In the book, How to Believe Again, Helmut Thielicke writes:
I once heard of a child who was raising a frightful cry because he had shoved his hand into the opening of a very expensive Chinese vase and then couldn’t pull it out again. Parents and neighbors tugged with might and main on the child’s arm, with the poor creature howling out loud all the while.
His little fist grasped a paltry penny which he had spied in the bottom of the vase, and which he, in his childish ignorance, would not let go.
For the last several weeks that we have been together we have been talking about greed. We have been considering the words of Jesus and how they apply to people who are so enmored with the things of this world that they hold on to them with a tight fisted grip. Little do they know that they are choking themselves.
And it is true. Many people in this world have become entrapped in their own lusts. They are filled with all kinds of anxieties and woes because they are overly enamored with the things of this world. And in the end, since they hold so tightly to these frivolous things, they end up loosing something of much more worth.
And yet, the truth stands that, if they would only learn to let go, all of that would be solved. Most, if not all, of their troubles would be solved.
That is the point that Jesus makes in this passage this morning. We’ve been talking about the problem of covetousness, and in doing so we have seen some of the troubles that accompany such a life. But as we come to our passage today, we see that Jesus reveals the way to financial peace.
And in this passage he says that the way you still all these worries—the way you put your distracted mind at ease, is to do exactly the opposite of what you are naturally inclined to do. Your tendency is to grab hold, but in these verses Jesus says that your focus should not be on the getting. Instead it should be on the giving.
In this passage Christ shows us what a real repentant attitude will look like. Everything has to radically change, so that we are no longer focused on the consuming, but rather oriented towards charity and the generosity that is characteristic of the kingdom life.
Jesus says that if you want economic peace, then there are two things that are demanded of you. You must rest in the abundant generosity of our God and you must replicate something of that generosity in your own life.
And if we want to gain peace when it comes to our personal estate, the first thing we need to do is rest in the abundant liberality of our God.
I. Resting in the abundant liberality of our God
Look at what Jesus says in verse 32. He says, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you… just enough so that you can eek by in life.”
No! That is not what he says at all! That’s how we typically think, but that is not the reality. Christ says that it is the Father’s good pleasure to “give you the kingdom.”
What is Jesus saying here? He’s saying that we may rest in knowing that God is much more generous than we typically give him credit.
There are some who think that this regards our future prospects as Christians. In other words, they say that it is to be interpreted as a future kingdom, reserved for when Christ comes back or when we die. And yes, that is at least partially true. At some point we will enter into the heavenly kingdom and enjoy such abundance as we have never seen on earth. Every picture we have in Scripture indicates that beyond this life is a kingdom that is so rich and bountiful that we shall have absolutely no cares when it comes our personal estate.
But while it is certainly true that every person who has true faith in Christ has the hopes of a land flowing with milk and honey, we should not think that this verse is limited to a future realm away from this life.
We ought to understand that these words are promises made to us here and now. Right now, our Father is ready to give us the things that we need. We are under his divine care right at this moment and he will not hold back in pouring forth his blessing.
We don’t typically think like this, but we have to remember that Generosity is part of his nature. In theological studies, we reflect on the attributes of God. And we will talk about his justice and his holiness. We will talk about his love and his goodness. But when we do, we often do not include the notion of his open-handedness. Sure, when we talk about his grace we will talk about how liberal he is with that to forgive our sins. And that is very important. We need that assurance that the abundance of his grace is ours in Christ. But when it comes to more temporal items, we are not as ready to speak of how open-handed he is.
Jesus is saying that our heavenly Father is ready at all times to give us not just one thing, or a couple things. But he is ready to give us the entirety of the kingdom. He has already bestowed upon us the treasures of his grace. He has already opened the doors to heaven by means of his own Son’s life. This should not sound like a God who is going to withhold the bounty of his blessing.
This is similar to what Paul says in the book of Romans. Paul says, “Since he has given us his Son, how much more is he ready to give us all things!”
Or, we might listen to what the Geneva Bible study notes say here. The Reformers who put those notes together said, “It is a foolish thing not to look for small things at the hands of him who freely gives us the greatest things.”
The story is told that one day a beggar by the roadside asked for alms from Alexander the Great as he passed by. The man was poor and had no claim upon the ruler, no right even to lift a solicitous hand. Yet the Emperor threw him several gold coins. A courtier was astonished at his generosity and commented, “Sir, copper coins would adequately meet a beggar’s need. Why give him gold?”
Alexander responded in royal fashion, “Copper coins would suit the beggar’s need, but gold coins suit Alexander’s giving.”
His point was that the giving of those coins reflected something of his own character and his own greatness. He was generous because of who he was, and He had the means to be generous to whomever he desired in his kingdom.
I recognize that at this point I might sound like a TV preacher. I do not want you to misunderstand. I am no health and wealth preacher. We shouldn’t think that this is separated from the other teachings of Scripture and completely detached from the ordinary means Christ has instituted. A gold brick isn’t going to fall out of the sky for you. Christ isn’t going to cause you to win the lottery. You still need to work and you still need to exert effort in gaining a living. And you shouldn’t expect that God will give you more than you can handle. If he gave you an excessive amount, it would probably be to your detriment.
But these words should comfort you. I most certainly hope that it serves to keep you from being so ravenous when it comes to our material goods. You can rest knowing that your God stands ready to bless you. You need only to fear and obey him.
If we are going to attain financial peace, the first thing we need to do is rest in the abundant generosity of our God. But this is not the only thing. We are also called to replicate this generosity ourselves. That is what we find in the very next verse.
II. Replicating the abundant liberality of our God
In verse 33 Jesus says something rather provocative. He says, “Sell your possessions and give to the needy.”
In other words, you whole outlook on life needs to change. No longer should you be all wrapped up with getting. Your preoccupation must be flipped upon its head so that you are now thinking about how much you can give. As God has been generous to you, now you be ready to demonstrate the same kind of liberality to others who would have need of it.
Those of you who are familiar with the Scriptures may think of how this was fulfilled in the early chapters of the book of Acts. The Christians living in Jerusalem took this exhortation to heart and it says that they sold their possessions and had everything in common. They were ready, at a moment’s notice, to act in a radical way to help their brothers and sisters who were in need.
Now, to be sure, we have to recognize that Jesus is not saying that we need to liquidate all our assents and get rid of everything as soon as we become Christians. That isn’t the case at all. There have been some who have used this verse that way. There those today who have a communistic bent who love to quote this verse as a way of advancing a Marxist agenda. But this is nonsense because it fails to take into consideration the rest of the teaching of Scripture.
The 8th commandment promotes the idea of private property and the Bible does not shy away from saying how material gain is perfectly honorable in God’s sight.
When you read these words we put them in their context. And in reading them we should be sure to set them in contrast to the parable that he just told. You remember that Jesus spoke of the Rich Fool who was hording all his wealth and not exercising proper stewardship. He had no intentions of sharing the bounty God had given him and using his prosperity in a kingdom oriented way. He was looking to splurge it all on himself and his own pleasure.
In view of that Jesus says, “Let your first instinct be get rid of anything that is superfluous in your life.” If you are encumbered with materialism, do something about it! Get rid of that video game system. Put that idol on Craigslist and put its proceeds to better use. If you are worshipping the god of gold and gain, then get an ebay account and be done with it once and for all.
It is my opinion that Jesus is using some hyperbole here. It is akin to what he says in the book of Matthew regarding lust. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out! If you have a problem with your eyes wondering, does he really want you to mutilate yourself? Of course not. He is speaking in outrageous terms to make a point. You have to deal with that sin; you have to make a radical break with it.
I think the same is being said here. “If you have bought too much junk and you are always enamored with getting more shoes, then it’s time to make some radical adjustments in your life.” And the best way to do that is by starting direct that money away from yourself.
Some of you might need to make that adjustment too. If the Lord were to examine your checkbook, what would he see? Would he see someone who is selfishly inclined? Or would he see that you are replicating some degree of his character?
Just yesterday we had a good illustration of this in our monthly couples study. We are going through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. And the lesson that we watched yesterday had to do with creating a budget. And Dave Ramsey said that the first thing you do in writing out your budget is put down what you are going to devote to charity. He says, if you don’t do it first, you won’t do it.
But there is a good point there. Our first thought ought to be other people. Our inclination needs to start being directed away from ourselves. We need to overcome our greed by beginning to consider how generous we can become.
And when you do this you demonstrate that the Lord is your greatest treasure. That’s what he means when he says, “Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
All of that is just saying that our resources will display what we really value.
John Winthrop is famed for being one of the leaders in the Massechusets Bay Colonists. He was among some of the first to come to America to settle here. Prior to their venture here in America he preached what has become one of the most famous sermons in America. We know it as “The City on a Hill” speech. In the message he declared that their little colony would be a “city on a hill” because the world would be watching these folks as they sought to put forward a life based on their Christian convictions.
Few people actually know that the sermon he preached was entitled “A Model of Christian Charity.” And the substance of the sermon was essentially a dissertation on basic Christian economics. He expressed that the only way they would survive (and really, the only way for them to thrive as a nation) was by means of expressing a generous spirit towards one another. He outlined a Christian view of lending, of forgiving debts, and charitable giving. All of this he said would set us apart as a great people on the face of the earth.
It is interesting to note that. Because we often think that it was our American enginity that made us great. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. It was this idea that we were a closely knit people who were to deal bountifully with one another that set us apart.
And when you read Winthrop’s message, you find him to be very much prophetic. He says that if we as a people rebell against these principles of charity and begin to embrace this world and seek our own carnal intentions, then God will break out against us. There is something eerily convicting about our present circumstances as a nation.
But Winthrop ends his message by saying, “Therefore let us choose life, that we and our [offspring] may live, by obeying His voice and cleaving to Him, for He is our life and our prosperity.”
Such could not be a better word for us. “He is our life and our prosperity” Our God abounds in liberal generosity. May we rest in the comforts that supplies and begin to replicate it in our own lives.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.