“Is Money all that Necessary?”
Over the years I have read a number of books, along with the Bible, about the subject of money and financial matters. They all offer some very good ideas and commands regarding one's financial duties. But recently a friend of mine shared her thoughts about money and wealth. They were very challenging and made me consider once again how I am to use what God entrusts to me. Such things are not always easy or pleasant to talk about or to study. However, they are important, and we are to always follow Jesus' commands. For the next few minutes, on "Key to the Kingdom," we will consider some things regarding our wealth that might challenge us. They will call us to think carefully and to evaluate seriously how we are doing. The message comes from the Gospel of Luke and is one perhaps we have heard before. Today I want us to take a fresh look at it and to see if there is something new we can learn and apply to our life. As we study, keep in mind, Jesus is calling us to a deeper level of discipleship. He wants us to grow in our relationship with Him and in our walk with God. Oh, sometimes it is challenging to hear and apply Jesus' words, especially in the area of our wealth and possessions. I do hope, however, we will understand, Jesus wants us to be faithful in every area of our spiritual life, including the use of money. I trust you will stay with us for the next few minutes as we study together on "Key to the Kingdom."
If there are some passages in the Bible I would like to avoid, the one we are about to study is one of them. It makes me do some soul searching. It makes me ask some very difficult, challenging questions in regards to how I use or misuse the wealth and the money entrusted to me. Now, you might feel the very same way. You're uncomfortable with anyone telling you how to use the wealth or the possessions or the money that has been entrusted to you. Certainly I understand. However, we recognize that the teaching of Jesus that we find in the New Testament is always for our good and our benefit. Jesus wants to help us grow in our relationship with Him and to be the kind of disciple that is truly devoted to Him. Well, today's story comes from the Gospel of Luke chapter 18. It revolves around a young man who is very rich. Let's notice the first part of that story in Luke chapter 18 beginning with verse 18. <A certain ruler asked Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good," Jesus answered. "No one is good - except God alone. You know the commandments: 'You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother." "Oh, all these I have kept since I was a boy," he replied.> Well, we have heard this question before, haven't we? A young man comes to Jesus and he asks the question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" If we go back to Luke chapter 10, we find that a teacher of the Law asked Jesus that same question, and Jesus answered it by sharing with him the parable, the story, of the Good Samaritan. Well, perhaps we have viewed this rich young ruler as trying to do something good in order to earn his salvation, or to secure his eternal life. No doubt, he has kept the commandments. There's no reason for us to question that. But now he wants to know if there is something that is lacking. Is there something he can do that will secure that eternal life? Well, this powerful, rich, young ruler was probably not talking about eternal life as we view it today. Now, here is what I mean. When we think about eternal life, we immediately think about Jesus and who He is and what He has done for us. We think about the fact that Jesus came to this earth and He died a very cruel and horrible death upon a cross. He was then buried in a tomb and then on the third day He rose victoriously from the grave. Now, eternal life revolves around our response to that. We believe in Jesus as God's Son. We die to the sin in our life. We too are buried in baptism, and then we rise up to walk in a new life. That is our understanding of receiving eternal life. We also think about Paul's statement in Ephesians chapter 2 and verse 8: "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith." Those things remind us of what it is that revolves around eternal life and that free gift of salvation. Well, this rich young ruler had no concept of that, for when he asked Jesus the question, Jesus had yet to die. He had yet to be buried or even rise up again from the dead. None of that had taken place. So, obviously, he had something else in mind. He comes to Jesus wanting to do something significant. He wants to contribute in a large way so that he will be recognized and admired and appreciated by Jesus. The young ruler we also notice is very rich. We don't know for sure how rich that is, but he had lots of wealth and lots of money. He had power. He had authority and no doubt that came with the territory, with all of that wealth. Being a young man, he obviously did not earn this wealth and all of this money. He had not yet had enough time. Perhaps he inherited his wealthy father's estate. Maybe his father had recently died and now all of his possessions and wealth have been entrusted to him and he could do with all of that whatever he chose to do. Then we notice, also, in the very first verse, he was a ruler; meaning a synagogue ruler in his local area. And as such, he no doubt had a great deal of respect from his peers. They thought highly of him and they listened to what he had to say. Well, having said all of that, we notice that this rich, young ruler comes to Jesus with high praise. He calls him a good teacher. I don't know if he was being serious or not, but he was probably saying that to Jesus in hopes that Jesus would recognize something good in his life. He probably said that hoping that Jesus would say, "Oh, you are good and you are doing well." He wanted some kind of praise in return from Jesus. Yet, Jesus did not offer it, did He? Jesus offered something else. Jesus gave him a very challenging command. Listen to what it is in the next couple of verses, 22 and 23. <When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow Me." When he heard this, he became very sad because he was very wealthy.> Well, Jesus hears that he has kept the commandments, and no doubt that's good, but He says you lack something else; sell out, sell everything, give to the poor, then, come follow Me. Well, this man, the text says, was unwilling to do that. He did not want to sell out. He did not want to give up his wealth and his money and his possessions, because they were quite a bit. He was unwilling to part with them and to become a faithful follower of Jesus. But then Jesus makes a second request of him. He asked him to do something that all of His disciples and followers have already done, and that is to "Leave everything and then follow Me," He tells him. Everyone who wanted to follow Jesus had to make some difficult choices. They had to make some sacrifices. They had to give up that which was important to them and make Jesus the first priority in their life. They all had to leave behind something in order to truly be one of His followers. Well, upon hearing that, the rich, young ruler basically just throws up his hands. He goes away very sad because he is very rich. Well, notice what happens next. Jesus and the disciples see this rich man leaving, going away, and so, Jesus offers this, in verse 24 through 27: <Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God? Indeed it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." Those who heard this asked, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus replied, "What is impossible with man is possible with God."> Jesus states that selling out and giving one's wealth to the poor is impossible for those who are invested in the riches of this world. Now, that describes this rich young ruler, doesn't it? He was more invested in what the world had to offer than in what Jesus had to offer. He wanted to follow Jesus and to be His disciple, but he wanted to do so on his own terms and he did not want to part with his wealth. In the middle of this short story, we find a little parable in verse 25. It's easy to read over it as we focus on the exchange between Jesus and this young man, but I want us to go back and to notice it again. Listen carefully to what Jesus said in verse 25: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." Have you ever thought about that? That's impossible, isn't it? Perhaps we have all seen pictures of camels. Maybe we have ridden a camel. Maybe we own camels. I don't know, but we are familiar with a camel. A camel is a large animal; great big, a huge animal, one of the largest, a long neck, long slender legs, humps on the back. Can you imagine such an animal going through the little bitty eye, or the opening, at the end of a needle? We can hardly envision that. That little bitty opening at the end of a needle is only big enough through which a small piece of thread can fit. Yet Jesus states, it is easier for a camel to go through that little bitty opening than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. Oh, that did not make sense to these disciples and it doesn't make much sense to us either. But when the disciples heard that, they asked the question, "Well, then who can be saved?" And they asked that question for a reason. The common thought among the people in the day of Jesus was that if someone was rich, they were favored by God. That's why they were rich. God blessed them. God looked upon them with favor. He liked them and so He blessed them with great riches. And Jesus states such a rich person can not enter God's kingdom; so, naturally, the question is asked, "Who then can be saved?" If the rich can not be saved, then who will inherit eternal life? Jesus responds with the words, "It is only possible with God." Oh, it's impossible with man, but it's possible with God. And when we hear that, we might say, "Wow, good. I'm glad that doesn't apply to me. I'm glad I don't have to make any changes or adjustments in my life. I am just going to depend upon God's grace and it will be possible with Him and everything will work out." So, we simply thank God for His grace. We thank God for all of the wealth and the possessions that we have, but then we keep on living the same way we've always lived and we make no changes. Well, that's not what happens. We find that in the very last part of the story, in verses 28 through 30 here in Luke chapter 18: <Peter said to him, "We have left all we had to follow you." "Truly I tell you," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and in the age to come, eternal life."> Well, Peter and all of the others who were following Jesus had made some sacrifices. They had given up some thing or someone that was important to them. Peter and his brothers had left that small fishing business. Other people who were following Jesus no doubt had made some very difficult choices and sacrifices. They were willing to do something the rich young ruler was not willing to do. If he did do that, if he sold out, if he gave away his possessions and wealth then he would be dishonoring his family. He would be looked down upon by other people in the community. Perhaps they would say you are not doing right. You are not using your money in a good way and your father would be displeased. Yet those type of things really did not matter to Jesus. They did not matter, evidently, to those who had made that choice to follow Him. They had made the sacrifices. They gave up their wealth and that which was important because they recognized the value of following Jesus Christ. There was much more value in that than in what the world had to offer. Going back to this rich young ruler for just a moment, he evidently wanted to do something dramatic. He was ready to give large sums of money, perhaps to underwrite Jesus' ministry. Maybe he wanted to fund an army. Maybe he wanted to supply whatever Jesus needed throughout His ministry. We really don't know for sure, but he wanted to come as a follower of Jesus on his terms and not on Jesus' terms. I can just envision this rich, young ruler had been following in the crowd for quite some time. Maybe he was with all of those other people who were following at a distance listening to Jesus and watching his miracles and seeing what was happening with everyone who was following. If that was the case, what he heard evidently was not sinking in. For example, he did not want to come to Jesus as a little child, like Jesus previously taught in verses 15 through 17. He would not humble himself like that tax collector and confess his sin and his unworthiness, in verses 9 through 14. He was not even willing to just pray and to trust God, like that powerless widow did in the first eight verses of chapter 18. Oh, if the young man had heard what Jesus was saying it did not make an impact upon his life and it did not change him. Oh, this young man wanted to be in control. He wanted to do things his way. He thought he had a better idea and something that would make a big impact, perhaps something that he would be remembered for, for a long period of time. Yes, here was a man of pride, a man of means, a man of wealth. He was unwilling to humble himself and to give it all away in order to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Yes, he wanted to prove himself to be of great importance more than he wanted eternal life. And that was a hard decision he made, but he made the decision to walk away and say my wealth and my money and my possessions are more important to me. He had position, he had authority, he had influence and he could make things happen; yet, Jesus said, "I don't need any of that. I need you simply to trust Me, to give it all up and to rely upon Me and what I can provide." So, Jesus tells him to get rid of all of that and to come to Him as a helpless child, but he refused to do so. When we think about this story, it causes us to ask some questions, doesn't it? It causes us to carefully evaluate what we put our trust in? Do we put our trust in the wealth and the money and the possessions we have or do we put our trust and reliance upon God? Oh, we are never to think that we can relax in the comfort of God's grace without making any kind of adjustment or changes, based upon the teaching of Jesus. He invites us to do that and then He invites us to come follow Him. And that may be the most difficult challenge, the most difficult command that we find here in the story, when Jesus said, "Come follow Me." But what is the point in selling out? What is the point of giving to the poor? The point is simply this, so that we will no longer put our trust in our wealth. Instead, we put our trust in God and rely upon Him to provide for all we need. That's what Jesus wanted this rich, young ruler to do. Don't rely upon your wealth. Don't put your trust in the things this world has to offer. Don't depend upon your possessions and your money to get you to eternal life and to provide for everything you need, but put your trust in God. Rely upon Him, because He's never going away. He will always be there, and He is the one who makes eternal life possible. Now, sometimes it is tempting to believe if we have enough money and power then we really do not need God. We allow our money and our possessions to take away our dependence on the Lord. When that happens, salvation is impossible, as Jesus pointed out in verses 26 and 27. Oh, we can not allow money or possessions or anything else to give us so much power that we do not rely on God. For when it does, it makes us as big as a camel. It makes us too big to enter in to God's kingdom. What's the message of Luke chapter 18? I believe the message very simply is this: The only way to receive eternal life is to surrender everything to God and to put our complete trust and dependence on Him, instead of anything else or anybody else. That is the challenge given to us today as we study through Luke chapter 18, to trust God more than we trust our money, our possessions or our wealth. Yes, that's difficult to do. The world seems to say something totally different. The world seems to say, "Get as much as you can. Spend it on whatever you want. Rely upon your wealth and your income and your possessions, because that is what gives you joy and happiness and that is what secures your future." Yet Jesus says, "Don't rely on that. It's temporary. It may soon be gone. But rather, rely upon God and His son, Jesus Christ, who never leaves you and who provides that eternal life. As we close our lesson today, my challenge is this. Allow Jesus' teaching to make a difference in your life. The way I need to respond to this teaching may be different than the way you need to respond, but I hope that we will be challenged and changed by the message of Jesus, and that we will put our faith and our trust and our dependence upon the Lord God Almighty, more than anyone or anything else in this world.
As I look at this coin in my hand, I find the words "In God We Trust." And sometimes I ask the question, is that really true? Do we trust God or do we trust the currency on which those words are written? In fact, every piece of American currency bears those words, even the bills in our pocket. Sometimes we might be tempted to put more trust in our money or in our wealth or possessions than we do in God. We might even be tempted to put our trust in financial institutions, like this one. We believe in them more than we believe in God. I wonder sometimes if that is the right thing to do. We don't know for sure about our money. We don't know for sure about financial institutions. Some of them come and go and the prices on money rise and fall, but God is always a constant. He is faithful. He is true. He never goes anywhere. We can always count on Him, no matter what the economic situation is around us. Jesus teaches us, in God's Word, to trust more in God than we trust in our wealth. That's a big temptation. I would encourage us today to think about putting our trust in God instead of our money or wealth or possessions. Now, we don't know what will happen with them, but we always know and we can always count on the fact that God will be there for us. Yes, God is faithful and He provides exactly what we need. He always meets our needs. Therefore I encourage us today to put our trust in God.
Thank you for tuning in to today's broadcast. Perhaps this teaching from Jesus challenges me more than any other. It causes me to carefully consider how I can be a faithful steward of what God entrusts to me. I hope the lesson did the same for you. The lesson is available if you would like to hear or view it again. It can be found on the website at keytothekingdom.com. Other lessons are on the site as well. Each week, a new one is uploaded along with study questions. The questions are designed to help one make personal application of the message. On the website, you can also find short inspirational videos along with daily devotional thoughts. All of them are easily accessible and are absolutely free. For quite some time now, we have been trying to make good use of social media. Facebook® offers us an opportunity every week to upload a two minute message. If you have not found our Facebook® page, I hope you will find and like us very soon. For those who have Roku® television, you can find our channel and watch a variety of messages which are updated weekly. A free phone app can be downloaded onto smart phones as well. Our goal is to make good use of the media opportunities presented to us. Perhaps these means of communication will assist you in your efforts to study God's Word and to grow in your daily walk with Him. Remember also, the phone number on the screen allows you to contact us with any specific question or concern. We would love to hear from you. I really do appreciate you taking time to hear today's message. I invite you to join us again next time, as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."