Summary: A sermon on tithing.

Malachi 3:6-10

"What Will My Church Look Like in the Future?"

With July 4th right around the corner, let's think a little bit about the American Dream.

To be sure there have been some wonderful dreams in our nation's history.

Our founders had a dream about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

There is the dream of freedom and new beginnings so beautifully expressed on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."

There is also the dream of equality and opportunity put forth in Dr. Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" speech.

These are all beautiful dreams, but they may not generally be what people mean when they talk about "the American Dream."

I think it's safe to say that, for many, "the American Dream" has to do with a subconscious desire for material possessions.

Someone once said, "Consuming, acquiring, buying--this is what the American Dream has come to mean.

Thus, what is commonly understood as the American Dream might more accurately be called the American Nightmare!!!"

And why would this misunderstanding of the meaning of "The American Dream" become a nightmare?

One of the problems is an illness which has been coined "Affluenza."

Affluenza is the constant need for more and bigger and better stuff--and the effect this need has on us.

If we are honest, most of us have been infected by this virus to some degree; haven't we all struggled at one time or another with the desire to acquire?

Every newspaper we pick up and every t-v show we watch is filled with advertisements for which some company paid thousands--or even millions--of dollars in the hope of convincing us that we need something else.

And they are good at it!!!

We easily find ourselves thinking, "That's right. I do need that!"

Self-storage space in America is continually increasing, and today it is estimated that there is 1.9 billion square feet of storage space for storing the stuff we are enticed to buy--often with money we don't actually have!!!

This brings us to another disease that goes along with Affluenca: Credit-itis.

Credit-itis is the opportunity for us to buy now and pay later.

It's an illness that is brought on by promises of "six months same as cash," or a 20 percent discount if you use your store credit card.

It's basically the idea that you can enjoy something today and pay for it tomorrow...

...and it has exploited our lack of self-discipline and allowed us to feed our affluenza...

...wreaking havoc on our personal and national finances!!!

Another problem related to the illness of credit-itis is the issue of declining savings.

And I could go on and on and on, but the point is this: We have become a credit-crazed society.

Even those of us who are not in debt up to our eye balls know that most of us spend money with very little self-discipline.

And this is the American Nightmare.

It leads to debt collectors and personal bankruptcy--not to mention tremendous stress!!!

We are suffering the consequences of our addiction to consumption and compulsive buying, and yet our desire for more is never satisfied.

And this is because there is a deeper problem--there is a deeper disease.

There is a spiritual issue that is beneath the surface of affluenza and credit-itis.

And this issue is not new; it has been a part of humanity since the Fall.

Inside us there is a brokenness; the Bible calls it sin.

Our souls were created in the image of God, but they have been distorted.

We are meant to desire God, but we have turned that desire toward possessions.

We are meant to find our security in God, but we try and find it in amassing wealth.

We are meant to love people, but instead we compete with them.

We are meant to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, but we are too busy with pursuing money and things.

We are meant to be generous and share with those in need, but we selfishly hoard our resources for ourselves.

Someone has written: "The most serious indictment we must level at contemporary consumer behavior is that it is 'spiritless.'

It betrays a decision to sacrifice all noble and truly human aspirations at the altars of comfort, convenience, and safety."

And I would add pleasure to that list.

So many of us are living lives without meaning, as slaves to sin.

We human beings have surrendered to the sin nature that is within us.

And the devil loves to play upon our sin nature.

The devil's desire is to undermine our effectiveness as Christ's people, Christ's Church--replacing our joy with misery...

...and thus keeping us from sharing Christ's love and message with others.

When we keep most everything for ourselves, the message of the Gospel of Love, the only thing that can save people--Faith in Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior--is distorted, disgraced, watered down or forgotten!!!

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