SWEEPING MONEY TALK UNDER THE RUG Some time ago, I heard the story of a very liberated couple. This couple had decided that they would raise their children in a very liberated way. As part of their parenting approach, they would discuss any and every topic in the presence of their children. No subject, no matter how sensitive, was considered to be taboo. Well, all subjects but one. When it came time to discuss matters relating to the family budget—when it came time to talk about money—husband and wife retreated to the privacy of their own bedroom and locked the door. Now, when I heard that story, I cringed, because I knew they aren’t the only ones with this operating protocol in their homes. There are a lot of couples out there operating the same way. They are raising their kids with no taboo topics. They intend to process everything with their kids. Religion. And drugs. And sexuality of course. But in many households one topic is still out of bounds: money. That’s bad news. Because at least in the homes of North Americans, money is a huge issue when it comes to our kids. The average teenager in the United States burns through over a hundred dollars a week. Most teens spend more time in shopping malls than at religious functions. And almost 50 percent of teenagers report that having enough money is, already at their teen years, a ‘big worry.” Anxiety about money—it’s not just for adults anymore. Our kids are lying awake, wondering where they are going to get the dollars for their next CD or movie download. Money is a big issue for them. And when we don’t talk to our kids about money we aren’t connecting with where they are at. But even more tragically, we aren’t connecting with who they really are! They, with us, are reflections of their Maker—image—bearers of God—stewards of God’s creation. Stewards are called to be care—givers of all that God has put in their care. As adults, we’re stewards. And our kids share that same identity. Our calling as parents is to raise our kids to know their core identity as stewards and live accordingly. Now being a steward, of course, means more than handling money well. Caring for God’s creation relates to the way we handle our time, our talents, and the way we relate to the world around us—you could say we are called to total creation—care. But certainly one slice of a steward’s work is money management. That’s why our kids need to learn about money and how to handle it in ways that make sense. And they aren’t getting very many useful lessons from soaking up ads that wash over them all day long on television or the internet. If they’re going to learn about the meaning of money and managing money, well, they’re going to learn those lessons at home. LEARNING FROM THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE US You see, most of us learned lessons about how to deal with dollars and cents from the walk and the talk of those who raised us. Some of us remember a set of envelopes in the kitchen of our grandparents. In the days before electronic checking, many families had a box of envelopes on top of the refrigerator. Into those envelopes went the dollars from the Friday paycheck. So much for groceries, so much for the house payment, so much for the church. Watching our parents or grandparents divide up the paycheck—and seeing that the dollars for the church were as important as the dollars for the gas tank—that was a powerful lesson in money management, in being a steward. We’ve moved far beyond the crude accounting system used by grandma and grandpa. Gone are the days when the money tucked in the cookie jar constituted our money management system. Now we have Quicken, automatic withdrawals, and debit cards for our internet purchases. Nevertheless, the responsibility to teach our children stewardship remains very much within the family. But what shall we teach them? Well, there’s a book in the Bible that’s going to help us, it’s the book of Proverbs. Now when we go to Proverbs to learn about money, we’re admitting that when it comes to money, we need God’s wisdom. For Proverbs is a book whose intent is to make us WISE. THE WAY OF FINANCIAL WISDOM You know, the importance of wisdom in the Christian life is often overlooked. “Isn’t it enough to have faith?” we say. “Isn’t it enough to be a loving person?” But the Christian life is really a three—legged stool. Those three legs are: Faith, Love, and Wisdom. And if any of one of those legs is missing, the stool gets wobbly in a hurry. Think about that. We all know people who have love and wisdom, but they lack faith. They are worldly—wise, we might say. They may really care about people. But they lack faith in Christ that energizes their care for others into a full—orbed life of Christian obedience and discipleship. And then there are people who have faith and wisdom, but they lack love. Yes, they trust in God. And they have a great deal of wise advice that they feel compelled to disperse at a moment’s notice. But they do it in such a crabby way that they really lose their Christian witness; their wisdom is seldom heeded or even sought. There is one more possibility. We all know people who have great faith—and great love—but they lack wisdom! These people trust in Jesus and truly love others. But they just do very foolish, even stupid things. Oh, they may have a great amount of education, but education and wisdom…well, they’re different. Their discipleship is crippled over and over again by their inability to act in ways that make sense. That’s happens to Christians who don’t know how to handle money well. During the course of my ministry, I have met many well—meaning Christians whose witness was blunted, and whose life was in shambles, because they didn’t know how to handle the dollars God had entrusted to them. One of the great gifts we can leave to our children is wisdom, wisdom to know how to handle their finances—whether they have little or much. But what does it mean to be wise about finances? In Proverbs 10 we find at least seven principles by which to live financially. Seven principles for us and for our kids that will make a difference in our world. These seven things I want my kids to know about money. I hope you want them to know these seven things too. Principle #1: I want my kids to know that financial blessing is a good thing.
Proverbs 10:15 “The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor.”Here is the honesty with which the Bible approaches financial matters. You know, it’s easy to spiritualize life and run down the goodness of God’s material world. I’ve heard people say: “Money is nothing!! Money means not a thing to me. . .” The book of Proverbs says that’s really ridiculous talk. It says, “The wealth of the rich is a fortified city.” Did you expect to find THAT in the Bible?? But there it is! For the Bible is honest. Those who have sufficient economic resources DO have a hedge against at least some disasters. They don’t lie awake at night wondering where the money will come from to replace the transmission that just fell out of their car. They don’t live with the fear that the next major repair bill around the house will derail the mortgage payment. I want my kids to understand that there is no inherent blessing in being poor. In fact, poverty brings with it real strains in marriage and family life. I want my kids to know that the money to pay the bills is a good gift of God. But I also want my kids to know that principle is balanced by the one that follows. Principle #2: I want my kids to know that real wealth is more than just dollar bills
Proverbs 10:20 “The tongue of the righteous is choice silver but the heart of the wicked is of little value.”The word for silver here in this proverb means QUALITY silver—silver purified by fire. I want my kids to know that the words they speak, words that give encouragement, words that bring comfort, the words that convey wisdom—these are one of the most valued things they possess. I want kids to know that you don’t need to have a lot of money to have wealth to share with others. Not when we can share our love, our compassion, and the good news of Jesus! I want kids to think hard about that as they think about a vocational path in life. Unfortunately, I fear that many today decide on their education and career merely by asking: How much does it pay? Will it make me rich? Will I be able to retire by the age of 55? Let’s get one thing straight. The real wealth you are going to accumulate in life has more to do with investing your time and talent in service to Christ. Obedient living is what builds real wealth; it builds treasure in heaven. I want my kids to know that real wealth isn’t defined by dollar bills Principle #3: I want my kids to know that how they made their money is more important than the amount of money they made.
Proverbs 10:2 “Ill—gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death.”I want my kids to know that living rightly before God is more critical to the truly good life than all the wealth in this world. Or to put it another way, I want my kids to laugh at the common conviction in our society that the size of y our bank account defines your success. As a pastor, I know that isn’t true, and I will tell you why. I have sat with hundreds of people who are mourning the death of a loved one. Some of those ‘dearly departed’ ones were imminently successful people. Their accomplishments were lauded in a special way in the evening papers. They made a lot of money and yet in all those visits, I have never heard family talk about the secular awards or the big money that the deceased had accumulated. I have never heard anyone say—“Good old John, he sure had a knack for making money. Good old Mary, she knew how to play the stock market.” I will tell you what people talk about when a loved one dies. First, they talk about their loved one’s trust in Jesus—in other words, the righteousness they’ve received by grace that comes through faith in Christ. And second, they talk about their love of family and friends—in other words, the righteous living that God’s grace allowed them to demonstrate in their own lives. It is RIGHTEOUSNESS—not RICHES—that provide a safeguard against death. Principle #4: I want my kids to know that God can be trusted to provide the financial resources necessary to cover our NEEDS, not our WANTS.
Proverbs 10:3 “The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.”I want kids to know that God is concerned about their physical as well as their spiritual well—being. But I want them to understand too, that in spite of the message of the prosperity gospel, God doesn’t intend to give them every toy they have their heart set on, if they only ‘believe’ hard enough. God is a thoughtful Father who supplies our NEEDS, not a Santa Claus who satisfies our wish list. Let me tell you a story about God’s provision for our needs. One of the most remarkable Christians in history was George Muller. George Muller was a nineteenth century preacher who had a heart for children, especially orphans he would meet on the streets. Whenever he met an orphan he asked that orphan if he or she had a home. If that orphan was out on streets, he would bring the child with him to stay in rooms he rented in a local boarding house. Eventually there were so many orphans that the council of his church said: “We need to build an orphanage.” And so they went out into the country and built a three story building. And then another. And then another. Well, that meant that George Muller had hundreds of children to care for. And when children came to his orphanage, he promised them three things: First, a warm bed, second clean clothes, and third, one hot meal a day. One noon, there was absolutely no food in the entire orphanage. When Muller was so informed he called the children to the dining hall anyway. He said: “Children, when you came here, I promised that God would provide you three things at this orphanage: a warm bed, clean clothes, and a hot meal. Have you had your hot meal today?” They said: “No.” “Well,” said Muller, “there isn’t any food in the orphanage, but I trust that doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to have a hot meal. So let’s thank God for the food he is going to provide.” And so George Muller bowed his head, and prayed: “Lord,” he said, “We are trusting you to provide us the food we need. We want to thank you for the hot meal that you will set before us now.” As he finished his prayer, there was a knock at the door. It was a driver of a delivery truck. He said, “Rev. Muller, my truck has just broken down on the road not far from your orphanage. It’s filled with meat pies. It seems a shame to let them go to waste. Would you like them?” “Of course,” said Muller. “Well,” said the driver, “If it’s all right with you, they just have come out of the oven at the bakers, and they are still hot.” “Well,” said Muller, “We’re expecting that to be the case! You bring them right in!” The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry. I want kids to know that God can be trusted to provide for their basic needs. Not their wants and cravings. Principles #5: I want my kids to know that God expects DILIGENCE from his people.
Proverbs 10:4 “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.”I don’t want my kids to be afraid to work. Now, please understand, I don’t want my kids to become workaholics either. But I do want them to know that work is a key way that God expects them to serve him. And I want them to know that work is generally the way God is intending to put dollars into our pockets. You see, I believe in a sovereign God. But I also believe God has built into the world some abiding principles. Among them are the words you find in 1 Thessalonians 3:10: “He who does not work, will not eat.” Those who can work and refuse to work, had better not expect pennies from heaven to come showering down on their heads. I want to teach my children diligence. I want to teach my kids that responsibility matters. Principle #6 I want my kids to know God expects his people to understand the law of sowing and harvest.
Proverbs 10:5 “He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.”Now, to understand that proverb, you should know that it was common practice for whole families to go out and ‘camp’ in the vineyards outside of town when it was time to gather the grape harvest. While it lasted, the work was intense. The effort of the whole community had to be focused on bringing in the harvest. Every child growing up in ancient Palestine learned that lesson just by watching the rhythm of the growing season. There’s a time to sow and a time to harvest. Most of us don’t live in the country anymore. We haven’t visited a truck farm or an orchard in years. We go to the grocery store and walk among the fruit bins filled year—round, and we begin to lose the connection between sowing and reaping. We might even think that we can reap without sowing! Well, unfortunately, many people think the same way about MONEY. Today, there are a lot of 20 year olds who want to start out in life where their parents have ended up after a lifetime of hard work. They don’t seem to understand that the financial resources of a couple at the age of 60 have been gained over a lifetime of careful financial cultivation. I want to teach my kids that delayed gratification is a wise principal when it comes to money. Strapping yourself financially to buy cars and take trips you can’t afford, well, that’s as stupid as eating the seed corn that was supposed to be planted in the spring. There is a time to sow and a time to reap. Respect that simple truth. And above all, I want my kids to know a final principle: Principle #7: I want my kids to know above all that GOD is the Giver of everything.
Proverbs 10:22 “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth And he adds no trouble to it.”Everything we have comes from God. The proverb implies that just having more doesn’t make us happy. There is increase that brings trouble—and there is increase that brings blessing. The truth is, just having more and more isn’t going to make us content, isn’t going make us happy. But when what we have is accompanied by God’s presence—THEN there is no trouble with what we have received. For then what we receive comes as a trust for the sake of God’s Kingdom. We’re managers for our maker, care—givers of God’s creation. So we hold our resources with a rather light grasp, because everything we have is from him. Yes, money is good to have, but it doesn’t have the last word in my life. Because that LAST word has been spoken by Christ Jesus, my Savior. GOD is the Giver of everything. Friends, that is what I want kids to know about money. But—I want us ALL to know these things about money. For unless we know them as parents and grandparents—unless we are practicing these truths in our own lives—we will NEVER be able to teach them to our kids. After all, Stewardship is more caught than taught. Kids will DO what they see US doing. If we act as consumers, we will teach kids to be consumers. If we act as stewards, we will teach kids to be stewards. So live well, so that you can teach your children well.