By Robert Bryan, St Matthias Episcopal Church, Monument, Colorado

Summary: Money as such is neither good nor bad. It can be a great blessing or a great curse. Everything depends on the proper attitude towards money and the proper use of money.

Introduction

There was a new pastor in a particular church. Things went along very smoothly for several months. Everyone liked the pastor’s personality. They especially liked his sermons, until one week the topic was money. Up to now you’ve done well, one of his deacons told him after the service. But today you began to meddle.

Today I am going to meddle. I’m going to talk about money. How can I do otherwise when my duty is to preach the Word of God, and God’s Word clearly confronts us with this issue? Amos warns the rich that they will be the first to go into exile for their sins (Amos 6:1-7). Paul tells Timothy to command the rich not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches. Jesus describes in a parable the contrast between a self-centered rich man and the poor man Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).

A blessing and a curse

The scriptures often speak of money and material wealth. In fact two- thirds of Jesus’ parables deal with monetary issues. Why? Because money always has been, and always will be, one of the great driving forces in society.

We live in a material environment. Through money we provide shelter, food, clothing, transportation. Money brings us comfort and pleasure. A sufficient amount of money removes anxiety. Money is important. It needs to be spoken of in the Church because a correct attitude towards money is essential to an authentic Christian life. Money as such is neither good nor bad. It can be a great blessing or a great curse. Everything depends on the proper attitude towards money and the proper use of money.

Money becomes a curse when we lose our perspective. The laws of perspective are such that a minute thing near at hand can shut out a massive thing in the distance. A small hill or even a tree directly in front of us can obscure Pike’s Peak. Similarly, a little bit of money can block out God Himself. You cannot be a slave of two masters. Jesus said, You cannot serve God and money (Matt 6:24).

A man, holding a dollar bill in his hand, read off the statement, In God we trust. He then commented, Perhaps it should say, ?In this god we trust.’ It’s not money as such, but the misuse of money that can throw us all out of whack.

A man was visiting an American land baron. After dinner the host took his guest out to the front porch. Waving his arms towards the horizon the land baron said, Everything you see belongs to me. Those oil wells way out there--they’re mine. That golden grain on the hills--that’s mine. Those cattle in the valley--mine, all mine. Unimpressed, the visitor waved his arms towards the heavens and said, And what do you own up there?

Four basic truths

The rich man in Jesus’ parable allowed his riches to blind him to four basic truths.

  1. Everything belongs to God our Creator; we are privileged to be the managers of God’s property.
  2. The human race is created by God to be a loving, caring family; men like Lazarus are our brothers.
  3. God blesses some of us with more than others to provide us with an opportunity to share generously with those less fortunate. Jesus said, Unto whomsoever much is given, much also shall be required (Luke 12:48).
  4. Our real country is heaven; we are merely sojourners here on earth, passing through, and should keep our eyes on heavenly things. Jesus said, Where your treasure is there will your heart be also. So do not store up treasure on earth where rust and moth consume, but store up treasure in heaven (Matt 6:20, 21).

Eleven millionaires went to a watery grave on the ill-fated Titanic in April 1912 with a combined wealth of over $200,000,000. Suppose, like the rich man in the parable, they have a message for us? Would they not try to warn us of the dangers of amassing wealth and exhort us to listen to Moses and prophets like Amos? In particular, would they not tell us to heed the words of the One risen from the dead?

God told our father, Abraham, that he was to be blessed so that he could be a blessing for others. Therein is the proper understanding of all God’s blessings. Therein is the proper understanding of the blessing of riches.

Conclusion

Listen to what Paul says: As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life (1 Tim 6:17, NRSV).

There’s the answer for any of us who have been given material blessings beyond what we really need. God has blessed us to be a blessing to others. To share with the Lazaruses of the world. To be magnanimous in supporting God’s work through His Church. To give sacrificially, thus storing up for ourselves treasure in heaven.

We’ve all heard the expression, You can’t take it with you. Perhaps it should be, You will take with you only that which you have generously given away.

Prayer of acknowledgment and consecration

Father, we confess that we have sometimes lost the proper perspective towards our material blessings. Instill in us an understanding that everything belongs to you and that we are privileged to be Your managers. Make us more aware of the brotherhood of all mankind and our need to share with those less fortunate. Help us to understand that every gift You give us involves the task of giving to others. Feed us at this service with Jesus, the Bread of Life, so that our minds may be transformed into His mind. In Him and His strength we promise to share more generously than we have in the past, thereby storing up for ourselves abundant treasure in heaven. Amen

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October–December, 1999

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