Summary: Part 4 of 5 in a series on the false gods of this world (i.e. of our own creation) that vie to be the ultimate object of our worship.
INTRODUCTION: For every good thing that God gives us, Satan attempts to create a counterfeit. God gave us his word and Satan tries to produce a counterfeit. God gives revelation and Satan created false revelation. God gives, and Satan attempts to counterfeit. What is one thing we think about when we hear the word counterfeit? It’s our topic for this morning… Money!
BACKGROUND: Do you know how bank tellers are able to identify counterfeit money? There are so many good counterfeit bills around today. It is impossible to keep up with the ways crooks are operating. It would not be productive, nor would it be efficient to study all the ways people counterfeit bills. The “best” way and in fact the “only” way to train tellers to identify counterfeits is to make them familiar with the real thing. The more they handle real money, the less likely a counterfeit will be accepted. It’s the same with our worship, the more that we worship the “true” and “living” God, the more we’re able to not only identify, but avoid the counterfeit ones!
ZACCHAEUS – THE SEDUCTIVE POWER OF MONEY
• Innumerable writers and thinkers since the beginning of time have pointed out the “culture” of greed that permeates our world, eating away at our souls and collapsing our cultures (1st Timothy 6:9-10) notice it said “love of money” not “money,” for an inanimate object cannot be evil!
• Yet no one ever really thinks that change can happen… Why?
• There are a couple of reasons (1) we call that which is “sin” holy, and that which is “holy” sin, buying into the idea propagated by Gordon Gecko in the movie “Wallstreet” – “Greed is Good!”
• (2) this idol, this counterfeit god is perhaps the one that is the most hard to recognize, it’s there, and we know it’s there but it’s so common that we of the “miss the forest for the trees”
• As a minister I’ve counseled countless people who were struggling with various sins, various counterfeit gods, yet in all the years “greed,” or the “love of money” has never been brought to me
• The god of money hides itself from its victim, that is it’s “modus operandi,” it tells us that if there is someone out there with more money than us, then we’re not greedy at all!
• Jesus warns people about the downfalls of loving money, speaking more about it than He does about sex, anger, or pretty much any other thing that we can elevate to "god” status
• The seduction by the counterfeit god of money is a story that plays out numerous times in Scripture, but no story epitomizes it more than the story of a vertically challenged man who climbed a tree!
• His name was Zacchaeus, and Luke straightforward tells us about this man (Luke 19:1-2)
• He was a tax collector who was shunned by his community; even today those who work for the IRS don’t typically go around telling everyone about it… IRS agents are often placed in the same category as lawyers and dentists
• To understand this story and its implications we must understand the world in which it took place. Rome, for all intents and purposes ruled the world, and wanted the vast majority of the wealth of the empire to reside in the capital; leaving the rest of the empire impoverished and subjugated
• To do this Rome had two armies (1) military (2) the Roman version of the IRS, of which Zacchaeus was and employ – “The power to tax is the power to destroy” – Daniel Webster
• When we read further along in the story we see that his people thought of him as a “sinner” (vs. 7)
• This meant that he was an “apostate,” and “outcast,” for him it would have been better to have been born a “leper”
• Why would anyone take such a job? The incentives offered by the imperial bank were almost irresistible. Basically get what you can get out of them, send us a portion and keep the rest!
• Today we call this “extortion” and it will land you in jail, in the 1st century it was accepted practice
• One of the reasons that Luke brings Zacchaeus to our attention is that he wasn’t just any old tax collector he was “architelones” (vs. 2) the “arch-tax collector,” he was the best of the best, or the worst of the worst depending on your point of view! Money was the master of his life!
• What Zacchaeus obsessed over, became his god, and he became a slave to it – but consider Jesus’ teaching on the matter (Luke 16:13-15)
• Money isn’t a “bad” thing, in fact it can be a very “good” thing, and it all depends on how we interact with it. If we control our use of it, great, if it controls us… not so great!