It Is More Blessed . . .
Proverbs 3:9-10 (Psalm 112); 2 Corinthians 9:7-15; Matthew 6:19-24
Jesus says, You can’t serve God―and money.Sure we can! We do it all the time. In this world, it’s easy to serve God and money.
A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times ran an article about the Trinity Broadcasting Network. According to its web site, TBN is the world’s largest religious network and America’s most watched faith channel. TBN is Paul and Janice Crouch’s baby. Through the TBN ministry, the Crouches have been serving God for thirty-nine years. They’ve been praising the Lord, proclaiming the gospel, and interpreting the times. And along the way, they’ve been piling up money. Lots of it. According to the Times article, TBN has provided the Crouches with perks that include multi-million dollar houses, corporate jets, lavish expense accounts, and even an air-conditioned motor home for Janice Crouch’s pair of Maltese dogs.
It’s been labelled a huge embarrassment to evangelical Christianity. No doubt. But it’s hardly surprising. Because in this world, it’s easy to serve God and money. And not just for the Crouches. We all do it.
It’s a question of what we have our eye on.Whether on money and all that comes with it, or on Jesus and the kingdom he brings. Jesus says, The eye is the body’s light.It’s the eye that lets the light in and fills us with the brightness of the glory of God. Or it’s the eye that keeps the light out, leaving only darkness.
But, guess what? We have two eyes! One eye may be trained on heaven. So we listen to the gospel and we worship. We pray and we give. We seek the kingdom. But we also have one eye trained on the earth. So we gather and we accumulate. We covet and we collect. And it’s all so very reasonable. In this world, there’s no other way for us to be. We need a place to live, after all. And we need a car to drive, or two, or three. We need decent clothes. And who doesn’t deserve a vacation once in a while?
In this world, it’s easy to serve God and money. But the gospel we claim to be listening to―it’s announcing a new world! And the heaven that we claim to have one eye trained on―it’s not a faraway place. Jesus has brought it down to earth. Heaven is where the Spirit is. And where the Spirit is, it’s a new creation, a new world. And in a new world, things are different.
Think of Old Testament Israel.In Egypt they were slaves. Life was a constant struggle for survival. Then the Lord brought them out of Egypt and led them through the wilderness. For forty years, it was a hand to mouth existence for Israel: to their mouth from the hand of God! Then it was time for Israel to cross the Jordan and enter life in a new world, in a land that overflowed with plenty.
But in that land, with its vineyards and grain fields, there was a danger, a danger that Israel’s eye wouldn’t be on the Lordany more. Then they would start thinking that grain and wine were hard to come by, that they had better get as much as they could and hang on to it as best as they could.
But in their new world, that’s not how life worked. Despite appearances, despite the absence of daily manna, it was still the Lordwho supplied Israel with everything they needed. So they could live a different way, they could afford to live a different way, than all their neighbors.
They could keep the Sabbath day instead of working themselves into an early grave. They could keep the Sabbath year instead of exhausting the land. And they could keep Jubilee instead of trying to hang on tightly to what they had managed to accumulate. And all along the way they could make generous, even extravagant, offerings to the Lord. Because the Lord took care of them and gave them everything they needed.
When Jesus says, you can’t serve God and money, he’s talking about life in the new world he brings, which is the new world we live in. And that last bit isn’t just a rhetorical device. It’s the heart and soul of Christian faith. We confess that Jesus was raised. And that’s not just that he was dead and now he’s alive. No. What brings us here on Easter and what brings us here every other Sunday is the fact that, with the Resurrection of Jesus, a new world has dawned right in the midst of this old world. And when Jesus says, Follow me! he’s calling us to join him in that new world.
So, if we’re not going to serve God and money, then what are we going to do with our money in the new world? the new world Jesus brings? the new world we live in already?
First of all, we should once and for all and on a daily basis stop thinking of it as ourmoney. If the cattle on a thousand hills belong to God (Psalm 50:10), then what’s in my wallet and in my 401k belongs to God, too!
Second, we should pay attention to our eye―or, since we have two, we should pay attention to our eyes! Assuming I have one eye on Jesus, where is my other eye looking? At my piggy bank? At my portfolio? Assuming I have one eye on the kingdom Jesus brings, what do I have my other eye on? The new car I don’t need, but sure would like to have? Or the next piece for my collection of 1950s bowling pins? Assuming I’m staring at the beauties of heaven with one eye, what am I staring at with my other eye? A menu with entrées that cost more than my poor neighbors spend on food in a week? Or a custom-built replica of a 1957 Fender Telecaster, to replace my cheap Chinese-made electric guitar?
As long as I have one eye on heaven and one eye on the earth, I’m still living in this world, this world where it’s easy to serve God and money. But in the new world Jesus brings, things are different.
So, what should we do with our money?What should we do with the money God has entrusted to us? How about we do something foolish with it?! How about we give it away?! Lots of it! One Old Testament measure of giving was the tithe. That’s ten per cent. And given biblical sentiment about first-fruits, that would be ten per cent before taxes! We could start there. It’s not as if God won’t take care of us.
I’m not going to tell you what to do with your money. I have too hard a time with my own. But I will say this. It’s not your money anyway. And it’s not mymoney. It belongs to God, every last bit of it.
And if I’m going to do more than pretend to have faith in Jesus, if I’m actually going to have both of my eyes trained on him and on the kingdom he brings and the new world he creates―that’s going to make a big difference in what I think about money and a big difference in what I do formoney and a big difference in what I do with money. It’s going to make all the difference in the world.
But not if I see myself still living in this world. In this world, it’s easy to serve God and money. Paul and Janice Crouch are Exhibit A. But if in fact Jesus has been raised, then we are not living in this world. We’re living in a new world. And that’s where we belong. That’s the place to attach our hearts. That’s the direction to train our eyes in, both of them.
Of course, moving to a new world is scary. And if we start giving our money away as soon as we get there, will we have enough left to make ends meet? To put it in old terms, will there be enough grain and wine? Or will that be hard to come by?
Listen to Proverbs 3 again:
Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with wine(vv. 9-10).
Do you hear that? Do you hear the promise? Honor the Lord with your money . . . The Lord! Not all those things your other eye likes to look at. Honor the Lord with your money . . . then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with wine. Now listen again, without having either eye on material blessings. Your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with wine. Can you picture it? Can you see it?
Let me help. In the wilderness, the Lord fed his people with manna. Day after day, he fed them. The Lord feeds us, too. From field and vine, by grain and grape, he feeds us at his Table. He blesses us Sunday after Sunday without fail. That is where our eye is fixed. On the Lord who reaches out to us and says, This bread is my body and this cup is my blood.
In the midst of this world, Jesus gives us the food and drink of the new world he brings. In that new world, everything is different. In that new world, you can’t serve God and money. In that new world, you wouldn’t want to. Because in that new world, God is all we need. So, what are you going to do with your money?
In the name of the Father
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit.