Having a Godly Approach to Money
GOD KNOWS YOUR HEARTS
Intro: We are designed to love the Supreme Being supremely. The human heart was made to love God. Since He is infinite in all His perfections and we are made in His image, then we have within us the capacity to display great affection to Him. We may love many things, but there is room in our hearts for one and only one governing desire.
Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Anyone who has ever worked for two bosses knows how impossible it is to satisfy two different sets of expectations. So it is with God and wealth. God demands that we worship Him alone and live to serve others. But money demands that we work for what the world has to offer as we live for ourselves. How could anyone serve both demands at the same time? How could anyone be friends with the world and friends with God simultaneously? We don’t have to look very far to find a frustrated and conflicted baptized believers who have too much faith to be satisfied with the world, but too much of the world in their hearts to find their true joy in the Lord. Maybe this helps to explain why life is sometimes so disappointing for us. The Pharisees were like that. They were busy doing many outward works in the name of God, but in their hearts, they loved money more than they ever loved Him. So, we are not surprised to find them disagreeing at every turn when Jesus taught about money and possessions. Christ had just finished applying the parable of the dishonest steward. He had warned His disciples to plan for the future, using their worldly wealth to gain everlasting friends. He also encouraged them to be faithful with even the little things so that one day they would be ready to manage the true riches of God.
The Pharisees heard Jesus say all these things, but instead of letting it rule their hearts, they scoffed at Him.
Jesus has struck a raw nerve with this teaching about serving either God or money.
Earlier they had ridiculed Him for being soft on sin. He was welcoming tax collectors and other sinners into His family. To the Pharisees, He was much too lenient with people who were not qualified for temple worship.
Now they had nearly the opposite complaint! By speaking against the love of money, Jesus was being so strict as to make them laugh. What kind of fundamentalist was this rabbi, anyway?
1 Cor 2:14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Luke 16:14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.
Disturbed by His teaching, the Pharisees sneer (lit. “turned their noses up”) at the Teacher. The covetous like to disguise their sin. They see their material possessions as evidence of the blessing of God on their activities.
Misguided leaders often tie their righteousness to their money.
At least for this set of Pharisees, Christ was revealing a hidden weakness.
Here, the Pharisees seek to discredit Jesus’ teaching on wealth because it represents a threat to their carefully nurtured public good standing. The cracks in their façade of righteousness show in their attitude toward money and possessions.
He has just instructed His disciples to “make friends,” who will welcome them into heaven, by using their worldly wealth.
“lovers of money” = “friends of money”
“Of all the winds that blow on love, the demand for money is the coldest and most destructive.” – Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
Righteousness is not found in public opinion or even in the wellsprings of the human heart. Righteousness is what God declares a repentant sinner to be.
The natural man scoffs at God’s instruction about money.
If we are not in love with Christ Jesus, then we must be in love with someone or something else. It is what we love that tends to keep us away from the Lord, and what the Pharisees loved was money and what it could buy.
People tend to scoff at things they find threatening.
Which master are we serving? If Jesus the master of our hearts or are we still slaving away for material things?
Here are some warning signs that we are more in love with wealth that we are with God:
• when we have anxiety about our finances, not trusting God to provide for our needs today and tomorrow, we are in love with money and its power to make us feel more secure
• when our lives are so full of work that we have to say “no” to Christian service in the church, we are in love with money and have given it mastery over our schedule
• when we find our thoughts returning again and again to something we are hoping to buy, we are in love with money and its power to get us what we think we want
• when we make employment decisions that are spiritually unwise for ourselves and our families, we are in love with money and our plans for getting more of it
• when we find ourselves wishing we had some material possession that God has given to someone else, we are in love with money and the status or convenience or pleasure it seems to bring
• when we spend more time complaining about what we do not have than rejoicing in what we do have, we are in love with money and depend on our possessions rather than God to give us contentment and joy
• when it seems difficult or even impossible to give us something we want in order to give a full biblical tithe or to make a sacrificial gift to the ministry of the church, we are more in love with money than we are with the Gospel and what it can do to change the world
The presence or absence of these warning signs will indicate whether God is our strongest affection, or whether we need to confess that we have a forbidden love affair with wealth that can destroy our souls.
But God finds detestable what is built only upon the foundation of what impresses others.
We are generally inclined to think that the love of money is only a small moral failing, that is much farther down the list of evil deeds than something like cursing against God or committing some scandalous sexual sin.
But according to Jesus, the love of money is an appalling betrayal of our love for God. It sets us squarely against the Gospel and the kingdom of Christ.
Luke 16:15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”
Loving money was a symptom of an even more sinister condition of the heart. The unconverted, self-righteous man seeks to justify all his actions. He presumes to be his own accountability.
Jesus identified the Pharisees as people who sought to justify themselves before men and God. This is the way everyone is until they learn of His grace!
The natural man deceives himself into functioning as his own god.
Our sinful human impulse goes all the way back to the Garden when Adam and Eve fell into wickedness. Having disobeyed the Lord, they ran, hid, and once found, blamed others.
This is what we are always trying to do – conceal our sins by making ourselves look better than we really are.
We may try to justify ourselves apart from our wealth. Perhaps we measure our amount of spiritual activity, by letting others know how much we are doing for God, and how much it is costing us to do it.
Maybe we refuse to be candid and confess our sins to others, as we secretly struggle with habits and hang-ups, because we are too proud to admit our weaknesses.
We may seek to justify ourselves by pretending to be something on the outside that is nearly the opposite of what we are on the inside.
What Jesus said to the Pharisees is equally true for us: God knows what is really in our hearts. “God sees through you.”
He knows what acts of spiritual rebellion we have participated in this week. He is aware of the sins we long to commit if only we could get the chance.
He knows the quiet complaining we do about the small discouragements in life. He has the list of all the private animosities we harbor against some of our brothers and sisters in Christ. He knows the secret feelings of self-pity we are nursing inside our hearts.
He knows how superior we think we are to others, and how deceptively we seek to give them a better impression of ourselves than we really deserve.
Rom 8:33 Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.
Rom 8:34 Who is he who condemns?
That God sees the heart is terrifying to those who love money.
The flip side of this is that what pleased the Pharisees so much (and what others even admired about them – their success) is no more than detestable to God – “for what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”
The important question is not what others think of us, but what God thinks of us.
An abomination is anything that is disgusting to God. It is a stench in his nostrils (wordplay on “derided, sneered”)
What a shocking thing to say: that what sinful people highly regard deserves divine judgment and damnation from God!
Christians too often think of abominations as evil deeds committed by unrepentant sinners such as terrorist bombings, abortions, or perversions like homosexuality.
But what Jesus calls abominable in Luke 16 is the love of money, especially when it has a corrupting influence on people who belong to the community of faith.
Think: Does it not make sense that God is offended when those who claim to know and follow Christ, serve themselves with their material wealth rather than serving Him with it?
Luke 16:16 “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.”
The coming of Jesus was a watershed event. It marked a major shift in history. Up until then, God had revealed Himself objectively in the OT.
Even in those days God offered people His grace, but always in anticipation of the Savior who was still to come. Everyone from Adam all the way up through John the Baptist was waiting for the Christ.
They were looking forward to the day when the Savior would come in all the power of God’s saving grace.
Luke stresses the new state of affairs brought about by Jesus coming to earth. The status quo is no longer adequate.
Then Jesus came preaching the Gospel of the kingdom. It was good news because it meant that grace had come to sinners!
The kingdom of God made even more radical demands. It is Jesus’ favorite sermon topic. It was His inaugural address.
The kingdom stands for the rule of God in all of life. The Lord who had been the God of the law and the prophets has now acted in a fresh and new way.
There is a crucial difference between Law and Gospel.
Even to this day many people are like the Pharisees. They continue to misuse the law of God, treating it as a way of salvation.
They imagine there is something they can do to justify themselves before God and men.
This is even true in the evangelical church, where nearly 90% of members in a recent survey agreed that in salvation “God helps those who help themselves.”
Both Jesus and John have been the first heralds to introduce the reality of the presence of the kingdom of God. It calls for a definite response from all who hear the call.
Those who would make their way into the kingdom must act decisively and energetically to align themselves with the rule of God.
“everyone is pressing into it” = “everyone enters it violently”
Up to this point, the kingdom had faced violent reaction: John the Baptist was beheaded; Nazarenes tried to throw Jesus off a cliff; Pharisees ridicule Him now.
What does it mean to say that people are forcing their way into the kingdom of God?
It means that when people finally understand the good news of salvation, they will do whatever it takes to come to Jesus.
It means to press into the kingdom with the greatest earnestness, the most severe self-denial, the most determined effort, as though with spiritual violence.
Jesus has elsewhere taught that if a man finds a priceless treasure in a field, he should sell everything he owns to gather resources to buy the field so that he can lay claim to the treasure.
Spare nothing to possess it. Set your mind to take it by force. Leave no loose ends. Do whatever it takes.
People will go to extraordinary lengths to get into a place they really want to go.
Like the four friends of the paralyzed man or the bleeding woman who pressed her frail body to the crowd simply to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment for divine healing, - everyone entering it violently.
When sinners see their desperate need alongside the glory of the kingdom, they are ready to force their way in. No one needs to coerce them. No arms need to be twisted. No bribery is necessary. “All who will, press their way into it” (Knox translation).
The preaching of the Gospel is ever effective.
To protect from the falsehood that God’s law was now obsolete, Jesus assures His hearers that God’s word will outlast this world.
Luke 16:17 And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.
Jesus needed to say this because when He distinguished between the law and the Gospel, some might infer that God’s law was now obsolete. The kingdom of grace had arrived – what need did anyone now have for the law?
The “tittle” or “dot” was a small pen stroke on some Hebrew letters. Its use means that the Law will be fulfilled right down to the minutest detail. This compares to our English expression of “dotting our “i’s” and crossing our “t’s.”
God’s law has always served its purpose.
It is a “schoolmaster” designed to point us to Christ.
Jesus fully accepted every last Scripture in the OT as the enduring word of God.