Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: Addiction to Material Possessions

Volume 4 No. 243 October 24, 2014

If the Journal is not displayed properly, please click on the link below (or copy and paste) to read from web
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_243.htm

Archives: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/Default.htm

Fall Scene from Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew
Nature Painting by God - Fall Scenery from the Laurel Highlands in Pennsylvania.

At this time of the year, the leaves will change color providing a spectacular sight. Inset is a flowering cabbage, another staple of Fall Season in the USA.

Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
If you are not receiving your own copy of Malankara World by email, please add your name to our subscription list. It is free. click here.

1. Foreword

Why is it so hard for the rich to inherit the Kingdom of God? Jesus says that few rich men reach the kingdom. Completely occupied with the affairs of this world, neglecting the things of the soul, they are "sent empty away" when their time to leave this earth arrives. ...

2. Bible Readings for This Sunday (October 26)

Bible Readings For the Sixth Sunday After Sleebo Feast

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_6th_sunday-after-sleebo.htm

3. Sermons for This Sunday (October 26)

Sermons For the Sixth Sunday After Sleebo Feast

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_6th-sunday-after-Sleebo.htm

4. Inspiration for Today: Doing Good for Others

Isn't it impressive when you notice people consistently doing good for others, quietly, without a lot of hoopla? They're the type of people I admire the most, and want to be like. ...

5. Featured: The Rich Young Ruler

Looked at in this way, we see an immensely important principle that we can, and should apply to our own life. The question is not what do we have in the bank. The question instead is this: how do we define ourselves? How do we see ourselves, and more importantly, how do we appear to God? ...

6. When Having It All Is Not Enough

Rich people trust in their riches. It's easy for a poor person to get saved because a poor person says, "If Jesus doesn't come through for me, I'm sunk." A rich man says, "If Jesus doesn't come through for me, that's okay. I've got my pension. I've got my stocks and bonds. I've got my options. I've got my golden parachute. I've got my safety net. If he doesn't come through it doesn't matter. I'm pretty much taking care of things myself."

It's impossible, Jesus says, for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And you ask the same question the disciples said, "Who then can be saved?" The answer comes in verse 27: "What is impossible with men is possible with God." The message being this: Even rich people can be saved if they will give up their trust in their riches. But that is the thing that makes rich people feel so secure. Feel so much in control. And the message is, yes, they can be saved but they've got to stop trusting in their riches and they've got to start trusting in Jesus Christ and him alone. ...

7. Where Your Treasure Is, There Is Your Heart

In Luke 18 we meet a man who has an addiction. To use the terminology of the Bible we should say, "He has an idol." He is a young man who is so earnest he falls on his knees. (We read that in the Gospel of Mark.) He comes up to Jesus and falls on his knees asking how he can obtain eternal life. He is a spiritual seeker. But Jesus' command to "sell everything he has and give it to the poor" is too much for him, because he has a lot of money. The idol of his wealth is too important to him. He cannot give it up.

We in America have a similar addiction. Author Don Miller says about the story of the rich young ruler:

"The real issue is about addiction, and it's about addiction to money. We live in a culture that's addicted to money, and we're addicted to what money can buy us. And we're fooled into thinking that, 'I can buy this product, and this product will make me happy.' ...

8. No Greater Love - My Joy May Be In You by Mother Teresa

A joyful heart is a normal result of a heart burning with love. Joy is strength. The poor felt attracted to Jesus because a higher power dwelt in Him and flowed from Him - out of His eyes, His hands, His body - completely released and present to God and to men.  ...

9. Family Special: Hitting the Jackpot

Do you ever dream of winning the lottery? It may interest you to know that about a third of all lottery winners go bankrupt within five years and that another quarter of these instant millionaires wind up selling their remaining payments at a discounted rate to pay off debts. People who are reckless with ordinary paychecks are just as reckless with bigger ones. ...

10. Inspirational: Power of Human Kindness

It is naive to think there is never a time when force will be required or when legitimate power has to exert itself. Parents sometimes have to use their authority in order to civilize and mentor unruly children. Bosses occasionally have to fire people who are working against the company's policies and best interests.

Generally speaking, however, the power of human kindness is a superior form of power to brute force. An attempt to lead by persuasion should always go before the last-ditch requirement of confrontation and pulling rank. ...

11. About Malankara World

Foreword
In this week's Gospel Reading, Jesus tackles the issue of the addiction to money and possessions that keep us out of the Kingdom. In fact, for practical purposes, money is said to be 'the root of all evils'. In Family Life, it is the number one cause of disagreements between the husband and wife. Disagreements on money has led to the destruction of families - brothers fighting over their share of the money, for instance. (Remember the prodigal son who breaks his father's heart by demanding his "share" and walking away from his family to enjoy the riches?) Money issues created many scandals in churches also.

So, the question is, "is having money bad?" It may appear, after reading today's Gospel Passage, that Jesus was implying that it is. But it is not so. Money is a blessing from God. People like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, etc. were very rich. (When Satan challenged God saying that Job's devotion to God is only due to his bounty from God, God allowed Satan to test Job by making him lose everything. When Job came out of the testing in flying colors, God restored all the wealth many times.) Joseph was made #2 man in Egypt having control of the budget all the wealth and resources in Egypt by God. God has blessed Solomon with extreme riches. He was one of the richest man in his lifetime and his fame has spread all over the world. Moses was brought up in a palace. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were very affluent in Jesus' time. So, it is not really about money; but how we handle it. Money is a blessing and if we use it for activities pleasing to God, it will be an asset.

Jesus knew that people become addicted to money and their attention will be on accumulating more of it. Money also provide a false sense of protection to people so that they think they do not have to worry about anything, including God. This is bad. This is why Jesus told the young ruler in today's reading that to have eternal life, he should sell everything he has and give it to poor and then he will have treasure in heaven. In another occasion Jesus told the disciples, our hearts will be where the treasure is; so we need to make sure that our efforts should be directed at accumulating the treasures in heaven.

Interestingly, St. Mary started predicting that one of the key changes in the coming kingdom will be how we will look at money as soon as the word started residing in her after the annunciation. She left to visit her cousin Elizabeth in the Hill Country and after the greeting of Elizabeth inspired by the baby in her womb, Mary gave the famous Magnificat - a summation of what is yet to come, given in Luke 1:39-56. After acknowledging the blessing the Lord has bestowed singularly on her, Mary continued:

He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

Luke 1:51-53

Mary is saying that God acts toward men in a twofold way and in a twofold action. Two words describe God's action:

he brings down, and he lifts up.

He brings down the proud.
He lifts up the lowly.

This is the Law and the Gospel.

Those who are proud in themselves--like the Pharisee who stood in the temple, boasting how they follow all the rules--will be scattered by God to the winds.

Those who feel like they are in control - the rulers of their own destiny--will be brought down from their thrones by God.

Those who are rich in things, in the pleasures of this life, will be sent away empty.

These people feel quite secure in themselves; they do not feel any need for forgiveness; they have no use for a Savior. God will bring those haughty souls down.

On the other hand, God will lift up the lowly. God exalts the humble. (Mary knows that first-hand. Her prime qualification to be selected as  the mother of God was her humility.) God shows strength with his arm to those who are not-so-strong or not-so-mighty. He strengthens the arms of those who are too weak to save themselves. God loves those with a broken heart; He loves the humble. David echoed the same sentiments in Psalms 51:

For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart

These, O God, You will not despise.

Psalm 51:16-17 (NKJV)

God lifts up the poor, miserable sinners (who confess their sins). He fills the hungry with good things--things like righteousness, things like the forgiveness of sins. If you are hungry, God will fill you, he will satisfy you.

This is what theologians call the Great Reversal - the great change in position that God will accomplish in the sending of his Son. The high and mighty will be brought down. The poor and lowly will be lifted up. This is just the opposite (reverse) of the way the world sees things. Later Jesus also explained that in God's Kingdom, those who aspires to be at the top must be the servant. Jesus wants his disciples to serve, not to be served.

Fr. Robert Altier has explained the purpose of wealth for Christians further as follows:

"We see the way that we need to be. The Christian way is charity. It is precisely the command of Our Lord that we are to love. Again, love is not about having happy feelings for somebody; love is giving. It is going beyond yourself; it is seeking the good of another; it is pouring one's self out for the sake of other people. That is what we are supposed to be doing: always looking to the needs of others, knowing that God will take care of our needs.

Our Lady (St. Mary) was not worried about herself; she simply was concerned about Elizabeth and she went to serve. So that is the pattern for us. We also see the pattern of the way that these two women are: Mary, looking to the needs of Elizabeth, and Elizabeth, looking beyond her needs even when Our Lady comes to serve her. Elizabeth does not look at herself and proclaim how wonderful this is that God has favored her with a child when she is in her sixties; but rather, she simply turns to Our Lady and glorifies her. Then Our Lady glorifies God. What we see in this for ourselves is that we need to focus on the other and anything good that another will approach us with needs to go to God."

Martin Luther once observed:

"Riches are the least worthy gifts which God can give a man. What are they to God's Word, to bodily gifts: such as beauty and health; or to the gifts of the mind, such as understanding, skill, and wisdom? Or what are they compared to spiritual treasures? Yet men toil for wealth day and night, and take no rest. Therefore God commonly gives riches to foolish people, to whom He gives nothing else!"

The children of a certain family, during a period of prosperity, were constantly left in the nursery in the care of servants. At length a depression came, the servants had to be discharged, and the parents once again cared for their little ones.

One evening when the father returned home after a day filled with business worries, his little girl climbed up on his lap and, twining her soft, childish arms around his neck, said, "Papa, don't get rich again. You didn't come into the nursery when you were rich; but now we can be around you and get on your knee and kiss you. Please, please, don't get rich again, Papa!"

The father suddenly realized how empty his life had been when he was busy making money but neglecting his family. He saw how he had actually been squandering his God-given time which should have been devoted to higher goals, and abiding values.

Jesus says that few rich men reach the kingdom. Completely occupied with the affairs of this world, neglecting the things of the soul, they are "sent empty away" when their time to leave this earth arrives. [1]

Msgr. Charles Pope [2] expands this concept, further:

Money and wealth tend to lead us to dishonesty, corruption and compromise. Since it tends to lead to iniquity it is called (literally) the mammon of iniquity. It is a true fact that Scripture generally has a deep distrust of money.

For example:

• How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:24).

• Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men 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. (1 Tim 6:9-10)

• Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (Prov 30:8)

The articles in this week's Issue of the Journal explains, in depth, the role of money in Christian Life and the correct and wrong way to use it. We hope that these will provide you food for thought and meditation and encourage you to seek further.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

References:

1. Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.

2. Msgr. Charles Pope, What Does Jesus mean by 'Unrighteous Mammon?', Archdiocese of Washington Blog

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (October 26)

Sermons for This Sunday (October 26)
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today: Doing Good for Others
"So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone -- especially to those in the family of faith." - Galatians 6:9-10

Isn't it impressive when you notice people consistently doing good for others, quietly, without a lot of hoopla? They're the type of people I admire the most, and want to be like.

Mike Huckabee

Featured: The Rich Young Ruler

From Orthodoxy

Gospel: Luke 18:18-27

There is little that has caused such division in the Christian world than the issue of wealth. An entire school of religious thought, known as liberation theology, infected parts of the Roman Catholic church in the 1960s, and continues to this day, teaching that the wealthy are simply instruments of oppression, and that the Kingdom of God is found in seeking what they view as economic justice. Several centuries ago, some early protestant sects taught that wealth was in and itself evil. On the other extreme, in our day and age, other protestant denominations, particularly here in the United States, teach that wealth is a gift which God will give to every true Christian who "names it and claims it", and that every "true" Christian should be awarded earthly riches. Regardless of our theology, however, this is an issue we are always facing in our culture. The truth of the matter is that we, living in this country, are each wealthy beyond the wildest dreams of any Biblical king or ruler. So what are we to think, when we see such polarized viewpoints, and then read today's rather challenging gospel?

The answer is not found in economic analysis, but in spiritual reality. It is worth reminding ourselves at the outset that there is very little that is inherently evil. Food is given to us for nourishment and enjoyment, but when it becomes an obsessive focus of life, it becomes the sin of gluttony. Sexual intimacy is a God given gift for men and women in marriage, but the misuse of sex produces sins ranging from lust to adultery to homosexuality. Drugs are a way for us to be healed of disease and infirmity, yet wrongly used they become an open door for sin of all kinds.

Understanding that kind of thought provides a way to approach the issue of wealth, and indeed, all of life. In his exchange with the rich young ruler, Jesus is not engaged in economic analysis, but instead in the diagnosis and treatment of souls.

We look at our passage to understand the lesson. A young man, described as a rich ruler, comes to Jesus. It appears that he is seeking justification, or at least some reassurance that he is on the right spiritual path. In response to Jesus' questions, he asserts that he has followed the commandments all of his life. He has not committed adultery, nor murder. He has not stolen from others, borne false witness, nor failed to honor his parents. He has, in other words, followed the rules. He has obeyed the commandments. In the eyes of the Jews, he was most certainly a righteous man. For us, living today, his way of life would be considered praiseworthy. We are all required, at a minimum, to keep the commandments of God. What could be more simple? But the truth is that the "thou shall not"s of Scripture are only, if you will, kindergarten for Christians. If we want more, if we want to follow the road of the saints and truly become the children of God, we must not think that our spiritual life stops there.

Jesus, seeing the young man with the eyes of God, knew that, and pierced right to the heart of the matter. The issue, as Jesus observes, is not simple obedience of rules and regulations. The issue is not whether or not we can justify ourselves, to make ourselves appear to be righteous or worthy of commendation. The true issue, the key question which every Christian must face, is whether or not a person has surrendered his entire life to God, or does he or she reserve some parts wholly for himself. Put another way, does a person observe the more difficult commandments of the New Testament: that he truly love the Lord God with all of his heart, and all of his strength, and all of his soul, and that he love his neighbor as himself? Or has he compartmentalized his life, so that God is consigned to only one of a great number of boxes, pigeon-holed and kept separate from the rest of life?

Jesus knew that the focus of the young man was his wealth. It was what characterized his life. It was, in the end, the way in which he defined who he was and what he did. It was, in the end, the thing that kept him from God. He thus challenged his questioner to abandon the very thing that, whether or not the man knew it, separated him from God. To that end, Jesus asked the man to surrender that part of him which he kept separate and that he valued the most – his wealth. Keep in mind that in this instance, wealth was simply the symptom of the disease. In other circumstances, with other people, it was something else. Often it was a rigid attachment to the Law itself, or to the odds and ends of daily life. The point is that in each instance, here is something separating the person from true worship, from a genuine relationship with God.

St. Clement of Alexandria spoke to this very issue, when he wrote:

What then…made him depart from the Master, from the entreaty, the hope, the life, previously pursued with ardor? 'Sell your possessions'. And what is this? He does not, as some conceive offhand, bid him throw away the substance he possessed and abandon his property; but bids him (to) banish from his soul his notions about wealth, his excitement and morbid feeling about it, the anxieties, which are the thorns of existence, which choke the seed of life.

As St. Clement points out, many have disposed of their wealth to no benefit, if their underlying passions remain. And St. John Chrysostom, who himself spoke harshly of the wealthy in his own age, noted that even the poor are lost if they have within themselves the same overwhelming attraction to riches and wealth. For that matter, it is worth remembering that there were people close to Jesus who had wealth: Matthew the tax collector turned Evangelist, Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimethea. It is not the money. It is the heart of the one who holds it.

Looked at in this way, we see an immensely important principle that we can, and should apply to our own life. The question is not what do we have in the bank. The question instead is this: how do we define ourselves? How do we see ourselves, and more importantly, how do we appear to God?

For many of us, this is a genuine challenge. It is not uncommon to reserve some aspect of our lives as being outside of our faith. That preserve, that part of our life that is separate from God, can be anything. For some of us, it may be our desire for wealth, or what we do for a living. For others, it may be a seemingly unimportant hobby or passion. It may be the music we like, the clothes we wear, or the television and movies we like to watch. Whatever it may be, we know – if we are honest with ourselves – that this is an area that we like to keep for ourselves. We may even say, as the young man in today's gospel did, that it doesn't matter because we are at least obeying the ten commandments, and that we are, on the surface anyway, leading a moral life.

There are two problems with that sort of thinking. The first is that any area we segregate from Christ is an open door for sin to enter our life, because any such part of our life is almost certainly rooted in some passion, some deeply held personal desire. St. Theodoros the Great Ascetic plainly describes how being drawn away from the protecting grace of God occurs in but a moment.

He who gives himself to desires and sensual pleasures and lives according to the world's way will quickly be caught in the nets of sin. And sin, when once committed, is like fire put to straw, a stone rolling downhill, or a torrent eating away its banks. Such pleasures then bring complete perdition to him who embraces them.

In other words, whether we simply allow ourselves a seemingly harmless pleasure, or give in to a larger passion such as greed or lust, it can cause a cascade of sin and error, leaving us in dire straits, and sorely afflicted.

But there is another reason as well. If we allow ourselves to focus on that deeply held passion or desire, it causes us to miss entirely what God may be saying to us. From experience, we know that our worldly interests create, if you will, a background noise for our lives. We think to ourselves that if we are straying where we ought not, that our conscience will warn us, and that God will call us back. But the background noise of our lives will often drown out that warning, if we are not constantly attentive to the leading of the Lord. In the Old Testament Book of First Kings, there is a passage describing an experience of the prophet Elijah as he awaits the Lord:

And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind, and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake, and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, a still, small voice.

The still small voice is the Lord. In our gospel today, Jesus knew that even though the rich young ruler kept the rules, and observed the law, that his desire for wealth, his defining characteristic, was also the background noise that would keep him from hearing the still small voice. It was what would keep him from truly entering the Kingdom of God, because if he could not hear that whispering voice, he would never find the gate.

This is the challenge for us. We may not be rich young rulers, and we may think this gospel does not apply to us. We may lead moral lives, not breaking any of the rules, and we may think that this gospel does not apply to us. But if we are honest with ourselves, we will see something, somewhere inside of us, that we cling to tenaciously, an area of our life which we stubbornly refuse to yield to God. Whatever it may be, we find ourselves faced with the dilemma of the young man – can we surrender that which we hold dear, that we clutch to ourselves and call precious – can we abandon that, for the love of Christ?

Source: Ancient Church - An Eastern Orthodox Blog

When Having It All Is Not Enough

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

Gospel: Luke 18:18-27

Somewhere I picked up a cartoon that shows a man driving in his car. He's going down the expressway. And it says,

"At twenty, I couldn't wait to get on the road.
At thirty, I learned how to go from zero to 60 in eight seconds.
At forty I found that I'd been holding the map upside down and
at fifty, I discovered I had the wrong map altogether."

That's the story of an entire generation. My generation. The baby boomers.

We were told,

"Get up early, work hard,
climb to the top,
step on people if you have to,
look out for number one,
do it now."

Then when we got going about 150 miles an hour, we found out, to our utter dismay, the map was upside down. What we were looking for was in exactly the opposite direction.

Having it all is not enough.


The Rich Young Yuppie

Once there was a young man with big dreams about the future. He was twenty or twenty five or he may have been thirty but not any older than that. He was a tiger, a go-getter, a young man on the way to the top. He was a young man who had made his money in real estate, which is one of the best ways to make money if you know what you're doing. (It's also a good way to lose it if you don't.) He knew what he was doing. Limited partnerships. Condos. Syndications. Buy low, sell high. Turn swamp land into high-rise apartments. He made a lot of money at a very young age. And he had risen to the top of his corporation. And he still felt empty.

One day that young man went to see a man who was a carpenter from Galilee, a man named Jesus. This young man, at the top of his game, with all the money you could want, a man who had it all, felt empty and unfulfilled. And he went to Jesus with a question, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" The conversation that he had with Jesus of Nazareth evidently made a tremendous impact on the early church because it was repeated not once, not twice but three times in Matthew and Mark and Luke.

Here is his story as paraphrased by Dr. Terry Strandt:

Now a young entrepreneur came up to Donald Trump and asked him, "What must I do to achieve lifelong happiness?" And Donald replied, "Why do you ask me about happiness? The only thing worth living for in life is financial security, so obey the market commandments."

"Which ones?" the young entrepreneur asked. "Don't buy in a bull market, always borrow more than you invest, and diversify," Donald replied. "All these things I have done," the aspiring billionaire replied, "What do I still lack?" "Go and sell you boyhood farm, mortgage your mother's condo, and invest your life savings into high-yield bonds. Then buy a new BMW and come, follow my example!"

And the young entrepreneur hurried off to his broker, rejoicing, thinking that he had found the secret to lifelong happiness. Then Donald said to his secretary, "Call my lawyer and have him buy this young entrepreneur's boyhood farm, his mother's condo, and sell him some high-yield bonds from my bankrupt high-rise development, for I am never happy until I've got one more dollar!"

And Jesus said, "If you want to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."


A Man We Can All Admire

I submit to you that there is a great deal to admire about this young man. I think he was a man of good moral character. I think you can only admire his determination to have obeyed the law of God to the best of his ability. I think you would admire his courage in coming to Jesus. I think you would admire his humility in admitting his needs. And I certainly think you would admire him for his aggressiveness. For it was his aggressiveness that had gotten him where he was in life.

There's more. He asked the right question for the right reason and he comes to the right person. He's saying, "Lord, tell me what you want me to do. If you'll tell me, I'll do it." He was like a lot of the Jewish people in the first century who believed that after they had obeyed the laws and commandments of God that there was still one thing–one great and good and righteous and virtuous thing–if they could only find out what it was and if they could only do it, it would guarantee them entrance into heaven. And that young man, sensing a lack in his life, comes to Jesus wanting to know what is the one thing that he needs to do which will gain him entrance into heaven.

Well, the young man asking the question was wrong on two counts. Number one, he was wrong to think that there was something he could do to gain entrance into heaven. And number two he was wrong to think he could do it if only he knew it.


"Do You Know Who You Are Talking To?"

So he comes to the Lord Jesus with this crucial question. And Jesus gives him an answer which has confused people over the generations. The question seems simple enough –"What must I do to inherit eternal life?"– but when you read the story and when you read what Jesus says back to him, it appears that either Jesus doesn't understand the question, or Jesus doesn't know the answer to the question, or Jesus just doesn't want to give him a straight answer.

When you read the question and read the answer, it doesn't seem as if the question and the answer really go together. Verse 18 gives us the question: "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Verse 19 gives us Jesus' answer: "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." Now that statement, besides being confusing and seemingly irrelevant, has confused people into thinking that perhaps Jesus means something like, "God is good, and you shouldn't call me good because I am not really God." As a matter of fact, that's precisely the reverse of what Jesus means to say. Jesus is taking the word "good" literally. The young man had called him, "Good teacher." He said it as a way of being respectful, but he wasn't really thinking of the meaning of the word.

Jesus understands that all true goodness comes from God. He's saying, "When you call me good, do you really know what you're saying? If I am good in the ultimate sense, it's because I am not merely a good person, it's because I am God in human flesh." And so, when Jesus says, "Why do you call me good?" he's asking the question, "Do you really know who you are talking to? And do you really know what you are saying?"


The "Big Ten"

Before the young man can even make an answer to that point, Jesus just plunges right on. He says, "You know the commandments" (he means the Ten Commandments): "Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and your mother." That's another part of the story that seems a little bit irrelevant to us. This fellow wants to know how to get to heaven. In response, Jesus first engages him in what appears to be an abstract theological discussion, and then he brings up the Ten Commandments.

What's really going on here? Well, this fellow who came to Jesus, this first century yuppie, what he wanted is what so many people today want. He wanted a list. "Give me a list of the things I need to do to make sure I go to heaven. Give me a list and I will check it off. Do this, this, this, this. When I get to the bottom of the list I'll know that I'm going to go to heaven." So Jesus says, "Fine. If you want a list, I'll give you a list. Here's my list. It's called the Ten Commandments. Why don't you just try keeping those for a while?"

Notice that Jesus does not quote from the first part of the Ten Commandments. He quotes only from the second part of the Ten Commandments. Do you remember the two parts? One part is the vertical –"Thou shalt have no other Gods before me, no idols, do not take my name in vain, keep the Sabbath holy." Those commandments all deal with man's relationship to God. The other six commandments are horizontal–dealing with man's relationship to his fellow man. "Thou shalt not murder. Don't commit adultery. Don't bear false witness. Don't covet your neighbor's wife," and so on. Jesus doesn't quote from the first part at all. He quotes from the second part because that's where this man had his problem.


Sincerely Wrong

He says, "Look, you want a list. Here's my list. Keep the Ten Commandments. If you keep the Ten Commandments perfectly when you get to the end you will be okay." And look what the fellow says, "All these things I have kept since I was a boy." Now that might have been the most sincere statement in the world but let me tell you it is possible to be sincerely wrong and this poor fellow was sincerely wrong. If anyone says, "I have perfectly kept the Ten Commandments from the beginning of my life until now," you automatically know two things about that person: Number one, they don't know anything about the real meaning of the Ten Commandments and Number two, they really don't know anything about themselves. They are deceived.

That brings us back to the deeper meaning of the Ten Commandments, which Jesus explained in Matthew 5. When the Bible says, "You shall not murder," it's not just talking about taking a gun and putting it to somebody's head. Jesus said if you have an angry thought against your brother, if you are bitter against that brother, just that thought itself is murder in your mind. So even though you are smiling on the outside, on the inside you have broken the Sixth Commandment because you are filled with hatred and bitterness. Remember what Jesus said about adultery. Even to look on another person, to lust after them, is breaking the commandment against adultery even though you never jump in bed with somebody else who is not your husband or your wife. You can break the Seventh Commandment in your mind while being pure on the outside.


It's What You Lack That Counts

Jesus is saying to this young man, "You look good on the outside but on the inside you're not as good as you think you are." This fellows says, "Well, I have kept all those commandments to the best of my ability. I've not broken any of them." Then Jesus drops the bombshell. He says, "Okay, fellow, you think you're so good, you're not as good as you think you are. One thing you lack." Now that statement got his attention, because if there is anything a go-getter likes, it's a challenge. "What do you mean? I've got money. I've got position. I'm well respected. I'm honest. I'm hard working. I keep the commandments." And Jesus said, "One thing you lack."

Boy, that must have floored him. It's sort of like saying to a boxer, "You're the greatest 14-round boxer in the world." Unfortunately, boxing matches go fifteen rounds. And you keep getting knocked out in the fifteenth round. It's like saying to an artist, "You're real good at what you do except you're not real good with the color blue. In fact, your blue stinks."

When it comes to going to heaven, it's not what you've got that counts, it's what you lack. Do you understand that? When we're talking about going to heaven, it's not what you've got, it's what you lack. And Jesus is saying, "You think you're so hot. You think you've got life all together. One thing you lack." What do you think it is? Jesus says something to him that we would never say to somebody we were trying to lead to Christ. I'll bet you've never said what Jesus said here to someone you were trying to bring into the Kingdom of God. Look what Jesus said, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." Circle those verbs. Sell. Give. Come. Follow. Wow! How would you like it if we made that a requirement for church membership? Jesus said to this fellow, "If you want to go to heaven this is what you've got to do. Sell. Give. Come and follow." If we said that at Calvary, we'd empty out the church pretty fast, I'd imagine.


Strangled By Money

Let's be honest. These are scary words. So let me tell you this. This is the only time in the New Testament that Jesus ever said that to anybody as a condition of eternal life. This is the only time in the New Testament that anybody was told to sell all that they had, give it to the poor and then come and follow Jesus. But why did he say it to this fellow? Because that's where this fellow had the problem. This fellow who looked so good on the outside, this first century yuppie, on the inside was totally controlled by the love of money. Jesus was saying to this fine-looking, upstanding, good, young citizen, "If you want to be my follower, you're going to have to break the hold of money on your life."

For this man, money was not just an object or a thing. Money had become his God. And Jesus knew it. He is touching this man at the point of his need. And he's saying, "You're going to have to give up your idolatry of money before you can be my disciple." And my brothers and my sisters, that principle is as true today as it was 2000 years ago. And because it is true today, we need to say it again in Oak Park and River Forest where we love money, where we worship the things that money can buy, where we are trying so desperately to get to the top of the ladder.

It's true, isn't it, that money can choke out the things of God? There are a great many Christians who love Jesus when they make fifteen thousand dollars a year. Fewer who love him when they make thirty thousand. Fewer still who love him when they make fifty thousand. Fewer still who love him when they make one hundred and fifty thousand. Fewer yet who love him when they make half a million dollars a year. There are a great many Christians who would become deeply committed to Jesus Christ again, if only they would go broke. Go home and think about that.

I'm not saying we have to do literally what Jesus said here. I'm saying the principle is true. You cannot love money and be his disciple. You cannot. He set the rules down two thousand years ago. That's just the way it is.


No Special Deals

You know what the most hopeful thing in this story is to me? In verse 23 Luke tells us that "When he heard this, he became very sad because he was a man of great wealth." The words of Jesus hit home to him. He knew exactly what Jesus was saying. By the way, I believe this is the only case in the New Testament where somebody came to Jesus and Jesus gave them the truth and let him leave and walk away. This man just walked away. Sorrowful and sad. Jesus didn't come after him and say, "Let me lower the price. Let me make a deal with you so you can be my follower." He just told him the way it was and the man walked away.

You know what we say. It doesn't matter whether you're rich or poor just so long as you have a lot of money. Jesus knew the way we were. That's why he said in Luke 18, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, 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." Have you ever heard anybody explain by saying that the eye of the needle represents some kind of tiny passageway into the city of Jerusalem and you had to kneel down to go through it? Don't believe that. That's not true. When he says the eye of a needle, he means the eye of a needle. Like the needle you do sewing with. When he says camel, he means a great big old smelly ugly camel that you ride across the desert . He says, "Look at a camel and the eye of a needle. It is easier to get this ugly camel through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to go to heaven."


"I Don't Need Jesus"

Why? Because rich people trust in their riches. It's easy for a poor person to get saved because a poor person says, "If Jesus doesn't come through for me, I'm sunk." A rich man says, "If Jesus doesn't come through for me, that's okay. I've got my pension. I've got my stocks and bonds. I've got my options. I've got my golden parachute. I've got my safety net. If he doesn't come through it doesn't matter. I'm pretty much taking care of things myself."

It's impossible, Jesus says, for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And you ask the same question the disciples said, "Who then can be saved?" The answer comes in verse 27: "What is impossible with men is possible with God." The message being this: Even rich people can be saved if they will give up their trust in their riches. But that is the thing that makes rich people feel so secure. Feel so much in control. And the message is, yes, they can be saved but they've got to stop trusting in their riches and they've got to start trusting in Jesus Christ and him alone.

It was Pascal who said, "There is a God-shaped vacuum inside the heart of every person." If you don't fill that vacuum with God you will fill it with something else. And when you do, you will find out what that rich young man found out years ago. You can have it all but it's still not enough. "One thing you lack."

You can have it all and it's still not enough.

Pascal said, "There's a God-shaped vacuum inside every human heart." Since nature abhors a vacuum, if you don't fill it with God, you'll fill it with money or career, power, prestige, sex, or whatever you think you can find in this world. You will not be satisfied. And it will be said of you as was said of the rich young ruler, "One thing you lack."

That one thing being a living, dynamic, life-transforming relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

Let me conclude with two points.

Number one. As long as you make money and the things money can buy the measure of your life, you will be empty and unfulfilled.

Number two. Whenever you stop trusting in money and the things that money can buy and turn your life over to Jesus Christ, then and only then will your heart be satisfied.

The one thing you lack, God offers to you right now. The one thing you need is yours for the asking. If you have discovered that having it all is not enough, then please consider something that money can't buy. Would you like a life -transforming relationship with Jesus Christ? It's yours for the asking. Open your heart to him and he will come in.

Prayer:

Father, you have promised bread for the hungry and rest for the weary. May those who hunger be filled with the Bread of Life. And may the weary find the rest that only Jesus can give. Forgive us for loving money so much that we have had no room for you. Grant that we might realize our deepest need so that you can provide for us the "one thing" we lack. In Jesus name,
Amen.

© Keep Believing Ministries

[Editor's Note: This is an excerpted version due to space constraints. The full sermon can be found in Malankara World Library here.]

Where Your Treasure Is, There Is Your Heart

by Randy Gehlert

Scripture: Luke 18:18-30, II Corinthians 8 & 9

Introduction:

I would like to point out that even though my focus today is money everything I have to say equally applies to everything that is not yours - your time, your property, your abilities, your children, your spouse.

Deuteronomy 8:17-18 "You may say to yourself, 'My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.' But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…"

Psalm 24 - "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters."

I, at one time, considered making this a five point sermon - "It's not mine." "It's not mine." "It's not mine." "It's not mine." "It's not mine."

Now rather than feeling upset by this we should all feel relieved. You have nothing to lose. You have a job to do and you have many responsibilities. But no one can steal from you. No one can damage your property. If someone takes something that is under your care you simply tell your boss.

"Uh, God, thank you so much for that great car you let me use for this past year. But there's been a little problem. Some punk just stole your car. Oh, you already know that and it's his turn to use it. Oh, well don't forget I'm supposed to take my kids to school and pick up some groceries and I have to be at work be 9. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know - If it is Your will I will do those things. Yes, I'm sorry."

I think many people think of giving money to God like paying taxes. And this is sad because the reality is that it is more like watching the one you love open that present on Christmas morning - the present that you searched all over the world to find - the one you know will make her face burst with JOY. Hopefully by the time we finish this morning you will see what I mean.

But we cannot start right with giving. We must start with the disease that is so prevalent in our society: materialism.

I. Materialism

A. A man with an addiction.

So, let's begin by reading Luke 18:18-30.

In Luke 18 we meet a man who has an addiction. To use the terminology of the Bible we should say, "He has an idol." He is a young man who is so earnest he falls on his knees. (We read that in the Gospel of Mark.) He comes up to Jesus and falls on his knees asking how he can obtain eternal life. He is a spiritual seeker. But Jesus' command to "sell everything he has and give it to the poor" is too much for him, because he has a lot of money. The idol of his wealth is too important to him. He cannot give it up.

We in America have a similar addiction. Author Don Miller says about the story of the rich young ruler:

"The real issue is about addiction, and it's about addiction to money. We live in a culture that's addicted to money, and we're addicted to what money can buy us. And we're fooled into thinking that, 'I can buy this product, and this product will make me happy.' And we're fooled because the average American sees 3,000 commercial images a day. It's like somebody constantly asking you if you want crack - 3,000 times a day. And you only take it once a day…that's not good."

B. A man who lacks faith.

Now I say this story is also about the failure of faith. Not because having more faith gets you more money but because faith would believe the true reality of how things really are and keep money in perspective.

Hebrews 11:1 says "faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see".

Jesus told the rich young ruler that if he sold everything he had and gave to the poor he would have "treasure in heaven." But the guy had his 'worldly glasses' on. He couldn't be certain of treasure in heaven, because he couldn't see it. He couldn't let go of all the money he was stock piling. But storing up treasure on earth is an investment that will not last. We cannot take it with us when we go. It's pleasure is fleeting. And it gives us no real joy. We are bogged down in our daily earthly life and lack the faith to believe in what we can't see - heaven - where we should be storing up our treasure.

Genesis 13 tells us a story about Abraham and Lot having too much wealth. This wealth was causing arguments among their people. But Abraham had an eternal perspective. Rather than focusing on his wealth he let Lot choose the best portion of the land and Abraham went another way. In Genesis 26 Isaac dug wells that other people claimed as their own, but he too had an eternal perspective and rather than fight over them he moved and dug new wells. Both men were very wealthy but neither of them were owned by it.

Hebrews 11 goes on to speak of this eternal perspective of Abraham and Isaac as well as those of Abel, Enoch, Noah and Jacob with these words in verses 11-16, Hebrews 11:11-16:

"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them."

Let me give you an illustration. Have you ever seen "Mission Impossible" - either one of the TV shows or one of the movies? Basically there is a 'good guy' spy who is assigned a secret mission in a foreign hostile country. The first thing he does is assemble a team of people who are skilled in various specialties that will help complete the mission. Now carrying out this mission usually entails the use of various aliases and disguises - an alias being a fake identity you take on - like a character you are playing in order to complete the mission. Usually one spy will be posing as a very wealthy man. He gets to drive the cool car and wear the expensive clothes - all paid for by the inexhaustible finances of the U. S. government of course. Another spy might pose as a scientist and get some cool gadgets to use. But invariably someone has to pose as the trash man or the maid or even the homeless person. They don't get the cool car or the nice clothes. They don't get to eat at the lavish banquets. They might get to sit out in the van or hide under a bush. But it doesn't matter. That is not who they really are. Who they really are are secret agents with real families and a real place to live somewhere else.

Now suppose that the agent who was supposed to be the maid decided she couldn't live on her maid salary and she began working longer hours - as a maid - and started looking for additional work to save up more money. The other spies would be counting on her to do her task for the completion of the mission, but she would be too busy living the life of a maid struggling for some upward mobility. Or maybe the spy playing the rich guy really starts to enjoy his fancy clothes and nice car and new rich friends. So, he neglects his assignment and spends his time learning polo and high stakes poker.

You would say that these people have lost their focus - that they were foolish. The government isn't going to give the spy acting as the rich guy money forever. The maid - she was probably already more upwardly mobile as a spy than as a maid. It would just be craziness for them to go on as if these were their real lives.

But this is all of us. We are agents of God's grace on his mission of redeeming a lost world. Some of us are assigned to be wealthy. To complete our assignment we are given a nice large house and other resources that God will use for His glory. Some are bus drivers. Some are teachers. Some are assigned as major league sport stars. But some are assigned to be invalids who need constant medical attention. To complete their assignment they are given a debilitating illness and very few material resources that God will use for His glory. But this is not our real life. We are aliens and strangers on earth. We are waiting for a country of our own, a better country - a heavenly one, one God has prepared for us.

We are agents on assignment and 3,000 times a day the world asks us to take the money, time and other resources that were given to us as tools to use on our assignment and to use them for other distractions for which they were not intended. We like the rich young ruler often cannot see the joy of stock piling treasure in heaven where "moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." We are entrenched in our aliases, in our undercover assignments. We forget who we really are.

You are not a farmer. You are not an accountant. You are not a retired plumber. You are not waitress. You are not a homemaker. You are not a coach. You are not a neighbor, a wife, a husband, a son, or a daughter. Those are your aliases. You are the Church, the bride of Christ for whom Jesus shed his blood. You are the sons and daughters of God.

As C. S. Lewis's famous quote says: "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition (and may I add - acquiring money and stuff) when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased."

Or as Steven Curtis Chapman says in his song "It's like playing Game Boy in the middle of the grand canyon." And God is saying "Wake Up! and see the glory!" Smell the excitement of this great adventure that should be the Christian life. Don't get bogged down in the pursuit of these temporary things. Be light on your feet - ready to jump into action. "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

In a country addicted to materialism and the pursuit of wealth we must constantly struggle to keep our focus on heaven. We are too easily distracted. I quoted Don Miller as saying it is like we are offered crack cocaine 3,000 times a day and since we only take it once we think we are ok. But we're not. The grip of materialism and "storing-up-treasure-on-earth-ness" is insidious and so much more pervasive than we know.

Now I want to caution you against comparing with someone else. Just because someone else has a nicer car, bigger house, larger salary - does not mean you are less materialistic than they. We are all very poor in this room compared to Bill and Melinda Gates. But we are all extravagantly wealthy compared to the
people living in the trash heaps outside large cities throughout the world. And as Americans we are certainly among the wealthier people of the world. But that is not my point. For even in the trash heap one has more than another. But in the perspective of the eternal riches of God's kingdom even the wealth of Bill Gates is just a trash heap. God has something better.

We say we believe that we are citizens of another country but our faith is proven by our works. Do we live that way?

II. Giving

A. An example of giving.

Let's talk about some people who lived that way. Take your Bibles and turn to II Corinthians 8:1-5. pg 1801 We read "And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will."

Paul is writing to the church that meets in Corinth and he is telling them about the generosity of those who live in Macedonia. Now Macedonia is the northern region of Greece and contains the churches of Berea, Thessalonica and Philippi. We read that the Christians from these cities were poor. These were the first European Christians who upon accepting Christ were persecuted by those around them. The area they lived in was not poor at all though. But these Christians must have either come from the lower classes or lost their wealth because of their new faith. In I Thessalonians we read that they suffered persecution similar to that of the believers in Jerusalem where many who believed in Christ were dragged off and put in prison. Being put in prison will certainly cause financial hardships. But despite these trials and their extreme poverty these Christians in Macedonia kept their perspective. They remembered that they are now citizens of another country and their priorities were not for their own comfort and entertainment but for God's kingdom work in this world.

The prophet Agabus predicted that a severe famine was coming to the Roman world. The church which was headquartered in Antioch at the time decided that the persecuted believers in Jerusalem would need the most help and decided to send them gifts. And these Macedonians, though they were very far
away and just as poor and persecuted as the Christians in Jerusalem urgently pleaded with Paul for the privilege of sharing in service to the saints. Out of their poverty they gave "as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability". These believers showed in their actions that they truly did have faith that they were citizens of another country. And they were sending their treasure on ahead to their eternal home rather than spending it all on themselves here at their temporary work station.

We have all been told that it is better to give than to receive. And I believe as we grow older we understand that better and better. But even poor people want to know the joy of giving. And again "poor" is a relative term. People are made in the image of God and He enjoys giving. So, we too can find great joy in giving. Unfortunately, we are often made to give in ways that do not bring joy. Such as giving simply out of obligation or because of guilt. Or we have nothing left to give because either we can't say no and have given too much or we have already spent all our resources on ourselves.

B. Getting back the joy of giving.

So how do we get the Joy of giving back?

This is the topic that Paul wants to address in II Corinthians 8. In verse 7 he says, "Just as you excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us - see that you also excel in this grace of giving." And then he goes on through chapters 8 & 9 to describe biblical giving. Let's see what he says.

1) You must give willingly.

(8:10-12) "And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have."

& (9:7) "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

You must give willingly what you have decided to give. If you are giving out of compulsion it is not a grace but an obligation under the law and there will be no joy. Now you may object and say, "But what about the tithe? Aren't we commanded to give a tenth of all we make back to God?" I don't have time to treat that subject in depth other than to say that I think the tithe is a good place to start. We must remember that Israel was a theocracy. They were ruled directly by God. Only later on did they have kings. The tithe - and there seem to have been really three tithes meaning 22% of an Israelite's income and not just 10% - the tithes were really a tax, and this was all part of the ceremonial law that most of us no longer follow. In the work of Christ the law is ended.

Some say that the principle of the tenth was around before the law. Melchizedek who was a priest of God and the king of Salem received a tithe from Abraham. This is true and I agree - a tenth is a good place to start.

But if you make $20,000 a year and someone else makes $200,000 a year and you each only give a tenth I don't think you are each giving according to your ability. And one of you is giving more sacrificially than the other.

The tithe is a good beginner's model but as we will see in the rest of these verses in II Corinthians Paul gives us a clearer picture of how to get joy back into giving.

2) You are not required to give what you do not have.

(II Cor. 8:12-15) "The gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written; 'He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little'."

God could easily meet every need there is Himself. But for some reason He has chosen to let us in on the joy of meeting the needs of others. So, He gives you more than you need today so you can help me out. And He gives me more than I need tomorrow so I can help you out. And He does not expect me to go without a genuine need so that you can have too much.

3) As your giving increases God will increase your opportunities to give.

(9:6, 8-11) "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously…God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: 'He has scattered gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.' Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God."

When God gives you more it is so you can give more away. Just because your income increases doesn't mean your spending on yourself has to increase. If I buy a house that I can afford when I only make $40,000 a year and it meets my needs then. Why do I all of a sudden need a new, more expensive house just because I start making $100,000 a year? Maybe God has given me the extra $60,000 for some other purpose - maybe an eternal one.

4) The model of Christ's sacrificial giving is our motivation to give.

(8:9) "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich."

Jesus showed us the joy of giving by giving His life for us. Romans 5:7-8 "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Jesus died for me. Is there any other response than to use all that I have for Him. We give because He gave. And we give like He gave, sacrificially.

C. The rich young giver.

We heard the story of the "Rich Young Ruler". Now listen to this story of the "Rich Young Giver" told by Garry Friesen:

"When I was pastoring in a church, a young man in the congregation came to talk to me about giving. He said, 'I used to think that the reason I did not give much was because I did not have much. But now that I have quite a bit of money, I find that I still am not contributing very much of it to the Lord's work. How should I give?'

I explained to him the principles of grace giving. Then I suggested that he select a percentage of his income that he thought would be consistent with the degree to which the Lord has blessed him financially. In one week, I promised to follow up our conversation by asking him if he had chosen a specific percentage to give to the Lord.

A week later I checked with him. 'Yes,' he replied, 'I think that 40 percent is about right.' I gulped. From next to nothing to 40 percent is a big jump. Nevertheless, I encouraged him to follow his plan for one month and then evaluate. If he felt some adjustment was called for after that trial period (and I was sure he would need to become more realistic), he could change the amount if he wished.

At the end of the month, we discussed his giving. He was full of joy and said it had been a great period in his Christian life. He had invested significantly in the work of the Lord and had derived great satisfaction from his ministry of giving. Moreover, he reported, his new commitment to giving was requiring him to more carefully monitor where the rest of his money went. He was amazed at how much money he had formerly wasted on things he did not really need. When I suggested that he reconsider the percentage of his income that he would give the following month, he readily agree. 'I have concluded that 40 percent is too little in view of the way God has been prospering me,' he declared. 'This month, I think 60 percent would be more appropriate.'

Later I overheard one of the young people talking about this same brother. 'You know, he doesn't go out and spend away his money on Saturday like he used to. I wonder what's gotten into him.' I knew the answer. He was learning to give rather than waste. Abundant giving and careful spending were his new response to God's prospering life."

D. How much do I give?

So, if I want to try out this joy of giving - how much do I give?

Well, we read in II Corinthians 9:7 "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give." I Corinthians 16:2 says he should give "in keeping with his income" or as the King James version says he should give "as God hath prospered him". Not very clear guidelines. But grace is messy like that. So, just plunge in. Start with 10% if you like but as Garry Friesen writes:

"It is not difficult to compute 10% of one's income; but how much is 'as God hath prospered him'? It is neither a specific amount nor a particular percentage. The rich should be 'rich in good works' (I Timothy 6:17-18). Those who have nothing are not expected to give anything (II Cor. 8:12). Those who have less than enough are to receive from others who have more than enough (II Cor. 8:13-14).

Those who have little give the little that they can (II Cor. 8:2-3). Increasing prosperity should result not only in an increase in the amount given, but in the percentage given. Many Americans should think in terms of 15, 20, 40, or 60 percent of their income. Their "abundance" (II Cor. 8:14) should make them abundant givers."

So, I don't know how much you should give. I do know that I myself only scratch the surface of joyful giving. I am much too centered on my own comforts and pleasures to give away as much as I probably could. I struggle to remember that I am a citizen of another country on assignment and that the money I've been given is for that purpose. But God is merciful.

E. Where do I give?

So, if I want to change that - where do I give?

The Bible suggests various things:

1) I Timothy 5:8 says "If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." In the verses preceding this one Paul says that the church should not be taking care of widows who have family who can do it. Your first priority in giving is your immediate family.

2) Galatians 6:10 says "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Throughout the Bible we find calls to aid those in distress, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give a cup of water in Jesus name. As we can we do this to anyone who needs it. But the early church seems to have primarily collected funds for the relief of fellow believers such as widows, orphans and those under persecution.

3) Galatians 6:6 says "Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all things with his instructor." And I Cor. 9 and I Tim. 5 speak similar words about paying evangelists and elders. The principle here is that the spiritual work of teaching and shepherding a flock is just as worthy a vocation as the ones we usually put money behind.

4) In II Corinthians 11:8 Paul says "I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you." There are regions in the world were churches are non-existent or not big or healthy enough to support themselves. So other churches provide the funding for full-time workers to be there.

When people give money to Christ Community Bible Church it is spent on points 2, 3 & 4, primarily # 3 & #4. 50% of our church budget is spent on staff and 25% is spent on missions. And we have recently begun spending $400 a month feeding the homeless - but that is a separate budget as is the deacons' fund which is used to meet needs as well.

Garry Friesen sums up where to give this way: "As the Christian responds to the grace of God by being a good steward of his money, he determines the distribution of his funds according to biblical priorities. In general, the order of his giving moves outward, with those who are closest to him having the priority of provision: the immediate family, the extended family, the work of the local church, the work of gospel proclamation, and finally, the relief of needy believers, then unbelievers. Such an order in giving is part of a sound strategy for outreach. For the long term support of missionary activity requires the prior establishment of a solid base of operations at home."

F. Where your treasure is.

Wherever you end up giving - whether it be to the cable company, your mortgage, a Compassion child you sponsor, your weekly outing at the movies, this local ministry, - wherever you give - that is what will grab the attention of your affections. That is what will have a direct line to your heart. For where your treasure is - there is your heart. If you want to change what is most important to your heart - change where you put your treasure (that is your money, your time, your skills).

IV. Closing:

To close I would like to do two things -

First - I would like to give you a gift. (If my helpers would come forward and begin passing them out please - one per family.) When I was preparing this sermon I went to Jeff's office and asked him for some resources. He gave me this little book. It's small. I sat down and read it in one afternoon. I said - here is my sermon - but I didn't think you would appreciate it if I just stood up here and read it to you. So, I have decided to use the resources God has entrusted to my care to purchase about 50 of these books so that you too can read them. They are all used - I couldn't afford to buy you all new ones. This is the "Treasure Principle" by

Randy Alcorn and it lays out very clearly biblical teaching on how to deal with your money. Money is such a huge part of our lives and we spend so little time thinking about the biblical use of it. I would encourage you to invest the few hours necessary to read through this. If you are married both of you read it and then talk about it. How will you use the resources God has given to you? Personally, I feel I will need to reread this little book every two or three years or so. Our materialistic culture is so constant in its attempts to suck me in. Now if you are just not going to read it or maybe you have a copy at home then just leave your copy on the table in the foyer so someone else can read it. After you've read it you can keep it so you can reread it or you can pass it on. If you prefer you can go online and order an audio copy of it. But again it is so very short. It is a very easy read. Please take a copy and please read it.

Now to conclude I would like to read a passage from Hebrews that I have never really thought of as it pertains to money and the joy of giving. Hebrews 12:1-2

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (remember Abraham & Isaac and the church of the cities of Macedonia - since we have such good examples) let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin (and the idols and the addictions) that so easily entangle, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

No Greater Love - My Joy May Be In You

by Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

"I have told you this so that my joy may be in you" - John 15:11.

"God loves a cheerful giver", Saint Paul says (2Cor 9:7). The best way to show your gratitude to God and people is to accept everything with joy. A joyful heart is a normal result of a heart burning with love. Joy is strength. The poor felt attracted to Jesus because a higher power dwelt in Him and flowed from Him - out of His eyes, His hands, His body - completely released and present to God and to men.

Let nothing so disturb us, so fill us with sorrow or discouragement, as to make us forfeit the joy of the resurrection. Joy is not simply a matter of temperament in the service of God and souls; it is always hard. All the more reason why we should try to acquire it and make it grow in our hearts. We may not be able to give much but we can always give the joy that springs from a heart that is in love with God.

All over the world people are hungry and thirsty for God's love. We meet that hunger by spreading joy. Joy is one of the best safeguards against temptation. Jesus can take full possession of our soul only if it surrenders itself joyfully.

Family Special: Hitting the Jackpot

by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson

"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." Matthew 19:24

Do you ever dream of winning the lottery? It may interest you to know that about a third of all lottery winners go bankrupt within five years and that another quarter of these instant millionaires wind up selling their remaining payments at a discounted rate to pay off debts. People who are reckless with ordinary paychecks are just as reckless with bigger ones.

Rather than fantasize about hitting the jackpot, we should strive to be better stewards of what we have. Handle credit cards - if you must use them at all - with great care, and do everything you can to stay out of debt, one of the foremost marriage destroyers. Make purchases with cash when possible. Establish a family budget and stick to it.

Remember to give at least 10 percent of your earnings to the Lord - after all, everything is His, anyway.

Above all, make sure you spend less than you earn each month. It takes discipline, but this simple formula will go a long way toward establishing a worry-free atmosphere in your home.

Just between us…

Most people around the world would consider the average American income a jackpot. Do you?
Are we saving money instead of falling into debt?
Would we benefit from establishing a family budget or revising the one we have?
Are we tithing?

Heavenly Father, You bless us with so much. Even when money is tight, we know You care for us. But we often fail to be responsible and to honor You with how we manage money. Help us to know and live by Your wisdom. Amen.

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

Inspirational: Power of Human Kindness

by Rubel Shelly

It is naive to think there is never a time when force will be required or when legitimate power has to exert itself. Parents sometimes have to use their authority in order to civilize and mentor unruly children. Bosses occasionally have to fire people who are working against the company's policies and best interests.

Generally speaking, however, the power of human kindness is a superior form of power to brute force. An attempt to lead by persuasion should always go before the last-ditch requirement of confrontation and pulling rank.

Gail Halvorsen was taught these ideas about kindness, service to others, and the like back in Sunday School as a boy. Now a retired colonel of the U.S. Air Force, he never tires of telling about a situation where putting his convictions to work helped change the course of history. It helped turn an enemy into an ally.

Halvorsen was a pilot in Europe during and after World War II. In post-war Germany, he was on the ground in Berlin. Some of the many hungry children in the once-prosperous Germany that Adolf Hitler had reduced to penury flocked around him and his buddies to ask for food. They were hungry. They were begging for a scrap or bread or a handout from the soldiers' rations.

Halvorsen didn't have any food for the group of about 30 kids. He had two sticks of gum in his pocket. He handed them to a couple of the children – and had a bright idea. The next time he dropped food into the Soviet-blockaded area of Berlin, he dropped gum and candy out for the children as well. When word got back to his superiors of what he and now other pilots were doing, there was a chewing out for their "unauthorized activities." But one general defended what the pilots were doing. He encouraged them to keep it up. And soon American candy companies were providing chocolate bars and chewing gum by the tons.

As Halvorsen puts it, "It wasn't the chocolate. It was hope!" Little children and their beleaguered parents were encouraged to believe that things would someday be better for them. Historians of the period have credited the candy drops for helping change the attitudes of the German people toward their recent enemies in war. The same non-government program is also credited with altering American attitudes toward the German people.

Maybe there are children for you to help in your neighborhood, through your company's involvement in the larger community, or in some ministry of your church. Maybe the people to think about aren't even children. Maybe there is just someone who needs an act of positive kindness that you can provide. There are certainly no guaranteed outcomes, but it probably won't do harm to be gracious.

Better yet, it could give hope or might even turn an enemy into a friend.

About The Author

Rubel Shelly is a Preacher and Professor of Religion and Philosophy located in Rochester Hills, Michigan. In addition to church and academic responsibilities, he has worked actively with such community projects as Habitat for Humanity, American Red Cross, From Nashville With Love, Metro (Nashville) Public Schools, Faith Family Medical Clinic, and Operation Andrew Ministries. To learn more about Rubel please go to: www.RubelShelly.com

About Malankara World
With over 6000 articles and hundreds of links to outside resources covering all aspects of Syriac Orthodoxy that are of interest to Family, Malankara World is the premier source for information for Malankara Diaspora. In addition to articles on spirituality, faith, sacraments, sermons, devotionals, etc., Malankara World also has many general interest articles, health tips, Food and Cooking, Virtual Travel, and Family Specific articles. Please visit Malankara World by clicking here or cut and paste the link on your browser: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/default.htm

Malankara World Journal Subscription

If you are not receiving Malankara World Journal directly, you may sign up to receive it via email free of cost. Please click here: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Register/news_regn.asp

You can contact us via email at mail@malankaraworld.com

Malankara World Journal Archives

Previous Issues of Malankara World Journal can be read from the archives here.

You can contact us via email at mail@malankaraworld.com

Thank you for your help and support.

Malankara World Team

Malankara World Journal is published by MalankaraWorld.com http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/
Copyright © 2011-2014 Malankara World. All Rights Reserved.