This message kicks off a 6-part series on money, possessions, debt and materialism entitled "Consumed: Regaining Your Freedom by Realigning Your Focus".
What Stewards Should be Consumed With
How to Tell Whether You are Among the 'Consumed' and Some Practical Tips for Regaining Your Freedom
The Antidote That is Community
Consumed with Debt and What to Do About It
Why God's Love for You Compels Him to Loathe Materialism
Materialism: The Lie That 'This is All I Need'
Navin: …one dollar and nine cents! Why are you crying and why are you wearing that old dress?
Marie: Because I just heard a song on the radio that reminded me of the way we were.
Navin: What was it?
Marie:"The Way We Were." Look at us. We've hit bottom.
Navin: No! Maybe you've hit bottom, but I haven't hit bottom yet! I got a ways to go, and I'm gonna to bounce back, and when I do, I'm going to buy you a diamond so big it's going to make you puke!
Marie: I don't wanna puke! I don't want wealth! I just want you like you used to be! What happened to that man?
Navin: Well, I'm going to go then! And I don't need any of this! I don't need this stuff, and I don't need you. I don't need anything…except this, and that's it, and that's the only thing I need is this. I don't need this or this. Just this ashtray and this paddle game…the ashtray and the paddle game, and that's all I need, and this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game and the remote control, and that's all I need, and these matches…the ashtray and these matches and the remote control and the paddle ball, and this lamp.
The ashtray, this paddle game, and the remote control, and the lamp, and that's all I need, and that's all I need, too. I don't need one other thing, not one. I need this…the paddle game and the chair and the remote control and the matches, for sure. Well what are you looking at? What do you think I am, some kind of a jerk or something?
Navin (to the camera): So that's it. It's an old story, one you've probably heard before, but I never thought it would happen to me.
[End of video]
Well, I just want to apologize. It took me six years to finally pull an illustration from The Jerk for our time together on Sunday mornings, but it's an old story, one you've heard many times before but one I'm sure you never thought would happen to you. I can remember, about 25 years ago when I moved to Dallas as a young man, I said to myself that, the day I can run through these streets and not be overwhelmed at the prosperity that is in this city is the day I need to get out, and I need to run.
Well, I'm not sure when it happened, but much like the frog in the kettle, somewhere along the way, I slowly dipped into those waters to where, I have to admit, houses that I used to literally stop and stand in front of and look at and just shake my head, I now drive by, walk into, and I'm hardly stunned at the gross attention some of us give to material things. We never think it'll happen to us, but it does.
What we're going to do in these next weeks is we're going to talk about a topic that is about as relevant a topic as I can think of for our particular group of Christ followers in this particular city. Just as a regular discipline, I and other guys who are leading and loving people here in Dallas with me, get together, and we go, "What do we think are the major things that are hindering us in our effort to be all that God wants us to be?"
We ask, "As we seek to call all people to be fully devoted followers of Christ, as we seek to be ourselves fully devoted in our response to him, what are the things that are getting in our way?" One of them has been a lack of a passion for other people who don't have the relationship with God we do.
It's easy for us, having been pulled out of the frigid waters of godlessness and self-dependence to stop being concerned about those who are still left behind, so we've addressed that issue very recently. We realize, with the sex-infiltrated, saturated culture we have, that pornography is an issue that's been deeply wounding people, so we've addressed that.
One of the issues we have identified that we know is something that is causing all kinds of hiccups in our ability to be all that God wants us to be is this little topic, this little issue called materialism. It is way too easy to be consumed by things that are in this world, and we know many, many who love God by profession and who want to honor him and serve him with their lives, who want to experience the freedom and the fullness that he intends for them, yet they've been consumed by the things of this world.
Money, which makes a wonderful servant but is a terrible master, has imprisoned many, many of us, our friends and those we minister to and walk alongside every week. We hope these next several weeks are going to be an opportunity for all of us who are learners in this process to be reminded of God's concern for us and his desire to speak about core things in our hearts because he loves us as a good Father who wants to protect us from the traps and the potholes and the pitfalls that are in this world.
He wants us to regain our freedom by realigning our focus on things that matter, so we're going to take a really hard look at this issue of materialism and consumerism and where it drives us and what it produces in all of our hearts. I just want to acknowledge to you that this is not something I think any of us are going to ever be completely free of until we don't have to set our mind on the things above but we ourselves are up above.
Really, that's true with almost any struggle that a believer faces. We are in this world but not of it, so we will constantly struggle with this world that pulls at our flesh and that promotes itself evermore before us, but the Father who loves us, who has left us here and wants to provide for us an abundant life while we are here, wants to speak into our lives.
Before the service started today, a friend walked up to me and said, "Todd, I had this in my office, and I want you to have it." It fits very well with why we want to do this series. It's a little photocopy of a statement that's meant a lot to this individual, and it's from Sergeant John Stryker (at least, he's the one who gets credit for it) of the United States Marine Corps. It says this. "Life is tough, but it's tougher if you're stupid."
That is a U.S. Marine Corps way of saying, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." If you are left to yourself, you will lose your freedom, and you'll live stupidly, and you'll be a jerk who says, "I don't need anything, except this ashtray. That's all I need. I don't need anything else…except this new date, this new girlfriend, this house, this job, this promotion."
God wants to speak in the lives of those he loves because, like any Father, he doesn't want to let his kid live life stupidly because it makes a tough life tougher, so we're going to try and regain some freedom. Let me just remind you of why God cares so much about money. In fact, he cares about it so much that 16 of the 38 stories he told to illustrate truths in the Scripture…
When Jesus was communicating, he used pictures often. He did not have movie clips, or I'm convinced he'd have shown them, but he told stories. Sixteen of the 38 stories (we know them as parables) that Jesus told, relate to the issue of money and material possessions. More is said about money in the New Testament than heaven and hell combined. Now why is that?
Five times more is said about money than prayer. Think about that. In the Gospels, 288 verses, which is roughly one out of every 10, deal directly with the issue of money. Fifteen percent of the words in red in your Bible, the direct quotes of God when he walked here on earth, are related to money and material possession. There are over 2,000 verses on money and material possessions, roughly three times the amount that there are on faith.
Now why is this such a huge topic for God? Is it because he is broke, as Carlin would have you believe? Is it because he wants a little bit more because he's an awful money manager and, even though he is an omnipotent, omniscient, all-powerful God, he just can't handle the green, so he wants to pump it from you?
No. The reason God spoke so much about this stuff is because he knew how prone we were going to be to live in the scene, to live in what we are constantly being reminded is real and tangible to us, and what God is saying is, "This world and all that is in it is fleeting, and I love you and don't want you to invest your life in fleeting things." Now probably the central text that deals with that which consumes us, the matter which is all around us, comes in Matthew, chapter 6, verses 19 through 24, and this is what it says.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Now I'm going to read you one verse in verse 23 here that seems very out of place, and I'll explain it to you and why it's sandwiched between this very clear teaching about money. It says, "The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!"
Then he goes right back to talking about money. "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." Now it made complete sense. He says, "Look, be careful that you don't put too much here on this earth that can be stolen or rust or just lost. What'll happen is, if you do that, you'll begin to serve it."
Why is this little thing stuck in the middle there about how the light is the lamp of the body, and he tells you not to have a bad eye or your whole life will be filled with darkness? Let me just explain this to you. There's a parable, a story, that Jesus told a little bit later. It came in Matthew, chapter 20, and it's what's called the parable of the day workers.
What it is, is Jesus told a story about some people who were really struggling with the grace, the goodness, the glory, the love of God. He talks about how the landowner went out, and he hired some guys to work at 8:00 in the morning, and then about the third hour, about three hours later, he goes out and he hires some more. He said, "Come work for me, and I'll pay you." He told the first guys, "I'll pay you a day's wages." With the second guys, he just said, "Come, you know, work for me, and I'll be fair with you."
Three hours after that, he hires some more folks and says, "Come work for me the remainder of the day, and I'll be fair with you." Then three hours after that, just before the close of the working day, he gets some more in, and they come, and he says the same thing then: "Just come work with whatever time you have left, and I'll be good to you." At the end of the day, he goes, and he starts with the guys who just showed up, and he pays all the way down to the guys who have been there all day.
He pays them all a day's wages. In verse 15, he says, "Why do you begrudge me that I do this?" Clearly, the guys who were there at 8 o'clock saw him pay the guys who there at 4 o'clock a full day's wage, and they're thinking, "Hey, that's good stuff because surely, he's going to pay us now maybe twice or three, four, five times more than them because we worked twice or three, four, five times longer," but every time he went back…
The guys that got there at 2 o'clock, they got a day's wage. The guys who got there at noon got a day's wage. The guys who got there at 9 o'clock got a day's wage. When the guys who got there at 8 o'clock got the same thing as the guys who got there at 4 o'clock, they were not happy with the landowner. The landowner said to them, "Why do you cast an evil eye toward me? Why do you have a bad eye? Why do you begrudge me so much?"
The point is, "What problem do you have? Did I not do for you what I said I would do for you? What does it matter to you that I, in my greatness, in my generosity, in my goodness, and in my kindness, decide to lavishly reward other people? Why are you so self-vested, self-concerned, self-consumed that you only want me, if I do good to them, to do even more good to you?
Why not celebrate that I've done exactly what I said I would do for you and have been generous with many others? It's because you have a bad eye and because you love yourself and what you think you deserve more than you love the goodness of who I am." Now what's going on in Matthew, chapter 6, is Jesus is saying the same thing.
"Look, if you live with an eye toward self and an eye toward what makes sense to you, then it's going to pervert everything about where you're going to find real life. Life is hard in general, but if you live with an understanding of this world that is informed by your own processing unit, then you're going to have a bad eye.
Your whole life will be filled with darkness because what's going to make sense to you is, 'Live for the now. Be about cash and comfort. Serve them with everything you have because that's all you can see, and what you don't know, at the other side of the grave, don't deal with it, just live in the now.'"
He says, "Man, don't do that. Learn to live in relationship with me because these things are fleeting and they're passing, and they will break your heart. They will never satisfy. If you live by your own understanding, if you have a light that informs your soul that is twisted, shaded, fallen, and dark, it will not be well with you."
Let me just explain this to you. Our country is as prosperous of a country as there's ever been in the history of the world. Our country struggles with the issue of materialism more than any other country probably has in the history of the world. There have been many civilizations that have before, but we are excelling in our own right today. Let me just give you a few simple stats about what's going on here.
There was a show that PBS did a number of years ago. They called it Affluenza, and there's a lot going on in the news media today about the bird flu. I'm going to make a case today that the reason God cares so much about money is he cares so much about you. If you think the bird flu is lethal, you ought to be aware of the dollar bill flu because it will destroy you like nothing else, and it is much more contagious, and this society carries it in spades
Basically, the show says, "The average American shops six hours a week but spends only 40 minutes playing with his or her children. By the age of 20, the average television viewer has seen one million commercials [every one of them telling them that the reason you're not happy is because you don't have this product, you haven't purchased this service for yourself, you haven't provided yourself this indulgence]. More Americans have declared bankruptcy recently than have graduated from college."
Ninety percent of divorce cases… We know God hates divorce. Why does God hate divorce? It's not because it somehow makes him look bad but because he loves people and knows the pain that divorce brings about. We talked about, last week, that now, where before pornography was almost nonexistent as the primary reason that divorces were happening, a recent survey of family attorneys has said that over 50 percent now of all marriages that end up in their offices are there, at least in part, due to pornography being an issue. We addressed that head on.
Well, over 90 percent of marriages that show up in the offices of divorce attorneys have some driver in them related to financial pressures and disagreements, and God hates what hurts you, so he wants to address this thing that's tearing us apart. Randy Alcorn writes, "In the United States there are sixteen-and-a-half feet of mall space for every man, woman, and child. More people have visited Minnesota's Mall of America than Disneyland, the Grand Canyon, and the Grand Ole Opry combined." When America looks to recreate, we go shopping.
We go out, and we cope by finding that new thing that one of those one million commercials will tell us, if we dress this way, look this way, make up ourselves this way, drive this way, live this way, we can finally scratch that itch and be fine, but not so. In fact, the opposite is true, and this is why God spends so much time talking about this thing which is constantly competing for our hearts and will consume us, if we're not careful.
There was a guy by the name of Alexander Tytler. He was a professor in the 1700s, and this is what he said. He said, "The average of the world's great civilizations before they decline has been 200 years. These nations have progressed in this sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back again to bondage."
John Steinbeck, the guy who wrote The Grapes of Wrath, in the 1960s, wrote a good letter to his friend, and this is what it says. "A strange species we are. We can stand anything God and nature can throw at us save only plenty." Steinbeck, who was not a historian, who did not study civilizations but just learned from what he saw in his own life said, "If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy and sick."
Essentially, he said, "I would own it, and in their brokenness and dependence, I would rule over them in my own tyranny." Well, one Romanian pastor said this. "In my experience (he lived through the time of the Iron Curtain and great oppression on his people and his land), 95 percent of the believers who face the test of persecution will pass it, but now that we've been freed out from Communism and the oppression of the KGB, were also beginning to prosper as a nation," and he said, "I've seen about 95 percent of believers who face the test of prosperity fail it."
You know, again and again, you talk to people who live in persecuted regions of the world, and when you talk to them… In fact, this summer we had guys from all over the world who came and stayed with many of our families as we were part of ministering to them as they got trained to go back in their world and make an influence, and you'd hear us say all the time, "We're praying for you guys. We're so proud of the way you're serving over there."
They'd come, and they see the houses we live in, the world that we're in, the country that we're in, the society that we're in, and the things that are all around us, and they'd say, "You know what? We're praying for you because if you think it's tough to live faithfully where we are, we're not sure we could make it right here because there's so much to seduce your heart, and the fact that you guys have some semblance of devotion is a marvel to us."
Well, we want more than just a semblance of devotion. God wants you to have more than just a taste of freedom. He wants you to not be a slave to mammon, to money, to material things. He wants you to use it to serve him. Money is a tool. It's a test, and it's a testimony. It is not evil in and of itself. It's a tool, either to further God's kingdom or a tool to exalt yourself and live only for the now.
It is a test. How will you do when you prosper? Will you move into tyranny, as Steinbeck said? Will you fail the test, as that Romanian pastor said? Will you stay humble and not love it and serve it, or will you become its slave? It's a testimony to what you serve. That's what Jesus is saying in Matthew 6:24. You can't serve both. Who is your God?
Ezekiel 28:4-5 says this. "By your wisdom and understanding you have acquired riches for yourself and have acquired gold and silver for your treasuries. By your great wisdom, by your trade you have increased your riches and your heart is lifted up because of your riches…" You have left me, and you have begun to serve self.
Hosea 13:6: "As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, and being satisfied, their heart became proud; therefore they forgot Me." Does that sound like something that our professor from the 1700s observed, that Steinbeck said, that our Romanian pastor threw at us? Proverbs 27:21: "The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold, and each is tested by the praise accorded him."
I've told many of my friends whom God has blessed materially, "Let me tell you, I'm not really sure which one it is for you yet, but God either has it in for you (in other words, he's setting you up for one of the greatest judgments that any human has ever experienced), or he trusts you incredibly."
Living in a world as we're living in and the way we are able to provide for ourselves as we work and labor, as God has chosen in his goodness and grace to prosper us, is an incredible test. Well, how are we doing? Who are we still serving? What do we believe is owed to us? There are more than just a few folks here who have been seduced by that which can so easily consume us, the things of this world.
One of the greatest tests that has ever been run to how man will do when he's given a great amount of prosperity was run about 3,000 years ago in the city of Jerusalem, when the wisest man who ever lived was given more prosperity than any man who had ever lived before him, and this is what he said in Ecclesiastes, chapter 2, verse 10.
He says, "All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor.""I gave myself to comfort and cash and reward, and I indulged myself deeply." It comes from the book of Ecclesiastes, and the theme of this book is, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity." It's fleeting, and it's foolish to try and find life and hope, even in the greatest wealth that the world has ever had.
Three chapters later, this is what he wrote. I'm going to insert some different things as you read along with me. He says, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money…" In other words, the more you have, the more you want. "…nor he who loves abundance with its income." In other words, the more you have, the less you're satisfied. "When good things increase, those who consume them increase." Which is to say, "The more you have, the more people come after it, especially the government."
"The sleep of the working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much; but the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep." In other words, the more you have, the more you worry that you're going to lose it. "There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt." Which is to say, "The more you have, the more likely you are to hurt yourself clinging to it."
"When those riches were lost through a bad investment and he had fathered a son, then there was nothing to support him." Which is to say, "The more you have, the more you lose." "As he had come naked from his mother's womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand." Which is to say, "The more you have, the more you're going to leave behind."
Now, you can learn this lesson yourself, or you can do what wise men do. They let somebody who's been there before them tell them something, and they can believe it's true, or let somebody who is wiser than them, whose eye is not dark but whose entire being is light, speak into their dark hearts and free them up from the millions of advertisements which are trying to consume them with another hope.
If you don't believe Solomon, listen to some of these men. Rockefeller said, "I've made millions but they have brought me no happiness." Vanderbilt said, "The care of 200 million dollars is enough to kill anyone." John Jacob Aster said, "I am the most miserable man on the earth." Ford said, "I was happier when I was doing a mechanic's job." Carnegie said, "Millionaires seldom smile."
A couple of weeks ago, a group of us got together, and we heard a friend of ours, Bob Rowling, speak, who is now one of the 40 richest men in the world, and he said, "I know this is going to sound crazy to you, but having this much wealth is an incredible burden," and I know a lot of us thought, "Pack it on my back, baby. Pack it on my back."
One of my favorite quotes is from Lord Ashton which says basically this, "The rich are infinitely better off than the poor because, while the poor still think that money will buy them happiness, the rich know better," yet we are a hard audience to sell. We still think, "Hey, we're fine throwing a bone to God. We're okay with this Jesus thing, but do I really want to be consumed by God? Really? Is that where life is? You know what? I think, if was a consumer who could consume whatever I wanted to consume, that's when I would find life."
We go through our lives as jerks, saying, "I don't need anything except this next thing…just this ashtray, just this paddle game. Just the ashtray and the paddle game…I don't need anything else, and these matches and this lamp and this chair and these matches and the magazine," and on he goes. We're like a bunch of jerks, and "life is tough, but it's even tougher when you're stupid." I want to tell you, a loving Father doesn't want to let his children live in stupidity and darkness, so God speaks on this topic more than any other single topic of Scripture.
When you stand before him, if you have balked on this one, let me encourage you not to use this defense: "Well, I just wasn't clear on what you thought about this one." He's going to go, "Really? Which one of the 2,000 verses that I've given to help you with this did you not get? Which one of the 15 percent of things that I constantly talked about did you miss? I loved you, and you used that tool not for my glory but to exalt yourself. That was your god.
You didn't pass this test, and the testimony that you have given is that you don't love me. You threw me a profession of a bone, but you don't love me. You were consumed with the world, and anyone who loves the world doesn't love the Father. Just because you say, 'Lord, Lord,' doesn't mean I'm your Lord." God doesn't want you to serve a lord that is no Lord at all. He wants you to find freedom.
Listen to this. I found this on a website a while back, and I'm going to read it to you, but this could be the testimony of a large percentage of folks who are in our body. "So, I'm sitting here steaming about how much I hate my job, and I realized something. I don't really need to work here. So, why do I? I'll tell you why. Because I sold my soul to the Devil. That's why. I've given up freedom for the ability to buy new shoes or a nicer TV, and for what?
All the people I know that have less than I do are happier than I am, mostly because they don't sit in prison nine hours a day or more doing nothing of importance to humanity just so they can buy some crap they don't ever really want. Oh, I need a new iPod or a new DVD burner or a new whatever.
No, I don't. I don't need any of that stuff. I need to reclaim my virtue. I need to reclaim my happiness. I need peace of mind. I need to quit this fricking nightmare job, sell my house and all the useless crap in it, rent a tiny apartment, and begin to live life. I have to wait until we close at 5:00 before I start, though. Damn! I'm exasperated!"
Okay? Now, you read that, and you know what? How many of us kind of go, "You know, I may not use those words, but God is over there just looking at me, and he's saying, 'You know what? You don't need that stuff, and that stuff is going to consume you and leave you empty.'" Here's why God hates materialism. Here's why God hates us as we're consumed by what this world is selling.
Here's why we're going to spend a number of weeks just shining the light on it so we can have again light go into this dark lamp of our eyes that are consistently wooed a different direction. God wants us to see clearly. He wants us to know that the price tags have been switched around and hung on the wrong things and that this world values stuff that he doesn't in the way he doesn't want us to so that we might not be burdened trying to accomplish it.
We think we can go to the Bible for comfort. We think we can go to the Bible for information about things that are in the next life, but if we want information on finances, if we want information on money, we go to Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, that that's where you go. I'm going to tell you, "No!"
God's Word is the most relevant book in the world for you to handle your finances…not your personal wealth manager. God's Word. If you go to a personal wealth manager, an accountant, a stockbroker, or anybody else before you are thoroughly informed by this book, you will be consumed in a way that will bring darkness to your soul.
God says in Hebrews 12:1-2, "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us…" God is for you. "…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him…" Did not love the crown of this world. "… [but he] endured the cross, despising the shame…"
In other words, what that means is he said, "I could really care less about the shame that this world assigns me. I could really care less about the comforts I miss out on in this world. It is despicable and worthless to me. I will treat it as nothing, as less than nothing, even as meaningless. You cannot serve anything but God if you want to find life." Follow him.
In 2 Timothy 2:1-4, Paul, when he is closing his last book that he wrote said this. "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses…" The light that I have given you by the grace of God through the Holy Spirit that he has given to me. "…entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." So the eyes of this word are not dark and so that the souls of men are not imprisoned.
"Suffer hardship with me…" Which is to say, "Despise this world." "…as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." Then Paul uses a Marine metaphor. He says, "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier."
Let me ask you this. Does our military want to make sure that our soldiers are well fed? You bet. Does our military want to make sure our soldiers are well dressed, that they have the arms necessary? You bet. Do we want our military over there only concerned about their comfort? No, because it will get in the way of their job.
Do we want them wearing silk and linen, sleeping on feather pillows so they can be deeply unaware of what goes on around them, or do we want them greatly provided for but alert and ready to face the terror of the enemy? That's exactly what God says for us. Make sure, while you're here on active duty, that you don't make it about your comfort.
The reason that God hates materialism, the reason that God is so committed to communicating to us about this is because he loves us, for the same reason he hates anything that obligates, enslaves, and leaves people whom he cares for empty. It's because he is good. Let me say it to you this way. God is not, if you will, absolutely obsessed with this because he is concerned that you're going to find a better deal and leave him lonely. That's not why he spoke on this.
He's not concerned that, if you start to cast your eyes around the room, you might find a brunette who's more desirable. He knows you'll find something that can seduce you, and it's siren song can shipwreck you on the ocean of life, and he wants to tie you to the mast of truth and anchor you to the strength of his Word, so you will not go where every other man goes with a dark heart and an uninformed soul.
C.S. Lewis calls God the transcendental interferer. I love that. In other words, God wants to continue to interject himself into our lives. A guy named Randy Acorn, I want to tell you, has written the definitive book on this outside of Scripture called Money, Possessions, and Eternity. It is a book that every individual ought to read more than once in their lifetime and read regularly. He says this. "[God] can throw a great party but he also knows how to spoil one."
Some of us are down here in the midst of what we think is a great party of self-indulgence, and God is going to do all he can to interrupt and say, "Let me shake you out of what you think is a great time and sober you up. I want to call you out of what you think is a great party and give you life indeed."
Jeremiah 29:11 tells you why God is so concerned about this topic. It's not because he needs your cash. It's because he loves you. He says in Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'" That is my desire for you, so come to me and quit being consumed by the world.
You know, financial planners are always trying to get folks who they're working with, because they take a shadow of the truth that God has given us… They tell you, "Man, you can't think about today. You have to think about 30 years from now." Do you know what God says? "You have to think about 30 million years from now."
Moses knew that, so at the end of his life, he wrote a song to give to his people. In Psalm 90, this is what he said in his song. "As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years…for soon it is gone and we fly away." Lord, you teach us. You give light to the dark lamp of my soul. "…teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom."
"You begin with the end in mind," Stephen Covey steals from God's Word. "You think about 30 million years from now," financial planners steal from the authority of God's Word. That's why you read this book first…because he loves you. John Tillotson said this. "He who provides for this life but takes no care for eternity is wise for a moment but a fool forever."
The reason that God hates materialism, money, and all that can so easily consume us is because God hates anything that keeps his people from him, and hearts given to something other than him will not enter the kingdom of God. Now, this is pretty sobering stuff right here. Let me say it to you one more time. God hates anything that keeps people from him, and money, possession, and material things and folks who love them will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
A guy named A.W. Tozer, a great communicator of the last century, said, "The man of pseudo faith will fight for his verbal creed but refuse flatly to allow himself to get into a predicament where his future must depend upon that creed being true. He always provides himself with secondary ways of escape so he will have a way out if the roof caves in."
He's saying, "I'm going to insure myself against the fact that I can't really trust God with tomorrow, so I'm going to store up for myself here security and not trust God with security." He says, "What we need very badly these days is a company of believers who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they know they must do at the last day."
Do you want to know why we are having such an ineffective impact on our society? It's because we are consumed by the same thing those who don't know the light of hope that we know are consumed by, so they go, "I'm not sure where to find hope to deliver me from what is ruling in my heart, but it must not be Jesus. It must not be the God of the Christian because I see them enslaved to what I'm enslaved to," and God hates that.
Randy Alcorn says, "Our use of money and possessions is a decisive statement of our eternal values. What we do with our money loudly affirms which kingdom we belong to. […] Far too many evangelical Christians have succumbed to the heresy that this present life may be lived disobediently without serious effects on their eternal state. […] Never have so many thought that as long as they affirm with their lips a certain doctrinal statement, they may live their lives indifferent to human need and divine command, and all will turn out well in the end."
It's happening right now. There is an irrefutable relationship between our spiritual condition and our attitudes and our actions concerning money and possessions. Let me say that again. There is an irrefutable relationship between our attitudes and our actions related to material possessions and our relationship with God.
Jesus tells two specific stories where he illustrates this. One is the rich young ruler. Without taking the time to read all the way through that, the rich young ruler is exposed because he is shown, though he thinks he's keeping the law, to love something more than God, and God lets him walk away. His heart was still heavy and grieved because God exposed to him that he didn't love him more than his possessions.
Then a little bit later, he tells the story about Zacchaeus, a man who had stolen from others, who had built himself great wealth, and when Zacchaeus met Jesus, he understood the foolishness of his ways and his ill-gotten profit, the way he had wronged others for his own comfort, and when he said, "I'm going to take half of everything I have and give it to the poor, and if I've wronged anybody, I'm going to pay them back four times what I've taken from them," that is when Jesus said, "I tell you today, eternity has come to this household."
In other words, he looked at the way that people handled money and material possessions, and he said, "This is the great testimony of whom it is they serve." You can tell me all day long what your doctrinal creed is, but Jesus says, "I'm going to look at the practice of your life and if you are willing to live by the immense revelation that I've given you, because you can't serve God and money."
He says, "You can tell me all day long you know money is not worth serving, but when at the end of the day, you live your life the way the world tells you to live your life, contrary to how I've revealed you should live your life, I will tell you who your Lord is, and I will tell you who you've served, and you are absolutely naïve to believe that, just because you have some professed doctrinal statement down, this is not going to impact your eternity." God hates things that bring a false hope and sense of security to his people.
Proverbs 11:4 says, "Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death." Proverbs 18:11: "A rich man's wealth is his strong city…" His impregnable fortress. "…and like a high wall in his own imagination." That levee will not hold the flood of God's judgment, so he says in Proverbs 23:4-5, "Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens."
God cares about materialism because he cares about you, and he hates things that bring a false hope or security to his people. Jesus told one of his 38 stories about this in Luke, chapter 12, verses 15 through 20. I'm going to read it to you because this is Jesus' way of saying, "Hey, life is tough, but it's tougher if you're stupid."
He said to them, "Listen, idiots, darkened-eyed ones." "Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.""All of you think it does," he says to those people, and he's talking to Todd Wagner. He's talking to Watermark Community Church, and he's talking to our friends and guests who are here today when he says that.
"And He told them a parable, saying, 'The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself…'" Look at the lamp coming into his soul. "…saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?' 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.'"
I'll diversify. I'll reinvest. I'll insure against tomorrow's trauma, so if the bond market falls out, I have real estate. If the real estate market falls out, I have gold. If the gold market falls out, I have oil. I'll make sure that I'm never in need again. "And I will say to my soul…""Soul, now you're diversified and secure."
"'…you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.' 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?'" In other words, wealth doesn't equal immorality. In other words, having many possessions does not equal many days.
In other words, "many days," is what he thought. God said, "Tonight." He thought, "Be merry." God said, "Be gone." Let me get this very clear, because too many times we talk about how materialism is a problem. It's worse than a problem. According to Jesus, storing up earthly treasures isn't simply wrong. It is stupid…his words, not mine. God hates when his people live as if he can't satisfy.
I love what C.S. Lewis said. C.S. Lewis said, "He who has God and everything else has no more than he who has God only." Do we believe that? The way we live our lives will communicate as a testimony to others who God is, and God wants others to know his greatness, not the fact that we serve him out of our abundance and wealth and acknowledge that he is good, as if we're throwing him some kind of cash for protectionism so he doesn't take away from us what is ours.
Things are to be used, and God is to be loved. We get in trouble when we begin to use God and love things. When goods become gods, we have issues. In Jeremiah, chapter 2:4-13, God is saying, "What's going on with these people?" Has this ever happened, that a nation left the God they loved? They've left the fountain of living waters that is their relationship with God, and they've hewn for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that hold no water.
"Why would you leave me, the fountain of living waters, and go and try and find life in a water fountain that trickles?" I grew up going to an elementary school probably much like you, that the drinking fountains, you know, you had to basically do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on top of them just to get water out of there. I used to go, "Man, how great would it be to have good water you could really drink?"
How many of you have been running out in the park, and there's a little drinking fountain, that little cylindrical cement stand, and you go over there, and you hit it, and it leaves you wanting? Maybe there's a little water coming out. You don't know who's sucked on that piece of chrome before you, and when you put your mouth down there, it's lukewarm and dirty anyway.
God is saying, "That's what you guys have done when over here is a fountain spring. Live and love with me." God says it to us this way, "If you are not content, then you will then contend for that which leads to temptation and is a trap." First Timothy 6:9: "But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction."
"I love you, and I don't want you to go into ruin an destruction, so I'm going to speak and teach and teach and teach and teach on this so you will not be consumed, that you can gain the freedom that I want for you because I love you." God hates and speaks about this so much because he hates to see people give themselves to fleeting things.
What does this list have in common? The pyramids of Egypt, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus at Rhodes, and the Pharos or the Lighthouse at Alexandria. What do they have in common? Does anybody know what that list is? It's the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Of those seven, guess how many of them you can go visit today. It's one, and they're not too open for business. God's saying, "This is what makes men great. This is what men love. This is what they are exalted for, and they're fleeting, and I hate when my people give all their love to things that are fleeting."
A friend of mine, Gene Getz, who pastors a church up north wrote a book called A Biblical Theology of Material Possessions. I love this. There was an arsonist who went and burnt down the offices of Fellowship Bible Church North about a decade ago, and Gene Getz was walking through his office where all his original manuscripts were, all his lifelong notes and work as a pastor.
He was kicking around the ashes in his office. There was nothing left in his office…true story. He said he was kicking through the ashes, and he kicked one manuscript, and it was unharmed. He picked it up out of the ashes and blew the ashes off, and it was called A Biblical Theology of Material Possessions. God was saying, "Do you want some theology on material possessions? Look around you." Now there's a paper.
I took my kids to the fair last week for a couple of hours, and we were there, and one of the things I always let them do is play two games in the midway, and I let them, if they want, to play the game with me, and one of the games that we do well in is that little squirt gun game. My sweet little Landry said, "Dad, I want to play one of my games with you," so she sat in my lap, and we won a wonderful stuffed bear, a pretty good-sized one.
We're walking along, and she loves this thing. I mean, you know, life was full. Life was complete because she had that bear under her arm. Well, brother and sister went to more complicated games, trying to win Xboxes and things of that sort. Good luck! Along the way, Landry kept looking at this bear. I just said, "Hey, Landry, you know, you have lots of stuffed animals at home."
I want to tell you, this was a poorly made bear. It wasn't worth the $3 we paid to win the game. You know, it says, "Two must play to win." Well, they probably win if I play alone and they give me the bear, but hey, it was bright, and it was new. It was hers, and she was happy. I just started to say, "You know, this is a great opportunity to try and teach my little 7-year-old something."
I said, "Landry, you know, you love that bear. Don't you?" She goes, "Daddy, this is the greatest bear ever." I said, "Do you want to really see that bear bring you joy?" I go, "Let's look for a little girl who's here maybe with a mom or dad who doesn't look like they can buy for them a lot, watch them play games that they can't win, and I want you to take that bear and see if you want to consider giving that to that little girl who maybe doesn't go home to a room full of stuffed animals."
She went, "Right, Dad. Corny dog! Let's go! A little bit later." I tried to bring light to that dark eye, and about, I think the thirty-seventh time I mentioned it, she thought I might be onto something. I just said, "Landry, I promise you that this is going to bring you more joy than that bear will ever bring you if you take it home."
I said, "Let's just at least do this." We knelt down there at the state fair at the midway, and I just prayed. I said, "Lord, if there's somebody here who this bear could make happier than it could make Landry, would you just let us see them, and would you just stir Landry's heart and have her want to share that bear."
What we did is we stopped. We were getting ready to leave. I said, "Landry, this is your moment. You have to decide. Do you want to walk up and down with Dad looking for somebody, or do you want to go home with your bear?" She said, "I'll walk up and down with you." We walked up and down, and after we were gone down a little ways, we saw a young boy who couldn't play a carnival game if he wanted to, in a wheelchair where his head was back in his little pad, and his mom and dad were pushing him.
Every now and then, he could move his little thing to the left and the right with his hands, and I just said, "Landry." She just walked right up to him, and I said, "Hang on." I walked up to the dad who was pushing him, and I said, "Hey." I go, "Let me ask you a question." I said, "Would you mind if my daughter shared her animal with your son?" He looked at his wife, and he goes, "No." I said, "Okay, Landry." Landry walked around in front of that wheelchair, and the little kid was just zoned out. His eyes couldn't even focus.
The dad said, "I'm sorry. We've been here for a long time, and he has completely zoned out. We can't get his attention." Landry took that bear and put it into his lap, and all of a sudden, those eyes went right to that bear, and you wouldn't have believed the smile, and in that moment, this is what happened to me, and I could see that bear bring Landry immense joy.
We walked away from there, and I want to tell you what. I've never won a prize for $3 that was that valuable in my entire life. I had two of my other kids with me when Landry did this, and I just thought right there, "Man, that is so me to want to hold onto bears for my kids, but it's fleeting, and there is so much power in living with our possessions the way God tells us to live with our possessions."
Do you want to know why God speaks so much about this? Do you want to know where joy is? Then you stick with us these next weeks and don't let this world consume you because God is bigger than the world we'll leave, and he's better than them, too, and you need to know that.
Father, I pray for us as a family of Christ followers, that we would learn that your way is a better way and that there is life in following you. I pray that you would just change our hearts these coming weeks, and you'd change them so radically that we would see smiles and we would see hearts that are warmed and we would see parents who are stunned and that we could marvel ourselves that you would bless us in such a way that we could bless somebody who we, really, don't deserve to bless, but you let us because we walk as you walk.
Father, I pray that you'd just bring life to these dark eyes of ours and that, in this city that is consistently bombarded with a constant reminder that things are the source of happiness, we would live as people who are not of this world, and we would love and serve others and live in such a way that the money you've given us would be a tool for your glory.
I pray that we would pass the test so that not only do we see smiles on this earth, but we hear words from our King: "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with little things, and now I will reward you with much." Help us to not be stupid. May our testimony be by the way we handle, in attitude and action, money and material possessions, that you are King, and that you are bigger than this world we'll leave.
Whether youre deep in debt or have the tendency to hoard, the Bible is clear that there is a direct correlation between our attitude toward money and our relationship with God. Through these six messages by Todd Wagner, pastor of Watermark Community Church, you will learn Gods heart on the issues of materialism, debt, and being consumed with money and possessions. Our hope is that you will take away practical tools for handling what God has entrusted to you and surrendering your finances to Gods wisdom and direction - ultimately leading you to financial freedom.