Sermon: MONEY TALKS
October 29th, 2017 Rev. Betsy Perkins
First Baptist Church, Delavan WI
Scripture passage: Matthew 6:19-24, 1 Timothy 6:6-11
Money talks. What does that expression mean?
There’s a story of an older woman walking down the sidewalk trying to find a particular address. She saw a young boy riding his bike in the street and asked him, “Do you know where Johnny Locke lives, my little boy?” “He ain’t home, but if you give me a dollar I’ll find him for you right off,” replied the lad. “All right,” she said handing over a dollar, “Aren’t you a nice little boy. Now where is he?” “Thanks,” said the boy, “He’s right here. I’m him.” (jokes.ochristian.com)
That’s one way to think about money talking. But this morning, that’s not the kind of ‘money talks’ I’m thinking of. Instead we will wonder what money would say if money itself could actually talk. If your money were to talk, what might it say about you? What would it share about its relationship with you, and your relationship with it?
Today we continue in a sermon series based on the study by the Reimagine Group titled “Living Generously”. It is a series that focuses on discipleship principles involved in stewardship, in living and giving like Jesus.
Last week we thought about the importance of giving God our first and our best. I shared with you a story about a man named Frank who saw his son, Evan, give away his favorite toy to a little boy who didn’t have any toys. Frank felt convicted by this act of sacrificial giving for he was about to give a watch to someone in need. The watch was old and meant nothing to Frank; it would be a gift that cost him nothing.
That night Frank had a dream. He found himself in a court room, with his defense lawyer sitting beside him. As the judge was calling forward the first witness, Frank leans over and whispers to his lawyer, “What am I being charged with? What did I do?” “The charges are very serious, I’m afraid,” the lawyer responds. “You are charged with loving money more than loving God!” At that moment, the first witness enters and takes the stand; it is Frank’s money! Mr. Money testifies that he has a great relationship with Frank. Frank cares for him well. He gets lots of advice on how to best spend him and how to save him. But in the cross-examination, Mr. Money admits that he has never heard Frank ask God for advice about him. It looks bad and Frank knows it, so he tells his lawyer, “Can’t you call my giving to the stand? She’ll testify for me!” In comes the short, petite witness, Ms. Giving. Little Ms. Giving shares that Frank does puts her into the offering plate at church, and occasionally sends her away in response to some disaster or other, and even uses her to support an orphan in a foreign country. But when questioned on whether Frank’s giving is sacrificial, she stutters and stumbles over her words, “I’m… I’m just a percentage,” she says, “and a small one at that. Maybe you need to hear from the Rest, the 90%. I’m not qualified to make that judgment.” As the doors open for the next witness to come forward, a murmur rises from the crowd as they see a great deal of the witness exposed. The witness takes the stand and spills every detail of Frank’s spending, no more secrets, no way to hide. A few moments later the judge raises the gavel and declares, “I’ve heard enough. In the case of Frank loving his money more than God, I find the defendant…” At that moment Frank wakes up. Let’s watch the video that reflects on this story.
Video: #4 Teaching Moment, “Living Generously”, Right Now Media
If your money could talk, what would it testify about you?
Talking about money can make us uncomfortable. Our culture values privacy and we find it impertinent to ask about income or about the balance of one’s bank accounts. We consider our tax returns private information. But we also recognize that how one spends money, where someone invests their money, or where their money comes from says a lot about that person. That is why for the past 50 years candidates for public office are expected to disclose their tax returns. Because, money talks.
When David and I lived in India, there was a different sense about the privacy of money. I remember many times getting into a conversation on a public bus or train, and in the course of that conversation being asked what my salary was, how much my camera cost, or other money questions. I don’t know if the culture Jesus lived in had that kind of openness about money, or if Jesus just had the courage to talk about things that were important no matter how uncomfortable, but Jesus talked about money a lot. Jack Alexander, of the Reimagine Group writes that, “Jesus speaks more often in the pages of the Bible about money than even love. [I suspect] that’s not because it means so much to him, but because [he knew] it means so much to us.” (The Generosity Pivot, Reimagine Group)
Chapter 6 of Matthew’s gospel is part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In it, he speaks about money several times – about paying debts, about borrowing and lending, about giving to the needy, about storing up our treasures, and about not worrying where the funds will come from for food and clothes. In the middle of that, Jesus declares the truth we heard earlier: No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24)
Jesus is talking about priorities and loyalties. Is your first priority finding ways to earn more money? How much time do you spend wishing you had more money? Or worrying that your money will run out? Or researching where to invest the money you’ve made? Are you more loyal to your possessions or to God? Where do you put your trust? What is the basis of your hope?
The Saved, the Spent, the Sent
Just as in Frank’s dream, there are several aspects of our financial resources that can testify to the priorities in our hearts: our spent money (what we spend money on – phone, food, rent, shoes, movies, gas), our saved money (what we have stored away, saved for a rainy day or some other purpose), and our sent money (what we send away, our giving, to charities, church, or to the kid who comes to the door selling candy for a cause).
A great way to take stock of your spent money is to look at your checkbook or your credit card statement and see where your money is actually going. How much do you spend on the necessities of life, like housing and food and transport to a job, versus the amount you spend on non-essentials? What things are you willing to go into debt to acquire – either with a loan or on your credit card? What does that say about your priorities?
We could do the same exercise with the resource of our time. God gives each one of us the same amount of time in a day – 24 hours, that’s 1,440 minutes. How do you spend that time? If you were to log your time, how much is spent in the necessities of sleeping and eating and bathing? How much is spent in working? How much is spent in watching TV, or playing video games, playing solitaire or angry birds or whatever the latest game is now? How many of those 1,440 minutes do you use in prayer each day? Or in reading the Bible?
Next, you can let your savings talk. Savings may be stocks and savings accounts, or it may be an envelope hidden in the bottom of your cookie jar or your sock drawer. Jesus told the story of a man who brought in such a bumper crop that he ran out of places to put it all. So he decided to build bigger barns and bigger silos to put it in. The man said to himself, “Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!” But that night, God showed up and said, “Fool! Tonight you die, and your barnful of goods – who’s going to get it all?” (Luke 12)
It doesn’t really matter where your saving are, in stocks or in socks or in silos, it matters what role they play in your heart. Is it your savings that gives you confidence to rest easy at night rather than staying awake worrying? Or does Psalm 4:8 speak for you instead when it says “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.”
The third aspect of our resources to talk is the sent money, the resources that you send away or give away. How generous a person are you? Have you taken the time to calculate what your giving is as a percentage of your income? Do you give of your time and talents to serve God, to serve others and to be engaged in God’s kingdom building work? What is the value of that in-kind giving to the church or to other volunteer work? As you listen to you own giving, consider the percentage that God gives to us. Is it a tenth? A half? Actually, God give us 100%! God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son. Jesus died for 100% of our sins, every single one of them. God gives us His all!
Have you ever had a wake-up call when it came to your resources? A failed investment, a foreclosure, a job loss that awakened you to your reliance on money? Did it expose your trust in earthly things or your desire for material things, rather than your trust and desire for God? These wake-up calls hurt. We don’t like to feel fearful or to feel guilty. But if we pay attention, they can hurt in a way that leads us to make changes and to reset our priorities.
Throughout the Bible God battled against idols that captured his people’s attention and pulled their love away. Money is like that. Money receives the trust and devotion of its followers, just like Old Testament idols did. In the stock market one of the key words is ‘confidence’ – it drives the market up and down. What’s another word for confidence? Trust. When an idol becomes our chief security, we forget the grace and love of God. We cannot serve two masters, and Jesus calls out his chief competitor. We are all guilty at one time or another of shifting our trust to this idol. The evidence is clear. God only needs to look at our spending, our savings, our giving, to know the condition of our hearts.
Accept. Believe. Commit.
We may point at others who spent frivolously. We may compare our financial situation to someone else’s to try to justify ourselves and feel better. But the real way to feel better, to bring peace and confidence, is to confess our failings to God himself, who knows it all anyway. We can tell God that we are trying to juggle the demands of two masters; trying to satisfy the demands of caring for my possessions, and also satisfy the call of following Jesus. We can apologize to God for allowing material things take priority over our relationship with Jesus and His purpose for us each day. We can ask Jesus to give us a fresh start, to fill our heart with joyful generosity that holds tightly to God and loosely to things.
We cannot earn or spend our way into God’s heart. We cannot even give our way into God’s good graces. Money is simply a tool to do God’s work, to bring justice and care for the needy, and show our love for others and our love for God. Paul concludes in his letter to Timothy, “Run for your life from all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.” 1Tim.6:11
This week, take some time to allow your money to talk; to allow your time and your talents to talk. Listen carefully. Then ask God to speak, too. Believe that Jesus Christ died for you to offer you a life of peace and purpose and hope in an eternal relationship with your Father God. Then commit yourself once again to following Christ and living in the image of our generous God.
Closing Song: “We Give Thee But Thine Own” #649