Money, Work and Debt

“Money, Work and Debt”

Text: Deuteronomy 28:12-14

Prayer: O God, our creator and lover of our souls, create in us pure hearts that are open to your movement in our lives, willing hearts to receive all that you have for us to learn, and committed hearts to follow any truth we receive from these words. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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I. Work. It’s a loaded term, if ever there was one. Saying that something is a lot of work can be an excuse to not do it. It can be a complaint or a way of emphasizing the difficulty of a task.

For many people work is a problem. Their daily job is a highly unsatisfactory experience. Years ago a best‑selling, non‑fiction book was among the top ten on the market. It carried the simple title, “Working.” It was written by a man with the highly unlikely name of Studs Terkel. Terkel is a master of listening to what other people have to say about common, human concerns.

He works with a tape recorder, and the results are exciting, and authentic. In his book, Working, Terkel had us listening to a cross section of Americans talking about their jobs C about their daily work. The list of career people includes cab drivers, telephone operators, mechanics, press agents, bar pianists, stone cutters, house wives, priests, dentists, librarians, barbers, and about ninety others.

One of the significant impressions the book left with me was that a size-able number of folks find their daily work to be a negative experience. It wasn’t the “work” of work that made jobs a drag for most people, though. Physical labor was accepted and bearable. Mental effort, too, was something most could stand, if that’s the kind of work their jobs called for. Even a busy‑busy schedule could easily be endured by most of the people. It was rather an over‑all viewpoint, a personal outlook toward the whole syndrome and cycle of working that got a lot of people down.

That’s the way it can be for all of us. Some people, for instance, use their job as a measure of their own self‑worth. They are dissatisfied with their job because it doesn’t say much about them as a person. They should be higher up on the ladder by this time, they feel. They can’t be worth much or they would be more successful at this point than they are.

And then there is the case that we sometimes view our work as nothing more than a necessary evil. We have to work to make bucks. In our scheme of things we aren’t living for anything or anyone else, so our work, too, becomes a drag. We work to make money. We make money to have a powerful resource for purchasing commodities and services for our self and our family. But our overriding aim is often little more than selfish personal comfort and pleasure, perhaps even having enough money to shield our self from all the world’s challenges and problems.

If you are or were a stay at home parent, I hope your family appreciates you! Studies show that if something happened to you, the other parent would have to pay $ 113,000 to cover everything you were doing. You deserve a raise! That kind of contribution is significant.

We need to understand the biblical concept of work and the reasons why we work. What we need to understand from God’s perspective is that work is a gift. This is the point Mike Slaughter makes in his book, “Shiny gods.”
We were created to be productive; our lives need to bear fruit. We gain a sense of purpose and meaning by producing something positive. Now, I’m not just talking about work that we do during out time before retirement. But I mean all that we do, as we volunteer, as we help in an organization, as we give of our time and talents to some cause. Don’t we find reward in these? This is the work we do too, no matter what age we are.
In Colossians 3:17, it says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
I had a real challenge to live out that verse when I was working in a potato processing factory in Blackfoot Idaho at a job that put me through college. In processing potatoes, the machines used to put out a lot of potato dust. Dust was everywhere! Working on sanitation, meant that I was to sweep, wipe off or hose off the food processing equipment and floors as we made Betty Crocker Potato Buds. The dust settled everywhere: in my hair, on my arms, down my shirt, even into my places you wouldn’t think possible. The temperature was usually in the 80’s to even 100 in some spots of the plant. Now mix that sweat, because sweat we did, with potato dust; it made mash potatoes on your body! Mash potatoes!
I learned to recite this verse to myself and clean and work as though I was doing it for Jesus Christ. And I kept in mind that what I was doing was part of a bigger picture of helping an industry, of providing food, of providing an income for my education. It was a real investment in the future. I viewed my work cleaning up potato dust as something positive, worthwhile and I did my best.
Now, I approach my work in ministry the same way. Work is a gift from God. Notice in Genesis, that God worked six days and rested on the seventh, giving us a pattern and Sabbath day of rest. My Sabbath day is Monday. That is my day of renewal and refocusing. It’s also a time I catch up with my friends and often go out of town.
I’m over sixty now, and all my life I’ve followed this six-day workweek. And guess what? I feel refreshed. I’m energized through my work experience.
That’s God’s design! Our work, our contribution, is the payback for this gift of life. We realize, of course, that there are some people who are unable to work based on physical limitations, mental illness, or other limiting situations. And in today’s economy, we have many people who are very willing to work, but they’ve been subjected to situational poverty. We read from time to time of an industrial plant closing and suddenly thousands of people lose their jobs.
We read in Proverbs 14: 23, “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”
We see from God’s design that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between our commitment to work, the energy that we place in our work, and our return on that investment.
I know that the Occupy movement, which started on Wall Street a few years ago, was driven by frustration. We need to acknowledge that frustration and the institutional fiscal irresponsibility that contribute to it. But in some of the interview I heard, occupy leader claimed that we needed to demolish the current economic system and create a system that gives everyone an equal amount of stuff. The technical term for that view is socialism. Now, I realize that unbridled capitalism has also contributed to gross injustices, but if you think socialism works, just look at Cuba, where the majority of cars are from the 1950’s era—and those belong to the elite.
There is a correlation between our commitment to obey God in making our contribution and the return on our labor.
II. Debt
So now, let’s talk about debt. Work is God’s means of provision; debt is not how God provides. There are two kinds of debt you need to be aware of. The first is consumer debt, or using a credit card. As of June 2017, the average credit card debt in American households, who do not pay off their credit cards in full each month, is $10,955. Over the last decade, average credit card debt has grown C rising by 52% since the year 2000. Millennials and individuals over 74 years old held the least credit card debt. With seniors 75 and over have an average credit card debt of $$5,638. (1)
This isn’t a secular problem. God’s people are not immune to materialism. I’m just waiting for the first Christmas commercials to start airing right after Halloween. I don’t think that’s exactly why Jesus was born. Credit card debt and the materialism it represents do not honor Jesus.
Now the second kind of debt is investment debt. Not many people can buy a home without taking on investment debt in the form of a mortgage. And many people can’t buy a car without setting up payments.
Sometimes debt is necessary, but the biblical directive is that it should be avoided.We need to always have a strategic plan to get out of debt as soon as possible.
The problem with any debt in our lives, including the mortgage, is that it means when I go to work tomorrow I am paying for the past instead of investing in the future. Proverbs 22:7 says, “The wealthy rule over the poor; a borrower is a slave to a leader.” The borrower is a slave to the lender.
I love the story in 2 Kings 4. A widow came to Elijah the prophet and said her husband died and the creditors were coming to take all that she owned, including her children. In the culture of the day, there was no welfare system. She had no means of support and her sons would eventually be her retirement plan. Elijah told her two things. First, get a job. After all, what is God’s means of provision? The means of provision is not going further into debt; it’s work.
At one point in my ministry decades ago, I wasn’t making enough to pay for some necessary legal bills I incurred. I got a second job cleaning houses one morning a week. Can you imagine people call a cleaning service and discover their pastor at their door? But guess what? What is God’s means of provision? It’s work.
The second thing Elijah told the widow was to sell what she had and pay off her debts. I didn’t need a brand new car during that time of my life to satisfy my lust for material things. When I sold one to buy another, the car I bought was over 7 years old. What I needed to do was to pay off those legal bills and I did. We just might need to sell or downsize at times. We should never borrow more than we can pay back. We are people who keep promises. It=s always better to live more simply than to go into debt. When we live more simply, we help people simply live. Ultimately, financial freedom and abundant life are the consequence of life practices that are aligned with God’s teachings.

It is exactly as we read in Deuteronomy 28 at the beginning of the chapter. You will be the head, not the tail, if you pay attention to the commands the Lord your God give you and carefully follow them. We are to turn neither to the right nor the left but to follow God’s priorities in all that we do.

Faithfulness to live according to God’s provisions. Faithfulness to work, not debt. Faithfulness to use our time, our talents, our resources to live productive, fruitful lives that make a difference in the little corner of the world we live. Amen.

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Prayer: O Lord, help us to learn from the teachings your give that we may have hearts of wisdom and lives of integrity, productive work and service. Help us to be a blessing in this world you so love but what we are able to do with the resources you give to us. And for your abundance, we thank you in the name of Christ, our Lord. Amen.

1. https://www.valuepenguin.com/average‑credit‑card‑debt