Offer Them Christ
The Weblog Of J.F. Howard

Financial Peace In The Checkout Line

Haggai 1:5-9

5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

    7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8 Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the LORD. 9 “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.

 

Romans 12:2

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

            I heard someone say that in this economy people have been praying more than usual.

            In fact, I heard someone say they had been praying the “shopper’s prayer” a lot lately.

            “The shopper’s prayer?” I said, “What’s the shopper’s prayer?”

            So they said:

The Shoppers Prayer–

Our cash
Which art on plastic
Hallowed be thy name
Thy Cartier watch
Thy Prada bag
Online
As it is in store
Give us each day our Platinum Visa
And forgive those that stop us spending
And lead us not unto Louis Vuitton
For thine is the Gucci
The Dior and the Armani
For Chanel No.5 and Eternity
AMEX

 

            In this series, “Financial Peace In Turbulent Times” I have been confronted with a couple of questions that we rarely ask in church, or in the check out line at Wal-Mart:

            1) Do you think God cares how you spend your money?

            2) Do you think God has any principles to help guide us in how to spend our money?

            Listen to that Old Testament text from Haggai chapter 1 again:

Haggai 1:5-7

5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

    7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.”

            Have you ever been in that situation?

            Have you ever worked out but only took home a little?

            Have you ever looked in the refrigerator and saw how empty the thing looked?

            Have you ever looked in the cupboard and found it was nearly bare?

            Do you ever look in your closet and say, “I don’t have a thing to wear?”

            Have you ever cashed your check on pay day, gone home to a stack of bills, only to emerge an hour later asking, “Where did all the money go?”

            Do you know what it is like to live from paycheck to paycheck?

 

            God comments on all these situations through the Old Testament prophet Haggai.

            And God bookends His comments on our spending habits with the same questions asked two different times:

“Give careful thought to your ways.” {Haggai 1:5, 7}

            Do you think God is interested in how we spend our money?

            It sounds like, doesn’t it?

            Do you know why God cares about how we spend our money?

            God knows that the financial resources He provides us are to help us meet all our needs, advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and help others who are in need themselves. But God knows much better than we do, that money can be used for good, for evil, or just simply wasted.

            Every day we are bombarded with advertising telling us that our lives will simply not be satisfying and happy unless we spend our money on the latest cell phone, a brand new car, or the latest fashion.

            We are told with a straight face that simply applying body spray will cause members of the opposite sex to chase after us like moths to a flame.

            We are convinced that we have never been warm, and we will never be warm, unless we buy a “Snuggie” and that now they are available in Leopard skin patterns.

            We are told that our lives will never have meaning unless we use the brand of toothpaste that comes with breath freshener and teeth whitener.

            There are thousands of messages every day that clamor for our attention through the press, television, radio, billboards, salespeople, and store displays—all designed to get us to buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t know, and to find happiness where it simply cannot be found.

            God understands the seductive power of temptation better than we do.

            And God’s remedy for us is found in Romans 12:2:

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

            God wants us to stop being influenced by the pattern of this world, and instead by transformed in the way we think.

            God says, “My ways are not your ways. My thoughts are not your thoughts.”

            God desires for us to stop letting Madison Avenue and TV infomercials pattern our thinking, and instead to let God renew our minds and help us think clearly about how we spend our money.

 

            This message is called, “Financial Peace In The Check Out Line.”

            I want us to picture a metaphor today. I want us to see God standing with us in the Wal-mart check out line. He is looking in the buggy at the things we are about to purchase. And as we stand there, God begins to ask us some questions.

            What do you think those questions would be?

Here are some questions to ask when standing in the check out line:

(1) Can I pay cash for this purchase or will it put me in debt?

Deuteronomy 28:12

12 The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.

            This is one of life’s simplest principles to understand, and evidently, one of life’s most difficult principles to live out. People in our country are notorious for buying things we can’t afford. Purchasing things we don’t have the money for is almost a right for Americans. If we don’t have the money to pay for something, we can always pull out a piece of plastic and put it on our account.

            Here’s what God says about this behavior in Deuteronomy 28:

I will open the heavens, the storehouse of my bounty, and I will send rain on your land in season, and I will bless all the work of you hands. You will lend to others but you will not need to borrow from any.”

            God’s Word to us is that if we will follow His principles for our lives, He will bless our work, provide for all of our needs, even to the level where we can help others, and not have to borrow from others.

            Do you believe that is even possible in our world today?

            Have you ever considered that God wants to be involved with us in our spending decisions?

            Have you ever thought that God wants to be the one who supplies all our needs, and not some other source (like Visa, or Master Card)?

            Have you ever thought that when we buy things we cannot afford with money we do not have, we are putting ourselves in bondage to others, and are missing out on opportunities to help others in need?

            Have you ever stopped to think when you are about to buy something you can’t afford that maybe God is trying to tell you, “Instead of relying on someone else to provide this for you, why not wait and let Me provide it for you?”

            “But it’s a good deal, why shouldn’t I spend my money on this? It’s a real bargain; I’m going to save so much money!”

            Have you ever told yourself that?

            I have…a lot of times.

            Let’s think about bargains:

If the house is worth $250,000 and you were able to buy it for $200,000, how much money did you save?

If the sweater originally cost $80 and you got it on sale for $30 how much did you save?

            Now really, tell the truth. If you spent $200,000 on a house and $30 on a sweater, you didn’t actually save anything! You spent $200,030!

            If we keep “saving” like that, we’ll soon be broke!

            And to compound things, if you spent $200,030 that you couldn’t afford, it doesn’t matter how good a deal it is! Nothing is a good deal if we can’t afford it.

            Do you know that God isn’t behind every good deal. Suppose we can afford it. Does that mean we should buy it? Self-control often means turning down good deals on things we really want because God may have better plans for His money.

            Before we spend money we really don’t have we should think that maybe God wants an opportunity either to provide for your needs Himself, or to show you they aren’t needs before you take things into your own hands.

            Just because you can afford something, it doesn’t mean God wants you to get it.

            Increased income isn’t necessarily God saying “Spend more.” More often his real message is “Give more.” (2 Corinthians 8:14;9:10,11)

(2) Do I have peace about making this purchase?

Colossians 3:15

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Proverbs 15:16

16 Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil.

            This one step would save us a lot of “buyer’s remorse in our lives!”

            Have you ever pulled out your check book to make a purchase and you knew that something just didn’t feel right?

            Some years ago, one of our sons wanted to try to buy a vintage guitar on eBay.

            We had never tried to do that before. I still haven’t.

            But he found a guitar that interested him over in Europe somewhere, and he started bidding on it.

            To our surprise his was the highest bid, but the auction remained open for a few more days. His bid stayed at the top of the list for several days. Finally it was the last day for the auction. We watched the countdown of the last few minutes. His bid was still the highest. It looked like he would win the auction. Then at the last minute someone else made a higher bid and he lost the chance to buy this guitar.

            He was disappointed, but in the process, he found another guitar, and this one was for sale in a music store right here in North Carolina. He had enough money to pay for it, so he talked his mom into driving him to the store the next day. Just after he bought that guitar he received word from eBay that the person who had made the winning bid on the first guitar he wanted was unable to fulfill his commitment, and now the second highest bidder had the right to purchase the guitar. Right away our son started thinking of how he could afford to buy both guitars.

            He knew he had enough money, though it would be tight.

            But something just didn’t seem right about that email.

            I couldn’t imagine what had happened at eBay to cause this change overnight.

            Not long after getting that email I talked with a friend of mine who had made a number of purchases on eBay. I told him about our son’s “good fortune” and he immediately told me, “Don’t let him do it. It’s a scam.”

            He explained to me that this was a dummy website that wanted to get our son to send his financial information to them so they could steal his money. There was no guitar for him to buy.

            You know, something just didn’t seem right from the very beginning. If something seems too good to be true, it often is too good to be true.

            We just didn’t have peace about spending that money, and in the end, it saved our son several hundred dollars.

            The Bible tells us to “let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.” When we don’t have peace about a purchase, it is probably wise for us to hold off on buying it.

(3) Is it a matter of need or of greed?

Luke 12:15

15 Then [Jesus] said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

1 Timothy 6:9

9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

1 Corinthians 10:23

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.

            We all have needs—food, shelter, utilities, clothes, transportation… but not everything we buy is a “need.”

            While I need food every day, I don’t “need” steak and lobster every day.

            Before we buy some things we should ask ourselves, “Is this something I really need, or is this something that the TV, the magazine, or my next door neighbor tells me I just have to have?”

            If I buy this thing, will it be profitable to my family, my spiritual growth, my health, my ministry, the Lord’s reputation, and will it increase my love for the Lord or could it hinder it?

            One of my neighbors passed away a couple of years ago. Since that time the family has held 3 yard sales and an auction in order to clean out all of the “stuff” that was accumulated over a lifetime of living well.

            3 yard sales and an auction! If you decided to clean out all the things in your life that you really don’t need, or use any more, how many yard sales and auctions would it take? I don’t even want to answer that, do you?

(4) What does this purchase tell me about my priorities in life?

Matthew 6:33

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Proverbs 16:8

8 Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice.

Mark 8:36

36 What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul?

            Where is God’s Kingdom in this purchase?

            Where is my faith in this purchase?

            What does this purchase tell me about what is really important in my life?

            Yesterday as I was on my way to Wal-Mart in a pouring rain, I passed three men walking away from the store with a couple of plastic Wal-mart bags in their hands. When I passed by them they were roughly 2 or 3 blocks from the store. I could see the Wal-mart sign in the distance. Since it was raining so hard, the three men had the hoods on their sweat shirts pulled up, their cap bills pulled down, and they were hunched over, heading into the rain. I thought to myself, “These guys must have seriously felt they needed to make a trip to Wal-Mart, to do so on foot in a driving rain. I wonder what they purchased?”

            As I passed by them I was able to see through their rain soaked plastic Wal-Mart bags and inside were 2 cases of Bud Light.

            Our purchases tell us a lot about what is really important in our lives.

            John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, used to ask himself, and the early Methodist’s 4 questions before deciding to spend money to buy something:

1) In spending this money am I acting as if I owned it, or am I acting as the Lord’s trustee?

2) What Scripture requires me to spend this money in this way?

3) Can I offer up this purchase as a sacrifice to the Lord?

4) Will God reward me for this expenditure at the resurrection of the just?

            What do you think would happen if we asked ourselves these questions from John Wesley before we got to the check out line?

            Why don’t we give this a try in the next seven days…before we get to the checkout register, how about asking ourselves these questions:

(1) Can I pay cash for this purchase or will it put me in debt?

(2) Do I have peace about making this purchase?

(3) Is it a matter of need or of greed?

(4) What does this purchase tell me about my priorities in life?

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