Scriptures: Matthew 6:21, Matthew 6:33, Habakkuk 2:2, Ephesians 5:21, Hebrews 10:36, Matthew 6:20, 1 Timothy 3:4, 1 Timothy 3:5, Deuteronomy 8:17-19, Proverbs 21:20, Malachi 3:8-11, Deuteronomy 14:22-29, Matthew 6:1-4, Proverbs 3:9-10, John 8:32
This is one of those lessons that won't stop. I have a lot of good material, but I have done this long enough to know that we can get worn out with even good material. So I am going to try and cover as much as I can. If necessary, we will add a week to the series.
You could tell a great deal about me if you saw my personal checkbook. Possibly the quickest way you could learn about me is by seeing how I spend my money. We all have a money trail. You would see much more than how much money I have or don't have. You would see my values. You would see how I feel about a bunch of stuff. To a great extent, you would be able to see how I feel about God. It would show if I gave generously and consistently to the work of God. There would be a record of that giving if you saw my money trail. If I didn't give then that would be there for you to see. The way I feel about God and about life is seen through my spending. Jesus said,
Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
This is one of those verses that does not take a lot of explaining. Our heart and our money are directly connected. It is easy to see my true values by seeing where I place my treasures. My money trail tips off where my heart is located. My money trail will lead to my heart and my values.
You can know how I feel about people if you saw my money trail. Do I give to the poor? Do I give alms on a consistent basis? You would be able to tell what I enjoy for recreation. You would see a lot of checks made out to Bass Pro Shop for fishing equipment. You could see how important my vacation is for me. You could see how important housing and clothing and my appearance are to me. You could even tell my television preference by my cable subscription. You could tell how much we talk on the telephone. You would know if I had insurance. You could tell how disciplined I am on my spending by my saving plans. Or, you could tell how undisciplined I am by non-sufficient fund charges, late payment charges, and collection agencies involved. A lot can be known about a person by how he or she spends his or her money.
Some of us would not really care if we looked at our spending habits. Others would become very uneasy and even embarrassed and defensive if their personal finances were disclosed. Why is that? What is it about your personal finances that embarrass you and that you would not want seen? What is it that you would say that you need to do better concerning your money? Why do some people become uneasy, embarrassed, and defensive when we talk about their personal spending habits? Can I tell you in a loving way the reason? It is because it discloses our character. It discloses our lack of discipline. It discloses our weaknesses. It uncovers our values. We will never experience financial liberty until we recognize that fact. We are not embarrassed because we don't make enough money. We are embarrassed because our hearts and characters are exposed.
As we saw last time, a working person will handle a fortune over the course of his or her lifetime. People earn huge amounts of money simply by consistently working over a 40 or 45-year period. Some of us will handle a large fortune. The question is what did we do with it? I don't know if you know it or not, but the Bible has a lot to say concerning how we should diversify our money.
Before we get into this aspect of "Financial Liberation," I want to refresh our minds on how good ideas become values. We just completed the series on "Values." Let me show us again the way a good idea becomes a value. We are told to seek first the kingdom of God.
Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
We being with what the kingdom says. The kingdom is the foundation. What does the kingdom have to say about finances? That is where I begin if I desire to make a good idea, like financial liberty, a value in my life. Beginning there is beginning with what God can and will bless. Next I write out a plan that I believe is from God.
Habakkuk 2:2 And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
I pray and ask God to give me a plan and he will do just that. Someone said that if we do not plan then we are only planning to fail. Plan to succeed. The third thing is that we must discipline ourselves. Sometimes this requires accountability. We are going to begin a support group for those interested to help keep us on track.
Ephesians 5:21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
The discipline part is the hard part and the long part, but nothing will happen without this part. The fourth part is the discipline becomes a habit.
Hebrews 10:36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
The purpose of a discipline is to form a habit. Finally, the habit becomes a value or a part of our character. It is now a treasure for life that nothing can take away from us.
Matthew 6:20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
It has become a treasure. From the kingdom will come things. Jesus said to seek first the kingdom of God and things will be added. It is not talking about heaven "up there." It is talking about the spirit dimension. This is stored in your spirit. It is a part of you. Financial liberation is not an event. It is a process. That is the process, i.e., seek the kingdom, plan, discipline, habit, and value. There are no shortcuts.
Now let's seek the kingdom first and see what it has to say about financial liberation. That way, we can begin to lay a foundation for financial liberation. What are some things we need to know from the kingdom that will begin our journey into financial liberation? I have four points and then I want to look at some numbers that show what will happen if we will do them.
1. FROM WHOM DO I RECEIVE COUNSEL?The Bible teaches me to whom I should listen concerning counsel and accountability on our finances. This is not only concerning finances, but anything. Let me show you this scripture and then I will comment.
1 Timothy 3:4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.
1 Timothy 3:5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?)
The Lord gives requirements for the people that will guide his precious bride, the church. The Lord sets a standard. A person should be able to manage his or her family before attempting to manage others. If a person cannot manage his or her own home and finances, then how can they help manage others'? People can drive big cars and wear expensive suits, but be going bankrupt. So, how can you tell from whom to get advice? Check out the person's family. How does this person manage his or her family? Before God will trust a person to guide his most precious treasure, his people, he says they must first be able to manage their own family. Those guys at Enron had nice stuff, but the people that listened to them lost everything. One of those guys took his own life while sitting in his Mercedes. The kingdom lays this information out there for us, but if we ignore his ways then bad things happen. What does the kingdom say about who should help guide me?
2. ACCOUNTABLE TO GOD - The Bible teaches that we are accountable to God as to how we spend our money. Many say, "It's my money. I will do with what I want to do with it." Let's talk about that just a minute. The truth of the matter is that if you were not alive, if God did not give you the next breath, if God did not give you some talents and abilities, if God had not put you in a land of opportunity, etc. then you would have nothing. What if you had been born in Afghanistan and lived there now? How much money would you have then? Or, you could have a physical problem causing you to be disabled. What then? Or, you could lose your mind tomorrow as did Nebuchadnezzar. He said, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built with my might and my power for my majesty?" (Dan 4:30). He found himself eating grass in the woods like an animal. So, back off and recognize that God has been gracious in enabling you make money.
Deuteronomy 8:17 You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me."
Deuteronomy 8:18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.
Deuteronomy 8:19 If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.
I really don't like talking about this aspect, but pride does come before destruction (Pro 16:18; 1Ti 3:6). The bottom line is that we are accountable to God concerning our money. God is the author of our earning power. The quicker we realize that, the quicker we can move into his plan of blessing for our lives.
3. PLAN FOR THE FUTURE - The Bible teaches that the wise man has a plan to for the future.
(TLB) Proverbs 21:20 The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.
The wise man prepares for the future. He plans for the future. We will never experience financial liberty without a forward plan. The Bible says that if I am wise, I have a plan for my future. Where do you want to be financially in "X" years? Look at a realistic plan.
A fool spends whatever he or she gets and never plans for the future. This "no plan" strategy does not only blind-side us when we are old. It gets us today. The car will break down. Are we prepared to get it fixed? The children will need to go to college. Are we prepared? We will want to take a vacation. Are we planning for that? Christmas will come December 25, ready or not. Will we pay cash or put it on the credit cards? I really want to be sweet here, but the difference in a wise person and a fool is one will save for the future and one will spend whatever he or she gets. Which category do we fall into?
4. DIVERSIFY OUR MONEY - The Bible gives us guidelines about how to diversify our money. I realize that what I am about to share will be new to many of you. Hang in there.
Malachi 3:8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
Malachi 3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
Malachi 3:11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.
As you will see, my thrust here is not to condemn us into paying a tithe. I really want to show you what the kingdom says. Then you can decide what you need to do. God gives us a plan that he so guarantees will rebuke our being devoured that he challenges us to test him with it. "Go ahead," he says. "Prove me now. See if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing. The blessing is so large that you will not be able to receive it." That is a large blessing.
So, we preachers project this verse as a magical formula. "Give 10 percent of your earnings to my ministry and God will magically give you money and reduce your debt." Believers everywhere buy into that only to find that they don't do as well as the preacher projected. Things may get a little better, but for the most part, we remain in debt. Why is that? They did what the scripture said didn't they? Did the test fail?
I began to see something years ago not long after I was born again. I began to see that the Bible taught more than one tithe. That confused me at first because I only heard preachers talk about the tithe I was suppose to give the church. Let me show you the other "tithes." Remember that Malachi 3:8 and 3:10 speaks about "tithes" (plural), not tithe. Just as there is more than one type of offering, there is more than one type of tithe. Let's look at these verses again.
Malachi 3:8 Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
Malachi 3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse . . .
Don't hang up on me yet. Hear what I have to say and then you decide. Perhaps it is some truth that will make you free. Let's look at one of the other tithes and then we will comment.
Deuteronomy 14:22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year.
Deuteronomy 14:25 then exchange your tithe[very important] for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose.
Deuteronomy 14:26 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice.
(KJV) Deuteronomy 14:26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after . . .
The tithe here is singular and it refers to it as "your tithe." The Lord gives instructions to the people about coming to the feasts. The people were to put aside a tenth to finance the trip. This was separate from the tenth that was given to the storehouse of which Malachi 3 speaks. We know this is true because this tenth was to be spent on the believer himself or herself. It even calls it "your tithe." What happened to the money if all the money was not spent? What happened if none of it was spent? The obvious answer is the believer did what he or she wanted to do with it. It was their tithe. I call this tithe "my tithe."
An entirely different tithe follows in this same chapter. Let's look at it and then we will comment.
Deuteronomy 14:28 At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe[singular] of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates:
Deuteronomy 14:29 And the Levite . . . and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.
Here is a third tithe different from the previous two tithes. Again, it is singular. It is a tithe set apart for giving to ministries (Levite), strangers, orphans (fatherless), widows, and needy people in the city (gates). It was given every third year. This is called "alms" in the New Testament. Jesus said,
Matthew 6:1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them . . .
Matthew 6:2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do
Matthew 6:3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
Matthew 6:4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
Do you know that most believers never give alms specifically? Yet, this is a tithe that promises such wonderful rewards that others will actually be able to see the blessings. It's an open reward. When some do give alms, they sound a trumpet so people will see them give it. Jesus said they have their reward. Jesus said to give alms in as much secrecy as we possibly can. The best way I know to do alms is anonymously through the church. The primary question is, do you give alms and how do we give alms? This should be figured into our tithing program.
The "tithes" of Malachi 3:8-10 are plural. There is the Lord's tithe, my tithe, and the alms tithe. At Life Gate, we encourage the alms giving either through the church or individually. We encourage people to give one-third tithe each pay period. For example, say a person's salary was $500.00. The Lord's tithe of $50.00 would go to the Lord. My tithe of $50.00 would go to me. A 1/3 tithe of $17.00 would go to alms. Our alms account allows us to do things for people in need. Giving it as one-third on a regular consistent basis keeps us blessed. Notice that there is a special blessing attached to that tithe both in Deuteronomy and in Matthew.
Deuteronomy 14:29 . . . that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.
Matthew 6:4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
He does not bless us with "pennies from heaven." He does bless "all the work of thine hand which thou doest." He will bless us through the work we do and he will do it openly. Again, work is a good thing.
This is a basic layout of the tithing program which I refer to as "8-1-1." It basically means 80% goes to living expenses and bills and taxes. It means 10% goes to the Lord. It means 10% goes to the giver. Of course, the "8-1-1" title does not include the alms tithe in the title. The alms would come from the 80%.
Malachi 3:10 says "tithes" as in plural. The NIV says "the whole tithe." It is when the giver brings "tithes," or "the whole tithe," that the "prove me now" test and guarantee works.
(NIV) Malachi 3:10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
I encourage you to test him. If it doesn't work then bail. With his permission, you can abandon ship.
Here is the "tithes program" that I know will open heaven's floodgates and rebuke the devourer. I have tested and proved it for more than twenty years. Here is how Judy's and my personal "tithes program" works.
1. HONOR THE LORD BY GIVING - The kingdom teaches that we honor the Lord by giving.
(TLB) Proverbs 3:9 Honor the Lord by giving him the first part of all your income, and he will fill your barns with wheat and barley and overflow your wine vats with the finest wines.
(KJV) Proverbs 3:9 Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:
Proverbs 3:10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
How do we honor God so we will be blessed with plenty? It is by giving him the first part (firstfruits) of all our income. If we honor him, he will honor us back. I honor the Lord with his tithe. I really can't expect him to honor me with his blessings if I will not honor him with my giving.
2. PAY "MY TITHE" - We should never miss this tithe and it is a tithe. If the Lord's tithe is a tithe, then my tithe is a tithe. Until we see this as a tithe, we won't do it consistently as unto the Lord. Avoid getting the mind set that this is "mad money." It is a tithe. It is holy. It can be used for whatever you want, but we are defeating the plan to make wealth if we spend all of it. We are fools if we "mad money" everything.
3. PAY THE ALMS TITHE - I give the alms tithe. Again, this is a tithe taught in the Bible. I need to see it as a tithe and a part of my "tithes program." I am paid every week, so I take 1/3 a tithe and give to alms.
4. THE REMAINDER - I pay bills including taxes with what is left. Ten percent goes to God. Ten percent goes to me. I give alms. Let me tell you something. I have watched God do some marvelous miracles for people who do this "tithes program" thing. I have watched the devourer be rebuked by the Lord. I have been closely involved in situations where I gave up and said there is no way they will get through this one. Yet, I watched God move.
WHAT IF - Let's take a look at how it would be if you were on this "TITHES PROGRAM" plan for a period of time.
First let me show some of us older folks where we messed up. If I had got on this plan in 1968 when I was twenty years old, I could retire a millionaire. Back then I made about $7.50 an hour which is about $15,600 a year. If I had gotten on this plan then and never made any more per hour than that until I retired at 65, I would have made $702,000 (a small fortune). I would have given $70,200 to the kingdom of God. That is a bunch for someone only making $7.50 an hour. Can you imagine how God would reward that faithfulness? Above that, I would have given $23,376.60 in alms. Remember. There are special blessings for alms. If I had just saved "my tithe," I would have $70,200.00. But, if I had taken my 10 percent and put it in a mutual fund or stock that averaged 10% a year, I would have, (are you ready for this?) $1,121,491.55! Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Young people, you have got to hear me. You have got to get this plan into your plan. A fund, or a stock, that makes 10 percent average a year is not that difficult to find, but say yours only made 8%. Then you would have $602,948.76. What's wrong with that? How many of your friends will retire with over a half a million dollars? That is simply putting back $30.00 a week or a coke and a pack of crackers a day. You could live on the interest and have $60,000.00 a year and never touch the principal if you desired.
Let's do another scenario that will be a little more relevant to some of you. Let's say you are forty and haven't saved a dime, but you begin the 8-1-1 "tithes program" plan today. Let's say you are a little further along in the pay scale and you make $12.00 an hour or $24,960 a year. If that were your average wage during life, you handled $1,123,200.00. If you begin the plan today, you will have given $62,400 to the kingdom in tithes and $20,779 in alms. Waiting for you at retirement will be $245,474.26. How many people do you know who will retire with nearly a quarter of a million dollars?
Let's use those same figures, but let's say that you work for a company that has a great retirement program. For example, GE (Roper), right here in town, will match dollar for dollar for the first 7%. So, if a person made $24,960 a year or $12.00 an hour and put their "my tithe "Roper's retirement plan when they were age 40 and did this until age 65, they will have given $62,400 to the kingdom in tithes and $20,800 in alms. But waiting at retirement is $417,306.24. If the same person began this at age twenty, they would have given $112, 320.00 to the Lord's tithe, $33,729.73 to the alms tithe, awaiting their retirement is $3,050,457.00. Who Wants to be a multi Millionaire?
Most of us know Mary Grace Murphy and Patrick Murphy. Mary Grace has been a member of Life Gate since she was a teenager at Life Gate's conception. She and Patrick married a few years ago. Mary Grace has always been a faithful tither. Even now living two hours away, she sends her tithe, offering, and alms consistently. I saw them this past week and asked if I could use their story for this lesson. Patrick and Mary Grace have been on the 8-1-1 "tithes plan" since they were married. In fact, Mary Grace told Patrick that she would not marry him unless they tithed. It's a value to them. They have been extremely blessed in every way. They had one of those special miracles from God with Alex that I spoke of earlier. They have a plan to retire when they are fifty. That gives them twenty-three years to get financially ready. At their present pace with no increase (which won't happen with them), they will have $318,172.00 waiting for them at age fifty. They will nearly be able to make it on the interest alone which will be around $32,000 a year.
So if this is so simple and so basic, why don't we all do it? Why don't we all just decree today that we will do an 8-1-1 "tithes plan" until we retire? Can I tell you? It's not because we are so in debt that we can't. We can all do something. Can I tell us why? We know ourselves well and we know that down deep inside we have this uncontrollable urge to buy stuff and spend money. We know we are not diligent and disciplined enough to do it. We have tried things before and they never worked because we always end up spending the money. We want a new car or, a new boat or, a new computer or, a faster hard drive for the computer, or a bigger motor for the boat and we cave into the pressure to buy. Sadly, most of us will hear this same message in a few years when I do it again and we will be in no less financial bondage. What can we do? Jesus said that knowing kingdom truth will make us free.
John 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Jesus desires we be free. That freedom is dependant upon knowing truth. That truth is that God has a financial plan that will make you free, bless your life like opening windows in heaven, and will rebuke the devourer. We know that plan now. What are we going to do about it? We have the foundation kingdom truth. You need a plan from God. You must do what is necessary to discipline yourself. Financial liberty must become a habit. Financial liberty must become a value. Let's pray.