Your money talks—whether you have a little or a lot. What would it say about you?
- Which category of spending (food, bills, entertainment, etc.) is easiest for you to lose track of?
- Describe a time when money caused you distress or anxiety. What factors outside of your control led to this moment? What factors within your control led to this moment?
- Andy made a case for approaching money as managers, not owners. Does this perspective resonate with you? Why or why not?
- Do you track how you spend your money? If yes, are your financial priorities what you want them to be? Why or why not? If no, what are the benefits of beginning to track your spending?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
Now, here’s something that you perhaps have heard about before, and if you haven’t heard about it before, you’re about to hear about it now, and you can talk about this tomorrow at work and people will think you’re smart if you haven’t heard about this before. Did you know that it’s easier to stay warm then to get warm. And the reason is because when you get cold, when your body loses its warmth, your body goes into overdrive and it burns more fuel to create more heat, and the blood vessels, you probably know this, at the surface of your skin begin to contract and it reduces blood flow because your body knows, “Oh, oh, we have to protect the vital organs.” And so it really creates stress for the entire nervous system. So it’s easier to stay warm then to get warm because when you’re getting warm, you’re burning more calories, you’re burning more fuel, and again, your nervous system is stressed out.
And the same is true for your money, sort of. We’ll come back to that in just a minute. Okay.
So week one, we asked the question, “What would our money say if it could actually talk and if it actually started talking?” And we said, “our money might say this. I can add meaning to your life, but I am not the meaning of life.” And we talked about the fact that money actually becomes most meaningful when it becomes a means to an end that’s not you, that when we discover what it is we want our lives to be a means to, our money usually follows. So we asked at the end of that session, that first message, we ask this question, “To what ends do we want our lives to be a means? And this is a question that all of us at some level and at some point in our life should wrestle to the ground because your life, as we said, your life, will not be meaningful until it becomes a means to an end that’s not you, that’s what meaningful means.
So wrapping up today, I wanna talk about the third thing that our money might say if our money were to begin to talk. And once again, it parallels exactly what Jesus said when he did talk about money and possessions. And here’s what our money might tell us, “I’m easy to keep up with, I’m easy to keep up with, but I’m difficult to catch up with,” “I’m easy to keep up with, but I’m difficult to catch up with. Keep up or you’ll be playing catch up.” It’s a little bit like staying warm. When you fall behind financially, and specifically when you fall behind knowing where your money’s gone and where your money is going, you begin to burn more calories, you begin to burn more energy, you begin to get more stressed out, you begin to get more worried, you burn more energy and create more stress playing catch-up financially.
And the truth is, and you’re not gonna like me for saying this, there’s really no excuse for not knowing where your money has been going. There’s really not a good excuse for not knowing where your money went. When it comes to money, not love and not relationships, and not a lot of other things, but when it comes to money, we should never find ourselves saying, “Well, it seems to me,” or, “I’m not sure,” or, “Well, that can’t possibly be right.” And the reason we should never say these things as it relates to our finances is because a certain amount comes in and then we send it places, right? A certain amount comes in, you know how much comes in, or you should know how much comes in, and then you, or you and your husband, or you and your wife, send it places.
And I’ve said this before, if it sounds familiar, so consequently we should all be knowin’ where our money is goin’, right?
We should all know this. There should be no mystery about where your money is going. There’s mystery when it comes to love and romance, there’s a lot of mystery when it comes to raising kids, there’s a lot of mystery when they become middle schoolers and high schoolers, there’s a lot of mystery around certain decisions, but when it comes to knowing where our money went, there should be absolutely no mystery. And the problem is when you lose track of where it’s going, when you lose track of where it’s going, it takes over, because it takes over emotionally. And you know how we feel? You know how we feel because we’ve all been there. You feel out of control, don’t you? You just feel like something has taken over and you’re trying to catch up. So if your money started talking and was addressing this particular issue, your money may say this, “Look, I’m easy to track. But if you lose track of me… you will lose your peace of mind. And if you lose your peace of mind for too long, you may feel like you’re losing your mind.”
So consequently, all of us, Christian, non-Christian, religious, non-religious, theist, non-theist, it doesn’t matter, all of us need a plan for tracking our spending so we’re all knowing where our money is going. And this is true whether you have a little or a lot. And the problem is when I talk to people on the two extremes, the people that don’t have much is like, “There’s no point in keeping up because it’s hard to keep up,” the people with a lot are like, “Well, I don’t need to keep up because I have so much I don’t really need to keep up.”
But what we’re gonna discover today, especially if you’re a Jesus follower, is that there’s every reason in the world to keep up with where your money’s going. We all need a plan to track our spending, whether you have a lot or a little. And I’m not talking about a budget, which for some of you is great news because what is a budget? And you’re thinking, “Well, I think it’s a waste of time. I don’t know.” Everybody should to some extent have a budget, but what is a budget?
A budget is a theory. It’s a theory that rarely reflects reality. Now, at work, at work, you’re super careful because at work somebody’s looking over your shoulder and at work there’s consequences, even though there’re little bit of margin at work. But in terms of our personal budget, our family budget, it’s just it’s a theory that rarely reflects reality. It assumes a specific future and none of us can predict the future to that level or to that degree. It’s great for estimating, but the other problem with a budget is where it lives. Where do budgets live? Budgets live in desktop folders, right?
You created it, it was perfect, you did excel, you had colors, it was beautiful. You put in a desktop folder and it has lived there ever since. It’s safe. You know exactly where it is, but nobody looks at it because it’s not dynamic. And if you’re gonna get this part of your finances right, and I’m gonna encourage you, as hard as I can to get this right, you need something more dynamic than a budget that predicts the future, that doesn’t actually do anything but just sits there and remind you of what you have or haven’t done, but it’s not really a reminder because, again, we don’t even know where it is, anyway, right? You need a simple way, you need a simple way, to track your actual spending. And the thing is, it is so simple now. There is no excuse for all of us not to do this.
Now, when I say simple, I mean it’s really simple because I’m thinking back to when Sandra and I first got married, and this has been a habit in our marriage for 30 years, we’ve been married 30 years, we did this from the very beginning. And 30 years ago we used… Some of you have never seen this before. In fact, for some of you, this is just a desktop wallpaper. You didn’t know this was a real thing. We used graph paper. [laughter]
Remember graph paper? You get a padded graph paper… Some of you are shaking your head, you’re like, “Really, that was a real thing?” Yeah, it was graph paper. And down the left, we put all the categories and every time there was a new category, we put a new category. And across the top, we put all the dates and the weeks and the months. And we would literally every single week, I would try to do it every day, she would do it every week, we get out our receipts, we look at how much we spent, and we would take a pen… You remember those non-Apple pencil, like a pen with ink that can run out?
Yeah, this thing, remember? Or this thing, remember? And we would actually write down every day or every week what we spent in the category. It was so onerous, but we did it every single year, year after year after year in our marriage. It is one of the two, it is one of the two, best habits that we established and we’ve been doing it ever since.
If you’ll develop this habit, then there’s no guessing, there’s no seeming and there’s less wondering, and there is actually less worrying because, and I made this up myself, when you know, when you know, you’re gonna log it, you’re more inclined to hog it.
You like that? So last night, we were talking about this, Sandra said, “That’s not good, okay?”
“The word hog sounds like you’re being selfish.” So she came up with one. So this is her version of the same thing. Okay, you can decide which one you like. Hers is this, “When you know you’re going to record it, you will be more inclined to consider whether you should afford it.” [laughter] So let me see your hand now. Okay.
Oh, you like that better?
Now, I almost made a mistake at this point in trying to figure out how to say this. I was gonna say, don’t raise your hand… I was gonna say it’s kind of like keeping track of what you eat. And then I was gonna say… Don’t raise your hand… I was gonna say, “How many of you have ever downloaded one of those apps where you log in everything you eat?” “People shouldn’t raise their hands for that.”
But how many of you have downloaded an app where you log in everything you eat?
So I have too. It’s a great thing. And when you use one of those apps, do you think that, “Hey, I am gonna put log everything I eat.” And some of the apps will tell you how many calories. Some of them you kinda have to figure it up and you kinda get in the rhythm ’cause you sort of eat the same things all the time. And what happens when you do that? A lot of you have done this. You realize every time you’re about to eat something, you think, “Oh, I’m gonna have to log it. Oh, I don’t wanna log that.”
But what happens? It slows you down, doesn’t it? You consider… In fact, then you start finding out how many calories foods are. It becomes a little bit of a game, you’re more careful. Why? Because if you know you’re gonna log it, you’re gonna sort of protect those calories for something better or for something later to make sure you don’t go over your 4,000 calorie limit every day, right?
Or 3500, whatever your calorie limit is, right? Now, in the paycheck to paycheck seasons of life… And for many people and for most people, that’s our whole lives, right? But in the paycheck-to-paycheck season, this is so important, this habit actually takes pressure off. This habit takes pressure off because it takes the guesswork out. It’s easy to know where to cut back when you have to cut back, it’s easy to know where to cut down when you have to cut down.
And there were two seasons in our lives as married couples where we had to take significant steps back financially. And going backwards financially is not easy. I don’t care how spiritual you are, and how mature you are, it’s just not easy when you realize, “uh-oh, we’ve got to spend less.” And this happens to everybody. You go from two to one income, you lose a job, you move, there’s a set back, one of your kids decides to go out of state to college and it’s like, “Oh my gosh, we’re gonna have to make cuts.”
But here’s the thing, it’s never, never easy to go backwards. But for us in both of those seasons of our lives, it was so much easier because we didn’t pull out a budget that we had to find in a file. We were able to say, “This is actually how much we actually spend in all of these categories. Where can we cut back?” And there was stress in terms of having to cut back, but there was no stress between us because there was no, “Well, it seems to me… Well, it seems to me… Well, it seems to me… ”
So when we had to step back financially it wasn’t easy, but it was easier because we knew where our money was actually going. So in the years where you’re kind of paycheck to paycheck, and things are tight, this actually makes life easier and takes takes the pressure off, but… And for most of us today probably listening and for most of us in the room, in the years of plenty where there’s margin… Now, again, we never feel like there’s plenty, but there’s plenty more. There’s a little bit more margin. Things aren’t so tight.
In the years of plenty, this habit actually puts pressure on. And here’s what I mean by that. And this is why this is such a good thing and this is the second reason we haven’t given this up as a couple. As you accumulate more and more and as you make more, and as there’s more and more margin, when you keep track of where your money is going, you are confronted with how much you are spending on you and you’re confronted with how little you actually give.
And it’s embarrassing, but it can be motivating and it can be inspiring. And for some of you, it takes the fear away of being more generous because you always feel like things are tight. And one of the reasons you feel like things are tight is because you don’t know where it went. But once you know where it’s going and once you get in a habit of looking at it, it will actually keep a healthy pressure on you because the more you have, the more you have or the more you make, the closer attention you should pay to where it’s going. Not because you have to, but because, as we’re about to discover, it is actually in your best interest to.
It’s in your best interest to because to borrow from something Jesus said… Here’s what he said. He said, “If you’re not careful, those of you who have extra, those of you who have more, those of you who don’t necessarily have to be as careful as you should, if you are not careful, you will begin to hoard for the future. You’ll begin to store up treasure on earth and it will be a source of embarrassment later.” Because let’s face it, human nature is this, when you have more of something than you need, you’re just not careful, right?
When you have more of something than you need and when there’s plenty, you’re just not careful. If you don’t have to be careful, you’re not careful. This is why you leave the sink running and you go over to the refrigerator to get something. The water just runs and runs and runs. It’s why you wash your car and you couldn’t get the thing to screw the handle screw-ons, “Yeah, forget that,” and you just let it kind of spill off into the grass. We let water run all the time. Why? We have way more water than we need.
It’s like water, water everywhere. We don’t have to be careful with water. There are places in the world, many of you have visited those places, if they saw how much water we were careless with in a day, they wouldn’t even have a category for that. Why? Because it’s scarce. But when you have more of something than you need, human nature is, “Since I don’t have to be careful, I’m not gonna be careful.” But if you’re a Christian, if you’re a Jesus follower, when it comes to your money, that cannot be a factor, that can not be a reflection of the reality of what you do with your money because of what Jesus taught.
So I wanna give you a little challenge. The challenge is this. Just for two months, okay? I wanna challenge you to figure out a way to document your spending for two months, just two months. Okay? I want you to spy on your money. I want you to follow it. I want you to see where it’s going, what it’s doing. Create a Google doc, share it with your husband or your wife, or not, or share it with a roommate or share with a friend, share it. And the thing is, this is so easy. You don’t have to buy any graph paper, you don’t have to use a pen. There’s so much free software, there are so many apps to do this with. So many of you use the Cash App and Venmo, it’s easy to see exactly how much you spend, it’s easy to track that. It’s just so easy. I want you to do that just for two months. Just log it.
And then the second thing is, I just want you at the end of those two months to sit down and look at it and then adjust if necessary. For some of you, you’re gonna be thrilled. For some of you, you’re gonna be shocked. Now, if you’re married, one of you hates me right now and the other one wants to come up here and hug me right now.
I understand that because opposites attract, right?
Or you’re watching and it’s like, “Why isn’t he here to hear this?” I get that. Opposites attract. So don’t make a big get lot of this. Don’t commit for the rest of your life. This isn’t forever. Just for two months. Especially if you’ve got kids and you got a family, and get your kids involved, just for two months, just track your spending and then sit down and look at it. Now, one of the objections I get, or one of the responses I get whenever I bring this up, and it’s always the same credit card that gets mentioned, so I’m just gonna use the credit card I always hear.
People say, “Well, that’s probably a good idea, but Andy it all shows up on my AMEX bill. I just use AMEX for everything, use American Express for everything, and it just shows up. That’s not my point. Knowing you can know is not the same as knowing. And the fact that you have access to how much you’ve spent is different than sitting down and looking categorically at how much you spent in each category. So the good news is if you use AMEX for everything, guess what? This should be easier for you than the rest of us. So you have less excuse, okay to sit down at the end of two months and categorically look at and sit down with your husband or wife, or your family or just if it’s just you and say, “Okay, where did my money go?”
Now, you’re thinking Yeah, this is good, practical advice. And I didn’t make any of it up. I learned this from other people through the years. But here’s the thing, if you’re a Christian, if you’re a Jesus follower, this goes way beyond practical, and this goes way beyond helpful, because Jesus actually taught specifically as to why this is such a big deal. And here’s why I say that, and here’s why I want you to take this extra seriously if you’re a Christian, and it goes a little bit back to something I said last week.
You’re betting, think about this, you are betting your entire eternity on John’s words. John, who wrote the gospel of John. And he was there when Jesus was having a conversation with Nicodemus and he tells Nicodemus you must be born again, and later as an older man, John is recording this conversation. And as he’s recording the conversation, it’s like John gets so excited. He’s like, “I just want my readers to know exactly what Jesus was saying because we weren’t sure we understood it either, and Nicodemus didn’t understand it. And now on this side of the cross, on this side of the resurrection, it’s so clear.” And John kind of breaks into the conversation and he writes these words, that many of us memorized as children: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only son. That whoever places their faith in Him would not parish, would not fall away from God, would not be lost to God, but would have eternal life.” And many of you, if you’re a Christian, you prayed some sort of prayer as a child, or teenage or college student, or maybe an adult. And what you said is, “God I believe Jesus is your son and I’m trusting you, through him with my entire eternity.”
So you’ve already trusted the teaching and the words of Jesus for your eternity right. And beyond that, you’ve actually defined your relationship with God based on Jesus’ invitation to address him as “Father.” That many of you when you pray, you begin your prayer, “Dear Heavenly Father.” And the reason you do that is because when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He said, “When you pray, pray like this, ‘Our Father who is in Heaven.”
Besides that He said, “Your Father, your Heavenly Father, knows what you need before you even ask.” And you’ve accepted that. So you’ve trusted God with your eternity. You’ve defined your relationship with God based on what Jesus taught. So, why, why would you, why would I, why would we not lean just as heavily on what he said about money, and possessions.
I mean, when you’re sick, you ask Him to intervene in your health. When your children are prodigal, you ask Him to intervene on behalf of your children. When your children are about to go away to college, you pray for God’s protection. In other words, if you’re a Christian, you invite God in on everything you can invite God in on. Why in the world would we hold back when it comes to our money and our possessions?
And let me answer that for you. Because on all those other categories, you have no control over them, anyway. So it’s easy. And number two, many of those categories, you can’t see. And this is why Jesus is so brilliant. This is why I believe the New Testament actually reflects His teaching. This is why He’s the master teacher, the master storyteller, and even if you’re not convinced He’s the son of God, it’s why you should lean into the teachings of Jesus. Because Jesus 2000 years ago, knew your money, and your possessions, is where the rubber meets the road in terms of your ultimate devotion. And it’s so much easier for you to give your heart to Jesus than your money to Jesus.
So when Jesus started talking about where your heart is, there your treasure will be also, and the ultimate measure of the witness test of your devotion to God is what you do with your money and a person can’t have more than one Master. You’re either gonna serve God, or the devil. Nope. God or money. Why? Because he knew this.
And so over and over and over He says, “Come on. You’re gonna trust me with your eternity, your health, your children, your marriage, your singleness, your joblessness, your opportunities. Why would you hold back when it comes to your money and your possessions?” It doesn’t make any sense, does it? And what did Jesus say about money and possessions? He was so clear. He said this, “It’s not even yours. It belongs to my Father in heaven.” You’re not an owner. Don’t kid yourself. You’re a manager.
In fact, in Matthew 25 was the tax collector who followed Jesus. It’s such a cool story, right? “Matthew follow me.” “where we going?” “To your house.” It was such a great story. Matthew, the tax collector, who followed Jesus, his gospel, associated with his name, he records a bunch of the parables of Jesus, and Jesus’ parables for the most part explain how heaven meets Earth. They explained the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God isn’t some place you go someday. The Kingdom of God is the value system of God that touched down on planet earth in Jesus. And Jesus’ parables constantly said, “Here’s what the kingdom of God looks like when you live it out on planet Earth, when you live it out in your life as a teenager or a single or a married adult or a senior adult.” And over and over and over these parables would intersect with the topic of money and possessions. Because He knew this was such a key area for us, to follow him.
So in one of these parables, it’s one that if you grew up in church you’ve heard before. Here’s how Jesus begins this particular famous parable. In fact, it’s so famous, I’m not even gonna read the whole parable I just gonna read the first part of it. Here’s what He said. He said, “Again… ” Because He’s talking about something He’s talked about many times… “Again, it… ” the Kingdom of Heaven, the value system of God that He wants lived out on earth… “Again it will be like a man going on a journey who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.”
Now, in a parable, as you hopefully know, if you’ve been around for awhile, a parable, there’s always a God figure and there’s always an us figure. Somebody in the parable represents Jesus’ audience, somebody in the parable represents God the Father. And if you read this whole parable, it becomes clear that the wealthy man who’s entrusting his wealth to these servants is God and the servants to whom the wealth is entrusted is me and is you and is the followers of Jesus or the potential followers of Jesus. But here’s the question that’s not a trick question. What percentage of the man who bestowed his wealth to the servants, what percentage of the wealth belonged to the man? All of it, exactly, 100%. And what percentage belonged to the servants? Zero percent, exactly. Even I can do that math, right? It was all the Masters. And he said, “I’m gonna give it to you.”
And if you read this parable, it’s kind of interesting. He gives one guy five bags of something of value and another person two bags of something of value. And the other guy I got one bag. And he said, “Now while I’m gone, I expect you to go do with my wealth, what I would do with my wealth and when I get back, I hope to have a return on my money. I want you to manage it the way you think I would. And when I get back then I wanna know what kind of return. So I want you to work on a return so that when I return, I get the return on my wealth.”
And if you remember the parable, or if you read it, you should read it later, two of them do really well. They go and basically double their master’s money and then one of them doesn’t do so well. He buries it. But the point of the parable, is this… do you remember what made the difference when the Master returned and asked them to give an account?
The issue was not the amount each of them were asked to manage. The issue was what they did with what they were asked to manage. And the point of the parable that Jesus is making is that 100% of it belonged to the master and zero percent of it belonged to the servants. They were managers, not owners.
And here’s the great news about that paradigm, and that idea and that picture and that approach and again Jesus. So brilliant. You see no matter how much money you have, and no matter how much money you make, and no matter what you possess, you should never, ever, ever feel guilty and you should never allow anyone to make you feel guilty. And here’s why: Because money managers don’t feel guilty. It’s not their wealth. Money managers feel responsible and accountable for how much of it? For all of it.
This was such a paradigm shift in the first century, and it’s a paradigm shift that the church struggles with, and continues to struggle with. But Jesus do not have been any clearer. The reason you should keep track of where your money is going, it’s not your money.
We should be knowin’, we should be knowing where our Master’s money is goin’. So you should pay attention and the more you have, the closer attention you should pay. So, create a system, just do this for two months.
Create a system where you monitor where your money goes, and then sit down and look at it. Stop every once in awhile and just take a look. And if you don’t like what you see, adjust and if you realize, good grief, how could two people spend that much money on themselves? Good grief. How could one person eat that much money. How could one person wear that much money? How could one person spend that much money on travel? Oh my goodness, this is embarrassing. And then you adjust because… And this is the bottom line, this is throughout the teaching of Jesus, and this may seem one sided. This may seem too heavily weighted on the side of money and possessions but I would challenge you to read the Gospels and read the parables.
How you and how I… How we manage our money speaks volumes about who and whose we are. And here’s how you know this already. It’s not because of what you do with your money that convinces you of this, it’s people you’ve met along the way. Because you have met some very generous people. You’ve met some generous people, who had a little, who had a middle and who had a lot, right? And when you saw what they did with their home, when you saw how generous they were with their car, when you saw how generous they were with their possessions, you walked away from those conversations or those encounters thinking, “Wow, that person is the real deal. I can’t hear their prayers. I don’t know about their secret habits. I don’t know what happens behind closed doors. I don’t know how they parented their children. I don’t know any of that but my goodness they are the real deal because of how they manage their money and their possessions.” And Jesus, so brilliant, knew the very same thing.
So how you manage your money says so much. It says probably more than anything else about who and whose you are. So, come on. Pay attention. If you pay attention, you will live better. You will love better. You’ll definitely be more generous. You will have less fear, and you will have far more purpose.
If our money could actually talk, what would it tell us? I think it would begin with telling us, “Hey I can add meaning to your life but I’m not the meaning of life.” Our money would tell us, “I’m a better servant than I am a master but ultimately, it’s your self-control, that determines which one of us gets in control.”
Our money would tell us. “Hey, I’m actually pretty easy to keep up with, but I am difficult to catch up with and you will stress yourself out if you lose track of me and then ultimately reflecting the words and the teachings of Jesus throughout his ministry, what you choose to do with me, speaks volumes, speaks volumes about who and whose you are.