Sunday, July 05, 2009

[Matt's Messages] "God vs Money: Part One"

“God vs Money: Part One”

In God We Trust - What the Bible Says About Money
July 5, 2009
Matthew 6:24

Our current sermon series is titled “In God We Trust – What the Bible Says About Money.”

It’s as important as ever in this global economy to understand and rehearse what God has said to us about this crucial topic: MONEY.

So far, we’ve learned 2 foundational lessons:

#1. Money is Profoundly Spiritual.

Right here in this chapter, verse 21, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Money is profoundly spiritual. It reveals our hearts.

Follow the Money!

What we do with money is directly tied to our hearts.

Money is not just physical or financial–it is profoundly spiritual.

#2. God Owns All of the Money in the World.

The silver is His and the gold is His. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.

“The Earth is the LORD’s and everything in it.”

And what does that make us?

Stewards. Or money managers.

It’s the Lord’s money, not ours. We have it “in trust.”

We are the Lord’s money managers.

And 2 weeks ago, we started a little experiment. Do you remember?

Roye, why don’t you come up here? Two weeks ago, Mrs. Mitchell and I entrusted $10 with Roye Houston (our brave volunteer!), and put him in charge of those $10 to manage for us.

He was our “steward” of those 10 bucks.

Remember the rules? Roye could do anything he wanted to with those $10 as our agent. It was not his money, it was our money, but he was in charge of it.

And we wanted him to do what he thought would be in our hearts for that money.

Because, remember, that’s what we’re all supposed to do with all of the money that God has entrusted to our care. It’s His money, and we’re supposed to do what we believe would be on His heart for that money.

And there was one more rule–Roye has to give an account for what he did with that $10. We’ll have to do the same with our Lord one day.

Okay, Roye. Let me ask you a few questions:

1. How did it feel to have that money that wasn’t yours that you were in charge of?

2. What did you do with that money?

3. Why? How?

4. What other things did you consider doing with it? What advice did you get from other people? Why did you do this instead of that? How come you didn’t gamble it?

[Roye bought a pillow & two pillow cases and (with help from his folks) mailed them to Haiti to be given to poorer folks through Vision of Hope Ministries.]

Well done, good and faithful servant! Mrs. Mitchell and I are very pleased with what you did with it.

This is another $10 bill. It is not ours. It is now yours. It is a reward for serving us well. Use it however you like (but remember, it still belongs to God and you'll have to give an account for it someday).

Well done, good and faithful steward!

Every day of our lives we are acting as stewards of God’s property. Every day.

This came home to me again last week as Heather and I were at the EFCA National Leadership Conference, and I was struck several times by your generosity and our need to be good stewards.

We drove to Ohio with mileage money that you give us. We flew to Minneapolis with conference money that you’ve entrusted to us. We ate in Minneapolis, we stayed in a hotel, drove a rental car, attended the conference, paid our conference fees–all with money that wasn’t our own. It was the church’s–it was yours.

And we benefitted (and I hope, ultimately, that you benefit, too!) from both your giving and your entrusting of those funds into our hands.

I felt a greater responsibility this year to be a wise steward of those funds while at conference and make the most of the conference because it was your funds that got me there.

In the same way, we should all feel responsibility to be wise stewards of all that God has entrusted into our hands–every single day of our lives.

But! There is a problem, isn’t there?

There is this little problem called SIN. And sin worms its way into everything and tries to mess everything up.

Including what we do with money.

Sin (in our hearts, in the world, and in Satan’s temptations) takes something good like money (a good gift from a great God) and tries to pervert it into something bad.

So, while money itself is very good, in this fallen world with our fallen hearts, money becomes a source of all kinds of evil temptations.

And leads to a battle between two masters: God and Money.

Which brings us to today’s passage. Matthew chapter 6, verse 24.

These are the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. He’s already talked about giving, about laying up treasures in heaven and about our treasures revealing the location of our hearts.

Now, in verse 24, He lays out this battle in stark terms. V.24

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Now, when He says, “Money” here (in v.24), you’ll notice that it is capitalized in the NIV. Jesus is personifying Money here as if money was a person or even the name of a god. The King James translates it “Mammon.”

It doesn’t just mean, “money” as in that good thing that God gives to us to use for His glory and our good.

It means “MONEY!” that thing that has been perverted into a rival for God.

God Vs. Money.

“No one can serve two masters. [Which one are you going to serve? Can’t you serve both.] Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

God Vs. Money.

This is where most of our problems with money come from.

Not from the money but from sin. From hearts that have begun to “serve” money in some way.

Money becomes the slave driver, the master, the boss.

It goes from being something good that we’re supposed to steward into something bad that runs us into the ground.

And God hates that!

God is jealous for our affections and our worship and our service.

So He opposes it.

“You cannot serve both God and Money.”

We can’t have it both ways.

We must choose. We must choose once and for all (that’s called conversion), and we must choose each and every day not to serve money but to serve God.

Now, when Jesus puts it that way, it seems like an obvious choice.

“You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Okay. I’ll serve God, thanks!

But Money (with a capital M) doesn’t normally come out and say it like that.

It’s more subtle.

The problems we have with money don’t often announce themselves at the front door:

“Hi, I’m Money, and I’m here to get you to serve me!”

No, it’s much more subtle than that. That’s why we need Jesus’ declaration to cut through the fog. “You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Now, I’ve identified 4 ways that the Bible says that we tend to serve Money instead of God. We could probably come up with a much longer list (my original list had 12 items on it), but I think that most of them can be boiled down into one of these four:

Worrying About Money
Stealing Money
Hoarding Money
And Craving Money

This is where our hearts get mixed up with Money.

Now, we don’t have time to look at all four of those this morning, so we’re going to make this a two part sermon. Part One this week. Part Two in two weeks after Family Bible Week is all over.

Today, we’ll just look at the first one, and then on July 19th, Lord-willing, we’ll look at the last three.

Look at what Jesus says right after verse 24.

“You cannot serve both God and Money...Therefore I tell you, do not worry...”

Hhm. You can’t serve both God and money THEREFORE don’t worry.

It seems that Jesus is saying that worrying about money is “serving Money” (with a capital M).

God vs. Money (#1): Don’t Worry About Money.

Well, that’s easier said than done!

Notice how subtle Money-serving is. Already, we’ve gone from “Oh! I’ll serve God not Money” to “Don’t worry? Aah. That’s not so easy!”

It is serving Money to worry about money.

It’s easy to worry about money, isn’t it?

All you have to do is read the news to see that the economy that we’re living in is troubled. There have been some hopeful signs of stability but few of recovery.

When I originally conceived this series (back in March), the first sermon title that I came up with was, “Don’t Panic!”

I noticed that the first chapter in How To Survive the Economic Meltdown” was titled, “You’re Going to Get Through This!” (By the way, there are still a few free copies of this book out in the foyer. Anybody who wants one is welcome to it.)

Chapter 1: “You’re Going to Get Through This!” In other words, “Don’t Worry!”

And that’s what Jesus says to us. It’s radical, but it’s Jesus’ own words!

“Don’t Worry!”

Let’s see His reasoning. Vv.25-34

“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 important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I love that last statement. Tomorrow will worry about itself! Let tomorrow worry about tomorrow!

But, O, how hard it is to practice this, isn’t it?

“Do not worry about your life what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear.”

He’s talking about possessions, isn’t He? And basic necessities. And it takes money to eat and drink and be clothed. He’s talking about money.

And He’s making it personal. It’s a choice between worrying about money and trusting God.

That’s why he talks about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.

He says that God feeds the birds and God clothes the lilies.

How much more will He take care of us?!

And if we don’t trust Him to do that, we’re worrying, and we’re serving Mammon.

How effective is worry?

Jesus says it can’t add a single hour to your life!

Worry is ineffectual. It’s what the pagans do.

The pagans don’t have a Heavenly Father!

But we do, and we should trust Him.

Worrying about money is part of the larger category of trusting in money or hoping in money. “If I only had money then...” is what goes through our minds.

But money can’t be trusted. It can’t be hoped in. It will disappoint.

Money that is here today might be gone tomorrow.

Just ask those people who trusted Bernie Madoff!

We can’t trust in money.

And we need to tell ourselves that it doesn’t do any good to worry about it!

Now, this does not mean that we never think about money.

The King James translates verse 25 as “take no thought...”

But Jesus doesn’t mean to never think about food or drink or clothes.

Those are legitimate concerns that we need to work for, provide, get in place, plan for, etc. Or we’d be hungry and naked! “We’d eat like birds and dress like flowers!”

He doesn’t mean that God is going to provide in the same way as the birds and the lilies. We aren’t supposed to expect food to drop in our laps all of the time.

But (it’s an argument from lesser to greater), if God provides for them, won’t He provide for us, His own children? Of course, He will!

Therefore, don’t worry. Don’t get anxious. Don’t let these thoughts consume you.

Don’t get bogged down in worry and anxiety about earthly possessions.

Fight it! Fight worry.

Don’t serve Money.

Now, that’s easy to say, but hard to do.

It’s important to replace worry with something else.

If worry is trusting in money, then the antidote, the opposite, the antithesis is trusting in God, hoping in God, or as verse 33 says, “Seeking God.”

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Some of you may have noticed that our van has lost its last hubcap! Our van is allergic to hubcaps. That one was #12!

That twelfth hubcap came off last week while the van was getting its brakes fixedin Ohio.

It turns out that when you hear this loud squealing noise, that it means that your front brake pads are shot, and you’re down to the rotors and they need replacing, too.

And we also sprang a brake-line leak in the back, on top of the fuel tank.

So we had to drop that to replace the lines!

Don’t worry, all the Mitchells were safe at all times. We weren’t in any danger.

Except in the pocket-book!

We had to take the van into the garage and decide if it was worth spending the money on fixing it or not.

In fact, I went back and forth and back and forth on that decision.

I was very tempted to worry.

Heather and I are working on re-working our family budget. Some of our financial things have changed recently (we’ve re-financed our mortgage, etc) and we need to fix our budget to fit our goals.

And I’m very tempted to worry.

But Jesus says, “No. God or Money. Pick Me! Do not worry about money.”

So, Heather and I have to make the quick decision on the van, and my wife says, “Can we pray about that?”

“Oh, yeah. Good idea!”

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Don’t worry.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

This is what God is saying to you today, “Do not worry about money.”

Yes, work for it, save it, make wise choices, spend it carefully.

We decided to fix the van and to start our long-term search for our next van.

Yes, work for it, save it, make wise choices, spend it carefully.

But don’t worry about it.

Why? Because we have a Heavenly Father.

Jesus Christ died on the Cross to make you God’s Child.

He paid the penalty for your sin and shame and guilt and sinful worry.

He gives you life through His resurrection life.

And He sent His Holy Spirit to take His place in your life.

You are not alone in the world.

You are not an orphan.

The pagans are orphans.

You are God’s Child.

Your Heavenly Father will care for you.

You say, “Well, Pastor Matt, there are some people who don’t have enough to eat and enough to drink and no clothes–in times of famine, drought, war, and pestilence. What about them?”

The Bible says that if they belong to Jesus, He will be enough for them and take care of them and the call in the midst of those trials is still to trust. To hope in God. To rejoice in God. To seek His Kingdom and His righteousness.

The prophet Habakkuk lived in a time like that.

And this was his testimony. He said, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls [complete financial meltdown], yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. [His salvation is worth everything!] The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”

And that’s serving God not Money.

It’s trusting in God, not in Money.

“In God We Trust.” Yesterday was the Fourth of July.

“In God We Trust” is the official motto of the United States of America.

It’s printed on all of our money.

That’s very ironic, of course, because I doubt that the United States of America (taken corporately) trusts in God and not in Money.

That’s not the character of our nation.

But it’s a great motto!

It’s exactly what we should do.

In God We Trust.

God vs. Money?

Choose God.

He’s Your Heavenly Father.