Sunday, March 27, 2011

What's So Bad About Greed?

If there is anyone who can help you with your finances, it is Jesus. He is the most Generous! He gave his life on a cross for us, so how much more is He willing to give us now?! If you are in a financial prison, you did not follow Jesus there. It was greed and greed always brings about death. If you are in the middle of a life of greed, something in you is dead or dying. It could be your conscience, it could be your marriage or it could be your home, but it is not from Jesus.

In the second part his series, "Upgrade", Perry Noble's opening remarks on "Greed" begin with a recollection: "When I was in college, my freshman year at Anderson University, I never ever changed or washed my sheets all semester.  See, some of you guys are saying, "What? (What's the big deal?)".  Others of you are jaw dropped.  My thinking was, since I showered at night, that I was always clean and there was then no reason to worry about changing the sheets.  When I finally changed them, though, they stood straight up by themselves and they walked themselves to the wash!  Now, many of you approach your faith like I approach my sheets.

I gave my life to Christ in May of 1990, but there were two major areas that I did not surrender to God until 1999.  One of those areas I will cover another time, but my finances were the second area. My finances were OUT OF CONTROL.  I will tell you this; based on my experience, you show me the most out of control area of your life and I will show you the area of your life God does not control. 

I come from a pretty poor background.  When I accepted Christ, my dad and I lived at poverty level.  My dad was on Disability and received $980 a month.  I worked two jobs and basically worked from 5am to 11pm.  We lived in a trailer for $40 a week in rent.  There was one night when our utilities were cut off and we almost froze to death in our own home.  When I graduated from college, I came out of there with $35,000 in student loan debt.  Then, I discovered VISA.  Ooooohhh.  I was riding down the road with my VISA in my pocket and I saw this gun I had to have, so I bought it.  I was ready for "Red Dawn".  A few nights later, a friend invited me to OutBack.  I didn't have money, but I had VISA!  When I saw how low the minimum payments were, I couldn't help but use the card again and again and again.  I helped my father with his debt using VISA.  Embarassingly, when I went to buy furniture before my wife and I got married, my credit was not good.  So, by the time we were married, I owed well over $100,000.  It was time to pay down the debt!!"  So, Perry put a plan in place and he is now debt free. 

Now, if you want to be debt free, ask yourself three questions:

1) Is Jesus first in your life?

Genesis 2:15-16 says, "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;" 

Look at this!  The first 3 words God said to man was YOU ARE FREE.  It wasn't "Stop that", "Hush" or "Worship Me".  It was "You are free".  BUT, look at what then comes in the verse:  "but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” 

He was basically saying, "If you touch what is mine, you will die."  So, God is very generous with the Garden of Eden, but asks that a small portion of the garden be His.  

To illustrate the God's generosity, Perry calls some volunteers up on the stage.  He wants a middle school kid, a high school student and a college student volunteer.  The criteria for each of them is that they need to be flat broke.  He gives the high school student $10 and asks him to give $1 to the church.  Perry asks, "Am I a generous man?"  Then he gives the middle school kid $100 and asks him to give $10.  "Am I a generous man?"  Then Perry gives a broke college student $1000 and asks her to give $100.  Then he asks, "Am I a generous man?"  During the demonstation, the college student, a young girl, says she is trying to go to Kenya (sounds like a mission trip).  Perry pauses for a moment and then says, "Newspring is going to cover that."  In an emotional moment, the entire church stands to applaud the blessing.  "Mmmmm.  I could go home now!  Get those offer baskets back out!" 

Everything the audience saw and felt is what God does.  The audience watched as three people were blessed.  Joshua 7 talks about how the Israelites were going to conquer Jericho.  It was the first city His people were going to takeover when they came out of Egypt.  But God told Moses that no one was to touch any of the belongings of that city because it was the first city he was going to let Israel conquer (presumably among many).  Well, a few days later, the Israelites went to conquer another city, but they got their butts whipped!  Moses went to God and said, "What!?!  You said we would win! What happened?"  And God told Moses that someone in the population had touched some goods from Jericho.  When Moses investigated, he found that a man named Achan had, in fact, disobeyed God and had taken some things for himself. 

Joshua 7:20-21 - Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the Lord.

Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold bar, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord bring trouble on you today.”  Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since.

This passage shows us that our greed affects everyone around us.  All of them suffer the consequences as well.

1 Kings 3:4 talks about Solomon, "who went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, 'Ask for whatever you want me to give you.'"

Solomon definitely got an upgrade after he generously gave to God, wouldn't you say? 

In Luke 12:12-15, we find someone in the crowd said to (Jesus), “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ "Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’  “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

In America, the theme is "He Who Dies with the Most Toys Wins". But the Bible says, "He Who Dies with the Most Toys Dies"  God takes Greed seriously and so should we.

There is nothing wrong with us having things. The problem is when those things have us! This is especially true when it comes to robbing God.  How dare we do that!

1 Corinthians 6:9-12  Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Ephesians 5:3-5   But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Colossians 3:5-6  Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

2. Is what is important to God important to me? 

"I used to play church is rough!...My wife would come and watch me and cheer me on...but as time went on, I noticed she wasn't paying attention to me.  Are you reading a book?   He later learned that she didn't like basketball.  The only reason she went to watch was because she loved Perry.  It was important to her because it was important to Perry. 

What is the most important institution to God?  The church! Giving to the church what God asks should be a priority.  In Acts, there is a guy named Barnabus who gave and, because of his generosity was made a leader in the church. 

1 Corinthians 16:1-2   Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do.  On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.

In Revelation, it talks about how, when everything has passed away and everything has been destroyed, the only thing remaining will be Christ and His Bride; the Church.  That's a pretty good investment, huh? 

3. What Adjustments Do I Need to Make?

What classes do you need to take to learn about Biblical finances?  What personal adjustments do you need to make to cut back or to be able to give to God?  

You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. 

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