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2. Gather Up the Fragments: Prospering by Saving the Crumbs

Alistair Huong


Alistair Huong

Executive Director of AudioVerse



  • December 31, 2015
    10:00 AM
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Father in Heaven, we are so thankful that You have given us another opportunity to consider practical ways to manage Your money that You have entrusted to us. Give us wisdom this session, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Session 2: “Gather up the Fragments: Prospering by Saving the Crumbs.” All right, a little bit of information. Some of you are asking, so let me just reiterate this. My wife and I, we have a blog where we write about personal finance, and we’ve written about a lot of subjects. I’m just really scratching the surface in the six hours we have together here. So, you can visit Savingthecrumbs.com to get more detail on things that we’ve written already. Also, the handouts, all of the slides, they’re already available on the GYC app. So, it is there; you can get them. Just don’t look ahead and get spoiled. And also they will be available to download later on when the audio recordings and everything are ready to go. So, Savingthecrumbs.com, handouts, recordings, you can get that information even if you missed it the first time around.


So, “Gather up the fragments,” where does that phrase come from? Do you remember? Feeding of the 5,000, that’s exactly right. And this is what the Desire of Ages has to say about it, page 368. And you remember the story. Jesus fed the 5,000 with the loaves and the fishes. There were leftovers, right? And here is a Man who can create food out of basically thin air, and He says, “Go pick up the leftovers.” Just think about that. He could have made more, but He said, “Go pick them up.”


What is the lesson to be learned here? “But He who had all the resources of infinite power at His command said, ‘Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.’ These words meant more than putting the bread into the baskets.” The principle to be learned is, “Nothing is to be wasted. We are to let slip no temporal advantage.” The lesson of the feeding of the 5,000 and “Gather up the Fragments,” is simply less waste. Save the fragments. Take advantage of the things that we might feel like are unnecessary, but no temporal advantage should be allowed to slip away and to not be able to used for God’s work. All right, Benjamin Franklin put it this way, “Watch the pennies, and the dollars will take care of themselves,” wise man.


So, I mentioned earlier my wife and I, we named our blog “Saving the Crumbs.” And half of the reason why we named it that is really in honor of the parable of the feeding of the 5,000. “Gather up the Fragments,” it’s basically the same thing as “Saving the Crumbs,” but there is a specific story that happened early on in our marriage that helped us come up with this name.


When we were first married, my wife wanted to bake bread for our home, and we had a bread maker, and she was trying out different recipes. And they didn’t work ideally at first, and so half the loaf of bread, it seemed (that’s an exaggeration), a lot of crumbs ended up on the cutting board when we sliced our bread. And so, what’s the normal response when you have crumbs on a cutting board? You sort of wipe it off into the garbage disposal, in the trash, whatever, and you keep going on with life.


Well, my wife, being the enterprising and crumb-saving woman that she was, she saved those crumbs, literally saved them in a Tupperware container, put it in the freezer, and, you know, we were pumping out a lot of loaves of bread because we were trying to experiment with this thing and trying to figure it out. And before long, the crumbs were enough for us to actually use in some other recipe. We made onion rings or breaded okra or something, right?


So, this is the principle. You save the crumbs, and the crumbs can amount to something else that is useful that you can apply to something else. So, the lesson from Jesus Christ: Let nothing go to waste. The temporal advantage that He has given to us, we need to seize them and take advantage of them.


And so, I have a very simple objective in this hour. If you walk away from this session remembering this one thing, and you commit to do it, sort of two things, but you’ll see, one thing, then I would have succeeded. That is, I am here to convince you to spend less and to save more. Okay? And I’m going to try my best to make the compelling case.


So, when I was in high school, I got my first job. I got my first job; I was a teacher’s assistant for a junior high computer lab. I was a freshman in high school, and I wanted basketball shoes. Why did I want basketball shoes, do you suppose? All my friends wanted basketball shoes. It doesn’t matter that I couldn’t play basketball; I didn’t even watch basketball, but I wanted basketball shoes. True story.


So, I made five dollars and twenty-five cents an hour, which was, you know, when I got my first paycheck, I’m like, “I have never seen this much money before in my life,” high school kid. And I realized a pair of sneakers, 50 dollars or so, I would have to work 10 hours to earn this pair of sneakers. So, when I got that paycheck, let’s say, I don’t remember, it might have been a week of work, two hours a day or something, I got my check 52 dollars and 50 cents. How much of it do you suppose I spent on those shoes? Every penny. Every penny.


And so, what do you suppose I started thinking next? I was a gamer back then, not anymore, a recovered video game addict, and I was looking at the next game I wanted. Okay, so it’s like an 80-dollar game, all right? So, I need to work another 16 hours. And so, how much of my paycheck do you suppose I spent on that when the time came? Every penny. And then, you know the story, all my friends got cool sunglasses, so I’ve got to get sunglasses. All my friends have fancy cameras; I’ve got to get a camera. I’m in high school; I’m about to drive soon, so mom and dad, get ready, because I need a car, and not just any car; I was in love with the SUVs and all that kind of stuff.


And so, as a high school kid, I had a very narrow view of the use of money. Money was good for one thing and one thing only, and that is to buy stuff that I wanted. And wouldn’t you agree that that’s sort of become the definition now of the American Dream? You come here, you live life in America, you work hard, and you can buy whatever you want!


Well, that’s the life that I had, and so it was very clear. I added all this up. Wow, that’s an expensive car. The camera, very expensive. Even sunglasses, all this stuff, it adds up, so I came to one conclusion. The one conclusion is that in order for me to be happy, I need more money. Isn’t this the motto of the Americans? You know, American motto: Need more money. Give me money. We need more money, and the reason why I wanted more money was because I wanted to buy more stuff. So, why do I want to buy more stuff? That’s because that’s what everybody does. What else am I supposed to do with my money?!


All of my friends around the water cooler, proverbially, every paycheck, literally, there are people who schedule their work to take payday off. They get paid every other Friday or something; they try to schedule the work so that they don’t have to work on that day so they can go spend the paycheck that they just received that morning. That is literally a real thing. And so, everybody is just doing it, and so, yeah, that’s what I had to do. Everybody’s got a student loan, so you can’t get an education without a student loan. Everybody’s got a credit card. Whoever pays off their house?! It’s good for your taxes, you know? We’re going to deal with that myth this afternoon.


But the American narrative on wealth, this is sort of how it goes: You deserve to buy more stuff because that’s what everybody does. And so you run in the rat race, the wheel, because we think that happiness equals consumption, and consumption equals the American Dream, and that’s what everybody does.


You know, the American Dream, really, if I want to put it more distinctly, is having lots of stuff even if you don’t have to pay for it. If you have the illusion of having lots of stuff, it doesn’t matter if it’s all on the credit card, and you owe lots of interest on it, doesn’t matter. You’re living the American Dream, so go and apply for another car.


And so, you know, we have this sort of thick fog, I think, that we are immersed in, and don’t even get me started on social media, the Pinterest lifestyle. You realize, right, when you look at people’s pictures on Instagram, on Facebook, on Pinterest, you realize that’s not real life. You know, who is going to post a picture of the bad day they had at work where their hair was frizzy, and they spilled, you know, their hot chocolate all over their dress? I mean, nobody’s going to post that picture. They’re going to post the fancy vacation, the awesome food they had, and if you’re Asian, more food than anything else.


And so, when we look at life on Facebook, we assume, we assume that’s what everybody’s life is like. They can eat at that fancy Japanese restaurant. I don’t care if it’s 50 dollars a plate, I need to eat there. Does that make sense? This is the narrative of wealth that we are living in. And the easy debt, the easy debt that we live in, that we have access to, just feeds the fire, just feeds this fire.


And so, here are some of the things that we hear: “I’ll be happy once I take that vacation,” or “once I buy that car,” or, “once I eat at that fancy restaurant.” “I should buy stuff because, you know, consumer spending is the secret of a strong economy.” You’ve heard that on the news, right?


So, who cares you don’t have money, just spend other people’s money. It’s good for the economy. Someone else’s economy, not your economy. The cost of living is so high, it’s tough to just scrape by. Earning 100,000 dollars or whatever dollar amount is not enough to be rich. I have read literal, real articles. I’m not making this up. There are articles that say, “Earning 100,000 dollars a year or more is no longer adequate for a comfortable, middle-class life.”


These are all true statements that are being stated. “There are stagnant wages,” “I’ll have to work until I’m 80,” “It’s impossible to save for retirement,” “It’s the economy’s fault,” “It’s the President’s fault,” “It’s the Republicans’ fault,” “It’s Donald Trump’s fault,” “It’s the 1-percent’s fault.” Isn’t this the story we hear?


But all of this is saying, “Life is so hard. Someone’s got their thumb on you. You’re a victim. Poor you! You deserve to buy more stuff. You need to have more stuff!” And, guess what? Someone comes around, a credit card merchant that says, “And guess what? You can have all that stuff. Here’s a card. Sign on the dotted line. Don’t worry that’s 25-percent compounding interest. You can have your cake and eat it, too.” That’s the message that we are getting here in the American dream. “Just do what everyone else does.”


Everyone spends all their money buying stuff they don’t need, and life is so hard; you deserve more than this. But here is the truth. Okay, you ready for the truth? The truth is that our lives for most of us here…Obviously there are people, there are people in financial difficulty. I do not want to relegate them and say, “It’s all your fault.” That’s not my point. But for most people that I believe is my audience…Here at GYC, people can actually afford to pay the registration and come and things like that. Our lives, and this is the picture I want you to have in your minds, our lives are exploding volcanoes of waste.


The problem is not, we don’t have enough money; the problem is too much of it goes down the drain, and we waste so much of it. We need a change in perspective, okay? So, let me try to illustrate.


On pretty much any given night of the week, maybe even tonight, some of us, we’re going to go out on the town, and we will have the options of dining that kings and queens just a hundred years ago couldn’t have even dreamed of. We could eat cuisine from any country in the world. You want Thai food? We got you. Indian food? It’s okay. Mexican food? Absolutely. Chinese food, Korean food, Japanese food? How come I’m just talking about Asian food? Mediterranean, okay, got one in there. We can eat any kind of cuisine we want. We walk into a restaurant, and there are armies of people waiting to serve us, competing for our business.


And so we go in there, we sit down, we say, “This food tastes bad.” So, what do we do? We throw it away. Kings and queens of just a few hundred years ago did not even have that luxury. Imagine that. But that’s not all.


When we’re getting ready to go, we hop in our gas-guzzling SUV. Now, we paid off, or we’re paying off, with interest with a 60-month loan, which, by the way, has depreciated 50 percent of its value already, and we’re sitting in the car running it, burning that precious fuel that we were complaining at the gas pump about how expensive it is. Well, recently gas has been cheaper, but you understand my point.


And we’re idling the car, sitting on seats made from the skins of dead animals, and we are probably, some of us, are thinking how old this car is, and, “I wish I had a better one.” And then we say, “Hey, we just had a mediocre meal, let’s go get some dessert,” so we pull out these little devices we have in our pockets, little supercomputers that have more power in it than the space shuttle that went to the moon, that communicates with satellites hundreds of miles in space, to guide us around the corner to the nearest frozen yogurt place.


And then we say, “This phone is too out of date. I need a new one.” So, every year, we plunk down the cold, hard cash for a new Android phone or a new iPhone. Do you realize that thing is a supercomputer, and we treat it like a toy, and what do we do with it? We watch silly cat videos on YouTube with it. I mean, you think, like, okay, we’re eating like kings and queens, we’re driving in, like, a car that is fit for monarchy, we have supercomputers, we must be, like, saving the world or, like, curing cancer or, like, doing something! And this is what we do. And the reason why we want a new phone is because it doesn’t load the cat videos fast enough.


So, do you understand what I’m saying? Our lives are exploding volcanoes of waste. So, do you know who this man is, John D. Rockefeller? Have you ever heard of him? Oh, yeah, no big deal, he just happens to be the richest American of all time, the first American billionaire ever, and I’m not here to necessarily say if he’s a good or bad man, but simply to make this point. He was the first American billionaire. With inflation calculated, people estimate his net worth to be around 340 billion dollars. Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, I think he’s still the richest man in the world, his net worth is somewhere in the 70 to 80 billion dollars. Over 300 billion, and guess what? You live a better live than him.


He passed away in the early 1900s, and his life, he didn’t have the ease of transportation that we have now. He couldn’t just go on to the internet (I mean, what is that?), go on the internet on your smartphone, book a ticket, and tonight hop on a plane and fly over to London or wherever. Couldn’t do that, even though he was the richest man in the world.


He didn’t have all the amenities in our homes, a clean, you know, toilet, medical advances, technology advances, communication advances. We have a better life as middle-class, standard, ordinary, every-day Americans or, if you’re not from America, in the Western civilization generally speaking, we have a better life than he did.


Exploding volcanoes of waste, so this is my point: We are the wealthiest yet most wasteful generation that ever walked the earth. That is the truth. The American narrative on wealth that says, “Oh, poor you. You’re a victim of the financial system. Someone else has you under their thumb. You deserve to have everything you want. You need to buy more stuff.” All that, throw it out the window.


This is the truth: We have far more than we need, and if we can just be smart about capturing a small percentage of it even, we can do so much more. I love this quote from Dave Ramsey, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” Ladies and gentlemen, this is the true American dream, keeping up with the Joneses. “What are my neighbors going to think? They got this, they got that, I got to have it, too, and so, I don’t have the money for it, but I’m just going to borrow from my credit card so that I can impress my friends.”


So we need to bust this myth. So we need to stop accepting society’s narrative about money. We need to stop associating happiness with consumption. We need to stop believing that we are the financial victim. We need to stop living beyond our means. And we need to stop worrying about what other people may think of us. And notice, when you look at this, it’s not a money issue primarily. It’s the issue in here. It’s the issue of looking ourselves in the mirror and saying, “Look, my thinking is what needs to change. It’s not that the dollars and cents are somehow running away from me.” So, we need to be the change. So, how do we do that?


We need to start taking ownership, start taking ownership of our own financial issues. We need to start being intentional about where our money goes. We need to start gathering the fragments and saving the crumbs. That’s the biblical principle we’re talking about this whole session. And we need to dare to be peculiar. And the fact is, Adventism, of all people, we should know how to be peculiar. You already go to church on Saturday, so is that any less weird than not going into debt? You might as well go all the way and be a totally frugal weirdo while you’re at it!


Let’s take a look at this passage, Philippians 4:11-13. This is really interesting. Paul says, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content,” and that’s the point. Learn to be content with what we have, and we read in the earlier session, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” He says, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Notice the context, because what’s the very next sentence? It says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”


How many times have we heard this last part of the passage? Can I overcome sin? “Yes! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” “I need to overcome this addiction. Yes! I can do it.” “I need to forgive this person. Yes! I can do it.” “I need to be content with living on less. I need to be able to be happy with my life without buying that latest car. I don’t know if I can do it.”


But guess what? The context of this promise is in the context of being content whether we abound or whether we have been brought low. So whenever we quote that verse, it is actually within the context of being content with having less. Hmm, interesting. So, in other words, what we are saying is, we need to spend less and save more. This is the one driving point today.


So, here’s the question: How much do I need to earn in order to be rich? This is actually dealing with one of those issues we mentioned earlier where people say, “Oh, I have to earn so much money now in order to live a comfortable, middle-class life,” and all that. Well, this is sort of a trick question because we talked about earlier, the first session…As a quick review for you who weren’t here, the Bible defined for us what it means to be prosperous, to be rich, to be wealthy. It means having our needs met. Once we have enough, we have crossed that threshold into prosperity, according to the Bible.


And so, this is a trick question because, so, how much do I need to earn? Well, it’s not based on the income. It’s based on your needs, right? Well, let’s actually take a look at this in a more systematic way. How is wealth actually measured? When we actually talk about wealthiness, like, we have the world’s wealthiest men, we talk about Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and all these guys. Oh, they’re the wealthiest men. How is that measurement made? Like, how do you define wealth?


Well, wealth, you’ll see is actually defined by assets, minus liabilities, becoming your net worth. So, wealth is a measurement of net worth, or measured by your net worth, as opposed to your net income. There’s a big difference there. And so, to figure your net worth, you just take all your assets and subtract from it all your liabilities.


So, what are assets and liabilities? The simple way to remember it is that assets are things that you own. Liabilities are things that you owe. Okay? Very simple. So, assets are things like your cash in the bank, your investments, the properties, your vehicles, if you have a business, if you have intellectual property, if you own patents, things of that nature; you own that.


Liabilities are things that you owe, so your debts, obligations, student loans, credit cards, car notes, mortgages, those are some of the common ones. So you just create assets, liabilities, add them up, subtract liabilities from assets, and that becomes your net worth.


So, the question we’re dealing with here is how much do I have to earn in order to be rich? How do you determine who is wealthier? So let’s take a look here. We’ve got Trey who is a teacher and Don who is a doctor. All right? Teacher Trey here, he earns 40,000 dollars a year. He has a house that costs 200,000 dollars, and he drives a 2005 Toyota Camry, pretty standard, you know? Nothing’s extraordinary.


And we’ve got Don here who’s a doctor. (And these are all fictional characters. These are not real people.) He earns 150,000 dollars a year. He owns a house that is worth 800,000 dollars a year, and he drives the latest year, 2015, BMW 7 Series. So, who is wealthier?


Well, the answer actually isn’t so clear. The fact is, this doesn’t give us enough information. You know, you assume that it’s going to be Trey because of the way I’m setting this up, but if you just take the numbers that are given to you, this is actually not enough information because, when you look at it, Don could actually be very wealthy, who knows? Because we see a few of his assets; we don’t see any of his liabilities, right? And the fact is, he earns so much more, the potential is much greater for Don to be wealthier. See? So income is the potential for wealth-building, but it doesn’t equate with wealth.


And so, what do we need more of? We need more information. We need to know what the assets and liabilities look like for these two gentlemen. So, this is where we unravel the mystery.


So, he earns 40,000 dollars a year, and here is his balance statement or balance sheet. Assets? He’s got 12,500 dollars cash in the bank. His house is completely paid off, 200,000 dollars. His car, Toyota Camry from 2005, ten years old, worth 6,000 dollars (that’s actually a pretty good place to be). Retirement, 340,000 dollars. He’s saved up a lot for retirement, but, look. He doesn’t owe anyone a dime. So, what you see here is actually his actual net worth. He’s worth over a half a million dollars. But he only earns 40,000 dollars. He’s a teacher. Teachers are poor; we all know that, but doctors are rich, right? That’s the assumption.


And I know maybe some of you are going to be going into the medical field. I hope to inspire you a little bit and also hopefully dispel some of the myths so people can go easy on you a little bit, right? Once somebody becomes a doctor, family, friends come out of the woodwork looking for a handout because you’re rich now. Well, let’s hold our horses. Not necessarily.


So, Don here, he earns a lot more money, but this is how much cash he has in the bank, 5,000. His house is worth that much, 800,000. His car is 80,000 dollars. I mean, it’s current year 7 series. So he’s got over 800,000 dollars of assets, but notice his liabilities. He owes nearly a million dollars. His mortgage, car loan, student loans, credit cards. So you notice his net worth is actually negative.


So this is a fictional situation, but it is not outside the realm of possibility, okay? And so, what am I trying to say here? My point is that you can’t judge people by their outward appearances. Isn’t that a biblical principle somewhere? “Man,” you know, “looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh at the heart.” Well, in this particular situation, we’re not necessarily looking at the heart; we’re looking at the balance sheet, and this does not equate their moral worth in God’s eyes. Please be clear. Both men are equally valuable and worth the life of Jesus. We’re talking about the financial value in the form of net worth.


So, Trey here, actually as you have suspected from the beginning, actually is far wealthier than Don by the true definition of wealth, which is net worth. And so, yes, he earns a lot. He doesn’t earn much, but he certainly has a lot more in his net worth. And what is the bottom line here? What’s the key? Riches, wealth, it means having enough to meet your needs.


Who do you think, suppose here, has greater financial freedom? Who do you suppose of these two have greater financial independence? Clearly, it’s him, right? Because, look, who would you rather be? Trey, yeah, he’s got a small house; he drives a dinky car, Toyota Camry, like, it doesn’t get anymore Plain Jane than that, right? Don’s got a big house, BMW, yeah, it’s nice, okay, but Don’s got a negative net worth, and the bank actually owns all this stuff. Whereas, Trey, he owns all this stuff. If God calls both of these men to go work for Him in the mission field, who is in a better position to go?




You have the answer. So, who would we rather be in the scope of working for the Lord?


So let’s continue on this theme here. This is one of the biggest…unspoken sometimes, but it’s becoming more and more explicit, the myth. Your income does not equal wealth, and your spending certainly does not equal wealth. Okay, they don’t equal each other.


So, this is a report that came out from the Federal Reserve, and I actually found it in a Bloomberg magazine article. It’s called, “Even the Upper Middle Class Struggles to Save Money,” and here are some statistics. So, these statistics apply to households with incomes between 75 to 100,000 dollars, which is upper middle class: 55 percent of these people in the nation saved nothing in 2012; over half of the upper middle class saved nothing; 16 percent spent more than they earned and went further into debt; and then 20 percent would go into months of debt if there was a 400-dollar emergency.


And let me tell you something, if only emergencies came in nice small chunks like 400 dollars. If you’ve ever gotten sick and gone to the hospital, I have, 400 dollars is like a drink of water. You’ve got to understand, this is like a nothing burger, 400 dollars. And these are families that would go into months of indebtedness over 400 bucks! What if it was 4,000 or 40,000?! Can you imagine what would happen? And guess what? These are people with what we would consider pretty good incomes.


And spending certainly doesn’t equal wealth because this is a report from Piper Jaffray, consumer report on the consumer habits of teens. Okay, and this was very recent; it was just this fall, 2015, “Whether an average-income or upper-income household, teens spend about 40-percent of their budget on fashion.”


You know, when we see a teen, and they’re dressed all nice, and they’re wearing fancy clothes, what’s the first thing we think? They’ve got rich parents. Well, maybe, maybe not. But the teens themselves certainly don’t earn much money, I believe. “Teens will make two trips to a restaurant for every one trip they make to a gas station.” Wow. If wealth is dependent on how much money you spend, then I think teenagers have us all beat, but we know that that is not the case because wealth is determined not by how much you earn or how much you spend, but it is determined by how much you keep, okay?


So, a person with a big paycheck can have a small net worth, just like Dr. Don. And then a person with a small paycheck can still have a high net worth, just like Trey. So, this is another issue here, and that is, when we talk about millionaires and billionaires, this is, again, part of this idea of the definition of wealth here, it is not based on their salaries.


So, we hear about the CEOs and the fat cats on Wall Street and all this stuff, and we say, “Oh, yeah, those guys are the millionaires because they get multimillion-dollar stock options and pay each year,” and that’s actually not the case. Millionaires are defined as a person with a net worth of a million dollars or more. So, Trey is halfway there. He might never earn a single year of income that’s a million dollars. He probably never will, but he can still become a millionaire in the sense of, he has enough investments built up, and it’s growing so that, once it hits over a million dollars, he joins the ranks of the millionaires. So that’s just a definition of what a millionaire actually is.


And so, here is Warren Buffett; I think he’s the third richest man in the world currently. His salary is actually only 100,000 a year. I say “only,” but it’s “only” when compared to Don, who we just talked about who earns 50 percent more than that. But his net worth is 66 billion dollars. So, he’s a billionaire by virtue of his net worth, not his salary.


What about these athletes? The athletes are the people that we have a mental picture of, “They are the wealthy.” “They are the rich.” “I will never be like that; therefore, I’m not rich,” right? That’s, and I’m never going to be prosperous, right? Of course, when you have the biblical definition of prosperity…But athletes, you know, some of them, they earn over 10 million dollars a year, over however long their career might be. Well, what’s their net worth like?


I don’t have to guess. There’s this article from Sports Illustrated in 2009; it’s called “How and Why Athletes Go Broke.” It says, “By the time they have been retired for two years,” two years! And guess what? NFL players, we’re talking about. Most NFL players, when they retire, in two years they’re like late 20s, early 30s. I mean, if they play until their mid or late 30s, they’re like really old, right? And so these guys are young when they go broke is what I’m saying. When they have been retired for two years, “78 percent of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial distress because of joblessness or divorce.” The NBA, “Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60 percent of former NBA players are,” also, “broke.”


And what is the lifestyle that we see when we see these guys? Aren’t these the very paragons? These are the idols that are lifted up in society and say, “These are the people to emulate,” right? “This is how you should be spending your money.” “You’ve got to have the car like them,” “Dress like them,” you know? The basketball shoes that I wanted, right? It’s all because of these guys, but if you dig a little bit deeper, they have a big income; they get a fat check, but within a very short time, it’s all gone.


And so, how much you earn and how much you spend does not equal wealth; that’s my point.


So, what is the secret to building wealth? It’s the same point I’ve been talking about this whole hour: It’s to spend less and to save more. How do you suppose teacher Trey managed to save up 300,000 dollars for his retirement? He saved a bunch of money, and he didn’t spend it all. And I’ll just make this point right now, and that is: When we think about financial independence and we’re thinking about saving for the future and saving for retirement or whatever else, the saving’s rate is the most important thing. And the reason why is that it’s the one thing we have the most control over.


Interest rates, returns, what’s the best investment, all of these things, a lot of it is outside of our control. But what we can control is how much of our spending we control and how much we save. So, that’s why it’s the most important thing, because it’s what we can control, and it’s something that has to do with our hearts.


So, some questions that we need to ask here: Are we buying consumables that decrease in value, or are we buying assets that increase in value? These are practical questions. Just evaluate. And, again, look at your expense sheet. We talked about it last hour. The first step in all of this stuff we’re talking about, we’ve got to get a grasp of how much we’re actually spending. And when we look at how much we’re spending, look at what we’re buying. Are we buying things that we just use up and then have to buy again, or disposable things? Or are they consumables that decrease in value? Or are we buying assets that increase in value? Are we making investments that grow into the future?


Are we spending everything we make each month? Or, are we saving and investing? Right? That’s what all those ball players did; they spent everything. Do we have debt that cancels out our assets on our balance sheet? And the same question put another way: Do we owe more than we own? That was the problem of Dr. Don. He owed more money than what he owned.


So, in other words, if the bank came after him, they would liquidate everything that he owned to pay off his loans, and he would still have to pay the bank more. He can lose everything and still have to pay the bank more. That’s how serious the situation is for him. So those are questions that we need to ask ourselves.


But the Spirit of Prophecy actually confirms what I’m trying to say. Counsels on Stewardship, page 249, paragraph 4, says, “I was shown that you, my brother and sister, have much to learn. You have not lived within your means. You have not learned to economize.” And that word “economize,” if I can put it another way, it means you have not learned up to gather up the fragments. You have not learned to save the crumbs. “If you earn high wages,” think Dr. Don here, “you do not know how to make it go as far as possible. You consult taste or appetite instead of prudence. At times you expend money for a quality of food in which your brethren cannot afford to indulge. Dollars slip from your pocket very easily.”


I’ll let you ruminate on this to consider whether you fall in that category, but that is the counsel from the Spirit of Prophecy. We are to be mindful, to learn how to economize, to gather up the fragments.


So, this leads us to a very important question: What is the purpose of all this saving? Yes, I’m talking about the need to spend less and save more, but why? What is the purpose? You know, we mentioned earlier it’s not about hoarding up riches to become super wealthy. It’s not to compete with Warren Buffet or Bill Gates. That’s not the goal. We talked about last session three things that money is good for: to spend it right now, to it save for future needs or to give it away. So, if you’ve already spent it, the rest is basically for the other two columns of things.


So, for future needs, some of the future needs might be a new car, college, buying a house, paying for a wedding, retirement, a big purchase, etc. It could be a lot of things, but why do we need to save up for future needs?


Well, because if they’re a “need,” by definition, it means we’re going to have to spend money on it sooner or later. And if we come up to the time when we need it and we haven’t prepared for it, guess what we’re going to do? Borrow money, and then we’re up a creek having to pay interest. So this is the whole reason, and this afternoon we’re talking about “Counting the Cost.” Remember the story, Jesus says, “Who builds a tower without first sitting down and counting the cost to see if he has enough to finish?” This is what we’re doing – future needs.


And how do we make those plans? How does that factor in to our budget? Next session, session number three this afternoon, we’re going to get into the nuts and bolts of that.


So after saving for our future needs, we can also save money to give away. And I didn’t actually include it here, but we want to make sure to include special projects. If there’s a special mission project, a special building project, special missionary opportunity that you want to participate in, save up. That’s one excellent thing to save up for. Or if you want to go to a training school, you know? Those are the types of things that we can plan ahead so that we don’t have to say, “Oh, Lord, I can’t go.” Well, why can’t you go? “Because I don’t have money.” Well, do you not have money, or did you not manage your money so that you could go? You understand the difference in the question?


So, to give away, once we reach our savings goals, so all of these things that we have over here, and once we have those needs, everything else should go to God because, guess what? We’re prosperous. We have everything we need. So, if we have everything we need, why do we need to keep more? Right? So the answer is: Give it to God! It’s all His anyway.


So, saving with no goal is hoarding like the Rich Fool in Luke 12:19, building the barns and bigger barns. So, what are we saving for? These are the tangible things: Actual needs that we’re going to have in the future so we don’t have to go into debt, and then giving it away. But there is something far more significant, I think, that’s intangible and that is we are saving up for freedom. Freedom. The borrower is always servant to the lender. And what does it say here? “Freedom to serve, to share, and to give.”


And, you see, there’s a term that I learned recently; it’s called “wage slave.” Have you heard of that term before? A wage slave? See if you can resonate with this kind of scenario. An individual, he might be a mom or dad, family to take care of, mortgage to pay for or rent, car payments, student loan to pay off, and someone says, “Hey, I would love for you to come and work with me in this ministry. We can’t pay you much, but we’d love for you to dedicate your skills to the Lord.”


And this person has a heart for God, wants to serve the Lord, of response and appeal here at GYC. And they go home, and they realize, “I can’t pay the bills.” So, what happens? They become enslaved to the wage they need to pay the bills. How about the students? God says…makes an appeal at GYC to come forward, give your life to missions, one year, two years, seven years, however many years. “I can’t go because I have to earn money to pay off my student loans.” That’s wage slavery. There’s a ball and chain between you and your cubicle or whatever your role, wherever you work. You’re chained there.


God says, “I want you to move out into the country so you can raise your children in a better environment. “I can’t move out to the country; I’ve got a job here. I can’t pay off my loans if I’m out in the country. I can’t get a job there that earns enough to pay my debts.” So this is what I’m talking about for freedom – to save more money, to spend less money, to manage our finances in a way that we are actually in a position to not just give money to God, but to give ourselves to God.


And so, I want to share a story, a little testimony here of a friend of mine. He’s a doctor, and you would assume, oh, a doctor, yeah, he’s loaded. He doesn’t earn a small paycheck. He does actually earn decent money, but you know what he does? He has his elderly, total-care grandmother live with him in his home, and he has six full-time caretakers to take care of his grandmother, and he takes care of her as well.


And he’s a doctor, and so he chose his schedule so he works the minimum amount of shifts per month just to meet the needs, and primarily it’s not his own needs, it’s the needs of his grandmother, whom he’s taking care of. And the rest of his time he travels around doing ministry. That’s his life. That’s the kind of freedom I’m talking about. And this gentleman, he’s been to like all…He’s like a first responder to, like, all the natural disasters you’ve heard of in recent years, like Haiti earthquake, you know the Tsunami in Japan. I don’t know where else he went, all the places. The one that he says, he tells me, the biggest regret he had last year was he wasn’t able to make it to help with the Ebola breakout. This is the kind of guy he is. He’s a doctor; he earns (quote/unquote) “lots of money,” but he manages his money in a way that, not only is he donating to ministries, not only is he serving and helping his grandmother and meeting her needs, he is giving of himself to the work of God.


And so, when we say modern-day tentmaking, ladies and gentlemen, when we manage our money well, the point is not just so we can give to God. The point is, when we manage our money well, we can be there when God needs us to be there. Just imagine if you’re able to fund yourself to the mission field because you’ve learned to economize, and you’re able to not require the huge donations and paying off my student loans, and all this kind of stuff.


Ladies and gentlemen, this is the reason why we need to think of our finances in the broader scope of God’s calling on us. And so, this quote from P.T. Barnum, “Money is a very excellent servant but a terrible master,” and this is another way of mentioning what my point is today, and that is if we allow the money to master us, we don’t just rob ourselves and our future; we’re robbing God. But if we are able to manage our funds in such a way, we can use it, the money to help propel the work of God forward.


So, I want to inspire you here with a story of “The Teddy Bear Lady,” and I am running out of time, so let me move quickly here. The Teddy Bear Lady, her name is Gladys Holm. She died in 1996, I believe, and when she died, she had a small funeral, no surviving family, never married. She never made more than 15,000 dollars a year. She was a secretary for a corporation in Chicago, and she got the nickname Teddy Bear Lady because she would go to the Children’s Hospital in Chicago, and she would visit the children there. She loved to do that, and every time she went, she would give each child a teddy bear, and that’s where she got her name, Teddy Bear Lady. Fifteen-thousand-dollar salary, that was her max pay, so she would have started much lower and worked up to 15,000 dollars annual salary, amazing!


And so, after she died, her estate attorney came to the president of the Children’s Hospital and said, “Mrs. Holm left something in her will for the hospital.” How much do you think it was? Anyone want to venture a guess how much the “Teddy Bear Lady” …? Fifty thousand, is that what you said? A hundred and fifty thousand? Anyone want to…? A million, someone said, 300,000, okay.


Eighteen million dollars left to the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, and not only that, the story goes that, you know, the president fell out of his seat, and he said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. This is not right.” And the lawyer said, “No, no, it is true. That is what she left you.” And, in fact, they went and they realized what had happened. There were a number of children that would anonymously have all their hospital bills paid for, and so what was going on was the Teddy Bear Lady would be doing espionage, going in, helping the children, and she was evaluating who were the truly needy cases, and she would send an anonymous check to the hospital and pay for all of their care. So, she gave a whole lot more than 18 million, is my point.


So the question everyone’s asking is how did she do it, right? She never made more than 15,000 dollars a year, and so she didn’t accept the narrative that she was “so poor,” or that she needed to buy lots of junk to be happy. And the testimony of her friends who survived her said that she was a fun-loving lady. She wasn’t like some scrooge, you know, all gnarled up and, like, “Get off my steps!” you know, not like that at all. She was a fun-loving, vivacious lady. They said that she loved to wear red dresses. It shows you the type of personality that she had. But she had small, regular effort over a long period of time yielding big results. She just kept saving every little bit in her paycheck, and she saved for the purpose of giving, right?


And also, the small income did not equate with her net worth at all. So the story is that she was a secretary for her boss, and her boss said, “You really need to start investing. You need to start saving up.” And she said, “Okay, I’ll just do what you do. If you invest a thousand dollars, I’ll invest ten. If you invest 2,000, I’ll invest 20. And so she just learned from her employer, and through her long career she just put aside a little bit every month in her paycheck, investing as she learned from her boss. I don’t know what she invested in. By the time she passed away, 18 million dollars.


So, put another way, she learned to spend less and to save more. That’s the lesson of this hour.


So, isn’t frugal living deprivation, right? To spend less, save more, you’re asking me to give up my life, right? I want to enjoy life; that’s what people say. So, let me just mention this: If we are thinking in this way, if we’re saying these things, it shows that we have imbibed, we have drunk the Kool-Aid of American narrative on wealth because we’re associating living a good life with spending lots of money. You understand that?


And what does the Bible say? “I can do all things through Christ,” right? I can be content, whether I abound in plenty or whether I am brought low and have nothing. So frugal living, is it deprivation? Well, the fact is, we read this earlier, Ellen White, in Adventist Home, says we should not deprive ourselves of that which is necessary for health and comfort, but just don’t go to extreme of wantonness, extravagance and display. So, it’s okay to have the comforts of life, yes, that’s the balance; just don’t go to the extremes.


“We cannot make the heart purer or holier by clothing the body in sackcloth” (Praise the Lord?), “or depriving the home of all that ministers to comfort, taste, or convenience.” Yes, convenience. It’s okay to have a dishwasher and, you know, all these things. So, yes, it is okay to have those things. Frugal living does not mean you have to deprive yourself, but it does mean you need to be thinking prudently with how you spend your funds.


So, let me just share a little bit of my life. So, what does a frugal life look like? In my experience right now? We have no mortgage; our house is paid off. And guess what? If I ever regret not having a mortgage, I can get another one. We actually have a rental unit. So, we’ve saved up enough; we’ve invested in real estate. It’s actually a little guest house in the back of our house. We rent it out; it gives us income.


We have free electricity with solar panels. So, how do I do it? It’s because I saved up so I can install solar panels. It’s not rocket science, right? You save more, so you invest in it. And the solar panels, in fact, it’s not just free. The power company pays me each month, because, not only have we economized in our budgeting, we economize in our energy usage, so the amount of power that our solar panels generate each month is more, or over the year, is more than what we use, and so the excess, the power company pays me back. So, I get paid for my electric bill. How about that? Frugal living, it has its perks, right?


We do have iPhones. You know, I sort of made fun of iPhones. I have an iPhone. My wife has an iPhone. We have data plans on it; yes, we do, but we pay 20 dollars a month for everything, unlimited – data, 4G LTE, text, everything. It’s not that you have to go without, right? It’s spending wisely; that’s my point.


We have a garage full of stuff. We were actually just cleaning out a bunch of stuff just the other day. I have a fancy, zero-turn mower; I’m actually sort of proud of that. It costs as much as a nice car. We have a freezer full of food. I just bought my wife a new chest freezer; it’s already full of stuff. We have pairs of shoes more than I’ll ever finish wearing out, more clothes than I need. I don’t even need to ask; I already know the answer if you have that problem.


We have a small garden with plenty to spare. We have food to give out to all our neighbors every year. We have traveled internationally almost every year, my wife and I. And not for vacation necessarily, but some of it is for leisure, but we go out for ministry and things like that, so we’ve seen a lot of the world. All this, and we spend only about 1300 dollars a month.


So, here’s a little sneak peak, and if you want actual budget information, check out our blog; we break it all down. You’ll even find out how much we earn and everything. And some families, larger families, spend that much just on food every year, you know, eating out and all the rest.


So we have over 20 percent giving rate and over 50 percent savings rate, so this is what it’s like for us, living (quote/unquote) a “deprived” life, okay? And the fact is, I don’t feel very deprived. I don’t. In fact, you know, this is our house. That’s our backyard. We live out in a rural area. You know, you’ve got to understand, it is nice, but, you know, pictures can be deceiving, but it is a nice place. We enjoy living there; it’s quiet.


But there are differences, right? What don’t we do? We hardly ever eat out. Eating out for us is like, we plan months in advance. We’re like, “We get to eat out!” It’s like, it’s got to be a big occasion, right? It’s like, the last time we ate out, my wife and I, it was like we paid off our mortgage or something. Unless we’re out, you know, at GYC or some conference where we have to do it.


We don’t have a TV. No entertainment subscriptions. You know, even the Netflix, everyone says, “Yeah, Netflix is so cheap”? Umm, don’t need it. YouTube is plenty distracting enough, thank you very much. We have an old but reliable car, right? Nothing to write home about, Honda Accord, white; everyone’s got one. We don’t take expensive family trips to Disneyland. You know, there are these things that are associated with living the “good life”; we don’t need it!


It’s not just we don’t need it; we don’t want it. We are content with the simple life. And so some people might look at this and say, “Oh, I can never do that.” Is it really you can never do it, or you’re just not willing to do it? Right? Are you not willing to look in the mirror and say, “I need to shift my thinking, and I need to be wiling to be content with less,” and claim the promise, Philippians 4:13, “‘I can do all things through Christ,’ and that is, even going without my Netflix subscription.” Somebody should have said, “Amen.” All right.


But what else do I have? We talked about freedom earlier, and this is the critical point: I have freedom from the stress of slavery to lenders. I own my house. The bank, they’ve got nothing on me. Freedom for my wife to stay home with our baby. Actually, she’s right there in the back. Everyone can say, “Hi.” So, you know, she was working before, but now she gets to stay home. Now, if I had lots of student loan debt, that probably wouldn’t have been reality.


Freedom to serve the Lord in ministry without worrying about pay. Like, you know already, I work for AudioVerse as a self-supporting ministry of the church. We don’t get paid like Dr. Don or Warren Buffet or even teacher Trey, okay? So, freedom to serve the Lord in ministry. Freedom to give generously to God’s work. Freedom from society’s expectations of how I ought to live my life.


And of all people, Seventh-day Adventists, we should revel in being different and peculiar and living according to the Word of God! Amen? And even when it comes to our wallets.


So, I’m going to conclude here. We’re running out of time. The Narrow Way is the vision that Ellen White saw, the Advent people journeying to the heavenly Jerusalem. And, you know, they start off with all the worldly possessions, their wagons and their oxen and their horses and their packs, and they’re trudging down this path. It got narrower and narrower; you remember the story. And pretty soon they had to leave the wagons behind. They had to throw the things off the mule. They had to start throwing the packs off their backs. It got steeper and steeper. They pressed closer and closer to the cliff. And pretty soon they had to throw everything off, and then they even had to take off their shoes. And then they came to the edge of the cliff, and all they had was a rope to swing across the chasm.


Ladies and gentlemen, I think it’s time we start lightening the load. If we are Advent people on the Narrow Way, sooner or later we believe that this is going to happen to us. So, why go through the enlargement of our life right now, when we can start the process, and, again, within the balance of what Spirit of Prophecy says, not to go into deprivation and clothe yourself in sackcloth and deprive your family of comforts; you realize that balance. But at the same time, being smart, trimming our living, being modest in how we spend, saving money so that we can give and have freedom for God, right?


And so, let’s summarize. Jesus wants us to be resourceful. That means let no temporal advantage go to waste. Gather up the fragments and save the crumbs, right? To save and not to waste. We need to ignore society’s narrative about wealth. It’s poisonous. Wealth is determined by what we keep, not what we earn and certainly not what we spend, got to remember that.


So, don’t compare yourselves with the Joneses; the Joneses are broke. Don’t worry about it. It’s possible to build wealth even with a small income, and I think that’s important for us to have the hope because many of us, probably, my guess, is we’re not with Dr. Don in income generation. You know, we’re probably working ministry or students or, you know, something of that nature. It’s still worth it to save. Our savings rate is the single most important factor in wealth building, wealth building for the purpose of filling our needs and giving to the Lord’s work. We save for future needs in order to give more and for more freedom.


All right, last page here. We need to dare to be peculiar with our money, and frugal living does not mean depriving ourselves, but it requires adjusting our taste. It means being smart with our money to provide for our necessities.


So, in conclusion, the one point I want you to remember: Spend less and save more, okay?


Let’s pray. Father in Heaven, we thank You for this hour together. I pray that we have been inspired to do our part, to be smart with the money that belongs to you anyway, so that we can operate our lives in such a way to not just give you back the money that’s already Yours, but to give You our lives, our time, our energy, so that when You call, we will be ready to go wherever that may be. So, guide us in the remainder of this conference and also bring us back safely this afternoon for the next two sessions of this seminar. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Thank you, everybody.


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