Matthew R. Perry

Archive for the ‘Finances’ Category

Give Earnestly (Part IV: A Biblical Attitude of Giving)

In Church Life, Finances, Giving, Sermons on May 24, 2008 at 11:10 pm

We must give with gravity, with solemnity, with seriousness. How often do people who are Christians who have never been taught about giving. How much worse is the fact that Christians see God’s commands and God’s desire and the need all around them, yet their hearts are calloused to God’s will and man’s need.

These churches in Macedonia saw a need and saw the seriousness of the need of seeing fellow believers in need of relief. They were in extreme poverty but that abundant joy in Jesus won the day. We as the church of Jesus Christ have lost our seriousness and lost our sense of urgency when it comes to being on mission. That must be recovered in our hearts — else what little influence we have in this world will fade away.

What seriousness can we see? Malachi 3:8-10 shows the gravity of the situation:

Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. [9] You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. [10] Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

We watch on the news and are mortified when someone robs a bank or a convenience store or steals a car. Yet we should be mortified to infinity when we consider that we may be robbing from God. When we fail to give to God, we show that we really do not worship nor do we have the faith.

Advertisements

Give Readily (Part III: The Biblical Attitude of Giving)

In Church Life, Finances, Giving, Sermons on May 23, 2008 at 6:57 am

The key word in this passage is “readiness.” John Calvin notes that there are three degrees of giving in this act of grace:

First, we sometimes act unwillingly, but it is from shame or fear. Secondly, we act willingly, but at the same time it is from being either impelled, or induced from influence apart from our own minds. Thirdly, we act from the promptings of our own minds, when we of our own accord set ourselves to do what is becoming. Such cheerfulness of anticipation is better than the actual performance of the deed .

We can give out of shame (no!), out of a twisting of an arm (no!), or out of a spirit transformed by Christ who changes our hearts from self to servanthood. The Corinthian church risked being cool to their duty of giving, so Paul urges them to “finish doing it as well.” May your desire and readiness match the abundance of which God has given to you. If God has given to you, and there are others such as your church or fellow Christians who are struggling, God has allowed you to have what you have not for personal gain but for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom.

You say, “Bro. Matt, this economy. I’ve got to feed my family and take care of some serious issues in my life. I got to get out from under this debt. I know I should give, but I just don’t think if I give a small sum of money that it would make a big difference. There are others who are rich, let them handle the burden until I get on my feet.” Oh, so you find yourself thinking exclusively in amount of money rather than the amount of grace God extended to you?

Do you remember the passage we read earlier from Mark 12:41-44

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. [42] And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. [43] And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. [44] For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Readiness — not just looking at a particular amount, but looking to the Savior! Why? Because of a promise made. 2 Cor. 9:5 says, “So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready as a willing gift, not as an exaction.” Do we realize that when we came to Christ that we came surrendering our all to him?

Give Generously (Part II: A Biblical Attitude of Giving)

In church, church attendees, Church Life, church membership, Finances, Giving on May 21, 2008 at 3:21 pm

The Apostle Paul continues:

I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. [9] For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. [10] And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it (2 Corinthians 8:8-10, ESV).

Paul urges the Corinthian church to give genuinely. Don’t give with any pretenses. This is why he prefaces his comments here with, “I say this not as a command.” He is not saying that this is optional, for God does command us to give to help the people of God do their work. He could have made this command, but he did not want them to do this because they had to — that’s not genuine. He wanted them to do this genuinely to “prove by the earnestness of others that your love also was genuine.” What picture does he give to drive this home? None other than the Gospel.

A well-known philanthropist was asked, “How is it that you give away so much, and yet have so much left?” “I suppose it’s like this,” he replied. “I shovel out, and God shovels in, and he has a bigger shovel than I do!” Christ out of his abundance became poor so that we might become rich! This echoes Philippians 2:5-8:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [6] who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, [7] but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, [8] he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

The “poverty” that Christ experienced reflected in a greater way the “extreme poverty” or the empty vessel that was found among the other Macedonian churches. But Christ used the poverty of becoming a servant to all in order that we might become rich in Christ. Col. 1:27 says, “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” With this,When we see the sacrifice of Christ and how Christ is in us, we will see the joy that comes with sacrifice for the Kingdom as well.

Do we give genuinely? Do we give out of love for God and love for neighbor? In Matthew 23:23, Jesus condemns the Pharisees for keeping requirements for requirements’ sake in order to make themselves look better, but weren’t willing to sacrifice:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23, ESV).

Some of us may be guilty of that. We give out of the bare requirements, but not out of genuine love. We may get a $944.40 paycheck, so when it comes giving time, what’s the check amount? That’s right: $99.44. This may be a reflection of our live before God. You see, God calls us to live out a genuine commitment to him that is full, authentic, and real.

Give Graciously (Part I: A Biblical Attitude Toward Giving)

In church, church attendees, Church Life, church membership, Finances, Giving, Sermons on May 20, 2008 at 9:10 am

(This sermon was preached on Sunday, May 18, 2008 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY. To listen to the sermon in its entirety, click here. To read the Introduction to this blog series, click here.)

In 2 Cor. 8:1-7, we read:

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, [2] 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. [3] For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, [4] begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— [5] and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. [6] Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. [7] But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you— see that you excel in this act of grace also.

Paul rejoiced in the grace of God demonstrated among the churches at Macedonia, the province in which Corinth was located. How was it demonstrated? By circumstances? The Word says they were in a “severe test of affliction.” The affliction was a famine that had left the area in a hard grip. The economy was absolutely atrocious and affected everyone, even the Christians. But how did they react? External circumstances showed itself in “extreme poverty.” But what was going on internally? “An abundance of joy.” Why? Because of the grace of God.

Look with me at verse 4: “They gave themselves to the Lord first.” Now, let’s put all this together. Externally, a bad economy which led to a severe test of affliction resulting in extreme poverty. Internally, God’s grace took hold leading to an abundance of joy. They gave out of an overflow in a wealth of generosity! They gave. No one twisted their arm. God gave to them graciously, so they gave graciously out of their joy. In fact, notice that Paul calls this giving an “act of grace.”

What is the Spirit telling us? The Spirit informs us of the motive in which we are to give. We do not give primarily to keep up budgets. We do not give so our numbers are not embarrassing. We give because God has given so much to us. And the motive behind the gift we gift matches our view of the gloriousness of Christ’s act of grace toward us. We give based on the joy in our hearts.

We give not just with Christ in mind, but also his church — His body! Are we invested in God’s church as well? Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:23-24: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, [24] leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” We will not give graciously if we fail to extend grace toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we are failing to give, we need to dig deep into our hearts to see if some unresolved relationship is blocking our fellowship with God and his church.

Consider the following:

1. Have we truly understood what that “act of grace” to which Paul refers really reflects? The gift we give and the motive behind it usually matches our view of the gloriousness of Christ’s act of grace toward us.

2. Is this “act of grace” also seen as an act of worship? Given all we have read in Matthew 5:23-24, we also see that the gifts we give will be received in direct proportion to the way we take care of our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ? Keep short accounts!

Do We Have a Biblical Attitude Toward Giving? (Introduction)

In Finances, Sermons on May 19, 2008 at 8:41 am

Birthday parties. Gas prices. House payments. Children. Car payments. High taxes. High unemployment. Credit card debt. School loans and/or tuition. Christmas. The economy in general.

What’s the combination? This list represents ways our money is often used — and also the excuses often given as to why we do not give to the Lord and His church as He commands.

As you turn to 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, you need to see that Paul desires to set among the Christians in Corinth is a pattern for giving — not just giving rightly outwardly but also from a right inward motive. And motive is key, isn’t it? Whenever a lawyer brings an event or someone’s character to bear on a court case, an objection is often raised as to whether this information is relevant. Inevitably, the lawyer will say, “Your honor, it plays to motive.” How true! It is relevant.
Macedonia was a province in northern Greece that had been decimated over the years by various wars in which Rome was engaged. The churches that Paul refers to were the churches in Berea, Thessolonica, and Philippi. These wars had left this area quite deprived and incredibly poor. So while the world may not have looked upon them with any favor, God did for these churches had a reputation of being quite faithful.

My desire is for Boone’s Creek Baptist Church to have that type of reputation. I am not talking about a reputation for giving to Annie and Lottie and Eliza (although that’s wonderful!). I’m not talking about a reputation for giving a good percentage of our budget to the Cooperative Program (again, wonderful!). It’s not ultimately about the bottom line: it all comes down to motive. How should we give? What type of attitude should we have? Do we have it now? If not, why not? What is keeping you from that point? Do we take giving to the Lord and to His church for granted? Do we give only when we like the direction of the church, but cease to give when we do not? Do we only give when the church’s general fund is low, or is giving simply part and parcel of our Christian walk?

Or is our motive to give because we love the Lord Jesus Christ and are joyful for the grace He has bestowed on sinners like we and the mercy he has extended to us.

Being Good Stewards of Your Finances, Part IV: Be Satisfied With Your Finances

In Finances on August 23, 2007 at 2:02 pm

(To listen to this sermon in its entirety, click here.)

Now is the place where it all comes together. Look with me at 2 Corinthians 9:6-8:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. [7] Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. [8] And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:6-8, ESV).

Paul’s point is that what you sow determines how much you are satisfied in God and/or your finances. Those who sow sparingly are saying, “My satisfaction lies in my having enough money to take care of my situation and to maintain my lifestyle.” The one who sows bountifully says, “God will take care of me and make all grace abound to me. He is sufficient for me.”

I was reminded of this yesterday, in fact. Judy Woodward Bates of the Western Recorder, our state Baptist newspaper wrote an excellent article on “Letting go of the love of money.” Many of us have heard that very helpful verse in Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Yet, if you notice, when that reference is given, it read “Hebrews 13:5b” and shows that this is only the last eight words of this passage. Here’s all of Hebrews 13:5:

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Wow — does this not put an entirely new light on this verse? We find comfort in knowing God will never leave us nor forsake us, but the context of this verse is to keep our life free from the love of money (the negative aspect) and to be content with what we have. In other words, love God more than your money. Loving God in Christ will truly bring contentment and satisfaction — not loving your money.

So when Paul reminds young Timothy of this, we begin to put some pieces together:

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, [7] for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. [8] But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. [9] But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. [10] For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs (1 Tim. 6:6-10, ESV).

Let’s piece these passages together. God loves a cheerful giver who sows bountifully, demonstrating that all grace is abounding to him in Christ. This contentment and satisfaction comes in knowing that while our money may leave us, Christ never will so we are to find our satisfaction and contentment in Him! For godliness with contentment is great gain — so we will be happy with the food and clothing we have. Money is not all it is cracked up to be, because the more money one has, the more temptations and snares arise which lead many down the road to destruction.

John Piper noted one time that as he jogs in the mornings, he sometimes stops and talks to people in his neighborhoods and asks them if there is anything he can pray for them about. He noted, “If they were rich, they said no. If they were poor, they said yes.” While that may be quite general, I understand where he’s coming from. Those who are satisfied in their riches and their situation in life do not feel they need prayer because they are financially solvent — while the poor struggle and realize they need something outside of themselves to get by.

What about you? When you read 2 Corinthians 9:6, what category do you find yourself in — sowing sparingly or sowing bountifully? One person who sowed bountifully was asked, “How is it that you give away so much, and yet have so much left?” “I suppose it’s like this … I shovel out, God shovels in, and he has a bigger shovel than I do!”

May we find our satisfaction in Christ and trust him in our giving and in his provision for us. As Piper says, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Powered by ScribeFire.

Being Good Stewards of our Finances, Part III: Be Serious in Your Giving

In Finances on August 22, 2007 at 9:54 am

(To listen to this sermon in its entirety, click here.)

At this point, let’s look at 2 Corinthians 8:11-15. The key word in this particular passage — and even throughout 2 Corinthians 8-9 — is “readiness.” We see it in verses 11 and 12: “So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have.” Now really drink deep verse 12: “For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:11-12, ESV).

The King James Version translates this well when they say, “When there is first a willing mind.” The word in which readiness (ESV) and “willing mind” comes from denotes a zeal, a spirit, and eagerness and a seriousness toward a particular activity. The seriousness, the eagerness, and the readiness found in giving must not be simply done in theory as we do in theory so many other things. We know if theory that we should read our Bibles — but what about in practice? We know in theory we should pray, give, and go on missions — but what about in practice? What about witnessing? Prayer? The list goes on. And giving could well be added to the list.

Truth is, the seriousness to which we hold a particular activity is only seen in how it affects our lives — what we actually do with our eagerness. And our eagerness and readiness is contagious and infectious. Look with me at 2 Corinthians 9:1-5:

Now it is superfluous for me to write to you about the ministry for the saints, 2 for I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove vain in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated- to say nothing of you- for being so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for the gift you have promised, so that it may be ready.

Paul boasted to the people of Macedonia (the ones he used as an example to the Corinthian church) about the Corinthians giving. He told them in 8:12 to finish what you started — turn your zeal into action, turn your seriousness into service, turn your readiness into reality. Paul began bragging and boasting about their generosity. He was bragging to them about their zeal and readiness, as he mentioned in 2 Corinthians 8 — he’s saying, “Don’t let us down — follow through.”

Paul sees this as a serious matter — and my friends, we should as well. Reputations about churches and religious organizations get around quickly. And it seems as if those in our community know quite well what we believe (after all, they hear us talk about it), but do we follow through?

Consider our church covenant. When you join our church, either by coming to Christ or by transferring from one church to another, you agree to our church covenant which outlines how we believe we should Scripturally treat one another. One paragraph clearly states that we are called “to contribute Scripturally to the support of the ministry, the expense of the church, the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel to all nations.” I’ve asked this before, but were you aware we had a church covenant? Were you aware that this is what you agreed to do? Did we take it seriously?

Sadly, we only take it seriously when something serious comes up (building committee reports, missions efforts, when the general fund is down, etc.). But your giving to “the support of the ministry, the expense of the church, the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel” may seem ordinary, mundane, day-to-day, nothing special. But this is a when done with the understanding of the seriousness that should accompany such acts of worship, this can be a blessed thing before the Lord.

Previous posts in this series:

Powered by ScribeFire.

Being Good Stewards of our Finances, Part II: Be Sincere With Them

In Finances on August 21, 2007 at 4:05 pm

(To listen to this sermon in its entirety, click here.)

Look with me at 2 Corinthians 8:8. “I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.” In 2 Corinthians 8:7, Paul tells the Corinthian church to follow the example of the Macedonian church — “see that you excel in this act of grace also.” But what was Paul doing? Here, Paul admonishes them to put into action what they have seen to show that what they are doing is from the heart and not only out of duty.

How does Paul compel them? Does he simply say, “Do this because it’s the right thing to do” and simply appeal to our fleshly strength to accomplish something of this magnitude? Does he simply this by appealing to his own authority as an apostle of Christ to leverage them to do this deed? Sadly, many pastors and leaders in the church only go this far and no farther. They promote God as simply a motivational speaker or as a hard judge who will ‘get them’ if they don’t do this.

Paul takes a different track — look at 2 Cor. 8:9-11:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. [10] And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it.

What do we see here? We see that Paul does not appeal to the Corinthians’ personal strength nor does Paul simply appeal to his authority with a “because-I-said-so” mentality. He says to them, “Look at Jesus!” Every preacher of the Word must do this — not simply say, “Do what I say because I say it.” Nor should we be like so many of our kids’ materials say, “Be like Jesus. Do like Jesus.” We can’t do that in our own strength apart from the Spirit’s guidance.

Jesus was rich, full of glory in heaven. And remember when we looked at John 17 when Jesus said, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5). Jesus, being fully God shared his Father’s glory. Yet, he became poor. Don’t forget about that crucial hymn Paul wrote in Philippians 2 where Jesus, though fully God, “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” Philippians 2:7). Through Jesus willingly giving up his riches to become poor, we were able, as Philippians 4:19, to have all the riches that God supplies in the glories of Christ Jesus.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Are You Prepared For Your Future? Part II

In Finances, Preaching, Sermons on June 30, 2007 at 10:45 am

(Preached at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY, on June 24, 2007. To listen to the sermon via mp3, just click on the link to the side.) 

(To read Part I, click here.) 

Be Faithful with the Master’s Treasure

Jesus asks another question to his listeners: “And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own” (Luke 16:12, ESV)? The manager wasted his master’s possessions — thus the reason of his release from the rich man’s employ. This posed a concern for his ability to take care of his own possessions. Since this manager was so inept in taking care of possessions entrusted to him by another, would he fare any better being responsible for his own?

Darrell Bock notes, “If someone is unfaithful as a steward, why should that person be entrusted with ownership? Handling wealth is a preparatory lesson for other responsibilities before God.” God entrusts to us a number of treasures for us to use for his glory and our good. The first treasure is entrusting man with dominion over the earth and continuing the species through procreation. Genesis 1:27-28 says plainly:

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:27-28, ESV).

He entrusts us with the treasure of the Gospel. Second Corinthians 4:5-7 says:

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (2 Corinthians 4:5-7).

Paul describes the Gospel as “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” as the gospel, as “this treasure.” God places that treasure in us, the “jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7) — he places that treasure in all who are followers of Jesus Christ.

He entrusts us with time. The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 5:15-17 says: “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17, ESV).

He entrusts us as believers with spiritual gifts. The Apostle Paul says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6, ESV).

Pertaining especially to this particular parable, he entrusts us with the treasure of this world. Psalm 50:10-11 establishes to whom all things on earth belong:

For every beast of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the hills,
and all that moves in the field is mine (Psalm 50:10-11, ESV)

In Malachi, God calls us to return a portion of that which he gives us back to him with the storehouse tithe (Malachi 3:10) along with all other offerings with a cheerful heart (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Warren Wiersbe puts it well:

True stewardship means that we thank God for all that we have and use it as He directs. Giving God 10 percent of our income is a good way to begin our faithful stewardship, but we must remember that God should control what we do with the remaining 90 percent as well.

How do you view what God has entrusted to you? The questions Jesus asks do indeed probe our preconceptions. The first question implies that these resources belong to the perceived earthly owner. The second question crystallizes the fact that all we have ultimately belongs to God. Which way do you ultimately view your possessions: as yours or God’s?

Be Faithful to the Master Over All Other Treasure

Jesus brings his parable to a fine point when he states in Luke 16:13, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

In this parable, we have seen how Jesus wants us to be shrewdly faithful in the possessions we have as well as those possessions entrusted to us by our Master. Yet, we risk becoming so focus on taking care of our possessions that we forget the one to whom all things belong. We need to remind ourselves of James 1:12 that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (ESV). Let us beware lest we focus on the ‘good and perfect gift’ rather than on the good and perfect giver of that gift.

Proverbs 30:8-9 says:

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.

In essence, this passage says, “God, just give me what I need.” This passage reminds us of what Jesus said during his model prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:10, ESV). In our materialistic culture, we often miss the connection between what we worship and how we live. We miss the connection in that how we view God directly proportionate to how we view money, and vice versa.

This verse is parallel to a passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:19-21, 24, ESV).

During one Star Trek episode when Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock discussed the possibilities of computers controlling everything we see, Kirk was shocked to hear the ever-logical Mr. Spock lament such a notion. When Kirk asked why, Spock made the comment, “Computers make wonderful servants, but terrible masters.”

When we turn our attention and base our contentedness based upon the amount of finances we have, we elevate our finances to a place where God must occupy. The Apostle Paul in 1 Tim. 6:6-10 has the right perspective:

Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils (1 Timothy 6:6-10a, ESV).

Have You Prepared for Your Future? (Part I)

In Finances, Sermons on June 28, 2007 at 4:23 pm

(Preached at the Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY, on June 24, 2007. To listen to the sermon via mp3, just click on the link to the side.)

“Have you planned for your future?” How often have we seen advertisements posing this question? We first hear this question as we approach high school graduation. One flyer from a university with an inset picture of a thumbtack says, “Don’t get stuck without a plan … be prepared for your future.” Once you graduate, then you have to prepare for your future through finding gainful employment. Soon, you may consider types of investments you will make to help provide for your children’s college education. Also, do not forget about preparing for retirement. An article I came across said, “Prepare for Your Financial Future: Know What You Can Expect from Social Security.”

Do you feel stress about these matters? Do you have a plan for your future? While the world’s way of thinking may take them to issues such as graduation, jobs, marriages, buying a house, or retirement — I am referring to more important plans — plans that not only deal with our earthly future, but our eternal destiny. Are you using the resources God gives you now to help prepare you for eternity?

This morning, God has us examining a very difficult parable known as The Parable of the Dishonest Manager from Luke 16:1-13. As we sort through Jesus’ words, hear his plea for us to be good stewards of our possessions as we ready ourselves for eternity. Hear his plea for us to use what he entrusts to us for his glory and for the good of all. Toward the end of Jesus’ explanation of this parable, he declares the central truth of this particular parable in verse 10, “One who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Luke 16:10, ESV). How faithful are we being with what God has given to us?

Be Faithful With the Possessions You Have

Randy Newman in his wonderful book Questioning Evangelism crafts his book around how Jesus’ habit of asking questions so that his listeners would probe their own souls and mindsets more deeply. Newman calls this “rabbinic evangelism ” — answering questions with questions.

Jesus constantly dealt with the questions of his disciples as well as his enemies. They enjoyed trying to put Jesus in a corner. Jesus used questions to probe our preconceptions about our thinking and living. Notice this first question: “If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust you to the true riches” (Luke 16:11, ESV)? To understand this, let us read Luke 16:1-4:

He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses’ (Luke 16:1-4, ESV).

The rich man hired this manager to oversee his finances. This manager would collect on bills owed to his employer and would invest the finances so the rich man would receive a good return. Yet, this rich man fired his manager, for he was “wasting his possessions” (Luke 16:1, ESV).

Now the manager was in a bind! He had grown accustomed to the life of luxury and ease. What would he do now? Would he dig? The rich life had weakened him due to the lack of manual labor. Would he beg? No! Everyone knew his association with the rich man — he could not associate himself with beggars now. What would everyone say?

Yet, he used what resources he had at his disposal to prepare for his future. What did he do? Read with me verses five through eight:

So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light (Luke 16:5-8).

Some controversy arises as to what this fired manager was doing. Was he simply forfeiting his commission? Was he releasing the debtors from illegal taxes levied by the rich man? Quite frankly, we do not know — each of these options could be a possibility. Jesus does not feel the need to say and it seems as if the listeners understand.

This much is clear: the fired manager wasted his master’s wealth, so now he needs to make sure he does not waste opportunities from this point forward. In fact, his former boss compliments him, not for his dishonesty, but for his shrewdness in taking care of his future plans. “The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light” (Luke 16:8, ESV). This dishonest manager used the world’s wealth to gain friends who would help him after his termination.

What friends should we try to make? Luke 16:9 says, “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9, ESV). God wants us to use the world’s wealth so that our ‘friends’ will welcome us into our eternal dwelling — namely, God and all the heavenly angels waiting to greet them. Robert Stein notes, “Believers should so conduct their lives that when this world and its wealth comes to an end, God will welcome them into his presence.”

Are we using our resources with the shrewdness that God gives us in order to honor, glorify and befriend him? When Jesus told us in John 15 that “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love” (John 15:10a, ESV). He demonstrated that love by laying down his life for his friends. He said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14, ESV). We are faithful with our future when we befriend our Lord Jesus through faith and obedience.