Slap Happy: Cash in the Happiness

We’re in this sermon series; it’s called Slap Happy. It’s about what makes you happy, and this forth week, I’m not going to lie to you; today we are talking about happiness and what everyone dreads going to church on the day they talk about, money.  Oh, lock the doors Bernice.  No.  It is about happiness and money.  When I think about happiness and money, honestly I think about you all.  I think about you all, because you are generous people.  You support this church in such a way that the lights are on and the doors are open.  You’ve supported it through a Capital Campaign, and that’s coming in.  We are already there to pave the rest of the parking lot, we just don’t know if we want to do it because the city isn’t complaining about it.  But, the minute I said that they will show up tomorrow. That’s coming in; that’s great!

I want to let you know that we got a gift this week. If you hadn’t heard, we are hiring a full-time education minister.  She starts January 1 and as the Leadership Team said, it is a leap of faith! We got a pledge this week and some other gifts that together we have her first year salary taken care of; a full-time salary. I’m sitting there on the couch in the driveway, crying because I got this call.  Now some of you know we had a pipe break in our house this week, so that’s why I’m sitting on a couch in my driveway.  I’m not a hillbilly; I don’t have my couch on my front porch, (laughter) but it is sitting in my driveway right now drying out.  So you are generous!  I wanted to say, “You guys are awesome!”   You guys are awesome.  Now that I’ve buttered you up…no… (laughter).

Here’s the weekly question we’ve been asking.  We’ll be able to tell if you’ve been listening because there is a two part answer to this question. So, when I say, “What makes you happy? You say…” (Congregation : Absolutely No  Thing!)  Absolutely no thing.  That’s right, no thing; nothing makes you happy.  It is a “Who” that makes you happy not a “What”, and that “who” could be two. Yes, Dr. Seuss is my friend. But, that “who” could be two or more. We learned at an early age that it is the people around us, it’s the people in the backyard, it’s the kids we played with, it’s the kids we grew up with, it’s the family that we’ve learned to love that make us happy. Nothing makes us happy.

The second thing that will make you happy is sowing, not sewing, which we are going to do with these fabric hands but sowing; like with the harvest.  You have to harvest happiness.  It is an outcome, it is result, it is not an immediate response.  Yes, we can be happy for a moment, but you’ve known people who have not sown happiness. They have hatred, they’ve sown guilt, they’ve sown regret all their lives and you just know these people who are not happy.

So, you have to “sow” for it; you know you “have to go for it”? Today at church I’m going to teach you to “Sow for it!”   You have to work for it.  It is something you have to deposit into a love account.  The problem is that it takes time. We have to harvest happiness.  We have to plant the seed today, or whenever we decided to plant that seed; it’s like that project in Kindergarten with that bean in a Ziploc baggie and a wet paper towel. You couldn’t wait to get back to school to see if your bean has grown.  You show up the next day and you are like (slouched posture), nothing yet; nothing yet.  You keep going back and then you see that little leaf or little stem coming out and you get happy.  It is the same way with our happiness.  We have to plant the seed.  It’s not going to crop up tomorrow.  It takes time.

So when we sow, we need to pay attention to the way that we are sowing.  We could be sowing our way to unhappiness and at that point we need to stop, and sow our way to happiness.  You see, the good news I have is that you have control over it and there is no other area that this applies more to than the area of money.  Oh Buck, the money sermon?  No, it’s not the typical church money sermon. You know me better than that. You see in the area of money, we think this, “I thought I knew what would make me happy.”  The take away here is that you should not believe everything you think. Let me repeat that.  You should not believe everything you think, because you know what?  There are times in our lives that, especially when we play fashion police, we say things like, “What was she thinking?  What was he thinking?” Apparently they weren’t, when they left the house. So, there are times in our lives when we should not believe everything we think. You know?  Maybe it was something we purchased.  We thought, “This will make me happy.”  It is not even in the house anymore, but we are still paying on it.  I thought this would make me happy.

Nowhere is there more truth in that than in the area of money, because we believe that there is a connection; a connection between happiness and money.  You might have heard a preacher say before, “Money will not make you happy”.  You might have heard it before.  Money will not make you happy, but to be honest with you, none of us believe it.  The preachers told us, but forget that, we don’t believe it.  In fact, when we said that, we might in our head think, Oh yeah, money won’t make us happy, but you know what? I’m willing and I’ll bet you are too, to discredit that fact.  Give me a chance. Let me know, right?  Let me know if money will make me happy.  I’m ready to say it will.  Give me a chance to find that out on my own.  If money won’t make me happy, let me find that out on our own.  We say that to God.  Try me?

Yes, there is a connection with happiness and money.  Your pastor has said it. There is a connection between happiness and money.  Where we get this wrong is that we assume that the connection between money and happiness is one word, “more”.  Right?   The connection to happiness and money has to be the word more.  If I just had more money, then I know I would be happy. To help you get this through your thought process of this sermon today and I may be flying through this today, not reluctantly.  I want to respect your time today, but we also have hands, communion and another awesome song. To help you with this process, I’m going to ask you this question.  How much more money would it take to make you happy?  It is a rhetorical question.  Think about it in your head; please don’t say it out loud.  How much more money would it take to make you happy?

In this series we have said that happy people have peace.  If you know a happy person, you know a person who is at peace with themselves, peace with others and peace with God.  Maybe even peace with the world.  Oh gosh, there are people on Tuesday that will be at peace with the world.  I voted last week and I really thought all the political ads they show would stop. We got rid of our home phone, whew.  In this series, you know that people that have peace usually have peace with themselves, peace with others and peace with God, so let me ask the question in a different way.  How much more money would it take to have peace? Oh, Buck you just changed it, maybe you didn’t.  How much more money would it take to have peace?  I know your answer.  I know everybody’s answer here, and in fact here is everyone’s answer right here.  “More than you currently have.”  More than we currently have.

Hear what I’m going to say today.  There is a corollary between your money and your happiness. There is a corollary between your money and your happiness, but it is not more.  You know people who have more than you.  There are people you question how they got it, they have so much.  Some of them aren’t happy!  In fact some of you have probably said, “If I had that much money, I would be happy.  If I had that money I would treat people differently.  If I had that money, I would do it this way.”  What my wife would say is, “If Buck had that money he’d still be poor because he gave it all away.”  So when you think about it, it is not what you have.  What I’m going to say today is there is a correlation between money and happiness, but it’s not more, because you know people who have bunches and bunches of money that aren’t happy. You know people who don’t have that much money, but they are happy.  The world’s falling down around them, but they are at peace with everything.

We are all going to agree with the big idea here, but what we aren’t going to get, is how to get this principle from our head to our heart. What we need to do is to start sowing, like we sow our happiness, sow financially.  They don’t connect around the word “more”.  What we need is to connect around the word “managed”.  That’s how the correlation between our money and our happiness happens.  It isn’t how much you have; it is how well you manage it.  Let me say this.  Money contributes to your happiness if you manage it well.  You see, no one is disagreeing with me. Money contributes to your happiness if you manage it; if you manage it well.

That is what this series is about.  Anything that undermines your peace undermines your happiness.  Do you agree with me? If it undermines, if it is a kink in the day, if it is a water pipe from the washer to the sink, anything that undermines your peace undermines your happiness.  So, if you just mismanage your money, you undermine your peace.  If we don’t learn to manage our money, our money will manage us. You see, when it comes to money, in most of us, some of us, myself, it creates anxiety. Anxiety is the weed killer for our seed.  Anxiety does not create happiness.

So, we know that Jesus talked about money a lot.  We know Jesus had these concepts about money, and some of us have even been told by a preacher that, “No, you need to get rid of all of it.”  I don’t think that was where Jesus was going, because there is a correlation between our money and our happiness.  Did you hear that?  -Our money and our happiness. There is a correlation between those two, so if we look at what Jesus says in Luke chapter 16, verse 13 he says, ‘No one can serve two masters.’  The terminology here is probably wrong for the twenty-first century; we don’t have masters.  We aren’t slaves.  We live in a free country.  Personally I think no one can serve two masters, one being God and the other being MasterCard. OK, sorry.  ‘No one can serve two masters.’  We don’t really get that.  

Then Jesus uses some extremes here, which we have tried to teach our children never to use, extremes. When you said, “You NEVER let us.”  No, we let you sometimes. Don’t use the extreme, never, or we will NEVER. But he uses some extremes here when he says, ‘Either you will hate the one and love the other.’  You will either hate or love? There is no luke warm here, Jesus? I’m OK with it; I’m at peace with it? No, ‘either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.’  Now that one, the word devoted there, we will unpack that later. We are going to unpack it big time, to the point that you might say, “I’m not devoted to money. I’m not devoted to this and despising the other.”

Then, if we are using opposites; devoted, despised, hate one another and love one another, then in this next sentence Jesus makes no sense at all. ‘You cannot serve both God and money.’ Well, what’s the opposite of God? I would say the devil; I would say evil.  So, that doesn’t make sense to me.  The opposite of God, maybe it is sin, but he mentions money.  Now, let me just possibly unpack this for you.  Money, the English term here, and maybe you have an old bible and I think even the King James version might even use it still, they used the Greek word, mammon.  You cannot love God and “mammon”. Which really is a poor, poor use of this word for “money”?  It means more, if I can use it in a George Carlin sense, no, not the seven bad words you cannot say on TV.  In the George Carlin sense it means “stuff”. You cannot love God and stuff. That “mammon” can also be expanded upon to stuff that you have and the stuff that you want. The stuff that you have and maybe the stuff that you want or the stuff that you, oh here is the word, desire. You will either desire or despise. Desire or despise. You see the chief competitor for our devotion to God is usually the stuff we want.  We say we don’t deserve our stuff, I don’t love money, we need only to lock in on those two words that Jesus says. Let’s show it again. ‘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.’

Devoted means to be attracted to; I’ve got my eyes on it. How many of us as kids, I know life has changed, but could not wait for that catalog to come at Christmas.  Oh, man, you know?  That was like ‘hug your postal carrier’ day!  You have a pen, you go through looking for everything you wanted. Then in the 80’s, Niemen Marcus came out with their stuff, that no one could afford, things no one had ever heard of back then, talking cars that drive for you.  You dog-ear each page so your parents could find what you wanted.  You dog-eared it.

Let me ask this, because if it becomes a filter through which we look at things, has your desire for some “thing” ever caused you to do something?  I’m sorry; I should have done this first.  We’re going to go through these three questions, and I’m going to ask that you don’t point any fingers, don’t make eye contact with anyone around you, OK?  But has your desire for something ever caused you to do something?  My answer would probably be yes.  So let me ask the next question in a different way.  Has you desire for something ever caused you to do something stupid?  Don’t look!  Don’t look.  Put on blinders and look straight ahead.

Let me ask this a different way.  Has your desire for something ever caused you to do something you regret? I imagine there is a yes to some of this for all of us.  When we look at that when Jesus says we either desire or we have devotion to, it seems that if we have desire for something it equals devotion to.  When we get it, what happens, well it isn’t really an equation (Desire for = Devotion to = Discontentment), but if we have a desire for stuff, discontentment comes into our lives.  The fact that maybe you are still paying on something that you don’t even have any more.

Here’s what drives discontentment, awareness.  You see we are aware of what others have.  I don’t know why God created that in us. We know and we are very aware of what drives our discontentment, because we compare ourselves to others.  We see what is out there, the catalog comes, or now let me teach you a little trick. Log out of Facebook before you get on EBay or Amazon, because if you don’t… have you noticed that the Amazon and EBay advertisements show up on your Facebook page?  Wow.  You know, I was just looking at those!  Isn’t that a coincidence? (laughter) God must want me to have it!  Right? Exactly!  So, log out of Facebook before you get on, and erase those things called “Cookies”.  No, they don’t have any calories, but they are far worse than cookies.

It is our awareness; our awareness of the things around us, the things we don’t have as we become aware of what there is, we become discontent.  Discontentment leads to greed.  Greed means that everything there is to consume is for me; greed is the assumption that everything is for my consumption. Does that make sense?  That’s what greed is.  Greed is the assumption that everything is for my consumption. Then for some of us, this discontentment leads to greed, and it also then leads to debt.  Now, I can either put all three of them up here or one at a time, we can vote.  Which one of these makes you happy? Discontentment, greed or debt?  Oh, no show of hands.  No, these three things do not make us happy.

So, if we go back to Luke 16.  ‘No one can serve two masters….both God and money.’  You see, no one can serve two masters; both God and money. We trade discontentment, greed and debt, with what Jesus tells us through these scriptures, with generosity, oh we mentioned the generosity word; he’s about to pass the offering plate. Not yet.  Did you know when you give it feels good, doesn’t it?  I’m not saying just money.  When you help people, when you give, when you see someone with a car broken down and you stop, and you fix it.  One night after a football game I came out and someone’s battery was dead, and, because I carry this thing that has jumper cables on it that I charge every once in a while, I was able to help. Generosity gives us joy; generosity plants the seed for a long and fulfilling, happy life.

Another thing that Jesus tells us about is wisdom. With this comes wisdom; with this comes the understanding of how to pace ourselves, and how to be happy.  With wisdom sowing and knowing everything works as a process, everything is not immediate. It gives us wisdom; generosity and wisdom.

The founder of the United Methodist Church, John Wesley used to put it this way, and this is kind of how I live my life.  He said the way you serve God is to give all you can, and I’m not going to stop there.  He used to say also to save all that you can and to spend all that you can.  This is what I put down as “Live”.  So John Wesley told us to give all you can, save all you can and to live all you can.  What did Christ say?  To ‘live life and have it abundantly!’ Give all you can, save all you can and live (or spend) all you can.  Let me explain it a little differently.  When we give, we receive joy.  Don’t we? To help someone out, to further grow the Kingdom of God, we have joy.  Now, to save, to know you have money in the bank, that brings peace, doesn’t it?  To have money in the bank, when that bill comes and you have enough to cover it, that’s peace. When we have money in the bank, when we save, we are at peace.  And when we have enough to spend, to live, we have freedom.

I’ll tell you, this week not having a kitchen, which has been torn out because of the water pipe, and I’m on with the insurance company, they don’t like me, I want a condo.  I want a three bedroom, two bath condo.  There is no way I can live in this house.  Do you know what their definition of a livable house is? -One functioning bathroom.  I have a family of five.  You know what?  We grocery shop and we eat at home.  He said, “You know what I’ll do for you? Any time you eat out, save your receipt and we’ll reimburse you.”  Do you know what freedom comes in that? -Bentley’s, the Blue Heron.  You see, when you have these things. John Wesley was right, when you give you have joy. When you save, you have peace and when you do all this and manage your money, because managing your money is the way to create happiness, your happiness, right? You have freedom.  God provided joy, peace and freedom.

This is how to make money make you happy! Don’t believe a preacher when he says money won’t make you happy.  Your money, and the way you handle it will make you happy. So, at the end of the day it is not how much, it’s not that “more” that we talked about earlier, it’s about how are you going to manage it. Because as I’ve said before, money contributes to your happiness if you manage it well.  I want to invite you to actually invite your heavenly father to manage you the way you should manage your money.  You have an invitation to accept the devotion that God has for you and to turn that devotion to God, in the same way that God asks you to manage your money.


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