We learn very early on in life that when you walk into a store and you see something that you would like to buy, what is one of the first things that you look at? You look at the price tag. You want to know how much money that thing is going to cost you and if you have enough money then to buy it. It is at that point, that you learn the power that money possesses. Money and the amount of money you have can allow or prevent you from HAVING certain things, DOING certain things, and some might even argue, BEING certain things. Money is powerful. The power that money possesses is not only a 21st century issue or a 1st world country issue. It is a human issue. Therefore, you find Jesus repeatedly addressing the topic of money in his sermons. Why? Because Jesus understood that money is powerful.
Jesus understood that money is one of the primary competitors that steps into the ring of our hearts. It is the competitor that constantly asks, “Who will you love? Who will you serve? Who will you allow to be the master of your thoughts, attitudes and actions?” Jesus describes that competition in the words of Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Why would a person ever want to serve money? Is it really that good of a master? Well, money makes some pretty bold promises. It tells us that it can make us happy, that it can make us popular, that it can bring us pleasure and security. And does it deliver? It delivers to the degree that it can. It can deliver all of those things, at least FOR AWHILE. But that’s the problem with money. It’s just for AWHILE. The things that it brings always come with an expiration date. Good until death. Money cannot promise anything beyond this life.
While that is money’s great weakness, that is also what makes it so appealing. Human nature always loves the immediate. Think back to the very first sin when the devil says to Adam and Eve, “Eat the fruit and you will be like God right now!” And the devil continues to use the same tactics today. Why work for something when you can take it from someone who probably doesn’t even deserve or appreciate it? Why wait for sex until marriage when you can have it right now? Why work at a difficult marriage when you can discard this one and move onto someone who will make you happier? The promises of money fall right in line with that short-sighted, instant gratification mindset. It turns our eyes away from the eternal to focus on the temporary things of this life. That’s what Jesus was warning of when he said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where months and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19,20). There it is – the competition between the temporary and the eternal. Which will we treasure? The answer seems so obvious, but that doesn’t make it easy.
Jesus sees competition that money poses and he does not underestimate its power for even a single moment. Instead, he tells us to take a look at the price tag – the price tag for eternity – the cost of you being with him in heaven forever. Have you ever been shocked by the price of something? An 800 sq ft home in San Francisco for $900,000 or a (Ferrari) which starts at $250,000. Well be prepared for some sticker shock. The Bible tells us, “No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them-- the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough-- so that they should live on forever and not see decay” (Psalm 49:7-9). The cost of eternal life is more than any human being could pay with their best effort and all their money. And so what does God do? God steps into human history and pays what we could not. Jesus comes and pays the price that is required for you and me to live eternally in heaven. The cost is shocking. The Bible says, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18,19). The cost for us to move into heaven’s eternal home would require God himself pouring out his blood. Jesus would offer his perfect life in the place of every imperfect person. Jesus would be punished for every single one of our sins – the greed that has stifled our generosity, the seeking first our ways instead of Gods, the exchanging of what God says is right for what I decided to be right – for every sin that completely bankrupts us what God requires of us for heaven, Jesus paid. And on Easter morning Jesus closed the deal. He rose from the dead to assure you that you now possess something that will last beyond this life. Eternal life in heaven is yours. No 30 year mortgage or disciple loan. It’s God’s gift to you through faith. You right now have, “Treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20).
And here’s the thing that I think we sometimes miss. Those treasures in heaven are RIGHT NOW paying you dividends. It is because of those riches of heaven that you get to live each day with the following: the PEACE of knowing that you are not going to be punished for your sin because Jesus has taken the punishment for you. You get to live each day with the PERSPECTIVE that when your life comes to an end, you will go to live forever with Jesus in a place where the struggles and sadness of this world will be no more. You get to live each day with CONFIDENCE as a citizen of Christ’s kingdom, knowing that the one who fought for your eternal rescue, will guide you by his Word in what he knows to be truly best for you. Those are all things that belong to you right now because of the “Treasures in heaven” that are yours through faith in Jesus.
I think that looking at the price tag for eternal life helps us to appreciate the repeated warnings of Jesus like those in Matthew 6 and by the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 6. They both realized what was at stake and took the threats seriously. Paul writes, “Those who want to get rich fall into a temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:9,10). God understands the power that money possesses. He understands how easily it can convince people to forfeit the eternal “riches of heaven”, seduced into thinking that the temporary things of this world are all that they really need. Their love for money and the things money can buy have caused them to lose their love for Christ and the “riches of heaven” he purchased for them.
When you hear someone say that they don’t come to church because all the church talks about is money, it makes me wonder. First, is there actually a problem with the church? While materialism and greed pose a serious threat to saving faith, it is not the only sin that the Bible identifies. Nor are church offerings the only way that a Christian can express their gratefulness to God in their use of money. So, maybe we need to begin there.
But then I also wonder, when was the last time that the person took a long, hard look at the price paid for their eternal life. When you regularly look at the price that God himself was willing to pay for you to be with him in heaven forever, wouldn’t you also want to be aware of anything that could possibly jeopardize you receiving those riches? The Bible makes it very clear that money is a powerful competitor for our hearts. And so it makes me wonder if there is an underappreciating the price for our salvation and maybe also an underestimating of the power of sin which tries to rob us of that salvation.
Third, I wonder how that person is listening to the sermons they do hear. Whenever a sermon explains what God’s will for us is, we need to apply that to our own PERSONAL situation. That requires us determining if this is something that is accusing or making us aware. What I mean is this. When we hear what God’s will is for us, it might be something that accuses us of a sin that we are actively committing and need to repent of. Other times it might be that this is a sin that by God’s grace we are not committing, but we should still be aware of. That is a distinction that each listener needs to make depending on your own personal situation. That means that different parts of a sermon may serve different purposes for different people depending on their personal situations.
We want to hear how God wants us to use our money. Why? Because the use of our money is just another opportunity for us to show our gratefulness to a God who has given us everything we have. When you regularly see that price that our God was willing to pay for us to be with him, it can’t help but move us to the type of generosity described in 2 Corinthians 9. It is the opposite of grabbing onto every dollar as if our lives depended on it, or being consumed by worry because we won’t have enough money. It is a generosity that that flows freely, cheerfully, gratefully from a God who has been eternally generous to us.
Actually, there really is no better place to talk about money than at church with a God who doesn’t need our money, but graciously shows us ways we can properly use our money to serve him until he brings us to the home of heaven he has purchased for us. Amen.