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SPENT: IN _____ WE TRUST
April 10, 2016 - 11:00a.m.
This morning we begin a new series called Spent: In ____ We Trust. It’s a series we’ve been thinking about for quite a while. We haven’t done much teaching on finances recently. The last time was a little over two years ago when the Life Financial Group came to Valley View and put on a stewardship seminar for us.
And to be honest, that got mixed reviews. Some of us really enjoyed it and benefitted from it and others struggled with it for one reason or another. But one thing that came out of it was the desire that some expressed that we teach our own series on finances based on Scripture. So here we are.
There are really two good times during the year to teach a series like this. One is right at the beginning of the year after the holidays are over and we’re trying tighten the belt again and get the new year off to a good start financially. And the other is in the spring when we’re preparing our tax returns, looking over our income and our spending and our giving. So those are two good times to teach on financial stewardship, although many would say that there’s never a good time to teach about money!
Believe me, we understand that thinking. We realize that this is a very sensitive and personal subject. We’re all at different places when it comes to our finances for all kinds of reasons. And we recognize that. Some of us are incredibly blessed in this area and have an abundance of resources. Others of us struggle day to day to pay our bills and meet our obligations.
We get that. We also recognize that there’s great potential for guilt and shame, pride and judgment when it comes to the subject money. We get that too.
And yet at the same time we also get the fact that the Bible has a lot to say on this subject and we would be irresponsible as leaders if we didn’t teach on it. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and make disciples teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Finances are part of that “everything.”
So we want to do our best to leave those attitudes at the door, lower our defenses and be open to what God has to say on the subject. He’s our source of truth when it comes to money and how best to handle our resources whether small or great.
God wants us all to be financially free. Did you hear that? God wants us all to be financially free. Now that doesn’t mean he wants us all to be independently wealthy. Being financially free is not the same as being wealthy. You can be poor and be financially free, just like you can be wealthy and be enslaved to your stuff. God doesn’t want us weighed down with fear and worry when it comes to finances.
Some of the most joyful people I’ve ever met have next to nothing. If there’s one thing my trips to Africa have taught me over the years is that happiness is not tied to wealth and possessions. I was often amazed at the joy that Christians had living in small, crowded mud shacks, sometimes without electricity and running water. Yet they were happy! And so were their kids who were playing soccer on rocky, dirt fields using an empty soda can as a soccer ball.
Being financially free is not all about how much money we have. Instead, it’s more about who or what has us. It has to do with what word we use to fill in the blank. In _____ We Trust.
On our website we describe the series this way. “We go to school to learn how to earn it. We spend our lives working hard to make it. We invest countless hours thinking about it. We shop at stores and scan websites deciding how to spend it. We worry that we won’t ever have enough of it. We dream and scheme of ways to get more of it. We bust up marriages arguing over it. Some call it the root of all evil. Others call it the means of great good. But one thing we all agree on is that we can’t live without it. What is ‘it’? Money. Join us this spring as we discover what God has to say about ‘it’ and about how we can live financially free.”
(Blank) As we were planning this series we thought the best place to start would be with a confession. In fact, that’s the title of this teaching, “A Confession.” And the confession is this. The Church, the global, historic Church that began on the day of Pentecost over 2,000 years ago has not always done the best job handling money. In fact, the mishandling of money has turned countless people away from Jesus. And that’s tragic. That’s sad. And we want to confess that this morning. And repent of any part we’ve had in it and say we are sorry.
The mishandling of money goes all the way back to one of the original disciples. Judas was the treasurer of the Twelve. He was the most educated and sophisticated guy of the bunch. They trusted Judas more than anyone else and appointed him treasurer, even over Matthew who had been a tax collector.
But as time went on, Judas grew more and more disillusioned with Jesus and his refusal to power up on the Romans. So he started helping himself to the cookie jar, stealing funds that were donated to Jesus’ ministry.
And it all came to a head when Mary cracked open a bottle of perfume and anointed Jesus’ feet. Judas freaked out and we read this in John 12:4-6, But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5“Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. ” 6He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
This very first group of Christ followers had a thief in their midst. And a week after this anointing, Judas sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. Then committed suicide. In _____ We Trust.
(Blank) In the book of Acts, the first fatalities that ever occurred in church happened over money. In Acts 5, a married couple by the name of Ananias and Sapphira lied about the amount of their giving. They sold a piece of property and gave a portion of the proceeds to the Apostles which was generous of them, but they claimed to have given it all.
So Peter says to them in Acts 5:3-5 (p. 761), Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received from the land? 4Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God. 5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.
Yikes! The problem wasn’t about the amount of money they gave. The problem was that they lied about the amount of money they gave and left church in a body bag. That’s how much God values honesty when it comes to handling money. In _____ We Trust.
(Blank) In Acts 6, the very next chapter, the church was divided over the care of widows. The Jewish widows who spoke Hebrew were getting more support than those who spoke Greek. And there was lots of grumbling and complaining.
So the Twelve called a business meeting, we call them Community Conversations, and said in Acts 6:2-4 (p. 762), It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.
The apostles said, “We can’t do this anymore. We’ve got to get out of the middle of this thing and do what we’ve been called to do, to pray and teach.” The distribution of resources threatened to derail the ministry of the Apostles so they selected seven men to deal with it. And they did. And the church continued its explosive growth. In _____ We Trust.
(Blank) Fast forward to the Middle Ages where the abuse of money in the Church reached epic proportions. The Church was raising funds by convincing people that they could shorten a loved ones stay in the flames of purgatory by making a cash contribution to the Church. It was called the sale of indulgences. An indulgence is “a way to reduce the amount of punishment a person must face for their sins.”
And a German monk named John Tetzel was teaching things like this, “Don’t you hear the voices of your dead parents and other relatives crying out, ‘Have mercy on us, for we suffer great punishment and pain. From this, you could release us with a few alms …. We created you, fed you, cared for you, and left you our temporal goods. Why do you treat us so cruelly and leave us to suffer in the flames, when it takes only a little to save us? As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” Talk about a guilt trip! Give money to save your loved one from torture in purgatory!
It took another monk named Martin Luther to challenge that teaching among other things in the 95 theses that he nailed to the Wittenberg Door which was the spark that lit the fire of the Great Reformation. In ____ We Trust.
(Blank) Fast forward to today where surveys consistently show that one reason people avoid church is because the church is “always asking for money.” We took that feedback seriously when we started Valley View over twenty years ago and decided not to collect an offering. That was a bold move. We had never seen that done in a church before. But we felt it would eliminate a big obstacle in reaching people for Christ. And to this day we still use the same simple black box that we used in the Barn where we first met.
But just because we don’t collect an offering each Sunday doesn’t mean that money isn’t important and that giving is not a value around here. And in our desire not to make money an obstacle we have perhaps gone the other way and not taught enough on finances over the years. And we need to confess that too. Money is very important in God’s eyes and giving money is an act of worship and an indicator of where our heart is and what word is in the _____.
So given the abuses of the church with money over the years we want to teach these truths with the right spirit, the spirit of the Apostle Paul who said to the church in Philippi in Philippians 4:17, Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.
There’s no room for shame or pride. We want God’s heart when it comes to our resources. We want to be financially free so we can better love God and one another. We’ll be talking about giving in this series because it’s a big part of stewardship and helps us destroy the idol that money can easily become in our lives. But the principles we share from the Word of God are meant for our own good. That’s what Paul means when he says, “I’m looking for what may be credited to your account.”
(Blank) The Bible talks a lot about money. Over 2,300 passages in the Bible refer to the use of the money and possessions, twice as many as faith and prayer combined. More is said in the New Testament about money than heaven and hell combined.
Jesus knew the importance of money. Two-thirds of his parables make some reference to the handling of money. In fact, he said more about the way we view and handle money and possessions than he said about any other single topic.
One out of every ten verses deals with money or possessions. That’s 288 verses in the four gospels. Why? Because one of the marks of a true disciple is how we handle money and steward our resources.
Jesus taught that the two most tangible indicators of our spiritual life are not how much we read the Bible and pray, as important as that is, not how often we go to church and share our faith with others, as good as those things are. The two most tangible indicators of our spiritual life, according to Jesus, are the words that come out of our mouth and the way we handle our money.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. In Matthew 12:34 he said, For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
Our mouth and our money, our words and our wallet reveal more about what’s in our heart than anything else. Why? Because what we talk about and what we spend our money on are the things that matter most to us.
(Blank) Money is not evil. Money is a gift from God just like water is a gift from God. Used properly, water gives life. Out of control, it floods and drowns and destroys. Money is a gift from God just fire is a gift from God. Used properly fire gives light and warmth. Out of control, it brings death and destruction. Money is like that. It is a gift from God that can be used for good or for evil. Money is the not the root of all evil. The love of money is the root of all evil, but not money itself.
Jesus came to set us free financially, not to make us independently wealthy. But to set us free from the slavery that comes when we make money our master. In _____ We Trust.
So today we start with a confession, a confession that the church can do better when it comes to handling and teaching on money. And next week we want talk about getting our hearts in the right place because the key to handling our finances doesn’t begin with our wallets it begins with our hearts. And if God gets our hearts everything else will follow. Let’s stand for closing prayer.