May 6, 2018
Norwalk First United Methodist Church
Gospel of Mark
Sixth Sunday of Easter
Salvation Is Possible Only with God
Now you may be asking, what does money have to do with faith and worship? But that’s the very same issue that came up the day Jesus was approached by a young man with a burning question: “Teacher,” he asked, “what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
Jesus said, “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
That was the last thing the young man expected or wanted to hear. And sadly, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of possessions and couldn’t bear to let go. There’s just something about how we handle our money that uncovers the core of whose we are, the true faith that is inside us. And today we hear the call of Jesus to full devotion, to offer up all we have and all we are to the One who can fully care for us.
Today, let’s explore the “Courage to Live Truly,” the “Courage to Let Go,” and the “Courage to Give.” Would you pray with me?
Do we have the courage to live truly? Because God desires success for all His children. He also desires salvation for all his children which is only possible with God. But sometimes, our finances get in the way of our relationship with God. Just think about how much of our energy each week is tied in some way to money. The prime time of our days and weeks is given to earning money. Every day we make numerous financial decisions. Everything costs money, from food for our families, to gas for our cars, to the roof over our heads. But we all know that our finances are unstable at best, because every part of our life is tied to economic forces that are much bigger than any individual.
Beyond the hard facts about our finances, money matters take an emotional toll on our lives and in our relationships. The Gallup Poll verifies that 56 percent of all divorces are the result of financial tension.
All of God’s children can be free from financial worry, however, because God gives us biblical principles to open the doors to financial freedom. He gives us the means to live truly.
The young man asked Jesus, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” This young man did not understand that to build a platform for the wealth he had, he should have begun with the understanding that he and we have a powerful parent. There is only one who is good. If you and I as humans are willing to go to such great lengths to be with and provide for our children, how much more will God? This parental promise is what Jesus implied in Matthew 7:7-11:
Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are [sinful], know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (NRSV)
Notice the authority of Jesus’ teaching, because Matthew is very intentional: “your Father in heaven.” That’s not merely a title; it’s a position. God is in the all-powerful position to back you with all the resources of heaven. As we are building a platform of financial freedom into our lives, the amazing truth is that we not only have a powerful parent, we have a powerful parent who has given us the promise of provision.
Financial freedom and the courage to live truly is based in trust; that is, in building a trusting relationship between you and God. Life is not about frantically pursuing money and possessions, because God has already promised all we need. Life is about pursuing a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ. We begin to build a lifetime of financial freedom by readjusting our priorities. Jesus put it this way: But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33). The young man in our story today did not have his priorities in the right place. He could not let go of what he had. And that brings us to the Courage to Let Go.
We must have the courage to let go of the fear that our very being is defined by the money we have in the bank or the possessions we can accumulate. God’s intention and aggressive purpose in each of our lives is for freedom in every aspect. Sometimes it is hard to see how our financial situation is of concern to God. We tend to put God and spiritual matters in one compartment, and our financial situation in another, separating the two.
The truth is, however, that God is more concerned about your financial freedom than you are. A vast number of passages in the Scripture describe God’s promise of provision and God’s intent for physical blessing in our lives. Consider how many of Jesus’ miracles were physical. Jesus wasn’t just about saving people for heaven later; Jesus’ ministry was about creating freedom and health for lives on earth.
Despite the fact that God loves you and has promised to abundantly meet all of your needs (notice I said needs and not wants), financial freedom is not going to merely “happen.” Thinking that success comes solely by being under God’s covering or protection is one of the biggest mistakes that the people of God can make.
As Christians we often make the mistake of expecting that we are going to be blessed just because we’re redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. No, we must submit ourselves to all of the laws and principles of God. Ephesians 5:17: Do not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is.” We must understand the will of the Lord and submit ourselves to it. This is surrender and the beginning of developing a healthy biblical perspective about wealth.
The young man in our story today was not willing to submit himself to God’s will, his entire will and goodness. You see, Jesus had no problem with wealth. But with the young man, his wealth was still standing between him and his total dependent relationship with God. There is nothing wrong with being a Christian and being wealthy.
God does not expect Christians to give all their wealth away. He said if Christians give all their wealth away, then who has it? The secular world has it. Who would you rather have the wealth in the world? I think God would rather Christians had the wealth in the world as long as they knew how to be good stewards of it and how to manage that wealth so that no one in the world was in need.
Above all, financial freedom requires the recognition that God is the rightful owner of all things. And that brings us to the Courage to Give. Giving comes from a devotion to God. Giving comes from the recognition of who is the rightful owner of all that we have. A Christian needs to ask the question, “How much of whom we are and what we are belongs to God?” The answer is, “Everything!”
Sometimes Christians make the mistake of thinking that the tithe (ten percent of our earned income) belongs to God and the ninety percent belongs to them, but that’s where Christians get into trouble. The songwriter says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1). Everything belongs to God. Recognizing God’s ownership is a critical step to financial freedom.
It is what Jesus meant when he said that no one can be his disciple who does not give up all his or her possessions. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” While this Scripture passage may trouble you, it doesn’t mean that you must become poor and homeless; rather it exemplifies our responsibility to trust God for every need, and to give away what we don’t need.
God wants us to release what we have in our hand, not what we don’t have. Anytime you go to a credit card and accrue interest on your purchases, you demonstrate a desire to possess something you do not have the means to possess. God’s blessing can’t be experienced by acquiring what you don’t have but only by releasing what you do have.
From a Christian worldview, our security and our meaning do not come from our possessions or our money. Our security and our meaning are derived from our relationship with God. God has a covenant with us through Jesus Christ. He will always provide for our every need when we activate that covenant through trust, through faith in him. Ultimately possessions can’t give us meaning. Meaning comes from relationships, and joy comes when we release the resources God has given us to create wellness in relationships.
You and I exhibit power with God by our actions toward other persons. If I’m in debt, how will I ever have resources to bless others, to love my neighbor as myself? God will only increase our power with people by our positive actions of releasing resources and creating health in the lives of others.
Proverbs 11:24-25 says this: One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. We are the body of Christ; we are the hands and feet of Jesus. If Jesus wants to bless somebody in the world, he is going to do so through our hands and feet. If Jesus is going to feed somebody in the world, he is going to do it through our hands and feet.
How are we going to do this? Through the courage to give. How are we going to have this courage? By trusting in God’s love. We must trust God’s promise and provision. We must recognize God’s ownership, so we can release our resources to Jesus’ Lordship. If Jesus is going to die for me, how much more is God willing to do? We need to trust in God’s provision and love. Financial freedom begins with recognizing the trust of ownership.
God is not a respecter of persons. God does not desire to bless you more than me or any other person. Transformation begins with our willingness to release all that we are and have into the hands of God. It requires us to surrender. Financial freedom requires the Courage to Live Truly, the Courage to Let Go, and the Courage to Give. Financial freedom requires the true devotion of rightful ownership.