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Money is a tool God gives us to provide for ourselves. It was always intended to be a blessing to us, but never intended to be the object of our affection. Nonetheless, many of us have fallen in love with the Giver's gifts instead of the Giver.
All the Church Wants for You is What Christ Wants
Seeing Clearly Through Debt and Savings
Why God Doesn't Want You to be Jerked Around by Materialism
The Danger of the "Bad Eye" and the Beauty of Seeing Clearly
Well, we have been talking about how, when you come to know who Christ is, everything changes. There's a switch, and if there's not a switch in the way you view all of reality…your own life, everything on this earth, our opportunities, even our trials…you have probably not come to see God for who he really is, and the spirit which operates you is probably not the Holy One you think it is.
When you have a spirit that is committed to darkness and self and brokenness and deception, when you come into relationship with a different spirit, a holy Spirit, a Spirt of truth, the Spirit of Christ, everything changes, the way you view all things. The Scripture says that everything God created is good and that all things are useful if they're sanctified by the Word of God and by prayer.
What happens, though, when we take things God has given and we don't sanctify them by the Word of God and prayer but we're still operating by a spirit that seems right to men, things God intended for us to have that would be life-giving become, in fact, life-taking. They aren't a blessing. They're a curse. What Christ does is redeems that. He enters into our darkened understanding and our hard hearts. He softens them and brings light. He changes everything.
I mean, sex is an easy and great example of this. Sex is not the Enemy's tool to destroy us. It's God's gift to bless us, but when we don't use sex the way God gave us sex to be used, this thing which is supposed to bring us together, give intimacy and strength and warmth and love, creates division and scars and guilt and death.
I mean, the classic illustration about sex is that it's like fire. When you have fire in your home in the right place, it's a source of gathering and warmth and beauty, and everyone is attracted to it, but if you take it out of the fireplace and just throw it in the middle of your kitchen or middle of your living room or a place that it doesn't belong, it destroys the house. God loves sex. He just wants to switch our understanding of it and the way we use it.
It's not with just sex. It's everything. It's also with silver and money. I want to talk to you over these next four weeks about money. I want to talk to you about a biblical perspective on money. I want to share with you how the God who loves you wants this thing which is in and of itself neither good nor evil… I want to share with you how it can be a source of blessing and not a curse.
We're going to do a little series called Switch, and if you come to understood that God is good and that he loves you, you will run to him for advice on how to perceive, use, handle, and live with money. What I want to do is I'm just going to teach you on this by giving you some myths. Then I'm going to tell you the truth.
I'm going to try and switch your understanding, and it's not going to be my perception of money because I'm just like you. I'm an individual who, left to himself, would use money for comfort and for self-gain, but by the grace of God, as I have become a steward of the mystery of God and a servant of Christ, my view of money and material possessions has switched.
I want to say to you this morning, "I'm not going to tell you what I think about money. I'm going to tell you what a loving God says about it." I hope it creates a transformation in your life that will make money a tool for glory to God, good for others, and a source of great joy to yourself. Let me start.
Here's the very first myth. The myth is simply this, that money is the root of all evil. Now even before I dive into that, we all can think of moments when we have used money that we thought it was going to give us life, and it didn't really give us the life we were looking for. Right? This thing that God had given us as a tool, we can misuse and misappropriate.
Here's a classic example of this. This is an ad that I found on eBay a while ago, and it just has a picture up here, as you can see, of some leather pants. Now those leather pants in and of themselves are really not an issue. What made this particular ad pop at me was the item description. Let me just read it to you. This is what you can find on eBay. It said this:
"You are bidding on a mistake. We all make mistakes. We date the wrong people for too long. We chew gum with our mouths open. We say inappropriate things in front of grandma. And we buy leather pants. I can explain these pants and why they are in my possession. I bought them many, many years ago under the spell of a woman whom I believed to have [good] taste.
She suggested I try them on. I did. She said they looked [really] good. I wanted to have a relationship of sorts with her. I'm stupid and prone to impulsive decisions. I bought the pants. The relationship, probably for better, never materialized. The girl, whose name I can't even recall, is a distant memory. I think she was short.
Ultimately the pants were placed in the closet where they have remained, unworn, for nearly a decade. I would like to emphasize that: Aside from trying these pants on [in the presence of a short woman whose name I can't remember] they have never, ever been worn. In public or private. I have not worn these leather pants for the following reasons: I am not a member of Queen. I do not like motorcycles. I am not Rod Stewart. I am not French. I do not cruise for transvestites in an expensive sports car.
These were not cheap leather pants. They are Donna Karan leather pants. They're for men. Brave men, I would think. Perhaps tattooed, pierced men. In fact, I'll go so far as to say you either have to be very tough, very [gender-confused], or very famous to wear these pants and get away with it. Again, they're men's pants, but they'd probably look great on the right lady. Ladies can get away with leather pants much more often than men can. It's a sad fact that men who own leather pants will have to come to terms with.
They are size 34x34. I am no longer size 34x34, so even were I to suddenly decide I was a famous [rock star] I would not be able to wear these pants. These pants are destined for someone else. For reasons unknown—perhaps to keep my options open, in case I wanted to become a pirate—I have shuffled these unworn pants from house to house, closet to closet. Alas, it is now time to part ways so that I may use the extra room for any rhinestone-studded jeans I may purchase in the future.
These pants are in excellent condition. They were never taken on pirate expeditions. They weren't worn onstage. They didn't straddle a Harley… They just hung there, sad and ignored, for a few presidencies. Someone, somewhere, will look great in these pants. I'm hoping that someone is you, or that you can be suckered into buying them by a girl you're trying to [impress]."
Now I love that. I hope the guy sold the pants, but you know, he took this money, which was to be a source of blessing, and he wasn't blessed by it, so he might have had the phrase roll off his lips, as many of you maybe have thought it heard to be said that money is the root of all evil. That, my friends, is not a biblical truth. Money is not the root of all evil. That's a myth.
The truth is that money is a tool. It's a test. It's a testimony. It's a tool for you to use to provide for yourself and others. It's a test to see if you live for yourself or you live for something greater than yourself. It's a testimony about what you worship. That's what money really is. It is, therefore, also a temptation and a trap.
God doesn't give you something to tempt you. He just tests you and lets you see what spirit you follow. If you follow a spirit that wants you to take something and use it for your own destruction, it turns into a temptation and a trap, and many have been pierced by it. This is 1 Timothy, chapter 6, verses 9 through 10. It says:
"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. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
Can I just say this to you this morning? This thing that God gave to us, a means that we might barter with one another and trade, was meant to be a tool for you to provide for yourself and a blessing, but many of us have pierced ourselves with many a pang, not just because we love money and it was, therefore, the source of every evil, but it was the source of all kinds of evil.
The love of money, it says in the Scripture, "…is a root of all sorts of evil…" It takes us down roads that are much, much more dangerous than just leather pants. Some of us live our whole lives trying to serve this thing called money. Money, the Scripture says, is a wonderful servant. It's just an awful master.
Did you know that Jesus tells you to let money work for you? He tells you you're a fool to not let that money be useful to you. You are a vice-regent. You have been given some responsibility, and what he's saying is, "Use what I've given you to bless you, to bring glory to God, to curry even favor with man, and to be a source ultimately of great eternal joy in your life, abundant joy presently and in the world to come."
Money in and of itself is just a thing. What we do with it determines if it's helpful or not helpful. The truth is that the man who thinks money can do anything is probably a man who can be assumed will do anything for money, and men who can do anything for money are very dangerous indeed. Money is really an opportunity for faithfulness or selfishness. Money is the smallest of things to be trusted with. Money is worthless to ultimately serve and to trust in.
You know, we go to the Scripture when we want to find comfort, but we don't typically go to the Scripture when we're looking for information about how we handle money, and that's a mistake because we define comfort as ultimately that which comes to us when there is trouble, but God says, "How about living this way, in a way you can be comfortable that the choices you make aren't going to add trouble in your life?"
He says, "Before you go to Forbes, before you go to the economist, before you go to Wall Street to figure out what to do with money, come to me, and I will give you rest. Don't just come to me when money has been used to hurt you that you might be comforted that I will take what you intended for evil and use it for good. Come to me now." In this world filled with troubles, in this world where we may never do anything wrong and trials come, we are comforted by the fact that God explains to us why evil is here.
He explains to us that, sometimes, he wants us to endure sickness and hardship and rejection and still have joy as a testimony to God's sufficiency in all things, and sickness and hardship and rejection are hard enough when they just come really through no fault of our own, but how much more uncomfortable is it when, through our own stupidity and rebellion by following the spirit of error, it creates our own troubles.
God doesn't want to just comfort you when you come to the end of yourself by your wrong decisions. God wants to comfort you that you don't have to worry anymore where life might be found, by finding it fully in him and leaning not on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledging him that he might make your path straight.
Jesus talks a lot about money. Sixteen of the 38 parables Jesus told were told about money and possessions. More is said about money in the New Testament than heaven and hell combined. Jesus said five times more about money than prayer. Two hundred eighty-eight verses in the Gospels, one in every 10, deal directly with money. Fifteen percent of everything Jesus said was related to the subject of money.
There were 500 verses on prayer in the Scripture. In the New Testament, there are 2,000 on money. Now why is that? Why is so much attention given to this thing? The reason is because it's one of the very first places we go to try and find life, and we are perceiving money for something it was never intended to be. It is a wonderful servant. It is a horrible master. Now Jesus talked about money in one of the very first messages he ever gave, and in doing so, he was trying to help people understand the basic core of who he was.
Let me just says this. Most of us this morning don't have a hard time with the fact that God exists. We struggle with the fact that God is good; therefore, we don't always listen to God in all things, and that's where Jesus says, "That's a mistake. No good thing do I withhold from those who love me. In my presence is fullness of joy, and in my right hand are pleasures forever, the Scripture says.
I know the plans that I have for you, plan to give you a future and a hope, plans for welfare and not for calamity, but the reason you need comforting, the reason there is calamity and not welfare, is because you have not perceived reality and you have not used things in this world by having them sanctified by my Word and by relationship with me."
Jesus, in this little sermon, says this. He says, " [Listen] , do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal." It's not good for you to do that. He says, " 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."
This is what's really interesting. In the midst of this, it's almost like the disciples are playing a joke on him, as if Jesus was reading on a teleprompter and all of a sudden they just inserted some lines in here that have nothing to do with what he's talking about.
In other words, if you'll follow that with me, it'd be like if Jesus went right from this and he just said, "…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also , " and then jumped right down to verse 24, and said, "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." That's not what Jesus says.
Like I said, as almost a joke, right there on the teleprompter in the Sermon on the Mount, something else pops up. See if you can follow it. Jesus says this. "…where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 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!"
You're listening, and you're like, "What just happened? Did he lose his train of thought? Did he go off script? Did Peter and John just pull one over on him by changing the cue cards?" No. What Christ is doing right here is he's saying, "This is what has to happen. You have to know who I am, know that I am God and that I love you.
You have to perceive reality from the Spirit and perspective of God because, if you serve money and it's your master, it will enslave you, and if you serve me, I will bring you freedom. The problem with you and money is that you perceive it wrong. What was to be a source of beauty and provision is chaotic and nonsensical and doesn't make others appreciate the way you use this gift that God has given you."
Our friend, Lance, who comes up here… You watch what he does, and you look at that, and you go, "That's okay. Lance is nice. I mean, I saw the cross, and I saw what was happening there, but ultimately, it's not really a source of beauty. It's not really something I look at and make much sense of," but the problem is not with what Lance has done.
The problem is with our eyes, and because our eyes don't see it correctly, what you perceive becomes your reality. Jesus says, "The reality is how you perceive things is the problem," so he's trying to show you from his perspective what truth is. When you see money from a biblical perspective, it's a thing of beauty. It's a thing of wonder. It's a thing of glory.
People look at this all of a sudden. How about this? There are lots of people who look at your life, and they go, "Man, God has given you a gift, the gift of blessing." If you're here, you are some of the wealthiest people on the face of the earth, probably some of the wealthier people in Dallas. We have exceptions to that. We have many in our body who are part of the group that would be at or below the poverty line, but by and large, we are an upper-level socioeconomic congregation.
Here's the deal. I think a lot of us are using money in a way that people watch us have money, and they kind of wash their hands of it, like when Lance was done initially. They go, "I guess that's all right," but they don't look at the way you're using your gift as a sense of beauty because, frankly, the way we look at the gift is not being used the way God wants it to.
I think if we switched the way we view money, the world would all of a sudden go, "Hey, there's something different about that community. There's something different about the way they're using their gift of blessing and money that all of a sudden I see in that God, and I see the way God has brought about through them beauty in a way that normally creates war and division and selfishness and greed and destruction and causes dads to give themselves away to other things and lose their families."
I really think the reason that money we have is not a source of beauty to the world is because we see money wrongly, and I think the reason so many of us see money wrongly is because we're not going to Jesus and asking him to teach us about it. I hope, over the course of the next week, you get a biblical perspective on money and it changes the way you view it, and all of a sudden, it's not going to be a temptation and a trap. It's going to be a tool for you to glorify God, serve others, and bless yourself.
You see, here's the thing about money. Money is a tool the Enemy uses to draw us away from God. He tells us it's something God says it's not. He's just a liar. That's all he is, and Jesus tries to switch our understanding about the myth by giving us truth. Sin is always deceitful. It looks like it's life-giving, but in the end, it doesn't give life. It produces death. It has a thin layer of sweetness, but that sweetness quickly erodes, and there is more than a sour, bitter taste. There is poison underneath.
This is what it says is Hebrews, chapter 3, verse 13. It says, "…encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' so that none of you will be hardened [or lest any of you] be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Let me just explain this to you really quickly, and I'll teach about money on this. Sin is deceitful, and money is deceitful in this way. All sin is deceitful because it makes us think that, if we just give ourselves to it, it will satisfy us. That's why we keep going there. We think that will meet our needs, that will bring us comfort.
Let's just be honest. For a moment, it does bring us comfort, but it's a fleeting comfort that is always wrapped with guilt and shame, separation, isolation, and death. We just don't see it. We think it will satisfy, and it doesn't. This is what Solomon writes to us. In Ecclesiastes, chapter 5, verses 10 through 13, he wants us to know this.
I have read these verses in the presence of individuals with immense amounts of money, people who are in the top hundred in the world, and they've heard this, and they in a sense said, "Who said that? Because that is true." Everybody else in the room with them kind of looks at them and just says, "What do mean, 'That is true'?" One guy says, "I'm living that life, and what that guy wrote is true. It never ultimately satisfies." Here's what is says. Solomon says:
"He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity. When good things increase, those who consume them increase. So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on? 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. There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt."
There is the famous quote by Rockefeller that says something like this. "How much money do you need? It is said, 'Just one more dollar.'" How many times do you need to return to that bottle? "Just one more time, just one more cigarette, just one more visit to that website, just one more dalliance, just one more emotional forging of intimacy with somebody who's not mine to forge intimacy with, and that'll be it. I'll never do it again," and it never satisfies.
Jesus says, "Come to me. I'll satisfy. I'm the Bread of Life." Sin and money are deceitful as a god because, in addition to not satisfying when it offers us satisfaction, we always think that we can manage it. Have you had that experience, you invite something into your life which you may know is not a good thing to invite into your life?
Like, you say, "Well, I'll just take a little look. I won't dwell there. I'll just have a conversation with this woman. I'll have dinner with this woman, but I won't really have an after-dinner drink with her. Well, I'll have an after-dinner drink with her, but I won't walk her back to her room. Okay, I'll walk her back to her room. I'm going to go in her room, but I'm not going to sit there. Okay, I'm going to go in her room, and I'm going to sit there, but I'm not going to lie. I'll lie, but I'm not going to touch her." We always think we can control it.
There's a reason they call certain drugs gateway drugs. It's because all they do is take you to another place. I've used this illustration many times. Sin is like bringing a little wild cub into your life. I, as a kid, always wanted a wild animal for a pet. I wanted a raccoon, or really, when I was asking big, I said, "Give me a tiger. Give me Simba. Give me a little lion cub."
Here's the problem with raccoons or tigers or lion cubs. They are incredibly cute, but they grow into tigers, and no matter how much you love them and raise them and manage them, they are wild beasts. They may not eat you when they grow, but it is no longer your decision as to whether or not they will eat you.
A number of years ago when I taught on temptation, I actually brought a white Siberian tiger up here with me, little 8-week-old Calypso. I used this illustration, and I talked about it, and I gave many illustrations in all of our lives where we begin to coddle sin and we name it. It's our little, cute little Calypso, and he's so sweet.
I brought him out, and guess what everybody did? They went, "Aw!" "Look how cute that little addiction to porn is. He's not really paying for it yet. He's just going to the free sites. Aw! That's not hurting anybody. Aw!" That little tiger got on that little finger of mine and started sucking it, and everybody went, "Aw!" They weren't listening to a word I was saying. They were looking at me hold this little 8-week-old Siberian tiger cub.
Well, I went and visited Calypso about six months later. He weighed about (I don't know) 200 pounds. About six months after that, he was shipped off to the Orlando zoo, where now he is about a 400-pound Siberian tiger, and Calypso is no longer going to remember me. I don't care how much I fed it or raised it. Calypso is going to say, "Listen, I am no longer a cub, and I know you invited me into your home. I know you raised me and fed me, and you named me and loved me, but let me tell you something. I own you."
See, sin is deceitful like that. Some of us are playing with something right now, and we'll just say, "Oh, I'm not going to really give my whole life to money, but I'm going to work these first five years, and then I'm going to make enough money that I can slow it down, get a house so my wife and I can then raise kids, and that'll be enough. We'll get serious about our relationship then. I'm going to travel a lot and be a road warrior now, but man, by the time I'm 28 or 30… I'm going to make my first million by the time I'm 30, and then I'm going to move from success to significance."
How's that going for you? Have you jumped off that train? By the way, has that strategy been informed by a God who loves you and wants what's best for you? No. You've been deceived in thinking that, maybe because it's kind of acceptable sin within the Christian community… Boy, isn't it like that?
You know, there are a lot of sins that are out there that we really run from, but within Christendom, this is one we play with. We don't run from it. We're not really scared of it. We kind of invite it in, and we play with it. Growing rich is not a temptation that many Christians really pause to consider the danger in it.
Let me just say this. Let me give you another myth. Here's a myth. It's that you cannot love God and be rich. Let me just say that again. It is a myth that you can't love God and be rich. It is true that a desire to be rich and a love for money is the source of all kinds of evil, but it's also reality that, if you have gifts and you're good at using your gifts, you are going to run into blessing.
Proverbs 22:29 says, "Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men." In fact, all the kings are going to fight over having him in their court, and kings pay a nice ransom to have your gifts stewarded in their kingdom or in their presence, and it's not wrong to have great gifts. It says this in the Proverbs, chapter 28, verse 20. "A faithful man will abound with blessings…"
When you are effective and learned and studied and disciplined, you are often going to put yourself in a place where there is provision, often abundant provision, that comes your way, if by the grace of God you live in a land in a country where there is freedom to do just that, and it is not necessarily evidence that you don't love God if you are rich.
Let me just read you a few things here. This is what Martin Luther said. "If silver and gold are things evil in themselves, then those who keep away from them deserve to be praised. But if they are good creatures of God…" (I would add, "…if they're sanctified by the Word of God and by prayer.") Then he says, "…which we can use both for the needs of our neighbor and for the glory of God, is not a person silly, yes, even unthankful to God, if he refrains from them as though they were evil?"
William Ames said this. "Riches…are morally neither good or bad, but things indifferent which men may use either well or ill." Materialism is nothing more than a philosophy which was created really in the eighteenth century, which basically said that reality can be found only in that which is tangible, felt, seen, and real.
The opposite of materialism, if you had to create a dichotomy (I don't think you do)… If you created a dichotomy where materialism is here, the opposite of materialism is spiritualism, where you said, "There's only value in that which is unseen." The problem with that is that Jesus tell us that everything that God made is good.
What determines whether or not you will have it be a master or whether you will use it for the glory of God, the good of others, and a source of eternal joy to yourself, starting with the present (that's what eternal joy includes, the present), is how you view it. It is a myth that everybody who is rich is not godly and doesn't love God. Let me just say this to you as well. It's the same thing as this. It's a myth to believe that everybody who takes a vow of poverty and who lives a life of aestheticism and deprivation is spiritual. You may not be.
There are a lot of people who live lives of poverty and are shackled with homelessness and inability to feed themselves and their families because of lives of irresponsibility, and that is not a sign of godliness. You see, neither riches nor poverty… Let me say it to you this way. Prosperity theology is a lie from the pit of hell, but so is poverty theology, that if you love God you would be vanquished and poor.
Here's the thing. The goal is that holiness would come not from what you have or have not, but holiness should come from the One who gives holiness. Everything, if it's sanctified by the Word of God and prayer, can be a source of glory and good to others. Here's my question. Oh, rich friends, how are you sanctifying your wealth? How are you perceiving the blessing you have received because you have been given the stewardship of a day in an age in a land and a learning or a gift or a good fortune that has made you rich?
See, Ezekiel 28:4-5 warns those who don't sanctify that wealth by the Word of God and by prayer. 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 [because of that] your heart is lifted up…" When your heart is lifted up, God is opposed to the proud.
Here's the deal. God has likely blessed you, not to increase your standard of living but to increase your standard of giving. The Scriptures are very clear about why he gives us more than we need. It's because there are others who have something you lack, which is need, so in their need, your abundance can meet their need while their abundance of need can meet your need in your abundance. That's 2 Corinthians, chapter 8.
The truth that corresponds to the myth that says that all rich people must not love God is this. This is the truth, rich people. Money is one of the big three thorns that chokes out fruitfulness and faithfulness in our lives, and we need to treat it with fear and trembling, and we need to say, "Father, in my abundance of provision and blessing, I'd better not just assume that everything I have is just for my own enjoyment."
In fact, God says, "It is exactly not for that purpose." He also tells us, "Those of you who are rich, you need to know something. You have one of the big three that could prevent you from being the man or the woman I want you to be." In Mark, chapter 4, in a very famous story Jesus told, he says this. He says that the sower who sows the word in this little story is the Word of God.
"The sower sows the word. These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away."
Then we get to a category that, frankly, most of us ought to pay attention to. It says, "And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but…" The big three get them and choke out their fruitfulness. "…the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the [concern for many] things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful."
Can I just tell you this? There are all kinds of folks who are out there who are going to tell you that either poverty or prosperity is what God wants you to be. I'm going to tell you that God wants you in relationship with him, viewing all things from his perspective, and he tells you how to handle want and blessing.
If you are not an individual who attentively pays attention to the Word of God and sows it into your heart of prosperity, I'm going to tell you what the Scripture says is going to happen. It's going to choke it out, and the way you use that gift and that blessing is not going to be a thing of beauty. It's going to be a source of great confusion to a lot of people who you're telling, "The only reason I can do this is because of what God has done." They're going to look at you, and they're going to go, "That doesn't make much sense to me. I don't really see Jesus in that."
When you begin to let the Word of God and prayer sanctify your gift, the world does what you did. They go, "Oh, I delight in your gift. I see the beauty of your gift and the way you use it to the glory of the Father." There's a myth that many people believe. The myth is that all the church wants is your money.
Now let me just say this to you. There are people and buildings today. They're going to call themselves pastors and call their gatherings the gatherings of the church. They are there to tell you not the myth that, if you're rich, you must not love God. They are there to tell you that, if you love God, you will be rich, and they are prosperity teachers, and they are distorting and twisting the Scriptures to their own destruction, and they are fleecing the flock.
It is a myth that, if you're rich, you must not love God. It is also a myth that, if you love God and are faithful, you will be rich. You cannot support that biblically, but you can find that in all kinds of places. They call themselves churches, and they will tell you, "If you'll just do this today and show some expression of faith, God will bless you." Those people are not stewards of the mystery of God, and they're not servants of Christ. All they do want is your money, and they serve a different god themselves because they are not representing the God who has given you his Word.
I want to tell you something. If you're in a place where there are servants of God and stewards of the mysteries of God, you need to know something. It's a myth that all we want is your money. Here's the truth. All we want is for you to want what Christ wants, because what Christ wants for you is it to be well with you. He wants you to store up for yourself treasure in a place that moths won't eat, rust won't destroy, and thieves won't steal.
He wants to bless you. He wants you to increase in gladness. He wants you to have life now and have life everlasting. All we want for you is what God wants, and what God wants is you to have blessing and not a curse, but it is a curse to have too much blessing if you don't use that blessing the way God says you should use that blessing.
I'd say this. Our goal is not to get your money. Our goal is that money won't get you and pierce you with many a pang. The truth is that all this church wants, all this pastor wants for you is what Jesus wants. God's goal for your life is transformation. He wants you to see money differently. We want you to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
See, I don't want you to come to Watermark. I don't even want you to read God's Word. I want you to respond to God's Word. I want you, when you're here gathering with the saints, to be reminded of things that are true so you live your life in such a way that, when you stand before God, he says to you not, "Well attended…" and not, "Well tithed…," but "Well done, good and faithful servant."
What I want for you is what Christ wants for you, that you would set your heart on the things above, not on the things of the earth, and that you would treat the things of the earth with the perspective of heaven. What we want for you is for you to bear fruit in keeping with repentance and that you wouldn't have what God intends for all your life to be choked out by the deceitfulness of riches, the worries of the world, and the concern for many things.
What we want for you, what this church wants for you, is that you would lay hold of that which is life indeed. What I don't want for you is for you to be pierced with many a pang. That's what we want for you, and that's why we're going to take a look at this series, and that's why we're going to dive into these things together.
There's a very famous story I want to share with you. I just want to say this to you because what we're really going to talk about here is for you to understand the idea of stewardship. Now stewardship is not spending less money. Everybody always thinks, when they think of stewardship, it is, "I need to spend less money." No. When you think of stewardship, you need to think of faithfulness. It's not having less money. It's not having more money. It's being faithful with what you have.
Jesus tells a story in Matthew, chapter 25, verses 14 and following, and this is what it says. In Matthew 25, verses 14 through 30, it says that the kingdom of God is like this. "For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents…"
A talent is about 75 pounds of whatever it is that you're giving. You can have a talent of wheat. You can have a talent of coffee. In this case, we know from verse 18, it's a talent of what is called money, and the Greek word there suggests it's silver. You can even break this thing down to understand exactly how much 75 talents is if you go and understand what a drachma is, which is the day wage, and how many drachmas are in a talent. Let me just say this. One talent is about 16 and a half years of work.
To one guy, he gives a lifetime of work. To another guy, he gives probably more than half of his working adult life, and to another guy, he gives as much as 16 and half years. He gives each to his own ability. Then he goes away. Immediately, the one who received about 80 years' worth of provision went and traded with them and gained five more. In verse 17:
"In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, 'Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.'
His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.' Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, 'Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.' His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many…'"
Let me ask you a question and stop right here. Some of us look and go, "I wonder why God doesn't give me more? That frustrates me that I won't have the chance to really honor my God, and I won't have the chance to get blessed like that guy whom he's given all those gifts to, all that provision to, whether it was natural talents or just temporal opportunities." You weren't listening.
The guy who was given five talents and was faithful with the five talents received the exact same reward as the guy who was given two talents and was faithful with his two talents. Every single person is given the opportunity to maximize their faithfulness. This is why materialism can't be just traced to the amount of money you have, because you might just have one talent and covet it and not understand who the Master is, have a wrong view of the Master and, therefore, a wrong view of money, and you won't use it wisely.
In fact, what God typically says is, "The one whom I see faithful in small things, I will give more opportunity." Isn't that the way you typically treat your own employees who are stewards of your resources if you're an employer? You watch somebody who is effective in that opportunity and responsibility you give them and are faithful with it, so what do you do? You give them more. The reward for faithful service is the opportunity for more service.
If you're never given the opportunity of more service and all you do is serve faithfully, you will receive the same reward as those who were given more to deal with, maybe in beauty, maybe in privilege, maybe in opportunity, maybe in geography, maybe in history. The question is…Do you know the Master? Did you do what you could with what he gave you? Did you handle it the way he said you should, for his glory, or did you bury it, did you not put it to work, or did you use it for you?
You need to think of your own stewardship in this way. If I decide I want to send something by FedEx, it's mine. All I do is use FedEx as a servant of mine. I call them up. I say, "Hey, take this and deliver it over there. It's mine. I own it. You are my steward. I'm going to let you use it and carry it."
Now I want to give that guy enough money that he can provide for his family, care for himself, and get the job done, but I don't expect him to decide what else to do with that which I have given him. If he opens it and uses it and distributes it the way he wants or just uses it for his own pleasure, I'm not only going to have a I little problem with him. Everything in our world says that's unjust, and we call it…what? Stealing.
What you need to understand is that you have been given by God what you have been given by God. He has no problem with you using what you need for yourself as you're faithful, but he doesn't expect you to keep it all. He expects you to use it the way he gave you to use it. Guess what?
The folks who have been given the most have the hardest time figuring out how much it is okay to keep, and how much it is okay to use for them, and how much God wants them to get and deliver other places because it grabs you, and it becomes a trap. Let me just walk you through this story because Jesus has a response for the third one. The third one comes up and says this. He says in verses 24 through 28:
"And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.' But his master answered and said to him, 'You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him…'"
"He's not faithful. He's lying. He didn't know who I was. He had no relationship with me. In fact, if he really knew it was mine, he would've at least put it in a bank where he had some accountability." His hope was he could put it in the ground, and when the master didn't return, he really wasn't going to be accountable for it, and he says, "You are a wicked and lazy slave, and even what you have is lost."
In this story, I can just walk you through it very quickly. The master in this story owns everything, even the servants. He has the right to everything and to use it however he pleases. He is sovereign. What he says goes. What he says you must do in response to who he is. He is trusting with his assets, with his name, with his authority. He has an expectation that his servants will do what he instructs them to do.
There is a time when he is not physically there. He's gone for an undisclosed period of time. His physical absence makes servants' actions free from immediate accountability. There is a promised return at an unspecified date. He has the right to expect at that moment that his servants do exactly what he asks without reward, yet he chooses to honor his servants if they just do what he asks them to do. He is strict. He has no patience for excuses. He is honest. He is forthright in his evaluation.
The servants must always remember they are not the owners of anything but only the caretakers of what the master has given them. They will be evaluated on how they conducted themselves and used the master's possessions and authority which have been entrusted to them during his absence. The judgment of their behavior will not be immediate. There is a responsibility which is enduring. They are to work until the master returns or until they die. Those are the only things they're given. Resignation or abandoning their positions is not an option.
There's an expected ethic. They must do well. They must not be lazy or irresponsible. Their entire lives are defined by their relationships with and their response to the assignment of the master. They should expect every day that the master would return, and the motivation for what they do is their love for and respect for the master they know has entrusted them in his kindness with that which was never theirs to begin with.
How do you view money? Probably coming in here we think that maybe God wants some percentage of our money. You just need to know something. That is not a biblical idea. There is a New Testament command that just basically says, "Do you want to know how much money you should deploy for eternal things?" It is basically responded as, "I don't want you to do anything more than Jesus did. Just follow his example."
Now none of us will probably ever really attain that, but we should start by asking ourselves not, "How much of my money does the Lord get?" A better way to look at this is, "How much of the Lord's money and giftedness and provision he's given me does he want me to steward for myself as I curry about his business?"
We'll talk in the weeks ahead about how we can do that, but I want to do something right now. When you walked in, we gave you an envelope. Right? I want you to go ahead and open that envelope right now, if you'd be so kind, and I want you to look at what's in there. I want you to have it, and I want to remind you of a few things.
I mentioned to you the fact that we don't want your money. In fact, here today, we are giving you the Lord's money. In this room is somebody who opened an envelope that has $1,000 in it. God in his sovereignty assigned that to you. Somebody, many of you, opened an envelope with hundreds of dollars in it and many with a hundred, or fifties or twenties or tens. The majority of you got $2, but lots of money has been distributed to servants today.
Let me just walk you through a few basic things. Here are the rules of what we want you to do. First, don't give it back to the church. You are the church. The money was just given to the church. The church is not a 501(c)(3). It is not a building. It is not an organization that has its address at 7540. It is a group of people who have a relationship with God and live in yieldingness to him.
If you're here and you don't know God and your aren't doing business with God and you don't want any responsibility with God, first of all, I'm unfortunately unable to tell you that you can opt out of that. Now you can opt out of having to deal with this little small stewardship of money, but you cannot opt out of the fact that he is your Master, and the first thing you're going to want to do is come to know who this Master is that you will give an account to one day.
If it makes you really uncomfortable because you're not a member of his church to take this money, that is fine. You can stick it in one of those slots that people steward their resources in every week, and you won't be stewarding that resource, you'll be just saying, "I don't want to play this game. It's not a God that I know and not a God whom I want to serve."
I'm going to let you know this. You can get out of that little obligation of this little envelope, but you cannot get out of the obligation of just saying, "I'm going to bury it. I'm not going to deal with it." That is lazy and wicked. You just have to figure out who your god is and whom you serve.
So, first, we don't want you to give it back to the church. We want you to be the church. Secondly, don't be lazy. Be prayerful. Don't just give it to the very first person who asks for it or a homeless person you drive by. I mean, a guy at LBJ and Coit does not need to have the biggest payday of his life today. That's lazy. It's irresponsible. Ask the Father, "What do you want me to do with your money?"
Thirdly, tell us what you did with it. Those of you guys who are social media folks on Instagram or on Twitter, use the hashtag #Switch13. You've got 140 characters. Put it down there, and hashtag it with #Switch13. If you're not a social media person, and you have access to the Web, just go to www.watermark.org/switch13. You'll find it there. Post it.
We're going to assimilate these stories and celebrate what God has done. We're going to ask you to collaborate, work together, add to it, increase what you've already been given. Make it fun, and share your story. Here's what you can do with the money. If you have a need that cannot be met, if you haven't eaten today, let this be the source of your provision.
God gives us our daily bread. Maybe this is how you're going to eat today. Maybe you have some need that this is going to be God's provision for you. God delights in providing for you, but if your needs are largely met and you now have more then, probably, God wants you to meet the needs of others, so we would encourage you to do that.
Now one last thing as we wrap up today. I'm going to give you one more myth and one more truth. Are you ready? Here's a myth: the money I just gave you is more God's money than every other dollar in your possession. Again, the money I just gave you is more God's money than every other dollar in your possession. Here's the truth. God owns everything, and you are his money manager.
It would be just as crazy for me to give you an extra hour of your week and you to think, "Oh, okay, now I have an extra hour. I'll go serve God in the soup kitchen so I can go back and do what I want with the rest of my life." No. How do we end every single time we gather here at Watermark? We end by saying, "Have a great week of worship!"
Everything we do is worship, so it's my prayer that, in our beginning this conversation, you begin to change how you look at money and the question is not, "How much of my money should I give God?" but the question is, "How much of God's money am I going to be okay looking at him and telling him I needed to use as his courier and his money manager?" That is an answer to which you must give an account.
When you begin to see it that way, it becomes a source of beauty eternally and maybe even a source of deep conviction. May that conviction not lead to guilt, but may it lead to transformation, and may that transformation make people start to look at us differently and go, "There's something really beautiful there. I'm starting to see it differently," because we're starting to see money differently. Amen?
Father, I pray for my friends that, as we go now throughout our day, we would see our lives differently, that we would see our lives as accountable to you in every way, a Master who has given us great gifts and abilities, given us a world and an economy in a land where we can be largely free. I thank you that you've given some people in this room incredible gifts, and I pray we would use those gifts in a way that pleases you and suggests we know who you are and we love you and delight in you.
I pray, Lord, you would take this money, and it would be a reminder of everything we've been given and that the way we pray over the use of this money would be the way we pray over the use of everything, all our discretionary time today, all of what turns into discretionary money, that which we don't need for food and clothing and shelter, and that we would invest in a way, Father, that would give you great joy.
I thank you for the people who have been investing here for years and that, as a result of that, we have an opportunity to gather this way and help other people see money biblically. I thank you for those who have been investing, that you're going to grow our view of money in a way that's going to help us to be even better money managers and stewards of the mysteries of God and the blessings that come with using our gifts in a way that leads to the entrustment of material things.
I thank you for this morning and the chance we got to look. Thank you for the way you teach us. I pray we would go out now, and we would live as worshipers. I pray that, if there's anybody here who doesn't want to do business with you or who thinks you are not coming back or that you're no Master, you would deal with that in their hearts first, that they would linger with us, that they would ask questions and they would come to know our King.
I pray that, tonight, we would gather to pray and celebrate and be reminded of what real giving looks like, your giving yourself on the cross, and that we could remember that, Father, and I pray that, just as we commune at lunch, we could commune together tonight in a formal way. I pray that we would sanctify everything by the Word of God and prayer. For the glory of God I pray, amen.
Let me just ask you this. Don't go post this on Facebook till 12:30. Don't tell everybody about the painting until after the second service. Don't post it on Twitter or Instagram until after 12:30, so the other group might also be similarly encouraged.
God bless you, money managers. We'll see you.