November 24, 2010

Sermon on the Mount (8) – Money and Worry (Matt 6:19-34)

by Rev. Jeremiah Cheung

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Today, let us study Matthew 6:19-34. These 15 verses instruct us regarding two issues: 1. how to solve the problem of money and 2. how to solve the problem of worry. Money and worry are two of life greatest problems. Here, Jesus teaches God’s children on how to handle the problems of money and worry:

I. How to Solve the Problem of Money v. 19-24

Jesus gives us a “do not…but instead” principle regarding how to handle money. What is the `do not’ here? He says do not store up for ourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. And according to Jesus, what should we do instead? He says instead we must store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. Jesus counsels us to store up treasures in heaven rather than on earth; for treasures on earth are but temporary, they depreciate in value and cannot be brought along with us when we die.

In contrast, treasures in heaven are eternal. Jesus wants us to reorder our values, in such a way that we do not allow ourselves to become slaves of money, but instead be masters in control of our money. We must not attach too much importance on the present life, rather we must live for the next life. The Bible is not against our possessing wealth, but it warns us against putting our trust in money. 1Tim 6:17 “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” This is the value we must have of money. Sometimes, we see people wearing branded clothes or driving expensive cars, and immediately we would judge them as people who love the world. Actually, a person’s love for the world cannot be gauged from his material possessions. Greediness and materialism is a question of the heart. I hope you understand that everyone’s values are different. Branded clothes and expensive cars are not the main issue, what is important is where your heart is; for where your treasure is, there your heart will also be. We all agree that money is good. Money has at least three kinds of drawing power:

1. Money itself has drawing power – “The rich has more voice.” Is this true? We do not have to go far, just look at Philippine society. Many organizations are led not only by the talented but also by the rich. The more money you have, the more powerful your voice will be. People would listen to you more. Although the Church isn’t a social organization, but the rich ones among us undeniably do receive more attention, this is the drawing power of money. However, I hope rich believers will not only draw people through their money but also through an exemplary life.

2. Money has purchasing power – Money is good because it increases our buying power. If you have money, you can buy whatever you want. Many years ago, people said: “Money is not all-powerful, but without money, it is difficult to do anything.” As long as you have money, on the material aspect, you can have anything. Money is good!

3. Money gives people power – What kind of tickets do you buy when you take a plane? Economy. When Cebu Pacific gives special promos, we become so pitiable – we wait by our computers from morning till evening. But if you have money, you can just book first class. First class customers enjoy special privileges. They are allowed higher weight limit for their luggage, they ride in luxurious first class cabins and are given superior service. As a first class ticket-holder, you simply walk in when you board the plane while everyone has to cue up in economy class. Money can avail us many privileges.

Because money brings a lot of privileges, it blinds people to its true value. Money must be viewed with spiritual perception. This is what verses 22-23 teach. When our spiritual eyes are unhealthy, our whole body will be full of darkness, we will not be able to see the true value of many things. Money has value only on this earth. When we leave this life, money loses all of its value, unless we know how to invest it in heaven. Money is not evil. Investing is not wrong either, but we must not allow money to enslave our hearts. Our hearts can certainly become bound by money.

Verse 24 warns us of this. Who is the master of our hearts – is it God or mammon (wealth)? “The Old Man and the Sea” is a famous novel. In the story, the old man caught a big fish from the sea; it was so big that the boat couldn’t contain it. This was the old man’s greatest accomplishment in life, but how could he bring it home? The old man tied the fish to the boat’s tail-end and started for home. However, a shark appeared and started to bite the big fish. The old man took his oars and fought the shark. After a whole day’s battle with the shark, the old man lost all his strength. In the end, he decided to let go and the shark ate the fish up. By the time he arrived home, only a skeleton was left of the fish. The old man hung up the skeleton and let it sway in the wind. Then he went home and slept. The fish was too big it wouldn’t fit into his boat, and so it was devoured by the shark. Isn’t it the same with money? We have so much money that it seems inexhaustible, but still it gets spent away and nothing’s left in the end. Let us ask the Lord to give us only enough to keep our hearts from becoming greedy. Use money wisely, invest it in eternity.

II. The Problem of Worry 25-34

Worry is the disease of the modern age. We are a generation of worriers. We don’t know how to trust the Lord. Jesus tells us, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” Two kinds of worry are indicated here: 1st, there is the worry about life – what to eat, what to drink. We worry about our basic needs. Then, there is worry about living – what to wear. We worry over the things we need for daily living. Life comes from God. Since the Lord gave us life, won’t he give us what we need for life?

When I was young I often heard my mother say: “Heaven created man, Heaven will take care of man.” In the past, mothers had more than 6 or 7 children. In those days, they didn’t have house-help and they didn’t have much economically, yet their children grew up fine nonetheless. Nowadays, with the first child, a woman already complains: `So difficult.’ With a second child, she’d say: `Life is difficult.’ If the husband wants another child, she’d say: `Go have one yourself.’ Why? Our worries have increased. We worry about what to eat, what to drink, what to wear, about the children’s education, and so on and so forth. The more we think the more afraid we become. But the Lord said, “Who of you can add a single hour to his life by worrying?” Of what use is worry? The Lord said, “See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” The Lord is reminding us that if that is how He takes care of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field, which neither labor nor spin, and do not have eternal life, how much more he will take care of us, his children. Don’t you think he will take care of our life and our needs?

Jesus concluded, “You of little faith!” This is an issue of faith. Verses 31-32 tell us that our heavenly Father knows our needs. If we review the 300 years of Church history, we will feel ashamed because after doing so, we will realize there hasn’t been a single Christian who had to beg for his food. Christians were very diligent, not only did they not experience lack, they helped others, including the Romans. O Church! We must leave good examples and be debt-free people. Brothers and sisters, many times we worry about our material needs because we want too much, we would even borrow money to buy things we desire, and so we end up deeply in debt. If that is the case, who wouldn’t be worried?

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us a secret: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” To seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness is the secret to overcoming worry. What is the kingdom of God? The kingdom of God is wherever God’s power is clearly manifested. When a man trusts in the Lord, he will naturally submit the lordship of his life over to God; when that happens, God’s power will be manifested in his life. What is God’s righteousness? This is God’s will, God’s justice. When a man is willing to obey God’s will, he will not lack; the Lord will supply his needs. The Lord supplies the needs of men for three reasons: 1. They are God’s children 2. They really have a need 3. They are willing to use God’s given resources to help those who are in need. Verse 34 concludes “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” It is indeed not easy to overcome worry, let me share three principles:

1. Learn to live simply – Do not desire to have everything and life will be simplified, our worries will also decrease. Have you ever thought about your retirement? When you reach 65, you may still be able to live for another 20 years. How much money do you think would be needed for your daily subsistence in those twenty years? Singaporean researchers said one would need at least 1million Singaporean dollars, which would be about 30 million pesos. And so, people work extremely hard in order to set aside money for their retirement years. Actually, the experts are wrong. A person won’t need that much money in his retirement years. When a person reaches 65 and beyond, do you think he would still maintain his present lifestyle? At 65, would you still be able to eat abalone, roast pig, prawns…; sometimes, we are misled by all the advertisements. We think that if we don’t buy a certain thing, taste the latest delicacy, then we are missing out on something. We have been deceived. Young people love to drink coffee, and it has to be Star-bucks or UCC. Why? Not because the coffee is specially good, but because it is specially expensive. These young people, taken in by advertisements, feel like it lessens their status if it is not Starbucks. Actually, we have a choice, we may or may not choose to patronize the products or certain brands, but if you feel like you cannot do without them, you have already been deceived.

2. Have the attitude of a steward – Actually everything is not mine, including my money, my clothes, my car, my children…everything has only been entrusted to me by God. He is the true master, not me. If you have this attitude, would you still worry? Let me share a testimony. The Lord knows my heart, I am not boasting. The Church use to lacked a lot of things, and back then, when I saw that I had what it needed, I would bring out the item and let the church use it – my camera, my video cam, my computer, etc.; because I know everything is from the Lord. If we have such a perspective, we will not worry too much.

3. Have a correct concept of the Last Days – Do you believe that the Lord will return? Do you believe that the Lord will return anytime? If you truly believe that, then your lifestyle will be transformed. Many believers live as if there is only this life and no future life. What do I mean? They say they believe there is a God, but they do not live as if they believe there is a God. Let me ask you a simple question which you must answer sincerely from your heart: “Are you working hard for your retirement years or for your home-going (to heaven)? Many people work hard for their retirement years, but retirement is not the Christian’s last goal in life. Our last goal is going home to heaven. Some people save a lot for their retirement. How about us, what have we done for the kingdom of heaven? This life is but a journey, do not spend too much time worrying about this life’s gains and losses. Do not forget we are a people with a promise of eternity.