What do you think of when you think of Dallas? For many, Dallas will be connected to the iconic J.R. Ewing who appeared in the famous March 1980 Who Shot J.R. episode and an estimated 83 million people wondered and watched the famous “Dallas” oilman. In the minds of many, the Dallas brand has been associated with big steaks, big hair, and big bling. But Dallas’ J.R. Ewing isn’t J.R. Ewing anymore; he’s been replaced. It’s football season and everyone is tuned in again to America’s Team. The most popular brand in the NFL is clicking this year and many fans are being drawn back to their TV sets at game time. Dallas’ new JR Ewing is Jerry Jones – the man even Cowboys fans love to rail against. Jerry Jones, the owner of the Cowboys, as recently as August, announced a new partnership with a Swiss watchmaker. Forbes magazine said the Cowboy timepieces will sell for as much $25,000 each. In a recent interview with Jones commented on the connection between the expensive watches and the Cowboy “brand.” “The idea of the Dallas Cowboys and the traditional picture of cowboys was the one that was in my mind,” Jones said. “Tex Schramm immediately straightened me out. And he said, ‘Let Houston be the checkered tablecloth and the sawdust floors. The Dallas Cowboys are glitz and glamour. We’re about beautiful office buildings. We’re about the city life.’ And keep that in mind as you think of the style or how you project what is now affectionately known as ‘The Brand.’”
Keeping Up with the Jones is an American saying that simply means when you use your friends or neighbors as a benchmark for success. Oftentimes, we look across the street or inside our social circle and become dissatisfied with our lives because we don’t have the same financial success. And the truth is: there’s always someone who has more. But you don’t have to go to Dallas to find luxury and over the opulence, the over the top lifestyle is located at every corner and in every zip code throughout our nation. For golfers, you’ve got to keep with appearances – it’s where you play and “Does my clothes and shoes embarrass me?” Even in the charity world, “Is my name or my company’s name on the list of donors? Does everyone in my college’s alumni world know that I gave? Whether it's cycling, running, or the women’s Bible study group – we ask ourselves,
“Do I have the right shoes, bike, or Pottery Barn couch?”
Jesus is going to introduce us to a rich man who’s about to get even richer. The problem isn’t so much his planning or his riches, but it’s his sickness. You see, the rich man has a money cancer, a spiritual cancer.
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 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. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21)
Why Talk About Money?
Jesus deals with two subjects that most people avoid coming to church altogether – money and judgment. Why? 1) We’re Preaching through the Gospel of Luke. Every sentence matters and I don’t need to skip over something God thinks is important. 2) It’s Relational and Not Mechanical. If I approached any of you men and picked some woman out of the downtown Fort Worth area this past week and said, “Here, give your money to her.” You’d resist. But if you fell in love with her, you would need any prompting to give her an expensive piece of jewelry. Same with Jesus – it’s about a relationship. Some of you don’t have a relationship with Jesus and much of what I’m going to say to do will go over your head. Perhaps you’ll pick up a few tips on how you handle your money. But here’s one thing I want you to drill down deep on: watch how the attitude toward money changes when a person truly trusts in Christ. Watch how their heart is automatically moved to generosity. Coming into a relationship with Jesus changes your relationship to money and possessions.
Here is today’s story: a request is made. A command is made of Christ to arbitrate a disagreement over the inheritance. This is not an odd request – Rabbis were the interpreters of the Torah, which provided instructions on inheritance. So it was a natural thing in one sense that Jesus was asked. It’s a common story, kids fighting over their parent's inheritance. I read story after story just this week about the very same thing – people squabbling over mom & dad’s money. From the wealthy Hunt family of Texas oil money to the estate the “Godfather of Soul,” James Brown, family upon family think their family members are unfairly cheating them out of their parent’s wealth. But Jesus refuses to be drawn into the sibling rivalry over money and uses the question to teach an important truth about wealth. And by refusing to judge between the siblings, He shows us our cancer.
For the next few moments, let me show you, Our Timeline- The Life Stages of Our Paychecks. Think of sitting down in Edward Jones, Fidelity Financial Center, or Schwab and doing financial planning. Jesus is going to sit down with you across a desk and assist you in planning for the future.
The first paycheck when you’ve mowed your neighbor’s yard. You get paid in cash – no taxes! All you’re thinking about with this paycheck is, “What fun can I have for $25?” But then it’s your first real job is your stage one, coming late in your high school/college years where you to work two weeks to get paid – two weeks! And it’s the first paystub you’ve seen – and your bewildered. Who’s FICA and why is he taking so much of my money!? The biggest obligation we might have here is that our parents ask us to pay for our car insurance or perhaps gas.
Your second stage gets a little more serious – you now have other people to consider. The obligations have increased – do you remember? Maybe it’s a roommate or maybe your married. But soon it’s… Car payment – check, School loans – check, Rent – check, and Food – check And the first time you buy a house – there’s so much to consider and so many papers to sign.
Your third stage is for the parents out there. It’s the sadness when they leave home but also how to assist them in paying for college tuition or a trade school. Since 1985, college tuition costs have surged by 500 percent and they continue to rise. Yes, a lot of us are stressed over the cost of college and many of you are busy paying off student loans. And then for many of us (stage four), we see only one more financial stage left: retirement and what to leave my family members. More and more retirees are single these days and retirement planning is hard enough when there are two. And a single person’s cost of living isn’t 50% of those who are married.
Jesus surprises us in today’s story. Think of sitting down in Edward Jones Financial Center and doing financial planning. There’s a stage on our personal timelines that few of us expected. Jesus tells us there’s a moral element in managing your money.
Budgeting: Many of you want to be generous with you money and possessions. Yet, for many of us we have so little paycheck left over after we’ve paid everyone else. Let’s watch the Budgeting Video. We’ve been following Greg and Katie Barnes over the past couple of weeks. Let’s see how they’re doing on budgeting.
1. The Problem: Materialism
Jesus identifies the problem in all of us: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15b)
Materialism is seeing the essence of life to be nothing more than owning stuff.
This man isn’t a villain because he’s rich and he’s not evil because he plans. His problem is simple – he’s self-centered. In the story, Jesus allows us to listen in to the man’s speech to Himself (God can do that you know ?). And in his talking to himself, he uses the words “my” four times (verses 17-19) and “I” is used eight times
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. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ (Luke 12:18-19)
This rich man is totally self-centered. Jesus says the problem is good old-fashioned greed. The problem for wealthy materialists and the middle-class materialists is this: Jesus sees something we don’t and it’s this…. Money Blinds Us. Before we know it, we do the comparison game: when I’m eating hamburgers when they’re eating steaks. And when I go to the Jones’ house, their TV is THIS Big when mine is only this big. I have last year’s smartphone when they have the latest.
Again, money blinds us. You know when you’re committing adultery but very few people see when they’re greedy. Money blinds us.
Juliet Schor, a Harvard economist, wrote a book called The Overspent American. In it, she gives reasons why we do not see our own materialism. We just don’t believe it’s there. She says in our culture we’re no longer divided as much by classes - we’re not as segregated as we used to be. For example, waiters making $18,000 per year, English teachers making $40,000 per year, and management at one of the defense contractors making six figures are all part of one group. This exerts pressure to drink the same brands of bottled water, to wear the same fashions, to fill their apartments with the same furnishings, yet those making even $100,000 per year could easily feel themselves in an unworkable position. Despite the average family being smaller today, the size of our homes has increased about one-third in 33 years. The average size of a new single-family home has climbed from a little over 1,600 square feet in 1973 to a little over 2,300 square feet in 2010. You don’t feel like you have all that much. You don’t feel like you live all that well. Nobody feels they spend too much money on themselves. This is materialism. We all know it’s out there. We see the havoc it’s wreaking. But we all say to ourselves, “But it’s not true of me.” – repeat this after me. This means the wealthiest people in the wealthiest country in the history of the world believe they can’t afford everything they really need. If Jesus knew even in His day nobody will ever think they’re greedy who really are greedy… …nobody will ever think they’re materialistic, who are materialistic: “Watch out; blindness to the condition is part of the condition,” how much truer is it now?
2. The Solution: Guardrails Against Greed
Jesus literally introduces us to a damned fool where he’s motivated only for himself. And then we see our key verse: “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21)
Circle these words in verse 21. When it comes to money, we essentially have three options: give it, spend it, and save it. And you become rich toward God in all three ways. It’s what I’m calling the Antidote to Materialism…
2.1 Don’t Trust Yourself with Money
Ask yourself a million questions about your money. Again Jesus says, “Take care, and be on your guard against [materialism]” (Luke 12:15b) Jesus is telling you to be suspicious and to watch out. The problem with the rich man getting richer in Jesus’ story is this: he thought he was in control, but he didn’t have control. He thought he was the owner, but he soon discovered he was owned. There’s nothing wrong with saving as the Bible tells us they God gives us stuff to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17) It’s one thing to be a saver for rainy days, but it’s another thing altogether to be a hoarder. Establish an emergency fund and put several months back in case you lose your job… … but don’t see money as your lifeline. Ask yourself, “Could I live more simply?” Ask yourself, “Could I use my possession to empower others?”
2.2 Be Content with God’s Provision
“So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:21) When it comes to money, we essentially have three options: give it, spend it, and save it. Overspending chokes you with stress and fear – “Can I make my next payment?” The answer is to be content with what you have.
“But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1 Timothy 6:6-8)
Practical tip: wait before making a big purchase. Practical tip: if you’re married, both of you agree before you make a big purchase (over $100). Practical tip: Can you keep the purchase of your home below 25% of your monthly take-home pay? Practical tip: Get a fifteen-year mortgage for you’ll be amazed at the interest you will save over the length of the loan when compared to a thirty-year mortgage.
2.3 Be Generous with Others
Operation Christmas Child – Several years ago, I was in a mud hut in southern India, south of Bangalore. It was there we were doing some medical clinics and a woman invited our team into her home. On this bright, sunny day, we moved in through the small door. As I raised myself up in the dark living area, perched above me was a red/orange Nike shoebox. In this poor, drab mud hut of a home, it stood out. I pointed to it and asked about what that shoebox was doing there. And the woman shared with our team that Samaritan Purse came to their village. They handed out the boxes for everyone to enjoy. So I invite you to be generous. The plan works – I’ve seen those who receive the boxes.
Invitation: Everyone Pray
Who is your Savior? Who are your trusting?