Robert Jeffress - The ABCs To Be Financially Free
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Car payments. The mortgage. Keeping the lights on. When you add up all these normal expenses they often leave us with very little margin. And this can lead to financial stress that drives a wedge into far too many relationships. So what's the answer? How can we reach a place of peace and satisfaction with our finances? The Bible contains a guaranteed path to financial freedom! This secret from Solomon will give you, "The ABCs To Be Financially Free" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory!
Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez wrote a best-selling book a few years ago entitled: "Your Money or Your Life". And in the book they recounted their own personal story of how they decided to get out of the rat race, to quit their jobs, and live on $6.000 a year of investment income so that they could pursue their real passion of participating in charitable work. They wanted to be free from having to earn a living so that they could give themselves to volunteer service. Now, it's not a Christian book per SE, but there's a compelling message in that book for every Christian.
The fact is there are many Christians who are working at jobs they cannot stand, to buy things they do not need, in order to impress people they really don't like. Maybe you're one of those people. But you know God has a purpose for your life - we saw a couple of weeks ago - a purpose that extends beyond mere consumerism. God has a unique purpose for your life and for my life, and that means money is not the end. Consumerism is not the end - money is simply the means to the end, to give us the freedom we need to fulfill God's will for our life.
The goal of every Christian, as we saw last week should be simply to have enough money to help us do what God has called us to do. In fact that word "Enough" is a great goal for every Christian. Turn over to Proverbs 30 for just a moment. The writer gives us very clearly what should be the financial goal for every Christian. The writer says, "Two things I ask of thee, do not refuse me before I die: keep deception and lies far from me", and here it is, "Give me neither poverty nor riches: feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny thee and say, 'who is the Lord?' or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God".
Do you hear what he's saying? He's saying: God, don't give me so much money that I forget my need for you, but don't give me too little money that I be tempted to do something that would profane your name - give me just what I need. That's the goal for every Christian. Now today, we're going to conclude this study by looking at four practical ways to create financial margin in your life. Maybe you're saying: "Pastor, you just don't understand what it is like around our house. There is no extra money. There is no way we can do what you're talking about". Oh yes, there is. And we're going to discover that way. Remember the goal of money is not to have too much or too little, but to have enough. God wants us to have enough so that we are free from having to think about it, and free to serve him. How can you have enough? How can you have that financial margin in your life? Notice on your outlines, today I have what I call the ABCs to be financially free. Here are the four principles for creating the margin in your life.
The "A" stands for: Adjust your spending below your income. If you want to have margin, first of all, adjust your spending below your income. When I was in my last church, Christian financial consultant Ron Blue came to talk to our congregation. And I remember he told a story about going into a Jewelry store one day. And at the counter was a man who was trying on Rolex watches. And Ron said he just stood by and kind of watched all the goings on there, and finally the man decided he wanted the new Rolex. And so the counter guy said: well, how are you going to pay for it? Well, he didn't have the money to pay for it so he signed up for payments. He put down $200 and then signed up for payments for $200 a month: for the rest of his life, I guess and his children's lives as well.
Now, could that man afford a Rolex watch? No, but he wanted to look like he could. And there are people like that who want to look like and act like they have more money than they really do. Here in Texas, we say such people are "All hat and no cattle". You understand what we're talking about. Solomon had a similar word about that in Proverbs 13:7. He said, "There is one who pretends to be rich, but has nothing: but another pretends to be poor, and has great wealth".
Solomon understood the way to accumulate financial margin was not spending everything you could afford to spend, or certainly not spending more than you could afford to spend, but spending less than you're able to afford to spend. You see, in our culture people are encouraged to spend everything that they have, but the millionaire has learned the secret to accumulating margin in life and that is to spend less than you earn over a long period of time. Again, Proverbs 21:20, "There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish person swallows it up".
Now the "B" in this outline stands for: Be careful of debt. Be careful of debt. Debt will devour, it will erase your financial margin. Now we need to be balanced in what we say about debt. Some people, some Christians are very legalistic about this. They say: oh, it's a sin to ever borrow money for any reason at any time. The Bible doesn't teach that. And yet to support that thinking, sometimes people quote Romans 13:8 in which Paul says, "Owe no man anything except a debt of love". And yet if you look at that verse in context, you discover what Paul was talking about literally is paying your taxes. He is saying: don't be delinquent in paying your taxes. Don't be delinquent in giving honor to people to whom honor is due. Don't be delinquent in paying anything you owe - the only thing you want to owe people is the debt of love.
It's not an absolute prohibition against debt. Nevertheless, the Bible does warn about the dangers of debt, especially excessive debt. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon refers to debt as a surety. In Solomon's day if you wanted to borrow money to purchase something, you would sign a pledge, like a promissory note today, and you would have to have collateral to back it up. Now, Solomon said before you go into debt and you make a pledge, you better make sure you've got the means to repay it. In fact, in Proverbs 22:26-27 this is how he words it, "Do not be among those who give pledges, among those who become sureties for debts. For if you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take your bed from under you"?
Can you imagine being asleep in the middle of the night, the debt collector comes, and swoosh your bed is gone? That's what Solomon is talking about. He said: before you enter into debt, ask yourself what's the worst thing that could happen to me if I cannot repay this debt? Solomon, again, doesn't prohibit debt completely, but he says be very careful of it. And there's a reason for that. In Proverbs 22:7, he says, "The rich rules over the poor and the borrower becomes the lender's slave". If you borrow money from somebody, you are that person's slave. And today there are millions of Americans who are slaves to MasterCard, to visa, to AmericanExpress thank you for that amen, I appreciate that.
I read one study this week that said 25% of all household income every month is spent on consumer debt: not mortgage payments, just consumer debt. When you put on top of that mortgage payments, car payments, food, and all the other necessities of life - no wonder so few people have any margin in their finances. Are you borrowing too much money? Are you enslaved to debt? How do you know if you are? Well, one way is to do a calculation. Many financial consultants say that we should spend no more than 30-35% of our income every month on all of our debt: house payments, car payments, credit card payment. If you're spending more than 30-35%, you may be in trouble.
Here is the basic problem, ladies and gentlemen, with debt. Debt allows us to artificially live beyond our means, and debt erases any financial margin in our life. And that's why I say: consumer debt is enemy number one of financial margin. Remember God doesn't want us to be a slave to anyone except to himself. Be careful of debt. Number three: how do you create financial margin in your life? Remember, all of this is coming straight from God's word, consistently save part of your income.
The "C" stands for: Consistently save part of your income. Remember Proverbs 6:6-8? Solomon said, "Go to the ant, o sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in summer and then gathers her provision in the harvest". Even an ant understands that the harvest that it enjoys in summer time, the bountiful food won't last forever. So it sets aside some of the food in the summer and in the fall to prepare for the wintertime when there is no food. The same thing is true for us. If we're wise, we're going to set aside some of our income for future needs.
How much income should we set aside? Some financial planners say that we ought to set aside at least 10-15% of our income for our retirement needs: and then more than that to set aside for emergencies, college educations, and other big-ticket items. How much money you set aside really isn't our call to make, but I want to give you three words that will help you in your saving: and three words that will help you understand the benefits of saving.
Number one, immediacy. Immediacy. The best time to begin saving money is now. Because as we're going to see in a moment, smaller amounts of money saved early in life are much more valuable than large amounts of money saved later in life. All because of the magic of compound interest. Somebody once said the best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is today. The same thing is true with your saving. Regardless of what you haven't done in the past, today is the best time. Immediacy.
Secondly, the word "Consistency". Now this is a key word: consistency. Again, a small amount of money regularly saved over a long period of time can do wondrous things. Now, most people don't want to think about saving because they don't want to deprive themselves. They think if they save money, they're depriving themselves of current enjoyment of life. But listen, you don't have to be an Ebenezer Scrooge to have financial margin in life. Let me give this illustration, and again, I hope you young adults will especially listen to this, and parents and grandparents tell your kids and grandkids.
Let's imagine someone has just graduated from school, they're just beginning their work life, they're 22 years old, 22-year-old young adult. And let's imagine this 22-year-old young adult starts investing $100 a month in a mutual fund. And let's say the mutual fund earns 12% a year. Did you know by age 72: that person will have accumulated $3.9 million. $3.9 million, and if he puts it in a Roth IRA he can have that money tax-free. In other words, for the price of a Starbucks every day, this person can retire a multimillionaire.
Thirdly, the word "Diversity". The third key in saving money is to diversify your savings. Mark Twain said: put all of your eggs in one basket, and watch the basket. But Solomon says: no, that is a prescription for financial disaster. Instead, listen to what he says in Ecclesiastes 11:2, "Divide your portion to seven, or even to eight, for you do not know what misfortune may occur on the earth". Don't put all of your money in stocks. Don't put all of your money in bonds. Don't put it all in real estate. Diversify, because you really don't know what the future holds. Have a balanced investment so that you can take advantage of some things that are up while other things are down. Diversity.
How do you create financial margin in your life? Adjust your spending below your income. B - be careful of debt. C - consistently save a portion of your income. D - the final and an important principle - Devote a portion of your income to God. Devote a portion of your income to God. Solomon offered another piece of financial council that is overlooked by so many people and so many Christians, and explains why so many Christians have trouble with their finances. Listen to Proverbs 3:9-10, "Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce: so that your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be overcome with new wine".
Now hear me this morning: these verses are not a blanket-promise that if you give to God, you will automatically be financially wealthy. If that were the case, if giving to God ensured and promised that you would always, 100% of the time be financially successful - then giving would not be a matter of making an offering, it would be making a wise investment, wouldn't it? Nevertheless, as you look through the whole council of God on this subject of giving you find that more often than not, God promises to bless those who give, and to judge those who withhold from him. In fact, not to give what belongs to God, God calls robbery. To not give what belongs to him is tantamount to robbing God.
Turn over to Malachi 3 beginning with verse 8, "Will a man rob God"? Notice what he says. God said: but, "You're robbing me". But you say: how we robbed you God? God answers, "In tithes and offerings. For you are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you"! "'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and test me now in this', says the Lord of hosts", it's one of the few times we're ever told to test God in the Bible. But God says: you can test me in this. If you bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, "Test me and see if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows".
That's the positive promise. But notice there's a negative promise here too in verse 11, "'Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground: nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes', says the Lord of hosts". The positive promise is this, God said: Israelites, if you will give 10% of what you have to me, I will bless the 90% above anything you can imagine. But if you rob me of the 10% that belongs to me, I'll allow the devourer to consume 90% and more of what you have. So what is the answer here? Well, look at verse 10, "Bring the whole tithe", where? "Into the storehouse".
Now, when Malachi said that to the Israelites, they didn't say: storehouse, what's the storehouse? They all knew what the storehouse was. The storehouse was the temple. The tithe belonged in the temple of God. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. Now question is: where is the storehouse today? We don't have a temple. Where is the storehouse today? It's the local church that has been uniquely created by God and it's the local church that has been uniquely commissioned by God to fulfill the great commission. Every other organization in the world, I don't care how wonderful it is, it's a man-made organization - every one of them. Every Christian organization is a man-made organization except the local church. God designed the church. God commissioned the church to be his agent for spreading the Word of God throughout the world.
I'm not saying you don't give to those other things, but what I'm saying is the primary focus of our giving is to be the storehouse. And in the New Testament that storehouse is the local church. "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse", says the Lord of hosts. The way we create financial margin is by obeying God in every area of our finances. Truly Solomon was right when he said in Proverbs 10:15, "The rich man's wealth is his fortress, the ruin of the poor is their poverty". Financial margin in your life does give you the freedom to do what's right. It gives you the security of preparing for your future needs. It gives you the joy of supporting God's work. However, the benefits of margin are limited to this life and this life alone. You see, there's one contingency margin cannot protect you against - your death. You realize that? Doesn't matter how much you accumulate - it all ends at your death.
Solomon understood that. In Ecclesiastes 5:15-16 he said, "People who live only for wealth come to the end of their lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day they were born". You're going to be as naked the day you die as the day you were born. Isn't that a sobering thought? You know what he's saying? He said just as you came into this world with nothing, you leave with nothing. He goes on to say, verse 16, "And this, too, is a very serious problem. As people come into the world, so they depart. All their hard work is for nothing. They have been working for the wind, and everything will be swept away".
Jesus told a great story to illustrate that truth in Luke 12. We read it this morning. Remember it was a story about a very wealthy man. He had spent his life accumulating margin, a buffer zone in his finances, and he had succeeded beyond his wildest imagination. He had so much extra he didn't know what to do with it. His barns were overflowing with grain. His kids' education was fully funded. His 401k plan was maxed out. And he still didn't know what to do with all of his money. In fact one night he lay awake just saying: what in the world am I going to do with all this excess? And he started making his plans: I'll do this. I think I'll do this. I'll do this. And then God came to him and said: you fool. Tonight your soul is required of you.
That phrase in Greek literally means: your loan is due. Tonight your soul is required of you. Tonight you're going to die, and who now is going to own what you've spent your life accumulating? And then Jesus added this application in Luke 12:21, "So is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God". Listen to me ladies and gentlemen, the value of margin ceases at the cemetery. From that moment throughout eternity, only your relationship with Jesus Christ matters. Because the truth is only Jesus Christ can provide you lasting freedom, lasting security, and lasting joy.