“Simplifying Our Relationship with Money”
Sermon at First Methodist Sherman on Sunday, January 14, 2018
By Abbey Echols
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by how complex and busy life can be? Managing schedules, keeping your house clean, completing tasks at work, planning dinner for the week – making sure it’s a healthy dinner, making dinner, making sure you’re staying within your budget, and finding some sliver of time to pray that God just helps you make it through the day…? One way or another, many of us have felt this way.
Today we are continuing our January sermon series on Emily Ley’s book “A Simplified Life.” Knowing that life is busy and complicated, so Emily has set out to help readers simplify their lives. Simplify sounds like a breezy word, but Emily says that simplifying one’s life is intentional and takes work. By simplifying our lives, she says, “We are able to make room for both physical and mental space for what matters.”
In her book, she offers many ways to simplify one’s life, for instance by simplifying your space, your style, your meals, your time (like Pastor Christ talked about last week), and even…your finances. Oh yes! You can’t get through a book on making life less chaotic without talking about finances.
Now, if you’re anything like myself and Emily, the word “finances” might make you shudder a little. For some of you, the word “finances” is awesome, and I hope that you’ll teach me your ways!
As Emily says, our finances are “one of the most important, complicated, and argued-over parts of our lives.” That’s true. I mean think about it…our finances are a huge part of our lives and take up a fair amount of our energy and emotions. Take, for instance, the following situations:
1) Some of us may strive and hope for financial success, and find envy for others who are “already there.”
2) Some of us may have some amount debt and we struggle with ridding ourselves of it.
3) Some of us may be in a comfortable place, financially, but fearful of what challenges and mysteries the future might hold.
No matter where we find ourselves financially, money is a source of worry and anxiety in our lives. We have bills that have to be paid at certain times of the month. We wonder when our paycheck is going to come through so we can make that transfer. And when we finally pay off the car, we find that the next bit project on the to-do list needs tending to, and the list goes on. Before we know it we are caught in a web of worry, anxiety, and (for some) confusion, and our happiness gets pushed to the side.
Friends, living in anxiety about our financial picture is exhausting. Struggling between dealing with our finances and living a happy, worry-free life is hard and taxing on us both physically and emotionally.
This leads us to our text today, which comes from the Gospel of Matthew. Our Scripture is right in the middle of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, which, according to biblical and theological scholarship, is arguably the greatest and most formative of Jesus’ teachings.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches the Disciples how to live as faithful followers of God. He uses both parables and real-life situations to show his disciples what to do and what not to do when dealing with things such as anger, enemies, prayer, and the Golden rule, just to name a few. Here, Jesus is teaching Disciples how to walk humbly with God and how to live in harmony with others in the world.
Couched right in the middle of this speech, Jesus talks about serving 2 masters. This is a text we’ve heard many times…so let’s take another look at it!
TEXT – Matthew 6:24.
This is only one verse, but there’s a lot going on here. First, in Jesus’s day, and at the time Matthew’s Gospel was written, slaves and others from the lower end of the social order might have served more than one master in order to pay a debt or to make ends meet for their families. What Jesus is drawing on here, is that, in serving more than one master, the slave or servant was not able to give his/her full, undivided attention to both masters. So, naturally, tensions would arise when focusing on the needs and demands of both masters causing the servant to become overwhelmed, anxious, and confused. Ultimately, these tensions would cause a slave or servant to become more loyal to one master over another.
Then here, at the end of this verse, we find out Jesus is using this situation as an illustration to make a bigger point: “You cannot serve God and wealth.” The Greek word for wealth, here, is “mammon,” which means material possessions, such as money, land, belongings. Like serving two masters, serving both God and wealth causes the believer to divide one’s attention and loyalties between God and material possessions. And Jesus tells his disciples that this just won’t work. The idea is that when one tries to serve God and wealth, it is easy for wealth to creep to the forefront of one’s life, ultimately pushing God to the sidelines. Jesus argues that instead of striving for a balance between God and worldly things…one should just focus on God.
Well, that’s not always easy. And Jesus knew that because in the next 9 verses he tells the Disciples not to worry, and explains just why they shouldn’t worry.
So let’s take a look at it. TEXT – Matthew 6:25-27, 31-33.
Jesus knew that talking about making a choice between God and wealth would raise some anxiety. So it’s significant that he follows that up with his “Do Not Worry” speech.
He says don’t worry about things like food, clothing, your bodies. Life – life – is more than all these things. Here, Jesus challenges them to look at life from a zoomed out perspective, where God, their “Heavenly Father” knows them and loves them. It’s interesting that Jesus calls God “Father” in this text because doing so reveals intimacy and closeness. It seems that by calling God “Father,” Jesus is showing them that God loves them like a parent, like a loved one who watches out for them.
Then Jesus directly challenges them by asking – can worrying add an hour to your span, to the entirety of your life? Jesus says no… but God our Father can! Only God can give what one needs. Only God can offer freedom from anxieties that arise. Material possessions can’t do that.
In order to fully serve God, one has to trust God. Jesus says that by placing all of one’s faith, focus, and trust in God, the Father, (instead of things like wealth, money, and material possessions), one does not have to live in worry. In putting all of our trust in God, we are striving for a closer relationship with God. As we do this, all these other things will fall into their rightful place. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everything will go perfectly or exactly how we wanted them to go, but Jesus shows us that we can live with the hope of knowing that God loves us, knows us, and is there for us.
When reading the chapter on finances in “A Simplified Life,” one quote that stood out among all the others was this: “So much stress and worry disappear when we take control of our relationship with money.”
Emily didn’t say that we should take control of our money, but instead our relationship with money. This doesn’t mean that we have to be on our financial A-game all the time. Instead, she challenges us to consider changing our attitude about money. She even offers practical tools to help us not feel intimidated by thought of looking into our financial picture. She lists out definitions of words that some of us may not know, encouraging us to educate ourselves so we aren’t lost in confusion. And she empowers us to de-clutter our financial picture by getting rid of debt, and she even shares her own testimony of how Dave Ramsey’s philosophy on becoming debt free worked wonders in her life.
Ultimately, simplifying one’s relationship with money takes work. It’s not easy, but once it’s done, we can breathe a little easier, not worry about our finances, and make room for things that matter most in our lives.
And friends, the things that matter most in our lives are not material possessions, money, or stuff. The things that matter most in our lives are our families, our happiness. It’s Love. It’s God.
God, more than anything, wants us to keep God at the center of our lives. God created each and every one of us in God’s image and wants us to thrive and live in peace and happiness. God, our Father, knows each of our needs, and when we put our trust in God we are empowered to reevaluate and even let go of the things that cause us worry and strife, we make room for God to work in and through our lives.
Friends, when we simplify our lives this way, with our faith in God at the center of our focus, we find something that’s beautiful, meaningful, and worth more than all the possessions of the world combined. We find room in our lives for the things that matter most. And in that open space, we find blessings. We find true happiness. We find that weights have been lifted. We find that worries disappear. We find that we can breath easier.
We find grace. We find freedom. We find peace.
So, I ask you: What matters most to you? What would it look like if we simplified our relationship with money with a God-first mentality? What would it feel like to fully trust God and not life in worry and anxiety? I imagine it would be breathtaking.
May it be so. Amen.