Robert Morris - The Ten Financial Commandments
I want to share a message with you, and it's a little different in the fact that I normally have three points, and we have a rhythm to that, I mean, we're all used to. So, I've got ten points, but so, I won't be able to spend as much time, but I'll do it in the three short hours that I have here. No, so here's the title today, "The Ten Financial Commandments". So, let me just say something. I know people who don't make much money who struggle with stewardship, and I know people who make a lot of money who still are not good stewards.
So, we're not talking about how much money you make, we're talking about how you think about stewardship and ownership. And so God gave me these, and they're throughout the book, but I felt like the Lord showed me how to line these "Ten Financial Commandments" up with the Ten Commandments. So, I'll do that as we go throughout. All right, so, here's number one: Put God first. And we've talked some about tithing and giving the first 10% to God. Obviously, this goes with the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me," Exodus 20:3. But let me just show you a story. 1 Kings 17. This is talking about Elijah during a famine that lasted three years and six months.
It says, "So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of a city indeed a widow was there gathering sticks, and God told him to go to this widow. And he called to her and said, 'Please bring me a little water in a cup that I may drink.' And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, 'Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.' So she said, 'As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin and a little oil in a jar, and see I'm gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son' (she's a widow, and she has an only son here), 'that we may eat it and die.' And Elijah said to her, 'Do not fear, but do as you have said,' — watch what Elijah says to a widow who has one meal left — 'but make me a small cake from it first.'"
By the way, I think it's interesting, Elijah said, "Will you bring some water on some bread, you know what? Let's just make it cake, okay"? It's kind of the way pastors are when they finish their fast. All right, so, but notice the word "first," "a cake from it first and bring it to me and afterward make some for yourself or your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel, 'The bin of flour shall not be used, nor shall the jar of oil run dry until the Lord sends rain upon the earth.'" And he didn't, by the way, it was a miracle, a miraculous provision, but it was miraculous provision when she put God first.
Now, think about this. There's a famine in the land. Why didn't God send Elijah to a rich person? Here's what many of us think, God sent Elijah to her so she could provide for Elijah. Listen to me carefully. He sent Elijah to her so God could provide for her. People think God wants us to tithe so the church can be taken care of. No. God wants you to tithe so you can be taken care of because God doesn't need your money. Here's the widow who had one meal left, and by the way, her son had a terminal disease and dies a few months after this, and Elijah raises her son from the dead. It's not just so that God could provide for her, financially, food that she needed. God knew her son was going to die. See, here's what I'm trying to say, when you put God first, it's your family. It's more than just your finances come into the order. Your family comes in order.
I remember when we were giving an offering one time, I watched a family one time do that in our church, and when they did that, when they came to put it, I knew their daughter was away from the Lord. And I saw them stand there and pray for a moment, and I really felt like that was what they were praying for. Later they told me that that's true, they were praying for her. Within a few weeks she called and said, "I want to come to church with y'all". And she came to church. She has a beautiful family now. She's been in church ever since. I'm telling you, God's concerned about your family. But number one financial commandment: Put God first.
Here's number two: Don't worship material things. Don't worship material things. This goes with the second commandment verse four of Exodus 20, "You shall not make for yourself a carved image". A carved image is an idol, an idol is something you put before God. Now, I want you to think about this. Again, I won't have time to spend on every point, very much time, and so I don't have much time on this point, but I just simply want you to think about this. Have you ever put a material thing before God? All right. Let me say it another way. Last week I asked how many of you have ever, you know, spent the night in someone else's house. I was trying to find out if I was the only moocher, you know, and I found out there are a lot of you. So, I'd like to find out if I'm the only idiot this time.
So, I want to ask a question for everybody. Have you ever, every campus, have you ever bought something that you regretted buying? Can I see it? Okay. Listen to me. You may even be tithing, but we're talking about in this series good stewardship, which means you pray about everything you purchase, and you don't spend money without asking the owner if you can spend it. So, this is how a material thing becomes an idol. So, don't worship material things.
Here's number three: Don't use God's name selfishly. Obviously, verse 7 of the Ten Commandments says, "Don't take the name of the Lord in vain". Okay. What do you think of when you think of a vain person? You think of a conceded person, a prideful person, a selfish person, a selfish person. He says, "Don't take the name of the Lord your God in vain". Okay. This word actually does mean "selfishly". Now, I believe we should not use, obviously, profanity and, obviously, profanity that uses God's name, but I think a lot of people use God's name in vain selfishly. In other words, we're praying for material things in Jesus' name rather than spiritual things. And by the way, it's okay to pray for your needs, Jesus taught us to. "Give us this day our daily bread". It's okay to even pray again for your wants and desires, but when we cross that line and it becomes selfish.
You know, years ago, I told you before God spoke to Deb and me to get our finances in order, and one of the first things we had to do was sell this car we had a big payment on. I don't know if any of you ever bought a car you shouldn't have bought and had a big payment. Okay. How many? No, I'm not going to ask you to raise your hands, but. so, we sold this car that we had a big payment on, and we bought a car for $750 cash, but listen, we had so much peace and so much joy. Every time we drove that car, we felt joy because we were finally getting our finances in order. Material things didn't mean anything to us anymore. We literally love that car. To this day, would love that car, and when we had it, we loved it. We prayed over it, we anointed it with oil, about a quart a week, we just loved that car. All right. So, that's number three. Don't use God's name selfishly.
Here's number four: Be a good steward. We've talked about stewardship. This relates to the fourth commandment. "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, seventh day, Sabbath work, in it you shall do no work". Okay, so, let me just briefly tell you how this relates to being a good steward. God is saying to you to be a good steward of your time and your energy. Working six days a week, resting one day a week, let me say it that way, is believing that God can do more in six days then you can in seven. And by the way, if you want to know how much God can do in six days, read Genesis 1. He can get a lot done in six days.
Okay. Tithing is believing that God can do more with 90% than you can with a hundred percent. It's simply good stewardship. All good stewards, and you might want to write this down, it's probably in the notes on You Version, but if you try to remember, it's in the book, but all good stewards do these three things, all good stewards do these three things: They spend wisely, save diligently, and give generously. Spend wisely, save diligently, and give generously. If you're not doing those three things, you're not being a good steward of what God's given to you.
Here's number five: Teacher your children. Teach your children about money and possessions and God and the Kingdom of God. This is the, again, the fifth commandment, "Honor your father and your mother". Why did God want children to honor their mother and father? Because that's where they were going to learn about God. That's where your children are learning about God and money from you, the way you talk about, the way you handle money, whether you give to the church, the way you talk about it when you're around the house. If you say things like, "We just need more money. Our problems would be solved if we had more money". You know what you're doing? You're actually teaching your children to serve money.
Here's number six: Live on a budget. It goes along, in my opinion, with the sixth commandment, "You shall not murder". Two reasons, one is, if you're not living on a budget, you're killing yourself. Second reason is, sometimes when you live on a budget you want to kill yourself. Okay. So I had to make this one work just a little bit, all right? We plan to fail when we fail to plan. Let me say it again because it's tweetable. We plan to fail when we fail to plan. If you don't have a plan, let me say it this way, if you don't have a goal, you'll probably reach it. And so many people don't have a plan. That's all a budget is, is a plan. Years ago, I went back to see when it was, 2005, so 14 years ago, I preached and I talked about, in our home, we implemented Mr. Budget. Do any of you remember that? Or maybe you went back and listened to it or you saw it in one of the books or something.
Okay. Here's a great thing about a budget. A budget helps you to make financial decisions without emotion because it makes them for you. It's like a map. By the way, if you're lost financially, it's because you're not using a map. But here's the great thing, you don't have to write your own map. A lot of people, and I'm spending a little time on this one because it's very important to me, and I feel like it's important for you to hear, a lot of people think, I don't know how to write it, and I don't want anyone to help me because I don't want them to see the shape I'm in. So, don't be afraid to ask for help, okay? We want to help you. We want to help you. So, live on a budget.
Here's number seven: Live below your means. Live below your means. All right. This goes along with the seventh commandment, verse 14 of Exodus 20, "You shall not commit adultery". When you commit adultery, you're living above God's provision for your life. It's the same way when you live above your means. Now, please let me tell you, there are two reasons why people live above their means. One, they're not content. Please hear me. When you live above your means, when you buy things you can't afford, I'm going to say this really strongly, you are shaking your fist in the face of God, and you are telling God, "I am not content with you, and I am not content with your provision for me, so I'm going to do it my way".
Now, I know that's strong, but sometimes we need to hear something strong to understand how what we're doing and why we're doing it. Listen to, I love this Scripture, Philippians 4:11, this is Paul, "I have learned in whatever state I am" - I guess he wrote this because he must not have been in Texas at the time, sorry - "to be content". Okay. Even if I'm not in Texas, I'm still, All right. "I've learned in whatever state I am", now, he talks about in abounding and being abased. We don't use that word a lot, but that means "not abounding" in essence, all right. He said, "I've learned to be content".
Here's what I — I underline words sometimes in the Bible so we'll get it — "learned," "I have learned". This is the greatest apostle who ever lived that wrote a third of the New Testament. "I have learned to be content". You know what that tells me? That means you can learn it. That means it's attainable. That means I might not be content now, but I have learned that I'm going to be content whether I'm abounding, doing really well financially at the time, or I'm really tight at the time. I've learned how to be content because my contentment doesn't rest upon my finances, it rests upon God.
Here's number eight: Don't buy now and pay later. Eighth financial commandment, don't buy now and pay later. This goes along with the eighth commandment, "You shall not steal". It's stealing to spend money you don't have. I read a figure recently, 80% of all tax refunds are spent before they get them, 80% of people spend it, put it on a credit card before they get it once they know how much they're going to get back. They spend it before they ever get it. Here is the problem with that, God wired you, wired you emotionally to hope. Let me show you a verse that has word "hope" in it four times. I love this verse, Romans 8:24, "For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen or realized is not hope, for why does one still hope for what he sees or what he's already got"?
Okay. Let me say it in other words. I mean, if you could remember these two words: "delayed gratification". God wired you to look forward to things, to want something, to work for something, to wait for it and then once you get it, the joy you have is overwhelming because you had to wait for it and you had to work for it. But we don't do that anymore. We want it, we take the little plastic card, and we go buy it. And do you realize that's why you don't have the joy that actually God wants. See, God doesn't mind that you get a new TV that you can actually see which color the jerseys are.
You know, it's okay. He doesn't mind that. He just doesn't want you experiencing grief then for months and months and months over that new purchase. He'd love for you to experience joy over that new purchase. So, it's delayed gratification. Hope, by the way, the clinical definition of depression is a person who's lost hope. Do you realize America is the most in-debt society in the world and the most depressed in the world? See, the only reason God said these things is for us to be happy, for us to have joy. Don't buy it now and pay for it later.
So, when Debbie and I decided to get out of debt, we said we're not buying anything that is not a necessity, anything, nothing. If it's not a necessity, if it's a luxury item, we're not buying it, period, until we're completely out of debt. And that was a strong commitment, and you can do it slower than that if you want. We just said we are going for it all the way. So, one Saturday night, Debbie came in with her hairdryer and said, "It broke and this is a necessity. This is not a luxury item". Now I can do this and dry my hair, so I don't need it. But she said, "This is a necessity for me". I said, "I understand". I said, "Do you need it" — this was I don't know when on Saturday night — but I said, "Do you need it before church in the morning"? She said, "I won't need it before church in the morning, but I will need it pretty quickly".
I said, "Okay". I said, "We've been learning about God's provision". I said, "Let's pray and ask God about this". And so we prayed about a hairdryer. Okay. Not that I wasn't going to provide it for her, I just wanted to pray. I wanted to put God first. We go to church the next morning, we come home, on our front porch is a package with a note that says, "I was at Walmart yesterday, and I felt led to buy this for you". It was a hairdryer. God provides supernaturally when we decide to do it His way. I promise you.
Here's number nine: Be a good witness. Be a good witness. This lines up, ninth commandment, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor". God wants us to bear true witness of Himself even to our neighbors. So, listen to me. If you're telling your neighbor about God, and he's looking over your shoulder wondering why you don't paint your shutters, but you have a new car, that's a poor witness. The way we handle our finances is a good witness or a bad witness about God. And by the way, you say, "Well, hey, I went through a tough time back in 2009 and I lost everything. Are you saying I was a bad witness"? No, not if you went through that with joy in your heart and trust in God. So, I'm not saying everything works out perfectly all the time, but I'm saying that our neighbors who know we're believers are watching how we're living our life, and they're watching how we live our lives financially. So, that's nine.
Here's number ten: Be content. We talked a little bit about contentment, but the reason I wanted to say this is the ninth commandment is, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house or anything that is your neighbor's". But let me tell you about covetousness, because if you're content, you don't covet what someone else has. If you're content with what God's provided for you. Colossians 3:5 says, "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth". Now, look at the list that covetousness is in, fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire. Watch this, many people never seen this about covetousness, "and covetousness, which is idolatry".
Okay. The reason it's idolatry is because whatever you are coveting, you've made an idol out of. But I'm going to tell you, I'm going to go a little bit further with this, not only do you make an idol out of it, if you covet what your neighbor has, if your neighbor gets a new car and you covet his new car, if you covet it, not only do you make an idol of that, but you make your neighbor God. You want to know why? Because you don't buy a new car now when God tells you to, you buy a new car when your neighbor buys new car. Your neighbor gets a new house, so you get a new house. Your neighbor gets new drapes, you get new drapes. Your neighbor now is God.
So, you don't do what God tells you to with your finances, you do what your neighbor told you to. He don't even have to tell you, he just has to show you. You following me? This is the tenth commandment, and it's the tenth financial commandment, when you covet what someone else has, what you're coveting becomes an idol, and the person who has it becomes God. Don't let someone else spend your money. That was good too. Don't let someone else spend your money. Let God tell you how to spend His money that you're the steward of.
Okay. Last testimony, remember living beyond blessed is living so that we can be a blessing. Please always remember that. So, for years and years and years, Debbie and I did not use credit cards at all because we didn't trust ourselves and it took us a while to get on a budget to have savings in the bank, to get our finances in order. It took us a while. Then, I can remember when I decided I'm going to start using credit cards and making sure I've got the money in the bank and paid at the end of the month. And the main reason that I do that, a lot of you will say it's convenience. It's not for me, it's points. I love points. All right, so, but you've got to have things in balance financially to do it. Okay. But when we would go on vacation, we would take cash, and we would spend cash for years.
So, one vacation we went to Colorado, we had started putting stuff on credit cards, but again we paid it at the end of the month in full, okay, and so we're on vacation. I'm having my quiet time in Colorado beside this little stream, and I said, "Lord, thank you for bringing us to where you brought us financially, to where I can put it on a credit card and not be afraid because I have the money in the bank and I have it in the budget for vacation. So thank you for that. But it is kind of humorous to me that I got this big wad of hundred-dollar bills in my wallet".
So, it just happened, okay. Debbie and I go to lunch that day. This family comes in, they start looking at the menu and counting it up and adding it up, they actually — this was before — I think it wasn't a cell phone, it was like a little calculator they had. They were adding things up, looking at it on the menu, sharing meals, and when the meal came, they held hands and they prayed. And I was so proud of them for being good stewards, and I was looking at them thinking that I had that wad of cash in my wallet, and I, just that morning, I was saying to the Lord, "I don't know why I brought all this money with me". It was like right then the Lord said to me, "I know why you brought it".
So, we went over to the table, talked to them for a little while, and then I told them, "God wants to bless you". I remember saying to the kids, "I want you kids to remember the day that God put it on the heart of a total stranger to pay for your vacation because you guys are being good stewards with what God's given you, and God blesses good stewards".
Spend wisely, save diligently, and give generously. All these principles I've talked about today, living below our means, living with contentment, not coveting what someone else has, these are principles that God gave us to live a happy life. Remember the word "blessed" means happy. And my prayer for you truly is that you can live a life beyond blessed, that you have enough for your family, and that you also have enough to bless someone else when the Lord prompts you to.