Andy Stanley - Meaningful Money
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Welcome back to If Money Talked. Where we are letting the money do the talking. I hope you've continued to spy on your money. In fact, I hope that becomes a habit for life. And I hope you've begun thinking and maybe even spending more like a manager than an owner. And perhaps after our last session together you've taken some steps in the direction of give, save and live. As we wrap up, I wanna leave you with a big question. A question that on the surface, doesn't seem to have anything to do with money but in the end you'll discover that it has everything to do with money. And it's actually a question that Jesus sets up with a parable.
This is one of my favorite parables Jesus told. Perhaps because many years ago, this was the parable God used to redirect my thinking as it relates to my personal finances. Here's what he said, he said, "The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest". So let's stop right there, here's a rich guy who now has even more wealth because the ground produced an abundant harvest. The ground which, by the way, he had no control over. Jesus continues, the rich man thought to himself, "What shall I do"? I mean this was a problem, right? "What shall I do, I have no place to store my crops". And then he said, "This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and I will build bigger barns and there I will store my", notice the word, surplus, "my extra, grain".
Now, on the surface it doesn't seem like we have anything in common with this lucky fellow. But just below the surface, well let me ask you this. Have you ever had a garage sale? Yeah, have you ever carried a load or two or twenty to Goodwill? Right, have you ever had a hard time finding a place in the attic or the basement for something you weren't using anymore because the attic or basement was already full of stuff you weren't using anymore? So yeah, we may have more in common with this fellow than first meets the eye. Back to the parable, I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of gain laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink and be merry". Which is really a great plan if you think about it. I mean it's kinda the goal, isn't it? It's the American Dream, right?
Have enough money to buy whatever you want now, save enough so that you can retire and buy whatever you want later. And, if you've really done things right, you'll have enough to make sure your kids are taken care of as well. If you could do all of that, you've pretty much won, right? I mean you're blessed, right? Well so thought everybody in Jesus' audience. And then Jesus surprised them with this. "But God said to him", the rich man, "you fool". It's like, what? I mean everybody in Jesus' audience is taken aback. Just like you probably were the first time you read this parable. I mean, he achieved the goal, he's livin' the dream. Um clearly, there's some kind of disconnect. But God said to him, "You fool, this very night your life will be demanded from you".
Then and listen to this question, "Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself"? In other words, you are out of time even though even though you're not out of grain. You are out of time even though you're not out of money. And that's gonna be the story for most of us, isn't it? We've talked about this. For most of us because of family support or pensions or 401Ks or decent investing, we're actually gonna run out of time before we run out of money. So the question that God asked the rich guy is really a question for all of us. Then God asked him, "Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself"? And the answer is, somebody else. But not because this guy was generous. Because this guy was dead, he didn't give it. He just left it.
Now this point Jesus pulls out of the parable and he addresses his audience and he addresses us as well. And here's what he said, "This is how it will be". This, this thing that I just described and illustrated this is how it will be. Total complete loss, everything. As in everything was left behind. He ate, he drank, he was married and then he died. Nothing meaningful to show for his life. This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich towards God. Jesus is not teaching against preparing for the future. Here's what Jesus is saying, he's saying this is how it will be for anyone who only prepares for their future and is not rich towards God.
This is how it will be for anyone who embraces the consumption assumption. The assumption that everything that comes my way is for my consumption. That's the mistake the rich man made. He built bigger barns because he though it was all for him. And in the end, total loss. Do you remember what money told us back in part one? Money said, "I can add meaning to your life but I'm not the meaning of life". I can add meaning to your life and that's the right lens.
That's how we should view our money. Money can add meaning to our life because money is a tool and when we use money as a tool, it adds meaning to our life. The rich man, he never realized this. He thought his money was a gift, not a tool. An entitlement, a reward to sit back and enjoy. Jesus teaches that our money is a tool and that's why it can add meaning to our life. So here's the question I mentioned up top. The one at first glance seems to have nothing to do with money. Here it is, to what ends do you want your life to be a means? To what ends do you want your life to be a means? If something is not a means to an end, it has no meaning.
That's what it means to have meaning. It has no purpose, it's the rich man's life. His wealth is not a means to anything other than himself. And in the end, he had nothing to show for himself but himself. So his life even with all of his wealth, had no meaning. So when he was gone, as Jesus said, total loss. Again, for something, including your life, for something to have meaning, it must be a means to an end. So, to what ends do you want your life to be a means? Here's another way to ask that same question. What do you want people to celebrate about you when you're gone? Or my wife Sandra's version of that question is this, what do want people to line up and thank you for in the end?
Most people never stop to ask those kinds of questions, perhaps you haven't either. I don't know how you'd answer but I know how you wouldn't answer it. I know you would say, "Well, for me it's all about accumulation, consumption and upgrades, right"? I mean here's the thing, if you don't figure this out, life will figure it out for you. Your appetites, your desire for more, bigger, newer, shinier will dictate the answer to that question. Culture will pull you towards the she ate, she drank, she was married and she died. Nobody chooses that on purpose. That's why the meaning question really is about your money. Money is a tool, it's a tool that can add meaning to your life.
So let me break this down and make this practical. Last time we were together I said that the best way to prioritize financially is to give first, save second and then live on the rest. That is re-prioritize around generosity rather than consumption. Take the thing that's usually last on our list, giving, and move it to the top of the list. And I suggested this because of what Jesus said, "Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also".
Now, this is the brilliant thing about that statement. It's a principle that actually works both ways. In other words, if you'd like to change where your heart is you just change where your money is going. And here's something I've been suggesting to people for years. When you decide where to give, give from a grateful heart and give from a broken heart. Give from a grateful heart, and from a broken heart. Here's how that works. Choose an organization that you're really grateful for. You're grateful because of what it's done for you and your family and then give a portion of your giving money there first. Your local church, your kids school, whatever it might be. Then choose an organization or two that address a need that breaks your heart.
For Sandra and I those are organizations that support foster care and foster kids. For you it may be an organization that does something overseas or maybe a local hospital or a non-profit committed to curing a particular disease. And every time you get paid, you send 'em a check. That's what it looks like to give from a grateful heart and a broken heart. But the key is to decide ahead of time. Like we said last time, pick a percentage of your income and give it right off the top to the organizations you're grateful for and to the organizations that address things that break your heart.
Now giving first may sound crazy. And from a certain perspective, it is crazy. But it's a better version of crazy than spending everything on you and having nothing to show for it in the end, right? Crazy is living as if your life consisted in the accumulation of stuff and of wealth. Crazy is leaving your kids a bunch of stuff they're gonna sell or throw away. So, one more time, to what ends do you want your life to be a means? You should know the answer to that question before you spend yourself into a position where you can't address what matters most to you. Skip that question, and you'll just follow your money. You'll settle for me first living with a little left over giving. And that would be a shame, Jesus says, "That would be a total loss". It would be a shame because all you'll have to show for yourself is yourself. But when you identify and embrace your answer to our big question, your money will follow. You'll begin to view everything you own, everything that comes your way as a tool you can use to add meaning to your life and meaning to the lives of others as well.
So come on, let's get this right. Let's listen when money tells us, "I can add meaning to your life but I'm not the meaning of life. The moment you think you own me I actually own you. My direction reveals your ultimate affection". And the final thing, the final thing our money might say is this. Something we've touched on throughout our time together. What you choose to do with me speaks volumes about who and whose you are. So I hope you'll live like a manager not an owner. I hope you'll give and save before you'll live and in the process, I hope you'll discover the peace and contentment Jesus talked about when Jesus talked about money.