Summary: A sermon about witnessing to the power of the Resurrection through our giving.
“This Side of Easter”
Have you ever played that game with someone, the one that goes: “If you won the lottery what would you do?”
I did that one time with a buddy of mine in college.
First he said he’d buy a Corvette for himself.
Then, he went on to say he would purchase a huge mansion for himself.
This went on and on and on until my friend couldn’t think of anything else he could buy for himself.
After a moment or two of being stumped, he finally looked up and said, “Oh, and I’d give some away.”
I remember thinking that was hilarious, and also very insightful into the way we humans often think.
As most of you know, recently three winning tickets were sold nationally in the March 30th Mega-Millions Lottery drawing, which had a record $656 million dollar pre-tax payout.
The country seemed to go crazy over this.
Before the drawing, the news outlets carried stories and pictures of people standing in line for hours in order to buy tickets.
Sometimes they would interview the hopefuls as to what they would do with the money.
And although the answers varied greatly, one thing which came through loud and clear was the message that: “If I win this lottery it will change my life.”
And no doubt it would.
A recent Boston Globe article asked this very question: “Does Money Change You?”
The article reported, “As a mounting body of research is showing, wealth can actually change how we think and behave—and not for the better.
Rich people have a harder time connecting with others, showing less empathy to the extent of dehumanizing those who are different from them.
They are less charitable and generous.
They are less likely to help someone in trouble.
And they are more likely to defend an unfair status quo.”
The article goes on, “If you think you’d behave differently in their place, meanwhile, you’re probably wrong: These aren’t just inherited traits, but developed ones.
Money, in other words, changes who you are.”
The article noted that “if you win the lottery and you want to avoid becoming an insensitive lout, there is a simple solution: ‘Give at least half of it away.’”
Our Scripture Lesson for this morning from Acts is a window into the very early Church.
This was a Church which had a number of members who had personally known Jesus Christ.
They had been followers as He taught in the villages and towns.
They had watched as He lived by example.
Then, they had seen Him die.
And most impressive of all, many of them had seen Him Resurrected!!!
And verse 33 informs us that because of this, “The apostles continued to bear witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…”
…and one of the most powerful ways that they “bore witness” to Christ’s Resurrection was that “None of them would say, ‘This is mine!’ about their possessions, but held everything in common.”
It’s as if “worldliness” had lost its luster this side of Easter!
Who cares about money when you’ve got Jesus!!!???
By giving Jesus Christ lordship over their wealth, these early Christians were providing a mighty powerful “living sermon” to the world!!!
Not only were they proclaiming the Resurrection of Jesus with their lips, they were embodying Jesus’ redemptive and transformative truth by caring for one another in ways unheard of.
And, as a result, the Christian faith was spreading like wildfire!!!
Lives were being changed.
The broken, the hurting, the thief, the liar, the hopeless were becoming new creations all together!!!
When we look out on our world we see so much corruption and despair.
We see gang violence and children growing up in crack houses.
We hear about shootings in our city every night on the news.
And all across the nation, in every Christian denomination, church attendance is on a big downward slide—especially among the young.
It’s scary, really.
It’s sad, so very sad.
So many people are growing up and living without knowing a thing about true love.
So many people are growing up and living without knowing a thing about Jesus.
Could the fact that we live in such a consumer culture that is dominated by major corporations have anything to do with this?
It’s been noted that “One of the many results of the amazing growth of global economy has been a transformation of values.”
Materialism is on the rise everywhere, and this stands in stark contrast to Scripture.
The Bible has a very balanced view of wealth.
The problem with wealth is spiritual—it easily takes our minds off of God and weakens our faith.
Money itself is not evil, but the Bible proclaims that the love of money is the root of all evil.
And for this reason we are advised in Hebrews 13:5 to “keep [our] lives free from the love of money.”