Make Interest or Pay Interest
I have told you before about my friendship with Dan Loftis. Dan was an Elder at the New Hope Church when we first moved there, and earlier in life Dan had served as a Chief in the Navy. Since my dad was also a Retired Navy Chief, Dan thought it was his responsibility to take care of our family. Every week Dan would come by the building and take me out to visit folks, which consisted of making one visit and then heading out to eat. Dan had been around for a long time and I realized very quickly, over those meals that he didn’t have a problem addressing the Elephants in the room. There were many weeks over a hamburger or basket of Chicken Fingers Dan would look at me as say, let’s talk about… and away we we would go talking about my marriage, the boys, ornery people in the church, or a host of other issues most people choose to leave alone.
I looked forward to those meals, because I was not making a lot of money at the time. Trista gave up the opportunity to work outside our home so that she could stay at home with the boys. We were both going back and getting our Masters Degrees, and the honest truth is that money was not just tight, it was no where to be found. So on that particular Tuesday our conversation drifted from the boys, to Disney, to how we were going to pay for that trip, to how we were doing financially. I knew that Dan loved me, so we just talked and I shared that we were going to have to make a purchase that would go on our credit card and make monthly payments. That’s when Dan told me something that I took to heart. He said, there are two kinds of people in the world. There are people who make interest and there are people who pay interest. You need to decide which kind of person you want to be.
Dan was a wise friend, who was willing to pour into our lives, and His words held a lot of weight with us. There are two kinds of people in the world. There are people who make interest; there are people who pay interest; which one do we want to be? Look, I am a terrible money person. I am not real sure how much money I make, or even how much we have. I would impulse buy an airplane. Thankfully, God sent me Trista who is great with money. She is a planner and a budgeter. And she agreed with Dan Loftis and said it was time for us to make some changes. It’s not like we were not already doing some of those things already, but that’s when we decided to buckle down. Very quickly we discovered if we were going to be the make interest, not pay interest people, that we were going to face a whole new set of problems.
The first problem was that we could not have everything we wanted. Basically when you se something that you want, you have to understand that you can’t have them. This has been especially difficult for me, we instituted the $25.00 rule. Basically, if I see something that I want and it costs more that $25.00 I have to go and take a nap. When I wake up, if I still want it or even remember that I wanted it then I do a little research and see if I really want that item, or if I just want to buy something. Sometimes you need to look in the mirror and say, No. And sometimes your wife looks at you and says, No. And then sometimes you look at your wife and say no. Just because you want something does not mean it is the best thing for you to have.
The second problem is you can’t even have everything you can afford. For me this was the hardest one, because we knew people that made similar amounts of money, or in some cases, they made less than we did and they had a bigger house because they put almost nothing down. They drove better cars because they leased them, or borrowed money. Their lifestyle was ahead of our lifestyle, and it didn’t feel fair. We decided that we were not going to purchase the stuff we could have afforded because we didn’t want to have to pay interest.
And the third problem: When the money runs out you have to quit spending. Honestly, this is a difficult concept for us to understand because we live in this great country and we have been given this magical ability to reach into our own future, grab a bunch of money, pull it into the present, and spend it. We call it credit, and we have credit cards, home equity lines of credit, I mean you can just get credit and now you can buy what you wouldn’t have been able to afford until later. You can have more, better, newer, and quicker. And if you do you will always be a pay interest type of person and not a make interest type of person.
The dirty little secret of credit is that eventually the credit runs out. The minimum payment on the credit cards gets large, and then there is a financial hiccup or a bump. Somebody loses a job, or a company gets downsized, or you just max out your credit line, but your spending habits are so ingrained and suddenly you bump up against the edge of your credit. And when that happens, you have to go backwards.
If you’ve ever had to go backwards financially or in your lifestyle, it’s like somebody is ripping a scab off. It’s painful and you feel so stupid to have to go backwards financially. You get depressed and your ego takes a shot. You are embarrassed to tell your friends that you can’t go out, you need to eat rice a beans at home. But the harsh truth is that you can either learn to tell yourself no, or somebody else will tell you no.
I know there is this idea that all churches care about and want to talk about is money. A few things, first this is the 66th sermon I have preached in this pulpit and the first time I have talked about money.
Secondly, money is an outside indication of what is going on, on your inside. Your view of money is the barometer of the depth of your faith. To me the thing that is so tragic is that unlike other nations, our money actually has a warning label printed on it. Every piece of money says, In God We Trust. I wonder if you have ever stopped to think about what that means. It means we trust in God, not these things, and that we trust what God says about stuff and money is true.
And thirdly, God talks about money a lot. It doesn’t mater if you are Jewish or a Christian, if you are camped out in the Old Testament or New Testament, if you are paying attention you are going you are going to read an awful lot about money. Howard Dayton, founder of Crown Ministries, counted over 500 verses in the Bible on prayer and over 2,300 verses on how to handle money and possessions. Half of Jesus’ teachings deal with our attitude towards money and possessions. Jesus knew that God’s greatest rival for our hearts would not be Satan, but money. That’s why we are able to read such wise instruction as:
Proverbs 11:28 “Those who trust in riches will be ruined…”
In 1 Timothy 6:17 Paul taught us: “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.”
Job 31:24-28 says: "If I have put my trust in gold or said to pure gold, ‘You are my security,’ if I have rejoiced over my great wealth, the fortune my hands had gained … then these also would be sins to be judged, for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.”
Jesus was very clear on this: "Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
When God began His relationship with the Israelite nation, He established their laws of economics. Remember the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt, and now they were a free people with no law, no rules, no culture other than a slave culture. They had been in Egypt for four hundred years as outcasts. All they knew was slavery. Now they are given a fresh start and they have to start from scratch. So God establishes some laws about economics, because He knew, at the end of the day, as the money goes the nation goes. So God established some laws about borrowing and lending. Deuteronomy 28:12 The LORD will open up his heavenly storehouse so that the skies send rain on your land at the right time, and he will bless everything you do. You will lend to other nations, but you will not need to borrow from them.
God is making this promise to Israel as they are being established as a nation. He tells them that they will be so blessed that they will lend to many nations and the evidence that things are going well for you as a nation is that you will have extra. The surrounding nations will come to you for loans and you make interest, but you won’t be a nation that pays interest. Wealthy nations don’t borrow money. Wealthy nations loan money.
That used to be how we indicated wealth in our country. A long time ago in this country, the wealthier you were the less likely it was that you would have any debt. Why would you have any debt? You’re wealthy. Rich people don’t have debt. And middle class, lower middle class and poor people, when they wanted stuff that they couldn’t get they didn’t go into debt either, because debt is bad. If you were middle class or poor you used layaway because debt was an indication that you’ve not handled your finances very well. So when your grandparents were growing up and my grandparents were growing up, they didn’t have credit cards.
My parents have never borrowed money for a car, as a matter of fact my parents were pretty adamant about it. Dad would piece a car together with bailing wire, until he could afford to go and pay cash. Today my parents owe nothing, they own their house and their cars, and everything. Since they don’t owe anyone anything, they have poor credit. Today, Trista is with my mom in Huntsville, and after church they are going to the Dillard's after Christmas sale. In order to get in to the sale early you have to have one of their credit cards. So a few weeks ago Trista and mom went down to apply for a Dillard’s credit card so they could get in early and get the best deals. While Trista was able to get a card and a pretty substantial line of credit, my mom only qualified for $1,000 store credit.
The new standard seems to be that the wealthier you are, the more money you owe. What used to be an indication that things aren’t going well for you now is a sign of wealth. We live in a culture that says, Why would you pay cash when you can make payments? Why would you pay cash? Save your cash and then borrow, borrow, borrow. Look at the rates; look at the terms; look at the minimum payment. It’s flipped upside down to where now debt isn’t an indication that things aren’t going well. Debt is an indication that you must have means, because you have something to borrow off of or to leverage in terms of gaining more debt. So we are completely upside down.
Remember God told Israel His favor would be seen in the fact that they would be a nation that makes interest, and not one that pays interest. The same God that created the birds in the air and the fish in the sea, created economics. It’s safe to assume that God knows a few things about money and debt. That’s why Solomon, in his wisdom could tell the truth about paying interest or making interest. He said, The rich rule over the poor . . . It is just always going to be the case. The rich will always have the upper hand over the poor.
The full thought of what Solomon says, is The rich rule over the poor, and borrowers are slaves to the lenders. (Proverbs 22:7) Over 2,500 years ago Solomon says to the nation of Israel, and He says to you and to me in 2017, when you owe interest at the end of the day you become a slave to the lender. When you borrow money it changes your position, and your relationship.
Some of you are experiencing this right now, you borrowed money from family, or friends, or Bank of America and your position in life has changed. When that little bill comes in, you don’t say to your husband or your wife, I’m so excited; I can’t wait to see what’s in here. You just kind of leave it sitting there. You don’t even want to know. You don’t like Bank of America, or the credit union, and it’s your own fault. Because when you’re a slave, you’ve got somebody else telling you what you can do and what you can’t do. God loved the nation of Israel, and God loves you; that’s why He told us even if you think owing money is going to help you out, at the end of the day you are a slave to the lender.
But someone, somewhere flipped it, and all of a sudden the more you had the more you could borrow, and living in debt became the acceptable thing. We started getting in debt with cars and washing machines and credit cards, and school loans. As long as you could make the payment everything is great. But now we’ve got an economy that’s fueled by debt. Rich people have debt; poor people have debt. Old people have debt; young people have debt. We are all slaves to someone.
And here is the rub, we’re the most blessed, most prosperous nation in the world. And we couldn’t resist the temptation to reach into our own future, get a handful of cash so we could spend it now. That’s why we need to address this elephant in the room, so that we can draw a line in the sand and start the long road to getting better, because there’s hope.
Trista said it was not fair to talk about money and debt right after Christmas. I understand that there are those of us who overspent during the holiday season. There are those of us who will be paying interest over the next few months. That’s exactly why I thought we need to talk about this. As we close this morning I want to give you a few suggestions on how we can make some better financial decisions, and get to the place where we make interest instead of paying interest.
1) Debt is quick and wealth is slow.
The truth is that a get rich quick scheme is just a scheme. While you can get into debt quickly, if you are going to be a person that makes interest it is a life style that will follow you your whole life. We read in Proverbs 13:11 Money earned hastily is easily lost, but hard-earned money continues to grow.
2) Money is a gift for you to use to help others.
Paul writes in Ephesians 4:28 Did you used to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can't work. Have you ever thought that the reason God blesses you, is so that you can bless others? Proverbs 14:31 says: Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors him. God expects us to be generous with our wealth. When we oppress the poor, we insult God.
3) Get your priorities straight.
While money is important, loving God and growing in wisdom are more important than money. Once again we see that the writer in Proverbs says that it’s better to have a little money but be right with God than a lot of money and be wicked. It is better to be poor and do right than to be rich and do wrong. Proverbs 16:8
Money is an outside indication of what is going on, on your inside. God must be our first priority, and as long as we are struggling with money, God will always be in second place.