Summary: In this message we will look at the topic of money and why it is important to have some guardrails in place. Otherwise you might go over a cliff.
As a seminary student part of my course study was in pastoral counseling. I remember one of my professors who told us this one day: he said one day you will be out there in a church doing marriage counseling and you are going to see couples who will come in primarily for one of three reasons. He said they are (1) sexual issues (2) financial matters and (3) who is in charge of decision making. Books have been written on this topic, Sex, money and power and in over 35 years of ministry I have found this statement to be right on target. Last week we set a guardrail down in sexual matters and we heard Paul tell us that our bodies are not our own, that a price has been paid for them. We belong to God so we are to honor God with our bodies.
Now today I want to address this important area of money. You may wonder what the Bible has to say about money. Is this really an issue a pastor should be dealing with? Well listen: One out of every ten verses in the Bible deals with money and possessions. Of the 38 parables Jesus taught, 16 deal with money. The Bible contains about 500 verses on the topic of prayer, 700 on the topic of faith and over 2000 on the subject of money. It is clear in the Bible that money matters.
Now here is why the Bible says so much about money. In fact OT, NT the whole thing comes back to one simple thing. The reason God has so much to say in the Bible about money actually has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with devotion/commitment. And here is what God knows about you because it has been true of mankind from the very beginning: God’s primary competition for your heart and mine, for our devotion and our service….His primary competition is not Satan. The real competition He has is wrapped up in a decision that you and I are called to make every single day and here it is.
Will I trust God completely or will I continue to place my trust in money and material things? The Bible says some trust in chariots and horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. And it’s true all of us put some level of trust in money and things. In Matthew, Jesus put it this way: Matthew 6:24 (NIV) "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.” There it is… you cannot serve God and money. Now I would just like to leave it at that but I know I can’t. Jesus us saying, let me help you recognize something. There is a great tension inside all of us when it comes to who is going to be the master of your life. You will either put your trust in money, wealth, security or you will place your trust in God. In fact it’s an interesting message that the one place we see the words IN GOD WE TRUST is on our money.
But God knows about this tension that exists and so he writes those words down for all of us to hear in a fresh way. You cannot serve (both) God and money. Now in talking about guardrails there are two ditches I want to describe. Two ditches on each side of the road when it comes to our money. One is consumption and the other is hoarding or stockpiling. Now we don’t mind being consumers but we don’t want to be stockpilers. Here is what this means. Consumtion means that everything that comes your way, you consume it. All the dollars you earn are going into your house or they go into your house or car. That’s consumption. The other side of the road there is another ditch. Hoarding or stockpiling. What if I get sick, what if I want to retire? What if the economy goes bad? So you stockpile and add more and more and more. So most of us are one or the other. Here’s the problem. These two ditches, consumption and hoarding both have some things in common.
(1) Both are very self-centered. They are both about me/us.
(2) Both leave us living as if there is no God. Because neither is about Him.
(3) Both ditches are supplied by the same resource. Greed.
Greed is one of those things that is very hard for us to grasp. For one thing we typically picture a greedy person as a wealthy person. But I know many people, many who are living close to poverty but they are very greedy. In fact that is one of the reasons they are living in poverty. I have sat in prayer circles hundreds of times and heard all kinds of requests.. pray for us, we’re traveling, pray for my cousin, he is having surgery, etc. but here is one request I have never heard ..pray for me, I’m greedy. Greed is very difficult to see when we look into the mirror.