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Leaders

For some Pastors, a sermon about money, possessions and giving might be titled "Tiptoe through the Tulips". I want to offer six basic reasons why we, as Pastors, have a responsibility to bring the authority of God's Word to bear on the thinking and practice of all of our people (ourselves included) ; in this case, regarding the matter of money and possessions.

 [1] BECAUSE THE BIBLE EMPHASISES THIS ASPECT OF STEWARDSHIP.

 Consider the following observations:

a) 16 of the 38 parables of Jesus centred on money or possessions

b) There is something like 500 verses on prayer; less than 500 on faith; then there are more than 2300 verses on money and possessions.

c) 15% of Jesus' recorded words relate to money matters. Why? Because money matters!

We may want to take issue with the absolute accuracy of those statistics but even if we allowed the comparative proportions, we still have a pretty strong case to support our decision

[2] BECAUSE THE BIBLE CONFIRMS THE REALITY OF MATERIALISM

I came across this definition of materialism recently. "Materialism is the doctrine that the only or highest values and objectives in life lay in material well-being and in the constant increase of that condition". Then we read a passage like Romans 12/2.

Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is. (Rom 12:2 NLT)

It could be argued that perhaps at this point, like nowhere else, we are most conformed to the behaviour and customs of this world. Materialism has the power to shape our lifestyle, dictate our values and determine our priorities. The media daily saturates our thought processes with this doctrine of materialism.

There must surely be times when the Pastor can challenge this invasion of falsehood. Jesus certainly went on the offensive and taught a whole different set of values as He exposed the lie of materialism. The last half of Matthew chapter 6 is evidence enough of that fact without appealing to the many other examples.

[3] BECAUSE THE BIBLE RECOGNISES THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SPIRITUAL AND MATERIAL

The story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19 is just one powerful example where the proof of spiritual change is seen in a new attitude to material possessions.

Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have overcharged people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!" Jesus responded, "Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a son of Abraham. (Luke 19:8-9 NLT)

Luke 18 demonstrates the power of materialism in that it prevented a man from coming to salvation.

"There is still one thing you lack," Jesus said. "Sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." But when the man heard this, he became sad because he was very rich. Jesus watched him go and then said to his disciples, "How hard it is for rich people to get into the Kingdom of God! 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!" (Luke 18:22-25 NLT)

 Luke 14 makes it clear that a willingness to give up all we have is a condition of discipleship.

So no one can become my disciple without giving up everything for me.(Luke 14/33 NLT)

Acts 4/32-35 gives us an example in living colour of this principle in action.

All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God's great favour was upon them all. There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.

 Our use of our money and possessions is a decisive statement about our eternal values. One gets the very distinct impression from Scripture that a person who is both rich and righteous is a rare phenomenon!

[4] THE BIBLE RECOGNISES THE INHERENT DANGER OF MONEY & MATERIALISM

Matthew 13 highlights this reality as Jesus teaches the parable of the sower.

"The thorny ground represents those who hear and accept the Good News, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares of this life and the lure of wealth, so no crop is produced". (Matt 13:22-23 NLT)

Luke 14 contains another parable of Jesus in which 2 of the 3 excuses given for declining the king's invitation involve possessions.

Jesus replied with this illustration: "A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When all was ready, he sent his servant around to notify the guests that it was time for them to come. But they all began making excuses. One said he had just bought a field and wanted to inspect it, so he asked to be excused. Another said he had just bought five pair of oxen and wanted to try them out. Another had just been married, so he said he couldn't come.(Luke 14:16-20 NLT)

Then, in Matthew 6, Jesus states this truth with the greatest clarity. Nothing competes more for our devotion than materialism.

"No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.(Matt 6:24 NLT)

[5] BECAUSE THE BIBLE TEACHES THAT CHURCHES ARE NOT IMMUNE FROM MATERIALISM.

I read recently where one Romanian Church leader observed that 95% of Christians who face the test of persecution pass while 95% of those who face the test of prosperity fail. Revelation 3 tells of a Church that was very wealthy. There was no need to preach about money and giving because that church, for whatever reason, was well endowed financially. The truth was that the Church was spiritually impoverished.

You say, 'I am rich. I have everything I want. I don't need a thing!' And you don't realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. (Rev 3:17-18 NLT)

[6] BECAUSE THE BIBLE TEACHES AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE

In Hebrews 11 the example of Moses is cited as one who had an accurate perspective that looked to the end, the final outcome, and that determined how he responded to riches.

"It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be treated as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God's people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of the Messiah than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the great reward that God would give him". (Heb 11:24-27 NLT)

We live in a world that lives for the here and now. We ought to be those who live for the here and then. We need to be embraced by the reality that we are citizens of heaven, ambassadors on earth and pilgrims in life. Such a perspective has dramatic implications for what we do with money here and now.

Of course, if we take seriously Jesus' directive to store up treasures in heaven, we will have fewer ties in this present life. A friend of mine once commented about material riches, "You can't take it with you but you can send it on ahead!"

The previous six observations might prove to be the framework that provides our Church family with the understanding about why we should address this issue.

In Mark 12 Jesus uses the offering of one impoverished widow to teach a vital lesson

Jesus went over to the collection box in the Temple and sat and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two pennies. He called his disciples to him and said, "I assure you, this poor widow has given more than all the others have given. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has."(Mark 12:41-44 NLT)

Here's the challenge for we Pastors. Imagine Jesus sitting near you as you place your offering in the bag. Then, without consulting you, He gathered others around Himself and, in the same way that He used that widow's offering to teach a lesson, He now uses your offering to teach others. What lesson would He be able teach?

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