A Summarized Lesson by Brother R. Michel Lankford
Financial freedom means different things to different people. What does it mean to you?
When I talk about financial freedom, I mean several things:
V Financial freedom means that my life is not consumed or entangled with financial concerns.
V Financial freedom means that I am free to obey God with my life and resources.
V It means that I have enough financial resources to meet all of my needs and a few of my wants.
V It means that I have enough to share some of my excess with the needy.
V It means that I'm content with my possessions and that I'm free from the constant or frequent desire for more or better things.
V Beyond all this, it means that I am not indebted to any man accept the continuing debt to love him as myself (Romans 13:8).
The Chief Causes of Financial Problems
V Unhealthy or wrong attitudes about money: Greed, coveting and get rich quick attitudes can cause us to make bad decisions about money.
V Financial problems happen when we have champagne tastes on a Dr Pepper budget: it sounds simple and even silly, but it's true. Quite simply, if you spend more than you take in, eventually it will catch up with you.
V Buying on the "never, never:" It's the British term for buying things on credit. The idea is that if you buy on credit, you never, never finish paying. The average American consumer debt is greater than $8,000. If you pay the minimum payments, it will take you an average of 47 years to finish paying those debts. Here's a shocking fact: Many Christians actually tithe to the devil without realizing it. Reports suggest that the average person spends at least 10% of their income on interest payments for all the credit cards they use. In effect they are willingly paying a tithe (10% of their income) to a world system that has little or no regard for God at all. Yet some of these same people who claim to love God, resent tithing or putting Him first with their income.
V Lack of planning and not living on a budget
V The fifth cause of financial problems is self-indulgent living or the misguided belief that possessions and wealth will make me happy (Ecclesiastes 5:10; Luke 12:15). The truth is that the thrill of having something new will last for such a short time and the pain of paying for it usually last such a long time that it's really bondage in disguise. Getting this concept down is critical.
The Right Attitude towards Money
V Freedom always begins with our attitude and frame of mind. To achieve freedom in any area of life, we must always begin with the right attitude. When it comes to money we should adopt the following attitudes:
V Everything I have is a blessing from God. My wealth does not really belong to me because I would not be able to work or create the skills to make an income without God's help and power (Deuteronomy 8:17-18). Consequently, I need to adopt an attitude where I am willing to allow God to govern how I make and spend money. Everything we have really does belong to God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 10:26).
V We must learn to take a steward or manager's attitude. We are not owners of our lives, our time, or our money. Every gift and asset we have is really a gift from God. We will answer to God and give an account for how we have used them (Matthew 25:14-30).
What we call tithing today is really the combining of Old and New Testament principles of tithing and first fruits. We've combined both principles together under the word "tithing, meaning 1/10." This means for example, that if I make $100 a week, at least $10, or one tenth is to be set aside for God and His work, before I spend anything else from that week's paycheck. It's the act of putting God first with regard to money.
To be fair, there are some Christian theologians who reject tithing because they say it is an Old Testament practice. They suggest that tithing was not for the Christian but for the Jew. With all due respect, I believe these people may be well-intentioned but are completely wrong. Here's why I support tithing and first fruits as an absolute part of discipleship:
V Jesus said, "Where ever your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (See Luke 12:34). Basically, if I don't learn to put God first with my earthly treasure which I can see, God won't be first in my heart in the things I cannot see. While most people focus on the teachings in Malachi 3 (which are true), I focus more on the teachings of Jesus. I strongly support the idea that a Christian disciple ought to give the first 10% of his income to the work of God's kingdom, because what we do with our treasure, will develop and determine our heart's priorities.
V Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters, for he will love one and hate the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. No one can serve both God and money." (See Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13). I strongly believe that learning to give God the first 10% will prevent us from falling into the love and worship of money. I believe the only way to avoid the worship of money is to learn how to worship God with money. Learning to put God first with money will teach us how to have genuine reverence for God always (Deuteronomy 14:23b). Solomon was one of the wisest men in the world. He understood the wisdom of putting God first with your wealth (Proverbs 3:1-12; focus on 9-10).
V Jesus clearly taught that not putting God first with our money could hinder our ability to receive and incorporate God's teachings into our lives! (See Matthew 13:18-23). Matthew 13:22 "And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (NASB). I earnestly believe that the risk to your heart of not putting God first with your wealth is too great and not worth the risk.
V Jesus said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God's the things that are God's." (See Matthew 22:21). Jesus was clearly saying that a portion of our income belongs to Caesar and a portion belongs to God. What portion of our income belonging to God would it be, if not the first portion?
V Jesus said, "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. "Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? "And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?" (See Luke 16:10-12). The fact is, the last prophet God sent to speak before Christ said that failure to give God what belongs to Him is equivalent to stealing, and the moral laws against stealing have not changed since the beginning of time. Stealing is a sin both for the Jew and the Christian. For myself, I would not want to be considered as a thief in the sight of God (Malachi 3:8-12).
The bottom line is, what position do I want God and His kingdom to take in my heart, my life, and in my priorities? If I can't commit to God the first 10%, than how will I ever learn to be true and faithful to God with the other 90%? If I want him to have first place in my heart, He must have first place in my wallet. It's as simple as that. It seems absolutely unconscionable to me that one would say, "Yes, I love God with all my heart and soul mind and strength. Yes, I trust Him with my eternal Spirit and my eternal life. He is my Lord and Savior, but I should not have to give Him the first portion of my income." Those sentiments simply do not go together at all.
Having the right attitude about money is not something that we adopt after we've prospered. Developing correct attitudes about money is something that we adopt and learn on the way there, (or we won't get there at all). Some people mistakenly think that if they had more they would give more away. Scientific studies have proven that is not the case. According to Joseph Stowell, president of Moody Bible Institute, moody magazine (May/June 2002),
In a recently completed and compiled survey, George Barna, president of the Barna research group, discovered so mind-boggling realities about the less than admirable commitment most born-again evangelicals (he's talking about people who've accepted Christ as Lord and Savior), have to God's kingdom economy:
Tithing and giving is down about 13% since the last survey in 1998. Less than 3% of all Christians tithe nationally.
One out of six born-again Christians contributed nothing to the work of God's kingdom in 1999. Here is some really startling news. It seems that those born-again Christians who made the least are contributing the most per capita:
· 8% of Christians making $20,000 gave 10% of their income.
· 5% of Christians making $20,000-$40,000 gave the first fruits of 10% of their income.
· 4% of Christians making $40,000-$60,000 gave 10% of their income.
· 2% of Christians making $60,000-$75,000 gave 10% of their income.
· Only 1% of Christians making 75,000-$100,000 remitted the first fruits 10% of their income.
· 5% of Christians making $100,000 or more remitted the first 10% of their income to the work of God's kingdom.
That survey is not only shocking; it totally debunks the idea that if I made more I would give more. The simple truth is if you have not learned to put God first with your money when you have little, then you will not do it, if or when you have much.
Question: Isn't tithing an Old Testament law? If you tell people that they are required to tithe, aren't you denying the work that Jesus Christ accomplished through the cross?
Answer: God forbid! This is a common heresy among those who choose not to tithe. It's a very weak, yet inflammatory position. One could only rightly be accused of denying Christ and putting people under the law if he spreads the teaching that tithing would save a person, which it does not. Tithing is not an act onto salvation, it's a continuing act of obedience after salvation has already taken place. Salvation of one's immortal being occurs only by faith in God through what Jesus Christ accomplished by his death and resurrection. That's it. I believe that. If I taught anything else, than I could be correctly accused of denying Christ. No act of obedience by itself can save you. By itself, obeying the 10 Commandments will not save you. However, once you are saved, obeying the 10 Commandments will gradually become a natural part of life. If God has really changed my heart for example, I won't want to lie.
Tithing is NOT about salvation, it's about discipleship. If I want to be a thriving effective and authentic disciple of Jesus Christ, one of the disciplines I will begin incorporating into my life is contributing the first 10% of my income into the work of the kingdom of God. Tithing is no different than any other act of obedience. If I'm an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ I won't cheat on my taxes, so I shouldn't rob God either. Now, I won't automatically go to heaven because I didn't cheat on my taxes, neither will I automatically go to heaven because I tithed. However, tithing will make me a stronger healthier and more effective disciple just like any other act of obedience, such as; reading my Bible and obeying what it says, attending church with other believers, not letting the sun go down while remaining angry etc.. All of these are acts of obedience. By themselves they will not save me, but they will make me stronger and more effective as a Christian after I am saved.
The dictionary defines debt as any condition where one owes something or has the obligation to return something to another.
The word debt really stands for a Dumb Explanation for Buying Things; or, Don't Even Buy That! We should avoid debt like the plague or get out of debt as soon as possible.
The Bible does not expressly forbid the use of temporary debt, but it does expressly and repeatedly discourage it.
The one who is in debt is a slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). Debt is bondage... pure and simple.
It's definitely a sin to borrow, and not to repay (Psalm 37:21).
If you can avoid it, you should definitely avoid going into debt (see Proverbs 17:18).
Debt presumes upon the future. We have no real control over our future, so depending on God is a better way (James 4:13-15). A life style of debt presumes on the future, when in fact we really have no certain idea that will be able to fulfill our commitments in the future.
When we go into debt, we are really asking the world rather than God to meet our needs (Philippians 4:19). If I go into debt I'm really asking First National Bank of Whatever instead of God to meet my needs.
Getting Out Of Debt (developing a G.O.O.D. plan).
1. Make an irrevocable commitment to God and to yourself that you are going to become a good steward of the income He provides, and that you are going to get out of debt.
2. Do not create any more debt.
3. Put God first in tithing and giving. (Basically, when you tithe, you are not incurring any more debt with God either).
4. Develop a written plan. Write out a budget. Include a line item in your budget where you are putting money towards paying down your debt a little at a time within each paycheck. For example, in your written budget, include a line item such as $25 for debt reduction. Start by gradually paying off your lowest debt first, then your next lowest, and then the lowest one after that.
5. Set a sensible goal for getting out of debt. For example, with God's help I plan to be out of debt within five years. Write down that goal. It's a proven fact that people who write down their goals are 90% more likely to achieve them.
6. Gradually and systematically walk out your plan by keeping in your budget. According to Charles Ward of the Billy Graham evangelistic Association, The Billy Graham Christian Workers Handbook recommends a budget like this one:
Tithe 10% Housing 30% Medical/Dental 5%
Food 14% Transportation 13% Savings 5%
Insurance 4% debt reduction 5% Miscellaneous 4%
Recreational 4% Clothing 5%
Your budget may not look exactly like this, but one thing I do recommend is that you sit down with your family and prayerfully create a budget and live by it. Another thing that I recommend is that for one or two months, you write down everything you spend. Keep a log of everything you buy and how much it costs. When I did that I was surprised how much money went by the wayside that I'd never paid attention to, prior to that point. On quite a few occasions I decided not to buy something because I didn't want to go through the trouble of writing it down. That only goes to prove I didn’t need it anyway.
I'd like to thank you for patiently reviewing this Bible study on stewardship with me. I hope that you find the information useful, and that you will choose to put God first with your income. The blessings that calm with becoming a faithful steward are far greater than mere financial ones. May God bless you and prosper you spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically and financially in every way that it is possible for a person to prosper, I pray the Lord will prosper you.