This message answers the comedian George Carlin's questions by addressing three more: 1) Does God need money? 2) Why doesn't the church pay taxes? 3) Why do God's people talk so much about money? Additionally, modern-day false teachers are identified and disavowed.
If God Already Knows What He's Going to Do, Why Should I Waste My Time Trying to Talk to Him?
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If God is So Smart and So Strong, Then Why is This World So Scary and Screwed Up?
If God Owns Everything, How Come He's Always Broke and His People are Always Asking for Money?
Why Believe in God when He's Nothing More than a Man-made Guilt Trip Obsessed with '10 Very Important Rules'?
Well, what say ye? I think not. Probably not. I don't know what he would have on his wrist, but I do know what would be in his heart. The problem with most of us when we see somebody wearing something like that on his wrist is we question whether or not that heart is consistent with what we understand a benevolent, loving, good God would be like and what he'd be about. It's very confusing.
A lot of folks form their opinion of what many of us in this room believe in based on what they see from a lot of men on TV who say they have a relationship with God and want to help you have one while they're calling you to fund both a lifestyle and a method for you to enjoy the same kind of lifestyle, supposedly through their relationship with Christ. This is one of the things that drives skeptics away: hypocrisy…hypocrisy in our lives and hypocrisy they see in the most public representations of those who say they know God and are followers of Christ.
We're in the middle of a little five-week series. We're calling it What If the Skeptics Are Right? What we've done is we've taken one gentleman's little rant, specifically. It's not really about George Carlin. George Carlin is just a type. He is an individual who has, in a very effective way, addressed a number of the issues that friends of ours and, frankly, we ourselves for a long time (and maybe some of us still do) have questions about when it comes to whether or not we can really follow this God who is represented in this book we call his Word.
Last week, we took a look at these four questions: Is there an invisible man who is obsessed with 10 very important rules who, if you don't follow these 10 very important rules, will send you to a place of everlasting judgment and sorrow and suffering? But he loves you. Is there an invisible man? Why is he so obsessed with 10 things? Will he send you to a miserable place if you don't live by them? And how can he say he's going to do that and still love us?
That's what we looked at last week, and we're going to pick it up pretty much right there and dive in and try and answer the question we just presented to you in song and other questions that are tied to it. Watch this.
George Carlin: But he loves you. He loves you, and he needs money. He always needs money. He's all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise. Somehow he just can't handle money. Religion takes in billions of dollars. They pay no taxes, and they always need a little more.
[End of video]
As we said, this little series we're doing is going to take a look at not some of the classic issues that folks typically think they're going to deal with when they address questions about the faith. We did one last week: How do you know God exists? We dealt with that last week, hopefully gave you some things to start you down that road and that journey. But questions like, "How do you know the Bible is the inspired Word of God?" we're not going to really touch on this series.
If you'd love to know that, we have a CD where we've handled that in the past. We'd love to get it into your hands. There are a number of other classic questions. In fact, next week, what we're going to deal with is the issue of…If God is so good and so wise and so strong, then why is this world so messed up? It's the problem of evil, when God says he's sovereign and this world isn't so good. That's what we look at next week. That's a classic question.
This week, we're going to dive into this one. It's the issue of…Why can't this all-wise, all-powerful, all-knowing God handle cash? Clearly, these people who say they follow after him can't handle cash, and if they're taking their cue from him, I'm not sure he's one worth following. Let me tell you the three questions we're going to answer this week: Does God need money? _Why doesn't the church pay taxes?__ Why do God's people talk so much about money?_ There are going to be two answers to that question. Here we go.
1._ Does God need money?_ Let me let his Word speak for him. When you look at the Scriptures and you see why God, who does address money… I'm going to show you just how much the Bible does deal with money. It's a lot. But does God need money himself? In Psalm 24:1 he says, *"The earth is the Lord's, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it." *God is not insecure about what is his.
We may not ascribe it to him, we may not think of it as his, but the Lord says, "I don't need for you to feather my bed. This is all mine. I spoke it into existence, I sustain it, and I can have what I want in it. I don't need anything. I am completely self-sufficient and content in who I am." We've dealt before with this issue of…Why did God even create this world in the first place? If that's a question you have, we'd love to get something into your hands that can answer that.
Here's the second part to this. In Psalm 50, what God is doing is he's addressing people who lived thousands of years ago who misunderstood why God wanted them to bring to him tithes and offerings. They thought, like every despot on the earth, every king in the land taxed them or had them pay tribute to him, God must be like all of the other kings they saw. God said, "No, you've missed the reason I ask you to do this."
He says in Psalm 50, "Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you; I am God, your God. I do not reprove you for your sacrifices…" In other words, "I don't have a problem with what you're bringing me." "…and your burnt offerings are continually before Me." That's fine. But he says in verse 9,
"I shall take no young bull out of your house nor male goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird of the mountains, and everything that moves in the field is Mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and all it contains. Shall I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of male goats?"
"Is that why you think I have you bringing all of these things? No, you've missed it completely. What I'm looking for is for you to understand that nothing on this earth comes to you except by my grace and goodness and, secondly, that nothing will ever fill that hole in your heart that you're looking to have filled, that contentment, peace, and significance, other than me. I want you, as a sign that you live in relationship with me, to hold loosely the things of the world. I don't need these things, but you need to remind yourself continually that these things are not a god to you."
God is specifically trying to teach us something with money. I'm going to develop this more throughout. He doesn't need this to run his organization. He doesn't need it to keep his system afloat. He doesn't need it because he is poor and doesn't work himself, so we have to make sure we continue to invest deeply in him.
The reason the Scripture says God wants us to bring gifts to him is partly because, in order to sustain the declaration of his message here on this earth and for the message to go out, for things to be printed, and folks to communicate, people do need to have provision and sustenance. It does take certain amounts of cash to get that done, but specifically, it's about your heart not his need.
2._ Why doesn't the church pay taxes?_ Let me just read to you, since it's two days after April 15, from the IRS website. Isn't that exciting reading this morning? Watch this. I'm going to answer this question for you. "The exempt purposes set forth in [the Internal Revenue Code] section 501(c)(3)…" That's what you hear a lot. A 501(c)(3) organization is "charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals." That's what the IRS says is a 501(c)(3) organization.
"The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works…" This is key here. "…lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency."
In other words, the reason the church and those other types of organizations that our government put in place are not taxed is because if they operate according to their charter, which must be approved by those who understand what a charitable organization is to be… If they operate according to their stated purpose (it's a big if), then what they are doing are the same kinds of things that governments typically have to tax people for in order to provide for individuals who are in the land.
The theory is that if these organizations stand and are supported by individuals, then the things government will have to provide for individuals in the state is lessened, so let's not tax or take money from organizations that are trying to do the same thing that government is trying to do. The reason the church doesn't pay taxes is the same reason any 501(c)(3) charitable organization, as set up from the beginning of our government in its taxation policies, doesn't pay taxes.
It's not just religion. It's anything that the lawmakers in our land deem is lessening the burden of government. By the way, folks, that should remind us in our effort to be out there talking about what it is we know about our God… We have to ask ourselves, "Is our describing our God to others, talking about who he is, how he loves them, and how a person who responds rightly to his love lives, lessening the burden on the government?" If it's not, then religion is worthless and ought to be taxed.
3._ Why do his people talk so much about money?_ Why are folks who say they know God always dealing with this issue of money? I'm going to give you two reasons. The very first one is one that connects with what George Carlin really is on a rant about. When skeptics say they're sick and tired of money being an issue that religion is always talking about, they're not talking about my second point underneath this.
They are talking about what they see commonly represented by folks who say they know God and want you to know him and this is why you need to participate financially with him. The first reason is that some folks who talk about God and money all the time are charlatans. They are false prophets. They are false teachers. We shouldn't be surprised by this. In 2 Peter, chapter 2, these verses show up: "But false prophets also arose among the people…"
This is what's going to happen. Peter wrote two books that were preserved by God to his church. The first book talks about how you need to prepare yourself because you are going to endure persecutions from without. That's what the whole book of 1 Peter is about: how to endure and not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you. This world isn't going to love you and embrace you. This world is not your home. This world hated your Master, your Lord, and your Teacher, and it's going to hate you, so don't be surprised.
Secondly, underneath that group of folks who say they love this God who is hated by this world, there will be folks who say they are his, who follow after him, they say, who are false prophets, false followers, and false teachers. They are fuel for the skeptic. They will rise up, and there is going to be persecution or a challenge or an attack from within. It says, "…just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them…"
Let me tell you one of the heresies that is commonly taught, primarily within what is called the Word of Faith movement. You see it a lot on TBN, the Trinity Broadcasting Network. I'm going to name names and show you examples this morning, because just like I am frustrated with the Islamic and Muslim leaders of this country who want us to believe their religion, at its core, is a peaceful religion…
If that is true, then I expect the imams of this country to stand up and speak boldly against the extremist terrorist who is out there. I expect the imams of this land to stand up and say, "That is not my Islamic faith. That is not a true interpretation of the Qur'an." But there has been an awkward silence, in my opinion, from the religious leaders of the Muslim faith in this country, and I think it weakens our entire need to trust and believe in what it is they espouse.
Until there are individuals who will stand up and say, "These men are criminals. They are enemies of all that is good. They need to be hunted down and vanquished, and I will participate with you," I doubt their belief in that. Likewise, if individuals who love God and love his Word don't stand up and point out, with the skeptic, that this isn't something to be skeptical of, this is not something just to scoff at; this is something to be spoken out boldly against…
This "health, wealth, and prosperity" nonsense, this false teaching and this heresy that faith is a force which obligates God, that you don't need to trust in God because you need to have faith in your faith… Don't ask God to maybe figure out what he wants to do. Don't pray, "Thy will be done." You already know you can pray in his name and whatever you ask will be done for you, they will teach.
They will tell you that all you have to do is positively confess, and like God created through his word, you can create your future destiny through your word. God wants you to be as abundant and provided for as he is if you're his child; therefore, all you need to do is have faith, and faith, they would teach you, is a force that obligates God, not something you place in the God whose ways are not your ways.
They are heretics, and they are destructive, and they deny the Master who bought them. "…bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned…" Can I hear an "amen"? It is maligned. A lot of folks think that what people who humbly and truly follow after him, even with all our dysfunction… We're not done baking in the oven yet, but they are so out in front of us, often, and they are what is commonly put before a watching world that the faith is maligned.
"…and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep." God knows all about it. If you, like I, have wondered, "Why doesn't God do something about this?" the answer is…count on it: he will. In the same way he's going to deal with rapists, the same way he's going to deal with swindlers, and the same way he's going to deal with deceivers who do not come to their senses and acknowledge the error of their ways, we can be sure that God is going to deal with those who brought about trouble in regard to his truth.
Jude 12-13 describes these people in this way: "These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts…" That is an expression that was used by Jude to describe when believers gathered together to follow after him, and they would share with each other their provisions in order that all would be provided for…food, shelter, and clothing. But there were men who were hidden reefs. As men sailed along in true biblical community, there were hidden reefs that shipwrecked others.
"…caring for themselves; clouds without water…" They promised you things would come, but nothing came. "…carried along by winds…" Whatever blew them in their own ways. "…autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars [not anchored in truth] , for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever." These are men who are in the so-called "church." God is not too anxious to associate himself with them. In 1 Timothy 6:3-5 he says,
"If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions…"
Paul is saying you'll know a false teacher because, underneath their teaching, these are the fruits of what they teach. Not love, not a good conscience, not a pure heart, not a sincere faith. That's what he said the pure teaching of the gospel does. "…constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain."
You might say to yourself, "Todd, who are you talking about? Who are you really after here? Are there really as many examples of this as you say? Are there enough to fuel the venom of skeptics?" Well, let me just show you a little series of film clips, and you decide. Watch this.
Male: When you got saved, it was free, but after you got saved, that's it. No more free stuff.
Male: There will be 50 people give $1,000, and do it right now or I am finished! Try me.
Male: Think about the times when God is moving. How long has it been since he moved? Pull that money out of that special place, lay it back on the altar, and get ready for party time.
Male: I'd like to see 10,000 people give $10,000. I don't even know how much money that is, but that's too much money. We could take the whole world with that.
Male: I want you right now to make a vow of $1,000. T-H-O-U-S-A-N-D. A $1,000 vow of faith. Big deal. We have people on welfare who have enough faith to make a $1,000 vow and pay it. And pay it!
Male: I need some very quick money. I mean, I need it now.
Female: Leave the garbage trash on the newsstand. Send your money to this ministry.
Male: If we don't do something soon, then God is going to call me home.
Male: So go to your local gun dealer, turn them in, send us the cash. God bless you.
Male: What kind of car do you want? Tell me, saith God.
Male: I have our most powerfully blessed item that we've ever offered, our most popular item, the glowing-in-the-dark blessed cross.
Male: We have a beautiful picture right here that I had made and give you that for a donation, that you would go ahead and call in that donation. Amen.
Male: I have a watch called the Jesus watch. There it is shown on your screen. Isn't that beautiful?
Male: Praise God for those that support this ministry and stand by it. We also have a hat that we send out to people who support us and stand behind us.
Male: Let me send you a bottle of this holy water from the Jordan River. I anointed a man's left ear with this water just last Sunday. He began to hear for the first time in 30 years.
Male: Is there anywhere in the New Testament where Jesus promises material prosperity to those who follow him?
Male: Not in those words.
Male: What kind of a daddy would he be if he didn't have a plan for me to walk in abundance also?
Male: Okay. If I'm going to represent him and I'm going to get you to follow him, I would have to show you something that's better than what you have now or why would you want to change?
Male: Be wary of people who say "Send your money to Jesus" and give you their address.
Male: Send your mail to me. Ernest Angley, Akron, Ohio.
Male: Over half of the wealth of America is in the hands of those poor old widow ladies, because the old boy has kicked the bucket, and they've got it all now.
Male: The apostles were businessmen. They were rich men, had plenty of money. I'm going to show you that Jesus was a wealthy man, had plenty of money. See, all of that is completely foreign to us from a traditional point of view.
Male: You say, "Well, Jesus was poor." Let me tell you something. The Lord was not poor. You couldn't be poor and feed twelve apostles and keep them alive.
Male: Hear me now and believe me later. Jesus was prosperous enough to own his own home. It is well known that Jesus even had a treasurer, and he wouldn't need a treasurer unless he handled large sums of money. He also wore expensive clothes.
Male: I just look at you, and I see God blessing you financially. I look at you, and I see money.
Male: We're not talking about having one of these little "what you can afford" telethons, because let me tell you right now, if we go by what you can afford we'll have to shut 'er down.
Male: Stop worshiping false gods. A stingy god is a false god. Let's hear it!
Male: We have a 900 number. Through modern technology, you can worship the Lord for your financial gifts today through the phone numbers on the screen.
Male: For you that are desperate to get in on this, I'm going to tell you what you do. You give a dollar a day for the next 10 months. That'll be $300.
Male: How many of you like silver and gold? Those of you that don't, you're in the wrong church.
Male: So you might call me a fool for doing what God told me to do, but keep looking at this fool. I'm going to be a prosperous fool.
Male: Watch out for those that tell you God wants you poor. You can't preach the gospel if you're poor!
Male: Satan gave me this mes… That's a lie of the Devil. I shouldn't have said that.
[End of video]
Mmm. He got one thing right. I want to tell you, that disturbs me as much as it disturbs anybody in this room, and it doesn't even come close to disturbing me the way it disturbs the heart of God. There are two different groups of people who fund and are underneath these ministries. The first are the naïve, the illiterate, and the vulnerable. Then there's the second.
The second is a group of folks who are lazy, who are greedy, who are undisciplined, who choose to remain untaught and not study the Word of God themselves. They want God to be what they want God to be, because the truth is their god is themselves, and they think that until they are feathered in their bed and provided for in their financial prosperity the way they want to be they will never be happy, so they will look for any god which will allow them to get where they want to go. Those folks are getting exactly what they deserve.
Now, what these men teach is all over the map, but bottom line, at the very heart and core of it… I put this together for you. This is primarily what is called the Word of Faith movement, the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel. The Word of Faith teachers see faith as a force, and they encourage others to have faith in faith, not faith in God. In other words, they encourage you not to ever pray weak prayers, qualified by "If thy will be done."
In fact, they will tell you not to waste your time asking God if he will do something for you. Tell him what you want done, and then believe it, and it will be done for you. They tell you to make a positive confession and determine your future. What they say is you are little gods. Not that God dwells in you but that you are little gods, and because you are little gods and because God himself created from his word, what you need to do…
They take verses out of context, like, "This happens in accordance with your faith." What they tell you to do is have faith in your faith, because faith is not something that has value based on what you put it in; they will tell you that faith is a force which obligates a future circumstance, that you can speak into existence that which you want.
They have had folks in their churches do things like in the midst of their barren wombs, in order that they might positively confess that which they themselves can create, send out birth announcements for their coming faith baby, only to have to, months later, when folks came and asked, "Has your child come yet?" send back out saying, "No, my faith baby hasn't come yet, but I'm still believing that it will, and I don't want my correction that my baby was due at a specific time and my apology to you that you sent me gifts for that baby in any way to be a sign of doubt that I still believe that this faith baby will come," when physiologically, that woman is never going to be able to bear children.
They are manipulative, and they are sometimes downright dishonest, and, as I said, they are hucksters. I have a friend who ministers in South Dallas who gave me a paper that is published within the black community that was produced not long ago. The headline in that paper that the skeptics were asking, as different individuals in that community were elevated not just locally but, in fact, nationally and around the world, as certain leaders and their mega responses in people and in crowds have been continuing to increase and draw media attention…
They looked at a number of these guys, and the headline on the front page of this paper was, "Are Black Preachers Pimpin' Their People?" They said these men are telling their people that the evidence of their spirituality is that they are continuing to become wealthier and wealthier in themselves and that they should be followed as great teachers because they are prospering and they are wealthy and healthy and their families are abundant in their provision. If they would just follow along them and live in the same form that they live in their health, wealth, and prosperity dogma, they can also show their spirituality by being blessed the way they are.
I could not confirm this, but a long-time trusted friend told me that he knows that within that particular mission he was referencing when he told me this, a very well-known, incredibly popular individual, they are known to have done things like find individuals in their body who are struggling financially who have given a gift to the church, and then put a large amount of cash in an envelope and take it to that individual's house at a time when they know no one will be there.
They leave it and disappear and wait for that person to come back before the church and stand up and testify that out of their want they gave, and God had, in a way that they cannot explain, thousands of dollars in cash show up in their house just days and weeks later. Then they hold that up as an example of what God is doing, when they themselves have set the entire thing up as a sham to instigate and provoke others to do it. Folks, that is downright evil, and believe me, there is judgment reserved for those who do that.
Kenneth Hagin, who's one of the fathers of the Word Faith movement, says in his book You Can Have What You Say! "Believe it in your heart; say it with your mouth. That is the principle of faith." Robert Tilton goes online and says to pray the prayer of faith, "…not one of those, 'Lord, if it be thy will…' I know what the will of God is when it concerns healing and prosperity and divine direction… I don't have to pray a prayer of doubt and unbelief," he says. He would go on to say, "Being poor is a sin, when God promises prosperity."
"My God is rich! And he's trying to show you how to draw out of your heavenly account that Jesus bought and paid for and purchased for you at Calvary." "New house? New car? That's chicken feed. That's nothing compared to what God wants to do for you." "I like a thousand-dollar vow, because I like—don't like—half-hearted people, lukewarm, just 'Well, I'll do a little…' I like a thousand-dollar vow of faith… I'm not talking to you that's got it. You that's got it don't pay a bit of attention to me. I'm talking to you that don't have it, and I'm showing you how you can get it!" And on he goes. "Follow this way."
Let me just tell you this. When I pray for you when there is sickness and cancer and brokenness in your life and world, whether it be financially or health-related, I always pray, "Father, if it be your will, we ask that healing rushes in and stops this cancer. I know you can do it." I believe God can do whatever he wants to do. We believe God has interrupted decay and death.
In fact, 50 percent of all medical doctors…not believing medical doctors but 50 percent of all medical doctors, according to Dallas Morning News a number of months back, said there have been things that have happened in their practice which can be explained through no other means except by a miracle.
Do I believe God can heal? Absolutely. Do I believe that our faith is what forces God to heal us; therefore, I don't pray under these weak prayers of contingency that are categorized by what somebody would say is doubt because I say, "Lord, not my will but thy will be done"? Absolutely not. When a guy like Tilton and others stand up before people and tell them that if they don't come through the way they hoped they would come through it's not because they, as a teacher, are false but because you didn't have enough faith…
We know that they have stood up at funerals and rebuked people in their body who are burying loved ones and said, "The reason this funeral is happening is because this woman didn't have faith to heal her husband." Folks, that is sinister, and we stand with you. We're not skeptical. We're telling you they are charlatans, hucksters, con men, and liars, and darkness is reserved for them. We pray they come to their senses. These men, it says in 1 Timothy, chapter 6, are men who do not live in accordance with truth. They don't teach sound doctrine.
They teach a different doctrine that "does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness." They are conceited and understand nothing, but some have a "morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain," and they're going to use it to exploit you.
He goes on in verse 6 to say godliness is a means of great gain when it is accompanied by contentment, not this bad idea that you can speak your reality into existence because you are a little god. We have to stand up and say, "Listen. There are some things that are happening out there that are wrong, and these men who call you to believe them are not to be followed and confused with men who rightly divide the word of truth." They are men who need to be ashamed and who need to be exposed, lest, I believe, we are culpable to stand with them.
In John 14:14, one of their favorite pet verses, it says, "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it." They believe it's some magical incantation, some "abracadabra, zippity-zah" of biblical prayers, that if you just tag on at the end, "We pray this in Jesus' name," automatically, you can do it based on John 14:14, but they don't teach you about John 15:7, which says, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, [then] ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."
The idea of asking for something in Jesus' name… Jesus said, "In case you were wondering what the program of God is, this is the program of God. This is how I'm going to bring about my ultimate end and purposes. So if you want to pray with me that his kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven, you can be assured it will be accomplished, because I am telling you it is both my will and my Father's will that this will happen."
The timing of that and the fruit of that and the blessing of that is not something that is revealed to us, but we know that when we ask something in accordance with his will and name it will be done for us. So what we can say rightly is, "Lord, as we pray over this child who is rapidly deteriorating, and cancer or some other disease is chewing them up and bringing them to a place of destruction and death, we pray, Lord, that you would stop this decay, stop this death that is overcoming this small one. We pray that you would heal them of cancer.
Lord, if it's your will, we pray that it would be a testimony of grace and a miracle that the doctors can't explain any other way than God intervened here and that you would glorify yourself that way, but, Lord, if you choose to let this child die, then I pray that that family and those who love them and minister to them will witness to the nurses, the doctors, and the community that watches them sing at their daughter's funeral. While they weep appropriately the loss of the temporal relationship that a broken world would not thwart, they stand there, nonetheless, with hope that in the midst of all this death does not have the final say.
Lord, if you choose to glorify yourself through that family that way, then we just pray that you would sustain them and strengthen them and be there for them, as you promised you would, because we know that is your will, that you would give them nothing they cannot endure. So, Father, mightily show up, but we want to tell you we would, if we could choose, have you heal that little girl." That is not a weak prayer; it's a biblical prayer.
First John 5:14, in fact, tells us that. "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." Look at James 4:13-16. "Come now, you who say [arrogantly] , 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow." You can't speak tomorrow into reality. "You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.' But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil."
You show me the confusion in that, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Robert Tilton, Larry Lea, W.V. Grant, Benny Hinn. It doesn't surprise me at all that one of the cities that is a hotbed for these individuals is Dallas, Texas, because Dallas, Texas, by all accounts, is one of the most materialistic cities in the entire world. There are a lot of people here who want to have somebody tell them that God wants to bless them and give them everything they wanted and more.
In fact, I have a little article here that was in last Sunday's Dallas Morning News that ranks a number of things and goes through different magazines that rank different things. We all know that Houston is #1 in the fattest cities. It also says Houston is a bad place to hook up, in case you were wanting to move down that way. Corpus Christi is #2 on the dumbest cities list. It's also one of the baldest cities in America. Dallas has the highest crime rate for the nation's largest crime. By the way, all these are subjective except that one.
In this materialistic city… According to Charity Navigator, who just did a recent study, Dallas is the #1 large city on the least charitable list. Now it shouldn't surprise you that a city that is known for not wanting to take what they have and share with others is a city that welcomes Larry Lea, Robert Tilton, W.V. Grant, and some others I choose not to name because I don't have all of the hard facts yet, who teach a health, wealth, and prosperity error. Like people, like priest. They'll find somebody who will preach what they are after.
I want to stand with you, the skeptic, and say these are men who are clouds without water. They are autumn trees without fruit, and you should not follow them. Don't confuse God and Jesus and being a true follower of Christ with them. I told you there are two reasons that God's people talk about money. One is because they're hucksters, deceivers, flatterers, and liars, but here's the second: It's because they are lovers of other people. It's because they are like Jesus Christ. It's because they are people of compassion. Now what do I mean by that?
Let me just tell you something about Jesus. Jesus spoke about money more than he did about almost anything else. Of the 38 parables he told, 16 relate to money and possessions. More is said about money in the New Testament than heaven and hell combined. Do you know that? Five times more is said about money than prayer. There are 288 verses in the Gospels; one in ten deals directly with money. There are 500-plus verses on prayer and faith in the New Testament. There are over 2,000 verses on money and possessions.
Now why is that? There's a reason for that, and it can be found in 1 Timothy 6:9-10. As one guy in error said, "What kind of father would he be if he didn't prosper you?" I would tell you, what kind of father would he be if he did not speak into your life and warn you about something that, if you don't get it right, is going to give you great pain and pierce you with many pangs? First Timothy 6:9-10 says, "But those who want to get rich fall into temptation…" Would a loving Father not speak to you about something that can lead you into error?
"…and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction." A loving Father is going to speak boldly into that area. "For the love of money is a root…" It doesn't say money is the root of all evil. It says, "For the love of money is a [meaning, one] root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
Do you want to know why Jesus taught so much about money? He tells us in Matthew, chapter 6. It's because he loves you, and he can handle money, but deceitful hearts cannot. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal [laptops] . 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. The eye is the lamp of the body…"
In other words, what you let in, what you seek, what you see as your goal and your idol and your god… If it's clear, then the whole body will be full of light. But if, on the other hand, your eye is bad, if what you seek is wrong and you focus not on the author and perfecter of your faith but you're focused on something to exalt yourself and feather your bed, then the light that is in you is darkness. How great is that darkness.
He says, "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." He loves you, so he doesn't want you to serve a god that will take you into bondage and take you to a place of despair and pierce you with many pangs. He says, "Let me call you out of darkness, where your heart will take you in its self-deceit and selfishness, and call you into light."
A very familiar verse, Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans that I have for you…" Not wealth. "…declares the Lord** , 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'"** There are people who teach error and heresy who use this as one of their pet verses, who want to tell you, "Look, God wants to bless you. God wants to have you prosper. He doesn't want you on welfare; he wants you walking on the bright side. He wants you in a mansion. So speak that into existence."
Let me put this verse into context. Let's go back to verse 10. "For thus says the Lord , 'When seventy years have been completed for Babylon…'""When you are brought to a place that your choice is to serve other gods and not follow after me and the consequences of them, as I allow other nations to discipline you and I don't protect you, because you're not my people, and as you wander away from me, I'm going to allow you to go to a place where you will serve others.
You will be oppressed, you will be slaves, and you will not be free. When you are there, after 70 years, when your hearts are broken, then I'm going to fulfill my good word to you, because I love you. I'm going to even let you experience the discipline of your foolish worship to get you to a place where you will trust me so I can give you plans for welfare and not for calamity. At that point…"
Look at verse 12. "Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me…" Then, when you worship me with your whole heart… "'You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the Lord** , 'and I will restore your fortunes…'"** It doesn't mean riches.
"'…and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,' declares the Lord** , 'and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.'" "I will take you out of a place of bondage and put you in a place of freedom, where you will not serve those who don't have your best interests in mind but, in freedom, will serve me, and it will be well with you." Do you get that?
In circa 1760, there was a British professor who essentially said, "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves a largesse in the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority will always vote for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy and is always followed by a dictatorship," which means you are no longer free to choose how you want to live. You become a slave to a non-benevolent dictator.
The average age of the world's greatest… He made this observation as he looked at the Athenian culture. The average age of most civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed (this is so important) through this sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from great courage to abundance; from abundance to selfishness; from selfishness to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependency; from dependency back again to bondage.
Let me just tell you, this country has been preserved right now well over 200 years, and we are on a fast track toward proving that a democracy cannot be a permanent form of government. We have become an entitlement society that doesn't believe you have to work to eat, like the Bible says you should, so we elect officials who will continue to put a burden on the tax base in order that they might fund the programs which feather our bed, because we have figured out that we can elect officials who will allow us to draw from the public largesse.
This is why Ron Blue, one of the leading experts on money management in this country, has said that he is certain that monetary collapse of the American dollar is coming. In my lifetime, I don't know, but I agree with him except for one thing: 501(c)(3) organizations that reach the corrupt hearts of men. What Ron Blue says, what this professor said, and what the Scriptures say line up perfectly.
Listen to me. Our hearts are desperately sick and deceitful above all else. We love to do what we think is best for us. We like to lean on our own understanding and not walk in the way of the Lord. We believe that material prosperity, fame, fortune, and all that goes with it is where real life is, and God is saying, "No, there is no life there. Life is in relationship with me."
Ron Blue walks folks through it and says if you let the hearts of men go unbridled and uninformed by religious advancement, selfishness will have its way. You add selfishness to democracy, which creates opportunity, and you have greed. You add greed to debt, which naturally comes, because we'll just keep stacking up all the debt we want, and you will have inflation. You take inflation and give it some time, and you will have monetary collapse.
So not only are religious institutions not taxed…they ought not be, but they'd better do a better job of equipping their people to understand if you don't bring your heart in check and learn to pursue life where God says there is life and you keep electing individuals who will allow you to get what you want no matter what kind of pressure it puts on the value of the dollar you embrace, you are headed for a dictatorship, and you will be a slave. God says, "That's not my plan for you."
Do you see how relevant this book is? This is, by the way, the testimony of what Solomon went through. Solomon was an individual who had all the wisdom in the world available to him, but what he began to do was water down God's wisdom with his own arrogant wisdom. As he grew in worldly wisdom and not the initial wisdom that he was a humble man who couldn't choose right if God didn't give it to him, he began to pursue his own way.
As wealth came his way, as he, through his power and prestige, could choose whatever woman he wanted (and he chose a bunch), as he added to his weapons of warfare, which allowed him to not depend on God for protection, and as he worshiped the idol of self, he was brought to a place of bondage, and he said, "My life has now gone from this place of security to this place of frailty, and it has been folly." As an old man, he came back and said, "It is vain. It is futile. The beginning of wisdom is fear God, love God, pursue him, and that's where I started. As I became self-dependent, self-reliant, self-enabling, and self-pursuing, it cost me everything."
A loving Father says, "Solomon, Todd, people, you can learn my ways one of two ways. You can learn it through experience and at the end of your life look back and say, 'This is futile,' or you can trust me and lean not on your own understanding and take my word, which is a gift to you, to enable you to live in such a way that you will be blessed." Let me run you through very quickly a few things that are true about money biblically. Money is not the root of all evil. I'll just give it to you very quickly.
1._ Money is an appropriate form of compensation for those who work hard_. Money is not an evil. What is evil is when we make money our god. It will pierce us with many pangs and will bring about much sorrow in our lives. But it's an appropriate form of compensation for those who work hard. Look at what it says in Proverbs 22:29.
"Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings…" He will be acknowledged and honored and appropriately compensated. "…he will not stand before obscure men." How about this? Proverbs 28:20: "A faithful man will abound with blessings…" Often those blessings are temporal. Always, if they're faithful, they're eternal. "…but he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished." There's going to be a consequence to that.
2._ Money is a bad way to judge whether someone is being blessed by God or not_. There are plenty of godless people who are doing extremely well financially today, and there are plenty of folks who love God with all their heart, soul, and mind, who, for whatever reason, are given food, shelter, and clothing, but they're not in any way being abundantly prospered.
3._ Money is a foolish thing to live for_. Proverbs 23:4-5 says, "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." Solomon wrote that. He figured it out. It's not worth trusting in, and you shouldn't trust in it yourself.
4._ Money is a small thing to be trusted with_. Look at what Jesus said in Luke 16:9-13. "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?"
Money is a small thing to be trusted with, and if you don't take this thing that God says is a temporal, amoral, non-eternal tool and are not faithful with that thing, why would he give you precious gifts…a deeper relationship with him, a fuller portion of his Spirit, a wiser mind? Because you're clearly not using what he has already given you.
5._ Money is a wonderful servant_. In other words, you have to understand… This is what Jesus is saying. Money can be used by you in a way that will bless you and bless others, but if you choose to give yourself the money and will do anything in order to gain it, it is an awful master. If you will become a person who is enslaved by debt in order to get material things, then the borrower will become the lender's slave, and you will find a loss of freedom, not a gain of life.
Let me wrap up with this. What does the Lord have us do with money? If you have money, if you're blessed with money… Why am I teaching you on this in a bunch of skeptics in a skeptic series? Because I want you to know God loves you, and I want you to see if his way is a better way. There are so many examples of people who have attained to great financial success yet have not had what we would say is quality of life, and they will tell you that they have not experienced quality of life. To try and cite them is almost humorous.
Let me just give you one. In 1923, there was a group of men who gathered together at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. You're going to recognize some of these men. Collectively, these tycoons who had gathered controlled more wealth than there was in the United States treasury at the time. Do you get that? In 1923, these men who gathered in this little conclave had more wealth, as individuals, than the entire country did at that moment. This is before we left the gold standard.
We were an extremely wealthy country, but there was a small group of men who gathered there, and for years, newspapers and magazines have been printing their success stories and urging the youth of the nation to follow their examples. Twenty-seven years after these men gathered, this is what happened to them. If money, in fact, is what made life worth living, you would have thought these men had great lives, but watch this.
Charles Schwab. Recognize that name? He was the president, at the time, of the largest independent steel company. He lived on borrowed money the last five years of his life, and he died penniless. Arthur Cutten, the greatest wheat speculator and commodities trader of his day, died abroad, insolvent. Richard Whitney, the president of the New York Stock Exchange during that time, was released just before that 27-year period from Sing Sing.
Albert Fall, a member of the president's cabinet at one point, was pardoned from prison so he could die at home. Jesse Livermore, the greatest baron on Wall Street, committed suicide. Leon Fraser, the president of the Bank for International Settlements, committed suicide. Ivar Kreuger, the head of the world's greatest monopoly of the day, committed suicide.
All of these men learned how to make money, but none of them had learned how to live. That is why the Bible says, "Give your heart to me. Don't let these men be your example." Money and having it in and of itself is not the problem, but when you make money an end in and of itself, it will always pierce your heart. So what do you do if you have money?
1._ Don't be conceited_. What do I mean by that? Don't sit there and tell me it's yours to do what you want with because you're the one who made the hard cash and it's yours to let go of when you want to let go of it. No. First Samuel 2:7 wants to state the case before your eyes. "The Lord makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts." Deuteronomy 8:18 says, "But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth…"
That is why he tells you in Proverbs 3:9-10 that you should give to the Lord as a constant reminder that all your wealth comes from him. From the very first of all that you make, give to the Lord and give to him generously. Why? So that you will continue, in relationship with him, to experience a life that can only be quantified as abundant.
2._ Don't be confident in your cash. We've already talked about Proverbs 23:4-5. A paraphrase of that is the statement that says, "Yes, money talks, and it always says goodbye." One of my favorite quotes of all time. It came from over a decade ago. It was in the back of a _Sports Illustrated in a Rick Reilly column about an individual who essentially said, "Fame is fleeting. Money takes wings. Popularity is a façade. The only thing that endures is character." O.J. Simpson.
I say that to you because O.J. knew truth, but knowing truth, knowing God, being at Watermark today, reading these verses with me will not protect you from losing everything, not just character but far more, if you don't have his Word and abide with it. Don't be conceited. It's not something you should be confident in.
3._ Do enjoy his goodness to you_. If you have money, enjoy it. This is what Solomon said. A good friend of mine said it this way: "If you've got the ability to do it, don't just get rocky road; get two scoops of it." Go ahead. Enjoy yourself with your family. Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 says, "There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?"
If God has blessed you materially and you can have rocky road, you can enjoy yourself for a while in a nice quiet place, then enjoy yourself and don't feel guilty. Don't think for a second that God does not delight in his children having moments of experience of joy. Not all will, but if you have been prospered by him, it's okay to enjoy it. But you'd better make sure you share his goodness to you.
4._ Share his goodness with others_. You'd better ask yourself what you need and get rid of the rest. I'm not just talking about if you make six figures a year you carve off the first small percentage and give it to him. If he has prospered you so much that not only what you're making this year but what you have is more than what he wants you to keep, then you'd better do business with him.
The way you understand how much he wants you to keep for yourself is not by going to a chapter and verse, because he doesn't tell you. He wants to live in relationship with you, and he wants to tell you, "You're my son. You're my daughter. I love you. I want you to be blessed. You are my soldier, and no good commander-in-chief leaves his soldier who's involved in active service out there without the armament, food, shelter, and protection he needs.
But I will tell you this. If my soldier is hoarding all of the resources for the defense for themselves and not consistent about advancing the campaign because he wants to be a very rich, comfortable soldier, then I think he'd better prepare himself for a conversation with the commander-in-chief." So what's the appropriate level to live on? You'd better go to his Word and convince yourself that you know it.
You'd better listen to his Spirit convict your heart and make sure you are living in accordance with it, and I would admonish you to hear from Solomon, who says whatever you do, don't deceive yourself into thinking that no one can relate to you in your prosperity, that no one can relate to you in your position because you're the wisest, wealthiest man in all the earth. There's nobody in your community here who can come alongside of you and relate to the pressures you have as this great and wise king.
Solomon said, "I have learned now that it's the abundance of counselors who would have kept me and protected me from where my selfish heart went. I made some decisions about what I should do with wealth, how I should handle women, how I should build up for myself weapons of military prowess, and how I should continue to live in a way that would bring me joy, that if I had others around me who said, 'Solomon, you are stifling and quenching the Spirit, you're not responding to the Word of God that you know, and you're now standing against community…'"
Solomon says in Proverbs 18:1, "He who separates himself seeks his own desire, he quarrels against all sound wisdom." So whatever it is… A gentleman walked up to me. He was here as a skeptic the first service. He had a Rolex on. He goes, "So?" I said, "Well, let me just tell you something. I'm wearing a Timex Ironman. It cost $50.
How do I know that my God doesn't think I should wear a watch that costs $10? Something in me allows me to wear a $50 watch. I happen to have a COACH watch at home some folks gave me for my birthday. I think that costs a couple hundred bucks. How come I let that sit there in my drawer? I must feel comfortable with that. I don't know what a Rolex costs, but more than my Timex.
All I'm going to say is if you're really concerned as to whether or not you're living the way you ought to live, then I would tell you to avail yourself to God's Word, come into a relationship with him where his Spirit can speak to your heart, but listen to me on the third one: share with others why you believe the Word of God and the Spirit of God give you permission to live this way.
He loves you. He trusts you that you can live as an adult follower, a son who lives in relationship with his father to make good choices, but don't be so naïve as to think that your heart isn't selfish and able to deceive itself." So share with other people how you are progressing and processing in terms of what you believe it's okay to keep. You keep what God says you should keep, and you get rid of the rest.
5._ Be rich in good works_. That's where real wealth comes from.
6._ Beware of investing too much in the good life and missing out on life indeed. If you don't like my six points, let me show you where I get them from an inerrant, perfect place. Read with me eight verses, and then we're done. First Timothy, chapter 6: "But flee from these things…" What things? The love of money. "…you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness." Use your entrepreneurial, creative energy and freedom to pursue _that, because that's where life is.
"Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate, that you keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will bring about at the proper time—He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen." Now watch this. Here are my six points.
"Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed."
How much of your big lump over here should you allow God to have for the advancement of his kingdom purposes? You have to figure that out. Does God want you to enjoy the fruits of your labor? Yes. But he tells you to make sure you invest it where you can really enjoy it. You only live that way when you are really a person of faith. You'd better not try and sort that out by yourself with just the Bible and the Spirit. You'd better surround yourself with others who love you enough to tell you the truth. Let's pray.
Father, thanks for these friends and a chance just to sit here and talk honestly about the condition of our world and the condition of our hearts as we are confronted continually with finding hope in this world. Today, as we sit and look at how men have scoffed at you because they have not walked faithfully with you in accordance to the Scriptures but because of greed and licentiousness have twisted the Scriptures for their own sordid gain, Lord, we look forward to the day when you expose them.
We pray right now, Lord, in every way that our lives need to be exposed that you would pierce our hearts and convict them so they're not pierced by the pangs of false love and worship of empty things. Help us to process this with each other in humility. Show us other areas outside of money where we are a mockery to your name. Show us where we're not living authentic lives as Christ followers. We thank you for your grace and mercy, which we all need. We don't come to you this morning thinking we're better than any other men.
In fact, we know, Father, that in many ways, even the leaders of this church, the more we see we are the chief of sinners, and when we do wrong I pray, Father, it would be exposed. I pray we would agree that it's wrong, confess it, extend each other grace, and begin to walk in the light and the truth of who Christ is again. Help us to be a humble group of people who stand against error but who walk humbly in the counsel of truth, delighting ourselves in the Lord and meditating on that law day and night.
We pray for our friends who are skeptical today. We stand with them and scoff at error, but we stand before them and point them to the God who is not full of error but full of truth and love and ask, Lord, that you might use our friendship to draw them deeper into relationship with you. We thank you for your love for us and for the fact that you teach so much to us about that which controls our hearts. You are good, and we are grateful to serve you this week, amen.
You have a great week of worship.
What do you say to a skeptic who's funny, persuasive, and so confident, that you're afraid he might just be right? What would you say if you found yourself sitting on "Real Time with Bill Maher"? Would you know how to respond to Robin Williams or George Carlin if fate brought you together on a cross-country flight? How ready are you to engage effectively with your witty and well-read co-worker over a cup of coffee? Skeptical yourself? Have you wondered if there would ever be a safe place where you could ask good questions and receive honest, well-reasoned answers?