1 Breathing Room: Dollars and Sense Luke 16:1-13 Now if you weren't here, let me give you a real quick catch up, here's what we mean when we talk about breathing room. Breathing room is the margin, space or distance between our current pace (how busy we are, how fast we're spending, how crazy our schedules and our relationships are) and our limits (breaking points) in any area of life. And, what we've said throughout this series is that life is better with breathing room. We've said that its okay for your closet to look like this (messy closet), it's not okay for your life to look like this. It's better if your life looks like this (clean closet). Last week we talked about time, today we're going to talk briefly about money because we are going to cover it in more detail when we get to the Dave Ramsey portion of our series. We ll talk next week about relationships before going to Ramsey s series. Now, before I begin today, let me just reassure you that today s message isn't a we are asking for your money kind of message. I don't want anything from you. We're not launching a capital campaign and we're not going to take another offering. My only goal is to equip you to have a healthier life financially. Now last week when we talked about time we said this, we said our time is limited therefore we have to limit what we do with our time. Remember that? Well, money is similar, but it's different in this way. Our time is limited in the sense that when we re out of time, that s it we can t manufacture it or borrow it. You get 24 hours a day, that s it. But when it comes to money, yes it s limited, but you don't have to limit what you do with your money. Why? Because you can borrow more money! And in borrowing money and not being careful with how we manage it, before long our worlds begin to look like this financially (messy closet), it's no fun. You get to the place where you don't even enjoy the things you own. We borrow more and more and we add more and more financial pressure to every single month, week, day and hour of our lives. So today for a few minutes, I want to talk about how to create some breathing room financially. And here's the cool thing, whether you're a Christian or not, you ll still benefit from our subject today. However, if you are a Christian, if you are a Jesus follower, what we ll look at isn't optional for you. The Bible teaches that there is a relationship between our ability for Jesus to be the Lord of our life and our willingness to get your financial house in order. But before we go there let me restate something that I mentioned in the first two weeks of this series. There is a big difference between your standard of living and the quality of life. Every single day, in every single advertisement you and I are told that these two things are the same, that if we raise my standard of living, if we drive better, dress better, vacation better, eat out better, date better, if I raise my standard of living, I'll have a better quality of life. Absolutely not true! In fact, some of you are not enjoying the quality of your life, and you have a higher standard of living than you've ever had before. Your standard of living has risen throughout the years. You have more stuff than you've ever had but you're not enjoying it. You know why? Because there is a difference between standard of living and quality of life! You ve got an awesome house and really cool cars but you don't like to go home because all you do is argue over money. At some point along the way, it begins to dawn on us that there is a difference between a standard of living and a quality of life. That's why breathing room financially is so huge. So here's an important principle. Ready? Creating breathing room financially may lower your standard of living, but I promise you it's going to raise your quality of life.
2 Some of you are already understand the need for a principle like this. You've got stuff you wish you didn't have. You're living someplace you can't even sell. You're driving a car you can t afford and you think, Who talked me into this? Truth is, we can only blame ourselves. Nothing will never ever change no matter how much money we make until we make some big changes. Now, before we get to today s Bible text, here s a visual that I think will help us out. Here's your money, here's time, (Graph 1). Now in your life lifetime, hopefully, your income will look something like this (Graph 2). This could represent 100 dollars more a year, a 1000, 10,000. Over the course of your life hopefully you're going to have an income that increases (some up and down, others have flat lined). This is just an illustration. In an ideal world, in a breathing room world where you've gotten this right your spending would look something like this (Graph 3). There would be space. We call this space breathing room (Graph 4). Look how much we spent, look how much we made. Hey, you know what? I think we can take a better vacation. We're going to be able to pay for college. Even when income flattens out, as long as you have space, you have room to breathe. And you know what else happens? You get along better. You sleep better. You drive slower. You can pray and concentrate. You are more generous. You're more generous with your time. You're more generous with your money. Your life is better, seriously. Life is better with breathing room. Okay? Now here's where most Americans are. Let's squeeze that in (Graph 5). It s like that because we allow our income to drive our spending. If I make $45,000 a year, I'm spending it. If I make $55,000, spend it; $100,000, spend it; $200,000, same. Now here's the amazing thing - those of you who make $55,000 to $75,000 a year, did you know that people who make $250,000 a year who have it all spent and all kind of crammed into every single category and budget, they feel the same pressure you do. In fact, it's worse. Let me tell you why it's worse. Because if you lose a $55,000 a year job, you can go find one of those maybe. You lose a $250,000 a year job... whoa... those are few and far between. The more money people make, their spending goes right up with their income, the pressure just increases. And then, of course, there's this. (Graph 6) There's the uh-oh. Sometimes this is because income drops. A lot of times we just spend and borrow our way into oblivion and because you don't pay attention things get upside down and now there are real marriage problems or relationship problems. Now nobody ought to live this way. Okay now let's go back one (Graph 5). Okay now, here's what happens here, we'll get to the spiritual part. When your life is like this you become a slave. You have purchased and borrowed your way into slavery. Consequently, banks and credit card companies become our masters. We get demanding letters and threats in the mail from them. In most cases, we ve spent and borrowed our way into slavery. That s the principle in Proverbs 22:7. the borrower is servant to the lender. Our financial crises control us. You can't buy that, can't drive that, can't live there, can't pay for that, she can't go to school there, your kids can't go to school there, can't vacation there. You know what s running your life? Financial things, banks, credit card companies and bills are running your life. You ve become a slave financially. But that s not all, you feel the pressure and you also become a slave emotionally, you worry all the time about money - worry, worry, worry. And then you're a slave relationally because all your conversations are arguments over money, it's terrible.
3 We say, it's all because of a bad economy or it's the president s fault, or it's the previous president s fault, and it s Wall Street, no, no, no. We are at fault! We've been living our live with no margin. We sow what we reap and I think that should change, don't you? Now if you're a Christian, this is a really big deal. Jesus says a lot about how we manage our money. In Luke 16, Jesus tells this fascinating parable about a money manager who is called on the carpet and asked to put together a report on his business dealings. He faces the probable lose of his job so he decides to leverage his opportunities to increase his chances of weathering his job lose. Jesus told his disciples: There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer. 3 The manager said to himself, What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I m not strong enough to dig, and I m ashamed to beg. 4 I know what I ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses. 5 So he called in each one of his master s debtors. He asked the first, How much do you owe my master? 6 Eight hundred gallons of olive oil, he replied. The manager told him, Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred. 7 Then he asked the second, And how much do you owe? A thousand bushels of wheat, he replied. He told him, Take your bill and make it eight hundred. 8 The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. 10 Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else s property, who will give you property of your own? So at the end of this awesome parable about money, Jesus draws a conclusion in verse 13. No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Some of you have been in jobs where you had two masters. They both tell you what to do but what they say doesn t always match up. Jesus said, I know what that's like. No one can serve two masters. Interesting thought. There's a tension and you can't fully serve either one. No one can serve 2 masters. Either you'll hate the one and love the other. This is brilliant. He says if you're ever in this sort of situation, you'll be inclined to lean toward one and lean away from the other. You may even find yourself despising the one you are not devoted to. And then all of a sudden it seems like Jesus changes the subject, He finishes by making this relevant two- thousand year old comment. You cannot serve God and money. Oh, don't you mean God and the devil? No, that's not what I mean its God and money. Now, if you find yourself in a situation where money is saying you can't, you can't, you can't, you have to, don't you dare, don't even look over there and God is saying here's how I want you to live your life, here's how I want you to be generous, here's how I want you to create this, here's how I want you to love your family, he said if you find yourself in that situation it won't be unusual to feel torn between your devotion to God and your devotion to stuff. At the end of the day you've got to choose which master you will serve. This is really important if you're a Christ follower. If you find yourself so enslaved financially that you can't do what Jesus says to do financially - then you can't follow Jesus teachings - practically speaking. And if we can t do that, then He isn t our only master and Jesus says we can t serve two. This is a big deal. He can't be our master financially because we don't have any extra to be generous with. We read what he said about our emotions, but we worry all the time about money, even though he says don't worry about anything.
4 And then relationally you know the whole New Testament is about one another, one another, one another. Love one another, serve one another, be compassionate to one another, carry one another's burdens, forgive one another. When our financial world is out of order we don't do much one another stuff because it's all about us. So for followers of Jesus this is a huge spiritual issue. You've got to create financial breathing room because it's in the breathing room you find peace. It's in the breathing room you find the margin to serve and to love other people financially. It's in the breathing room that your relationships are better because you're not so worried, so focused, so bent out of shape over money. If you have two masters, you're going to be frustrated and if you're a Christian and you're upside down financially, you have two masters. You do. And you're going to lean toward one and away from the other. IN CONCLUSION: So what do you do? So now I'm going to give you some steps to take. The first one is pretty complicated... it s decide. Yeah you just have to decide to do this. It's like working out. Working out, it's not about the difficulty; it's about the discipline. Debt is how you have a higher standard of living, discipline is how you have a better quality of life. You just need to decide I'm not going to live this way anymore. You have to say I'm not doing this anymore, I'm not blaming a president, a prior president, I'm not blaming the economy, I'm not blaming my boss, I'm not blaming anybody else. It's my life, and I'm deciding one way or another I'm going to open up some space between my income and my spending. All right now, here's the second step. You need to create a breathing room goal. Here's what I mean by that. Go back to our little chart (Graph 3). You just need to decide what percentage you want to have between those two lines. Now I understand you may be in an impossible situation. But here's all I'm asking you to do. I'm asking you to write down a number, by yourself, with your spouse, with your family, and decide what percentage of breathing room would you like to have between your income and spending? 5 percent, 10 percent, 20 percent, what would you like it to be? Number three, you've got to spy on your money for two months. People should know where their money is going. If they don't know, they won't know how to fix this. You need to get a ledger sheet, Excel, or Quicken and log in every single penny you spend as a couple, or as an individual. Laurie and I have been doing this the whole time we've been married. It s made such a significant difference in our lives, that even at this stage of life where we have greater financial stability, we still log every single penny we spend on a ledger sheet. Come tax time, we re able to easily access this information, file a long form and save tons of tax dollars. Now that s good advice for anyone; especially if you're a Christian and believe everything belongs to God and you're a manager of what He s given you. You owe it to yourself and your heavenly Father to know where your money is going and you're never going to be able to create space until you know where it goes. So you got to spy on your money for two months and then you cut spending. Four, cut spending! Now, I know we hate to cut spending, but let me just give you a little insight. This is free. Ready? I want is better than I owe. I want that car is better than I owe money on that car. I want to live in that house is better than I owe money on that house. I want to wear that pair of shoes is better than I owe money for a pair of shoes. I want to go on that vacation is better than I owe money for a vacation I couldn't afford.
5 Then five, you develop a debt retirement plan. Now I'm going to tell you how to do this. This is so simple. So here it is, you talk to Colby Clenndenning or Karen Reynolds and sign up for FPU or Legacy by Dave Ramsey, which starts today. Now you say I can't afford it. Okay then, go to the bookstore and buy Dave Ramsey's book called Financial Peace Revisited. Now you say I can t even afford that. Okay, try this. Go to the book store, pull that book off the shelf, sit in a chair and read Chapter 8, it's on page 67. That's why we say that life is better with breathing room. So decide, set a goal, spy on your money, cut your spending, develop a debt Retirement Plan, become a sincere follower of your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and experience the abundant life He designed for you. Let me pray for you. Mark, I don't have time to go to a bookstore and find a book and sit in a chair. Okay here's your last option, you take your smart phone that you can't afford, you find the book, you turn to page 90 and 91 and you take pictures of page 90 and 91, it's the debt snowball program that he's developed. After you have those pages, put the book back on the shelf, go home and then just read those two pages. Get started using that formula and when you get out of debt enough, go back to the bookstore and buy the book. Okay? There s a way to get out of debt once you decide to. Now if you're not a Jesus follower, this is still good advice. If you are a Jesus follower, it's a mandate. It's what you got to do. It's what it means to follow Jesus. That's why he talked so much about money. He says, the chief competitor for your heart is not the devil. The chief competitor for your heart is stuff. Jesus knew that two thousand years ago. He didn't come to die on the cross for our sin just so we could go to heaven. He wants to be the master and the Lord of our lives, abundant lives, that means creating breathing room financially is paramount. It may lower your standard of living, but it's going to raise your quality of life.