Summary: In order to survive our finances, we need to examine our heart attitude toward money and possessions.
When it comes to money and finances, preachers often fall into one of two extremes. The first is to avoid mentioning money altogether; or, if they absolutely must talk about it, to approach the topic very gingerly and apologetically, with a vague sense of embarrassment, as if money were a subject not fit for polite society. So, in spite of the fact that most of us spend a great deal of our time either earning money, or spending money, or thinking about money, in some churches you almost never hear it mentioned. If you didn’t know any better, you might think that the lights in those churches glowed with the pure glory of God, and the heat radiated from the presence of God, or you might conclude that the preacher and his family were fed miraculously with manna, like the ancient Israelites in the desert. You would never imagine that such vulgar things as utility bills or salaries were involved. You would be left with the impression that God was either not interested in money, or that money was somehow dirty or evil.
Now, in their defense, there’s a reason why some preachers react that way. They don’t want their motives questioned. They don’t want to be lumped in with the money-grubbers, the preachers who talk and act as if the whole Christian life were about nothing but money. Thankfully, those are a small minority, but for them, money is the primary means by which we relate to God. If we love God, we will give Him lots of money. If we do what God wants, He will reward us with money. In those churches, money is talked about constantly. It is absolutely front and center.
But both of those approaches miss the mark. One represents an un-Biblical underemphasis on money, and the other an overemphasis on it. The truth is that money is important, and it does affect our spiritual life. But finances are not the only thing that matters in the Christian life. They’re not even the most important thing. And God’s blessings don’t always come in the form of Federal Reserve Notes. So having said all that, what help can the Bible give us in this area? How can we honor God and serve Him with our finances? And how can we get free from this feeling of never having enough?
First, let’s define the problem. Most people would state it like this: "I don’t have enough money. I have trouble paying my bills, I’m in debt up to my eyeballs, I can’t buy the things I need. I want my family to have nice things, but I can’t afford them." Are those legitimate concerns? Yes! But, they are not the real problem. Listen very carefully to what I am about to say: A lack of money is not the problem. The problem is the discrepancy between what you have and what you want; the problem is the gap between your financial resources, on the one hand, and your desires and perceived needs, on the other. In other words, your demand exceeds your supply. Now, that may sound like just a semantic distinction, just playing with words, but it’s not. It’s absolutely critical. Because your definition of the problem affects how you try to solve the problem.
If you think the problem is money, you’ll try to solve it by getting more money. That may help in the short run. But in the long run, it never works. You cannot successfully close the gap between what you have and what you want by getting more money. Why? Because without a change of heart, your demand will always increase to exceed the supply. You will always want more; you will always feel like you need more. No matter what you have, it will never be enough. You will never be content. The truth is that happiness and contentment don’t come from our circumstances. They come from the heart. And that’s where the root of the problem really lies. Not in our wallets, but in our hearts.
So this morning, I’m not going to talk about budgeting, or choosing between term and whole life, or finding the best credit card rate. Instead we’re going to look at something more fundamental, or hearts. Let’s allow God’s Word to do a little surgery on our souls. What’s really at the root of our money problems? Something the Bible calls "coveting". In the Ten Commandments, it’s number ten:
"You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." -- Exodus 20:17 (NIV)
What is coveting? Simply put, it’s desiring something you can’t legitimately have. It’s desiring something you know God doesn’t want you to have, or desiring something so strongly that you don’t care if God wants you to have it or not. Even if there’s nothing wrong with the thing itself, if you want it so much that that you are willing to ignore or disobey God in order to get it, that’s coveting. Coveting is any desire that you put above your love for God. And it’s not just limited to physical possessions. You can covet status, or achievement, or power, or pleasure, or good health, or anything else. Anything you want more than you want God is coveting, even if it’s something good.