“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
“In fact, 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!”
Today I am going to talk about a subject that makes many Christians uncomfortable—money. This topic has become “off limits” in many American churches. You can preach on heaven (and sometimes even hell). But don’t talk about money! This is interesting considering that Jesus taught more about money than heaven and hell combined. So why don’t churches talk about it? Why is it so taboo to talk about money? I have a few thoughts that come to mind.
People have seen the corruption in the church involving finances. It has left a bad taste in peoples’ mouths. You have seen this, right? Some slick-backed hair televangelist insisting that God wants you to be rich. All you have to do is send in your $1,000 “faith offering” and the miracles will be released into your life. So there is a widow lady on a fixed income who is barely making ends meet. She desperately desires a miracle. So she sends in her mortgage payment believing that God will honor her faith. The miracle never comes and she is worse off than she was before. But at least the TV preacher has a new Jaguar to drive.
Many churches feel that to be culturally relevant they cannot talk about money. To do so would require “turning off” the “seekers” who are visiting the church. We don’t want people thinking we are just after their money, right? So in an effort to not offend, some churches side-step the money conversation.
I don’t mean this to sound harsh, but I think some Christian leaders are simply ignorant on what the Bible says about money. They don’t realize the importance that finances play in both the Kingdom and the life of the believer. It’s not on the radar, so it never gets brought up.
Let me say a couple things before we continue. Our church will survive whether or not you give. How do I know this? Because it’s not really our church. It’s His church. God will supply and take care of what is His. So if you think I am writing this today because we are nervous about making the mortgage this month you would be mistaken. “So why are you writing this?” you may be asking. Fair question—let me answer. As you know we have been on a campaign these past few weeks to go ALL IN. ALL IN in our pursuit of God. ALL IN in our faith. ALL IN in connecting with others.
What I have found to be the case for most Christians is that the last area of their life they are willing to go ALL IN on is their finances. We love Jesus. We will pray and read the Bible. We will go to church. We will volunteer and serve. Heck, we might even show up at a home group. But don’t start talking about money! Like Linus with his blanket, we will not let go! We will gladly relinquish our time and talent, but don’t try and touch our treasure.
Some of you reading this right now are getting uncomfortable. Even agitated. My question to you is why? Why does it bother you to hear me talk about finances? I would suggest it’s because your money has become a god in your life. Rather than being a tool to serve you, it has become your master. Have you ever considered maybe that’s why you are so defensive and protective? Have you ever thought this was what Jesus was addressing when he said “You cannot serve both God and money”? Riches have the potential to become our god. And when push comes to shove, many want that god rather the God. Jesus’ analogy is interesting—“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!”
In Jesus’ time, most cities were surrounded by a giant wall, which fortified the city. This kept the bad guys out and the good guys in. There were small openings in the wall that allowed people to enter in and out of the city. These “gates” were somewhat oval-shaped, quite similar to the eye of a needle. When someone came to the city and was traveling by camel, getting through that wall was no easy task. They would have to remove everything off the camel. They would then have to get the camel down on its knees. Then they would have to lead the camel through the “eye of the needle” in the wall. Talk about difficult! Jesus used an example that His listeners no doubt could understand. That camel only gets through the wall if it is stripped of everything, placed in a lowered position, and willing to come through the gate.
Do you see the parallel? If we wish to enter the Kingdom of heaven, we must strip off everything. We must humble and lower ourselves. We must come through the gate, Jesus. This analogy is timeless. Jesus is teaching us that most people are not willing to give up everything to follow Him. And one of the hardest things to let go of is money. Our human nature is greedy. It is counterintuitive to let go of something everyone else is chasing after.
So here is the perplexing dilemma, the questions we have to raise—is money bad? Is it wrong to be rich? NOT AT ALL! The Bible talks plainly that we have to have money to live. God is pragmatic. He knows you need clothes and food (see Matthew 6:31-33). Furthermore there were people in the Bible who were freakishly rich! Read it for yourself (see 1 Kings 10:23). Money is not bad. Where we get in trouble is when we love money more than we love God. As Paul wrote to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:10), “The love of money is the roots of all kinds of evil.”
So here is the perplexing dilemma. We have to have money to live and yet we are not supposed to love money. So how do we balance these two? The answer is simple—YOU GIVE! Generosity is the cure for greed. By honoring God with the first ten percent (called the tithe) of your earnings, you are declaring His lordship over your life. By releasing the tithe to the Lord, you are safeguarding your heart against money’s corrupting power. By releasing the tithe, you are allowing our church to grow and expand our ability to more effectively reach our community for the Gospel. Our ministries can be well-equipped when the people of God invest in the Kingdom. And beyond this, you are storing up treasure in heaven. Jesus admonished us not to invest in things “here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.” Your spiritual 401-K is eternal! Why not invest in it generously?
Here’s a final encouragement to give, this time from God Himself in Malachi 3:10—“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse... If you do...I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!”