15.04.2012 Feature Article


15.04.2012 LISTEN

MATTHEW 6:19-21, 24

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store 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.

No one can serve two masters, for either he would hate the one and love the other, or he would be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth (NASB).

A Church Board decided that people in the congregation were embarrassed when the offering plates were passed. So they thought they ought to have a new system that would not embarrass anybody, especially those who could not give. They asked the pastor to design a way of handling it so people could give as they came in or went out. So he built several interesting boxes and put them at each door. But these boxes were different. If you dropped in a dollar or more it made no noise, it was silent. If you gave a half dollar, a little bell tingled. If you gave a quarter, it blew a whistle. If you gave a dime a siren went off. If you gave a nickel, a shot sounded. If you gave nothing, it took your picture.

Howard Dayton, financial author and Founder of Crown Ministries, and Cofounder of Money Matters, a financial training ministry, has counted about five hundred verses in the Bible on prayer, but over 2,350 verses on how to handle money and possessions. I wanted to verify whether his conclusion is accurate. Therefore, on Thursday as I was studying to prepare this message, I pulled out my Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and began to check for myself. I did not do exhaustive computation on both topics, however I found out that Howard Dayton's conclusion was biblically accurate. I looked for the words Pray and Prayer, and I found that both terms were used three hundred and twenty-eight times. I then checked the words Money, Rich, Riches, and Wealth. To my amazement, I found that the Bible uses those terms three hundred and thirty-five times. I said that my calculation was not exhaustive because, I did not look for the words talent, possessions, treasure, drachma, mite, and denarius, or denarii. All these terms refer to money. Here is the explanation. The Bible mentions money more than it does prayer not because money is more important than prayer. The Bible and even Jesus Himself talked more about money than prayer because there is something in money that can compete with God in a believer's life. Money can stand in your way of commitment to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

I would like to speak on the topic, “Who Controls the Master Key?”

If you recall, last year I dealt with the Sermon on the Mount when I preached from Matthew 5-7. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was dealing with true discipleship. In the passage that we are dealing with today, Jesus is talking about the common distraction from discipleship. When you become a Christian, Jesus demands undivided commitment—no divided loyalties, no part-time disciples. Here is the truth: “Your attitude toward money is often the pulse of the heart of your discipleship. That is why Jesus and both the Old and New Testaments speak more on money even than prayer. In verse 19, Jesus gives a prohibition concerning the accumulation of treasures on earth. Jesus' reason for this prohibition is that earthly treasurers are corruptible and therefore insecure. Some people have taken what Jesus is teaching here to unbiblical extremes. First, there is no ban on possessions in themselves; Scripture nowhere forbids private property. Second, the Bible does not forbid Christians from “saving for a rainy day.” Third, Christians are not to despise, but rather to enjoy the good things, which our Creator has given us richly to enjoy (1 Tim. 4:3-4; 6:17). Some of you may be asking, if the Bible does not ban possessions, saving for a rainy day, and enjoying what God has given us then, what is Jesus talking about? What Jesus forbids His followers is the selfish accumulation of goods. He is talking about extravagant and luxurious living, the hardheartedness, which does not feel the tremendous need of the world's underprivileged people. Jesus is dealing with the foolish fantasy that a person's life consists in the abundance of his possessions, and the materialism, which imprisons our hearts to the earth.

Money is so important to some of you that you value it above everything else. Money is intoxicating. It is an opiate that addicts as easily and as completely as the iron grip of alcohol and narcotics. The power of money to change you is closer to that of Jesus Christ. Money possesses the power to rule your life, not for good and forever as Christ; but lure or entice you, like a moth, too close to the flame until finally your wings are set ablaze.

In verse 19, Jesus has taught us that earthly treasures are corruptible and therefore insecure. However, treasures in heaven are incorruptible and therefore secure. In one of my messages last year, I said that every Christian is to have two banks, the bank on earth and the bank in heaven. Nevertheless, we are to invest more of our resources in the bank in heaven than the bank on earth. Treasures in heaven are secure. Precautionary measures to protect them are unnecessary. They need no insurance coverage. They do not give you sleepless nights. They are indestructible. What Jesus is saying then, is that if it is safe investment you are after, nothing could be safer than investing your treasures in heaven. Let me ask you a question, “Why do some of you find it difficult to pay your monthly tithe yet you work?” For instance, if you are paid $400.00 every two weeks, why can you not give the Lord a tithe of $40.00 every two weeks?

A young man was prompted by his father's example of giving at church—an area in which he had been negligent, to do the same. So, next Sunday he gave a dollar. He told his father about it Sunday night and commented, “And would you believe I found a dollar in the parking lot! Next Sunday, I plan to give twenty!”

In verse 21, Jesus is saying that wherever your focus lies, whatever occupies your thoughts and time that is your treasure. Jesus is warning that your heart tends to be wrapped around your treasure, and only a few believers treasure God, as they should. In this teaching of Jesus He reveals the tension between actions and words in following Him. Words become cheap when you tell yourself you can act one way and believe another. Jesus exposed those who claim to value eternity while living as if there were nothing beyond this world. Your heart will be your treasure. The heart is a reference to your mind, emotions, and will. What you treasure most controls you, whether you admit it or not.

There is no doubt that money has an alluring power, tempting us with all that it can purchase or accomplish. Someone said, “I do not necessarily like money, but it quiets my nerves.” That is true; it is a fact. However, if you are not careful the magnetic power of money can pull you away from Christ.

The word “serve” in verse 24 translates “to be a slave to, literally or figuratively, voluntarily or involuntarily.” It is not a question of advisability, “You should not serve both God and money.” That would be a priority choice. It is not a question of accountability, “You must not serve both God and money.” That would be a moral choice. Rather, it is a matter of impossibility, “You cannot serve both God and money.” There is no choice; we each serve one, and only one, master. You are either a slave to God or a slave to money. There is an African in the Metroplex, who cannot become a member of any church because of giving of money. That person chooses to watch Christian TV, but when the message is completed and the TV evangelist is asking for money to support the TV ministry that person would switch to another TV channel. Due to this African's love for money that person cannot serve God. The fact is that despite the unwillingness to give to the Lord that person is not rich financially.

Money enslaves people; it will work you till you die. After it has conquered your poor soul, its haunting laughter could be heard howling through the chambers of hell. Then money seeks another unsuspecting victim, an ambitious person who wants just a little bigger slice of the good life.

Jesus said much about money because it is the most insidious, beguiling, and pervasive temptation. Money is not just a temptation for a moment of carnal pleasure; it is a temptation for us to be conquered by an inert, mindless master, and one incapable of saving us from sin or satisfying the deep hunger of our soul for true peace, meaning, and purpose.

In one of His parables in Matthew 13, Jesus said that the Word of God sown among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful” (Matt. 13:22).

No test of our true character is more conclusive than how we spend our time and money. If you want to know what is important to a person, you can ask him/her, and he will give you his best guess. That person may think himself generous because he always drops change in the slot to help Jerry's children. But what is happening with the rest of his checkbook?

If you really want to know what is important to you, get out you calendars and your checkbooks. Look at how you spend your time and money, then, you will know what is really important to you. For no test of your true character is more conclusive than how you use your time and money.

One of the most important principles of Christian stewardship is the Law of Single-minded service. Single-minded means having a single focus, a single interest, and a single purpose. It implies exclusivity of devotion, a wholehearted commitment to God transcending all other commitments. Due to God's grace and mercy, this kind of commitment is “our reasonable service,” as Paul told the Christians at Rome. We are to give ourselves as living sacrifices, yielding unreservedly to the will of God.

Many people in the United States have become a society of pretenders, bent on portraying an image of financial success whether or not there is any substance to it. There is a little marginal difference between the way Christians and non-Christians handle money in our secularized culture. Ivan Boesky, the Wall Street financial guru who was convicted of insider trading scheme, underscores the risk of serving money. Caught up in a high-pressure, and fast paced world where corruption was rampant. Boesky was part of a nationwide cancer of greed and avarice that eats away at our financial markets.

Penitent, he cooperated with officials to blow the lid off insider trading. However, he is a broken man, humiliated and dishonored. Boesky became a symbol of the extent to which a person can spin out of control when money is his god. However, the Bible commends that money is not the measure of prosperity. Nor is it necessary to fret over whether or not God will provide for our needs. God who owns everything has obligated Himself to meet all the needs of the faithful. “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Since God has promised to meet all of our needs if we are faithful and obedient to Him, then we can conclude that feeling out of control is self-inflicted pain. It results from serving money instead of God.

What is money? Money is morally neutral, just like a handgun or morphine. Put a pistol in the hand of a policeman and it is a tool of justice, but in the hand of a criminal it is an instrument of evil. Morphine in the wound of a soldier saves him, but it is death in the arm of a drug addict.

Money is simply a commodity, a medium of exchange, an inert means to other ends. We get money four ways.

1. We exchange our labor for it.
2. We rent it to others.
3. We hire others and earn a profit on their labor.

4. We take risks calculated to earn money.

Money by itself is uncomplicated. The problem then, must be with us. Jesus spoke so much about money because He knew how much we would struggle with it—that it would be His main competitor for our affection and loyalty.

Jesus requires single-minded service of His disciples. And single-minded service requires several things of us as believers. It requires self-denial, setting aside of personal wants (Mark 8:34). Single-minded service requires perseverance as well. The faithful steward sticks to the priorities and does not give up (Luke 9:62). Single-mindedness demands constant spiritual discipline. Living by this precept is not easy, but it is rewarding.

Therefore, be single-minded about God's Word. Do what Joshua did in meditating on the Word day and night, being careful to do everything written in it. The result of that was a succession of victories and influence that touched the entire nation (Joshua 24:1).

Be single-minded about God's will. By yielding to the Lord and refusing to be conformed to the pattern of this world, you are transformed spiritually.

Be single-minded about God's work. The wise steward keeps a single-minded view of what is truly important: the work of God and the fulfillment of His purposes in us. In this sense, all work is sacred if it is done with a heart focused on eternity.