Summary: In our Scripture today, Jesus gives us keys on redefining our understanding of money and the role that it plays in our life. How you handle your money impacts your relationship with God.
A wealthy, older gentleman had just recently married a lovely young lady 40 years younger than him, and was beginning to wonder whether she might have married him for his money. So he asked her, "Tell me the truth: if I lost all my money, would you still love me?" She said reassuringly, "Oh honey, don’t be silly. Of course I would still love you. And I’d miss you terribly." Let me ask you a question this morning: what is your relationship with money? More importantly, how does your money impact your relationship with God? And how does your relationship with God impact your money?
In our Scripture today, Jesus gives us keys on redefining our understanding of money and the role that it plays in our life. It's amazing the attention Jesus gave to money. He spoke more on the topic of money than on any other subject, 7 times more than he did about prayer! Why is this single subject such a priority for Jesus? Because how you handle your money impacts your relationship with God. Jesus said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." Too many of us fall into the trap of being consumers and hoarders. Jill Winter in her book, “I Have Nothing to Wear” writes: “How many of you ladies have said that? Most people have clothes they never wear in their closets that are either out of style or no longer fit. But we do other things as well. Anybody ever buy an article of clothing, take it home and ever wear it?” Jill says, what you need to do is de-clutter. She says we need to get rid of 75% of our clothes by either throwing it away because it’s in such bad shape and out of style or just donate it. That's what Jesus is saying: instead of storing up things here on earth, "Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven….For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Verse 20-21
Money is the most concrete measure of your faith. Jesus says the true window to what you value and what you depend upon in life is demonstrated by how you handle money. I have a friend Ron Morris who says, “If you want to know your priorities, balance your check book.” Where you spend your money is the truest measure of your relationship with God and what you really value in life. When you think about it, we have all types of frivolous expenditures. One woman found that she was spending $50 a month on magazines she picked up in the grocery checkout line. One man found that he was spending $45 a week on cigarettes. It could be gourmet coffees, designer handbags or clothing, eating out for lunch, junk food, shoes, movies extra channels on cable… Here's the question to ask when Jesus says “where your treasure is, there your heart is also”: what could you give up to give more to God? All of us have frivolous expenses which are keeping us from maximizing our sacrificial giving.
Luke 19 tells the story of Zacchaeus who was the chief tax collector and thus had a lot of success in his life. And the result of that success is wealth. There is nothing wrong with wealth, but Jesus is concerned with the pursuit of wealth. We're going to learn today from Jesus that you can only pursue one thing. So you can't serve God and wealth, but you can serve God with wealth. Here's the problem: we want our cake and eat it too. We want Jesus in our life, but what we're really seeking is security and happiness and we look to money and possessions for that. These things become the focus of our life and thus an idol. We want to see Jesus and maybe even have him a part of our life but we fear having him be our life. When Jesus called for Zacchaeus to come down from the tree, Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus gladly." What does it mean to welcome Jesus into our life, into your home? It means to welcome him into every part of our life, including our finances. Notice how the demonstration of Zacchaeus' conversion impacted his money matters. "Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, 'Look Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor. And if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.'" “And Jesus says, 'Today salvation has come to your house.'" Do you see that? His relationship to Jesus changed his relationship to his money.
This isn't just one isolated event. In Matthew 18:18-22, "A certain ruler (The Greek word for ruler means person of status.) asked Jesus, 'Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' Jesus answered,…'You know the commandments, do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'" And then this guy cut off Jesus right before the next commandment, which is about money– thou shall not covet. "'All these I've kept since I was a boy,'" He never let Jesus get to the issue of money. "When Jesus heard this, he said to him, 'You still lack one thing.'" Jesus knew he hadn’t given over his money matters to God. So Jesus challenged him to "'sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" I don't think Jesus was saying to him, become penniless. Everything God does is through people, if we become penniless, how are we going to reach the lost with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and set oppressed people free? But what he was saying to this man is you have to let go of what you're holding onto for meaning and security and invest yourself in my kingdom purpose.