As of September 2010 there are 40 US Billionaire’s who have pledged to give away at least 50% of their wealth to charity through a campaign started by investor Warren Buffet and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The campaign is known as “The Giving Pledge”. The list includes the likes of NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg, CNN Founder Ted Turner, and Film Producer George Lucas. The intention is for “wealthy families to have conversations about their wealth and how it will be used”. According to Forbes, there are about 408 billionaires living in the United States.
In all likelihood, there are no billionaires encountering this message. However, what I found interesting is that each of these families or individuals are finding far greater benefit to giving away wealth than keeping it. They gave their money to numerous causes such as health care, medicine, science, music, education, business, technology and innovation organizations. Yet, in the general descriptions in each there was not a single emphasis dedicated to spiritual causes. Perhaps it is because there are few, if any, Christian billionaires. I think the greater reason is that they have come to see personal happiness not defined by accumulating but donating. Abundance has yielded altruism. And this largely, if not entirely, from the secular world.
Today, our text brings us to the topic of wealth. Many people cringe when they hear a church/preacher addressing the topic of money; as if God needed people’s money to accomplish His will. Admittedly, there have been and continue to be ministries that manipulate and misuse money. However, I believe overwhelmingly that the averse attitude to churches discussing the topic of people’s money relates to personal idolatry. People often view money in 2 broad categories:
Money as Significance: These are the people who make their net worth known to everyone. They flaunt their possessions and always have to purchase the biggest, latest, greatest objects. The cost of an item means nothing, these are also known as “spenders”.
Money as Security: These are the people aren’t entirely impressed with materialistic objects. To them, their money is a safety net stored up for emergencies or retirement. Their greatest fear is being poor or having to face the future with uncertainty. These are also known as “savers”.
Usually, these 2 end up marrying each other. Both have the same issue in that they treasure wealth more than they trust God. They look to money to provide them identity and self-worth. They look to money to provide and care for every need.
Only God can fill the void that we try with money. Jesus is enough. Do you believe this? Really? Well, this text will challenge your response through 3 principles of gospel wealth.
EXAMINE Mark 10:17-31
Gospel wealth sees Jesus as more than a moralist but as Law-Maker (10:17-20).
Jesus continues fulfilling the mission of going to Jerusalem to die on the cross. During the journey He encountered a man. He was a rich, young (Matthew 19:20), ruler (Luke 18:18), seeking eternal life. Based on the context, it is likely that he was not seeking quantity of life but quality. He addressed Jesus as “Good Teacher”. Jesus’ response to the man receiving eternal life appears leading to a test of the man’s faith. He starts with his view toward God (vertical) then leads to application of relating to others in the commandments (horizontal).
Why do you call Jesus “good”? Only God is good.
Psalm 16:2 “I say to the Lord, ‘Your are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”
Psalm 25:8 “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.”
Psalm 34:8 “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”
Psalm 84:11 “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
Psalm 118:1 “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
Psalm 145:9 “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”
Jesus is leading the man to a proper understanding of ethics. God is concerned about doing good because He is good. Our behavior flows from our beliefs. If you view God as a moralist, rewarding those who do good and punisher of evil and that’s it then you have a limited view of God. In this view you constantly compare yourself with others rather than God. You see God as unfair because He allows common grace to all people rather than a select few, or just the moralist. Ethics goes deeper than that, and so does God. It starts with a firm trust that God is good, perfect and wise. In this view, you are humbled by personal sin and you trust God’s commands are what’s best for our lives.
This rich young ruler appears prideful as he claims adherence to all God’s command from his youth. This is a call for humility.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:8)
“But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isaiah 66:2)
Paul’s example of humility and recognition of God’s good character
1 Timothy 1:15-16 “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”
Gospel wealth sees Jesus as more than a merchant but as Lord (10:21-25).
When Jesus heard the young man’s pride He could have easily condemned him. However, Jesus loved him. But note the way Jesus loves [agape] – it is a tough love. He calls the man to evaluate the treasure of his heart. Jesus tells him he is continuously lacking (not just needs to do one minor action). The one action was to surrender everything. Sell all, give it away to the poor and follow me.
Proverbs 14:31 “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”
Proverbs 19:17 “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord and he will repay him for his deed.”
Proverbs 28:27 “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.”
The point Jesus is making is that He calls for radical obedient discipleship. God is not merely a merchant to whom we exchange services; we attend church, tip or tithe and expect God to bless. Jesus is our Master and Lord to whom we must completely follow. The young man walked away sad [gloomy – like lowering of a cloud]. He viewed his possessions greater than God. He was possessed by his possessions.
Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:19-21, 24)
Gospel wealth sees Jesus as merciful and life-giving (10:26-31).
The disciples were confused at Jesus’ words. Jewish thought typically viewed wealth and riches as signs of God’s blessing. Jesus’ teachings constantly showed that we cannot rely on external actions or appearance to verify spirituality. He focused on the heart which required deep salvation since it was impossible to purify the heart. And this salvation comes only through God in Christ.
God does not want our money. God does not want moralistic actions. God wants us to trust in His mercy. Only through God’s miracle of grace can we be saved. When we understand how much Christ has done for us we stop asking the question how much should we give to God. Through the gospel we see God gave us everything and therefore leads us to become grateful and generous in return.
ð Review your heart treasure – Is Jesus enough?
- What would you do without computer, internet, cell phone, ipod, television, car?
- Do you worship God because of His blessings or because of His being?
- If you and Jesus were having this same conversation, what would be the thing you are lacking from fully following Him?
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5
ð Receive & Reflect the gospel
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9
God wants everyone to have wealth – gospel wealth, which comes through poverty of spirit.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
 Note that sadness or grief is not repentance. Repentance may include sadness but always leads to change and worship (2 Cor 7:9-10).