Summary: This sermon looks at Jesus' teaching about money & greed.


INTRO – Folk story of the bandit Jose' Rivera, who became notorious in several little towns in Texas for robbing their banks and businesses. The townsfolk, weary of the constant plundering, hired a ranger to track down Jose' Rivera in his hideout in Mexico and retrieve the money. The ranger at last arrived at a desolate, ramshackle cantina. At the bar saw a young man enjoying a beer. At one of the tables, hands over his ample stomach, hat over his eyes, snored another patron. With much gusto, the ranger approached the young man at the bar and announced that he was on a mission to bring back Jose' Rivera, dead or alive. “Can you help me find him?" he asked. The young man smiled, pointed to the other patron, and said, “That is Jose' Rivera."

The ranger walked over to sleeping bandit, tapping him on the shoulder, “Are you Jose' Rivera?” The man mumbled, “No speak English." The ranger asked young man at bar to help him communicate his mission.

The ensuing conversation was tedious. First the ranger spoke in English and the young man translated it into Spanish. Jose' Rivera responded in Spanish, and young man repeated the answer in English for the ranger.

Finally, the ranger warned Jose' Rivera that he had two choices; the first was to let him know where all the loot he had stolen was hidden, in which case he could walk away a free man. The second choice was that if he would not reveal where the money was stashed, he would be shot dead instantly. The young man translated the ultimatum.

This got Rivera’s attention. Pulled himself together and said to the young man, “Tell him to go out of the bar, turn to the right, go about a mile, and he will see a well. Near the well he will see a very tall tree. Beside the trunk of that tree is a large concrete slab. He will need help in removing it. Under the slab is a pit in the ground. If he carefully uncovers it he will find all the jewelry and most of the money I have taken." The young man turned to the ranger, opened his mouth...swallowed...paused, and then said, “Jose' Rivera says, 'Go ahead and shoot!'"

There aren’t many things in our lives that get our attention more quickly than money issues in our lives. Most of us, if not all of us, have had those times in our lives when there was more month than there was money. We have good intentions in trying to manage our money, but sometimes it seems like we just can’t get it together.

- We try to save a little, but then something breaks, or the kids get sick, or our electric bill unexpectedly goes up. Someone once said, “Nothing brings on an emergency as quickly as putting aside money in case of one.”

- We try to be more frugal, but then that new pair of shoes gets our attention, or that new set of golf club calls out to us, or that new exercise machine advertised on TV entices us (after all, we all need another place to hang our clothes, right???).

- We try to be more understanding & patient, but not many things cause more friction in marriages than money issues.

Most folks are decent folks who are living paycheck to paycheck, trying to pay their bills, trying to keep food on the table & a roof over their heads. In these days of uncertainty & unrest, money concerns seem to take the lead in gaining our attention.

And not only does it happen in our personal finances, but those concerns bleed over into our church finances.

- Ministries go undone or are postponed due to lack of funds.

- We have less resources for reaching the lost world & growing disciples.

- Missionaries are either called home from the mission field, or are not able to go to the mission field at all due to lack of funds.

- Staff members find themselves distracted from more important ministry endeavors & discouraged due to financial concerns.

The bottom line about money, in both our personal lives & in our church’s life, is that it is a heart issue. Sure, there are legitimate financial struggles that many people are having, but the bottom line is that our issue w/ money are issues w/ our hearts. Had a Christian bank president tell me once that most of the people he counseled w/ concerning financial problems were dealing w/ spiritual problems. When they got their spiritual lives in order first, they were much more able to get their financial lives in order.

Jesus had much to say about money. 16 out of 38 parables that He told during His earthly ministry were money-related, & around 15% of His total teaching had to do w/ money. He also taught that money is the #1 spiritual indicator of where a person’s heart is.

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