January 14, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker
How many of you would say, “Hey, I know somebody who has maxed out their credit cards”? How many of you would say, “I know somebody who’s under a mountain of debt, stressed out about bills, worried about their taxes…” There are a lot of us who know someone who is under a crushing weight of debt. Did you know that you weren’t supposed to live that way? That’s not the way God created people to live.
This debt puts stress on people that is just unhealthy, and today what we’re going to do is, we’re going to start a sermon series. In fact, what we’re going to talk about today is money, and we’re going to take a look at the way people who follow Jesus Christ personally live differently from the people in their community, the people around them.
We called this sermon series “Weird”, because for the next 8 weeks, we’re going to see: What would it look like to be a Christian, to live the Christian life, if you were an outsider, if you didn’t know Jesus at all, and you were watching the way that a Christian lives? It should look a little bit weird to you. Really, what we’re doing today is, we’re going to keep the discussion from last week going.
If you were with us last week, here’s what we said: We’re challenging ourselves during 2018 as people who follow Jesus, to live a life that’s changed. And because this church is made up of people, as the people of the church change, we believe the church should change, and we’re asking God in 2018 to change the Chattahoochee Valley because this church is changed, and this church is changed because people are changed.
Maybe one of the things that places stress on people more than anything else in the society that we live in is money. Money shouldn’t put stress on you; it doesn’t have to put stress on you, but it does for a lot of people, and I’m suggesting that not just should we be a little bit weird, but I want you to own it. For the next 8 weeks, put it on Snap Chat; put it on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook that “I am weird, and I’m proud that I’m weird. When it comes to these things, I’m living differently, because I’ve been changed by Jesus. Because I’ve been changed by Jesus, I’m a bit weird, especially today as it refers to money.”
So, here’s how we, the followers of Jesus, are a little bit weird when it comes to money: We (weird people) date money, but we don’t marry it.
Here’s what I mean by that. Hey, it’s okay to use money, to spend some time with her, but we don’t fall in love with her, and we don’t get married to her. We don’t ask something of money that money isn’t able to give to us. Everybody knows this already. A $1 bill has no value except what you give it. It means that a $1 bill can’t make your life miserable; a $1 bill can’t make your life better, unless you give it some value that it’s never supposed to have.
Let’s just be honest. It is a 6” piece of paper. It has no value whatsoever except the value that you and I give to it. And if we were honest, the culture that we live in, our society, has given way too much importance to the dollar. What we’re going to try to do today, is to put the dollar back in its proper place, and as Christians, we should look a little bit weird. We should live a little bit weird when it comes to the way that we approach money.
So, can I just be honest with you? Here are 3 ways that I hope you’re weird, and not just do I want you to be weird, but I want you to own it. Write something down, put it on social media and attach #IAMWEIRD, especially when it comes to money. Here are the 3 ways we would want you to be weird. First thing:
I. Weird with my bank account
I’d like for you to be weird with your bank account. By this, I mean weird in the way that you measure your net worth. You see, weird people (those of us who follow Jesus) don’t view their worth as a human being in terms of dollars and cents. That has nothing to do with how we value ourselves. We’re different in the way that we view our bank accounts.
I’m going to give you an example of this from the Bible. In Mark chapter 12, there’s this weird woman in the Bible, and I want you to see what this weird woman does, and Jesus uses this lady as an analogy. Here’s what the Bible says in Mark chapter 12, starting in verse 41 (and you’ll notice I’m reading from the Christian Standard Bible):
Sitting across from the temple treasury, he watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. 42 Then a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little. 43 Summoning his disciples, he said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had—all she had to live on.”
Look, this lady’s weird. If we were to just be honest, let’s think about what the Bible is saying. This woman has bills to pay. She needs to buy groceries. She needs to pay an electric bill. She has a Medicaid co-pay that she needs to make, and she gets up on Sunday morning. She goes to church. She has $2 to her name (not really dollars, but work with me for just a second). She has $2 to pay all of her bills, and for whatever reason, this woman gets up, goes to church, and puts everything that she owns into the offering plate.
Right now, you should be asking the question, “Wait a second. How did she do that? -because she still needs to eat, right? And the money that was going to buy her groceries, she just gave it away. If she doesn’t pay the electric bill, she’s going to freeze to death, and that money, she just gave it all away. She needs her medication, and she doesn’t have the money to pay for the medication. How is it possible that this woman just did what she did in the Bible?”
And Jesus is using this woman as an illustration. And the real question is not just: Who does something like that? That’s mind-blowing. But, the Bible makes it pretty clear that she dropped in everything that she owns. The more challenging question is: How does somebody do this? How does somebody get to the point that they can get up in the morning, take all that they own, give it away, and not freak out about paying the bills or not buying the groceries? That’s really what we’re trying to get at today.
Can I just be honest with you? Today’s sermon is not really about money. It’s about stress. And it’s about the stress that money places on people’s lives. -that we allow money to place on our lives. This woman got up, and she did something unnatural. She did something very weird. She gave everything that she owned to the church, and if you’re asking the question, “How is it possible for somebody to do that?”, I’m going to be honest with you. It’s not likely. It’s not even humanly possible. What you’re reading in the Bible is supernatural; it doesn’t happen naturally. -because naturally speaking, we know, “We’ve got to pay the bills. We’ve got to buy the groceries. How on earth is this lady going to live with no money?” And this woman is being weird.
Weird people view their bank accounts differently. It’s not how much money we have or we don’t have that determines the way that we value ourselves. Weird people can be broke and happy at the same time.
Hey, can I do something for you today? A lot of you look weird. Some of you look really weird, especially when it comes to money. -because weird people don’t view their bank accounts the way others view their bank accounts. I really want to ask the question: Who was the guy who decided that somebody’s value or worth as a person was determined by how much or how little they have in their bank account? -because that guy needs to be punched in the face.
Here’s the truth: The last time a person in America could have a monetary value placed on them was January 30th, 1865. On January 31st, 1865, when the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, it became illegal to place a number, a monetary value, on another human being.
But we still do this today. We just do it in a different way. We give people some credit because they have a lot of money, and we treat others like they’re not as valuable or not as important because they have a little bit of money. That’s not how weird people are. Here’s how weird people are: We say, “This money has no ability to define my worth as a human being. Do you want to know what defines my worth as a person? -the ransom that somebody would be willing to pay for me.” That’s what tells you how valuable I am.
And here’s what the weird people know: That ransom has already been paid for us. If you want to know how much you are valued to God, look no further than the cross of Jesus Christ. Do you want to know how valuable you are to the King of the Universe, the one who rules and owns all of it? Look at Jesus and what he was willing to do for you to ransom you back from your sins. And now you know the worth of a human being. Your bank account cannot show weird people what you’re worth.
II. Weird with my bottom line
But do you know what? We weird people also view our bottom line differently from how others do. Money is a journey to us, not a destination. It’s a tool that we borrow, but we don’t own it. Here’s how the Roman philosopher, Seneca, put it: “It’s not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, who is poor.”
In the Bible, it has this simple, very profound, very powerful tool when it comes to your bottom line, when it comes to your worth or your value as a human being. It’s found all the way in the Old Testament, back in 1st Chronicles chapter 29. Here’s what it says. This is helping us put money back into its proper place by understanding who really owns it all and how you and I are supposed to treat money. 1st Chronicles 29, starting in verse 11:
1 Chronicles 29:11-13
Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to you. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, and you are exalted as head over all. 12 Riches and honor come from you, and you are the ruler of everything. Power and might are in your hand, and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. 13 Now therefore, our God, we give you thanks and praise your glorious name.
Weird people view their bottom line differently, because weird people know, “It’s not my money. It’s actually somebody else’s money, and he just gave it to me to use for his glory or for his Kingdom.” Weird people know the King of the Universe is King Jesus. And King Jesus owns all things, and King Jesus rules over all things, which means the money in my bank account really doesn’t belong to me. It actually belongs to King Jesus.
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Wait a second, Jeff. I worked really, really hard for the money that’s in my bank account.” Really? Let me ask you this question: Where did your physical ability to do a job come from? Where did your intellect that gave the ability to apply it at work come from? -because the truth is, everything comes from him. This is what the Bible is saying for us.
Look at 2 really important words in this verse: the words riches and ruler. Here’s what the Bible is saying: “Hey God, you’re really ruler over all things, meaning everything in the universe belongs to you. It’s all in your Kingdom, and because you’re the King, it’s all part of your Kingdom (you rule over it all), which means all the riches come from you too. And really, I don’t own anything; Warren Buffet doesn’t own anything that doesn’t ultimately belong to God.” Weird people know it’s just temporary. I don’t own it; it’s on loan from God for me to use for his glory.
So how much I have or how little that I have is not nearly as important as what I do with what I have. That’s what weird people know. Weird people know that money is not supposed to master us. You and I, as followers of Jesus, are supposed to be masters over money. It’s not supposed to be a master over us.
Here’s the truth: I think about people who get up every day and work themselves to death (literally to a heart attack), chasing after a paycheck. And in my mind, I’m thinking about the greyhound dogs at the racetrack. I’ve never been to these tracks, but I’ve seen the pictures, and it looks like this is what you see when you go the track: You see a bunch of dogs that are getting up in the morning, and they’re giving it everything they’ve got. They’re running as hard as they can to try to chase a mechanical rabbit. Here’s what we know as weird people: That rabbit is not real.
If the dogs were ever able to get to that rabbit (and they can’t), but even if they were able to get to that rabbit, if the dogs were to sink their teeth into the rabbit, it’s not going to satisfy them, because the rabbit’s not real. It’s a trick designed to keep dogs running. But weird people also know this: The game is rigged against you; you never catch the rabbit. Run as hard as you want. Try as hard as you want. You’ll never get there. If you’re looking for money to satisfy you, it’s never going to happen. The game is stacked against you, and even if you were to get the rabbit, it’s not real, and it doesn’t satisfy you. That’s why weird people don’t live this way. We don’t get up in the morning and spend the rest of our lives chasing after something that can’t satisfy, because we know in the end, it doesn’t belong to us. It can’t satisfy us. In fact, we know the game is rigged, and you can never earn enough to make yourself comfortable. You can never earn enough to take care of all of the problems of life.
To be honest, some of the most miserable people I know are people who have great possessions, and then they become slaves to those possessions. They get up, and they work themselves to death for fear of losing something, and for the rest of their lives, they’re consumed with just keeping their fingertips on what they own. You and I as weird people know, it’s not mine anyway. It belongs to somebody else, and I don’t really own it, so I’m not going to get freaked out or stressed out if I lose it. I’m also not going to put too much value in if I were to get it in the first place. It can’t satisfy me deep inside.
Weird people know this: I’m not going to spend my life chasing the dollar, because money can’t make me happy. That 6” piece of paper has no ability to make me happy. If you agree with this statement, say it out loud:
I will not spend my life chasing a dollar, because money can’t make me happy.
III. Weird in my wants
Here’s the truth: Weird people view their bank account differently. Weird people view their bottom line differently. -because at the core, something is different inside our hearts. You see, we’re weird at the heart-level, at the desire-level. We’re weird with our wants, and because we’re different with the way that we want, we don’t work the way others work. We don’t value what other people value.
Can I be honest with you for just a second? If you are new to church, this is going to become a problem for you really quickly. -because here’s what we’re saying: Something is different inside me at the heart-level (this is the real crux of the issue, the real conundrum in this sermon). Something is different inside me at the heart-level, so I don’t view money the way that other people view money. I’m weird with money, because I’m weird in the heart. I’m weird with my wants.
But the person who doesn’t know Jesus, I think if they were in this room, would have to admit this: “Jeff, I don’t need a new car, but when my neighbor buys one, I really want a new car.” They would say, “I don’t really need new clothes, because my clothes still fit, but I want new clothes. I don’t need more, but I really want more. I want. I want. I want. I want, and I can’t fix that. If I could fix it, I would. -just to not want the stuff that my neighbors have. That’s the problem. I still want it, and I know I’m not supposed to. I can’t fix that. I need help.”
Here’s an answer for you. It’s found in the Bible. It’s something that weird people have that those who don’t know Jesus simply don’t have. It’s called peace, or contentment. Here’s how it’s described for us in 1st Timothy chapter 6. And by the way, they guy who wrote this passage in the Bible, the great Apostle Paul, when he’s writing this passage, he’s got almost nothing to his name. The guy is pretty much flat broke, and listen to the life that he has from 1st Timothy chapter 6, starting in verse 8:
1 Timothy 6:8-10
If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 9 But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Can I point out to you 2 words in this verse that I think summarize what we’re saying? It’s the words love and desire. Do you see what the Bible is doing today? This isn’t really about how much is in your bank account. It’s not about how little is in your bank account. It’s a question about what’s going on in your heart, and the great Apostle Paul who writes this passage, who’s almost flat broke when he writes this passage says, “Let me tell you about why we have peace, why we’re content when other people are working themselves to death. It’s because there’s a heart difference. We’re weird at the want-level. We’re weird at the heart-level. -because we don’t love what they love, and we don’t desire what they desire. And because we don’t love those things, because we don’t desire those things, we can live differently.”
If you’re saying, “Jeff, I want that. I want to know how to have that, because my heart wants what it’s not supposed to want. I know it does, and if I could change that, I would change that, so how do I do what the Bible is saying here?” The answer is (you’re not going to like this), you can’t. -not on your own.
You’re going to need supernatural help to fix this problem, because you can’t pull it off all by yourself. You need a heart change like the guy who wrote this passage went through a heart change. And his wants are different today because his desire, his love, is different today.
If you want freedom from debt. If you want freedom over the desires around you, you’re going to have to have freedom over the desire that’s going on inside of you. You’re going to need a heart transplant, and that’s going to come from the living God. Until you get your “wanter” fixed, you’re “wanter” is changing the way that you value money. It’s affecting the way that you view your wallet. If you want to view your wallet differently, you’re going to have to change your wants at the heart-level, and the guy who wrote this passage knows a thing or two about that, because he went through a cataclysmic change when Jesus met him on the road, and what Jesus did for him, he can do for you too.
Last week, we set out as a church to live the changed life and to say, “I’m going to live so differently that I want my neighbors, I want my coworkers, I want the people who know me to see there’s something different about me. And because they see there’s something different about me, they want what I have. I want people to have financial peace, or contentment, and I want them to see that in me. And because they see that in me, I want them to find Jesus Christ, the only one who can free you from the slavery to self, free you from the slavery to money.”
Let me tell you a true story from the television show, The Lottery Changed My Life on TLC. I’ve never really seen the show, but I do know there’s an episode about a British garbageman named Michael Carroll. Michael’s a young guy. He’s collecting garbage in England -not exactly the profession that he wants to spend the rest of his life doing- and so Michael takes his paycheck and spends some of it on the lottery. As a 19-year-old, Michael wins the lottery in England and wins a $15 million jackpot.
Now, Michael’s a pretty good guy, so he starts off this $15 million jackpot doing good with it. He buys gifts for his family. He tries to do nice things for other people. But pretty quickly, this money starts to unravel him. It starts to consume him; it starts to destroy him. In his own words on this television show, Michael starts to spend his money on alcohol, and pretty soon he’s gambling with his money. Then, sooner or later, he’s buying prostitutes, and eventually, he’s introduced to crack cocaine. 19 years old with $15 million in the bank account, and Michael destroys his life.
8 years later, Michael is flat broke, has nothing to show for the $15 million that he won, and he’s right back to doing what he was doing as a 19-year-old. 27 years old, picking up garbage in England. But, Michael would say something fascinating. This time, it’s different. This time, Michael isn’t nearly as miserable as he was at 19 years old. 8 years later, $15 million down the drain, but now he’s not looking for money to satisfy him. Now, he’s doing the exact same thing, but it feels a whole lot different to Michael, because something has changed in Michael at the want-level, and he no longer wants what he thought the lottery could provide for him. Michael has found freedom from money.
What I want for our church today, for anybody who is struggling under a mountain of debt, is to find freedom from stress. This sermon isn’t about money; it’s about stress, and I’m telling you, this is no way to live. -under a mountain of debt, chasing after a paycheck that’s never really going to satisfy you, and when you sink your teeth into it, it’s not real to begin with. That’s why weird people date money, but we don’t marry it. We don’t fall in love with money, because we know that money is dangerous to our soul.
We found freedom. -the kind of freedom that Dr. King described 50 years ago when he said, “There is nothing in all the world greater than freedom. It’s worth paying for; It’s worth losing a job for; It’s worth going to jail for. I would rather be a free pauper than a rich slave. I would rather die in abject poverty with my convictions than live in inordinate riches with a lack of self-respect.” Dr. King found freedom. He found freedom from the slavery that goes along with selfish desires. He found freedom through Jesus Christ, and that freedom is available to anyone who would be free from the love of money.
Do you want to know how this is possible? You’re going to have to surrender at the soul-level. We’re not asking you to surrender your wallet. You’re going to have to be willing to surrender at the soul-level if you want to be free from selfish desires, if you want to be free from wants, if you want to have the kind of contentment that the Bible describes for you. That freedom only comes through Jesus Christ.
• Today I realize I need Jesus to change my heart and my soul. I surrendered to him for the first time.
– Money has become too important in my life. Pray for me to put money back in its proper place.
+ I will use money to glorify God this year.
- What would you do with the money if you received a large inheritance? What wouldn’t you do with the money?
- How do you measure your worth as a person?
- Would your friends still be as close to you if you lost everything you owned in a fire?
- What is the most money you’ve ever lost at one time in your life? Did you learn anything by losing that money?
- How can a Christian use money to bring God glory?
- Can you say, “I have all the money I ‘want’ right now”?
- Pray for God to make you want stuff less by wanting him more.