Freedom From Greed

Freedom From Greed

Chapter Nine

Freedom From Greed
Christian Attitude Towards Things 69 Laying Up Treasures In Heaven 72
The Limitation Of Money 70 Ladder For Mastery Over Money 73
"I'm The Happiest Man On The Island' 71 Discussion Questions 74

Luke 12:15-21

Christian Attitude Towards Things

The parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:15-21) strikes at the heart of materialism as a way of life. It warns against the worship of things, and shows the tragic results of devaluing the spiritual. Notes William Sangster, "Our standards of value today – whether capitalistic or communistic – are frankly materialistic… The common element in both capitalism and communism is that what really matters is things. It is common to both that life consists in the possession and enjoyment of material goods. All their bitter quarrels with one another concern who shall have them, and how! Each occasionally pays lip service to higher values, but it is only lip service." (The Secret of Radiant Life; pg. 115)

The attitude of the Rich Fool towards things was wrong. By looking at his life with its wrong values, we can learn what the right attitude towards money and things is.

At first glance at the story, it may seem that the rich man was a fool because he did not despise money. That is not the point of the parable, however. Money is not to be despised, but used for the good of men and the glory of God. The rich man was not condemned because he had money but because he loved money and worshipped what money was able to purchase. It is not money itself, but rather the love of money, which is the root of all evil. Money can be used in a very beneficial way.

The Christian is not taught by this parable to despise material things. What he is taught is the folly of trusting in riches and worshiping what money can buy. "The fact is that the Christian faith is the most materialistic of religions, the only one that really takes the material seriously. It starts out by saying that when God created the material universe, He 'saw it was good' – the material was God-made and God-approved." (Word Became Flesh; E.S. Jones; pg. 54)

"Dr. John Oman says: 'The test of a true religion is the extent to which that religion is secular.' Startling, but true. The Christian faith is secular without being secularized. It is the spiritual working in and through the material. The sacred is secular and the secular is sacred. Unless our religion functions in material terms, it does not function. We are not ghosts, we are embodied beings and we must function in and through the body or we do not function." ( Ibid.; pg. 56)

"When the disciples said to Jesus: 'Send the multitudes away so they can buy bread for they are hungry', Jesus replied: 'They need not go away, give ye them to eat.' The disciples thought that religion dealt only with the spiritual – let them go to others for the material. But Jesus said to them, and through them to the world: 'Religion does have to go with the material – don't wash your hands of the material needs of people, they need not go away, give ye them to eat.'" (Ibid.; pg. 58)

"Father, help me not to set my affections on material things but instead to use material things to serve the purpose of spiritual goals. In Jesus' name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The value of money is determined by the use of money. I will use all my money to bring glory to God and benefit to my fellow man.

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Psalms 49:1-20

The Limitation Of Money

We noted yesterday that man is physical with physical needs, and therefore, the Kingdom of God must express itself in physical terms if it is to be meaningful at all. Any good missionary knows that he can't minister effectively to the spiritual needs of pagans if those pagans have empty stomachs. Filling the stomachs of men is a prerequisite to filling the souls of men.

There was no crime in the rich man (Luke 12:15-21) having large possessions. In fact, some of the great characters of the Bible were very weal thy (Abraham, Job, Solomon, etc.). The rich man which we looked at yesterday had great opportunity of providing for the physical and spiritual needs of his fellowmen, but he failed in his opportunity. Instead of transforming his money into things which last forever, he used his money to satisfy his selfish desires and to inflate his ego.

Money is not to be despised, but it is to be used for the good of man and the glory of God. This the rich man failed to do. The Christian is to make his money work for things which last forever. Giving money to the work of God is changing money from the tangible to the intangible, from the material to the spiritual, from the temporal to the eternal.

The rich man in Jesus' parable was called a fool for he reasoned that everything had its price tag. He failed to realize the limitation of money. Like many others, he failed to realize that there are many things in life that money cannot buy. Jesus called few persons fools, but this man was called a fool! He tried to find his security in money and in material, temporal things.

Money cannot buy health. In fact, the striving after wealth sometimes robs one of health.

Money cannot buy love or personal acceptance. There have been those who have had an abundance of money, but who have died a suicide death for lack of personal love and acceptance.

Money cannot buy personal peace of mind. Saith the Scriptures, "The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much: but the fullness of the rich will not let him sleep." (Ecclesiastes 5:12)

Money cannot buy national peace. The country which is biggest and strongest militarily may still lack peace.

The Christian must not fall into the trap of the Rich Fool, thinking that all things have monetary value. Rather, the Christian must clearly see the limitations of money and things.

"Father, I realize that man cannot live without 'bread', but neither can man live by 'bread' alone. Let me never despise material things, for 'the earth is the Lord's and the fullness therein.' Yet, help me never to fall down and worship material things. May I always see your purpose in giving me things – to use things as a means to the end of advancing the Kingdom of Heaven!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I shall not be the slave of 'things': I shall live masterfully for I will always use 'things' to serve eternal purposes!

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1 Timothy 6:6-21

"I'm The Happiest Man On The Island'

We noted yesterday that, while money is not to be despised, money has its great limitations. For instance, money cannot buy character. Money, on the other hand, sometimes destroys character. Money "can buy a soul, bargain for and take integrity, corrupt the decencies, rot a whole community from within." (The Secret of Radiant Life; Sangster; pg. 117) Money cannot produce character and a price tag cannot be put on character. "In the Franklin County Court House in Virginia is preserved the will of the man who owned Booker T. Washington. Since most of his property was in slaves, the owner had listed them and set down the price of each one. Opposite the name of Booker Washington he had marked '$200'. Was this a fair estimate of that youngster's worth? Hardly, for he turned out to be one of America's great men am an educator who inspired his people to seek knowledge." (The Parables; Gerald Kennedy; pg. 102)

Money cannot buy eternal life. The rich man in Jesus' parable (Luke 12:15-21) is called a fool because he failed to realize that his money could not purchase eternal life for him. The Scripture is only stating an obvious, and well-known, but little-acknowledged fact when it says, "We brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world." (I Timothy 6:7) "As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil, which he may carry away in his hand." (Ecclesiastes 5:15) "There is a story of a conversation between a young and ambitious lad and an older man who knew life. 'I will set up in business.' 'And then?' 'I will make my fortune.' 'And then?' 'I suppose that I shall grow old and retire and live on my money.' 'And then? 'Well, I suppose that some' day I will die.' 'And then?' came the last stabbing question. The man who never remembers that there is another world is destined some day for the grimmest of grim shocks." (Daily Study Bible; Luke; pg. 168,169; Barclay)

Billy Graham relates an interesting experience which he had. "My wife and I, with Cliff Barrows and his wife, were on an island in the beautiful Caribbean. We visited a very wealthy man, 70 years of age. He was terribly depressed, lonely, and uncertain; all the assurance in his life was gone. I watched him in his depression. I felt sorry for him, tried to help him, prayed with him. Two hours later we met a happy little preacher who was the same age – 70 years. He cared for two invalid sisters. He did all the washing and all the cooking. He had a tiny church, with hardly any income at all. Yet he was jumping about am exclaiming, 'I'm the happiest man on the island.' Now I want to ask you, who was the richer? Which one would you rather be at the age of 70 – the man who had lived for God and invested his life for God, or the man who had spent his lifetime building a fortune but without much time for God? Who was the richer? (Decision Magazine; July 1970; pg. 14)

"Father, help me to know true contentment – a contentment based not on my financial standings before men, but based on my personal relationship with Christ! Help me to be rich in good works, giving generously of myself to those in any need. In Jesus' name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I brought nothing into this world, and I can take nothing out of this world – except a Christlike character which shall live forever!

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Matthew 6:19-21; Matthew 16:24-26; James 5:1-3

Laying Up Treasures In Heaven

E. Stanley Jones significantly says, "There are two ways to be wealthy – one is in the abundance of your possessions, and the other is in the fewness of your wants." (Abundant Living; E.S. Jones; pg. 300) The latter type of weal this much greater. "There is a story of a poor man who had just enough money to support life in its simplest way and who spent his days enjoying modest pleasures and helping other people. He was once in the company of a very wealthy man who was completely immersed in business, working all the hours he was awake, and enslaved to acquisition. 'I am richer than you are', said the poor man. 'How can you say that?', the millionaire inquired. 'Well', he said, 'I have as much money as I want and you haven't.'" (The Secret of Radiant Life; Sangster; pg. 114)

Accumulated wealth – instead of giving happiness as many think – oftentimes robs one of happiness. "Hard as some people will find it to receive, it is a fact that material things are regarded as the chief good in life only by those who do not have them." (Ibid; pg. 114)

"In 1923, a very important meeting was held at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Attending this meeting were nine of the world's most successful financiers." Let me tell you who they were and what happened to them twenty-five years later. Charles Schwab, the president of the largest independent steel company, died a bankrupt and lived on borrowed money; Samuel Insull, the president of the largest utility company died a fugitive from justice and penniless; Howard Hopson, the president of the largest gas company, went insane; Arthur Sutton, the-greatest wheat speculator, died abroad, insolvent; Richard Whitney, the president of the New York Stock Exchange, was finally released from prison; Albert Fall, a member of the President's Cabinet, pardoned from prison so he could die at home; Jesse Livermore, the greatest 'bear' in Wall Street, died a suicide; Ivar Kruegar, head of the world's greatest monopoly, died a suicide; Leon Fraser, president of the Bank of International Settlements, died a suicide!" (A Challenge to Men From Proverbs; Foster; pg. 11)

The strange thing about wealth is that the accumulation of it calls for the accumulation of more wealth. "The Romans had a proverb which said that money was like sea-water; the more a man drank the thirstier he became." (Daily Study Bible; Luke; pg. 168; Sangster) John Camden Neild was a miser. "He inherited a quarter of a million from his father, and for thirty years he toiled and starved to double the sum. He never brushed his clothes, his shoes were down at the heel, and when he visited his great estates, he lived with his poor tenants and shared their frugal meals. When he was over seventy he died and left all the money so meanly accumulated to the richest woman in the land – to Queen Victoria." (The Secret of Radiant Life; Sangster; pg. 114)

"Father, you are my satisfaction and my joy. Without you, all the wealth of the world would leave my soul starving. With you, none of life's adversities can rob me of my wealthy standing in Christ. Thank you. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Contentment is finding as many reasons for not owning something as reasons for owning something (Hebrews 13:5)

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2 Corinthians 8:1-9; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Ladder For Mastery Over Money

In his devotional classic 'Abundant Living', E. Stanley Jones offers a 'ladder for mastery over money'. It is so helpful that it is worth summarizing the steps which he suggests. The following are his points:

  1. Hold in mind that money is a good servant, but a terrible master.

  2. Reject the philosophy that you may hold vast accumulations as a trustee for the poor.

  3. Nothing that you can do for your children will be more harmful than to leave so much to them that they will not have to struggle and work.

  4. There are two ways to be wealthy – one is in the abundance of your possessions, and the other is in the fewness of your wants.

  5. Put in a stop where your needs end. After that all you make belongs to other people's needs.

  6. Keep your needs down to needs, not luxuries disguised as needs.

  7. Settle the level of need in the full light of the needs of others, of your enlightened conscience, and of the judgment of a disciplined group.

  8. While you are lifting your economic level to the level of need, give a tithe of what you earn. After you have reached that level, give everything you earn.

  9. Work for a co-operative order in which each will think and work for all, and all will think and work for each. (Abundant Living; pg. 300-302)

John Wesley had a three-fold principle to guide his life in regards to money and material possessions: (1) Gain all you can, (2) Save all you can, (3) Give all you can. Wesley gave a personal testimony as to how he applied this principle. "Permit me to speak as freely of myself, as I would of another man. I gain all I can, (namely, by writing) without hurting either my soul or body. I save all I can, not willingly wasting any thing, not a sheet of paper, not a cup of water, I do not layout any things, not a shilling, unless as a sacrifice to God. Yet by giving all I can, I am effectually secured from 'laying up treasures upon earth'… I do not say, Be a good Jew; giving a tenth of all you possess. I do not say, Be a good Pharisee; giving a fifth of all your substance. I dare not advise you, to give half of what you have; no, nor three quarters; but all!" (Wesley's Sermons; pg. 254)

It would be good to remind ourselves occasionally that life does not consist in the abundance of things which a man possesseth (Luke 12:15). Therefore, while we are never to despise money, let us not put our trust in uncertain riches. Let us remember that the only things that last are spiritual and that it is only the spiritual which we can take with us out of this present life!

"Father, help me to trust, not in uncertain riches, but in your certain promises. If riches increase in my life, help me never to set my heart upon them, but to keep my heart fixed upon you. Sensitize me to wastefulness and extravagance in my life, and help me to practice a simple Christ-honoring lifestyle. In Jesus' name. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I purpose to live in relationship to all material things in such a way that I will be neither the object or the subject of covetousness!

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Discussion Questions On 'Freedom From Greed'

  1. What is the 'common element' in both capitalism and communism?

  2. What, according to the Bible, is the 'root of all evil'? (1 Timothy 6:10)

  3. Should one conclude from a study of Luke 12:15-21 that Christians are to despise material things? Why? or Why Not?

  4. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The fact is that the Christian faith is the most materialistic of religions, the only one that really takes the material seriously."

  5. What is meant by the statement: "The Christian faith is secular without being secularized."

  6. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Unless our religion functions in material terms, it does not function."

  7. Has the Gospel been fully expressed and fulfilled if we only save the soul without feeding the body?

  8. Is there any Scriptural support for the idea that the more spiritual one becomes the more financially prosperous he will be?

  9. From the Christian viewpoint, what is the proper use of money?

  10. Why was the rich man in Jesus' parable called a 'fool'? (Luke 12:15-21)

  11. List some of the limitations of money.

  12. Are Christians meant to live like 'kings' or like 'the King'?

  13. How can a sincere Christian distinguish between 'needs' and 'luxuries' in his life, and how many 'luxuries' can a Christian enjoy and still be committed to a 'simple life style'?

  14. Is the accumulation of wealth sinful or is such a practice simply an act of wise saving?

  15. List the nine steps on the ladder for mastery over money, and note those which you strongly agree with, those which you partly agree with, and those which you strongly disagree with.

  16. Do you believe that Wesley's threefold principle to guide one in financial stewardship is Biblical and workable in our modern day? Why? or Why Not? What Scriptural backing can you give for your answer?

  17. If, according to Luke 12:15, life does not consist in the abundance of things which a man possesses, what does life consist of?

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