Summary: In this sermon, we look at two people in the Bible who were serving the god of money, and are challenged with how to put money in its proper place.

A. Today we return to our sermon series called “Counterfeit Gods – Defeating the Idols that Battle for Our Hearts.”

1. In this series, we have been learning that anything in life, even good things, can be turned into gods when they take the place in our lives that only belongs to the One True God.

2. So far in our series, we have explored the god of food, the god of sex, the god of entertainment, and the god of success - today, we are going to explore the god of money.

B. Our relationship with money begins at a very early age as we watch our parents and learn about the pull and power of money.

1. One day a man came home to his wife and 3 year old daughter after a hard day at work.

a. He said to his daughter, “Do you have a kiss for your daddy?” She abruptly said, “No!”

b. He said, “I am so hurt by your response. Your daddy works hard all day to bring home money for you and this is how you treat me? Come on now, where’s my kiss?”

c. Look her dad right in the eye, the 3 year old answered, “And where’s my money?!”

2. Another young girl wanted to help her mother at the bank ATM, so her mom told her which buttons to push.

a. Suddenly, when the money came out of the machine, the little girl excitedly squealed, “Look, Mommy, we won!”

C. How true it is that the god of money wants us to think that winning means getting lots of money.

1. The god of money wants us to think that the more money we have the happier we will be and the better our lives will be.

2. Kyle Idleman wrote: “Sometimes we hear rich people say things like ‘Money doesn’t make you happy,’ but most of us think they all flew first class to some exotic destination where they got together and agreed to say that to make the rest of us feel better.”

3. But the truth is that having a lot of money doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness.

4. Someone once defined money as an article which may be used as a universal passport to everywhere except heaven, and as a universal provider for everything except happiness.

5. Back in 1999, Brad Pitt did an interview, and in the interview he responded to people’s illusion that he had the perfect life, he said, “Once you’ve got everything, then you’re just left with yourself…It doesn’t help you sleep any better, and you don’t wake up any better because of it.”

D. Today, I want to challenge us with the need to develop the right attitude toward money and things.

1. Billy Graham said, “If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area of his life.”

2. The thought that I want to challenge us with is this statement: The person who has God and has everything, has no more than the person who has God and has nothing.”

3. Is that something that we truly believe or are willing to work toward believing.

4. When God is on His rightful throne in our lives and we are looking to God for all that we need and hope for satisfaction, significance, and security, then we don’t really need anything more than God, and then money and things are able to be used in helpful ways for us and for others.

E. Jesus made it clear that a person cannot serve both God and money.

1. When we try to serve both, we end up serving money more than God.

2. Mark Twain wrote: “Some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some worship power, some worship God, and over these ideals they dispute and cannot unite, but they all worship money.”

3. Years ago, a man named Ernest Becker wrote that our culture would replace God with sex and romance, but even earlier, Fredrich Nietzsche had a different theory – he wrote that with the absence of God growing in Western culture, we would replace God with money.

4. And I think that Nietzsche was right, but the scariest part about it is that most of us are blind to the culture of greed we live in and the grip of greed that often has a hold of us.

5. The human heart always seeks to justify itself, and when it comes to money and greed the god of money is a master at deception.

a. When we compare our financial standing and handling of money, we rarely compare ourselves with those who have less then we have, rather we usually compare ourselves with those who have more.

b. And so we tend to justify ourselves, saying, “I don’t live as well as him or her or them, my means and lifestyle is modest compared to theirs, so I am not under greed’s grip.”

6. As a result, most Americans think of themselves as the middle class, and only 2 percent call themselves “upper class.”

F. The biblical writers, and especially Jesus, had a lot to say about money.

1. Philip Yancey identified over 450 different biblical passages that deal with handling money.

2. The issue of money forms the second most dominant motif in the entire Bible, exceeded in emphasis only by the subject of idolatry.

3. Nearly one sixth of the recorded statements of Jesus concern money.

4. Of the 38 parables that Jesus told, 16 of them deal with the subject of money.

5. Jesus warns people far more often about greed than about sex, and yet almost no one thinks they are guilty of greed.

6. I want to encourage each of us to begin with the working hypothesis that greed could easily be a problem for us, and because it hides itself so deeply and successfully that we may not even realize we have a problem with it.

7. The problem isn’t money itself, because money isn’t good or bad in and of itself, rather the problem is the love of money.

a. The apostle Paul wrote: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Tim. 6:10)

8. Let’s look at two people in the Bible who loved money and were serving the god of money.

G. The first biblical person that I want us to learn from is a man whom the Bible does not name, but his story is found in Luke 12 and we often refer to him as the “rich fool.”

1. One day when Jesus was teaching a crowd of listeners, a man in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (Luke 12:13)

2. It is likely that this man was a younger brother, because in that culture and according to the Levitical law, family inheritances gave two-thirds of the estate to the older son and only one-third to the younger son.

3. Jesus replied, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (Luke 12:14)

4. Jesus was wise enough not to insert himself into a personal conflict where he wasn’t welcome.

5. But then Jesus used this teachable moment to teach everyone present about the danger of serving the god of money.

6. Jesus said to the crowd, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

a. With those words Jesus made clear that life is not about money and possessions.

7. Then Jesus told this story: “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)

a. This story describes someone who is worshiping the god of money.

b. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the man refers to himself 9 times in 2 verses.

c. We see no acknowledgement from this man that what he has actually came from God.

d. Nor is there ever a thought in this man’s mind that he could share what he has with others.

H. The primary key to keeping money in its rightful place is to remember that it all belongs to God.

1. Whatever we have is on loan from God.

2. Psalm 24:1 clearly states it: The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof…

3. The Contemporary English Version puts it this way: The earth and everything on it, including its people, belong to the LORD. The world and its people belong to him.

4. Kyle Idleman gave a great suggestion along these lines, he wrote: God has given us the use of his resources for a short time here on earth, and we have much to be grateful for. Go through your day sometime just recognizing that everything is God’s. Get out of God’s bed and walk into God’s bathroom, and turn on God’s shower, and then put on God’s clothes. Eat God’s cereal (which he says are Frosted Flakes), and drink God’s coffee (which some of you would say is Dunkin, and others Starbucks). Get in God’s car and head to work. When we start to see all of our resources as God’s it helps us develop an attitude of gratitude that leads to a heart of worship.

I. Consider for a minute how the man in the story that Jesus told was looking to money to do for him the very things that God should be doing for us, which is what we look to idols to do.

1. First, the man looked to money as his source of security.

a. He told himself that he had plenty of good things laid up for many years.

b. Do we try to accumulate enough where we feel that we are set and have no worries?

c. When we look to money as a security, it becomes our god.

2. Second, the man looked to money as the source of his satisfaction.

a. The man thought to himself that all he accumulated would allow him to eat, drink and be merry.

b. His satisfaction did not come from pleasing God, or having right relationship with others, but came from money and what money could buy.

3. Third, the man looked to money for his source of significance.

a. His focus was on himself and how much he had accumulated.

b. Others would certainly respect him and envy him, because of how big his barns were.

c. The god of money wants us to believe that our significance comes from what we make of ourselves, that our self-worth is a product of our net-worth.

J. The man in Luke 12 had put his trust in his money and possessions, and his plan was to retire early and eat, drink and be merry.

1. But that’s not what happened, God called him a fool and took his life from him that very night.

2. That man learned the folly of allowing the god of money to lead him to store up treasure for himself but not being rich toward God the Father.

K. The second biblical person that I want us to learn from is a man named Zacchaeus.

1. Most of us are familiar with his story that is told in Luke 19.

2. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and lived in Jericho.

3. Just like most people in our day don’t like people who work for the IRS, people in that day didn’t like the tax collectors who worked for the Roman government.

4. Zacchaeus was a Jewish man who had sold himself out to the Romans, and was shunned by the Jewish community around him.

5. Why would anyone take such a job as a tax collector? What could seduce a man to betray his people and live as a pariah on his own society? The answer is money.

6. Tax collectors were among the wealthiest people in society, and were among the most hated – and were listed among the sinners.

L. When Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was coming through town, he did an unusual thing – he climbed a tree to be able to get a good look at Jesus.

1. Zacchaeus was vertically challenged and couldn’t see Jesus because of the crowd.

2. No one was about to allow Zacchaeus to stand in their place, and so he was pushed to the back.

3. In traditional cultures where honor and dignity were prized, no man would climb up a tree to see, that would draw enormous ridicule.

4. But Zacchaeus’ willingness to climb a tree signifies his desperation.

5. Zacchaeus had more money than he could spend, but he knew that something important was missing from his life and maybe Jesus offered what he needed.

M. To the great surprise of everyone, including Zacchaeus, Jesus called him by name and invited himself to eat with Zacchaeus at Zacchaeus’ house.

1. When Zacchaeus saw that Jesus had chosen him, the least virtuous person in the crowd, for a personal relationship, his whole spiritual understanding began to change.

2. Zacchaeus wanted to follow Jesus, and immediately he realized that, if he was to do that, then his relationship with money was an issue and it had to change.

3. So there in his home, in front of Jesus and his guests, Zacchaeus made this declaration: “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” (Luke 19:8)

4. How is that for breaking the chains the god of money had had on Zacchaeus for so long!

a. He promised to give away 50 percent of his wealth to the poor.

b. He also promised to repay people for the ways he had cheated them.

c. He knew how much he had amassed over the years by cheating people – can you imagine the line of people waiting to be compensated?

d. And amazingly, he wasn’t going to repay them penny for penny, but would pay them back 4 times more than he had taken from them!

5. What had brought about this amazing transformation?

a. When Jesus came into Zacchaeus’ life, he realized that although he was financially rich, he was spiritually bankrupt, but by grace God was willing to give him spiritual riches.

b. In that moment, Zacchaus removed the god of money from the throne of his life, and replaced it with Jesus, the God of mercy.

N. What Jesus did in Zacchaeus’ life, He will do for each one of us.

1. God will help us to stop serving the god of money, but we must initiate that change.

2. We don’t have to end up like the rich fool of Luke 12, rather, like Zacchaeus, we can wake up to our wrong relationship with money before it is too late.

O. To help us do that, let’s ask ourselves some questions for introspection.

1. Question One: How often do you compare what you have and what you make to others?

a. Our world and the god of money encourage us to measure our life and worth by our money and possessions, but we must resist that temptation.

b. Jesus reminds us that a person’s life doesn’t consist in the abundance of their possessions.

2. Question Two: How much anxiety do finances add to your life?

a. We may regularly face financial challenges, but how do we try to face them?

b. Does worry take over, do we try to trust in our efforts alone, or do we look to God for help?

3. Question Three: To what extent are your dreams and goals driven by money?

a. What do you tell yourself would happen if you won the lottery or had some other increase in available wealth?

b. How might you feel differently about yourself if you had more money?

c. If you had more money are you more likely to spend most of it on yourself?

4. Question Four: What is your attitude toward giving?

a. What percentage of your income do you currently give away?

b. If we are not faithful with a little, what are the chances that we would be faithful with a lot?

c. The best way to keep money from controlling us is to give it away.

P. Listen to Kyle Idleman’s devotional piece: “Jesus My Provider.”

The god of money was almost irresistible. He spun tales of sports cars, luxury homes, and all the good things he was going to buy for us. Yes, we had heard the old refrain that money can’t buy happiness. We knew that. We had seen what it had done to people over and over.

But we were going to be different. We would know how to use money without letting it use us. We didn’t want to buy happiness; we just wanted to rent a little pleasure. But somewhere it all went wrong. Somehow the god of money became a slave driver.

He kept us running, following him, trying to keep him from getting away. We followed the green brick road until we longed for rest. We put our hope in what we might find at the end of the rainbow. We thought money would provide us with security, significance, and some measure of satisfaction. But strangely even when we had money we still felt broke.

Then we chose Jesus and discovered that he is our provider. He provides everything we need. He provides us with security because he never leaves us or forsakes us. He provides us with significance because our identity and value are found in his love. He provides us with satisfaction because our souls were made for him. We discovered that God would meet all our needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Q. Since it is December and Christmas is near, I want to end with Charles Dickens’ classic story A Christmas Carol, because it is a great illustration of what we have been talking about today.

1. The story’s main character is the mean and intimidating Ebenezer Scrooge, who lives to make money and very little else.

2. Ebenezer Scrooge had no use for religion or sentimentality, until one Christmas Eve, he received a terrifying wake-up call.

3. The spirit of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, who died 7 Christmas Eves ago and was a miser like Scrooge, came to visit Scrooge, bound and wrapped in terrible chains.

4. Jacob Marley had been condemned to roam the face of the earth, tormented in death by the things he neglected to value in life.

R. Marley was desperate to give his old colleague a final chance to avoid the same fate.

1. Marley made it clear that this was Scrooge’s last opportunity to turn from his selfish ways.

2. Marley explained that three more spirits would visit him - the spirits of Christmas past, present and future.

3. So, when the clock struck 1 AM, the spirit of Christmas Past arrived and took Scrooge on an unforgettable trip down memory lane, on a visit to his own childhood.

a. As the spirit took him into a schoolroom, they see a lonely little boy sitting by the fire, whose only companion is the book he was reading.

b. Scrooge remembered his loneliness, and how he longed for the presence of friends.

c. He recalled his past desires for the love and approval of his family, but then he saw all the people who tried to reach out to him, who attempted to stop his slide into self-absorption.

d. He saw his former fiancée who came in a poor second to Scrooge’s passion for wealth.

e. “A golden idol displaces me,” she complained to him from the past. “All hopes have merged to a master passion; the thought of money engrosses you!”

4. If Scrooge had been shaken by the visit of the first spirit, then the second was no less disturbing.

a. The Spirit of Christmas Present arrived to take him on a tour of the people he now knew.

b. He found himself standing in the home of his poor clerk, Bob Cratchit, where he felt the warmth of a large and friendly family who were making the best of what little they could afford on the tiny salary Scrooge paid.

c. Scrooge experienced their anxiety over the fate of Tiny Tim, their sick, youngest child.

d. Scrooge was clearly shown the effects of his selfish nature; but the spirit helped him understand that even though he is utterly hard-hearted, others had not given up on him.

e. As the Cratchits sat down to their feeble Christmas dinner, Bob Cratchit thinks to toast his boss, despite protests from his wife.

f. Tiny Tim answers the toast with one of his own: “God bless us, everyone!”

5. The final spirit, the Spirit of Christmas Future arrived and it had no face and did not speak. It merely pointed.

a. Scrooge looked to where the spirit was pointing and saw the Cratchit family again, worn down in their struggle against poverty, and now without Tiny Tim, whose lonely crutch stood unused in a corner.

b. The Spirit took Scrooge to visit the house of a man who had died in his sleep.

c. A maid and a cleaner were dividing up his belongings before the undertaker arrived.

d. Two associates out in the street were discussing whether it was even necessary to hold a funeral service, since no one would bother to come.

e. “But who is this man?” asked Scrooge.

f. The spirit led him to a grave, whose headstone bore the name “Ebenezer Scrooge - Died 1843.” No other words adorn his grave marker.

g. The two grave diggers leave his open grave to visit the local pub.

h. It seems that Scrooge lived long enough to make it miserable for everyone.

S. Thankfully, for Scrooge, he recognized this as his life-changing moment; it was now or never.

1. Scrooge asked whether it’s possible to mend his ways and so alter his life and destiny. Surely the Spirits wouldn’t be visiting him if not?

2. As Christmas morning dawned and he awoke, once more, to the world, Scrooge realized that he had been given a reprieve- a second chance.

3. Dickens believed that we have all been given another chance, only because of the birth of Jesus, the true hero of the greatest Christmas story.

4. At the heart of A Christmas Carol lies Scrooge’s transformation.

5. He changes from a selfish, greedy and bitter old man into a grateful, generous and compassionate person.

6. Scrooge stopped serving the god of money, and began to use money to bless others.

7. Scrooge was a man who saw his life transformed to the point where Dickens concludes that he became “as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew.”

T. When you look at your life and I look at mine, do we see too much Scrooge living in us?

1. Maybe, like Scrooge, we too are living too selfishly or greedily.

2. Maybe, like Scrooge, we too are not valuing people as we should.

3. Maybe, like Scrooge, we too need a Christmas-eve conversion.

4. If we turn to God and submit ourselves to Him, He will do a wonderful work in our lives.

5. We don’t have to end up like the rich fool, we can follow the example of Zacchaeus and Ebenezer Scrooge who overcame the lure and trap of the god of money.


gods at war, Kyle Idleman, Zondervan, 2013

Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller, Dutton, 2009

“The Scrooge In All of Us” Sermon by Jeffery Russell