The Paper Chase Podcast Notes

My job has put me in some great conversations. there have been other conversations as well.  I’m not sure if they are so much conversations as confessions

I said something I shouldn’t have.
I’m struggling with my child.  Can I come to your office and talk
I just got into a shouting match with my wife
I think my marriage is over
My girlfriend is pregnant
I think I have a problem with alcohol.
I just told my wife that I’m having an affair.
My husband just found out I’m seeing someone

I’ve gotten phone calls about anger issues, faithfulness issues, communication problems, alcohol addictions, dishonesty issues.  Just about any sin or habit or addiction you can think of with the possible exception of one.  I have never in 30 years of ministry had someone call me and tell me, “I think I have a problem with greed.  I spend too much money on myself.  I don’t think I have my money in balance.  Can you help me understand what God wants me to do with my money.”

That’s not to say that I don’t get calls about money.  I get lots of those.
“I just lost my job.  I don’t know what I’m going to do for money.”
“I’m out of work and I can’t make rent.  Can the church help me pay my mortgage.”
“I’m broke.  Do you have any odd jobs I can do.”

“I sold my house just before the housing market went crazy.  It cost me several hundred thousand dollars.”
“I bought my house just before the market tanked.  I lost several thousand dollars.”
I had one guy tell me that in the economic crash of 2008 that he lost over $300,000 in stocks that he had invested in the bank he worked at that folded.

But never once have I had someone come to me and say, “I know I’m rich.  I need to make sure I’m investing it the way God wants me to invest it.  I want to make sure that I’m being a faithful steward with what God has given me.”

Our fears aren’t in spending our money the way God wants.  Most of them are in “I hope that someone doesn’t take away what I have.”

When our cars break down our thought is, “Oh no, I have to take it to a mechanic.  I hope he doesn’t rip me off.

When our plumbing goes out we think, “How can I find an honest plumber that isn’t going to try and gouge me.”

When we need to buy a car we think, “This car salesman is trying to rip me off.  How can I make sure I get a good deal.”  (Ok, that one might be legit.

This is who we are.  Work hard to get more money.  Save my money.  Protect my money.  Don’t let them take my money.  People are willing to confess their anger, their adultery and their alcoholism but no one is willing to confess their greed.

  Jesus spoke more about our money than any of these other topics.

Luke 3:12-14 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

Luke 12:15 “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (You probably don’t know anyone who has made their life about the abundance of possessions, right?)

On top of that there is the story of the widows offering
Parable of the wealthy landowner
Parable of the bags of gold
Parable of the ten talents
Story of the money changers in the temple

Their are all kinds of areas of life that we chase.  We chase our kids and we chase security and we chase the approval of others.  But if you asked Jesus what area of our life we need to be careful to not chase too hard he would say money.

Turns out this is the biggest carrot of all.

I think it would be reasonable to start off our conversation about money with this working hypothesis, “This could easily be a problem for me.”

Zacchaeus story

Israel was a conquered nation, under military occupation.  Their conquerors, the Romans, levied oppressive tax on each colony. This left the colonial societies impoverished, which kept them subjugated.  The tax system depended on officials who were charged with extracting, for their Roman overlords the tax income from each region.  Everyone despised them.  The people called Zacchaeus a sinner which meant apostate or outcast. Counterfeit gods by Timothy Keller.

Zacchaeus was not only a tax collector.  He was a chief tax collector.  He was in charge of all the other tax collectors who were extorting money from their own people.  It would be like Polish citizens who turned in their own people to the Nazi’s during WWII.  The feeling about Zacchaeus would be similar to how you and I would feel about a drug lord who was getting rich off of his underlings selling drugs on high school campuses in San Diego.  Zacchaeus was breaking bad.   Why would anyone take such a job as a tax collector?  What could seduce a man to betray his family and country?  The answer is simple.  Money.

There are so many different ways that we can make our life all about money.  Some are very obvious.

I’m a car guy.  I love really cool cars.  Every once in a while I will see a super car roll through our neighborhood.  A Ferrari, a Lamborghini, a Bentley.   When you see a car like that it’s easy to think, “There is a guy who’s money is pretty important to him.”  It’s easy to see people who flaunt their money with all kinds of stuff and say, “This guy has a money priority problem.”

But there are other ways that money can become an issue for us.  There are people with a money problems who don’t spend any money.  Their clothes are old, they drive a beater.  They save every possible penny because all of their security is wrapped up in their savings.  They may look like a hobo and drive like a college kid, but money is still number one in their life.

Then you have the people in the middle.  They look like everyone else on the outside.  They don’t flaunt their money or hoard their money.  They just worry about their money.  It’s a constant source of anxiety and the next bill or the next accident or next car repair can send them spiraling.  It’s obvious Zacchaeus had a money issue but there are lots of ways that shows up in someones life.

Jesus never says clean up then follow me. He just says follow and when you follow life change happens.

A rich man becomes a generous man
An addict becomes clean
An worrier learns to trust
An angry man learns gentleness
An impatient man learns patience

Actions don’t earn salvation.  Salvation comes and then our actions change.  We start the slow process of becoming more like Jesus.

Zacchaeus has decided that instead of chasing money he is going to chase Jesus.

There is a difference between outside actions and deep seated issues

Money reveals a whole slew of deeper issues.

Some people want lots of money so they can control their world.  They don’t spend a lot of money.  They save it and put it into retirement accounts so that they can feel secure. They have a money problem, but at the heart of it is a security problem, maybe even a control issue problem.

There are other people who spend money on clothes and shoes and making themselves look attractive.  They do have a money problem, but really it’s a self image problem.

Other people want money because it gives them power over other people.  If I have money then people will have to respect me.  They will have to listen to me.  If I have money then I will prove to the world that I’m valuable.  This is a money issue, but really that’s just another insecurity issue.

We can’t overcome a money issue by simply writing a check to the church or giving money to missions.  We have to look inside of ourselves at the deep issues we are trying to appease with money and kids and boyfriends.

Is it possible that Jesus is speaking to you when he says “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

Think of how many hassles money brings into our lives. Money finds it’s way into arguments with our spouse. We fight with our kids about money. Then a car breaks down or a pipe bursts and we go lay in bed at night thinking, “How are we going to pay these bills.” Wouldn’t it be great to be at a place where you are at peace with your finances. Wouldn’t you love to get rid of your money stress.

That’s our goal for you. It’s God’s goal for you. If you find yourself having too much month at the end of your money, I have some ideas for you.

Three ways to get a handle on your money

First, take a month to figure out how much money you are spending.

Second, get out of debt.

Do whatever you can to get rid of your credit card debt. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a car payment. Personally, I’m allergic to car payments.

Third, learn to live under your means.

If you make $100,000 a year learn to live off of 90. If you make $50,000 learn to live off of $45,000.

Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover.”

If you follow these steps you know what you’ll find. Margin. Your money stress will dissipate. You’ll find yourself arguing less about money, and fighting about it less with your kids.

Then you can be the generous person you’ve always wanted to be. You can join in God’s work. You can sponsor a kid going to Haiti. You can help feed homeless people around the world. Generosity won’t just be a lotto dream. It will be a lifestyle.

God has a challenge for us in our generosity. says this

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. Malachi 3:10

God challenges us to give to him. And to give to him first. Not wait until the end of the month to make sure we have enough. Not wait until the end of the year to give of our excess. And when we do God promises to bless us. And not just a little, he says he will throw open the floodgates of heaven.

God promises to bless those who are generous. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you will make more money. He might. I’ve seen time and time again people who have made generosity a priority and God has blessed them with more.