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SPENT: IN _____ WE TRUST
God vs. Money
April 17, 2016
In his book Money, Possessions and Eternity, Randy Alcorn tells the story of how as a pastor he planned a short three-week series on money. And as he prepared the mini-series he started compiling a cross section of Bible passages. But he soon discovered that one passage led to another which led to another and then to another. And by the time he was done his mini-series on money lasted a whole lot longer than three weeks. In fact, it resulted in a 500 page book. Don’t panic! We’re not going to preach through Alcorn’s book although I highly recommend it as an exhaustive resource.
The Holy Spirit is going to be our teacher for this series and the Holy Scriptures are going to be our guide, but we have gotten help from others who have written excellent books and articles on this subject like Randy Alcorn and Ron Blue and Dave Ramsey. And so if you want additional resources please let us know and we can point you in some good directions.
This morning we continue our series called Spent: In _____ We Trust. We began last week with a confession. We confessed how the church, the global, historic church that began over 2,000 years ago has mishandled money and at times focused way too much attention on it. And as result, countless people have been turned off to the church and even to a relationship with Jesus Christ. And that’s tragic.
We also confessed how Valley View, in our attempt not to mishandle money or make it the focus around here, has erred on the opposite extreme. We don’t talk much about finances at all and have taught on them even less. So we’re sorry for that and want to confess that right up front because how we view our money is a big part of being a disciple of Jesus.
We also recognize that we’re all at different places for all kinds of reasons when it comes to finances, but God wants to take each one of us by the hand and move us toward financial freedom. We believe that God wants us all to be financially free, not independently wealthy, but free from the burden and worry that money or the lack thereof can produce in our lives. God wants us to be financially free so that we can be better lovers of God and of one another. And that’s the target on the wall for all of us.
Jesus had a lot to say about money. And one thing he didn’t fudge on or budge on was that how we view money is really a heart issue. Turn with me to Matthew 6:21, 24 (p. 679), Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also … 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.
Money is a heart issue. Jesus didn’t say it’s unwise to serve God and Money. Or it’s not a good idea to serve God and Money. Or that we can serve God half the time and Money the other half. No. We can’t do both. Just like we can’t fully love our wife and another woman at the same time or our husband and another man at the same time. It’s not going to work.
Jesus said that we cannot serve both God and Money. It’s impossible. It has to be one or the other. Just like it’s impossible for me to fully love Jennifer and have an affair going on on the side.
The word for “money” in this verse is actually the Aramaic word Mammon. Mammon is not the physical currency. It’s not the bills and the coins. The bills and the coins aren’t evil. They have no moral value. But Mammon does. Mammon is the power behind money, the temptation to trust it more than God. It’s the demonic idol that money can so easily become in our lives.
Listen to what that sounds like in these well-known passages.
Psalm 23, Money is my shepherd. I shall always want more of it ... Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, my money will comfort me.
Psalm 121, I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from Money … Money will keep you from all harm – Money will watch over your life both now and forevermore.
Philippians 4, Do not be anxious about anything, present your requests to Money. And the peace of Money, which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds … I can do all things through Money which gives me strength.
Money wants to be our master and replace God in our lives. Mammon wants to consume our time and energy, our attention and focus. Mammon wants to be worshipped the same way God does. Mammon wants our heart.
Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 6:25 (p. 679), Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
Someone has well said, “Worry is to money what worship is to God.” In other words, when we worship God we’re saying, “God I trust you to take care of me. I need you. I want you. I love you. You are my source of strength and peace and joy and hope. There is none like you. Here I am to worship. Here I am to bow down. Here I am to say that you’re my God. You’re altogether lovely, altogether worthy, altogether wonderful to me.” That’s worship. That’s what God deserves.
But when we worry and fret about clothes and food, jobs and mortgage payments, retirement and our kid’s college tuition – and believe me I’ve been there, we’ve had three in college – we’re giving praise and worship to Mammon.
We can’t say we trust God and worry about money at the same time. Worry is to money what worship is to God. Mammon wants to steal our devotion, our affection, our loyalty, our service and keep us from worshipping the one true God. When we look to money for security and meaning and identity we are worshipping a false god. And every time we worry we’re bowing the knee to a lesser god.
So what do you have in the blank? In _____ We Trust. Jesus says the blank can’t hold both God and Money. If it’s In Money We Trust than our life will be dominated by worry. Worry that we won’t have enough of it. Worry about how to get more of it. Worry about how to protect it and keep others away from it. Worry. Worry. Worry. We will be riddled with anxiety. It will enslave us.
But if God’s in the blank, if it’s In _God_ We Trust, then our life will be dominated by worship. We’ll worship God privately and publicly. We’ll worship God in the morning when we get up, all through the day, and when our head hits the pillow at night.
We’ll thank him for every little thing we have. We’ll worship him with our giving and look for opportunities to help others in need. We will love God and love others with our wallet as well as with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And joy will fill our souls. Financial freedom does not start with our wallets. It starts with our hearts. So who has your heart?
One of the darkest periods of church history was the crusades that began in the 11th century. The crusades were the church’s attempt to take back the Holy Land from Muslim conquest. It was a bloody series of battles that lasted almost 400 years. It’s not something to be proud of as a Christ follower. Jesus told us that we might die for him, but he never told us to kill for him.
And during the crusades, knights were enlisted to fight for the church. But before they could join a crusade a knight was required to be baptized. Baptism was a sign of surrender, commitment, and loyalty to the church.
However, when knights were baptized they would hold their swords above the water. Their body would go under but their sword would stay dry. “Jesus you can have me. But you can’t have my sword. My faith and trust are in my sword.”
Today we’re still tempted to hold our swords above the water. It may be our family, our children, our career, our house, our cars, our dreams, or our wallets. Whatever we’re holding above the water is the master of our lives. That’s what Jesus means when he says that you cannot serve two masters.
Martin Luther put it this way, “There are three conversions necessary for the Christian life: the conversion of the heart, the conversion of the mind, and the conversion of the purse.”
The last thing to be converted is our checkbook.
(Blank Slide) So how do we get to that point in our spiritual life? Or better yet, do we want to get to that point in our spiritual life? Do we really want to be financially free? Do you?
What does it look like to be “all in” and serve God with our money? Does it mean we give everything away and live in poverty? Is that what it means? Does God want all his people to empty their bank accounts and 401(k)s? I don’t think so. But he does want us to use his money to serve his kingdom.
I want to close this morning by reading one parable of Jesus and make three simple observations that I believe serve as the starting point for filling in the blank, In _God_ We Trust.
If you have a Bible turn with me to one of the parables Jesus gave that speaks to our handling of money. It’s found in Matthew 25:14-30 (p. 694), “The kingdom of heaven will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ 21His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 22The man with the two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ 23His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ 24Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ 26His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”
That’s a sobering story with some very disturbing words. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be thrown out into the darkness when the master returns. I don’t want to be the lazy servant. I want to hear those words “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And I bet you do too.
So here are three simple observations that will help us hear those words one day. First, God owns everything. He is the master in the parable. The bags of gold in this passage certainly refer to our financial resources and possessions, but go way beyond our money. They apply to every good thing we have – our gifts, our health, our relationships, our God given talents. God owns everything we have. We are only managers of our Father’s rich estate and our responsibility is to steward it well.
From beginning to end, Scripture repeatedly emphasizes God’s ownership of everything. Psalm 24:1, The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.
Jesus doesn’t ask us to surrender some things to his Lordship. He asks us to surrender everything to his Lordship, even our swords, even our wallets, because he owns it all.
Second, God not only owns everything. God determines our wealth. Ultimately, he decides how much of his wealth he will entrust to us. He determines who gets ten bags and five bags and one bag of gold. So we don’t focus on what he’s given others. We thank him for what he’s given us. There will always be someone with more stuff and someone with less stuff.
It’s interesting to me that the servant who was most fearful wasn’t the one who had the most to lose. He was the one who had the least to lose. Sometimes we think that those who have lots of resources must be greedy. They must be driven by wealth. Not true. In many cases they’re the ones who’ve invested well in kingdom work and Jesus has trusted them with even more.
God owns everything. God determines our wealth. And God will hold us accountable to steward it wisely. He wants us to use his resources well. And one day we will either be rewarded or disciplined for how we’ve managed the resources we’ve been given. Which raises the question, what does God want us to do with his money? How are we to steward his resources? That’s a great question that we’ll address in this series. But today it’s all about our heart. Who has your heart? What’s in the blank for you? In _____ We Trust. Give your heart to Jesus. It’s the best investment you can ever make and the first step to financial freedom.