The Almighty or the Almighty Dollar
I want to read for you several quotes from different writers about the problems we have as people in dealing with money:
- "The constant desire to have still more things and a better life, and the struggle to obtain them imprints many Western faces with worry and depression." - Alexander Solzhennits
- "The more money, the less virtue." - Henry Thoreau
- "Our pocketbooks have more to do with heaven and hell than our hymnbooks." - Helmut Thielcke
- "Things are to be used and God is to be loved. We get into trouble when we begin to use God and love things." - Jay Kesler
There are some sermons that are a pleasure to preach because they are liberating and encouraging and the church loves to hear them because they renew our faith and strengthen our hope of freedom and eternal life in Christ. Other messages are received less enthusiastically:
- Call to repentance and sorrow
- Rebukes to the church concerning unfaithfulness
- And of course, reminders about the proper use of our money - what I'd like to talk about today.
Jesus spent a lot of time talking about money because more than any other thing, it has the power to monopolize our lives and our love. Unlike sex, drugs and entertainment, money always keeps its allure. People who have lost interest in every other thing are always fascinated by and drawn to the making and hoarding of wealth.
In this election season here in Canada, the candidates will try to focus our attention on money and make all kinds of promises based on getting more.We're obsessed with the idea and I think we should stop and ask ourselves as Christians, "Are we serving the Almighty, or the almighty dollar?"
When it came to money, Jesus didn't give us charts and graphs or a list of do's and don'ts - He described ordinary people, how they handled their wealth and what happened to them. In the book of Luke Jesus tells 3 stories about different men and the way they handled money and the effect this had on them:
1. The Prodigal Son
He was the younger of two sons who took his inheritance money and proceeded to squander it on himself in immoral living. When he had spent it all he lived like a slave feeding pigs until he decided to return home to his father who took him back.
11 And He said, "A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' So he divided his wealth between them. 13 And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. 14 Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. 17 But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men."' 20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 22 But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; 23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate.
- Luke 15:11-24
2. The Unjust Steward
This fellow is a little different. He is caught wasting his master's money and called to account. (audit - he's caught short). Before being thrown out of his position he makes deals with all of his master's debtors in order to create a fall-back position for himself.
1 Now He was also saying to the disciples, "There was a rich man who had a manager, and this manager was reported to him as squandering his possessions. 2 And he called him and said to him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.' 3 The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig; I am ashamed to beg. 4 I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.' 5 And he summoned each one of his master's debtors, and he began saying to the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' 6 And he said, 'A hundred measures of oil.' And he said to him, 'Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.' 7 Then he said to another, 'And how much do you owe?' And he said, 'A hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, 'Take your bill, and write eighty.' 8 And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light. 9 And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.
10 "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? 12 And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
- Luke 16:1-13
3. The Rich Fool
This man was already rich but he became richer and felt he had it "made." He found out that his life was shorter than he had anticipated.
16 And He told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man was very productive. 17 And he began reasoning to himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?' 18 Then he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."' 20 But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' 21 So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
- Luke 12:16-21
These were different kinds of people - one a young man, one a slave, the other a more mature and independent person but they each had similar ways of handling money and ended up with similar results:
- They all squandered their money
- The prodigal on pleasure.
- The steward with poor management.
- The rich man on business investments.
- They all spent everything on themselves
- There was no consideration for the father, the master, or society in general with these people.
- They were the focus of their own attention at all times.
- They were all judged and lost their favored positions
- The son became a slave, fed pigs and starved.
- The steward was called to account and dismissed.
- The rich man died and lost his soul.
Jesus demonstrated that money and how we handle it had definite consequences for them and has definite consequences for us.
Lessons About Money
1. How you handle your wealth in this world will largely determine your wealth in the next world.
In Luke 16:10 - Jesus tells us that if we are faithful in little things we will be faithful in large; if we are faithful with what belongs to another, we will receive our own. What does being faithful mean when it comes to money? Well it doesn't mean only:
- Knowing how to keep the books
- Knowing how to save money
Some people use this excuse to be stingy or to do things for the Lord in a cheap way. We don't get extra points if there's money in the bank when Jesus comes. Being faithful means knowing how to use wealth. The faithful steward doubled his talents.
The wise and generous use of wealth now receives greater and permanent wealth in the next life - that's the lesson Jesus is trying to teach us. Those who do not know Christ can be excused for relying on their money - but Christians need to realize that money is a tool God uses to test our faith, not an end unto itself. These three in Luke did not know how to use their wealth. They thought it was for spending on themselves.
2. Some people can't tell the difference between true gold and fool's gold.
These men couldn't see past the glitter and glow of their wealth to what was truly important:
- A father's love was overshadowed by worldly excitement and pleasures.
- A master's trust and a good name were overcome by the lure of easy money.
- The joy of giving and sharing was swallowed up by the desire for bigger and better.
You can't perceive or possess true riches (love, joy, peace, faithfulness, holiness, etc.) if you consider money as something precious.
- You cannot serve God and mammon.
- You can only love one, not both.
If money is very important to you, you're after the wrong kind of riches. If you can't easily part with your wealth in exchange for spiritual riches you cannot enter easily into the kingdom of heaven. Ask the rich young ruler!
If the love of money were a physical disease, it would cause blindness, because this is what it does to us spiritually - it causes us not to be able to see the true riches.
3. When it comes to money, everyone has two choices:
- We can serve God with our money
- We can serve money as our God.
If we serve money as our God it will be obvious in our lives as it was in the lives of the men described by Jesus:
- We will use our money to serve ourselves exclusively. Our needs, our dreams, our agenda.
- We will make money the basis upon which we make our decisions.
- Not if God is willing or if this is pleasing to God, but rather how much will it cost me.
- When we do give to God, we will give
- Little money
- Irregular money
- Regretting the money
Who do you serve - the Almighty or the almighty dollar? The best way to find out is to look at the percentage of your income you give to the Almighty. The numbers don't lie! Look at your income tax return!! If you spend more on entertainment than on God, it's obvious who your God is.
For the rich fool it was too late to change when the judgment came - his soul was required that night. The unjust servant tried to save himself but his salvation would only be temporary - without a real change in his life he too would end up like the rich man. Only the prodigal son saw the answer:
- He realized how foolish he was
- He made a change in his life
- He went home with the intention of serving his father
Only the prodigal son was restored:
- All of his physical wealth
- All of his honor and position
- Especially the broken relationship with his father. (He was given back the true riches he had lost.)
How will we respond to this lesson?
- Will we ignore it like the rich fool?
- Will we try to save ourselves like the greedy steward?
- Will we realize our errors and change our behavior as well as our attitude about wealth and give our lives as well as our money back to God for His glory and His purpose.