Sunday, January 3

Sermon: Why you (and I) are almost certainly greedy

Treasure vs. Money
Greed is a particularly dangerous sin because it hides in our hearts while binding us to our materialistic desires. Money has tremendous power over us: for some it is our significance, for others it is our security. We can break free from our slavery to money by treasuring Jesus, who was willing to pay the ultimate price so that we may be his ultimate treasure.
Matthew 6:19-34

How money exercises power over us, why, and how we break it.

What does the eye section mean here?

If your eyes aren't working, whether there's light or not, you are in darkness. cf Luke 12.13-34.

Materialism is an inordinate desire or dependence on money and material things.

And materialism has the peculiar effect of blinding you spiritually, of distorting the way you see things. It has a power over the way you see everything.

Materialism has the power to blind you to materialism. We don't think it's true of us. That's why Jesus says it's an 'eye' sin. Greed hides itself and blinds us. We all have friends or relatives who are 'more greedy' than us. If we say 'this does not apply to me', that's a very bad sign.

Some of us choose jobs just for the money. We work for a few years and then find ourselves empty.

Some of us work for companies that exploit people. We're not trying to do it. We're just not asking questions. 'Is my company hurting people?'

As professionals, we rub shoulders with people who make a lot more money than we do, and that makes us think we can't possibly be rich or greedy. We don't ask 'Do I really need to be spending this much money on home, apartment, clothes, etc?' We don't say 'Aren't there ways I could be giving more?'

In 1635 the First Congregational Church of Boston disciplined Robert Cain for greed because he was making a 6% profit on his goods and they had set the maximum at 4%. The good thing here is the accountability. What accountability do you have for your spending? Who can challenge you on money?

Jesus talks about money all the time.

Money has the power to keep you from asking hard questions about how you make it and how you spend it.

Why?

We live in the most wealthy society in the history of the world. 70% of the world's wealth is in the hands of 5% and being a professional puts you in the top 20% of the 5%. Is there anyone in this room who dares to say 'I really am doing just fine when it comes to material things. I couldn't give anymore away than I already do. I couldn't live any more simply. I couldn't be more generous with my money.'

The rest of the world knows better. They look at us and say 'There are so many good things you could be doing in this world if you just didn't think you had to have that gadget.'

It's astounding that we live in this place and time and won't even think about the possibility that we are greedy. That shows the power of greed.

Why?

Where you treasure is, there is your heart also. The place where your heart really rests is revealed by money. For many of us, money is a way of getting significance. It's why we spend it on ourselves too much and don't give it away like we should. Where we live, where we can afford to eat, the social circles we move in make us feel more important.

We have a tendency to look at those who are below us economically and say 'You are below me.' And you don't have to be very rich. Middle class people feel superior to the poor. Do you really think you'd be that much better if you'd started in the same circumstances?

Significance, approval, importance
Security, control, safety

For others, money is their security.

Why are you not radically generous? Are you giving away an amazing amount of money?

Jesus says 'running after these things can't add a minute to your life'.

Addison Leach story (second husband of Elisabeth Eliot): 2 college girls became Christians and wanted to be missionaries. Their parents said 'You've had a religious experience; how wonderful. But you need some security: a Master's degree, a job or two to get your career off the ground, and some money in the bank for security.' The girls came back and said 'what should we say?'. Leach said 'One day a trapdoor is going to open and you're going to fall into the Everlasting Arms or nothing at all. You think a Master's degree's going to give you some security.'

People who look to money for their significance [and succeed] become arrogant people that nobody likes. And people who look to money for their security can't stop death, tragedy, broken relationships.

So how do we break the power of money in our lives? How do we get to the place where we're really radically generous? How do we get to the place where we're not worried about money?

Literally: don't treasure earthly treasures but treasure heavenly treasure.

To treasure something means 'If I have this, it's all worth it. If I have this, I'm worth it.'

Everybody's got something: money, career, status, romance. 'If I have this, it'll all be worth it.'

Lord of the Rings. The One Ring. Whoever has it calls it 'the Precious'.

Anything that your soul treasures, you will pay any price for it.

Every treasure but Jesus will insist that you die to purchase it. Jesus is the one treasure who dies to purchase us.

How do we treasure Jesus?

Jesus dies for us because we are His Precious. He died for us because He said 'if I have them, it'll all be worth it'.

How do you react to rich people? Many of us resent rich people and feel morally superior to them. That shows that money still has power over us. It shows a lack of awareness of spiritual wealth and a lack of humility.

If you envy and honor rich people, money also has power over you.

Awareness of our sin should keep us humble and not needing to feel superior to rich people. Awareness of God's love for us should keep us from feeling inferior to rich people, like they have some great thing we don't have. Money doesn't compare to the riches we have in Christ.

Respecting poor people is another sign that money doesn't have power over you.

Third sign money no longer has power over you is being really generous.

'If your eye is good' - Greek word translated 'good' here can also be translated 'generous'. 'If you have a generous eye.'

How much should we give? Jesus gave everything. He gave sacrificially.

Use the tithe if that requires sacrifice for you. If it doesn't, you'll have to give more.

Old letter: 'We [Xians] share our table with all, but we do not share out bed with all.' We're promiscuous with our money, but not with our bodies.

Which kind of person benefits their neighborhood more?
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