Summary: You go home and you turn on the TV and you see a television preacher. That TV preacher says if you become a Christian and plant some seeds financially, that prosperity is your right and God will bless you financially.
STEWARDSHIP: THE MISSING PIECE TO SUCCESSFUL LIVING
Poverty or Prosperity - Which is Biblically Correct?
Dr. John Maxwell
You go home and you turn on the TV and you see a television preacher. That TV preacher says if you become a Christian and plant some seeds financially, that prosperity is your right and God will bless you financially. You come back to the same channel, maybe a couple of hours later, and another TV preacher is speaking and he talks about the fact that when you follow God, you give everything. Now you sit there and you hear, not only these two TV preachers; one talking about prosperity, one talking about poverty but both of them had Scripture. You sit there and you say, “Now, which is correct?” Am I as a Christian to begin to believe that if I serve God and follow biblical principles God will bless me, or does God disdain wealth and possessions and pretty much what I have I’m suppose to give it up? Which is biblically correct? When I talk to people about money and finances and possessions based on Scripture, I find that there is an incredible diversity within the family of God. Understandably so. When you have over 2,000 verses of Scripture concerning finances and money, you’re going to have a lot of diversity and to be honest with you, both poverty theology people and prosperity theology people can give you a list of verses that will back what they say. Well, you say, “Pastor, what’s biblically correct?”
To show you it’s not exactly easy sometimes to come to a conclusion, I have put in your sermon section this morning two different passages of scripture written by the same man. His name was John. He wrote four books: The Gospel of John, and I, II, and III John. Notice the seeming contradiction in what he says in two of his letters. I John 2:15: "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves of the world the love of the Father is not in him." Now, there’s a pretty strong statement; anti-materialism. Look at III John, verse 2: "Beloved I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health just as your soul prospers." This is the same guy. In one letter he says, "Love not the world neither the things of the world...” And then he turns around and he writes again and says, “I want you to prosper.” And he is not talking about spiritual prosperity. I hear people talking about it, but he wasn’t talking about it. He already assumed and said you’re soul prospers. He said I want you to prosper. He talked about health. I believe he’s talking about financial means. We can now begin to see why there’s confusion, even in the body of Christ, concerning materialism and stewardship and prosperity and poverty.
Now, one thing is for certain and here’s what Jesus said and it’s the text for this morning. Here’s what Jesus did say, "No one can serve two masters for either he will hate the one and love the other or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon." Now that’s for certain. In other words, we can’t have two masters. We can’t have God as the Lord of our life and serve and be a slave to God and also to materialism. We can’t divide ourselves up in that way. That word “serve” literally means to be a slave. That word “master” literally means absolute ownership. And all Jesus was saying is materialism cannot be the absolute owner of your life and make you a slave to it, and at the same time serve God and make Him your God and the Lord of your life. He said that is impossible. Three words describe this owner/slave relationship as Jesus gives it to us.
It’s apparent that Jesus is telling us that we choose who we serve. That’s a fact. You and I choose that. There are some of you today who are a slave to the world and to materialism. There are some of you that are a slave to God. But I can tell you what you are not, you are not a slave to both. All Jesus said is that you’re going to choose. You’re going to make a choice. You cannot do both.
Jesus is teaching us in this verse that once we have chosen whom we will be a slave to, that owner will have absolute ownership over us and will be in control of our lives. That is what will be controlling our life.
He tells us that once we make that choice and that owner has control over our life, it will be that which we place our confidence, our trust, and our dependence in. Note in that verse the word “Mammon” is capitalized. It literally means that which a person places its trust in. It is capitalized because it literally can become a god. Materialism can literally become a god, just as God Jehovah is a God to us. It is one that we serve. It is one that enslaves us. It is one that we devote our time, our resources, and our energy to.