Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
- Why don’t people find ultimate satisfaction in earthly riches? Why do you think this is the case?
- Read Proverbs 30:8-9. What wisdom is given here regarding earthly wealth? How does this challenge your way of thinking about money?
- When we are rich in Jesus, what 3 things will be true of us? (These 3 things were given in Sunday’s message.) What does this look like in everyday life? Which one is most challenging to you personally?
- What is one action step you can take in response to what you heard in Sunday’s message?
What we've just declared, we have declared that you are worth it all, Lord Jesus. I pray our hearts would actually not only give rise to that as our mouths speak what our heart thinks, but that our lives would also give evidence of that truth. I pray that by your own Spirit today, Father, that you would speak your truth into the hearts of every person, including my own, and that all of us under the sound of your voice would leave here looking more like Jesus than we did when we came. We trust you to speak to us. May your Spirit give us ears to hear what you want to say to us. In Jesus' name. Amen.
As we've been walking through the Book of Ecclesiastes, up till now, we have seen this struggling teacher who has been trying to figure out the meaning of life, and he has invested himself in all sorts of ways, emotionally, bodily and every other way to try and figure out where meaning and satisfaction could come from, and so, when we have traveled through chapters one through four already, we've seen that this struggling teacher is frustrated, but what he's been doing is he's been observing everything that he has stepped into to see if it would bring meaning.
Chapters one through four are really about the teacher writing down his observations, but, in chapter five, we take a slight turn because, in chapter five, not only do we have this teacher, who is still giving us observation of life, but he also now begins to give us instruction along with the observation.
Now, in the beginning of chapter five, he starts talking about how it would be wise for people when they show up into God's presence, specifically into the place of worship, what he was talking about, that they would be wiser not to talk foolishly, to pray foolishly or to make vows foolishly, but they would be better served to actually listen, and then he actually gives us a little bit of a hint of where ultimately the book is headed.
Toward the end of the book, in the very ... slightly tucked into verse number seven of chapter five, notice what the teacher says, "Much dreaming in many words are meaningless. Therefore, fear God." We'll see that as get later on into the book, this particular theme, and it's not something that the teacher has really highlighted up to this point, at least as specific as this, and then, in the next couple of verses, verses eight and eight, he begins to talk about how there is injustice and oppression specifically from a government standpoint, but then he ties that to a theme that he wants to round out this chapter talking about, and that's the theme of money or wealth or riches, that kind of idea.
It's interesting how he goes about doing this because the teacher has a tendency to do something that I've noticed when he's writing this book called Ecclesiastes that, when it's being put together, the teacher has a tendency to introduce a theme to us, and then tells us his conclusion about that theme and then he begins to unpack that for us a little bit after that.
He does the same thing right here. In fact, if you look carefully at verse number 10, he tells us what he's about to talk about, and then he tells us the conclusion. He says, "Whoever loves money never has enough. Whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This, too, is meaningless."
There you have it. He's basically saying, if you love and have a love for money, it won't satisfy. No matter how much you make, you'll always want more and, as a result, this is meaningless. This is enigmatic. This does not bring satisfaction, and so he tells us what the issue is and he tells us the conclusion right out of the gate, but what he then does is the teacher starts to give us some proverbial saying or proverbs right after that to make this point even more solid.
Now, in the wisdom literature, proverbs are very common, these pithy statements that help us to see something maybe in a different light. These happen all the time, and by the way, whether this is Solomon or a Solomon-like figure that we're talking about who is the author is Ecclesiastes, Solomon himself wrote a lot of proverbs. In fact, when you open up the Book of Proverbs in the wisdom literature, you can see at the very beginning these are the proverbs of Solomon. There are a few in there that are not from Solomon, and they typically tell you where those are, but, generally speaking, these are from Solomon.
Proverbs are common, but he's going to tell us why. Listen to this. He's already told us that, the love of money and stuff, it's just never going to satisfy. You're never going to find meaning in this, and then he gives us some proverbs to say, "Here's why this is frustrating. Here's why the pursuit or the love of stuff, wealth, riches, why all of this is not really going to satisfy." He gives us three proverbs. I'm going to use my own language to describe what those proverbs are saying, and, in fact, here's what the first one I think is saying why people don't find satisfaction in riches.
More money, more problems. Now, I want you to pay close attention to what verse number 11 says. It says this, "As goods increase, so do those who consume them." Now, the phrase that I just used a moment ago to describe this, more money, more problems, for those of you who are '90s kids, I wasn't, I'm a little older than that, but for those of you who are '90s kids, you know what that phrase is talking about. There was a song actually out called Mo Money Mo Problems, and it was a song that was in honor of The Notorious, the rapper, Notorious B.I.G., or Biggie, as he was called, and Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs and Mase were involved in the song.
I'm not necessarily recommending the song. I'm just telling you something, all right? Thematically, what they were talking about, the idea of more money, more problems was something interesting because, The Notorious B.I.G., that song was released after he had been killed, murdered and, in fact, when he was interviewed on MTV back in the mid-'90s, he talked about the idea that with all of his fame came a whole bunch of problems. In fact, I'll let him tell you specifically. Take a listen.
Biggie Smalls: The more money you make, the more problems you get, and jealousy and envy is just something that comes with the territory, man. Lot of people, it's just negative energy, like my man Puff say. It just surrounds you. It makes you depressed, so I got to rap about it, and that's one of the bad things about the game is, when you get large, even your friends will turn against you, man. I think about that every day. Every day. It's real. That's how real it is. I think somebody is trying to kill me. I'd be waking up paranoid. I'd be really scared. That's just the way I am. I'm scared to death.
Two years after this interview, he was murdered. See, he got large, and then a lot of people came around and as the scripture says, "As goods increase, so do those who consume them." There were people that wanted stuff from him. There were people that wanted his downfall because he'd made it big, so to speak. Nobody cared when nobody knew him, but then all of a sudden, when he got a bunch of money, he got, in his words, a bunch of problems that came along with them because as his goods increased, so did those who wanted to consume them.
Now, some of us think, by the way, that if we just had more money, that everything would be fine, that if we just had more money and more stuff, it would bring us happiness, it would bring us satisfaction. You look with longing when the Mega Millions winner of $1.6 billion was announced, and it was a lady in South Carolina, and you were like, "Ah, man, I was hoping it was me." I don't know.
I've read a piece in the New York Daily News from January of 2006, and did you know that they reported after doing a study of the big lottery winners, and there's been bunches and bunches and bunches of them? There are some books written on who these people are and what has happened to them also, by the way, very interesting, but did you know that 70% of all the large money winners are broke within seven years? You see, they thought money could satisfy everything, and in this particular article, they were naming people and telling their stories, and it was story after story after story after story.
Now, I'm not going to use their names because would any of you like for your name to be plastered up as the winner of the $1.6-billion Mega Millions in your own TV, whoa, with big check, right? "I won, Jerry Gillis." Do you know that you would now have family members you never knew you had? You'd have cousins you didn't know you had. You'd have people hitting you up all the time, and, by the way, a lot of them with not-so-good intentions. Why? Because as goods increase, so do those who consume them. In fact, some of those stories were mind-boggling to me.
There was a man in 2006 who won $30 million. I won't use his name, even though the article did. He won $30 million, and he was quickly befriended by a woman who said that she wanted to make sure that no one took advantage of him. She murdered him.
Then you've got a man in 2001 from Florida. He won $27 million. He blew it on cars. He blew it on a mansion. He blew it on a private jet and he ended up, listen to this, he ended up living in the storage unit that he had purchased to house all of his goods because he was broke.
Then there was an Illinois man who won $20 million. He got kidnapped and shot by his sister-in-law. Then there was the Pennsylvania man who $16.2 million. He blew it all and was a million dollars in debt one year after winning the lottery, one year. He ended on food stamps and dying at 66 years old in poverty, so be careful when you think that your life is going to all of a sudden be great because, in the book that was written about all of these lottery winners, they interviewed thousands of them who won, some of them who won massive, massive checks and some of them who won moderately big like just $5 million or $7 million or whatever.
Do you know that the constant theme in the interviews with those people when the guy who wrote this book that was cited in this particular article? Do you know what the constant theme was? The worst thing that's ever happened to me was winning all of this money. It is the worst thing that's ever happened to me. Why? Probably because more money, more problems, because as goods increase, so do those who consume them. That's why the teacher was saying, "This is not going to bring you satisfaction. It's going to bring you frustration," but he gives you a second proverb here, and I've just called it "it loses its luster." This is the second idea here, that it loses its luster.
Look at what it says in the second part of verse 11. "What benefit are all of these riches to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?" In other words, what are they really adding to your life? You buy and you consume all of these things, right? Here they are. You've got your mansion and you've got it all decked out, and so now what good are they? All you can do is feast your eyes on them, but do you know why the teacher knew that was frustrating? Because of what the teacher said in chapter one when he opened the book. He knows something about the eyes.
Listen to what he said in chapter one, verse eight. He said, "All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing nor the ear its fill of hearing." In other words, here's what he knows. He knows that I can lay my eyes on everything that I want to lay my eyes on, but, guess what, as long as I keep feeding my eyes with all of these possessions, with all of this stuff, do you know my eyes are always hungry and want more? Always. They never stop eating, so all I can do ... Now, he basically says this, "These riches are ... The only they are is that the owner can feast their eyes on them," but you and I both know that that gets old in a hurry, but there's a third kind of piece here to the third proverb.
He said it also creates an insomniac. Look at what he says in verse number 12. He says, "The sleep of a laborer is sweet whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep." In other words, they're having trouble sleeping. Why? Probably because they either have anxiety over how they're going to make more money, or maybe they have anxiety over how they're going to protect their money, or they have anxiety about how they're going to keep their money away from you and me and whoever else, right?
They've got anxiety over all of these things and, as a result, they can't sleep, so, because of that anxiety, whether it's through stress or indigestion or whatever else, it doesn't make for a peaceful existence, so he basically gives us these little proverbial sayings and tells us, "Hey, here's the reason that this is so frustrating and it won't bring meaning, because more money, more problems, because all these riches lose their luster, and because it creates an insomniac. You're not even at peace anymore."
After these proverbs though, he goes on to make a little additional commentary, and notice what he says in verse 13 and 14. He says, "I've seen a grievous evil under the sun, wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that, when they have children, there is nothing left for them to inherit."
He basically talks about two things here. He says, "Here's another thing that's bothering me, that I see two of these things. One, I see owners who are hoarding all of their wealth, and it's actually doing them harm." Why? Because, number one, that wealth is not doing anybody any good. It's not being useful. It's not bringing satisfaction. It's not bringing joy. It's not bringing relief. It's doing zero. It's doing nothing.
They're just hoarding it. Why? Because they must think that their security is found in it, because maybe if I've got all of this stuff, I'm somehow secure, but the problem is the additional pieces to what the teacher said. He said, "I see these people who hoard wealth, and it basically is harmful to them." Why? Because what they don't know is the second piece is that great misfortune can happen to them in an instant and they will have nothing left, and what a terrible thing it was in the ancient world not to be able to leave anything as an inheritance to those who come behind you.
Now, I think that what the writer is doing here, what the teacher is doing here is he's probably reminding us a little bit of the story of Job. Remember how wealthy Job was, and then all of that was gone from Job? I think that's what is in his mind.
You say, "Well, Jerry, why would you think that that's what's in his mind?" Because I keep reading. Remember how I told you that? Sometimes, the best way to figure out what's going on in a text is to keep reading, because context makes all the difference, and the writer, the teacher, actually now unpacks that a little bit further in the next verses to remind us why he's talking a bit about Job.
Look at what he says in verses 15 through 17. "Everyone comes naked from their mother's womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands. This, too, is a grievous evil. As everyone comes, so they depart, and what do they gain since they toil for the wind? All their days, they eat in darkness."
Now, if you aren't aware of what some of the language is in the Book of Job, then you might not be aware of what the writer is saying, but, in Job chapter one, it simply says this. "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised."
I think that probably he has that idea at least in his mind of what happened with Job, and he's basically saying this, "Hey, you don't know. Don't put all of your security in all of the stuff that you have because it could be gone in an instant through some calamity or through some misfortune. you have no idea, so don't put all of your eggs in that particular basket. You see, riches, according to the teacher here, the love of riches and the love of money, it's like chasing the wind. And the reason it's like chasing the wind is because it's hard to hold on to in this life, and even if you do hold onto it in this life, it causes a whole bunch of problems for you and it's impossible to take with you when you leave. So that's why he said, "This is so enigmatic to me. This is so meaningless to me. This is so frustrating to me."
Now, the teacher has a pretty pessimistic view when it comes to riches and wealth, and well he should. He's warning us of the dangers therein, because he's observed that and he's instructing us along that line. But to be fair, if we were to look at the Proverbs, particularly the Proverbs of Solomon, we would find that it's not always a pessimistic view related to riches. It's not always a pessimistic view related to wealth. In fact, if I just took one Proverb, chapter three, let me show you just a handful of verses in that.
It says, "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops. Then your barns will be filled to overflowing and your vats will brim over with new wine." Now what he does is he qualifies. What do you do with that wealth? Well, you honor the Lord with it. Here's what you do with it. A few verses later in chapter three, he says, "Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she, wisdom, is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She's more precious than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand, and in her left hand are riches and honor."
You see, it's not so pessimistic all the time in the Proverbs because we're reminded that, hey, wealth in the hands of a really wise man or woman could be potentially, if honoring the Lord is what they do with it, and if they are wise, that's what they will do with it, then God can use that and bless that in a really, really significant way. But I also remind you that the Proverbs are full of a lot of kind of complex stuff because the Proverbs also tell us about rich fools, and the Proverbs also tell us about really wise poor people. So it's not like this automatic formula that you can somehow break out, but we got to be reminded that it tells us a bigger story.
Now, when you start looking into the New Testament, I would specifically call your attention to the teaching of the Apostle Paul, because what the Apostle Paul does, tucked into the New Testament, when he's teaching Timothy about how he should act and how he should lead at the church at Ephesus, when he writes his letter to Timothy, First Timothy. In the last chapter, chapter six of First Timothy, Paul basically talks at large about money and finances and wealth and riches, and he gives Timothy some real instruction. And do you know what he does? He actually mirrors a lot of the teaching of Ecclesiastes five. He's not only recalling some of the teaching of Jesus in his teaching, but he's also recalling some of the Old Testament teaching from the teacher in Ecclesiastes five. In fact, sometimes using the same language that we see.
Listen to how Paul says it in First Timothy chapter six, he says, "But Godliness with contentment is great gain for we brought nothing into the world." Are you following this? "And we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction, for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."
You see, Paul is basically articulating what the teacher was warning us about. But what I want to remind you of is this, in the New Testament context where the Apostle Paul, led by the spirit of God, is writing these things down for Timothy and by the spirits own keeping is allowing us to be able to gain from their wisdom. Paul is actually, and what he will do is he will end up adding to the teaching of the teacher by the inspiration of the spirit of God, and I'm going to show you that in just a second. But do you know that what Paul is saying to Timothy about being careful about all of this stuff, it's actually a subset of a bigger theme that Paul tries to drive home.
You see this theme of, "Hey, be careful with all your money. Be content with what you have. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. You came into the world with nothing. You're leaving with nothing." He's reiterating what we see here in Ecclesiastes chapter five. But it's a subset of a bigger theme in his writing. When Paul talks about riches, that subset is one that I don't want you to miss because I'm going to say it for you very, very plainly. The riches, true riches, are found in Jesus. You see, this is what Paul tries to drive home to each of us if we pay attention to his writing, that true riches are actually found in Jesus. And in fact what Paul makes the argument of is this, is that the riches that we find in Jesus are the riches of his grace and the riches of his glory.
And we see that in Paul's writing. I will give you just a representative sample. There are other places we could look, but I'm going to give you a representative sample, just of Paul's writing and how he shows us the riches of Jesus' grace and the riches of Jesus' glory. Look real quickly with me, if you will, in Ephesians chapter two. It says this, "God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages, he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus."
He's talking about the grace expressed to us in Christ and the incomparable richness of that. Then notice what he says in Philippians chapter four. He says, "My God will meet all your needs according to," here it is, "The riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." Notice what he goes on to say in Colossians one, "To them, God has chosen to make known among the gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." And then notice what he says in second Corinthians Eight, "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 through his poverty might become rich."
You see what the Apostle Paul is doing here, ladies and gentlemen, is he's taking the warnings of the teacher about what heart ... Listen to this. What a heart that loves riches is capable of doing and is in trouble with, but then he helps us to see there's also a positive turn on this because a heart that is rich in Jesus understands the glory of his grace and understands the richness of the glory that he has placed in us. And what is that richness? Listen to this, the richness of his glory is Christ in us. That's what the scripture says to us.
Christ in us is the hope of glory. That we now have the glory, listen to this, as image bearers who have been marred by sin, we needed help in being restored back to an image that looked more like God than it did in its sin-filled state, and when we are reconciled to God through the grace of God, that even while we were sinners, Christ came and died for us and put our sin upon himself, taking our place and rising from the dead, conquering sin on our behalf, that if we put our faith in God through Jesus Christ, listen to this, we can be reconciled to God. The old is gone and new has come. The image of God restored and reinvigorated and re-enlivened in our lives, and this is the hope of glory and this is the hope of grace, and Paul says there are no riches that can compare to that.
No riches. Now, take a drink. It's water, I promise. Paul is adding to the teacher. So what he's saying is instead of only teaching what's wrong with a heart that loves riches, now he's saying, "I want to teach you what a heart that's rich in Jesus will do." Right? And in fact, if we stayed right there in that great teaching of the Apostle Paul in first Timothy chapter six, if we read a little bit further, that's what we find. We find him teaching what a heart that is rich in Jesus will actually do. Here's the first thing that that heart will do, will be rich in good deeds. Will be rich in good deeds. Notice how Paul says it, first Timothy six, verse 17 and 18, he says, "Command those who are rich in this present world." Let me pause you right there for a second. Look this way, every campus, everywhere, look this way. If you're on TV, just keep looking at the TV.
"Command those who are rich in this present world." Do you know who that's talking to? Every single one of us. Every one of us under the sound of my voice, generally speaking, unless you're streaming from another country, you are from North America. You're in Canada, you're in the United States. Comparable to the rest of the world, we are all wealthy. This is not a statement of saying, look to the person to your right and to your left and if they're more rich than you, than they have to pay attention to this, and you, you can just forget it. Some of you right now, you're going, "Wait a minute. Hang on a second. I'm like a college student. I barely got pizza money." You're a college student.
You're getting an education that a lot of the world doesn't have access to. You're rich.
No matter what your scenario as an American, you are wealthy comparable to most of the rest of the world, so, "Command those who are rich in this present world." Who is that?
That's all of us. "Command them not to be arrogant, nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain." Doesn't that sound exactly like what we were learning right here in Ecclesiastes five? "But instead to put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds." Now, let me pause here for just a second. Your good deeds are not so that you can gain favor from God. Your good deeds are because you have received favor from God. It is because of God's grace in your life, and because of God's glory inside of you, that you now do these good deeds out of the life of Jesus that is living in us.
It is not to somehow curry favor with God, as if we can somehow do that. In fact, Paul wrote it this way, the same guy who wrote first Timothy six also wrote in Ephesians chapter two, "It is by grace you have been saved through faith and this is a gift of God." Right? This is not of yourselves. It is a gift of God so that no one should boast. But do you know what the next verse says After verses eight and nine? Verse 10 says, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared for us beforehand." You see, we respond this way because when our hearts, listen to this, when our hearts are rich in Jesus, we actually respond by doing good works. You say, "Well, what good works are those?"
I don't know, be creative. Talk to Jesus about it. Maybe given what we were talking about today, it could be receiving a child into your home. It could be coming around a family that is receiving a child into their home and helping them out. Maybe that's it? But there's all kinds of options when it comes to doing good and involving ourselves with good works, works that are consistent with righteousness and godliness. Not because we're trying to earn points with God, but because of what God in Christ has already done for us, because our hearts are rich in Jesus.
You know what a heart that's rich in Jesus will also do? It'll be generous. A heart will be generous. Our lives will be generous. Listen to what Paul goes on to say, he says, "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share." Now there's a principal here at work. When he talks about this idea of being willing to share, Paul is actually calling back the idea of the Old Testament in terms of the ... Not, listen to this, not harvesting your crops all the way to the margins. See, when you read in the book of Leviticus and the book of Deuteronomy, here's what God tells his people. He's like, "Hey, so you've got this crop, right? Whatever the size of the land is, you've got this crop. When you harvest it, do not go all the way out to the margins. I want you to leave some on the edges so that those who don't have can come and get."
In other words, he was saying, "I actually want my people Israel to be a people who at all times are willing to share, that they don't consume everything that they have on themselves, but instead allow others to glean from what they have, so don't consume it all, leave some for others." See, that's what Paul is saying. He said, "A heart that's rich and Jesus won't consume everything on itself. It's going to be willing to share." In other words, it's going to be the kind of life that lives, listen to this, that lives lower than their means.
Not higher than their means, because living way above our means is usually just an effort at trying to impress people that don't care anyway. We have to live within our means and live less than our means so that not only are we provided for by God's gracious hand, but we can be involved in helping to share with other people. We've got to be generous. Why? Because we're rich in Jesus Christ and this isn't all about us. This isn't about us consuming everything on ourselves. This is about us being a vessel that is used to be ... Listen to this, we are blessed to be a?
Blessing. That was kind of the whole construct there with Abraham, right? We're blessed to be a blessing. That's why for some of us that are so racked with debt, you can't even begin to think about what it means to be willing to share. You can't begin to think about what it means to be generous because we're so racked with debt and I get it, man. Sometimes at school it was like, "Oh, what was I thinking?" And I got into huge debt. Listen, we actually offer opportunities, classes, people to help walk alongside of you to help you through that process. You can check with the information center after we're done. We'd love to be able to say, "Hey, here's a way you can get involved in helping to understand what it looks like to construct a life, a financial life that starts to bring glory to God and maybe again to work out of some of that debt."
Maybe it requires some repentance in our own hearts because maybe some of the debt we acquire, we acquired not because we needed, but because we wanted, and we decided that we were just going to try, and we're rolling up our credit cards and doing everything we can to get all of this stuff that by the way, we didn't even have to have, we didn't really have to have need of. And now we can't even think about what it means to be generous and willing to share, but Paul said, "A heart that's rich in Jesus, this is how they posture their lives." And he's commanding us. He's telling Timothy, "Command those at the Church at Ephesus to do this."
But there's a third thing and I want you to see it. It's this, that we'd be eternally minded. That we would be eternally minded. Look at how Paul ends this passage in first Timothy six. He says, "In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." Now, look at this with me for just a second. If Paul said that there is a life that is truly life, do you know what by default that means? There is also a life that is not truly life. If there is a life that is truly life, that means that there's a life that isn't truly life. And he's saying this, the life that's not truly life is only looking at the here and now, in my temporary satisfaction and doing everything only thinking about right now.
But he says, "Look, you've got to lay up for yourselves treasures for the coming age." You see now here Paul is starting to repeat the teaching of Jesus, right? "Don't lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves can break in and steal, but instead lay up for yourselves." Did you hear that phrase? "Lay Up for yourselves treasure in heaven where moth and rust cannot destroy and where thieves cannot break in and steal. Lay up for yourselves." Listen, ladies and gentlemen, here's the bottom line. You can't take anything with you.
But you can send it on ahead.
You can send it on ahead. See, although this is just a silly illustration, it still makes me laugh, thinking about the person who enters into glory. Jesus leads them to the place where they're going to be staying and it's a half built little wood shack and they're like, "Hey, hey, hey. I thought this was going to be better than this." And Jesus says, "Well, we worked with what you sent us." It's not going to go exactly like that, by the way, but it's a good reminder that we need to be sending it on ahead because Paul tells us very clearly and Jesus tells us very clearly, "Lay up for yourself treasures as a firm foundation of the coming age so that you can take hold of the life that is truly life." In other words, what he's saying is this. When all of your concentration is just on the here and now, then here's what you have a tendency to do. You're holding on to all of your stuff like it's somehow going to save you. Then, here's what we do, even if we're believers. We end up stumbling backwards into heaven, holding onto all of this. Why would we not rather live like this open hands and turn our faces and run straight to Jesus? Because he is the richness of our lives. Nothing else compares at any point at all.
I mean, just imagine how foolish it would be if you got transferred to Hong Kong and you were going to live there for a year, and they gave you an apartment. It was a very spartan kind of apartment, not much in there. They said, "Here's the deal. You're going to work here. We're going to pay you. We're going to pay you a lot of money. You're going to work here in Hong Kong, but it's only a one-year stint. Here's the only caveat. You can't bring anything back on the plane to the United States." How foolish of you if all you did while you were in Hong Kong is spend your paycheck buying stuff for your apartment? By the end of the year, you've got the sweetest apartment in Hong Kong. Everybody's like, "Dude, this is sweet." Then, you get on a plane, and you go back to the United States. None of it comes with you. It's all there. It's just a waste. When what you could have done is you could have, every paycheck you received, send it on ahead to the United States for when you got there.
Something for us to think about, right? In this short life that we lead, we get so tied up. I'm not talking about not being able to provide for ourselves and being able to enjoy what God provides. I'm not talking about any of that. That's true, but I'm convinced that the United States is in the grip of greed and doesn't even know it. The church of Jesus is often times in that same grip, and we don't even know it because we still think because we sing loud and we yell and we raise our hands, but we've got nothing to share, we're not generous, we somehow think that we're obeying God because we had an emotional experience with God on a Sunday. I think that we need obedience more than experience because when we obey, we begin to experience God more deeply as God intends.
Now, all that to say Jesus is worth it. We've been saying that in some of our singing. Jesus is worth because you know what? In the day and age that we live in, I'm not sure that there may come a time where following Jesus may cost us everything. I don't know. It certainly has in Christian history in the lives of our brothers and sisters, and it may yet for us. Listen to this. Even if following Jesus costs us everything, it will never cost as much as Jesus is worth. We've got to somehow get our minds back to that place because every one of us has to come to that decision. "You can not serve two masters," Jesus said. "You'll love the one and despise the other. You can not serve God and money," Jesus says.
This is the warning from the teacher. This is what Paul begins to articulate, but there's such a better thing. That's finding our true riches in Jesus Christ and maybe, if God so blesses us, learning to walk in godliness and humility and wisdom and learning what life looks like to live openhanded and generous and willing to share and doing the deeds and all of those things, right? See, we've all got to make that decision. We've all got to come to that point at some point. We've got to make a call, not just in theory. We've got to make a call in our lives. What is it going to be? What master am I going to serve? Is it Jesus or is it stuff? What world am I going to live in, just this one or the kingdom? That's what we have to come to a conclusion of. You know, it reminds me of the story of a man that if you're maybe in your 40s and 50s and older you might know, but maybe if you're younger, you might not. His name was George Beverly Shea. George Beverly Shea ended up being kind of the song leader and singer for Billy Graham for decade after decade after decade.
I dare say that George Beverly Shea probably sang the truth of the gospel and sang the truth of scripture to hundreds of millions of people, maybe even more than a billion in his lifetime, between live appearances and television. Extraordinary, but it almost didn't happen. See, as a 22-year-old, George Beverly Shea was working at an insurance firm, and he was struggling with the temptations of life, about how to make money, but he was a believer. His mom was a godly woman. She knew he was in this very big temptation. He was this golden-voiced baritone guy back in the day, might have had a great option with a secular recording contract or maybe even in the insurance field, and wasn't sure if he was going to utilize his giftedness for his own personal benefit and gain or maybe for something different. His mom, who was godly, she knew what was going on in his life. As only a mom can do, she got a little bit sneaky but in all the good mom ways. I would tell you what she did, but I would prefer that George Beverly Shea tell you. Take a listen.
[George Beverly Shea]
Yes, I have a dear mother, about 84 years of age, who will be watching this program over in Syracuse, New York. It was many years ago, she found this poem written by Mrs. Rhea F. Miller and she found it at a particular time of my life when we were going through some temptations and spiritual need. She put this poem on the piano. As I read it, I had to sing it. This simple melody came to mind that morning. It's my testimony. "I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold. I'd rather be his than have riches untold. I'd rather have Jesus than houses or lands. I'd rather be led by his nail-pierced hand."
What a story behind that song, to think that it almost wasn't, but mom put this poem and he put it to music and it became his testimony. It may be one of the most sung songs he's ever sung in the world. It has everything to do with the worth of Jesus. We're going to have to figure that out. True riches are found in Jesus. You see, for many of us, we're like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah," but it's just theory for us. We've got to decide what does the Spirit of God want us to do about that. It's like the little kids that were King's World, being taught that Jesus is worth everything. The teacher's saying to the kids, "If you had a million dollars, would you give it all to Jesus?" They say, "Yeah." Teacher said, "Well, if you had $1,000, would you give it all to Jesus?" They're like, "Yeah." "Well, if you had $100, would you give it all to Jesus?" They said, "Yeah." Then, the teacher said, "If you had $1, would you give it all to Jesus?" They all said, "Yeah," except for one little boy. The teacher said, "Hey, bud. What's the matter?" He said, "I actually have a dollar."
See, that's what happens to us. Man, as the song's going, you're worth it all, but stay out of my billfold. You see, we've got to make this more than just theory. We've got to ask the Spirit of God what he wants us to do about it. For some of you, that may mean crawling out of debt and figuring out a way to do that by God's principles. For some of you, listen to this, the best antidote for the love of money that leads to all kinds of evil, the best antidote is generosity. That is how you counter that attack, generosity. I don't know what God wants you to do, but I want you to do whatever it is he wants you to do. Let's bow our heads for prayer. Before we're gone, you may be here and maybe church is new to you. Maybe the Bible is new to you, faith is new to you. You maybe came with a friend. It happens every week.
First of all, I want to tell you how grateful I am that you came. Thank you for being here. Secondly, I would remind you that the thing that we're talking about here, first and foremost, has to do with a relationship with God through his Son Jesus. That's why I shared that scripture with you a few moments ago, that Jesus Christ, though he was rich, he made everything, everything was made in him and through him and for him, but he left it all, became poor, so that he could die in our place as the sinless Son of God, our substitute, taking upon himself all of our sin, all of our failure, dying as a just sacrifice, willingly so, and rising from the dead, conquering death and hell and the grave. You see, he became poor so that, in him, we might become rich, rich in him because now we've experienced the richness of his grace and the richness of his glory with his life living through us.
If you've never come to a place where you've received Jesus, where you've turned from sin and placed your faith in Christ, then in just a moment when I pray and dismiss us, I hope that you'll take an opportunity to maybe walk out through the atrium into the Fireside Room that's clearly marked. We've got some pastors there, some other prayer partners there who would love to share with you what it looks like to receive Jesus. If you sensed that God is drawing you to himself, you sense that, then I hope you'll come by and let one of our pastors or prayer partners talk to you for a moment about that, about what it means to surrender your life to Jesus and to know life now and life everlasting. There's no bigger decision you'll make in your life, none. Father, I pray for those who you're drawing to yourself, God, that you would give them, by your own power, your own Spirit, the boldness to be able to walk across the atrium and understand what it means to yield themselves to you. Lord, I also pray for those of us who have been following you for however long. We've been transformed by your grace, but we have let the talons of greed sometimes circle our hearts.
I pray you'd help us to see and to know and to experience what true riches in Jesus really are and, as a result, that we would have an eternal mindset, not one that's just set on the here and now, but one that is set on that which is to come, so that the world would look at us as people from another world, people who are ambassadors of a kingdom that is both among us and that is coming in fullness. Would you help us to be those kinds of people, that when people look at our lives, they see people who are so experiencing the richness of Jesus, that we continue out of that great grace that you've shown to us to do good works, to be generous and willing to share and to have our mind and our treasure set on things above? Lord, help us to image you that way, that you might be glorified in our lives and in the world that we're in because we would rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.