Teaching series from Hebrews

Christian Distinctives #2: Money & Possessions

Hebrews 13:5-6

Teaching t05008


>> Remind of theme: profile of distinctive Christian values/priorities/character.  These are key ways God wants his people to be different from others, exposing by positive contrast the futility of this way of life, so they'll be attracted to him.

WHAT: Read vs 5,6.  Here is another key distinctive.  It has to do with how we relate to material things (MONEY; POSSESSIONS).  While our lives are to be characterized by love of brethren and strangers (vs 1-3), they are to be free from both love of money (aphilarguria - lover of silver) and material anxiety (vs 5b,6).

WHY: On what basis can we live this kind of life?  This passage makes it crystal clear that there is one and only one basis: Because God promises his loving care for those who belong to him.

HOW: This sounds simple, but it doesn't come simply to any of us.  I know I struggle in this area on a regular basis.  Let's turn to another passage which gives us more detailed and practical instruction on how to make this distinctive a reality in our liveswhether we are poor, average or rich...

To The Un-Rich: Flee From the Desire to Be Rich (1Tim.6:7-12a)

>> QUALIFY: It is not wrong to desire to earn more money to meet expanding needs and serve others (EXAMPLE).  It is wrong to desire to earn more to get the ego-boost and luxuries of wealth.  Paul gives three reasons for this:

Because you can't take any of it with you (vs 7)

MUSEUM ART-COLLECTOR >> "NO TRAILER HITCHES ON HEARSES."  Especially for the one who really believes in eternal life, it is stupid to spend your life chasing and accumulating things that must be left behind when you die.

Because you can be content without being wealthy (vs 8)

Why?  Because true wealth in this life is "godliness" (vs 6) and godliness doesn't require material wealth.  Godliness is developing and enjoying your love relationship with God, seeking godly character (vs11b) and fulfilling God's purpose for your life (vs12a).  Godliness begins with receiving Christ (GOSPEL).

Because the desire to be rich will destroy your life (vs 9,10).

If we substituted "become substance abusers" for "want to get rich" in vs9, everyone would agree with Paul's description of the results.  But our society, which has declared war on drugs, actively promotes the desire to get rich.  Yet Paul says it will destroy your life just as surely.

Material lust is the #1 narcotic in the U.S.  We have a war on drugs today, but material lust is affirmed to an unparalleled extent in American history ("JUST SAY NO" TO MATERIALISM??; FAMILY INTERVENTION FOR MONEY LUST??).  Yet consider the parallels between substance abuse/dependence and material lust:

Both reinforce the demand for instant gratification.  This not only leads to the slavery of CREDIT DEBT; it perpetuates fundamental immaturity--the inability to say "No" to yourself ("YOU DESERVE THE BEST!").

Both operate by the law of diminishing returns.  The more you take, the more you need just to maintain the effect (CREDIT DEBT).

Both can interfere with and even destroy personal relationships.  We've all heard of family interventions over substance abuse.  But why don't we see the same step taken for material lust?  It destroys marriages and relationships with children just as effectively--and much more often.

Both can lead you into other destructive behaviors.  Drug abusers often turn to crime to support their habit (SEATTLE PROSTITUTE ON "NIGHTLINE").  But what do you think the main reason for WHITE-COLLAR CRIME is?

Both tend to blind you to their destructive effects on you.   The substance abuser can temporarily escape his problems by copping a BUZZ.  Everybody else sees his problem, but he isn't aware of it.  How is this different from the lover of money, who escapes painful reality with another MALL ACQUISITION?

Both prevent you from progressing spiritually.  Most people realize that the substance abuser isn't going to be able to go very far in his relationship with God until he kicks the habit.  But Jesus teaches the exact same thing about the one who loves money (Mk.4:19; Matt.6:24).

>> SUMMARY: Most of the people who have had the greatest impact for good on this world, and who were the most satisfied at the end of their lives never had material wealth!!!  Reject it as a goal which is unworthy of your attention!!!

To the Rich (1 Tim.6:17-19)

>> What about those Christians who are already wealthy?  Or who become wealthy through inheritance or wise business decisions?  Read vs 17-19.  Notice that he doesn't tell them to give all their money away, nor does he tell them to feel guilty for enjoying what God has permitted them to have (vs 17b).  But he does give them two warnings and one positive instruction.

Don't let your wealth make you conceited (vs 17a).

There is something about having more money than someone else that makes you feel superior.  In fact, much of the appeal of wealth is the desire to feel important ("INNER RING").  But Paul emphatically rejects this conclusion.

God gave you everything you have (1Cor.4:6 >> WEALTHY PARENTS; BUSINESS SENSE; OPPORTUNITY), so there is absolutely no basis for viewing yourself any better than anyone else.

Besides, in the area that matters most, you are just like everyone else: a sinner saved by grace (PARDONED CONVICT SNOBBING OTHERS).

There is absolutely no necessary correlation between material wealth and greatness in God's eyes.  Greatness is godliness, and godliness is often more plentiful among the poor than the rich simply because they are more likely to see their need for God (see Jesus' evaluation of Smyrna [Rev.2:9] and Laodecia [Rev.3:17]). 

Can you personally serve others who are not wealthy (GRAHAM W/ W.T. KIDS)?  Are your models people who are godly regardless of wealth?

Don't let your wealth sap your spiritual motivation (vs 17b).

To "fix your hope" on something means to make it the object of your affections.  Material wealth tends to quench love and hunger for God.  Read Deut. 8:7-14.  The enjoyment of wealth (which is not bad in itself) tends to slowly but surely become the center of your affections and crowd God out to the periphery.

If you are wealthy, it will take real concerted effort to stay spiritually fit.

Ask God to do whatever it takes to keep you spiritually hungry--even if that means losing your wealth.  What does it mean if you are unwilling to do this?

Use your wealth to be a conduit of God's love to others (vs 18).

God doesn't view material wealth as a blessing so much as a responsibility.  Since God is the owner of all wealth, if he has entrusted you with much of it, he holds you responsible to use it to advance his interests (EXPLAIN).

Tragically, the more people make, the less they usually give (HENDRICKS ARTICLE).  But some have been key players in spiritual movements (LADY HUNTINGDON FOR WESLEY).  If you're interested, I can hook you up with people who are like this (MERCER; JET).