Generous Faith

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December 16, 2018

Allen Burns

Memory Verse: Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  (2 Corinthians 9:7)

MAIN IDEA: Demonstrate genuine faith by the way you manage your wealth.

This message is our third of a five-part series on the generous heart. We’ve seen how Scripture teaches that a generous heart is generous with life’s possessions. God doesn’t want us to unreasonably store up wealth and keep everything for ourselves. We’ve seen how Scripture teaches that our life does not belong to us. We need to give generously of our life to sow in the kingdom of heaven. We are the servants of God, and we are to build His kingdom and not our own.

Today, we will look at the relationship between how we manage our wealth and our faith. (Turn your Bibles to Mark chapter 10) The main idea of the message is that we are to demonstrate genuine faith in God by the way we manage our wealth.

During the Scripture reading, we heard an excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus teaches that we may not serve God and our wealth. Instead, we are to be storing up treasures in heaven. The encounter with the rich young ruler, which takes place a few years after the Sermon on the Mount (as Jesus is making His way to Jerusalem for His final week), is a great example of Jesus’ teaching.

A wonderful question!

Three gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, record the sad story of the rich young ruler. Let’s read about his encounter with Jesus.

17 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. (Mark 10:17-22)

False Religion (False faith)

Many people speak on this passage because a man asks Jesus the most important question someone may ask, which is, “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Imagine how wonderful it might be to have a friend ask us such a great question. We’d say, pull up a chair and let me tell you about Jesus. It would be a joyous day; depending on the response. If they respond favorably to putting their faith in Jesus, it will be joyous. But, if they are like the man in this story, it will be a very sad day.

The man asks Jesus this important question, he hears the answer, and then he walks away saddened. He doesn’t like the answer he gets from Jesus.

The young ruler runs up to Jesus and bows before Him. There are not very many people in the Bible that run up to Jesus and bow before Him. The only other occurrence is when Jesus encounters the man living in the tombs because he is possessed with a legion of demons (Mark 5:6). He sees Jesus from a distance, runs to Jesus, and bows before Him.

Think about the contrast between these two men. The demon possessed man is naked and covered in self-inflicted wounds. He likely smells. He lives in poverty and misery. He doesn’t own a home. He cannot live in the city because he is a menace to society. The rich young ruler wears beautiful, expensive clothing. He is bathed and wears oils. He lives in luxury. He is a ruler in the community.

The contrast between these men is also shown at the end of their encounter. The demon possessed man meets Jesus, and is filled with joy, and begs that he might follow Jesus. The rich young ruler meets Jesus, and he walks away sad.

Blind to Jesus

What causes the young ruler to go away sad? He is blind and cannot see. He is living in darkness.

First, he is blind to the deity of Jesus. He calls Jesus a good teacher, but not because he believes Jesus is God. He is using the phrase loosely. Jesus calls him out on it.

The young ruler is blind to what pleases God. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. He is blind to the truth that salvation is by faith in Jesus. He believes he may do something to be saved. He wants to know what it is he needs to do. He wants to add one more thing to his list. Jesus tells him the one thing, which is to follow Him. But the ruler doesn’t believe Jesus, and he walks away.

The ruler is blind to Jesus’ ability to meet his needs. The man seeks to be righteous by obeying the commands of the covenant, but he doesn’t know that Jesus is His righteousness. He is blind that Jesus can bring him greater joy than his riches ever could bring. Imagine being so in love with your possessions that you are willing to choose them over Jesus.

The young ruler is blind to the truth that only Jesus offers eternal life. Little does this man know, but in less than six months, the Man he calls “good teacher,” will die on a cross, be buried, and walk out of the grave. Jesus proves that He alone offers eternal life. There is no other way. What the man seeks is standing in front of him.

What is interesting about the man is that he walks away saddened because he wants to hold onto his earthly treasures. But, look what Jesus says to him. Jesus says, “sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” He is blind to the treasure of Jesus. He wants to hold onto his wealth than to hold onto and embrace the treasure which is Jesus. Standing in front of the ruler is the Creator of wealth. Jesus providentially gives the rich young ruler his possessions, and the man walks away from Jesus.

Let’s ask ourselves, “Which is more valuable? The goose that lays the golden egg or the golden egg?” The man walks away and chooses the egg over the goose. He does so because he is blind.

The Difficulty of Salvation

After he walks away, Jesus teaches His disciples about what just happened.

23 And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:23-27)

Who can be saved?

Jesus makes two startling statements that throw His disciple's theology into a spin. The first statement causes His disciples to be amazed. He says, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”

But amazement is not enough. Jesus wants to add to their amazement. He is going to take things to an even greater level. Jesus then says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The second statement brings the disciples amazement to the next level. Mark’s Gospel says that they were even more astonished.

Saying that a camel will pass through the eye of a needle is the opposite of us saying, “it’s a piece of cake.” It is a Jewish idiom for saying something is impossible which is why Jesus follows up by saying that it is impossible, for men. What the disciples hear Jesus say is that salvation is impossible for the wealthy.

Whoa! Jesus is calling the salvation of the Jewish patriarchs into question. Joseph, Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Solomon are wealthy. Jesus is saying it is impossible for them to enter into the kingdom of God.

Another reason to be astonished is because of the Law. They know the law of the covenant very well. They read chapter 28 of Deuteronomy, and they put those verses on their pillows and put it on their mirrors. Listen to God’s promise to His people if they obey:

"The LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. The LORD will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.” (Deuteronomy 28:11-12)

In Israel, the common belief is that if a person is rich, it is because God made them prosper. Therefore, to be rich requires the person to be in favor with God. God is blessing them because they are obedient. But this is a faulty conclusion.

Jesus wants to help His disciples not to make faulty conclusions. They will get into heaven because of faith, not because of obedience. Wealth is not a barometer of God’s favor. God looks at the heart, and God is pleased with faith. We may not make a correlation between wealth and faith. Jesus wants His disciples to know that just because the rich young ruler is rich, that doesn’t mean that he is righteous before God. The righteousness God requires only comes by faith.

Beware of the blindfold of wealth

We need to be careful that the pursuit of wealth does not blind us. We don’t have to be wealthy to be blinded by wealth. There are poor people who are blinded by riches.

There are three ways in which wealth (e.g., money, treasure, possessions) may be a blindfold that obscures our vision of God.

First, wealth blinds us to the owner of all things. The earth is the LORD'S and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it (Psalm 24:1). We can be fooled into thinking we own our possessions. When we arrived on this earth, we hold nothing in our hands. When we leave, we take nothing with us.  Everything was here when we got here and will still be here when we leave. Nothing belongs to us. Everything belongs to God.

Second, wealth blinds us to who meets our needs. We earn money, and we use the money to buy our daily bread. We can be fooled into thinking money meets our needs. Having money makes faith in God more difficult. We start looking to money as the source to meet our needs. Money gives us recognition. When we buy a fancy car, we think our reputation is enhanced. Money gives us security and peace. We can use the money to hire an army to protect us. As money provides, more effort is placed on getting more money.

Our thinking that money can be used to meet our needs is nothing but an illusion. God gives us our employment. God supplies our daily bread. God provides our reputation by adopting us as His children. God protects us from our enemies. God meets our needs, not wealth.

Third, wealth blinds us to who is in control. We tell our children, study hard, get a good job, work hard, and your needs will be met. The obvious conclusion is that success and value in life is up to the child. God is out of the picture. We teach our children, work hard, and you will get rewarded. It’s up to you. The power is yours.

The reality of life is that everything is in God’s power and control. God may interrupt our plans, and He does. We are completely at the mercy of God’s purpose and plan. We think having money will control our destiny. Only God is sovereign.

We need to ask ourselves, am I serving my wealth? Do I work to earn a paycheck, or do I work for the glory of God? Jesus said, No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth (Matthew 6:24).

The reason the Bible speaks often about money is that it reveals our heart. God wants us to know that money is a very real temptation that will cause us to be led astray. The way we spend our money reflects our heart. Where our treasure is, that’s where we will find our heart.

Beware of how money can blind us to God.

Thankfully: Nothing is impossible with God. He can change hearts

Before moving on, it is important to address what Jesus says to His disciples regarding salvation. He said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

God can make a camel go through an eye of a needle. And God can take a human heart which is His enemy, and change that heart, so it will have faith in Christ. Saul, the Pharisee who kills Christians is an impossible convert. It is impossible for Saul to be saved. But, with God, it is possible. God changes Saul, and he becomes the Apostle Paul.

All Christians are saved because God does an impossible work in the human heart. We need to thank God for His work of faith. Faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8).

Speaking of faith, let’s look at the faith of the Jesus’ disciples.

Genuine Faith

28 Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.”

Peter is patting himself on the back. Peter is saying, “We’ve done this great thing. We’ve left everything to follow you. We did what the rich young ruler did not.”

Jesus responds and corrects Peter’s thinking.

29 Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”

The wording on this verse is awkward because it sounds like Jesus is saying no one leaves their house or family for His sake. So, let’s look at it in Matthew’s gospel which is written more clearly.

And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration (when we are resurrected) when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:28-29)

Jesus is saying to Peter, “Yes Peter, you left behind being a fisherman to follow Me. You left behind a thriving business. However, are you thinking you gave something up when the reality is you gain 100 times more? Peter, wouldn’t you give up being a fisherman to sit on one of the 12 thrones.”

The reality is Peter is not the only one who needs a reality check. As Christians, we give up nothing. The truth is, we gain everything. We gain salvation and eternal life. When we follow Jesus, we become adopted sons and daughters of God and joint-heirs with Christ. We never give up anything to follow Jesus. We gain everything when we follow Jesus.

Genuine Faith

We need to live our lives differently than the rich young ruler. We have genuine faith.

Those who have genuine faith, follow Jesus at all cost. We do so because we know that salvation is gain and not loss. We are in possession of the unfathomable riches of Christ.

Therefore, when we serve or give, let’s not pat ourselves on the back. When we do, it’s like saying, “I left everything. I left working in that coal mine and living in a shack to live with Jesus in His mansion in glory.”

People with genuine faith in Christ are not concerned about being first on this earth. We know that to be first, we need to be last. We need to be like Jesus and humble ourselves and consider others as more valuable. We need to get in the back of the line knowing that, in due time, God will exalt us. The last shall be first.

Demonstrate genuine faith by the way you manage your wealth

Here are three ways we can demonstrate our faith in God by how we manage our wealth. The rich young ruler did not have genuine faith, and he fails to demonstrate genuine faith.

As people with genuine faith, we need to recognize God as the source of all wealth. We know God is the source of our wealth, and we trust Him to provide for us. We serve God and not wealth. We hold wealth loosely because it belongs to God and not us. We recognize God as the source of our wealth, so we give Him thanks. If we have extra, we thank Him for His provision instead of patting ourselves on the back for our work and effort.

God is generous, so those who have genuine faith from God will be joyfully generous. Our faith in God has us give with a purposeful heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for we know God loves a cheerful giver. Because God is generous, we give to help pay for the expenses of the church and the support of missionaries. We give because we seek to expand the kingdom of God. We give knowing it pleases the Father. We give because the Bible teaches us that we are to be generous.

Last, and most important, our genuine faith has us keep your eyes on the riches of Christ. We don’t measure our success, or the success of others, by our amount of possessions or the balance of our bank accounts. Money is a means to get by in life. However, it doesn’t rule our hearts and mind. We are captivated by the riches our Savior provides.

Enjoy the riches of Christ. Enjoy following Him knowing we gain Jesus. He is what our soul desires and He fill all our needs.