot of people go through this.  For insight on managing money and getting out of debt, I would recommend that watching “Dave Ramsey on 7 Baby Steps for Super Savings” on YouTube.

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