Series: Creating a Culture of Generosity
5. Money Matters
Pray: Great God of Heaven, teach us to see the world as you do, that we might choose to live as you have called us into relationship with you and with the world. Amen.
This morning we celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as his journey to the cross draws ever closer. A crowd who filled the streets to celebrate Jesus as one who would save us shouted, “Hosanna,” which means, ‘save us.’ They celebrated a leader of the people who would overthrow a Roman emperor and make God’s people free again. But he was not who they expected, and within a week, less than a week, they were shouting, “Crucify! Crucify, this Jesus! Free Barabbas!” It’s strange how the switch can shift so quickly; how the crowd can change their minds; how dissatisfaction can spread so easily; how an angry mob can take over normally reasonable people.
We’ve spent this Lenten journey reflecting on matters of stewardship. How could we live our lives as better stewards, making better choices in our living, making our relationship with God a priority; making our health choices a matter of faith; seeking God’s vision as a response to God’s promise; considering hospitality to be not just about the welcome, but about the invitation; remembering our call to be stewards of the Gospel? We’ve walked this Lenten journey in the wilderness seeking understanding of who we are as God’s people, and we have started to understand that it is who we are the should dictate what we do. Thus rather than trying to figure out what to do, we should be answering the question, “who are we?” And if the first answer is not, Children of God or Body of Christ, or some manifestation of those definitions, maybe we have some other things to consider. Hopefully what we have come to understand in this Lenten season is that as Children of God we are blessed beyond measure, and there is enough of all of our resources, enough to share, if we will have faith in God’s promise.
If God has blessed you mightily, I want you to raise your palm and shout, “Hosanna!” If God has blessed you mightily, I want you to raise your palm and shout, “Hosanna!” I am so glad to see that we are a people of blessing! I am glad to see that we are a people of blessing and that we are grateful to be saved. I am glad to see that the Body of Christ in this place understands that we come from God and that we belong to God. And that all that we have is not only enough, it is more than enough to be blessed and to share blessing. That may make this sermon less of a challenge for us as we move into this Holy Week of remembrance and deep reflection.
You see we’ve come to that place in our journey of Lent where we have to face ourselves in the mirror and ask the hard questions. If we consider ourselves blessed mightily and we believe God is faithful to God’s promise, why do we struggle with all kinds of stewardship? Why are we so protective of our time and our money? Why do we fear to make commitments to our church with our time and our money? Why do we hold back?
In Acts 5 we hear the story of a man and his wife who joined the first church. Ananias and Sapphira were people of means and the first church held all things in common for the good of all. So Ananias and Sapphira agreed to sell their property and give all the money to the church. But after selling the property the couple agreed to keep some of the money for themselves. When Ananias brought the money to the apostle Peter, Peter asked him why he was lying about the money. Then Peter accused Ananias of lying, not to the people of the church, but to God and Ananias died immediately. Three hours later his wife came. And Peter tested her asking if this was the amount they sold the property for. Sapphira said yes and after scolding her Peter told her about her husband and she too fell down dead. So for those who claim that the New Testament is not so judgmental as the first testament, consider this story. But also hear the lesson intended by it. How we care for the church, how we respond to God’s generosity, how we spend our money, matters.
How many of you remember or maybe you have a red–letter Bible? It is a Bible where the word’s of Jesus are printed in red. Do you realize that about 60% of those word’s of Jesus are about money? 60%. I wonder why that is. I’ve mentioned before that some variation of the phrase “do not be afraid,” is in the Bible over 365 times. And I believe this is because it is a message we struggle with a lot. I wonder if that is why Jesus talks about money so much, because we struggle with it.
Our passage this morning is an excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount. This particular chapter of Matthew, and section of this sermon includes instruction on: piety, giving alms in secret so we are not like the hypocrites, prayer, the Lord’s prayer where we pray, “give us this day our daily bread,” fasting and not looking dismal, storing our treasures in heaven not on earth for where your treasure is there will your heart be also, and a lesson about not worrying about our needs because God will meet them, consider the lilies of the fields. Jesus tells the people in the crowd, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (money).”
Consider this, your checkbook, or your bank statement is a theological document. It shows what you value. So where does your treasure lie? Take a good look at your account and ask yourself, do these values reflect your faith? What might you do to change your values? How might you spend differently in order to honor God’s blessings in your life?
There is one more passage I want to share with you on this subject as we move into our preparation for Christ’s passion, his struggle with his humanity and his choice to go to the cross so that we might see his gift and change our lives. From the prophet Malachi we hear these words (read Malachi 3:5-12). How would our lives change if we trusted God’s promise and put God to the test with our practice of stewardship? What would happen if we brought our whole tithe to church to honor God? How might God richly bless us then? And what is there to lose by trying?
As we enter this week of holy trial and temptation, let us consider our stewardship. In fact, let us not just consider it, let us make a change in our stewardship considering who we are as the motivation for how we live. Let us be confident in God’s blessings and let us be generous in our giving.