At a church meeting, a very wealthy man rose to tell the rest of those present about his Christian faith. “I’m a millionaire,” he said, “and I attribute it all to the rich blessings of God in my life. I remember the turning point in my faith. I had just earned my first dollar and I went to a church meeting that night. The speaker was a missionary who told about his work. I knew that I only had a dollar bill and had to either give it all to God’s work or nothing at all. So at that moment I decided to give my whole dollar to God. I believe that God blessed that decision, and that is why I am a rich man today.” He finished and there was an awed silence at his testimony as he moved toward his seat. As he sat down a little old lady sitting in the same pew leaned over and said to him: “I dare you to do it again.”
Money is an issue that so many struggle with. To help walk through this, I will lead you through a four-week series on dealing with money issues. The text for the next two posts will be centered on Jesus’ interaction with a young rich man in Luke 12:13-21.
“Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Background of the text:
You have a rich man who asks Jesus to mediate a dispute over an inheritance. Here are the issues: Luke did not state what the specific problem was, but this is ultimately irrelevant. What is clear is that the motive behind the question was greed not the fulfillment of Ps 133:1,
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.”
Greed is an insatiable desire and lusts for more and more. It is all-consuming so that all of life becomes focused on the accumulation of wealth. There is no room for anything else, not even God. That’s why it is so hard for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.
There is no question that we live in a material world to steal a line from a Madonna song. Madonna was the big pop star in the 80’s (not the one headlining in the Roman Catholic church for my younger readers). Money is the power and driving force behind much of what happens in our daily lives. Far too many people believe that money plays a significant role in the happiness quotient of their everyday lives. No matter how firmly grounded are our spiritual values we often find themselves struggling with the issue of money. We struggle with profound questions such as how much is enough? What should I do with my money? Does God want me to have money and if so how much? Can I be comfortably well-off and still be spiritual? Should I give all my money to the poor? Should I give any of my money to the poor?
Over the course of this series, we will tackle one of the toughest issues we should deal with regarding money. What would Jesus do about money?
The Mention of Money in the Bible.
When you read the Gospels, you may be surprised to find Jesus spoke about this topic often. Sixteen of the 38 parables deal with how to handle money and possessions, and 10% of the verses (288 in all) deal with the subject of money. The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions.
The Bible has much to say on the subject of money and wealth. With that said, it is surprising we have so many misconceptions about money. Some of our wrong ideas are based on a misinterpretation of what the Word of God says. Others have developed over time in our culture and have just never been challenged. Let’s quickly examine a few of them.
Money is the root of all evil.
This is the quote I hear said wrong most often. The actual verse says “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10) There’s a huge difference in the reading of this verse. Money, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. What swings the pendulum is our attitude toward money. If our attitudes are sinful then, we turn money into a hindrance in our faith walk. If we have a sound understanding, then, money can be a tremendous asset. It is all about the attitude.
God needs your money, or the congregation will close.
As a pastor serving small, struggling urban congregations early on I could easily fall into the trap of teaching this to my members. After all, I have a family to feed. If the members don’t give, we don’t eat. The church needs your money. The danger with this teaching is that God is not poor. He owns it all. When you give to God, you are not “helping him out of a jam.” In the book of Psalms, David quotes God as saying:
“I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine and the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Psalm 50:10)
Having more money will make us happy.
The problem is that the target for “enough” keeps moving. Financial guru Ken Roberts said that when he began building his fortune, he thought that one million dollars was the magic number that would make him happy and eliminate all his worries. When he became a millionaire, he realized that he needed $5 million to be happy and at peace. When Roberts accumulated a net worth of $5 million, the target changed to $10 million. He finally realized that no amount would ever be enough—his peace of mind would have to come from something other than his bank account. The sum of money is not the key to happiness. The key to life is learning to be content. Contentment is not dependent on your circumstances. It is based on your relationship with the Almighty. As Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19,
“…pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.”
Stayed tuned for more to come in this series.
 Brad Munroe, One Voice, Two Hearts, sermon preached First Presbyterian Church, Pueblo, Colo., April 13, 2003.