Leeds Vineyard

The Power of Money 1: Why we spend

This is the start of a three week series on Money

It is customary at this point to introduce the talk with some humorous comments. I have come prepared for this and would appreciate your appreciation.

Did you know that Noah was a shrewd investor: He managed to keep all his stock afloat while everything around him went into liquidation.

The latest stock market news:

Helium was up.
Feathers were down.
Paper was stationary.
Knives were up sharply.
Pencils lost a few points.
Hiking equipment was trailing.
Elevators rose, while escalators continued a slow decline.
Mining equipment hit rock bottom.
Nappies remained unchanged.
Shipping lines stayed at an even keel.
Balloon prices were inflated.
And batteries exploded in an attempt to recharge the market.

On a more serious note:

Recent headlines

Repossessions have hit a 12-year high with homebuyers losing 40,000 properties in 2008
Guardian Friday 20th Feb 2009

38,000 people aged 18 to 24 were made redundant between October and December A further quarter of redundancies affected men over 50.
Guardian Thursday 19th Feb 2009

I’ll be offering a challenge to our hearts and suggesting ways our hearts can be held captive by money:
• To establish some principles and approaches to faith and money
• To increase awareness of what is shaping our attitudes and behaviour in relation to money
• To encourage critical interaction and understanding of our culture
• To dispel myths about money
• To equip us to manage money
• To give us an opportunity to discuss and get support with issues related to money

(See the money resources page for links to these titles.)

In particular, we'll refer to "Money Revolution" by John Preston, which offers five principles:

Everything Belongs to God
Active Stewardship
Living within Your Resources
Build up Treasure in Heaven
Give generously

Each with their own area of application.

There is also a website connected to the book.

This week

• Going to offer a Challenge our hearts
• Suggest that our hearts can be held Captive by money
• Suggest how we might find some more freedom
• Throughout to remember God’s heart is one of concern and compassion for our varied situations. Whilst there might be challenge in what you hear over the next few weeks the intention is that we work it out together in a supportive environment

The Challenge

“Search me and know my heart” says the psalmist.

Money, money, money all the things I could do if I had a little money….. it’s a rich man’s world.

I’ll start by posing a question:
Where are our hearts?
When you heard today’s topic “money,” the music what was your response?
What sort of feelings or thoughts did it bring up?

When I did the exercise within a few minutes I’d come up with all of these: -
Guilt: That I had any money when compared to the developing world
Relief: When there was enough in the bank to pay an unexpected bill
Anxiety: About balancing the books, trying to make ends meet
Freedom: to do what I wanted to do, all the things I could do if I had a little money

With this in mind I have a little take away: some coins on one side there is what Richard Foster describes as the lighter side of money on the other side some of the darker aspects of money. The idea being to read some of the verses over the next three weeks. (note it does not contain all 230O verses) On one side the bible talks about how money can be used wisely and reminds us of some of the wealthy characters in the bible followed God: Wealth and following God are not incompatible. On the other side of the coins are some of the verses that give strong cautions on the place of money and wealth. The injunctions in the verses not to be self satisfied, worried, judgemental, afraid presumably implies that the listeners were demonstrating a similar range of emotions to the ones we identified. Two sides of the same coin. Read both sides. The issue of money is not so much measured by how much we have or don’t have but by the influence it has in our hearts.

So my challenge to you this morning is:-
Where is your heart? Your feelings, thoughts, will, and conscience in relation to money?
Are you prepared to listen to the challenging witness in the gospel accounts?
Will you let God speak to your heart?

Captivated hearts (Strongholds)

My answer to this question was “my heart is under siege.” Captivated by pretty lights and packages. Trying to chase an illusion and buy a feeling. “I am a material girl and I’m living in a material world” and it’s time to stop.

Let me read you a passage from Haggai 1:5-7

This is what God is saying
"Take a good, hard look at your life.
Think it over.
You have spent a lot of money,
but you haven't much to show for it.
You keep filling your plates,
but you never get filled up.
You keep drinking and drinking and drinking,
but you're always thirsty.
You put on layer after layer of clothes,
but you can't get warm. (The Message)

You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it." (NIV)

Consider your ways and set your mind on what has come to you. (Amplified Bible)

Consider your ways (your previous and present conduct) and how you have fared. (Amplified Bible)

This of course links into the theme of “stronghold” that David introduced at the beginning of the 2009. So in what ways are our hearts captivated by money? And the things money can buy? Is it just a matter of lack of control ... the solution being to just exert your will. If it is a stronghold it is often a bit more complicated than that and takes a bit more deconstructing. For something to be a stronghold it usually has a strong foundation, something that it is built on and something that maintains it.

I think some of the foundations to the stronghold of money might include:-
• The values and beliefs around us: ideology materialism and consumerism
• Physiological responses
• Yearning for salvation when our lives are broken
• Living in a spiritual vacuum

Values and beliefs (the ideology of materialism and consumerism)

Success and progress and possessions constitute the greatest good and the highest values in life.

Consumerism is a set of attitudes and values that emphasis the primacy of the individual, the importance of staying young and the value of newness. It’s slogans are “Bigger is Better, Faster is Better, More is Better and You Can Have It All.” (Mc Daniel 2000) Ben will talk about this more next week.

We have created a culture that has the overriding message- we do not yet have all we need to be satisfied (Naish p2) the idea that we “never having enough.”

This concept is not new: This is what the writer of Ecclesiastes says: -

Those who love money never have enough; those who love wealth are never satisfied with their income as goods increase, so do those who consume them. Eccl 5:10 - 11

This stuff has a powerful influence on our minds and emotions We are being bombarded on a daily basis with an ideology, a way of thinking and feeling in relation to money and possessions through advertising and the media. This clip was made by an anti consumerist campaign and perhaps makes the case.

Physical addiction

Some of you may have seen that the film “Confession of a shopaholic” comes out this week. It seems to present a very stereotypical view of people addicted to shopping as white middle class dizzy women with nothing better to do. However according to a study published by psychologists today (American Journal of Psychiatry Lorrin Koran) shopaholics are almost as likely to be men as they are women and claims that more than one in 20 of adults are prone to compulsive spending sprees. Compulsive buyers also tended to be younger, on low incomes
(Ian Sample The Guardian, Saturday 30 September 2006 )

Yearning for salvation when our lives are broken

Studies also show that people with low self-esteem engage in more impulse spending and buying things they don't need. We spend to try to fill some gap in our lives, to distract us from unresolved pain or loss, to try to maintain the illusion that everything is alright. This is perhaps why the advice to budget and just stop spending doesn’t necessarily change people’s behaviour.

What is perhaps more worrying is that consumerism has become a way that people find their identity and their sense of belonging and security. The salvation offered to consumers comes through appearance, affluence and financial achievement. We feel saved, or made whole when we appear (or think we appear) to be successful and attractive to others. (Mc Daniel p73)

Living in a spiritual vacuum
Naish, who is not a Christian, suggests that our compulsion to buy is “perhaps about trying to buy purpose in a deity free cosmos” (Naish p86) He is making a very important spiritual link.
Foster describes the characteristics of a deity as one whom: “gives us security, can induce guilt, gives us freedom, gives us power and seems to be omnipresent” (Foster p28) Sound familiar?
When we replace God with anything it is called idolatry.

Let me give you some good news. It doesn’t have to be like this.

Gal 5:1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

God does not intend our hearts to be captivated by the love of money.
God does not intend our hearts to stay captivated by the love of money.
God’s spirit always “cries freedom.”

Releasing captivated hearts (and deconstructing strongholds)

To start to or to continue to live in according to the five principles requires a continuing transformation of the heart.

I’d like to suggest some ways of breaking free:

Open your eyes
In the middle of passage in Matthew warning the listeners about greed, fear and worry in relation to money, there is a section that describes the eyes as lamps to the body.
I would like to encourage us to “open our eyes.” Open our eyes to the culture around us, open our eyes to the state of our hearts, our thoughts, feelings and conscience, open our eyes to our behaviour our spending habits. Let the light in. Open your eyes

Change your mind
David introduced us to this verse earlier in the year. These are some of the things I needed to change my mind about or realign my mind to:

Everything belongs to God (Principle 1).
The earth is the Lords and everything in it Ps 24:1

Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” 1 Chron 29:14

Decide that Enough is Enough:

For me this meant:
Enough stuff
Enough of seeking fulfilment identity through money and possessions
Enough of living like this

Faith requires a “psychological and spiritual detachment from material values and consumerist values” “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

Nurture an attitude of “more than enough”:
• Small is Beautiful
• Good Things Come Slowly
• We Don’t Even Need It All
• These two things helped me focus on this

John 14: 8-9
Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?

Jesus is more than enough

“All of you, is more than enough for all of me” (Song lyrics)

Walk in another direction

Take some practical steps (Active Stewardship, Living Within Your Resources Principles 2 &3)
For me this included leaving the credit card at home, switching off the “one click” on Amazon, getting accountable with HG leader, sorting out a debt plan, doing an on line food shop to avoid the temptation when walking around the supermarket, putting this little card in my purse to remind me.

I wish I had had more time to unpack this section, perhaps its’ something that could be picked up in house group.

The early Christians seemed to have a habit of picking up Roman slogans and making them their own. Caesar is Lord became Jesus is Lord. You cannot be saved by any other name but Caesars became you cannot be saved by any other name but Jesus.

So using the words related to money lets be rich towards God and spend, spend, spend our lives on God. Let’s invest in the Kingdom of God.

SWhen I was writing this I could see in my mind’s eye an image of a rider on a horse, sword held high in his right hand, a bit like on Lord of the Rings’ The Return of the King’. The impression I got was that this was an image of Jesus and as the sword moved through the air it was breaking the chains that captivated us. Then my mind moved to another image of a second person sitting on the floor. This person was holding a pair of what seemed like fairly blunt scissors and was cutting through many bits of string that entangled them. The feeling was that their efforts were rather pathetic in contrast to the rider and there was some annoyance that the rider didn’t use his sword to cut through all the string anyway. But as the person kept cutting the string the scissors change into a knife and then into a sword. The encouragement was to take simple steps and see what happens. Mustard seeds grow into trees and seemingly scissors into swords.

Finally just a reminded that this is God’s heart:

The Lord is gracious and compassionate;
slow to anger and rich in love
The LORD is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.
Psalm 145:8

Jesus at the Mall (or for the transatlantic translation, Jesus at the White Rose Centre)
Imagine Jesus walking around the White Rose Centre. He sees row upon row of fashionable items, belts. blouses, cardigans, DVDs, jewellery, jumpers, legging, LCD TVs, IPODS, mobiles, MP3, MP4, scarves, shorts, shoes, toys, t shirts, tights, TVs, wallets. He watches men, women, children….. His heart is not judgemental, indeed he is touched by the children, He knows that there is a place in life for having fun and playing with toys. He dimly remembers a toy his mother and father gave him. He had hoped the adults might have realised that their true worth does not lie in being well-dressed and attractive, rich and famous, but rather in being wise, compassionate and inwardly free. He is also touched by the parents. He knows that many of them mean well in wanting to buy things for their children. They want their children to be happy, and they think that if their children “get stuff” they will be happy. He knows their intentions are good even though they are confused about how to be good parents. Forgive them, he says to Himself. They know not what they do. (Adapted from Mc Daniel 2000 P75-76)

Michele Goulding, 22/02/2009