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Jul 08, 2018

#5 - What's In Your Wallet? Financial Stress and Worry

Passage: Deuteronomy 15:4-11

Preacher: John Huizinga

Series: When You Need More Than a Band-Aid

Category: Not By Chance But By His Fatherly Hand

Keywords: abundance, enough, financial stress, generosity, money, stewardship

Summary:

Money is the leading cause of stress in America. Nearly three out of four adults reported feeling stressed about money at least some of the time. Healthcare costs, college debt, more and more having to work low wage jobs seem to especially target young adults and women today. Marriage statistics report money to be a major source of conflict and a chief contributor to divorce. And many still consider money a taboo subject so that makes it tough to talk about our stresses and seek help. It may surprise you to know that the Bible talks about money more than almost anything else. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says to us in our financial stress: “. . . do not worry . . . seek first the Kingdom of God . . .” We’ll see together how his wisdom can bless us and bring us his peace, which not even money or its lack can give or take away.

Detail:

In the film Wall Street the character Gordon Gekko says the famous words that described US economics in the time leading up to the 2008 recession:

“The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed,

for lack of a better word, is good.

Greed is right. Greed works.

Greed, in all of its forms –

greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge –

has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will save the USA.”

After all the economic fallout a decade ago

we learned again what we should already know:

greed is NOT good

and greed does NOT save.

So the movie sequel has this conversation:

‘Do you know what the most dangerous question

on Wall Street is?

It’s asking: how are you?’

 

How are you when it comes to money and finances? Most in America confirm

what Jesus says in the text from Matthew 6:

worried.

Six times Jesus asks why we worry about money.

God notices your anxiety and worry

about finances and money.

And God’s Word reveals this big idea:

when we ask, what’s in your wallet,

the common human condition is ‘worry:’

there’s not enough,

what there’s lots of is anxiety, worry and stress.

But because God owns it all

and knows what we need

Jesus brings contentment:

do NOT worry, he assures us,

and seek first the kingdom.

God’s wisdom brings peace to us

in our worry and financial anxiety.

 

Don’t worry!

Yes, the scripture passages we listened to today

sound foreign, almost unreal, don’t they?

They are meant to change and transform

our imagination about money;

for too long we have been frantic,

not realizing how trapped we are

in our economic assumptions.

How we assume that the only solutions

to our financial problems are:

Where’s mine?

and, how about a little more!

Jesus reminds us again of God’s abundance,

and dares us imagine how life can be lived well, differently, holy,

when we trust in God’s abundant provision.

 

Jesus says, look at the birds of the air . . .

see how the flowers of the fields grow . . .

Preacher David Buttrick says

imagine Jesus in our day saying that.

Imagine Jesus walking on La Salle Street,

outside the money museum,

behind and above him the top of the CBOT building with the statue of Ceres

holding a sheaf of wheat in one arm

and symbolling trade and prosperity . . .

imagine Jesus commanding our gaze elsewhere,

look at the birds,

see how the pigeons and sparrows live just fine,

he says, look at the flowers in the flower pots, nothing more beautiful.

It sounds unreal to us.

Out of sync, out of touch.

 

But Jesus says it is we who have lost our way.

He says to you and me,

in our love of money,

in our fear there’s not enough

in our grabbing for more,

he says another word about that,

not a good word,

he says ‘unbelief, little faith,

pagans run after these things.’

 

Life should be about storing up treasures in heaven, says Jesus.

He means delighting in God’s provision

and in being dependent on the Lord

and being an instrument of Christ’s love

for those in need.

Because it is all about desire.

The eye, he says.

The eye is the lamp of the body.

If your eyes are healthy,

your whole body will be full of light.

The eye is about desire.

So look at the birds.

Look at how God has ordered the universe,

look at how God cares,

let your desire be turned to the kingdom,

away from self,

away from worry.

Disordered desire leads to worry and anxiety,

because money seeks to master you.

It is a false god, but we must master it,

it is to serve the kingdom.

 

We read all this and admit we too easily dismiss

or forget about our Heavenly Father’s abundance.

But the grace of salvation,

the mercy of forgiveness,

and the promise of Christ’s presence

should guide us

to trust that the Lord is abundant in provision.

Just start counting your blessings!

 

So how can the power of the Spirit lead us

to master money and other financial resources?

How can we have our desires made holy,

our eye transformed

to seek first the kingdom of God?

Walter Brueggemann summarizes the teachings

of the Bible on money and finances,

and what it means to obey the command

not to covet, but to live in covenant with God.

Which of these surprises you?

Which of these assures you and gives you peace?

Which of these have you resisted?

 

First, money and possessions are gifts from God.

Dt 15 promises:

the Lord your God will richly bless you . . .

Possessions are gifts

and not achievements or accomplishments.

This speaks against any temptation

to self-sufficiency or autonomy.

So our fitting response is gratitude, not greed.

We are made to depend on the Lord God,

to trust our Heavenly Father.

It’s so easy to forget how blessed we are,

even in hardship.

We lose sight of what is enough,

our eyes always look for more,

we compare ourselves to others who have more.

But the first word in the Psalms

sums up our true reality:

Blessed.

Can you say that? We are blessed.

 

Second, God cares for the material well-being

of those who are righteous.

Again from Dt 15 –

. . . there need be no poor people among you,

for in the land the Lord your God

is giving you to possess as your inheritance,

he will richly bless you,

5 if only you fully obey the Lord your God

and are careful to follow all these commands

I am giving you today.

6 For the Lord your God will bless you

as he has promised . . .

Let this sink in:

your material blessings are not the result

of your hard work or ability.

Sure, we are to use our time and talents well,

but any blessing we receive is from the

hand of the Lord God

who commands and who forgives.

Obedience matters for our well-being.

Our response is not to see this as a bargain:

to see our flourishing based on our own works

or to think if I’m a good person I’ll get the goods.

This is about God, not us.

We aren’t to read these verses

with an if. . . then assumption.

If I’m good enough then I’ll get more,

or if I have less it’s because God is punishing me.

Our Heavenly Father isn’t like a make-believe Santa.

We are to hear this word of wisdom

as a richness living in relation to God,

the one God who blesses,

so we are free to obey.

The teaching is that God’s ways

are not arbitrary, but bring flourishing.

The reason God says do this or don’t do that

is because the world has been ordered that way.

God has created what is good

and what leads to goodness.

So trust and obey.

 

Third, money and possessions belong to God

and are held in trust by God’s image bearers.

Ps 24 – The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it.

God owns it all.

The Lord can choose to give me a little,

the Lord can choose to give me a lot,

the Lord can choose to take it away,

but most often,

the Lord chooses to give me just enough

so that my relationship to the Lord

is measured by trust and gratitude.

For the Lord loves you

and has your best interest in mind and heart.

And we are made for more than possessions,

we are made for God,

to belong to the Lord as a creature to the Creator,

as a child to our Heavenly Father.

We are not owners but accountable to God

for the way we use his money, his gifts.

This is the faith action we call stewardship.

Ron Blue defines stewardship as:

The use of God-given gifts and resources—

such as time, talent, treasure, influence,

and relationships—

for the accomplishment of God-given goals

and objectives.

It is never ‘my money’

because money is not my own to do with

as I please;

it is therefore a tool, a test, and a testimony

about my faith in God.

Money can be used as a tool in our lives

in a few different ways.

  1. Money can be used to accomplish God’s objectives.
  2. Money can be used to teach us to rely on God.
  3. Money can be used to buy things for ourselves

or others.

 

Money is a test, Luke 16:10 says,

Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful

in much, and whoever is unrighteous

in very little is also unrighteous in much.

We can be tested by having a lot or by having a little.

And money is A TESTIMONY

Mt 5 - You are the light of the world.

A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.

No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket,

but rather on a lampstand,

and it gives light for all who are in the house.

In the same way, let your light shine before men,

so that they may see your good works

and give glory to your Father in heaven.

How could you use your money to provide a

testimony to other people of God’s love for you?

 

Fourth, money and possessions

are sources of injustice,

so God’s people are called to be just with their goods.

The Deuteronomy verses on the release of debt

in the seventh year,

and all the Leviticus teachings on the

year of Jubilee,

give us the principle of equity.

While there will always be rich and poor,

The Lord orders his kingdom

commanding his people to value equity,

meaning at least that work and labor laws,

economic opportunities and checks and balances,

be applied equally to all,

so that the law is not used to keep

the poor in poverty,

but to give freedom and opportunity to all.

Money as a source of injustice reminds us

we are not our own lords.

 

So fifth, money and possessions are to be shared

in a neighborly way.

11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy

in your land.

Money to be shared with neighbors reminds us

there are neighbors, and not just self.

 

The gospel of Mark uses four words

to picture our lives saved by God’s grace

in order to live graciously:

took, gave thanks, broke, and gave.

The words are familiar; they are communion words. Gifts, when they are blessed and broken and given, have immense potential.

The Lord’s Supper teaches us our dependency on God and our thankful response by these actions:

receive, we take up the cup of the Lord,

we humbly say our life and salvation

are gifts from God,

and each time we receive a blessing

we are taking it from the Lord’s hand.

Then we say thanks.

But our gratitude leads to breaking it in order to

share what has been given us in grace.

Our thanks to God looks like this:

take, give thanks, break, and give.

 

Because sixth,

money and possessions are seductions

that lead to idolatry.

Jesus taught:

24 “No one can serve two masters.

Either you will hate the one and love the other,

or you will be devoted to the one

and despise the other.

You cannot serve both God and money.

As I place more trust in money and stuff,

I place less trust in Jesus.

That money could be an idol tells us

money is a power, not innocent,

and seeks to master us,

so Christians must master their money.

The best way to break the power of money

is to give it away.

The faith action of generous and cheerful giving

helps us master money

and break its hold on us.

 

Seventh, God has an intimate concern for the poor –

11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

Earlier in the Deuteronomy passage God said

there need be no poor among you . . .

but the passage ends saying there will always be poor

in the land.

The Lord knows that even tho creation is ordered

to provide for each and all,

because of sin and idolatry and injustice,

poverty results.

So made in God’s image,

and blessed in God’s grace,

each of us should be concerned for the poor,

not full of judgment,

not indifferent to their circumstance or suffering,

backing up our concern with loving action.

 

Which of these surprises you?

Which of these assures you and gives you peace?

Which of these have you resisted?

Ron Blue says, I can tell you what you believe

if you let me see your bank statement and tax return;

you can fake almost everything about Christian faith but not your stewardship.

Because there’s a living record of it.

 

Our Heavenly Father is good and gracious.

The Holy Spirit guides us toward financial wholeness

with two gifts of gratitude:

Sabbath keeping and generosity.

It’s no accident that as Sabbath keeping declined

anxiety about money increased in our country.

And as money worries and abuses grew

so did disobedience to Sabbath-keeping.

 

There’s never enough time;

there’s never a moment’s rest.

The Bible offers an antidote to all this activity:

the call to Sabbath.

Sabbath is based on abundance.

But how willing are we to practice Sabbath?

A Sabbath spent catching up on chores

we were too busy to do during the week

is hardly a testimony to abundance.

A Sabbath spent buying more stuff

or filling the day with more experiences

or devoted to sports consumption

does nothing to weaken the domain of scarcity.

Honoring the Sabbath is one way to witness.

It tells the world that “there is enough.”

 

When our imaginations are made holy like this,

then we can be generous:

Dt 15 - 7 If anyone is poor

among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns

of the land the Lord your God is giving you,

do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them.

8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.

 

When we gather as church each Sunday,

we should celebrate the gospel

that declares scarcity to be false.

And when we are sent out to serve in God’s blessing we should think of our mission:

What if one of the links

between the Creator’s generosity

and a neighbor’s needs is us, this community?”

 

So what is the Spirit telling you

in your heart today?

Can we lament and confess how easily

money has become the focus of our lives

and the limit of our trust in God?

Can we find the courage of faith

to address our worry about our finances

not by reaching for more

or running faster after these things,

but resting in God’s care

by practicing a Sabbath rest

and a generous heart?

 

Seek first his kingdom, says Jesus.