Sunday, October 16, 2011

How Much is Enough?

How Much is Enough?
Message #4 of "Christian Sticky Wickets" - Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011 - Pastor Jeff MacLurg, Our Savior's Baptist Church, Federal Way, Wash. (www.oursaviorsbaptist.org)

--- "Stuff" ---

George Carlin:
House - a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff. You lock up your house so people don't take your stuff. Because they always take the good stuff. When you go on vacation, you load up two suitcases of stuff and you go to a hotel and you unload your stuff and now you feel good because you have your little house to keep your stuff. Eventually we have to buy bigger houses because we've run out of places for our stuff.

Why do we work so hard to make money to buy stuff that we throw away after a few years. Why are storage units popping up like crazy? (They are bigger than most homes in India.)

* More than a billion people live on $1 per day
* 2 billion live on less than $2 per day
* 26,000 children will die today to preventable starvation or disease. (It would take 27 hours for all of the children in Federal Way under the age of 18 to be dead at that rate.)

--- How Sticky is this Wicket? ---

The poor are uniquely cared for by God. The Bible commands us to be wise with our money and to care with the hurting people around us and around the world. For nearly every person in this room, this probably gives us pause.

Two extremes: (Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill describes)

1. The Theology of PROSPERITY
"The more you love God, the more he will give you." Whack Jesus with the piƱata of your faith and the money rains down.

2. The Theology of POVERY
"The less you have, the closer you are to God." Money and stuff = kryptonite.

Which one is right? Well, Jesus is right. What is Jesus' view on this? (And you might walk away today convicted to make changes, or you might be indignant about the Pastor's meddling. And that's why it's a sticky wicket.)

--- Scripture's Thoughts ---

1 Timothy 6:17b
Wealth isn't inherently evil. God gives me everything to enjoy. God gives us material resources for our enjoyment.

But... 1 Timothy 6:17-18
My hope, security, identity should not be in my wealth, they should be in God. Otherwise, I'll begin to hoard instead of enjoying being generous.

Luke 16:19-31
Lazarus and the rich man. In 20 - "his" gate - Lazarus lived in front of the man's own gate. This man knew of, or perhaps knew, Lazarus, He would see him every day. He never let his knowledge of Lazarus' condition impact the choices he made about his wealth and the way he lived his life. He was eventually condemned because he did not let his life be shaped by the needs he knew existed around him. Not a call to poverty, but a call to use with wealth to benefit those around him.

2 Corinthians 8:1-15
Even when money was tight, they felt a connection to the family of believers and because they knew of the needs, they gave. They came to Paul and said they wanted to give, they asked him. Paul tried to kind of talk them out of going to extremes. But the persisted. What if you were the Pastor and a family came to you and said they were going to sell their home and buy a smaller home, or buy a used car instead of a new car, or sell their Xbox? Would you say "Let's look at your finances, let's not be hasty." or would you say "God bless you. Let's see how God works in your life." Extreme generosity is right, even when we have very little.

1 Timothy 6:6-10
Pastor noted that someone came up and said "I've believed and agree with everything you've said in this series." to which he replied "I guess I haven't been offensive enough." This sermon is unlike any he's preached in 27 years.
Pursue contentment with little; be wary of the pursuit of more.
If your aim is more, it may draw you away from your pursuit of God if you're running after something else.
How come we need more no matter how much we make? Because we haven't learned to be content.
The happiest people the pastor has met were in Argentina and India during his travels - people without cars that broke down, no computers with blue screens, no cell phones that break when they get wet, no lawns to mow and fertilize, no boats with mooring fees, no community committees, no activities to ferry kids to. Do they wish they had more? Yes, but they are also settled, content, they are living and enjoying the life they have. (Not resigned, just not looking for the next thing to be saving up for.)

Mark 10:17-31 / Colossians 3:5
Are we really supposed to abandon everything to follow Jesus? Jesus was clearly exposing this man's allegiance to his money. "Radical" by David Platt: we either universalize Jesus' words and think everyone must do that, but the New Testament doesn't support this. Even those who followed Jesus had families and family members who supported them. Phew!, right? Uh, no. The other extreme is to assume that Jesus' followers are never called to give up everything to follow Jesus. No, there are times when He may ask certain people to give up everything. Scary, perhaps, but understand you could be asked to do this. When holding onto our stuff gets in the way of our following Jesus, it means we have a heart problem. If our love for more gets in the way of God means we've created an idol just as if we'd carved something out of wood and bowed down to it. Anything that takes God's place at the center of our life is an idol. (Our car, our house, or spouse, our children, our grandchildren, our portfolio.) Beware of making an idol of your stuff and your money.

--- Our Responses ---

Is it wrong for me to have more stuff and more money than someone who lives near me? Is it a sin for me to have more money in a retirement account than most people in the world will ever see in their lifetime? The Bible's clear answer is "no - it's not wrong for us to have more" - but it does not mean that it's OK for me to just work to accumulate more and more and to use it only for myself.

Four kinds of people (Mark Driscoll):
* unrighteous rich - no sense of generosity. they have it, they're keeping it, they're trying to get more of it.
* righteous rich - they recognize that everything they have is from Jesus and they are generous from their love of God. They often give to needs in ways that are not always understood or recognized. (These are the loneliest people in the church - if others around them understand what they have, they become weird. So sometimes they are avoided, or befriended for the wrong reasons.)
* righteous poor - that's where life has brought them, either by their choice or by circumstances they had no control over. (Would we have told Jesus to "get a job"?)
* unrighteous poor - uncontrollable addictions, get-rich-schemes, miserable, money is an idol

What if the Lord grabbed hold of your life? This isn't about giving more to the offering, but what if God told you to cap your standard of living and give more as you earn more? Are there ways you might use your money that can make a true difference in the world? What if Jesus told us to simplify our lives? What if He told us to change our lifestyles completely? What would happen if we uncovered the blindspots in our lives as American Christians and saw the need around us and how we could be an impact for Jesus in the world around us? Can we be content, can we be righteous in our richness and find joy?
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