I want to speak with you this morning about our wealth. Our money. Our riches, because we are rich. We really are. You may say, well I'm not rich.
One day a father and his rich family took their son in their fancy car out to the country. They wanted to show the son how poor people live. So they spent the whole day there and spent the night there. The son learned a lot. When they got back from their trip, the father set the son down and said, well son, now you can see how poor people live. Did you learn a lot? What did you learn? The son answered, well, I saw that we have one dog at our house and they have four dogs. We have a pool that reaches clear to the middle of the garden. They have a creek that has no end. We have an imported lamp in our living room. They have stars. Our patio reaches to the front yard. They have a whole horizon with no buildings in the way. When the little boy was finished his father was speechless and the son said, thanks dad, for showing me how poor we are. Never criticize those folks. If they're happy and they have some of the fine things of life like a creek, some dogs, some happiness, it's okay. They're rich.
Isn't it true that it all depends on the way you look at things? If you have love, if you have a loving church family, if you have friends, if you have food to eat, if you have good humor, if you've got a positive attitude about life, you've got everything. Everything you need.
Are you over the age of 65. If you are, you're blessed, because the world wide life expectancy is about 65 years. You've exceeded that. God has blessed you because of that. Can you safely take a casual walk in your neighborhood without worrying about being robbed or mugged? Did you know that 29% of Americans point to an area near their home where they would be afraid to walk at night. Here in our town, it's more or less a safe place. There are members of this church who don't even lock their doors. It is so unlike various other areas of the world. We are blessed here.
One in eight households with a mortgage is either in foreclosure or in default. Are you able to pay the mortgage payment on your house. If you are, then you're blessed. You really are. God has richly blessed America. If you make $30,000 a year, you are in the top 7% of the wealthiest people in the world. The top 7%. 93% of the people in the world are poorer than you are. We're rich. Let's not be greedy with our wealth. Greed is similar to murder, don't you think? You don't think that. Greed is similar to murder.
Turn to Romans 1. This pictures the rough gang that greed hangs out with. Now I want you to observe the friends that greed has. Romans 1:29. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness. And now it lists what those wicked things are. Evil. Greed. Depravity. They're full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice. They are gossipers, slanderers, God haters, insolent, arrogant, boastful. They invent ways of doing evil. They disobey their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. What a gang that greed hangs out with. Greed is one of the worst things in the world. It really is. Greed caused this great recession that we are in. These big bankers in the big cities of America. Greed.
Jesus says in Luke 12:15, don't be greedy. What we want is more, and more, and more. Do we need all that stuff? Let's sell some of the stuff we have. We are not satisfied with what we have. We want something that somebody else has. In Philippians 4:11, Paul is speaking. He says, I'm not saying this because I am in need. For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Be content with what you have. There's no problem with that is there.
If you look at Matthew 19, the rich young ruler came up to Jesus one day and in verse 16 to 22 he asked Jesus some questions and he basically asked what he needed to do to get eternal life. He was a wealthy commandment keeper. He was rich. He was young. He was a ruler and kept the law. He had a lot going for him and Jesus basically said here, go and sell your possessions and give away the money that you get from that. Sell them all, and come and follow me. Jesus basically said to the rich young ruler, you go, you have an estate sale. Clean out everything you have. Sell it all and give your assets to help where the needs exist. Did the rich young ruler do that? No. He did not want to do that. And so he walked away.
Now what was wrong with the rich young ruler? He was trying to find a way to get eternal life and still keep his money. That was his problem. He wanted to keep his money and his possessions and have eternal life, and a true follower of Jesus is always a liberal giver. The rich young ruler was not. If a true Christian sees a worthy need in his church or in his world, he will not cling to his money. He will generously contribute to that.
Imagine that you are walking down the greenway and you see a healthy dog come along with his head high and he holds a big juicy bone in his mouth. He comes upon a dog that is emaciated. He's starving. He's weak. His ribs are sticking out. The dog is hungry. Do you think that the dog with the bone will place that bone in front of the starving dog? He won't. If the weak dog comes after the bone, there's going to be a quarrel. There's going to be a fight, because animals by their very nature are possessive. They are. That's just how dogs do. Only human beings who are made in the image of God can be taught to be giving. Giving is a wonderful Godly trait. We're not born with that trait. We're born selfish. Even babies will fight over a pacifier.
But we can be taught to be giving. Giving is a Godly attribute. Every time you give liberally it shows how far removed you are from being an animal. That is true. You're not an animal. How do we know that? Because you give. Animals rarely do that.
We're actually rich here in America. If you see a homeless person sleeping under the bridge of the freeway out there on I-75 with the sound of the traffic going over their bedroom ceiling all night long, and that person, let's suppose, makes $2500 a year holding up that cardboard sign, will work for food, hungry, take pity on me. $2500 a year. Did you know that that person makes more than 82% of the people of the world make. That's amazing. To all those 82% of the people in the world, you as a homeless person sleeping under the bridge are a zillionaire.
Let me ask you a question. Did you spend over $2.50 on your Thanksgiving meal that you had a few days go? Over 3 billion people in the world today live on less than $2.50 a day. in fact, one fifth of the population of the world live on less than one dollar a day. I keep a stock of one dollar bills in my Bible to give for the children's story. Every time I do I give one of those children more money than 1/5 of the world's population exists on every day. One dollar. The parents of those types of people often will skip a meal so that the children can eat. The whole family doesn't eat together. They've got to rotate the times in which they could eat. Even here in America. Now you probably think, well here in America we're all fighting the battle of the bulge. Here in America 50 million people, one out of every six people here in our country were unable to afford to buy sufficient food to stay healthy at some point last year. One out of six. Because we're in a great recession. We're in a terrible time. Times are not good.
Do you know what the most expensive vehicle to operate today is? The shopping cart. It's true. Resolve that in life you will travel light and live simply. Isn't that what we ought to do? We don't need all that stuff. In the United States today there are more private vehicles than there are people who are licensed to drive those vehicles. Because we want more stuff. We are rich. Americans every year spend $8 billion on cosmetics. $8 billion which is more than the estimated yearly total needed to provide basic education for every human child in the world. We're rich. We really are rich.
Look at Luke 12:16. This is what Jesus said to them. Watch out. Be on your guard against all kinds of greed. Then he says, a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. We don't go through life trying to accumulate more than other people. Most of us buy things we don't need, with money that we don't have, to try to impress people that we don't like. At this Christmas season, give a present that will not gather dust on somebody's neglected shelf in the back room somewhere. Most people really want more love instead of more stuff. That's what your kids want. You demonstrate by your life how true life ought to be lived. That's what a Christian will do. So at this Christmas time, live the good life, and not the goodS life. All those goods that you could have. Just live the good life. All those goods, we don't need those things.
Do you own a $50,000 car? It's easy to own a $50,000 car. How do you do it? Well you just go out and buy a $20,000 car on 60 monthly payments at a pretty high interest rate and you will own a $50,000 car. Have we forgotten how to save up? We ought to be savers. Save up to make your major purchase if you can. Now maybe you can't do that with your house, but save up before you buy. Do you know how long it takes to pay off an $8000 credit card bill at 18% interest? If you don't make the payments you will be paying 18 or more percent interest. It takes 54 years if you make the minimum payment to payoff that credit card debt of only $8000. Avoid credit purchases. You become a borrower when you do that. Credit is what keeps you from knowing how far past broke you are. You don't need those plastic passports to poverty unless you can pay them off every month.
Many Americans are poorer because they love to take foolish chances. Did you know that $650 billion was spent on legalized gambling in 1997, compared to 450 billion spent at the grocery store. That's not good. This $650 billion represents $2300 for every man, woman and boy and girl in America. That's how much is spent on gambling and the lottery in America.
Let's be wise. Be generous with your church. The only money that you can take with you when you die is what you have given to the Lord's work. Share your wealth by choice while you live. Jesus said in Luke 12:21 that we should be rich toward God. How do you become rich toward God? Any idea? Well that's what you have given to the Lord's work. You share your wealth. That means that you give generously to the Lord's work in life and when you die. Look at Proverbs 3:9 and 10. Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops and then you barns will be filled. How full will your barns be? They will be filled to overflowing, the Bible says. Your vats will brim over with new wine. You're going to have all the grape juice you could possibly need. Your barns will be overflowing if you are generous with the Lord. You honor the Lord with your wealth, and you honor God. Every time that you turn in a tithe envelope, you are honoring God. That's what the Bible says.
We humans are pack rats. Some people pack away more than other people pack away but we are going to store up wealth. So the question is, where? So may I ask you, where do you bank? Do you bank here in town? Your main bank where you make your deposits ought to be the bank of heaven. Where one of the deposit slips is the tithe envelope. If God has blessed you, give back to Him.
Now here's a serious question for you to ask yourself. Go home and figure this out. How much money did you make in the last 10 years? Figure it out and then ask yourself one other question. How much of that do I have stored in heaven?
Let me give you five keys on how to manage God's money. Number one. Recycle it. Did you know that wealth must be recycled? It must be distributed. This is the opposite of hoarding. God wants to use our money over and over. Money is supposed to be used. A whistle is not a whistle until you blow it. Love is not love until you share it. A song is not a song until you sing it. It's just a poem. Wealth is not true wealth until you spread it around. Where do we get this from. Come over to Ecclesiastes 5:13. I have seen a grievous evil under the sun. Wealth hoarded to the harm of its owner. You realize that what the Bible is saying in here is that wealth that is hoarded harms its owner. God's Word translation says, riches lead to the downfall of those who board them. It must be distributed.
Number two. Christians will manage God's wealth. You are the manager. God gives you a limited quantity of wealth and you are the caretaker of God's money. A bad steward says, you know that money is for me to spend on myself. To enlarge my collection of stuff. A good steward will manage God's assets and use them according to God's plan. I hold in my hand a nail. It's a big nail. I read a story of a man who kept a nail like this on top of his checkbook to remind him of what Jesus did on the cross. Every time he paid his bill that nail was there to remind him. I wish I had enough nails to give each one of you one of these to remind us when we distribute our checks of what Jesus did for us, because Jesus did a lot for us.
Number three. You can't get rid of God's wealth. Do you believe that? You can't get rid of God's wealth. It's like a boomerang. Look at Luke 6:38. It says this. Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will be poured into your lap, for with the measure that you use it will be measured to you. In other words, with the same size scoop that you give God's money to God's needs, God will scoop back His wealth into your lap. Paul says in Second Corinthians 9:6, remember this. Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. If you give lavishly, God will give back to you lavishly. If your scoop will hold 1 cup, you will get back 1 cup as the 1 cup gift bounces back into your lap. Why does God give it back to you again? Why does He do that? Second Corinthians 9:11 tells us why. You will be enriched so that you can give even more generously.
Number four. Here's some wisdom on how to choose the right size scoop. This involves faith. You remember the hungry boy that gave his lunch of five loaves of bread and two fish? John 6:9. He could have thought, if I give this I'm going to starve because all of these people are going to eat that up and I'm not going to end up with one crumb. Let me tell you something about that little boy. His faith was bigger than his lunch box. He gave it all to Jesus, and what did he get back? Five loaves and two fish back? You think that's what he got? I think all 12 baskets of leftovers were probably given that little boy to take home for his mom and dad. I don't know that, but his scoop size matched his faith size and it was extra large. Remember the widow. She gave according to the size of her faith. She gave both mites, and the Bible doesn't say what happened but I would not doubt for 1 minute that she was largely rewarded for her lavish gift. I believe that. Remember the Macedonian church. Look at Second Corinthians 8:3. Verse three says they gave as much as they were able and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own. Verse four, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service with the Saints. They thanked him for the privilege. Here's how this could work with you. Without faith, you sit down, you add up all your income and you add up all your bills and without faith then you figure out what you can afford to give. That's how you do it without faith. Sometimes it's going to be nothing. I can't afford to give anything. Faith will choose a slightly larger scoop than the calculator dictates. God will reimburse you and a little more in His way and in His time. So give from faith, not from reason. Trust God. Try it. Malachi 3:10 says bring one 10th of your income into the storehouse so there may be food in My house and test Me in this way says the Lord. See if I won't open you the windows of heaven and flood you with blessings. He's going to flood you with blessings. Now this fine promise is reiterated in Second Corinthians 9:10. It says, and now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You're going to harvest righteousness and your gift which was a righteous gift will be enlarged.
Number five. When you place your gift in the offering plate, smile. Smile. Because God loves a cheerful giver. Second Corinthians 9:7. If it is true that God's unselfish use of God's resources shows God's love for us, then your use of God's money shows what you think of God. That's logical. The more you love God the bigger hearted you will be, and the more generous with His church and His sheep. Greed will jeopardize His kindness. So you pray for a liberal love like God's love when God gave a Baby to us. A Baby in a manger.
Hymn of Praise: #125, Joy To the World Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:17-18 Hymn of Response: #124, Away In A Manger Sermon Notes: Sermon notes available as PDF
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 01/11/11