Sunday, August 02, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "Pay What You Owe"

“Pay What You Owe”

In God We Trust - What the Bible Says About Money
August 2, 2009
Romans 13:7-8

Our Pop Quiz last week went so well, that I feel like doing it again! So, let me ask you these questions about what the Bible says about money.

#1. Money is what? [Profoundly Spiritual.] Money is profoundly spiritual.

Now, one of you asked me this week what I mean by “spiritual.” Because often in the Bible “spiritual” means spirit-filled or godly or spiritually mature.

Am I saying that money is spirit-filled or that if you have money you’ll be spiritually mature? No, not really!

What am I saying is that we can’t give in to the Pie Chart Fallacy.

You see this pie chart? We often think of our lives this way.

“My Social Life, My Business Life (work takes up a lot of my life), My Personal Life, My Family Life, and My Spiritual Life.” And we might add slices to the pie of our life.

And we feel good if our spiritual life gets a big sliver.

However, that’s not the correct way of thinking about our lives.

Here is the biblical view:

The whole pie is my spiritual life! I live out of my spirit. I live out of my active heart.

And my so called “financial life” matters to God.

My finances whether for good or bad are tied to my heart–the control center of my life.

The Lord Jesus said that where my treasures are there my heart will be also.

God cares about what I do, what I think, and how I feel about money.

Money is profoundly spiritual.

Question #2. Who owns all of the money in the world? [God does!]

“The Earth is the Lords’s and all that is in it.” Everything in our accounts, wallets, and purses. God owns.

And Question #3. What does that make us? [Stewards! Money Managers! God’s financial agents.]

And that means that we must give an account for what we do with God’s money.

There will be a heavenly audit!

Question #4. How many masters can you serve? [Only One.]

Only God or Money. God or Mammon.

We must choose. Once and for all and every day.

Question #5. What are the four main ways that we are tempted to serve money?

1. Worry About Money.
2. Steal Money.
3. Hoard Money.
4. Crave Money.

Question #6. What is the opposite of worrying about money?

[Trusting God.] Ever since I started this series on money, some of you have been slipping me these $1,000,000 bills. Thanks!

They look like money, but they are actually gospel tracts for handing out. If any of you are interested in having some for giving out, you can have a few of these.

What is written on all of our money here in the United States (whether we heed or not)? “In God We Trust.”

Not in money.

#7. What is the antihesis of stealing money?

[Working and Giving]

My son, Peter, has been working hard at this. He still wants that cap gun really badly. And he said to his mom this week, “I need a job!” And she promised him that she would line some jobs up for him so that he can work to get that thing he wants.

And as he earns money, he’s return a portion of those earnings to the Lord. He gave a proportional amount of his earnings to the Lord this morning.

Way to go, Peter!

#8. What is the antithesis of hoarding money?

[Being generous! Sharing it.]

#9. What is the the antidote to craving money?

[Contentment in Christ.] Keep yourselves free from the love of money and be content with what you have–the Lord Jesus.

And question #10. What is the New Testament percentage that the Lord requires of His children for their giving? Answer: There is none.

We are to give generously, sacrificially, cheerfully, and expectantly–expecting reward.

I got two great testimonies on these survey sheets from you folks. Let me share them with you.

“While Brian Catanzaro received some support for his mission trip to Africa, he used approximately $2,500 of his own money. After committing to this, he received a promotion at work and a 13% raise in salary. God provides for Brian. Brian uses his money as a steward for God, and God continues to provide faithfully.” Amen!

Here’s the other one: “Trust. When my husband was laid off and then return to work his employers had overpaid him. So they took money off of his check. [A real hardship.] I continued to pray and give my offering and God was so gracious and wonderful as he provided for us.” Amen and Amen.

And I’m sure that those testimonies could be multiplied again and again in this room.

Giving is a beautiful thing. And noone does it better than our Lord!

Now, this morning, I want to talk about our spiritual life with money once again, but not giving this time, but paying. Paying what we owe.

The sermon title is “Pay What You Owe” and it comes from Romans chapter 13. Do you have it in front of you?

In this chapter, Paul is talking about the Christ-follower’s submission to the governing authorities. We are supposed to submit and obey the government that we find ourselves under.

And in these two paragraphs about the role of government and our obligations to it (my friend Byron Harvey just recently preached a good message on this section entitled, “What We Owe Mr. Obama.” It’s very good. In these two paragraphs about the role of government and our obligations to it...), the Apostle Paul brings up the subject of taxes and other things that we might owe someone. Let’s begin reading in verse 6 and read through verse 10, but we’ll focus on verses 7 and 8.

“This [submission to authorities] is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. [Here it is:] Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

Now, it doesn’t sound all that spiritual. In fact, it sounds commonplace and commonsense. And it should be.

But here it is. We need to hear it. It’s in God’s word. V.7

“Give everyone what you owe him.”

King James, “Render therefore to all their dues.”

The English Standard Version, “Pay to All What Is Owed Them.”

Pay what you owe.

God is saying that to you this morning from the pages of His Word: “Pay what you owe.”


Now, this passage itself doesn’t talk about money that’s been loaned to you. It has more to do with the government–though our government is very much in the business of loaning money.

But the rest of the Bible is very clear on this fact–if you borrow money, then you should pay it back promptly and on time.

When it says in verse 8, “Let no debt remain outstanding...” it doesn’t mean that you can’t borrow something. The King James sounds like it, “Owe no man anything...” but what it means is that if you have a payment due, you pay it. You don’t slack on paying your debts. You don’t just do it when you feel like it.

Pay what you owe on your loans.

The opposite, the Bible says, is wicked.

Psalm 37, verse 21. “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.”

Proverbs chapter 3, verses 27 and 28, “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Come back later. I’ll give it tomorrow’–when you have it with you.”

“The wicked borrow and do not repay...”

Pay what you owe on your loans.

Now, before we go any further, we should probably establish this: is borrowing and lending good or bad?

Borrowing and lending are very good things!

They are distinctly human activities that reflect the image of God.

Let me show where I get that.

Let’s take money out of the equation for a second.

How many of you have ever borrowed a tool? Or a vehicle? Or a book?

Isn’t that great? We don’t think about it that much but that’s a great thing to be able to do! To have the temporary use of someone’s else thing.

Borrowing is really cool. I think more of it should be done.

So, what does that say about lending? Well, if borrowing is good then lending must be, too!

Releasing control of something for a temporary period of time so that someone else can get benefit out of it. Lending a tool, a vehicle, a book, whatever.

That’s awesome that we can do that!

I think it’s something that we can do that highlights what God is like! Remember, He owns everything and we’re just stewards of it while it’s in our hands.

Giving, I think, is even greater than lending. But lending is pretty cool!

I am so thankful for libraries!

The same psalm (37) that says that the wicked borrow but do not repay also says the righteous “lend freely.” Lending is a righteous thing to do.

And not just tools, vehicles, or books–possessions, but money, too, the currency of exchange.

Now the problem tends creeps in when we add the item of...what? Interest.

The Bible is very wary of lending at interest. Or paying rent on money.

There are several places in the Old Testament that forbid charging interest on loans to fellow Jews. The Jews could lend at interest to the pagan countries around them, if they could trust them, but they weren’t to lend at interest (often called usury) to each other.

That’s not to say that they couldn’t invest in each other and lend each other money with the expectation of a return–but it had to be a different kind of contract than just, “You rent this money from me for this period of time and promise to repay it with this amount on top.” It had to involve more risk for both parties.

The Old Testament, especially, is wary of borrowing money, especially at interest. Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” There is a kind of slavery that enters into the relationship when money gets borrowed, especially at interest.

The Proverbs warn again and again against putting up security for someone else–co-signing loans. That’s a trap!

And in the history of the church, for more than 2/3 of the church’s history, lending money or borrowing money with interest was forbidden or frowned upon by the church. It was really interesting (no pun intended) to read the history of biblical interpretation of the matter of interest.

I studied it for about month before we began this series. I wanted to make sure that I was representing the Bible well to you. I’d be glad to loan you the resources to study it yourself. [Here is one.]

After a lot of study and thought, I think that the Bible gives a cautious permission for Christ-followers to borrow and lend money, even at interest. (I’m sure that Keith, Becky, and Matt back there are glad I said that!)

I think there is something to the Old Testament’s economic system that, if we followed those principles more closely, we might have a much more just and secure and communal financial system.

But I don’t think that it was intended to be replicated wholesale in our modern world. Israel’s was an agricultural and theocratic nation whose laws were tailor made for their situation. And while the principles may still be helpful, I don’t think there is a binding command here.

And, I really don’t think that the prohibitions against interest in the Old Testament were meant to rule out all commercial loans where there is equity to back up what is borrowed and two equal business partners use interest as an economic tool.

I don’t think that there is anything wrong with putting our money in the bank and expecting the bank to pay us interest. That’s actually a loan, too, isn’t it?

Actually, I think the point of those prohibitions was not take advantage of the poor.

The poor, those affected the most by poverty, are most vulnerable to interest bearing loans. They are at the mercy of the lender.

That’s why Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

I got an invitation in the mail a couple of weeks ago to come to a special meeting in Bellefonte where they are giving away money for only 18% APR!

Who falls for that? People who are desperate for money. 18%!

We’re going to talk more about the poor in two weeks, in our last message in this series. But the point I’m making here is that lending money to the poor at interest, especially any kind of significant interest is sinning against the Lord!

And that’s what the Old Testament is most concerned about.

And yet, it’s still very cautious about borrowing, in general. It assumes borrowing. It expects borrowing. I don’t think you can really get through modern life without some level of borrowing–at least on the front end of life.

But it calls us to be cautious about borrowing. I’d like to talk more about that, especially the danger-signs. The book “Money, Possessions, and Eternity” by Randy Alcorn talks about that. The Bible studies by people like Crown financial ministries talk about it, too.

Last week, our church family approved the borrowing of money to finance the facilities and equipment project here at the church. I think that the whole process has been conducted with appropriate caution and prayerfulness.

And two of the things I know about this church that give me great confidence are that #1, this church will give towards these projects because they trust their leaders and they believe God is at work here and #2, this church will pay off its debts.

Because the point this morning, is that if you have borrowed money, pay what you owe on your loan.

Pay what you owe on your loan.

That includes paying your bill, too. If you have work done or you have a service provided for you and they are going to send you a bill, you’ve borrowed money from them. They are floating that money for you.

Pay them back.

It’s spiritual to do it!

God cares about whether or not we pay our bills!

It’s a mark of discipleship if we do or a mark of wickedness if we don’t.

Pay what you owe.

I know that for many of us, this is just obvious. Anything else would be terrible to think of.

But not in America in general today! I’ve seen late night commercials that explain how you use “this service” and get out of paying your bills! We cut our debts in half by using this team of lawyers. Well, no you didn’t. You just figured a way to trick them out of their rightful money.

Pay What You Owe.

Pay Your Loans.


Now, that’s what this Romans 13 passage is emphasizing. Look again at verse 7.

“Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

Now, I’d like to talk about respecting and honoring Mr. Obama, but that’s another sermon. God’s word in Romans 13, verse 7 says to pay your taxes.

Pay What You Owe in Taxes.

Is that spiritual? You bet it is.

It’s a matter of obedience to the Lord. He sets up rulers and governing authorities, and as we obey them we are obeying Him.

Pay What You Owe in Taxes.

Now, wait a second, Pastor Matt. Even if I don’t like what my government is doing with those taxes?

What if they are paying people cash for clunkers? And I don’t like it?

What if they are socializing health care? And I don’t agree with it.

What if they are subsidizing abortions with it?

God’s Word says to pay your taxes.

Now, we live in a great republic that allows us to voice our opinions about what the government does. We are a government of the people by the people for the people, right? So we have a say.

That’s a lot more than most people in the world do!

And Paul says that regardless of whether we like it or not, we are to pay our taxes.

Who was the ruler when Paul wrote Romans?

It was a Caesar, right?

It was probably Nero. If you know anything about Nero, he was a terrible ruler.

He was evil. He was anti-Christ. He was anti-Christian. He did terrible things with the tribute money that was paid into his coffers.

But He was the ruler.

And Paul said, “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”

And you and I can do it, too. With joy in our hearts to the Lord.

Pay what you owe in taxes.

All of it.

Every once in a while, I’m talking with folks and they tell me about a great deal that they got, and they lower their voice and they tell me how it was “under the table.”

And they’re kind of proud of it and yet lowering their voice at the same time (ashamed?).

If you owe it, pay it.

If you register a four-wheeler that you bought a few years ago and the box on the form asks how much you paid you paid for it–not how much is it currently worth, but how much did you pay for it? Then put down how much you paid for it and pay the appropriate taxes.

Pay what you owe in taxes.

Jesus did. Well, at least, when the temple tax collectors came around, he arranged for Peter and his taxes to be paid out of the mouth of the first fish caught! Remember that story?

Why is this important?

Well, for one, it’s keeping your promises. God keeps His, He wants us to keep ours.

It’s being true to our word.

But here’s where Paul goes with it. Look down at verse 8.

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.”

Paying your debts is LOVE!

We need to keep paying our debts, but we’ll never pay our way out of the debt of loving others.

And as we do, we look more and more like Jesus.

Now, there is another lesson to learn about paying taxes isn’t there?

Remember that story [it’s in Matthew, Mark, and Luke,] about when the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus and get him in trouble with the authorities?

The asked him, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

And Jesus saw right through them.

“Does anybody have a coin,” He asked?

Does anybody here have one that I can borrow? Lending is a great thing!

Toss it up here.

Jesus asked, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

Here it’s George Washington.

There it was Caesar. “Then he said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” And that silenced them.

Give to Washington what is Washington’s.

But give to God what is God’s.

Whose image is stamped...on you?

Have you given yourself to God?

He has every right to you.

Pay what you owe to God.

And that’s not 10%!

That’s all of who you are.

> Worship at the Lord’s Table

There is something even greater to say this morning than anything I’ve said so far!

I’m emphasized today that God wants His people to pay their debts.

Pay what you owe on loans.
Pay your bills.
Pay your taxes.

Pay what you owe. That’s God’s word to you. Hear it.

Make every effort to make good on your obligations.

That message runs through the whole Bible.

But there is another and deeper message that runs through the whole Bible, too.

And that is this. There was a debt that was so great that we could never repay it.

We should. We are obligated. We incurred the debt!

But it is greater than the national debt. It is greater than the debt of all of the nations right now.

It is the debt of sin.

Sin is often cast in financial terms as a debt–we took something from God!

We didn’t live up to our obligations.

We have incurred a sin-debt that is cosmic in proportions and absolutely unpayable!

The Bible says that it must be paid. But we can’t pay it.

There is only One who could...

...And He did!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There is another theme running through the Bible and that is the theme of debts being forgiven.

A sabbath year every 7 years in the Old Testament law when debts were forgiven and the poor slaves set free. And every 50 years a Year of Jubilee when all of the debts get forgiven again and all of the land returned to its original owners.

And a kinsman-redeemer. A family member who would take on the debt of another family member and pay it to free them from that debt.

That theme runs through the Bible like a roaring river!

And it climaxes at Calvary!

Where the richest person that ever was paid the greatest debt–with His own blood!

When He cried out from the Cross, He said, “It is finished!” He was saying, “The debt is paid!”

For you and for me.

So all we have to do is receive the gift of forgiveness and then live out a life of faith-filled thanksgiving for it.

Thank, Jesus! For paying our debt. Jesus paid it all.

As the men come to pass out the elements, I urge you, if you have not, to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. He paid the debt to set you free. Receive His forgiveness and trust in the total payment He made.

If you have not yet received Him, then please let the bread and cup pass you by.

If you know Jesus, then use this time to thank Him for paying the debt you never could.