All right, I want to welcome all of you. This particular message, I think, applies to you, whoever you are, whatever age you are. I mean, this is Biblical truth that is applied to money and wealth and finance. I want to start with some introductory words about money and wealth. You know, the Scripture is very clear that it’s very important. In fact, I would say, vitally important that we would get our hearts right when it comes to money and wealth and material possessions. Billy Graham once made this observation. He said, “if a person will get his attitude towards money straight, it will straighten out almost every other area of his life.” He goes on to say that our attitude and perspective on money impacts so many areas of our life. And you know that to be true. I mean, think about, for instance, think about your work. If your attitude on money is right, it’s easier to develop the proper balance between work and family.
Now, Tim Keller, who for years was a pastor in New York City. One of the things he recognized because he worked primarily with Wall Street people and he said it was amazing the number of times that he would see people whose hearts were captured by money and in the process what they would do, they would choose jobs that did not fit their giftedness and he said consequently they would burn out and be miserable in their jobs.
A number of years ago, I read an article in Psychology Today, and it made an interesting observation in this article. They said that those people, now hear this, who were most preoccupied by money, not those who had the most, but those who are most preoccupied with the issue of money were those who had the most unsatisfying relationships with others. And this shouldn’t surprise us since it’s very clear that money is the number one issue that causes marital conflict. Now, the book of Proverbs has much to say about this issue, and I’m not sure how much you know about the book of Proverbs. It is part of the wisdom literature and Scripture along with the Psalms and Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs and Solomon wrote 29 of the 31 Proverbs. Proverbs 30 was written by a guy by the name of Agur and Proverbs 31 was written by a King Lemuel. I don’t know anything about them; I’m sure you could find out if you’re interested, but if you read the book of Proverbs, one of the things that you note is that its primary emphasis is on the gaining of wisdom, and you know, God is very clear that He desires to dispense His wisdom to all of us, but it’s very clear you have to want it and you have to seek after it. And in James we’re told you need to ask for it. I find that interesting that so many men need wisdom desperately, I’m talking about Christians and they never asked for it. It’s there for us if we seek it and we ask for it.
Now, you understand wisdom’s great value when you understand what it really means, and you have to go back to the Hebrew word Chokmâh to really grasp it. And that word Chokmâh means to have a skill or expertise in living this life. And you have to wonder what would the, what would that mean to me if I was an expert at living? Think about that. That’s what God wants for you to be an expert in living this life. Now before we get started, I want to talk about two of the major components of being wise. And it truly does apply to this topic. The first thing is wise people have the ability to distinguish between those ideas in life that are true and those that are false.
I mean, this is crucial and some of you’ve heard me share this illustration because I think it’s so good and so, forgive me if you’ve heard it more than once from me, but it really, I think, best expresses this teaching about your ideas in life, your ideas about life, your ideas about money. And it comes from Stephen Covey. He tells the story, really an illustration, of going to the city of Chicago for the first time, and you fly in at night, you go to your hotel, you go to bed and you get up early the next morning, you’ve never been to Chicago. And you go down to the front desk and asked for a map of the city and they say you’re in luck. We just got some in from the printer and they hand you this map that says Chicago across the top. What they failed to realize was that the printer made a mistake. And what you actually have is a map of the city of Detroit that says Chicago across the top. And so you’re out the door, you grab that map and you’re going out to see the city and it doesn’t take you very long to realize that you are terribly lost because you got the wrong map but you don’t know you have the wrong map. And so, you get frustrated and you come up with the idea, I need to maybe walk faster, I need to move faster along; a faster pace. But, as you know, you only get lost quicker, and then you get mad and you’re angry and you say, you know, I need to settle down. I need a better attitude. My attitude is not good. And so you try to calm down and have a positive attitude. Now, I think every one of you realize, it doesn’t matter what strategy you employ, you’re going to remain lost until you get the right map.
I mean, this is a pretty simple illustration, but think about that. Now, this is particularly true when it comes to money and finance. We need the right map. Think about this. This is kind of going to be the thrust of what I want to talk about today. In the parable of the sower and the seeds. You know that parable, one of the seeds goes out, it’s planted, it starts to grow, and then the weeds, if you remember, choke it out. And when Jesus gives the explanation, He says it’s the worries of the world. And then He doesn’t say the riches of life. You remember what He says? The deceitfulness of riches enters in and chokes the Word, it becomes unfruitful. And so, what he’s telling us is that the deceitfulness of riches has the potential to choke God’s Word in your life. And so, therefore, we want to make sure that we have the right map when it comes to money.
So, that’s the first aspect of wisdom. And the second I think also relates to this topic. And that wisdom is more than just making good moral choices. You know, I think we grew up believing that or probably taught that, you know, you need to make good moral choices so you to keep your life out of trouble. And that’s true. I mean, making good moral choices is important. But you know that most of the decisions you make in life, particularly as it relates to your finances, are not moral issues. They can be, but generally they’re judgment issues. Having good judgment, and good judgment requires wisdom. You see, wisdom understands how life works. Wise people are very forward thinking. And this is critical when it comes to money. Particularly you think about investing, retirement, all that; you’ve got to be forward thinking and wise people therefore understand that all of life is connected. There is a cause and effect relationship between the choices that you make today and what you experience tomorrow.
Now, let me just say this, the book of Proverbs, as you read through it, recognizes the power of money. It recognizes the power of money, but you know what? It sees money in a very positive way. And in fact it speaks of wealth creation in very positive terms. For instance, Proverbs 10, verses four and five says, poor is he works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, but he who sleeps in harvest as a son who acts shamefully. And then in verse 22 of that same Proverbs 10 says, it is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich and he adds no sorrow to it. And so what you see continually in the book of Proverbs is that it connects hard work, ingenuity, insight, creativity, and discipline with prosperity. And it speaks of it in very positive terms.
Also, in the book of Proverbs, you see the word wealth is used quite often and half of the time it teaches to prize it, to hold it in high regard. But the other half of the time, the word is used to say, to teach us to be aware of it, to be aware of its power to corrupt your life. So there’s this balance in Proverbs when it comes to the issue of wealth. And this of course is why we need wisdom. I think wisdom is so crucial when it comes to the issue of money and wealth. And this is what also I find interesting is so many people think that the Bible does not speak well of money and wealth. And we’ll get into that a little bit more next week. But that’s not the case. I mean, think about it. Go to Genesis. Well, Genesis is very clear that God created the material world to be beautiful, to be good. And to be enjoyed. How we’re told that we should care for the world and then we all just should care for our community. And so that if you have wealth, one of your priorities should be the community in which you live, the people around you.
But what I want to do today is spend the balance of our time considering the issue, how money deceives us, how it deceives us. I mean, think about this. When you’re being deceived, think about what’s happening to you. When you’re being deceived, you are believing something that is false. Would you agree? When you’re being to say you believe something that’s not true, that’s false. And of course, Blaise Pascal says, one of the major reasons people struggle in life is because we have false ideas about reality. And so, you can imagine if you have false ideas about money, think about what it can potentially do to your life. John Phillips wrote one of the best commentaries on the book of Proverbs and he says, “believing a lie is one of the most destructive forces in life.” He says, that’s why you need wisdom. If you think about it, usually you’re not aware of your false belief until what? You get burned by it. You’re harmed by it. We’re not aware [inaudible] until it does damage to our lives. So, the question that we want to look at, and then we’ll go look at four different points here is how does money and wealth deceive us? Because I really do believe this. If your perspective on money and wealth is rooted in the truth, it can be used for good and be a real blessing in your life.
But if your perspective on money is rooted in falsehood, it can do great damage. It can be incredibly destructive. So let’s dive into this. Let me ask you this question first. First point. I’ll probably spend most more time on this than any of the others.
What do you think, well, where do you think most businessmen get their identity?
I mean, they, I think clearly most men get their identity and their work and how well they perform in their work. But how do you measure your performance generally? Generally it’s measured by the money you make. Not always, but generally it is back during, really the height of the recession, you know, nine or 10 years ago, I had a, I received an email from a local businessman I want you listen to. It’s very powerful. That’s very, he’s very transparent.
He says, Richard, permit me if you will, to ramble about some recent discoveries I’ve made in my own personal life. Like many in our country, I’ve been incredibly dismayed over the last six months about the enormous depletion of value in the stock market and the real threat of recession waylaying my business and the business of many others. He said, I spent many countless hours, anxious and in sadness and worry over the tremendous loss of wealth and the loss of future business opportunities, at least in the short run.
He says, this is what really bothers me though. He says, as a Christian, I’ve had to ask myself, why am I in such turmoil? I’ve come to realize that money I’ve come to realize that life to me is money, affluence and financial security. My faith has been uncovered and found to be very flimsy and really have no account in terms of my contentment. I’ve asked myself what is really so troublesome inside of me about losing financial security? He says, the answer has come to me recently. He said, in truth, having to live without lots of the trappings of wealth such as travel and entertainment and security is not really the biggest issue, although it’s very disappointing. The real problem and fear inside of me comes when I worry that without all my wealth and privilege, I will not be considered a man. And then listen to this, he closes by saying my feeling of manhood is found in all the trappings. Well, what an honest person. I mean, how transparent could you be? And what I find, what impressed me is how he really could assess his life and what was really going on in his life and what really he recognized what, how his wealth struck right at the heart of his picture of what a real man was.
Did any of you ever see the play? Probably it was made in a movie with Dustin Hoffman and John Malkovich, The Death of a Salesman. It was written by Arthur Miller, won a Pulitzer prize, considered one of the great plays ever written. And it’s a powerful story of a salesman by the name of Willy Loman. Now I found this to be interesting is that Miller does not tell you what kind of sales; we don’t know what he sold. He was just a salesman. You know, so many of us have been in some type of sales and so he was just in sales.
And what you learn as you, as you watch the play is that he had sought financial award all of his life. He was driven by that. And he was, he was a really good name dropper and he was always trying to impress all, he’s trying to appear to be a, he was a big shot and he really wanted to make sure his family knew that. And yet he was a fraud. He wasn’t a good salesman. He didn’t make a lot of money. And at the end of the play, he gets fired from his job. And after that he takes his life.
And in the play, right after the funeral, Loman’s wife asked her son, their son Biff, why did he do it? Why did he take his life? And Biff’s response, I think is telling, he said, because he had all the wrong dreams, yet all the wrong dreams. And then he said, and he didn’t know who he was as a man, I’m reminded of Joe Herman’s book, The Seasons of Life and Herman was an all pro football player. He played for the Colts for a number of years. And, in fact he’s been in Birmingham. We had him speak. But he talks about how men measure their lives. He tells kind of the process of how it happens. Do you remember? He says it starts on the playground when they were young boys. When you choose up particularly, he says, when you choose up athletic teams for an athletic contest, he says, a boy begins to wonder about his worth. If he’s considered if he is continually chosen last. That ever happened to you? A horrible failing. As everybody gets chosen, then you’re waiting and you’re the last person to be chosen. He says. Then as time goes by and you hit puberty, it becomes more of a how well you do with the opposite sex.
He says, this is, this is another way a young teenage boy measures itself as a, as a man is how well does he do with women, and then you move on to adulthood and you get out in the workplace and he says, you measure your life based on the wealth that you create for yourself and your family.
Herman puts it this way. He says it starts with the ball field, then the bedroom and then the billfold, but he says, if you think about it, those are nothing more than an hour experience that fails to translate into permanent inner fulfillment and contentment. Do you see the deceptiveness of it? What it can do to you. If you think about it though, as you get older, of course, we all realize now, the ball field doesn’t matter. Sexual conquest, I mean, hopefully you’re all married, and you know, the bedroom involves you and your spouse, and then the billfold, money and wealth. That’s a hard one for men to get over and contend with. Unfortunately, as time goes by, we never seem to be able to convince us deep down in our innermost being that we truly measure up as men. Luke 12:15, Jesus says, be aware and be on your guard against every form of greed. For not even when one has an abundance. Does his life consist of his possessions? What do you think he means by that? Your life does not consist of your possessions. The amplify says your life is not derived from the abundance of your possessions. Jesus is saying your life’s essence as a man is not measured by how much you have.
So, how do you measure your life as a man? When I wrote the book, The True Measure of a Man, which by the way, all of this is it. So much of this comes from that book, this particular issue. The guy that published the book, the last thing he asked me before making decisions. So, what is The True Measure of a Man? I said, well, clearly, it’s Christ-likeness. I said, you know, not many men today would think that is real appealing until you really learn what Christ-likeness is. You’ll see as you study the life of Jesus, you realize that Christ-likeness involves three things, your character, the wisdom you possess, and your ability to love and have deep, significant substantive relationships and who doesn’t want that. But as I’ve over the, as I’ve shared this, men wanna know, well, how can I become more that way? How do I become more like Christ? I need to try harder. And my answer is always no. The key to seeing God do a work in your life is to grow spiritually, is to deepen your relationship with Christ. Because what happens, as you deepen your relationship with Him, He changes you, He transforms you. And so, that is the, that to me is so crucial to grasp. What is The True Measure of a Man? It’s not how much money you make. It’s Christ-likeness.
Now, well let me share with you a second way that money deceives us. In Proverbs 10:15 it says, the wealth of the rich is their four to five cities. When you go back to Biblical times, it’s important to know the cities we’re surrounded, we’re surrounded by walls, with all the houses inside the city. Remember Jews, Jerusalem was surrounded by a wall, and the cities provided ultimate security from wild animals, roaming bandits and thieves, and even the weather. And so, everybody wanted to live in the city. So what happened, really kind of what happens today and a lot of your major cities, as the population grows, it becomes a supply and demand. And so, who ended up living in the cities? The wealthy, because the price of real estate would go up because of the demand for it. And so, the people who back in Biblical times who lived in the cities were the wealthy. The poor lived outside of the cities and so living within the city walls became prestige. It’s like living in the right neighborhood, so wealth would become your security and your significance. I live in the right place and I’m secure within the walls, but then Solomon comes along in Proverbs 18, in verses 10 and 11 says this, he says, it’s the name of the Lord that’s a strong tower and the righteous runs into it and it’s safe. Then in the next verse it says, a rich man’s wealth is his strong city, but it’s like a high wall in his own imagination. Proverbs is telling us that wealth becomes people significance and security. I have money, I feel important. I have money, I’m safe and secure. I have money. I’m in control of life and all of the circumstances that come, but the key phrase in 11 he says, but in reality we need to know. It’s like a high wall in your imagination. Do you see the deception? We think money and wealth will make us secure and will put us in control of life circumstances, but it’s all in your imagination. It’s a false perception. Think about it. Money cannot purchase you a good marriage. It can’t. In fact, it has the potential to corrupt your marriage. It doesn’t guarantee a stable, healthy family, particularly your children. It too can corrupt them. Wealth cannot purchase true friendship.
I was just reading yesterday that the real wealthy have a hard time making friends and that they don’t have a hard time making friends. It’s just they’re suspicious of everybody who wants to be their friend. They can’t purchase wisdom. It can’t purchase peace. It can’t. I don’t care how much money you have that you can’t control world events. You can’t control recessions. You can’t control the interest rates and wealth can’t keep death away from your door. And so when you really start thinking about it, we’re not in control of much of anything and our wealth doesn’t really help that much in controlling anything
In fact, Keller says that money is the number one competitor to God in people’s lives. And this is why it has such deceptive power. But Solomon turns around and tells us clearly God is our ultimate security. He’s like a strong tower. The righteous run to Him and are safe and so that’s something good for you to all for us all to think about. Where do I get my security in this life? What do I put my hope in? Because if it’s anything other than Christ, Jesus says, you know what you’re doing. It’s like a person who builds his house on the sand and when the wind comes and the rain comes and the storm comes, it crashes. That’s why we were talking in Bible study last week, the importance of putting Christ first in your life. He is the true foundation. He is the ultimate security. It’s like Jerry Leachman says, what is real security, or what is the insecurity when you build your life around something that can be taken away from you?
A third deception comes from Proverbs 11:4; this is pretty interesting. I’ll be real short on this. It says, profits do not profit. Excuse me, riches do not profit in the day of wrath. Riches do not profit you on the judgment day and it can in essence blind you to judgment day questions that we all need to be considering as we go through life. And the reason is because what you’ll find, and I know you know this, that money and wealth have power to absorb your time and energy so that you have little left to pay attention to the more important things of life. But what are the judgment day questions? What are they? Questions like, what is my life amounting to? What difference is my life making in the world, in the lives of other people? What kind of contribution am I making to the kingdom of God? Guys, these are judgment day question, and money can blind us to them, because when it gets right down to it, wealth has such an ability to suck you into a busy frenetic life that is truly ruled by consumption and activity. And that’s why Keller says wealth makes you busy. It makes you much busier than you should be and it makes you think you have far less with which to do good in the world.
Now, this final deception, the fourth and final deception. It too, comes from Solomon, but it comes from Ecclesiastes, which most people think he wrote, and these words come from the wealthiest man that probably ever lived. It comes from Ecclesiastes 5:10. It says, he who loves money will not be satisfied with money nor he loves abundance with its income. The university of Michigan does a very important consumer confidence survey every month and it’s even become a kind of one of the, what they call the key economic indicators in our country. And several years ago, when they were doing their survey, they asked this question, what is the number one thing that you need to make your life better and to improve its quality? The number one thing you have to, if you could get it, would make your life so much better. You know the number one answer was money. Not, I need a better marriage, I need a better relationship with God. I need more money to have a better life. And that’s why money can be like an addiction. Because what happens, and almost, I’m gonna put an illustration up that that really, I think, shows this in a very clear way. When a person’s income begins to go up, imagine you’re young and [inaudible] and your income starts going up and it enriches the quality of your life, particularly if you’re destitute. And therefore, we began to conclude that more must always be better, more must always be better. And this is the deceit. The more money we have, the better life will be.
I love this story that Ron Blue tells that some of you probably have heard me share. Ron Blue is a financial consultant, Christian financial consultant and he supported a missionary organization over the years, and, at some point he was going to be in Africa where this missionary organization was. He thought he would stop by and see it, spend some time there. And, as he went to this, and met with this missionary he had been supporting all these years, he asked him, what is the greatest barrier you faced? Because they lived in abject poverty. And he says, what is the number one issue or barrier that keeps you from reaching these people with the gospel? And he said, the mission, he didn’t have to think about it. He said, materialism. Blue said, “materialism?” Nobody’s got much around here. I mean, this was an impoverished village. Missionary said, well, it’s quite simple. If a man has a manure hut, he wants a mud hut. If he has a mud hut, he wants a stone hut. If he has, if his hunt has a thatch roof, he wants a tin roof. If he has one cow, then he wants two cows. If he has one wife, he then wants two wives and on and on and on.
And what you see, what you see from in that illustration is that materialism really isn’t about things. It’s about the heart and this insatiable desire to always want more. And the reason again is we’re deceived into thinking more is always better. And the reason is because we believe that life is linear. And I’m going to show you what I mean by that in this illustration. This comes from a book called Your Money or Your Life and it was written about 25 years ago. They’re not Christians that wrote it. Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. And this was a study that was done, and I think it’s spot on and it’s called the fulfillment curve. This is fulfillment and this is the amount of dollars. And what they say is that most people believe that life is linear. And that when you’re down here and you make this kind of money, that your fulfillment’s like this. And so you increase your income care. Can y’all see that? As you increase this, increase your dollars, your fulfillment goes up.
And you know what? I believed that to be true for a number of years. And I’ll tell you why. When I started in the insurance industry in 1977. And, I had no clients, so I had no commission, but they gave me a for like the first year or two, a salary. I made $700 a month. Now my roommate made $2,000 a month. So you can imagine what that was like. I could barely, I’m serious, I could barely just pay my bills. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t go to a movie. But as I got into year three and I had had some clients, my pay went from like, from $8,400 to about 18,000. And man, I just thought I was killing it. I mean, imagine what it was like. I could do things, and so you can see how you began to believe this, but this is what they discovered; that this is not the way it works. That this actually is what happens. Like in my life. Yeah. As you go along here, it does. As you make more of your life, the quality of your life gets better. But somewhere out here it says, they say it starts to go like this, it starts to flatten out and then it starts to go down.
And they say right here, they don’t say what this is, but they call this enough. You get to a point where you have enough, I don’t know what that means. It might mean different things. I don’t know. And of course, if you say are married and have one child versus someone who has five children, maybe you know you’re talking about different amount but, but there is a point where you have enough. But the point they make is as your income keeps going up, this, this curve starts going down. I shared this several years ago with a real wealthy man and he said, he came up and said, I’m probably about right here. I said, why do you say, he says, I have so much trouble keeping up with all my houses.
He was dead serious. I had another guy that, he told me, very wealthy man. He said, you know, I’m trying to decide whether to buy a yacht now. Yacht would be a lot of fun. A yacht would a, I could probably entertain my clients, my friends it would make me look good. He said, and I have to give him credit, he recognized. He said, but you know what the problem is? I’d have to keep it down in South Florida. I’d have to go down there all the time. In other words, it becomes, it would become a burden in my life.
I said, you’re right. To my knowledge, he never bought it. But you can see how it truly can become a burden when you have more and more and more. So, it’s not true. Life is not linear at all. Now, the third thing they came to realize in their study is that, does that mean that this is the only amount of fulfillment I can ever expect to achieve? No. They said, once you have enough, if you will start using your money to give, you’ll find that your fulfillment will go up. You have enough. And if your money, if your wealth or your income increases, if you will give more and more of it away, you’ll find yourself more and more fulfilled.
And I’ve seen that in the lives of a lot of people. Just the joy they get out of giving. This is a good place to stop. I’m going to pick up on this next week. I hope you’ll be here. We’ll meet again on a Wednesday morning, Thursday at 11, Friday morning.
Let me close with prayer. Father, thank You for our time together. I’m grateful for all those that came. Lord, I pray that You would truly give us wisdom as it comes to this issue of money and income and wealth and finances. We realize how deceptive it can be and how it can deceive us. I pray that You’d give us clarity in our thinking, that You’d give us wisdom, that You would give us just the right perspective to have so that we can be healthy people with healthy relationships and we can honor and glorify You with all that You’ve given us. And we pray all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen.