You’re Not NEEDY You’re GREEDY
SCRIPTURE READING - Ecclesiastes: 5:10 – 20
The one who loves silver is never satisfied with silver, and whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with income. This too is futile. When good things increase, the ones who consume them multiply; what, then, is the profit to the owner, except to gaze at them with his eyes? The sleep of the worker is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of the rich permits him no sleep. There is a sickening tragedy I have seen under the sun: wealth kept by its owner to his harm. That wealth was lost in a bad venture, so when he fathered a son, he was empty-handed. As he came from his mother’s womb, so he will go again, naked as he came; he will take nothing for his efforts that he can carry in his hands. This too is a sickening tragedy: exactly as he comes, so he will go. What does the one gain who struggles for the wind? What is more, he eats in darkness all his days, with much frustration, sickness, and anger. Here is what I have seen to be good: It is appropriate to eat, drink, and experience good in all the labor one does under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him, because that is his reward. Furthermore, everyone to whom God has given riches and wealth, he has also allowed him to enjoy them, take his reward, and rejoice in his labor. This is a gift of God, for he does not often consider the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with the joy of his heart.
Well friends, I do greet you in the wonderful name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let's bow our heads and prepare our hearts for the teaching of God's Word.
Father God, your word is true, it is without error, it is sufficient for all matters of life and godliness upon it. We can stake our faith and moreover it points us to Jesus Christ. This morning Lord God, would you transform our minds as we read your word. Father God, would you cause our hearts to be stirred by your spirit that we might be believers of the word. Lord God, would you change our lives and conform it toward the image of Jesus Christ our Lord and our Saviour, that we might live our lives to you praise and glory and this we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
In the book The Treasure Principal, Randy Alcorn opens with a rather startling statistic: “15 percent of everything Christ said relates to [money and possessions] - more than His teachings on Heaven and Hell combined.” Alcorn goes on to ask, “Why did Jesus put such an emphasis on money and possessions?” He answers, “Because there’s a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives and how we think about and handle money. We may try to divorce our faith and finances, but God sees them as inseparable.” He then gives a number of Biblical examples which I'm going to borrow. For instance, in Luke 3, crowds gather to hear John the Baptist preach, and three different groups asked him “how they should demonstrate fruit consistent with repentance”. (Luke 3:8)
- First are The Crowds – He (Jesus) replies to them, “The one who has two shirts must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same” (Luke 3: 11)
- Next was The Tax Collectors – He (Jesus) told them, “Don’t collect any more than what you have been authorized” (Luke 3:13).
- Finally, there were Some Soldiers – He (Jesus) said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by the force or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages” (Luke 3:14).
To quote Alcorn again, “No one had asked John about finances! They wanted to know how to demonstrate spiritual transformation. So why did John’s response centre almost exclusively on money and possessions?” He answers, “Our approach to money and possessions is central to our spiritual lives.” In Luke 19: 8-9, the tax collector Zacchaeus said to Jesus, “Look, I’ll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord. And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I’ll pay back four times as much.” And Jesus responded by saying, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Zacchaeus’s new approach to money proved his heart had been transformed. “Acts tells of Jerusalem converts who eagerly sold their possessions to give to the needy (Acts 2:45, 4:32-35). Ephesian occultists proved the authenticity of their conversion when they burned their magic books, worth [tens of] millions of [Rands] in today’s currency (Acts:19:19). And there is the poor widow who steps off the pages of Scripture by giving two small coins. And Jesus praises her saying, “she out of her poverty has put in everything she had” (Mark 12:44). The point is that Money Matters! Now you will hear that from your tax consultant, your financial advisor and your hairdresser, but from your pastor today, you're going to hear that money matters, but not in the way that you think. Under the sun, as we live out our short lives on God's green earth, money matters because it is a litmus of our faith, a demonstration of our spiritual transformation and a living testimony to God working powerfully in us.
Over the next few weeks we'll look at Ecclesiastes 5:10-20 and, guided by Solomon, the preacher, the searcher, the writer of the book, we'll do a spiritual health check from verse 10-17 to test where we are regarding our heart and money; and then from verse 18-20 we'll consider how we can live spiritual lives that do not divorce faith and finances under the sun.
So first, the spiritual health check, a series of questions to determine if we have the spiritual diseases of affluenza:
- Do you Chase after Money, but are Never Satisfied? (10a)
- In verse 10,“The one who loves silver is never satisfied with silver,”
- Do YOU chase after money? The one who loves silver:
- To be clear, it is the love of money, and not money itself, that is the problem. Our text talks of the one who loves silver. The love of money is a sin because it gets in the way of worshiping God.
- How can money come between YOU and God?
- W Tozer has a useful illustration to explain. He says, “Money often comes between men and God. Someone has said that you can take two small ten-cent pieces and shut out the view of a panoramic landscape. Go to the mountains, [we might say go to God's Window in Mpumalanga or Table Mountain in Cape Town or the Heads in Knysna], and just hold two coins closely in front of your eyes--the mountains are still there, but you cannot see them at all because [the ten-cent pieces are] shutting off the vision in each eye. It doesn’t [even] take large quantities of money to come between us and God; just a little, placed in the wrong position, will effectively obscure our view [of His glory].”
- Where do YOU place money in YOUR heart?
- Do YOU Chase after Money, but are Never Satisfied?
- Our text says, “The one who loves silver is never satisfied”
- The love of money is like a drug, the more you take it the more you'll need it. Loving money will become a colossal waste of time and misdirected affection. Time wasted chasing the dollar (Proverbs 23:4) and affection misdirected worshipping the almighty dollar rather than the Almighty God (Luke 10:27).
- Listen to men, who speaking from all the experience that the world has to offer, talking of the foolishness of chasing after money and the dissatisfaction of getting your hands on a lot of it:
- John Jacob Astor (1763-1848) was a German–American businessman, merchant, real estate mogul and investor who mainly made his fortune in a fur trade monopoly and by investing in real estate in or around New York City. He was the first multi-millionaire in the United States. Quote, “I am the most miserable man on earth.”
- William Henry Vanderbilt (1821-1885) was an American businessman. He was heir to a fortune of $100 million dollars. The fortune had doubled when he died less than nine years later. Vanderbilt said, “The care of $200,000,000 is enough to kill anyone. There is no pleasure in it.”
- Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) was a Scottish-American industrialist, and philanthropist. He led the expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century and became one of the richest Americans in history. It is said that he gave away $350 million (conservatively $65 billion in today’s terms. He said, “Millionaires seldom smile.”
- John Davison Rockefeller (1839-1937) was an American business magnate and philanthropist. He is widely considered the wealthiest American of all time, and the richest person in modern history. When asked, “How much money was enough?” he replied, “Just a little bit more.” He also said, “I have made many millions, but they have brought me no happiness.”
I could stand here all morning and quote wealthy man after wealthy man who at the end, recognised that money wasn't the wellspring of satisfaction... but I fear their warnings will go in one of your ears and plop out on the other side. I fear that we will largely ignore them because John Jacob Astor, William Henry Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, John Davison Rockefeller had what we don't have is MONEY and so our response is a little like that old Beatles song, “Money don’t get everything, it’s true / What it don’t get, I can’t use / Now give me money (that’s what I want).” And, “The best things in life are free /But you can keep them for the birds and bees / Now give me money (That's what I want).”
You see, too many of us are suffering from a terrible case of Affluenza. Influenza is the flu. Affluenza, from the word affluence which is “the state of having a great deal of money; wealth” is a spiritual disease, an insatiable, unquenchable desire for more and more. We're suffering from Affluenza.
Do YOU chase after Money, but are Never Satisfied?
You might say, “No, that's not me.” Can you remember litmus paper from school? Those strips of paper that would tell you if a substance is an acid or base. I want to give you a heart litmus testing kit inspired by an article Steven Cole wrote:
1) Do YOU view money and possessions as YOUR’s or God’s?
This is the basic stewardship question. While the Bible recognizes personal property rights there is a fundamental sense that God owns everything. You just manage it for Him, and one day, at judgment, you'll give an account to Him (Matthew 25:14-30, Romans 14:10,12). If it's all yours, yours, YOURS! You’re greedy not needy.
2) Why do YOU want more money?
What is your motive? There's nothing wrong with wanting to provide for your family's needs. But if you just want a bigger house than Stan or Sipho down the street, You’re greedy not needy.
3) Here’s a heart question, Are YOU more concerned about wealth creation or your eternal destiny?
There’s nothing wrong with working hard and succeeding in your career. But if you spend every waking moment consumed with how to succeed financially and seldom think about putting God’s kingdom and righteousness first, you're heading in the wrong direction.
4) Now we'll spend more time on this when we return to the text next time, but is money or God the source of YOUR security?
You know the right answer to this one... But ask yourself the question, will I trust God if, like Job, I lost everything? Will you turn to God or despair if you lost everything tomorrow?
5) How much do YOU mourn the loss of money and things?
What’s your level of grief when you lose something that is directly proportional to your emotional attachment to that thing? I fear that many people suffer the loss of their employment more than their loss of fellowship of the saints or corporate worship during lockdown. That must say something about the state of your heart to you. It’s normal to grieve when we lose something of value, whether a possession or money. But if you're trusting the Lord and recognizing that all we have belongs to Him, you shouldn’t be devastated. If you are, you’re greedy not needy
6) Do YOU cling to YOUR things or are YOU generous and ready to share?
In Luke 16, Jesus speaks about using earthly treasure to accumulate a heavenly reward. Ask yourself, are you so earthly minded that you would get as excited, if not more, about taking advantage of a strategic opportunity to give to further the Lord’s work as you would with a great investment opportunity?
7) Some things ought to count far more than making money:
God’s reputation through my testimony as a Christian; my relationship with Jesus Christ; a clear conscience; my relationship with my wife, my children, and other people. So, ask the question, Do I compromise godly character or priorities in the pursuit of making money? If you would cheat, or lie, or steal to get ahead financially or to avoid loss, you’re greedy and not needy. Do you realise that people will go to hell for all eternity for stealing? If you are willing to make money at the expense of being a witness for Jesus Christ, you're greedy and not needy.
8) Am I prone to get-rich-quick schemes?
If you are drawn into easy, instant ways to make a fortune, like gambling, playing the lottery, or getting into one of those sleazy Ponzi schemes, you’re greedy and not needy. I can't tell you how many times I've been told by a person about how their investment into some get-rich-quick scheme is about giving to the Lord’s work. You're just lying to yourself and negotiating terms with the god that you're serving. But that god is Mammon, not Adonai. You’re greedy and not needy.
- And, as you've been ticking the list above and you're noticing you're 50/50, a little shaky/shaky, here's the kicker, Are you in bondage to credit cards and debt? I'm not talking about your bond, or some temporary arrangement because of the current lockdown. I’m talking about habitual overspending. You know your budget/finances. More and more junk to keep yourself happy. It uncovers your greed, not your need.
Unbeliever, you've broken the 10th Commandment, “Do not covet” (Exodus 20:17). Jesus said, “Watch out and be on guard against all greed, because one’s life is not in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:21). Paul said that covertness is an idol of the heart, so it's breaking the 2nd Commandment as well, when he wrote, “Every sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:5). Let me read that again, “does not have an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” Your sin has consequences, separation from the presence of God, an eternal death, the second death. That's because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a). That's bad news. Really bad news.
But there is good news. The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23b). Jesus, the Son of God, came into this world and dwelt amongst us (John 1:14). He was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). You must understand, we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). After His baptism, Jesus left the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days to be tempted by the devil. At one point the Devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. The devil said to him, “I will give you their splendor and all this authority, because it has been given over to me, and I can give it to anyone I want. If you, then, will worship me, all will be yours.” It is here upon which the fate of all the world hinged. Would Jesus choose all the riches, fame and fortune that this world under the sun can offer or would He find His satisfaction in God? Do you know what I would have chosen? The World!! This sin stunk hellhole is what the children of Adam would have chosen but not the Messiah, not the Christ, not Jesus my Lord, He chose God! Jesus looked that wily serpent in the eye and said, “It is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Luke 4:1-8). While you are sinful, Jesus Christ is righteous, and when He laid down His life, He did so to pay the price that your sin deserves. But Satan couldn't hold Him, He did not have Him as his own, the grave could not keep Him! Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o'er His foes. He arose a Victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!
Friend, that's Good News. Today, He offers His merits, His righteousness to you in exchange for your sin, your filthy rags. Believe upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved! Turn to Him and you will live! Your faith and trust are well placed in Jesus Christ as your Saviour.
But, “the one who loves silver is never satisfied with silver”. A Money Driven Heart Cannot be satisfied by More Money! And so, we start our spiritual health check from verse 10-17 testing where we, where our heart is regarding money. Considering how we can live spiritual lives in ways that do not divorce faith and finances under the sun. Friends, half a verse complete of 10, we'll need to assemble again next time to continue the journey.
Father God in heaven, our minds read the words, “The one who loves silver is never satisfied with silver” but our hearts are wicked. Too often we love money in ways that do not glorify you. Please forgive us. Cleanse us from unrighteousness for the sake of your dear son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Saviour. And cause us to live in paths of righteousness for your own name sake. Even this morning Lord God, would your word go out in power and not return void, that you might be glorified in this place as you will be glorified in heaven forever and ever to come. Amen.
Friend, that brings our service to a close. I am going to read a benediction taken from the closing verses from the book for Hebrews 13:20-21:
Now may the God of peace, who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus—the great Shepherd of the sheep—through the blood of the everlasting covenant, equip you with everything good to do his will, working in us what is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.