A sermon pastor Jeff Miller invited me to give in November 2008 regarding tithing and money at the Vineyard Community Church of Augusta.
A Heart Issue: Money & Freedom
A. We're going to camp on Mark 10:17 – the story of the Rich Young Ruler
1. Today we're going to be looking at a controversial subject – Money
a. Don't worry – i came prepared – <put on helmet>
2. Why is Money such a controversial subject?
a. The church promotes many unpopular doctrines: pride, lust, submission, love...Money is by far the most unpopular:
i. People have left the faith over money – or refuse to tithe to their local church
3. Church as an institution has apparent conflict of interest
a. on the one hand the church directly benefits
i. and the church hasn't had a spotless past when it comes to handling money
ii. BUT – we're still called to give/tithe
b. but at the same time it is the church's responsibility to address people's hearts and encourage their spiritual journey toward Christ
i. It's not always a fun experience when the Lord calls us out on Money
ii. Ex. Story of Beth and I registering in Macy's
B. As we go through Mark today –
1. different look – most messages on money/tithing = biblical, you should do it
a. Tithing is biblical – there moving on
b. don't believe me? See afterwards ~2,000 verses on subject
2. our goal is to focus on the heart issue of money and its impact in seeking the Kingdom
Read Mark 10:17
A. v17-20 – A heart after the Kingdom
1. Here is a man who is earnestly seeking the Kingdom.
a. Luke identifies him not only as rich, but a ruler
b. here we see him embarrassingly throw himself before Jesus.
i. Not only is it beneath a dignified man to “run,” he fell on his knees before Jesus.
ii. ex. Running to catch a bus in MARTA
2. His desperate question trumps social status (willing to make a fool of himself)
a. “Good teacher, what must i do to inherit eternal life?”
i. Matthew quotes him as saying “what good thing must i do?”
3. Fair question – this man is looking for more of God and desperate to get it
4. Jesus' answer – It's a gift
a. You answered your own question: “No one is good – except God alone” -
i. aka - You can't earn your salvation, it comes from God
c. What do you do? Jesus lists the commandments\
ii. aka. Follow God
5. His response “I've done this!”
a. Now I'm really beginning to relate to the young ruler. Desperately seeking the Kingdom of God. Sometimes even willing to do it foolishly. Throwing ourselves at Jesus feet and pouring out our hearts! “I've done all these things? What do i lack?!”
b. Jesus' just smiles and say's “it's a gift.”
c. but this leads to the problem inherent with gifts
B. v21-24 – A heart of receptivity
1. Jesus drops the bomb – vs21 “Go, sell all you own and follow me...the man's face fell and went away sad
2. What just happened?
a. Jesus realized that the Ruler was unable to accept the gift in his current state
3. Illustration: closed hand / open hand
a. The problem with gifts is they must be received – must be accepted by the recipient
4. Jesus goes on to explain: Camel eye of needle
a. I always thought: “Poor Bill Gates!”
b. but i have a car...a lot of things
c. according to the Economist: (1 car per driving age person in US)
i. out of 100 people in China less than 3 have cars (even less in India)
d. The needle applies to us as well
5. This is the challenge each of us feels when it comes to money. Jesus recognized how difficult the issue of money is for us.
C. v28-31 – A heart rewarded
1. all that we give away in this life – will be stored as a treasure in heaven x100
a.100% interest rate
2. once let go of worldly things and your hands are open – God is free to fill your hands with gifts
a. Many who are first will be last, and last first - Upside down kingdom
i. Money is like grabbing sand...the tighter you grip it the more it slips out, but the looser you cup it the more you can hold
ii. the more you prove yourself worthy of handling money – the more God gives you because now you can be a good steward of it
b. God may not give you more money
i. comes with persecutions
ii. takes away the sand – fills you hands with...grapes? Diamonds?
1.God is free to give us things of far more value – even though they may not seem like it at the time
1. One thing i received, and i'm confident others have as well, was freedom
a. I discovered the reason why it was so hard for me to let go of money was because money was holding on to me!
b. By letting go of money – money loosed its grip on me
2. What is freedom? True freedom is not always getting what you crave, but not having what you crave and being OK with out it.
a. I realized money is another worldly shackle preventing true identification with God - just like addiction, idolatry, and pride, etc.
3. I suddenly found a new freedom to follow Christ
a. Works crumble – don't need next promotion
b. success not defined by wealth (didn't need car / house)
c. You can help/serve other without reservation – not owed anything
d. You are freed from the media's claims to buy - gizmos to be cool / the need for stuff
4. Even in tough times – God's Word doesn't change
a. Where Beth and I are today – we've struggled with this
i. We love God & we love the church – I trust God with “my” money & I trust VCC with “my” money
5. The Lord wants us put him first / free from the desires of this world.
a. Rich Young Ruler fails to understand that eternal life is a gift that must be received, but when Jesus tells him to open his hands to freely receive it, he cannot since he is gripping to his possessions so tightly
i. Jesus' sacrifice was free and yet it costs everything
ii. "but He is no fool who trades that which he cannot keep for that which he cannot lose"
b. Where are we today? How tightly are we holding onto our worldly possessions? Or how tightly are our possessions holding onto us?
i. Some of you are going to make a decision today that relates to the way you handle your money
- Some of you may tithe and are looking to give more – Malachi – test me in this!
- Some of you may be looking to start tithing for the first time
c. Either way God wants to bless that –
i. if that's you i want to invite you to come up front to receive prayer/listen to what the Spirit is saying