18/7/2021 [Thematic Message 129] www.lifechurchmissions.com
Our Relationship With Money <1 Ti 6:3-10; 17-19>
Prelude: One of the things that is very relevant to our holiness is our relationship with money. The Lord Jesus Himself said, "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." <Mt 6:24> Many believers easily believe and say, "I am not greedy for money", but these people do not even think about the temptation they have received from money. If we think carefully: our hearts are so easily influenced and affected by financial factors. For some, it is not that they have no money, but once their savings are reduced, they feel poor. When some people do things, their motivation is whether they can get more money in doing so. Once they put in a bit more effort, they will yearn to get more money as a benefit. Some people befriend others because they can bring them money and benefits. They virtually regard wealth as a status. Therefore, an unhealthy phenomenon that often occurs in the church is the misunderstandings between church leaders and members over financial issues. Sometimes we see some church leaders being very kind to those who are very generous in their offering. In other cases, some members have a kind of suspicion toward the leadership, thinking that the church focuses on money in whatever it does. As long as money is involved, the church values it. In fact, these are all problems stemming from man's impure heart and greed for money. People who love money all doubt one another in this way, bringing about a big gap in the relationship between saints. Indeed, this is a spiritual problem that we are born with. We are all born with an ignorance toward God, no one knows the God who created the universe for us. We only grow up with an instinct to survive. Therefore, once we understand the value of material (the benefits and convenience that money can bring us), our hearts are naturally affected by money. We are inclined toward getting more money, even relying on money, and doing everything for money, and secretly envying wealthy people in our hearts. Money controls our hearts in this way. In the Old Testament, one of the things that God hated most was the evil deeds of the Israelites who continued to worship Baal. Think about it, why did the Israelites continue to worship Baal? It was because Baal was a god who brought fertility and rain. In particular, when the crops of the Israelites needed moisture from the rain, such a god is very tempting to them. Therefore, in <1 Ki 18:1-2>, when the Israelites all worshiped Baal, God declared through the prophet Elijah that there would be a great famine in Israel, so that His people would bear the consequence of idolatry and could then repent. When our Lord Jesus came to earth, He said this when he was teaching, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” <Lk 12:15> Sometimes, greed captivates our hearts unconsciously. Some people do not steal but are covetous of small gains, and some see themselves doing much but when they did not gain material benefits, they subconsciously feel mistreated. Some also do not give others what they deserve. Therefore, God warned those who are rich, saying, "Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you." This was because the rich men failed to pay wages to their workers <Jas 5:1-4>. Actually, Paul tells us that if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that <1 Ti 6:8>. But to be honest, many believers never understand this basic contentment. We continue to spend more than we earn, or we worry about not having enough for tomorrow and hence are not good stewards of money today. Many believers fall short in giving to God, providing for their parents, blessing or repaying others. In fact, if we keep ignoring these things, our hearts cannot be close to the Lord. Because the Bible clearly draws the line between God and money. Perhaps we may not be able to immediately get rid of the temptation that money brings to our hearts, but we must constantly go through godly discipline in matters of money, so as to be blameless in matters of managing money.
1. Satan is best at using money to spread false doctrines <1 Ti 6:3-6>
1）A person is always lured by money in his growing up
Through the life of a person, he started as a student without money, and then he began earning money as he came out to work; slowly he grew dependent on money as he reached his prime age; he started saving up as he reached midlife; and he feared about not having enough when he got old. Actually, even though many have believed in the Lord, their relationship with money has not changed. Lord said, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” <Mt 6:26> They have not carefully considered the fact that they can live today, with ability to earn money and are healthy enough to enjoy all material benefits, are all because of God’s grace instead of the pathetic amount of money they have in their hands. Many do not realize the money they have are utterly undependable. We just need to get a serious illness and our money will be gone immediately. Or if we are not careful and center upon earning money, we will neglect our family relationships. Therefore, as a result of busy earning money, many of us who are parents have missed out on our children’s process of growing up. It is most terrible if we exchange our dignity for money. Some people are proud because of their money, while some feel lowly because they don’t have money. These people are like the Israelites who worshiped Baal, they “plan their lives with money at its center”. If such people are involved in church ministries, they will soon be tempted and be used by Satan as channels to destroy God’s work.
2）Many who preach false doctrines have a motive behind them to get money
Paul described such people who preached false doctrines as someone who thinks that godliness is a means to financial gain. If we study the teachings that depart from the sound teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ which accords with godliness, they do not teach the need to deny self. Some teach that you just need to proclaim that you are already blessed in Christ, blessings will thus come. Some teach that if you offer money to God, God will bless you abundantly financially. Some teaching says you just need to confess your sins to people beside you, and you will be set free. Some teach that if you speak in tongues, you can be set free from the spirit that troubles you. Some teaching says only if you believe, your illness will be healed, and the door to money will be opened. In fact, such baseless mysticism, ritualism, prosperity teaching, etc. are contrary to the gospel that teaches us to deny self, carry the cross and follow the Lord. Such teachings do not require us to “die with the Lord”. Even if it does, it is a false death. Instead, they adopt certain methods or mysterious rituals to replace the training in godliness that “disciplines my body and keeps it under control”. Therefore, after listening to such teachings, people feel good and easy, and it also fulfills what their wilful nature desires, resulting in them using money to bless those who serve them this way. These people anyhow interpret the Scriptures, Paul said they were ignorant, and they eventually used various doctrines to cause envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction. These are the consequences when one deviates from the truth and succumbs to the flesh.
3）Therefore, people who truly serve the Lord have to pursue godliness and contentment
The Bible does not say it is sufficient to be godly, rather, godliness with contentment is great gain. Some people truly like reading the Bible, praying, listening to sermons, serving, etc., but their lives always leave a gap for Mammon. Sometimes as they serve, they are in constant worry about not having enough in future, or if they are not careful, they may compromise for monetary gains. Once, there was a seemingly godly rich man who came to ask Jesus how to have eternal life. He said he had kept God’s commandments since young. But after the Lord asked him to give all his money to the poor and follow Him, his greedy heart for money was exposed. Indeed, it is not easy to be contented, because contentment:
(1) is not merely a kind of morality, but it is the yearning for the worth in eternal life. Some people can appear godly while serving the Lord on earth, but they do not desire eternal life or eternal crowns;
(2) is enmity to the customs of this life. The world we now live in has a culture of materialism and consumerism. This carnal culture focuses on seeking rewards from materials, and also using materials to reward people. As we get used to getting material returns when we put in efforts, it will weaken what we do for the Lord, for people, or for our own eternal crowns;
(3) is most resisted by our flesh. Actually, what we desire to have far exceeds what we need. Often, it is not that we are poor and thus we need, rather, it is because the heart yearns for more, causing us to be discontented with what we already have now.
2. Hard teachings about money <1 Ti 6:7-10>
1）We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it
This verse does not mean that we have to be like the Buddhists, seeing “everything as empty”, and be a person in the world who is without any desires. If the Bible asks us to be someone without desires, then why did God give us blessings which can be enjoyed by the human nature, such as marriage, children, career, wealth, health, longevity, even good food, etc.? Thus, this verse is not asking us to abstain from desires, but it lets us see that everything we possess now comes from the Lord’s grace. If these are given us by the Lord in His grace, then even if they may not seem to be a lot relatively, they can also make us content. Hence, a believer gives offering not because he has a lot, but because he is thankful for God’s grace. If we feel poor, that is because our relative conditions change (perhaps this month’s expenses have increased, or business is not doing well, or we compare ourselves with others and lose the heart of contentment), but those who know God’s grace will not act by feelings, but by the truth. Therefore, those who have more use more, but those who have less use less, yet they all use it for the Lord.
2）But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that
Think about it, besides food and clothing, does God still give us more material blessings? If yes, why can’t we be content? Thus, we are not content not because God has not given us what we need, but because we have spiritual problem. What we need to learn in our faith is to be simpler and simpler, such that we can enjoy simple blessings. If life is about spending more as we earn more, then we will drift further away from the heart of contentment which God has given us. Can we be content now because of our food and clothing? If not, then that is where we need to train in godliness with regard to our relationship with money. Here, we must also be mindful of one thing, which is, if any one of our brethren is lacking in his/her basic needs, then church brethren have the obligation to help him/her.
3）The folly and griefs of the love of money
The Bible says: The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Indeed, many of the sins of this world come about because of the love of money. Why did God’s people worship idols? Why did false prophets preach false teachings? Why did so many people choose to accept those wrong gospels? Why did so many believers eventually take the path of Lot, which is a path of complete defeat? Why are some families broken up and lost all their fortunes? The cause is the love of money. The love of money not only makes us lose the more beautiful blessings in life, like health and relationships, but it also makes us lose the eternal blessings given by God. Paul said that those who love money will eventually be tempted to betray the truth, and pierce themselves with many griefs. Thus, we must be clear and upright when serving the Lord, as this will also bring credibility to our ministries. In <Ac 20:34>, Paul said to the Ephesian elders as he recapped his serving, “You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions.” We must not compromise a good name for the sake of greed. Then again, some people ever fell into very dire poverty and even debts, due to the love of money. In their distress, they turned to the Lord. However, we try not to offer such people financial help too soon. We rather let them have time to go through the process of contrite repentance, slowly be sanctified by God’s word through participating in church living, till they are awakened and clearly understand that they have come to such a state precisely because of the huge idol in their hearts called “money”. In this way, they will see the Lord’s gracious hand gradually helping them become independent, and restore what they have lost. After they believe in the Lord, if they want to rise up quickly, doing business or making investments, we try not to support them. Because often, once such people get out of their financial predicament, they will forget the Lord’s grace, and go chase after the world.
3. The responsibilities of those who are rich <1 Ti 6:17-19>
1）The challenges of the rich
The Bible tells us that those who are rich are most prone to 2 kinds of weaknesses: (1) arrogance; (2) putting their hope in wealth. The Bible clearly commands the rich to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Firstly, a rich man cannot value himself higher than other believers because of his wealth. He must humble himself under the principles of God’s word, act in obedience to God’s word. In church, many rich people think that if they say something, the church leaders or brethren must listen to them. If that is the case, they have become foolish because of their wealth. Perhaps, those who are rich have bigger challenges in this area. Instinctively, man will rely on whatever he has. Those with knowledge will tend to rely on knowledge, those with money will tend to rely on money. Therefore, those who are rich materially must all the more seek to rely on the Lord in all things.
2）Good deeds of those who are rich
Those who are rich ought to be good stewards for the Lord. Especially in offering, providing, and helping those who are in need, these are what the rich need to be heavily involved in. The Bible commands them to be rich in good deeds. In other words, if a rich person is in a church for a long time, when people think of him, they do not think of him as a rich man, driving a big car or living in a big house, but they will remember a man full of good deeds. Perhaps many who are in need have received his selfless help. This is the good deeds of the rich demanded by God. Sometimes, the rich may easily feel that God wants them to give offering because church needs money. Actually, it is not the case, God wants their offering to protect them from using worldly wealth on worldly purpose and be unnecessarily ensnared. Some rich people, because they do not give their offerings faithfully, they will invest their money in worldly things, and in the end, wasted the grace that the Lord has placed upon them.
3）Lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation
Actually, from how a person uses his money, we can see his foundation of faith. Where he invests his money will indicate where he wants to go. Some people have money, but their burdens increase. When we see the way they love, use and rely on money, the more we can see they are not directed toward eternity. They are constantly thinking about investing and trading in various things, in the end, they realise they are being manipulated by money, and end up becoming a slave of money. Some rich man may in one moment offer a lot of money, but he is not a person who is faithful in giving what is due to God. People around him may envy his success, but they will not love and rely on the Lord more because of him. We must remember God’s word, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” and that will also be where you will go at the end.