Sunday, September 28, 2014
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Today, we kick off a four-week series called, “Money Matters.” For some people, money matters too much. Others don’t seem to understand how important it is. What does God have to say about this? It turns out, a lot!
Jesus talked a great deal about money. By one scholar’s count, 16 of His 38 parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions. One out of 10 verses in the gospels deal directly with the subject of money. And there are more 2,000 verses in the Bible on money and possessions. The Bible has lots to say about money, because money matters. Today, I’ll tell you why it matters.
First, I want to put your hearts at ease. People get kind of wiggy when churches talk about money. They think, “Oh no, here we go; all they want is my money.” Of course! (Just kidding.) I want to assure you that I want something for you, not from you. I know so many people who are struggling financially, and I want something better for you. I want you to enjoy the abundant life Jesus came to bring. I want you to experience the joy of financial freedom and health. Most importantly, I want you to experience the true riches of life. I want something for you, not from you. So relax, I’m not going to hammer you for offerings.
The Big Idea: Money matters in a number of big ways; it matters to God that we get this right.
1. Money matters: you need money!
Is money important? It is if you like to eat! How many of you spend some time every day involved in the processes of earning, spending, saving or giving money? How many of you ever worry about money? How many of you wish you had more money than you have? How many of you have something good you’d like to do, but you lack the money? Money matters! You need it! Let me give you three reasons why you need money:
1. You need money to provide for current needs. We’ve got to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. Next weekend we’ll talk about spending money to meet our current needs.
2. You need money to provide for future needs. Proverbs 6 says “Go to the ant, consider its ways and be wise. It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” How many of you have been doing fine financially until the car died, the washer went out and the kids all got sick? In two weeks we’ll talk about saving and investing money to provide for future needs.
3. You need money to provide for others’ needs. Ephesians 4:28 commands us to work so that we may have something to share with those in need. In three weeks, we’ll talk about giving money to provide for others’ needs.
You need money! Money matters! Jesus seemed to think so. He talked a great deal about money. The Bible has lots to say about money. Why? Because money matters: you need money! And you all know that. But money matters for some other reasons too.
2. Money matters: It is a test.
Jesus spoke about money like it was a test. A classic example is in:
Luke 16:1–13 Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. 2 So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
3 “The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg—4 I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’
5 “So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
6 “ ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.
“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’
7 “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’
“ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.
“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
8 “The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. 9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
In this story, a boss decides to fire one of his managers for poor performance. The manager had wasted his money. The Greek word (diaskopizo) means to scatter or disperse, then to waste or squander. He was tossing money around everywhere, wasting it. So the boss decides to fire him.
This guy thinks, “I’m in deep weeds. I need money, like Pastor Joe just said, and I’m losing my job! And the problem is, I don’t know what else I can do.” Then he had an idea. He calls in his boss’ creditors and starts handing out deep discounts in their bills: 50% off to one guy; 20% off to another. He was making friends that might be able to help him out after he lost his job. His boss commended him for his shrewdness. The Greek word (phronimos) refers to thoughtful planning, being prudent and shrewd.
The first thing to clear up is that Jesus is not advocating dishonesty. This man is labeled dishonest or unjust all the way through. So what is Jesus advocating? He tells us in verse 9:
9 I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
Use money shrewdly, prudently, to make friends, and specifically friends who will welcome you into eternity. In other words, use money to please God. He is the friend who will welcome you into eternal dwellings. Use money to please God—that’s what we’ll be talking about in this four-week series.
Then in verses 10-12, Jesus puts a new spin on it.
10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.
Good principle: if you can be trusted with little, you can be trusted with much. What is the little and the much?
11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
If you can’t be trusted with money, who will trust you with true riches? Money is a test. If you can handle money well, God can trust you with bigger things, with true riches. Jesus doesn’t define what the true riches are here, but we’ll take a look at that in a few minutes. Right now, I just want you to see that money matters; it’s a test.
ILL: Every parent in the room has done this, or will, with your kids. You give them a little freedom and see how they handle it before you give them more. You give them a little money and see how they handle it before you give them more.
Many years ago, when our oldest son Andy was 11, Laina and I were out of town for meetings, and Andy went to a sleepover for junior high guys. He borrowed $10 from Grandpa. Since I had to pay back the $10, I asked him what he had spent the money on. He said, “Oh, bowling, food, video games, candy…it’s not like I wasted it!”
I’ve never given him much money since!
If you can be trusted with little, you can be trusted with much. Jesus applied this to money and the true riches.
God watches to see how we handle His money. It matters! It’s a test. Flunk this test and you miss out on something that matters more than money!
3. Money matters: It is a tool.
One of the big ideas in Jesus’ story about the shady manager is that he was just a manager, not an owner. Whose money was it? It was the boss’ money. He was managing someone else’s money. Jesus affirms here what is taught in many other places in the Bible: It all belongs to God and we manage it for Him.
It’s God’s money, and it’s God’s stuff. Even your life is not your own!
1 Corinthians 6:19–20 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
You are not your own; you were bought at a price. You belong to God, lock, stock and barrel! So we really don’t own anything. God owns everything and gives us some to manage for Him. This is true of our lives, our time, our energy, and our gifts and abilities.
And it’s true of our money and possessions. God owns everything and we are His managers. It’s all His. Your money, your car, your house, your stuff, it all belongs to God. It’s all His.
So we have to ask Him, “Lord, what do you want me to do with Your money? Your car? Your house? Your stuff?” And then obey Him! You have to learn how He wants you to manage it. How does God want you to spend His money? How does God want you to save or invest His money? How does God want you to give His money? We’ll talk about all three of those in the next 3 weeks; all those things matter.
In churches, this is often called stewardship. “Stewardship” is just an old word for “management”, and “steward” is an old word that means “manager.” Too often, when churches talk about stewardship, they only talk about giving. But to steward or manage God’s money, we have to understand not only how He wants us to give, but how He wants us to spend and save. Stewardship isn’t just about the money you give; it’s about what you do with all God’s money!
Even more, stewardship isn’t just about money; it’s about what you are doing with everything you have, including your life! Your life is God’s gift to you; what you do with it is your gift to God. Stewardship is how you manage your time, your energy, your life, your gifts, your money and stuff—everything—as God wants.
So we are managers, not owners, and money is a tool. God gives it to us to meet needs: to spend to meet our current needs, to save to meet our future needs, to give to meet others’ needs. Money is a tool and can do a lot of good! Over the next three weeks we’re going to talk about what God wants us to do with His money, about how to use this tool as He intended.
Money is a tool. It’s easy to forget that it all belongs to God, that money is just a tool, and we begin to make money the most important thing. Money matters; it is a good tool, but it makes a lousy god.
ILL: This is a shovel. It is just a tool. It can be used for good or evil; I can dig a hole to find water that will sustain life, or I can smack someone over the head and kill them. The shovel is just a tool; it is neither good nor bad, but can be used by people for purposes that are good or bad. Money is like a shovel; it is a tool. What matters is how you use it.
What if I started worshiping shovels? Made it my goal in life to get as many shovels as possible? Spent most of my waking hours thinking about shovels, acquiring shovels, sorting and storing shovels, guarding and protecting my shovels? What if the shovel became the most important thing in my life? You’d say, “Joe is a sick man; he needs help!”
What if I worshiped money? Made it my goal in life to get as much money as possible? Spent most of my waking hours thinking about money, acquiring and saving money, guarding and protecting my money? What if money became the most important thing in my life? Then you might say, “How about a loan, old buddy!”
Which leads to my next observation.
4. Money matters: It is a danger.
I said that money is a tool, and tools are neither good nor bad. It all depends how you use them. But money is different. Money is a tool, but it is dangerous. My friend Brady Cass says it’s a power tool, and those always come with a warning on them. Money is a power tool, and power tools are dangerous. Let’s go back to our story of the shady manager in Luke 16. Jesus goes on:
Luke 16:13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
There’s a warning here. You can’t serve both God and money. You can’t live for both God and money. Something or someone has to be at the top of your values pyramid; something or someone has to be most important. You can’t worship both God and money. Why would Jesus say this? Because many people love money more than God. Money is alluring, captivating, seductive. It’s not neutral; it’s dangerous. Look at the next verse:
Luke 16:14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.
They didn’t like what Jesus said about money because they loved money—and Jesus said you can’t serve both God and money. Friends, money can keep you from God. It kept these Pharisees from Jesus. Don’t let that happen to you. Paul wrote this to Timothy:
1 Timothy 6:9–10 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Notice that Paul didn’t say that money is a root of all kinds of evil; it’s the love of money that is a root of all kinds of evil. The love of money can plunge you into ruin and destruction. The love of money can keep you from God.
Money matters! You need it, it is a test, it is a tool—and it’s a danger. Don’t underestimate the seductive power of money.
5. Money matters. But it doesn’t matter most.
Mark 12:28-31 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
What is most important? To love God with all you’ve got and to love people. Jesus was very clear that this is the most important thing in life. You can pile up riches, but if you don’t love God and people, you are poor in what matters most. Money matters, but God matters more. Money matters, but people matter more. Loving God and loving people is what matters most.
In the words of those great theologians, the Beatles, “I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.”
Jesus said that if we can’t handle money, who will trust us with the true riches? What are the true riches? I think the true riches of life are relationships. In another story in Luke 12, Jesus talked about a man whose business prospered, and he built bigger barns and larger bank accounts. Then he kicked back and thought, “I’m set. I’ll take life easy and just have fun!” But that night, God said, “You fool. Tonight you’re going to meet me, and who will get all this that you’ve piled up.” Then here was the punchline:
Luke 12:21“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
He was rich financially, but poor toward God. Bad trade! The true riches are to be rich toward God—to have a rich relationship with God that makes your life full and rich. And the true riches are to have rich relationships with people.
Matthew 6:19–21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Here’s that contrast again between financial riches and the true riches. How do you store up treasures in heaven? When you use your money to help people, you have stored up treasure in heaven. How do I know that? What will be in heaven? There are two things that I know for sure: God and people. And Jesus said that those are most important—those are the true riches. You can’t take money with you.
ILL: I thought you’d enjoy this letter to Ann Landers.
Dear Ann Landers:
My Aunt Emma was married to a tightwad who was also a little strange. He made a good salary, but they lived frugally because he insisted on putting 20 percent of his paycheck under the mattress. (The man didn’t trust banks.) The money, he said, was going to come in handy in their old age.
When Uncle Ollie was 60, he was stricken with cancer. Toward the end, he made Aunt Em promise, in the presence of his brothers, that she would put the money he had stashed away in his coffin so he could buy his way into heaven if he had to. They all knew he was a little odd, but this was clearly a crazy request. Aunt Em did promise, however, and assured Uncle Ollie’s brothers that she was a woman of her word and would do as he asked.
The following morning she took the money (about $26,000) to the bank and deposited it. When Uncle Ollie died, she wrote a check and put it in the casket.
Aunt Em understood that you can’t take it with you! You’ll never see a hearse towing a U-Haul.
So what do you take to heaven with you? You take the person you have become—this is your gift to God. And you take the relationships you have built—your relationships with God and people. The true riches, treasure in heaven, is facing God as a friend whom I love more than anyone. The true riches is looking around me and seeing dozens, hundreds, thousands of people from my life whom I invested in and are now with me in heaven. That’s the true riches.
ILL: John deButts was chairman of AT&T. He had thousands of employees under him. He was wealthy; he was influential. Presidents would call him for advice. But he realized how valuable all that was one day when he began to have serious health problems—and nobody came to visit him in the hospital. Nobody sent a card, nobody gave a phone call. He said, “The only one there was the one I had largely ignored for 30 years: my wife.”
I want you to experience the true riches of a relationship with God, and rich relationships with people.
Money matters! But it doesn’t matter most. So as we talk about how God wants us to manage His money over the next 3 weeks, we want to keep this perspective. It all belongs to God. We manage it for Him. We use it to make the true riches—love relationships with God and people.