June 12, 2011

An Antidote for Greed

Of all the sins described in the Bible, perhaps the sin of greed is the one least confessed and acknowledged by Christians. Why is that? In this message, we confront our attitudes toward our possessions in Luke 12:21-34.

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Sermon Notes:
– v21: “Lays up treasure for himself”
What does that mean?! He answers it as He directs His attention back to His disciples. Live in a position of trust. No anxiety allowed. Do not be anxious.
For another perspective on laying up treasure, consider this video by John Piper:

v23 – Life is more!
– parabolic v24, 27
v25 – God values you! Your self-effort to provide will never be enough! v25
v28 – “little faith” – to reflect back on the wise financial manager consumed with setting back for the future.
Covetousness/greed is such a subtle sin today.
Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, says that the reason we have such a difficult time identifying greed is that we simply don’t ask questions about it. “Money has the power to keep you from asking questions about how you spend it and how you make it.” We don’t ask the hard questions about our lifestyles or the way we do business.

“We live in the wealthiest society in the history of the world. 70% of the world’s wealth is in the hands of about 5% of the people. If you’re a professional, then you’re in the top 20% of that 5%. Is there anyone that would dare to say that you couldn’t live more simpler, couldn’t give more away? The rest of the world knows better. The power of money enables a person to live in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world and never once ask the question whether you’re greedy.”
It’s a compound sin. Adultery is rather obvious. You say I’m an adulterer? Let me think about that. But greed.. we deflect the accusation because we point to others who are obviously more consumed with possessions than we are. It’s always someone else…
An entire industry has sprung up around our “Christian” finances to help us rationalize why we deserve to keep our money.
Can we just say that because we live in the wealthiest nation on earth that greed has kept us from asking the hard questions? The scriptures in this passage don’t suggest that God wants your every dime. He demands it. It’s simply all in the timing. God can do more with your money than a mutual fund can.

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5 ESV)
v30 – “these things” – When worldly things consume you, you will have anxiety. When heavenly things consume you, you will have treasure. Amazing paradox!
Keller said we struggle because of two things:

Money is your significance.
Money is your security.

Jesus said that running after all these things cannot add one minute to our lives! Money will not bring any of these things!
v32-34: Practical Instructions: What to do – the antidote to hypocrisy, fear, shame, greed, anxiety
– from hypocrisy to faith-filled generosity
– from hesitant service to heavenly treasures

v32 – treasure… heart (Matt 13.44)
– “little flock” … “Father’s good pleasure” … “to give you the kingdom” Such words of love and tenderness after stern rebuke and reorientation. He’s longing for them to trust Him! This tender address precedes a difficult command.

v33 – Give it away. This command is given to those who have already done so!

Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19:27-30 ESV)
v33-34 – Godly pleasure yields heavenly treasure. There’s a foundation here: Jesus is King. He loves you completely! There are no questions about that. If that is the reality, then He tells us…

Give it away. Put every iota of resource to use for His glory instead of your self-preservation.
Trust your Father! There’s more where that came from. So don’t be afraid to give it away.

Step into the kingdom and experience the reorientation of priorities. LIFE IS MORE! (v23) In the kingdom, life becomes an adventure of trust and faith. God is put at the center, and we exhilaratingly wait on His appearance!

Practical Thoughts:

Think of something that you will not part with. What is something that you refuse to release. Now imagine standing in front of your Lord, with nail-scarred hands and tell Him why your possessions are more important than your obedience. Explain to Him why your financial security is more important than the glory of His name among the nations.
Increase your giving to the kingdom. Go home and resolve to increase your giving. Start this week. See what happens when you place Jesus’ kingdom first in your finances.
Identify some people, needs or ministries that you and your family would like to bless above and beyond your tithes this year. Sacrifice to make it happen. Make it identifiable to your family. (We’re canceling cable, internet, eating out – whatever – for x period to make it happen).
Confess greed in your life. Submit your heart to receiving God’s blessings rather than buying temporary satisfaction.
Abandon fear in your finances and replace it with love. Write Matthew 22.37 on your checkbook.
Trust. In a God who loves you! Replace your desire for earthly treasure with a higher desire for heavenly treasure. (Matthew 13.44) There is such joy in putting all your energy into the things of God!
“I can’t bow low enough at the vision of you, my God.” Phil Wickham “I can’t lift my hands high enough when I’m reaching for you, my God!” Cielo

v4 – “my friends” v32 – “little flock” Oh, how He loves us! It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom! To the brother of the prodigal son in Luke 15:  “…all that is mine is yours.”