Sometimes we may think that money and wealth should not be discussed in church, that we should use this time for more important, more spiritual subjects. We may even remember the incident where Jesus chased the money changers from the temple, overturning their tables of coins and lashing they with a whip.
Yet Jesus often preached on the subject of money. He told the parables about the treasure hidden in a field, the pearl of great price, the tenants who would not pay their rent, the talents or sums of money that were loaned to three servants, the parable of two men who were forgiven great debts, one great and one small.
He told the parable of the lost coin, the prodigal son who wasted his inheritance, and this parable of the rich fool. One time Jesus was concerned enough to send a disciple to pay his taxes with a coin that was provided in a fishís mouth. At worship he pointed out the woman who gave her last two coins for an offering. He also said, "No man can serve two masters. You cannot love both God and money."
In fact, of the 40 some parables of Jesus recorded in the Bible, just under half of them refer to proper use of money and riches. You can see that Jesus really did have much to say about money. He taught us that all riches really belong to God and warned us about the consequences about not being rich toward God.
Read Luke 12:16-21.
What does it mean to be rich toward God? We can learn several truths here about money and property.
Being Rich toward God is to believe that God is the giver of all good things, including life and salvation. We live in a society that pays little attention to spiritual truth. It values property, income, status, social standing, and material wealth. Everywhere advertising confronts us suggesting what we really need most can be bought in a store. For instance, on Valentineís day our love is questioned if we do not buy an expensive present for that special someone.
All the emphasis today is on what you drink, drive, and wear on your body. No one seems to care about whatís going to happen to them when they die. Christians reject this lifestyle. We believe we are more than consumers. Being rich toward God is to know that we are the beloved children of God.
Being rich toward God means you measure your own worth by who you are, not by what you own. A personís wealth tells us nothing about who they are on the inside. It doesnít matter to God what you are worth. He considers a person to be wealthy when they are at peace with him, when they have the certainty that nothing can separate them from his love. Christians are rich toward God when they depend on him to supply their every need, when they are certain of Godís unconditional love.
We are rich toward God when the thing we value most in this life is what Jesus gave us on the cross. We know that we are totally undeserving of what he did for us. There Jesus made us acceptable to God and gave us a life of peace and joy that will never end.
Being rich toward God is the gift of finding the joy of using the good things God gives to be a blessing to others. We find examples of this throughout the Bible. When Noah and his family stepped out of the ark after being saved from the great flood, the first thing they did was to offer a sacrifice to God. When God blessed Abraham in his battle against the wicked kings, the first thing he did was give a tenth of everything he had to Melchizedek, Godís priest, because he was so thankful.
When the woman came to the temple to offer her gift for the poor, Jesus noted that her two pennies were the greatest gift, for it was all that she had.
When the Apostle Paul came to visit the poor congregations in Macedonia in northern Greece, they collected a tremendous mission offering for those in need.
With these and the many other examples in Holy Scripture, why are we unable to do the same today? Why is it so easy to sign a hundred and fifty thousand dollar home mortgage, to buy a thirty thousand dollar automobile, but so hard to sign a pledge card to the church, or put in a check for ten percent of our income into the offering basket?
Most of us give more than twenty percent of our income to the government in taxes. We do it because we will be punished if we donít. What about God? He does not threaten those who belong to him. He supplies us with all we need in this life. He washes away all of our guilt and sin. He gives us a place at his table, a room in his heavenly mansion. Does the government do anything like that for us? Why donít we respond to God in the way he asks? He is so kind and loving to us, and we respond by giving him the leftovers, or nothing at all for that matter.
One of the reasons for this is because many Christians today have allowed themselves to fall into financial bondage. We are in bondage to loaded credit cards, payment plans, and expensive lifestyles. We live beyond our means. For that reason we cannot give a sacrificial tithe that God calls for. God provides a house, but we have to have a bigger one. He gives us a car, but we want a more expensive one. We are never satisfied.
When we live like this we miss out on the joy of knowing how well God provides. For when you give to God before you give to yourself, when you put that sacrificial gift in the offering plate every Sunday, you have the joy of knowing that God is going to take care of you. You stop comparing the way you live to the way other people live. You know you are different. You have different goals, different dreams. You are free. But the best thing of all is you see yourself trusting God. There is nothing quite like it.
We forget that God does not need our money. He only wants our heart. But our heart cannot be divided. We cannot build a partition inside it and say, "this part belongs to God, but this part is for me." Everything belongs to God. He only loans us what we need so we can live in his world.
Being rich to God means using what we have right now not for selfish purposes, but to serve him.
God has given us the wonderful opportunity to know who we belong to, and it isnít to the monthly bills or the lifestyles of our friends and relatives. We belong to Jesus. He paid our debt to God. He forgives our past wrongs, our divided hearts. He told us to cast all our cares upon him. He shows us the right use of all the things he gives us, that is to serve him.
To give to Godís purposes and to share with others is to believe that God will supply all of your needs. And the family that comes together around God ís purposes is the family that has peace and joy in serving Jesus.
The man in the parable built the barns, got himself all set, and said to himself, "Itís time to relax, eat, drink and be merry." Financial planners would say he was wise, but God called him a fool, for that very night he died. What did it gain him?
Being rich toward God is being ready to leave everything behind at a momentí s notice. We donít know how long we have to live. Weíd like to live to see our children grow up, but we have no promise of that. What we strive to leave behind is a legacy of faith, that people will remember that we trusted in God for everything. There are great riches stored up for us in heaven.
What matters most in life is not how rich you are for your own purposes, but how rich you are toward God. In the person of Jesus God gives you all the riches of heaven. God is trying to teach you this is true that you may demonstrate it in your life. Amen.
May the peace that surpasses all our understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.
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