On Miscellaneous Subjects
By Pastor Ron Thomas
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040
Text: Matthew 6:33. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Introduction: This last July, a pastor friend of mine asked me what I thought America’s new currency would be when our nation’s economy and monetary system failed. I smiled when he asked me that question, and told him that I have not given it much thought. He reminded me that the American dollar has not been backed by a gold standard since the days of President Richard Nixon. Actually, at the time, I thought it was a little bizarre to ask such a question. Just three months later however, as our economy began to tank, with the value of the dollar falling and the price of gold rising, I revisited that encounter with my pastor friend in my mind, with an entirely different perspective.
What does the future hold for America, American citizens, and the economy? Can you envision America’s economy failing? Imagine the money in your wallet, bank account, and savings, becoming worthless overnight. Since America’s economy is but part of a larger world economy, could you see the entire global market, failing? What would happen then? Would there be someone to step up to the challenge, say a world leader, and reorganize the market and monetary system of the entire world?
One thing is for sure, we are presently in the midst of an economic slowdown, if not a melt down. Americans are worried. The money we are saving on gas prices, is staying in our pockets. Fewer people are purchasing homes and large ticket items. Money is tight. Unemployment is rising. Most believe that we are in a deep slide into a bad recession. As financial institutions and corporations line up for government bail outs, don’t count on anyone bailing you out of your financial woes!
It is time Christians become more responsible with their finances. Far too long, there has been a disconnect between the average American believer, and the Word of God when it comes to personal finances. Our text verse are the words of Jesus, offering Himself and the Heavenly Father as your personal financial advisor. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus is basically saying, “Share our kingdom priorities (Seek ye first the kingdom of God), and follow what we say are sound financial principles (and His righteousness), and you will never suffer need, (and all these things shall be added unto you).
The Bible reveals that God is not above talking about money, and He is certainly not above helping you manage it! Can you think of a better financial partner than God? It is time for Christians to turn back to God in this vital area of our lives, and trust Him as our Divine Partner! This chapter, beginning in verse 19, presents a great contrast between a money based life, and a God based life.
First: The Money Based Life. Jesus helps us to see the progression of a life based solely upon money and worldly possessions. The Bible tells us that Satan is the “god of this present world.” His focus and desire is to turn your heart away from the love of God and His investment plan, to a life based upon the love of money. Satan always leads one step at a time in the direction he has for us. He is satisfied with little compromises over time. Jesus reveals a step by step progression.
Step one: Choices. Matthew 6:19-20 says, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” Do you see the choices? Everyday, living in America, we are challenged with choices as to how we are going to spend our money. After Thanksgiving and Black Friday, the American public is blitzed with products and messages that urge you to spend, spend, spend. “You need this! Don’t you love your child? Do you want him or her to be happy, and have a merry Christmas? If you own this, everyone will think you are successful. Purchase this, and you will feel better about yourself.”
Jesus narrows our choices down to just two. There are “treasures upon earth” and “treasures in Heaven.” Some things have only earthly value. Earthy things include everything from the clothes we wear, to the cars we drive. We use them on the earth, they wear out, and that’s it. Earthly things are not evil, just as money is not necessarily evil. Living on earth, earthly things are part of our existence. The question is, “How much? What is necessary? Which is the best investment? Do I really need this earthly thing?”
Then of course, there is the heavenly investment, the heavenly treasures. What are these “treasures in Heaven?” They are also “earthy things” that have eternal ramifications. For example, the purchase or investment of our earthly things, that benefit the kingdom of God, the work and ministry of the church, the salvation of souls, is a heavenly purchase or investment. All of our spending and investments must meet God’s criteria and approval to be considered heavenly. I Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” The tithe is a heavenly treasure. Giving the tithe, helps protect you against greed and covetousness; it authenticates your obedience and God’s priority in your life; it supports the Great Commission; and helps meet the needs of the church in which you serve! Of course, the tithe is just the beginning of our giving back to God. When we tithe and give generously to God and the cause of Christ upon the earth, we are laying up treasures in Heaven! Everyday, Satan seeks to influence your spending, your investment choices.
Step two: Confusion. When we disconnect ourselves from God, His Word, His church, we set ourselves up for confusion when it comes to investing our lives and spending our money. Over time, as we neglect prayer, reading God’s Word, attending Sunday School, hearing the Word of God taught and preached, the choices between “treasures upon earth” and “treasures in heaven” aren’t so clear anymore. There is a subtle shift away from others to self; from what we need to what we desire.
Step three: Corruption. Verse 21 says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Jesus teaches us that our hearts, the seat of our thoughts, emotions and will, can become corrupt. Our treasures, that is our sense of joy, happiness and success, can become grounded and earth bound! When our treasures consist of worldly things, then our hearts and lives are sold out to the world as well. In His high priestly prayer recorded in John 17, Jesus prayed that His disciples be “in the world,” but not of it. He prayed that they be protected from the “evil,” the corrupting influence that is in the world. James tells us in James 4:4 that we cannot be a friend of the world and a friend of God at the same time! It is for this reason that John in I John 2:15 warns believers not to fall in love with the world nor “the things that are in the world.”
Step four: Covetousness. Verses 22-23 read, “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single (good), thy whole body shall be full of light.
23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” Jesus is saying that our physical senses are like windows to the soul. If we focus them and feed them on worldly, earthy things long enough, they become dark, leading to the corruption of our very souls. Soon inside, we are filled with a spirit of materialism, greed, strife, and covetousness. This past Christmas, a 34 year old man who worked for Walmart in New York, was trampled to death by anxious shoppers, greedy and covetous for electronics on sale!
The dangerous thing about looking to the world and earthly things for fulfillment and pleasure is, they never satisfy! It is called “the law of diminishing returns.” What once thrilled and satisfied you, no longer does. Materialism is built upon creating a thirst for more, a dissatisfaction for what you have, and a desire, if not a drive, for the “new and improved,” the latest model or version.
Step five: Control. Verse 24 says, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” There is no middle ground! Jesus says that we can love money and the things it can buy, or God, but not both! One of the ways a Christian can become a servant to “mammon,” is the abuse of credit and debt. Proverbs 22:7 reads, “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” When we borrow money, we are trapped into paying it back, usually with high interest. We become indebted to our lender. Our debt becomes a liability, something that holds us back. When we owe, we lose control, we forfeit our freedom! We become obligated to work, sometimes a second job to pay back our loans.
Step six: Worry and Concern. Verse 25 says, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” The phrase “take no thought,” speaks of being filled with care and anxiety. With debts hovering over our heads like a cloud of doom, it brings stress and possibly even health problems along with it. Usually where there is stress, there is strife! We cannot overemphasize the impact of debt on our society. It is the leading cause for divorce, and the primary reason for many troubled marriages. Debt is also one of the leading causes for depression and suicide.
These words of Jesus are even more relevant today, living in the 21st century. As believers, we must avoid the money based life! Jesus presents the alternative!
Second: The God Based Life. Matthew 6:33-34 reads, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
The God based life is one that partners with God. The Word of God has plenty to say about money, which reveals that God cares about your personal finances. God is not above talking about money, and He is not above helping you manage it! Can you think of a better financial partner than God?
As born again Christians, the Lord God wants us to put Him first in our lives. Jesus says in Matthew 6:33a, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.” Why should we put the Lord first in our lives?
God has put us first in His own heart and mind. John tells us in I John 4 that we love God, because He first loved us. God not only loved us first, He loves us most! We must never forget that the great measure of God’s love, is the gift of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. This love with which God loves us is agape love, which means it’s nature is to seek the very best for the person who is loved. We must believe that God loves us, and always seeks what is best for us! This includes our personal finances!
God is not only loving, but infinitely wise. As the Creator and Sustain-er of the universe, God knows the best investment for our lives, which includes the investment of our time and our money. As our Senior Financial Partner, God has the benefit of being infinitely wise, helping us make the best choices! God not only sees the future, He is in the future! Who is better qualified to know what is a good or bad investment of our time, energy and money!
Putting God first means He must come ahead of everything else. Even the most spiritual minded among us, can at sometimes argue and reason as to why other things must come first. We say, “Yes Lord, but I must make so much money each week and month to pay these debts that I have generated. I need these new clothes in order to fit in and be accepted. Lord you know that everyone eats out on the weekend.” We must admit, that often the great concern of our lives is not the kingdom of God or what is right in God’s eyes, but how we are going to get by or get ahead in this present world. Jesus reverses the order on us. He says, “Get right and stay right with God first. Line your life up with God, His Word, and wisdom first, and keep your care and concern there!”
Jesus is teaching us that we must make our relationship with God the dominating concentration of our lives. There are people who are careless about what they eat, and they pay for it. There are people who are careless about rest, proper exercise, and cleanliness, and they pay the doctor. There are people who are careless about bathing, personal hygiene, and we pay for it! There are people who are careless about how they spend their money or use credit cards, and they pay for it, or as with the recent government bail outs, we literally pay for it! God holds us all accountable and responsible in these areas, but they are not to be our greatest focus! When we are careless about “the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” we pay for it in more ways than one! Jesus is saying, “The great care of our lives is to put our relationship with God first, and everything else second.” Whenever there are competing concerns in your life, be sure you always put your relationship with God first. Henry Drummond, a 19th century evangelist, scientist and theologian used to say to his theological students, "Don't be an amphibian, half in one world and half in another." He said, "Do not touch Christianity unless you are willing to seek the kingdom of heaven first. I promise you a miserable existence if you seek it second."
When we seek God’s kingdom, we will begin to live and order our financial lives according to four kingdom treasure principles presented in Matthew 6:19-34. What are they?
Four Kingdom Treasure Principles
Kingdom principle one: God owns everything. We are stewards of God’s resources. We simply manage His stuff. This is not the attitude of most Americans. They say, “It’s my money. I earned it and I have the right to spend it however I please!” God’s Word says just the opposite. Psalm 24:1 reads, “The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” This means we own nothing. Our next breath is a gift from God’s gracious hand.
Kingdom principle two: God allows us to choose our investments, so choose wisely! Will it be heavenly eternal things, or will it be earthy, temporal things? Will we choose to be rich in this world’s goods, or rich toward God? One day, we will give an account to God on how we handled every possession, every asset He has placed in our control. The believer who uses his or her money and possessions faithfully and wisely, will be commended and rewarded by God!
Kingdom principle three: We can serve God or our greed, but never both. Our treasures and our heart is either on the earth, or in heaven. Which has a grip on your heart? Is it God or greed? Does the idea of giving the top ten percent of your income to the kingdom of God, plus an offering, cause you to shudder? Is making money the primary goal in your life? Did you choose a career primarily on the basis of money? Does it anger you when asked to give to a good cause? We can easily determine which kingdom we are living for by filling in the blank to the verse of Philippians 1:21, "For to me to live is ________________?" An honest answer to these questions will reveal your heart.
Kingdom principle four: We are happier when we serve and live for God and His kingdom. This reminds us of the Charles Dickens’ novel, A Christmas Story. The main character of that story is the cold-hearted, tight fisted, selfish man, who despised Christmas and all things which tend to happiness, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge learned his lesson the hard way! No matter how hard you hug your money, it never hugs back.
Like Scrooge, somehow we think that giving diminishes our wealth and happiness, when just the opposite is true! Proverbs 11:24-25 says, “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.
25 The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.” Proverbs 19:17 says, “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will He pay him again.” Can anyone out give God?
The kingdom of God should absolutely be the priority in a believers life. The kingdom of God is synonymous with the will of God. It is doing what is right in His eyes, living to please Him. If we are seeking the kingdom of God, it will be our desire to be ruled, controlled by the Word and Spirit of Jesus Christ
Have you made God your financial partner? Is it His kingdom you seek? Here are three things to keep you on track.
First: Simplify your lifestyle. Reduce the amount of "stuff" in your life. We develop emotional attachments to things, even when they have no practical use or value.
Second: Gain control of your spending. Throwing things out the back door is useless, unless you monitor what you’re bringing in the front door! You should carefully consider each potential purchase. Before you buy, ask yourself: “Can I afford it? Are other financial obligations taken care of? Why do I want this item? Will this purchase keep me from giving what I've pledged to give to God? Have I prayed for God's guidance in this decision?
Third: Pray everyday for contentment. In Hebrews 13:5 we are exhorted to keep our lives free from the love of money and be content with what we have. It says, “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Dissatisfaction with what we have breeds a materialistic attitude that always wants more. Let God satisfy your soul!
William Barclay, tells the following story from the life of Johnannes Tauler, a 14th century German mystic theologian who believed and taught that the state of the soul was affected more by a personal relationship with God, than by external practices. The story goes that one day Tauler greeted a beggar, “God give you a good day, my friend.” The beggar answered, “I thank God I never had a bad one.” Then Tauler said to the beggar, “God give you a happy life my friend.” The beggar responded, “I thank God, I am never unhappy.” Tauler in amazement said, “What do you mean?” “Well, when it is fine, I thank God; when it rains, I thank God; when I have plenty, I thank God; when I am hungry, I thank God; and since God’s will is my will, and whatever pleases Him pleases me, why should I say I am unhappy when I am not?” Tauler looked at the man in astonishment. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am a king,” the beggar answered. “Where then is your kingdom?” asked Tauler. And the beggar answered quietly, “In my heart.”
Today is the day to open your heart to the kingdom of God! If you are lost in your sin, receive Jesus Christ. If you are already a believer, begin living by kingdom priorities, and investing in kingdom values!