If there’s anything more annoying than a preacher who is always bringing money into the mix, it’s one who sneaks money into his messages.
One minute he’s talking about love and prayer and then wham the next minute he’s talking about what people give and don’t give and then he has the audacity to draw lines between people’s hearts and their wallets and back again.
I’m sure more than one person in the congregation was thinking: “It’s one thing to talk about money it’s another thing to try to make a spiritual connection. After all what’s how I handle my money got to do with my relationship with God? They are two different things and I want to keep them separate.”
I’m sure that over the past thirty-seven years there have been people who sat in churches who had those very thoughts about my preaching. Because believe it or not after having pastored since 1981 and having been though three building projects there have been times that the topic of money has been part of my sermons.
And I’m probably guilty of sneaking it in from time to time. When we built in Truro in 1988 our treasurer, Gordon Sabine, said on at least one occasion that when I died they were going to engrave Luke 16:22 on my tombstone: “And the poor beggar died.”
Which I thought was a little bit of an insult, because while I may be a beggar I can assure you that I’m not a poor beggar, I do it very well.
But this morning we aren’t talking about Denn preaching about money. This morning we are talking about Jesus preaching about money. Because you kind of expect it of me, especially during money month. But we think Jesus must have been above that, after all he was . . . Jesus. You know love your neighbour and turn the other cheek Jesus, certainly not “Let’s talk about money” Jesus.
But is that a fair characterization of the Jesus from the Bible? Probably not. Those in the know tell us that Jesus spoke more about money, how we make and what we do with it, than he did any other single topic and he wasn’t all that sensitive about how he approached the subject.
He said what he had to say and didn’t always make friends, but that didn’t seem to matter to him. You might recall the story of the man who came to Jesus and asked what he had to do to get to heaven and Jesus told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor. The man’s response is found in Matthew 19:22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. And the amazing thing is Jesus didn’t chase after him, saying “Let’s not be too hasty, I didn’t actually mean everything, I meant half of everything.”
Or in the scripture that was read this morning, after Jesus finished talking about money, how we spend it and how we make it, we read this response. Luke 16:14 The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him. In the original language we are told that it literally said they turned up their noses at him.
But time and time again Jesus came back to the topic of money because he knew that if he didn’t that he wouldn’t be faithful to the will of God and that he wouldn’t be fair to those who heard him.
Each year I take a month in the spring to talk about money.
I didn’t always do it that way, for the first twenty years of my ministry I only spoke about money when there was a financial crisis in the church, and then it came across as scolding or as a guilt trip.
Now it’s just a regular part of our church calendar and you know that after this month you won’t get ambushed about money in the months ahead.
Our theme this year is “Giving to the Giver” and last week we looked at the giver, Jesus. And how he gave us himself and as a result of that gift he gives us eternal life, abundant life, peace and rest. As a matter of fact, we can to the conclusion that he really gives us everything.
This week we are going to look at the “Giver on Giving” or what we can learn from Jesus about our money.
We Learn Why the Topic is so Important Let’s go back to the story about the rich man that Jesus told to sell everything, and how he went away very sad. Well as Jesus watched him walk away he shook his head turned to his disciples and we read in Matthew 19:23-24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And then he tells them exactly how hard it is for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll say it again-it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
When you think about it that would be pretty tough. I mean it might just be me, but I find it difficult to put a little skinny piece of thread through the eye of a needle and here Jesus is talking about putting a great big camel through the eye of a needle. Have you ever touched a camel? They aren’t the softest critter out there, their fur or hair or whatever it is that a camel is covered in is pretty coarse and pretty thick, I’m thinking that it would even pretty tough to put a camel hair through eye of a needle, unless it was a really big needle.
Now I understand that in a crowd this size that someone is thinking “Well that isn’t actually what Jesus meant pastor.” And if I took the time and gave you the mic you would be able to wax eloquently about how there was a gate in the wall that protected Jerusalem that was very low and narrow and when the main gates were locked at night that the only one you could gain entrance through was this one, which by happenstance was called the “Needle’s Eye.”
And you would explain that the gate was only designed for a person and if the person had a camel with them they would have to completely unload the camel and make it get down on its knees and crawl through this gate. The lesson being that the rich person would have to unburden themselves of their possessions and humble themselves before they would be able to make it into the kingdom of God.
Which is a really good story but as far as we can tell it was just a story. There is no historical evidence that such a gate ever existed.
Instead if you research the story you discover that it was first used by a preacher, which should say it all, by the name of Theophylact of Bulgaria in the eleventh century. And as often happens, if something is repeated long enough people start to believe it.
And there are some who might be thinking, “No that wasn’t what I was going to say.” And if I gave them the mic they would tell me the Greek word for Camel was kamelos and that is very similar to the Greek word kamilos which meant a large rope.
Oh, give it up. All that is doing is trying to take the sting out of Jesus’ words, something we try to do on a fairly regular basis. Jesus wasn’t talking about something being difficult, he was talking about something being impossible. That’s why he went on to say Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
But what do we know about camels? Jesus probably looked over and saw a camel and used it as an illustration. But look around, we don’t have camels, that’s why we’re confused.
Then Denn told the people of Cornerstone Verily, Verily I say unto you -it is easier to drive a bent nail into a piece of hardwood with a banana than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
But who was Jesus talking about when he used the word “Rich”.
Well, Matthew Spencer the Director of Campaigns and Policy, Oxfam made this statement, just last year, “You could get the number of billionaires that have the same wealth as half of the rest of the world on one golf buggy.”
He was exaggerating a bit, it would have to be a big golf cart. But in theory these eight men, have more wealth than the combined worth of half the world’s population. Did you catch that? These 8 people are richer than 3.6 billion people combined.
And you are sitting there thinking “Wow am I ever glad that I’m not rich.”
Well maybe not in this neighbourhood but globally we are obscenely wealthy.
A couple of things to think about 15% of the world’s population live on less than $2.00 a day, 7% live on more than $50.00 a day and the other 78% fall somewhere in between.
http://www.globalrichlist.com is a great website, you put in your income and it tells you where you rank in the world.
For example, if you made 75,000.00 last year, from all sources. You push the button and discover that there are only 12,508,459 people in the world who made more than you last year. Which means 6,987,491,540 people made less than you last year. You are not in the top 1% but the top .21 %.
And I understand that the cost of living in Canada with housing etc. is much higher than in most of the developing world. But if you were willing to live in a mud hut with no indoor plumbing, grow your own food and walk everywhere you went you could get your costs down as well.
Instead of patting ourselves on the back we probably should be figuring out how to grease up that camel.
But still, why is it so difficult for a rich man, however you define rich, to get into heaven? It goes back to the statement that was read earlier that made the Pharisees scoff. Luke 16:13 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
And if you want to find out which one you serve then look to where your priorities are, look in your cheque book, or go online and check your bank statement. Where do your priorities lie?
Look in your calendar or your smartphone or whatever it is that you record where you spend your time. And then ask yourself, am I serving God or am I serving money?
Because it’s only when we answer that question that We Learn to be Wise with What We’ve been Given
Everybody likes good investments. They expect their investments to be secure and profitable. If you had all of your life savings tied up in one particular stock and your Money Guy called and said, “I have bad news, Acme Widgets has just tanked and you are wiped out.” Probably wouldn’t make your day. And it probably wouldn’t have been a wise investment.
And I know that this is a generalization and all generalizations are wrong, but often when the happens it’s because someone heard that a stock was going to perform astronomically, and they based their investment on greed.
Let’s never forget the old adage “When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”
And so, Jesus had this to say about investments Matthew 6:19-20 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.
We all know, without exception that we can’t take it with us when we go. We might say we can, we might hope we can, we might act like we can but deep down in our hearts we know that we can’t
Because as Job said, Job 1:21 He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave.” Billy Graham said something very similar when he said, “There won’t be a u-haul following your hearse.” And Edmund Burke said, “everything you own will at the end of your life belong to somebody else.” friends you can’t keep what you have, the only thing that will be yours for eternity is what you are.
Jack Benny said “If I can’t take it with me then I’m not going,” well he went anyways and he didn’t take it with him.
Even when we try to take it with us we fail, a number of years back it was reported that a lady in California was buried sitting behind the wheel of her rolls Royce silver shadow, wearing her fur coat and a fortune in jewellery.
Man she didn’t take it with her, if you went back there today and dug up that grave she’d be gone but what ever hadn’t rotted, rusted or been ripped off would still be there. Or as Colonel Sanders the founder of KFC said “There’s no good reason to be the richest man in the cemetery.”
The bumper sticker might proclaim “The Man With the Most Toys When He Dies Wins”, but the reality is “The Man With the Most Toys When He Dies, is Still Dead.”
And so, will you choose to invest your money in things, things that will belong to somebody else at the end of this journey or will you choose to invest into people’s eternities?
I hope and pray that Cornerstone doesn’t just exist to fill this lot, provide employment to a few people and give you some place to go and something to do on Sunday mornings. Because if that is why we exist than we might as well lock the doors, board up the windows and put a for sale sign on the front lawn.
We are here to change lives, save marriages, point kids and teens in the right direction and we say it over and over again we are here to help depopulate hell. At the end of the day we want to be able to say that there are more people in heaven and fewer people in hell because Cornerstone Wesleyan Church made a difference in people’s lives.
And that difference will only be made if we continue to exist, and from a worldly perspective your giving is what enables Cornerstone to exist. There are no government subsidy, there is no denominational help, we don’t hold bingo games or bean suppers.
My paycheque, the mortgage payment, which by the way is $7,000.00 a month, the heat, the lights and everything else right down to the toilet paper is paid for by people who love Jesus and love Cornerstone.
And every person who is connected with this church will have to decide how much they are willing to invest in what we do. Because you will spend your money somewhere. And you will choose what investments you make, and Jesus said it would be litmus test of who we are, in Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
From the Giver We Learn to be Responsible with What We’ve Been Given
Sometimes we get the impression that God wants it all and He doesn’t care what happens to us or our families. That isn’t the plan, God doesn’t ask for 100% of our finances or 90 or 50 or 40 or 25. In the scriptures it speaks of God’s people returning 1/10 of our income to God. Note I said returning because the assumption is that all that we have comes from God.
And so we have scriptures like Malachi 3:10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!
God doesn’t want us to lose our homes, he isn’t interested in us not feeding our children or defaulting on our taxes, that’s what the 90 % is for.
In the book of Mark, we read an account where the religious leaders tried to trap Jesus by asking if they ought to pay tax. The idea was that if he said no then he was being disloyal to the Roman Empire, but on the other hand if he said yes than he was condoning the occupation of Israel by Rome.
So Jesus asked to see a coin and he asked the question “Whose picture and title is on the coin.” Well the obvious answer was Caesar’s and so Jesus replied Mark 12:17 “Well, then,” Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” His reply completely amazed them. God just wants what’s rightfully His.
And the great thing about our Country is that if you give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and if you give to God what is God’s then at tax time Caesar will give you back some of what you gave to God. The reality is that in Canada if you tithe it doesn’t mean you give 10 % it’s closer to 5%.
We have a responsibility to our families that’s why the Bible tells us in 1 Timothy 5:8 But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.
But you do have to ask yourself what it means to “Care for” your family? and if HD TV’s, cell phones for kids, luxury automobiles, and outrageously expensive sneakers fall in that category, then again it might be a priority issue.
And finally, when we listen to the Giver on Giving, We Learn to Trust the Giver
The question that we have to ask ourselves when it comes to our finances and whether or not we will support the church is very simple it is “Can I trust God to take care of me and mine?” You say “But Denn!”
Nope no buts, that is the question, it is all a matter of trust and this is what Jesus said about that. Luke 12:22-31 Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life-whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things? “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.
Though March we are talking about money, how you make it and how you spend it, but the question that you need to be asking in your heart is “Can I trust God to take care of me and mine?”