Summary: Message about Biblical Finance
21st Century Captives
Jesus said, “I have come to seek and to save the lost.” He said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” And in the church today, we acknowledge that there are times when we lose our way and can become lost, and we need Jesus. And we confess that none of us are yet perfect. No matter how devoted we are and how much we try, we often fall short of our own standard, and so every one of us knows what it is to fall short of God’s glory. But Jesus also said, “I have come to set the captives free.” And like the crowd of believers in John’s gospel, we say, or we think, “What is He talking about? We’re children of Abraham. We’re not slaves or prisoners!” He must be talking about the more than two million inmates stuck in prison cells across America. And He is. But Jesus is also talking about you and me.
For several years, when I lived in Atlanta and attended seminary, I often visited a man named John in prison. John was on death row for murder. He had been there for nine years and was not yet 30 years old. One day he said something to me that really caught my attention. John said, I’ve been in prison for nine years, and everything around me reminds me that I am a prisoner. And yet, because of Christ, I am more free now than before I was ever locked up. My body is the only thing captive. But on the outside, the world is full of people who are prisoners and don’t even realize it, or they’re in denial. Their bodies may be free, but their hearts and their minds and their spirits are captives.” Is that true? When Jesus said, “I’ve come to set the captives free”, was He talking about people like John…or people like you and me?
Our New Testament text is from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It is the longest recorded discourse of Jesus: chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Matthew’s gospel. And the crowd that has gathered is made up of people from every walk of life. In His sermon, Jesus talks about anger, and divorce, and commitment, and revenge, and anxiety, and a handful of other topics that people like you and me struggle with. And in the middle of His sermon, Jesus speaks about the need for approval, and He talks about money. The interesting thing is, that, while the need for approval may not be a crime, and poor money management is not a legal offense, there are more people held captive to the need for approval and to money than perhaps all the inmates in all the federal prisons, and all the state and local jails in America. The sad truth is, we are a nation of Relational prisoners and Financial captives.
Actually, we are captives in more ways than we realize and prisoners to more things than we’d like to admit. That’s why Jesus came to set the captives free. But time doesn’t allow us to deal with more than one topic this morning so I’d like us to focus on Financial Captivity because very few us, myself included…are financially free. Most of us struggle with debt and finances on a daily or weekly basis, and as the economy gets worse, we’ll become more and more aware of our captivity.
In 1986, it was reported that, nationally, personal debt was increasing at the rate of $1,000 per second, and consumer installment debt had mushroomed to a point where it was taking approximately $1 out of every $4 that consumers earn to keep up the payments—not including the home mortgage. It was also reported that 56% of all divorces were a result if financial tension in the home. That was 1986---how are things 22 years later? Gasoline is more than five times as high; we have a nationwide mortgage crisis with foreclosures at levels never imagined. According to a recent survey, the average American household has 12 Visas, MasterCards, and various other credit cards and our personal debt has exploded to more than $7,000 of credit card debt per household. Credit Card companies sent out more than 1 BILLION new credit cards last year. People ages 22-33 years old now carry 25% of the nation’s credit card debt. We are moving from a cash-based society to a credit-based society and debt has become a serious problem for many Americans. And the sad thing is, there is little difference between Christians and non-Christians when it comes to attitudes about money and debt.
So what does the Bible Teach about Debt? And what does it NOT teach?
--Nowhere does the Bible teach that it is a sin to borrow. It is a sin to presume upon the Lord’s goodness. It is a sin to covet. It is a sin not to trust in the Lord, but it is not a sin to borrow.