Second Look: Idol Wealth
[powerpress] When we speak of Jesus being Lord of our lives, we must address the things that are most dear to us. These things are our relationships, how we spend our time, and what we do with our money. They are also the things that we try to relegate to a separate realm, detaching them from our devotional life so we can think ourselves spiritual, while leaving these areas untouched. Jesus makes it clear that this mentality is a deception.
Matthew 19:13-30 (NIV)
13Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.14Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.16Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”18“Which ones?” he inquired.Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”20“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”21Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”26Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”27Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”28Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
We diminish the values of the young and zealous thinking ourselves wiser with age. While this can be true, age does not guarantee wisdom any more than it does beauty. God admonished adults to become like children, yet never for children to be like adults. Could it be that the clarity with which they focus and the simplicity of their values allows them to be more pleasing in the sight of the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God?
An idol is anything that you serve above God and look to for your security, wholeness, and salvation. The things which are your idols are often right in front of you, hidden in plain sight. In the case of this young man, as in many cases, the idol in question is money.
“Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God, your functional savior. ” ― Martin Luther
Chicago is an environment that will produce many who are young and wealthy. Regardless of who you compare yourself to, by the world's standards, you are wealthy. Idolatry begins in the heart and can be one of the things that it is easiest to deny. Many times you don't know what your idols are until you are faced with the threat of their loss.
“Rules for Self Discovery:
1. What we want most;
2. What we think about most;
3. How we use our money;
4. What we do with our leisure time;
5. The company we enjoy;
6. Who and what we admire;
7. What we laugh at.”
― A.W. Tozer
The Old and New Testaments have about 800 Scriptures combined regarding wealth, including verses on savings, investments, income, tithing, offering, spending, running a business, family budgets, etc. Jesus spoke about money about 25% of the time, because it has and will always be such a big issue in your life. Jesus' teaching ultimately comes down to your perspective regarding money, its source, and whether or not you trust God to instruct you about what to do with it.
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:29-31 NIV)
Jesus promises treasure stored up in heaven for those who are generous, and eternal life to those who follow Him in His ways. However, the idolatry of greed attempts to choke out this promise.
Greed is taking more than you need of anything at the expense of others.
It becomes an expense when you have what you need and could do good in the community in which you find yourself, yet hoard or waste your wealth. It is the voice of community that can often help you to discover if the desires within you are pure or subtly sinful.
When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’ ” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. (Exodus 16:15-18 NIV)
One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell. (Proverbs 11:24-26 NIV)
Are there needs in your community while you have more than you need? How has God blessed you to be a blessing?
Once again the solution to this is found in community. We know we're committing outward sins when we are involved in a physical act like adultery. Yet your tone of voice, for example, which can be rude instead of loving, can be unapparent to you without someone else who is objective helping you to evaluate your speech. In the same way, sins of the heart, like greed, can be worked out in community. A Kingdom like Jesus' is a society of interdependent subjects in pursuit of a common goal, the glory of their benevolent King and the well being of their nation. What brother or sister will you allow to speak into your life about such matters, advising you in how you utilize your money?
According to the Bible, it is the love of money, and not money itself, that is evil.
“When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart.” -John Wesley
The idols of the nations are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, nor is there breath in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them. (Psalm 135:15-18 NIV)
Jesus was trying to rescue the young man from this condition, but allowed him to go when he refused. There is a price to free will.
A curious Scripture was:
My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, a God who displays his wrath every day. (Psalm 7:10, 11 NIV)
Wrath is not just in the terrors that people imagine of death, pestilence, or disease. Romans 1:18-28 speaks of the wrath of God in a different way. When God removes His hand, people are given over to their own self-imposed torment.
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened. ” ― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
People that I've seen in the city reflect the same type of attitude towards money as Gollum does toward the ring of power in Lord of the Rings, often with similar results in their lives. Money has not saved them, only isolated them and given them greater opportunity for disappointment, bondage, or despair.
Jesus constantly repeats the idea that you can actually lose to gain, and, in this case, generosity with wealth can collectively be used for much good.
Matthew 17:22-27 (NIV)
22When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. 23They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.24After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”25“Yes, he does,” he replied.When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”26“From others,” Peter answered.“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27“But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”
Obligation vs. Generosity
When you think of God and money, God has given directives that are both for your individual and our corporate benefit. The Old Testament pattern begins with our obligation as the tithe, which begins with the first ten percent of all of our income.
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9, 10 NIV)
It is what you owe God, and it is for your benefit as you remember that your source of provision is not your job, the economy, or your ability to hustle. It is the sovereign God who cares for all of creation and has allowed you to continually set your heart at rest in that reality by commanding you to give of what He's entrusted to you. Generosity is a heart attitude repeated in the New Testament that is modeled by God the Father giving His first and best in His only Son, Jesus Christ. He did not give a part, but all of Himself for the greater good. Generosity introduces the idea that the tithe is a floor and not a ceiling to your giving. When you give offerings above and beyond your tithe, this pleases the heart of God when it is done thoughtfully, cheerfully, and for His purposes.
What were the temple tax and tithe? What were they used for?
The temple tax was an annual due above the tithe and had a specific purpose to provide for the regular maintenance of the place of worship. The tithe was given for the food and what would today be the salaries, the basic living expenses, of the Levites and priests who were set apart for full-time work at the temple. God said to bring the full tithe into the storehouse, which used to be the temple, but today is the church. You belong to the universal church, yet are instructed to build your life and serve with others locally. In the same way, there is a practical side to the tithe being given to the local church of which you are a part. God says to bring it into His house, before your favorite charity. There is no biblical statement that says that it can not be split between churches, yet it is practical for the needs of the local house and the expansion of its activities to sow where you are connected relationally, serve regularly, and are being fed. This is the principle of taking care of the house that is taking care of you (Galatians 6:6). Additional offerings above your tithe to help the needy are always encouraged, which God will honor, bless, and add to your heavenly account.
When you give, as a church we hope to eventually do such things as:
1) Continue to pay for the use of meeting facilities as we perpetually to grow as a congregation.
2) Pay for staff members who can preach the gospel, teach the Bible, counsel the church, and administrate the ministry on a full-time basis (Acts 6:1-7; I Corinthians 9). Never forget, time equals souls in the Kingdom, and there are 2.7 million in this city to reach. Statisticians estimate that only 5% of the population of urban environments like Chicago are churched. This would leave an approximate 2,565,000, in the downtown area of Chicago alone, in need of the gospel.
The church will always be propelled by volunteers, but there are those who are set apart by God to expedite Kingdom activity as they devote their careers and livelihood to such a cause.
3) Provide help for the needy of our growing community, helping them to get on their feet (Acts 4).
4) Develop ongoing enrichment and empowering events/conferences to serve our congregation.
5) Supply children's ministry, discipleship, leadership development and outreach material.
6) Purchase additional sound and tech equipment for our worship.
7) Accomplish long-term goals such as developing job training programs for the poor, aid in widow and orphan care, and joining the fight against human trafficking.
8) Advertise the good news of Jesus through our gatherings to our city and beyond.
9) Help plant other churches domestically and internationally.
Everyone can begin somewhere. If every person began to trust God with such generosity, what seems impossible to men can be made possible by our God who multiplies and provides!
This subject is literally a testing of your faith and love for God's Kingdom as you ask yourself, "How can this be done?"
God is very practical and wants to change habits when it comes to things like credit cards, debt, and impulse purchases. When you see all of your money as coming from Him, it can be enjoyed properly, but also consecrated to Christ as you are on mission with Him with your resources. This is when you begin to, as people say, "serve God with your money rather than allowing money to be your god." You begin to work to live rather than living to work. In this case, money becomes your servant, rather than you being the servant of money. God wants to provide freedom to your perspective, heart, and life.
Changing your financial state, but not increasing your wisdom about money, will allow you to end up in the same boat you were previously. This is why we recommend such courses as Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey.
There are many false assumptions about prosperity in the Kingdom. In God's covenant and through His principles of wisdom, diligence, patience, and favor, He gives you the power to produce wealth (Deuteronomy 8). When you do produce wealth, it becomes a heart issue to stay close to your source. It is a matter of using wealth, no matter how much, for its intended purpose so that you are not only blessed, but, like God, are a vehicle of generosity to others. This is what the wealthy young man Jesus encountered missed, but it is the opportunity you are commanded to seize.
God shows us His miraculous provision when we follow His directives.
When you trust and obey God like a child, you are literally breaking the shackles of fear that have held you, and possibly your family, captive for generations. By acknowledging Jesus as your Savior and God as your source, you are freed through the discipline of giving from the idolatry of wealth. You can experience His miraculous provision as you obey His commands and serve our world.
Second City Church- Second Look Sermon Series 2013