What do you think is America’s pastime? It used to be baseball, now it seems to be football. But lately I think the new American pastime is shopping. We are rock stars at spending money. Check out some of these statistics: Average credit card debt- $16,000, Auto loans- $27,000, Student loans- $48,000 and combine that with mortgage loans and that leaves the average American debt at $130,000.
Money is something we use a lot and think about often. And for all the joys and blessings we get from the things we buy, I think we have an equal amount of problems. And this affects all ages. Children are prepped at a young age that they should get more A’s so that they can get into a good school and get a good job to get more money. Middle aged people– how many of your arguments with your spouse happen where money is the source of the problem? She wants him to work less so they can have more time together. He wants to work more so that the family can have more. She’s mad he bought a boat. He’s mad she bought another purse. Older people: just want to make sure your children and grandchildren are taken care of. They don’t want to be a financial burden on the family. Money is something we use a lot and think about often.
With all of this debt and financial problems it might seem like the answer is more money. If I had more money I could work less hours and spend more time with my family. If I had more I would finally feel secure. If I had more money I would have less debt and more joy. If I had more I could give away more and buy more and have more happiness. But I’m here today to tell you that more isn’t always more. More money plus more stuff does not equal more happiness.
I: The Lie of More
II: The Danger of More
III. The Gospel gives More
I: The Lie of More (12:13-15)
Before we jump into the lesson, I know there’s an issue that needs to be cleared up. Some of you might be thinking, who is this young guy and what gives him the right to talk about my money? And you are right. I’m no Dave Ramsey. I’m not 100% sure what a Roth IRA is. Last month I found out that I can shove literally everything I own in the back of my Honda Civic if I Tetris it properly. So this isn’t going to be a sermon about helpful tips how to get out of debt. But what we are about to learn today isn’t something I thought up but its words from our Lord Jesus Christ who cares about how we use our money. Let’s see what he has to say:
So Jesus is preaching to a large crowd around him and there is a pause in his sermon. A man from the crowd then stands up and says: “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” And Jesus is a little taken back, he says, “What? Who made me judge? I’m not the guy to talk about balancing a budget with.” Jesus had a much more important job: to seek and save the lost. So then Jesus says this: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
Jesus tells us to watch out against all kinds of greed. Translators bounce back and forth between translating this word “greed” or “covetousness” but the literal translation has the idea of “having more,” someone always thirsting for more. Think of it like this: a man is stranded on a boat in the middle of the ocean surrounded by salt water. His mouth is dry and he is thirsty. He starts to drink the salt water and at first it feels great to wet his mouth, but he just keeps drinking it and drinking it and it just dehydrates faster until he dies. This is the picture of greed. Deep down each one of us has a thirsty heart. We crave love, acceptance, purpose, security and success. And we believe a lie if we think that more money will satisfy these deep longings. So we buy and buy and buy and save and save and save falsely thinking if we have more we will have more happiness.
Commercials show us smiling people buying a product telling us that we won’t be happy unless we too buy it. We tell ourselves the lie that we won’t feel secure until we get X amount of dollars in our bank account. Whenever we turn to outward stuff and material possessions to satisfy our inner thirst we will always be left dry and empty. I think you know that money won’t buy happiness but it is easy to believe this lie. Jesus is the only one who can quench our thirsts. He tells us to watch out for greed. Life does not consist of the abundance of possessions. More isn’t always more.
II: The Danger of More
Believing the lie that more money means more joy is dangerous. Jesus tells a story to prove this point. He says there once was a rich man who was super blessed. (Side point- there is nothing wrong with being rich. There is nothing in this parable to show that this man gained his riches in a sketchy way. The problem wasn’t that he had a lot; his attitude was the problem.) This rich man worked hard his whole life and now he had so much. He said to himself. I can finally kick back, my barns are full, my savings account is doing well, I’ll put my kids in a nice school, buy the newest Iphone and finally enjoy life. But look at these two verses and count how many times he says “my.”
“He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place 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” (ESV).
Do you catch the selfishness? In these two short verses he says mine so many times that he comes across sounding like one of the seagulls from Finding Nemo. Mine Mine Mine. In reality, God is the one who gives us everything. So instead of saying I’m going to eat my breakfast, then use my car and go to my job and then spend my money, the proper Christian attitude is “I’m going to eat God’s food, then use God’s car to go to his job and then I will spend God’s money.”
This rich man had it all wrong. He thought he finally had enough to enjoy life but then God said: “You fool! Your life will be demanded from you tonight. You are going to die tonight! Then what is going to happen to your stuff?” And the man died and his barns rotted.
I think you can see how dangerous it is to live a life focused on money. But I ran across this quote by Mark Twain about money. Maybe you had the joy and privilege of reading him at FVL like I did. He said:
Some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some worship power, some worship God, and over these ideals they dispute and cannot unite–but they all worship money.
Ok, I know what you are thinking: “Greed affects all people and I understand we all struggle with greed, but worship? I don’t worship money. I’ve never bowed down to a 100 dollar bill and prayed to it.” And you are right. We don’t worship money but we do worship what it can give us. Whenever you trust in your money or bank account to take care of you instead of God, you are worshipping an idol. In the book of Colossians Paul calls greed idolatry: Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (3:5) Money promises that it can give peace of mind, happiness, and security, but it’s a lie. These things can only truly come from Jesus Christ. When we worship the idol of more it creates a profound sense of entitlement and selfishness. This leads to terrible arguments between spouses, broken relationships, and lives focused on stuff, stuff that will rot and pass away. When we think that I will finally be happy or content when I have more you are worshipping the idol of more. The idol of more threatens to destroy our relationship with God. More isn’t always more.
III: The Gospel gives more
Jesus said: “the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” So how do we become rich toward God? Let’s find out. The rich man in the parable when he had his life demanded from him and he had to give an account to God the Father for all of his selfishness and materialism. One day your life will be demanded from you as well. But we do not need to fear. Our Lord Jesus Christ lived in heaven where he had everything and came to this world full of stingy and poor sinners and owned nothing. The one robe that he wore was stripped off of him and fought over by Roman soldiers. The God of the universe was beaten and stripped naked and died on a cross. He who was rich became poor so that poor sinners can be eternally rich.
Jesus took a crown of thorns so that we could have the crown of life. Jesus was stripped naked so we could have a robe of righteousness. Jesus became poor so we can be rich.
Last summer I served as a vicar in New Mexico and on the average Sunday half the people in the pews were Navajo. Many of these Navajo people had backgrounds in the traditional Navajo religion where if they wanted prayers or ceremonies they would have to pay a witch doctor. The medicine man would come and do one ceremony to heal one person but if you wanted to fix a different part of your life you would have to keep paying him more and more. Thank God that is not how Christ works. He gives us his grace as a free gift that we pay nothing for. The gospel gives us true peace, joy, security and contentment.
Knowing the gift that God gives us leads us to become generous with our possessions. The gospel motivates husbands and wives to have conversations about money without it becoming a heated argument. God’s gift leads us to become content with what we have. It leads us to give generously to the spread of the gospel. We live in a world where we so easily believe that the more we will feel happier, but the gospel gives us so much more. Amen.