March 16, 2020 | Martin Morrison | https://africa.thegospelcoalition.org/podcasts/sermon-podcast/what-is-money-for/
These are difficult days. Yet whether we are living in strained economic times or a period of plenty – if we are honest – money occupies a lot of our thoughts every day. How much have I got; how much do I need? How much do I earn, how much do I spend, how much do I save? Am I even going to get through the month? Yet the real question we need to ask ourselves as Christians is what is money for?
Money Can Become an Alternative God
If we are also honest, we find it a little bit uncomfortable speaking about money and what money is for. Especially my money. And especially within the church. Why is this the case?
Perhaps the reason for this awkwardness is that it is touching a nerve. We are actually trespassing on enemy territory. We are invading the turf of a very powerful alternative god. That is not to say that money is evil – money is not evil. Money is neutral. In fact, there is no virtue in poverty. The Bible does not say that you are more spiritual if you are poor. But it is true that money can be our God. We find ourselves serving money instead of God. It prompts us to forsake the creator and to worship a part of the creation. This is why in Matthew 6:24 Jesus says “you cannot serve both God and money.”
Money in the Bible
The Bible has a great deal to say about money and possessions. There are over 2350 verses in the Bible talking about money and possessions. In fact, Jesus spoke more about money and possessions than heaven and hell combined. Even more, than faith and prayer combined! 13 out of his 39 parables deal with money and possessions. Why? The reason is that Jesus knew that it’s impossible to enthrone the true God unless you dethrone alternative “gods”. We must remember that our attitude to money is an “acid test” for our love of God.
Most prosperity churches have twisted what the Bible says about money. They have misused it and distorted the Gospel. “Give your money and you will be healed, and you will be successful. You will be healthy and wealthy.” That is not what the Bible says. The Bible does say God will bless you – but it may not necessarily be financial. It may be in greater ways.
Is Money on the Throne?
If being a Christian hasn’t changed your thinking and your usage of money, chances are you are not converted. It’s very possible that money is still on the throne.
Here is a quick test. How much do you give to God and his work? Look at the percentage of your salary that you give. 1%, 10%, 20%? It seems that what Jesus is saying in Matthew 6:24 is that percentage is how much you love God. Martin Luther said 3 conversions are necessary. A conversion of the head, a conversion of the heart and a conversion of the pocket. He said that 500 years ago and nothing has changed.
3 Critical Principles that will Change Everything
A fantastic book on money and possessions is by Randy Alcorn “Managing God’s Money.” Here are 3 critical principles that will change everything in terms of how you think about money.
1) God is the creator of all things. (Genesis 1:1)
2) God owns all things. (Psalm 24:1) Naked we come and naked we go. The luggage for the journey is not the essence of the journey. Ultimately, we own nothing.
3) We are only trustees. (Genesis 1:28) God has entrusted the management of this world to us. Talents, time, gifts, abilities, energy, money, cars, houses, resources. We have the responsibility to manage these on behalf of the owner, God. We must ask – how can I use these for the kingdom?
Managing God’s Money
Suddenly the main question is no longer “how much should I give?” God owns everything. It’s actually all God’s money – it’s not your money. You are not giving God a tip! It is God’s bank account – he just happens to have put your name on it. You have unrestricted access to it. It is a great privilege, but it is also open to abuse. The big question is this: what salary am I going to pay myself?
Of course, you need to withdraw funds for your needs. He is generous. He has no problem that we make reasonable withdrawals. But the rest belongs to God, and He says “don’t waste it – don’t horde it. And don’t think it’s yours because it’s not.”
You can have money. You can use money and the gifts that God has given you. If God has blessed, you with money and success you can thank Him – that is a blessing. But it’s not the purpose of the journey. The purpose of the journey is to serve Christ.
What is Money For?
The way to break the grip of greed is to give it away. Proverbs 11:24 says “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” We all serve God, and we are all full-time Christians. As such we are called to give. It is a blessing to be able to give our time and energy to serve God and God’s people. When we give – God gives back more – not necessarily financially. But God keeps his word.
Why Should We Give?
The reason for giving money is not to buy God. We don’t give to buy salvation or to tip God. 2 Corinthians 8:1-9 spells this out. This section of the epistle is a story about giving sacrificially. It culminates in verse 9 where Paul explains the reason for forgiving. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake, he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
Christ was spiritually rich – yet he became poor. He descended to earth and died on the cross so that we who are poor spiritually will become rich spiritually. Not only does Christ free me from the grip of materialism – he gives me the opportunity to thank him.
Money is a blessing. But it’s not the purpose of the journey. The purpose of the journey is to serve Christ.
Many people will say that they believe in Jesus as their saviour. We all want a saviour – from my guilt, my shame, and the pressures I am under. But not many people want Jesus as Lord. Yet you cannot divorce the two. To serve Christ our King is what money is for.
Text: 2 Corinthians 8:1-9
Date preached: 2 September 2018
Location: Christ Church Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Martin Morrison a former attorney, is the retired pastor of Christ Church Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa and is Chairman of The Gospel Coalition Africa. He is the founder of The Love Trust and is a Bishop of the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (REACH SA). He and his wife, Jean, have 2 adult children.