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The Problem with Money Or,
The Price of Perfection

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(11/23) Wow, it is so hard for me to realize that this is Thanksgiving week already. Many of you are already looking ahead to Friday and some of us are looking ahead to Saturday. Some of you are getting the Christmas decorations out. It is the season. I have said to you all many times, that this may be the purest holiday that we celebrate. There may be a few pumpkins, a horn of plenty, some pictures of pilgrims, and perhaps some colored leaves, but other than that there are few decorations for Thanksgiving. There are no gifts to buy, no candy to give, or eggs to find. Just a day to gorge ourselves on Turkey, potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie.

And whether you do it before the meal or after, I hope that where you will gather, there will be a time of reflection on Godís goodness. I want to urge you all, especially dads, and granddads, to prepare now for Thursday. Use the five kernels of corn, or the Deut. 8:10 passage, lead your family into acknowledging God and His wonderful grace in every area of your lives. If you read all of Deut. 8 you will be reminded that it is God who has blessed us to be Americans, to have opportunities to be educated, the health and strength to work, and has blessed us with what we have. Remind your family that these are gifts of Godís grace. Remind them to never assume the credit for what they have. It has all come from the good hand of God. Amen? Amen! Start planning today for Thursday.

Our Words in Red today come from Matthew 19:23-26 and Mark 10:23- Matt. 19:25. "Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, 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."25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?"26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Mark says, Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!" 24 And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, "Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25 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."26 And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, "Who then can be saved?"27 But Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.

This text follows the story of a rich young ruler that came to Jesus wanting to know what he could do to have eternal life. You can find it also in Luke 18. Matthew tells us that the guy is young, all three tell us he is rich, and Luke tells us that he is a ruler, meaning he probably had a leadership position in a local synagogue. We donít know his name, or much about him, so we can use our imagination.

This is an amazing story for several reasons. One, is that someone came asking how to have life? How many of you have someone that you have not been witnessing to, come up to you and ask how to have eternal life? I did once or twice in the jail. Once, when I was in college, I had the chance to preach and our brother in law (married to Debís older sister) said he would come to hear me preach. He was a Catholic and we were good friends. He said he would sit on the front row and laugh at me. We worked together for a while, and played ball together, and did some small game hunting together. I preached on Matthew 16 and after church we all went to Debís brotherís house for lunch, when Bill came to me with red face and looking like he was angry, said, "I want to talk to you." I thought, I had upset him and that he was going to hit me so I swallowed hard and went outside with him but instead of hitting me said, "I want to know how to be saved." I confess, that I did not tell him what our Lord told this guy. In fact, I am in awe of what Jesus did tell him. I said, like Paul, in Acts 16:31, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." Repent and pray this prayer! This is a hot prospect! But Jesus knew this guyís heart. Letís look at the story and then notice how this pulls together a lot of the teachings Jesus has already given about Money and a relationship with God.

A young, wealthy synagogue leader, Mark says, ran and knelt before Jesus. He recognized something awesome in Jesus. Our imaginations picture a respectful, and humble young man. Maybe he had witnessed the childrenís blessing thing. Maybe he had heard Jesus pray for these children and maybe he heard Him say that it takes childlike faith to have the kingdom of God. And here is what the guy knew in his heart, and I think this is safe and accurate, he knew that he was empty. There was something Jesus had and he didnít; something Jesus spoke of and he wanted it. He wanted some assurance of His eternal future that keeping the rules hadnít given Him. Please donít be too hard on this guy. Letís notice:

  • Good Teacher Ė I love your teachings Ė You are good. You make Godís word and will so easy to understand.
  • What Good thing can I do that I can have eternal life?
  • Our Lordís response was intended to get the guy to think.
  • Why do you call me good? There is none good but God. Most commentaries say that Jesus wants him to acknowledge that He is God, but I donít think so. What I think is that He wanted the man to realize that no one is good enough to earn eternal life. Though he didnít have Romans 3:10-23, he did have the Psalms and Ecclesiastes. Eccl. 7:20 says, "There is not a just man on the earth who does good and does not sin." And Psalm 14:2-3 says this, "The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. 3 They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one."
  • "What can I do," is a valid question just like the Philippian jailer and the folks of John 6 who asked, " "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He sent."

But Jesus didnít say what He said in John 6 or what Paul said in Acts 16; that is, to believe in Jesus. Jesus said what looks like a works related salvation answer.

  • "But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" Perhaps this young man was thinking of Lev. 18:5, "You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord." See, I think our Lord wanted the young man to admit that there is no way to honestly keep the commandments. One way or another we have all broken all of the 10 commandments. James reminds us that to break even one is the same as breaking them all (James 2:10). Likewise, I know that he didnít have the writings of Paul who said this in Romans 3:19-20, "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin." But he did have Psalm 143 which says in verse 2, "Do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no one living is righteous." I think He was trying to get the young man to admit that though he did his best, he still fell short because he had a nature to sin.
  • Letís establish this now and even though I know you know this stuff, it is important that you know where to find it so you can tell those who think they can do something good enough to merit heaven. Because everyone will encounter someone who will say, "I am a good person. I have never robbed, killed, or raped anyone and I am better than many who go to church."

I just told you of Romans 3:19-20, Also look Galatians 2:16, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 4:1-6, and Titus 3:5. The reason for these verses is in Romans 3, we have all sinned, and remember, it was just one sin that destroyed manís perfect relationship with a Holy God and brought death and hell, no matter how good we may be, we can never get rid of the sin by ourselves. There is no way to work off the debt. Our just wage for our sins is, according to Romans 6:23, death. Itís like trying to make an omelet and the first six eggs you put in are good, but because you are making enough for a guest, you put in one more egg, but it is rotten. Ever smell a rotten egg? Now, itís just one rotten egg, and the other 6 are good, but would you offer that omelet to your guest? Over 85% of the omelet is good! But who would you offer it to?

  • Salvation is and always has been a gift of grace. The law and the commandments are for people who are saved, to show how to live a Holy life pleasing to the one who saved you and not how to have life. What Jesus says to us in John 14 is what was intended for those under the law. "If you love me keep my commandments." They are to point to the need of Grace. Every sacrifice was to be an act of faith that desires grace and mercy from God.

Sadly, this young man didnít get it, just as most of America doesnít get it. Most likely, he told the truth as he believed it. When He asked which commandments, our Lord went through the ones that dealt with manís relationships with people and then the one about loving oneís neighbor as himself. When the rich young man said that from his youth on he keep these. He thought in his mind that he had. He had done his best to be religious, and physically he had never robbed, murdered, been unfaithful, or told a lie. Yet despite, his money, his religion, and his position, he did not have a sense of security, or peace. He didnít have the joy of salvation.

Mark 10:21 says, "Jesus looking at him, loved him," and then He says, here is what you lack, or here is what is keeping you from being complete, perfect or from being declared righteous by God, or having Godís life in you. Itís your stuff. Your stuff is more important than God. Your faith is in your stuff. Sell your stuff, give it away, take care of the poor and then come and follow me, and you will treasure in heaven (v.21). Sadly, Matthew, Mark and Luke, all tell us that the man went away sorrowful, because he had a lot of stuff- he was rich.

Now here is the point, are you listening? The manís money was more important to him than humbly submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ or God the Father. I will do anything except give up my stuff. How different from Zacchaeus who immediately responded to Jesus by giving half of his goods to feed the poor and repaying fourfold to those he had cheated; or, the fishermen who left all to follow Jesus, or Matthew who walked away from the tax collection office. You see, salvation isnít about doing something, itís the complete yielding of oneís self to God. God I give you my life, my all. Listen to Luke 14:33, "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple." That is what identified the entire early church in Jerusalem in Acts 2 and 4. Jesus had become their Lord, and the Lord of all they had. They used whatever resources they had to care for the poor and needy. Watch this scene from the old movie, called The Robe (scene 14). Marcellus pledges his sword, his fortune, his very life to His service. My friends, hear me, salvation doesnít come because you pray a prayer, get baptized, or give to the church. Salvation comes when you admit you are bankrupt and need Godís grace. It comes when you yield your sword, your fortune and your very life to Jesus. My life is now His. My possessions are now His. My future is now His. I am now His Student, His Servant, His Soldier, and His Sibling.

Jesus once said in chapter 16, "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"

But don't forget that they are mine, just as you are. And whenever I need any of them you must now give them up because now I am the owner.

Our Lord then says how hard, (a word meaning nearly impossible) for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It is easier for a camel to go throw the eye of a needle. The Jews took this from a Persian saying of impossibility, "It is easier for an elephant to go through the eye of a needle." Camels were probably more prevalent than elephants in Palestine, so the saying was changed and appears in the Talmud. This is not talking about a low gate where a camel had to kneel to get through, we know of no such gate. This was just an expression of the impossible. Kinda like how we refer to a snowballís chances in hades.

The disciples were puzzled, wealth was considered the blessing of God. A wealthy man was a blessed man. He could support the synagogue and temple and could do good for the needy. If a blessed man was nearly impossible to save, what chance does anyone have?

The Impossible is Possible.

What our Lord is saying in verse 26 is that it is impossible for anyone to procure their own salvation by doing something, for all the reasons we talked about earlier. But God has made the impossible possible by doing for us what we cannot do ourselves. The Rich are saved, the same way the Poor are saved. By repenting of sin and receiving Jesus as Savior and Lord of their lives. Every salvation experience is a miracle of God.

You must choose. You will trust only one. Either you will trust your life, your future, your needs to God, or you will trust them to your portfolio, your checkbook, your investments, your 401k, etc. Wealthy people are more likely to trust in their wealth. They have spent their lives accumulating stuff. The American dream is to go from rags to riches. Many people are entirely focused on money and stuff. They refer to others as money people or people who donít have money. Once they have it, it becomes their security like Proverbs 18:10-11, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe. 11 The rich manís wealth is his strong city, And like a high wall in his own esteem." That is, riches are his security, his life.

Here is the main point of this life lesson. The number one competitor of God for the mastery of oneís life is not Satan (not directly). It is money and stuff. Jesus told us back in chapter 6, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." (Mammon is money).

See, here is the problem with money. It may soothe your nerves knowing that your bills are paid, and it can get you stuff, but it can never give you peace, or joy, or real security. People kill for it; lie, cheat and steal to get it, fight over it, and gamble away what they have to try to get more of it.

Some wise sage wrote this, "Money will buy a bed but not sleep; books but not brains; food but not appetite; finery but not beauty; a house but not a home; medicine but not health; luxuries but not culture; amusements but not happiness; religion but not salvation; a passport to everywhere but heaven."

But money can become a joy and give you peace and security when you realize that it is really not your money but Godís and you use it for His glory and care for the ones God cares for. My peace is in knowing that I have a Father that is committed to taking care of me. Is yours?

And before any of you say, "Well this isnít talking to me, I am not rich." Let me remind you that if you make $50,000 a year, you are in the top 1% of the entire world. You are an American. You donít live from day to day, you have enough groceries and resources to last you weeks or months or years. Praying for daily bread means little to you. You buy enough for a week or two weeks or a month every time you go to the store.

The number one indicator of a personís relationship with and faith in God is not how often he or she attends church, but how much they give to God and the poor. The checkbook is the best indicator of how much faith one really has. Will God really take care of me if I take care of His business and care for the poor? Doesnít charity begin at home? Doesnít God help those who help themselves? And the problem with money is that the more one has, the less they want to trust in God and give to the needy. Thatís just the fact. Rich people usually donít feel any need to trust God because they trust in their money. Peopleís hearts, Jesus said, will be where their treasure is. (Matt. 6:21) Where is your treasure? Is it in the reward and inheritance of God your Father, or in the stuff that is temporary here?

I had a man of independent means ask me recently, "Does this mean that God wants me to give everything away?" I said, I canít answer that for you, but likely not. What God wants is for you to realize why He has blessed you with money and what the primary purposes are for money.

1. To support your family

2. To support the ministry of the local church and those who have given their lives to teaching the word and caring for people

3. To pay taxes, because Government is Godís idea for the good of people

4. To provide for the poor and needy, like those in Illinois, Indiana, and the Philippines or those who still struggle 1 year after Sandy hit the coast. Rescue missions, homeless shelters, etc.

Every Christianís budget should include these four areas. God promises to bless those who trust Him by using their money to honor Him as He has prescribed. You are blessed to be blessing! Listen to these scriptures.

Gal. 6:6-10 6 Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. While there is certainly a spiritual application, the main point is about using stuff to bless people.

1 Tim. 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Before we stop, turn back to Proverbs 30. By the way, the Proverbs are full of good teachings and principles about money and stuff. Agur was probably a student of Solomonís. Look at what he wrote in verses 7-9, "Two things I request of You (Deprive me not before I die): 8 Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor richesó Feed me with the food allotted to me; 9 Lest I be full and deny You, And say, "Who is the Lord?" Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God."

As we approach Thanksgiving and Christmas, would you think of how to bless others with the stuff God has blessed you with. This Thanksgiving and Christmas think about the Rescue Missions Homeless Shelters Salvation Army Missionaries, Crisis pregnancy centers, etc.

Or for the tornado or typhoon victims in Illinois, Indiana, or the Philippines. Give to Samaritanís Purse, World Vision, SBC Ė Disaster relief, etc.

Have you, like Marcellus, said, I am enlisted in His service, from this day on I pledge to Him my sword, my fortune and my very life? Will you say that now? Letís pray.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman