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Let’s Talk About Money
Text: Luke 12:13-34

Dr Alex Tang


Summary
Greed, hoarding and anxiety are all aspect of not enough faith in Jesus concerning our money. The best financial investment instrument is to invest in the kingdom of God. John Wesley taught us the kingdom investment portfolio: gain all you can, save all you can and give all you can.

LK 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."

LK 12:14 Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" 15 Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

LK 12:16 And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, `What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'

LK 12:18 "Then he said, `This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '

LK 12:20 "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?'

LK 12:21 "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

LK 12:22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

LK 12:27 "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

LK 12:32 "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


I. Introduction

Recently I met up with a couple of old friends from my secondary school days. This is a sort of reunion dinner. One lesson I learnt form this experience is that never attend reunion dinners. One, your friends look so old. Second, they put on so much weight. All is very depressing. After the usual preliminary asking about each other and family, we get down to the serious matter of eating and making light conversation. With guys, I noticed there are very few topic of conversation: politics, jobs and money. You may add Da Vinci Code or football nowadays but the main conversation is about health, job and money especially money. It may be about ways of making more money, stories how much money they have lost and a curious dance of trying to find out how much money everyone has.

The maxim “No money no talk” is actually not true. Yes, when you have money, you have many friends. When you have no money, you have little friends. Even your relatives seem to disappear. But it seems true that “No money got talk” or even “No money more talk”. Money is a good topic of conversation. So let’s talk about money.


II. Let’s Talk about Greed (v.13-15)
Someone in the crowd said to him, "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; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

Key verse (v.15) Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

Greed is a common failing of many of us. Sometimes we are not aware of being greedy at all. Others times we disguise it as being ‘kiasu’. “You know, we can’t help it because we are Malaysian/Singaporean. We are just naturally kiasu.” We talk about being kiasu as being natural. Jesus was walking along when someone wanted to enlist his help in an inheritance dispute. This person must have heard about Jesus’ wisdom. He must also be having trouble with his brother regarding the division of his inheritance. This is in spite of the clear guidelines given in Leviticus concerning inheritance. People always dispute their inheritance because they feel they did not receive enough or their just due. They think they are fighting for justice, for what is rightfully due. But the sad truth is that they may be just greedy.

Recently the patriarch of a very rich family passed away. He left behind a great fortune: ownership of a few public listed companies, properties and a huge amount of money in the bank. He left a will in which he divided his inheritance among his children. He was in ICU and was dying. Somehow his children knew about the contents of his will and employed lawyers to dispute his will even before he was dead. They want to change the will. Even when his brain died , they requested that the doctors continue to keep him on life support for 10 days while they disputed his will. It was so sad that this man is not allowed to die in peace. Finally, his heart just stopped. The children are still challenging the will and are not speaking to each other. What is even more distressing is that each of his children is well off. One is a doctor, another is a lawyer and the other three are prosperous businessmen. Greed is just not having enough. A reporter interviewed Rockefeller, one of the richest men in America at that time. “You are very rich. Do you have enough?” “No” he said, “Just a little more.” [check quote]

Jesus said, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." We need to be on our guard against greed. We want more money, always more money. There is never enough.

I find there is very few successful working partnerships among doctors. Usually they start off the partnership as good friends. Things usually go well until they start making money. Then trouble starts as each partner watch how much the other is taking home. Many doctors’ partnerships breakup because of money. Usually these partnerships last about 3 years.

Jesus said, “a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”. Greed is wanting more. When we stand before God at the Great White Throne Judgment, God will not ask how much do you have in your bank account. Nor will He ask how many bungalows and shop lots do you have? “a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” It consists of how much love he has given. How much have you loved?


III. Let’s Talk about Hoarding (v.16-21)

And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 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 all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things 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 anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."


Key verse (v.21) "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

The parable is not against working hard and saving your earnings. It is about what you do with your profits or earnings. This man is concerned about himself. “And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." It is the self-centeredness of the man that the parable is against. The man is not concerned about God and what God has done for Him and what he can do for God.

Jesus gave another parable to illustrate this point in Matthews 25: 15-30. This is what we commonly called the parable of the talents.

"Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 1To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money.

"After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. `Master,' he said, `you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.'

"His master replied, `Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

"The man with the two talents also came. `Master,' he said, `you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.'

"His master replied, `Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

"Then the man who had received the one talent came. `Master,' he said, `I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'

"His master replied, `You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

" `Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'

Jesus is emphasizing that what we do with what we are given is important. He praised the servants who worked hard to get good returns from their investment but condemned the one who hoarded what he was given. God has given us many things. To some of us, God has blessed us with good business acumen, good opportunities and trustworthy workers. He has enabled us to make money. There is nothing wrong with making money. There is nothing wrong with being rich. Abraham, Jacob, Job, Zachareus, Matthew and Solomon are very rich men of their times. They will be in the top Forbes 500 of their time. God does not condemn the rich but He is concerned about what they do with their wealth. Do they spend their wealth on themselves or for others?

Hoarding is another human characteristic. We always like to hang onto things. We will say, “Now I have some money. I shall put it in the bank. When I have enough, I shall give some away for the needy.” The problem is, we will never have enough.

(v.21) "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."



IV. Let’s Talk about Anxiety (v.22-30)
V.
Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them

Key verse (v.22a) Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.

Jesus said not to worry about money. Money to buy food, buy clothes and shelter. Life’s basic needs are for food and shelter. Jesus said not to worry. He will take care of it. Do you believe this? Do you believe Jesus can take care of all our needs? Do you have the faith to believe that Jesus can need all your material needs? If you do, then you do not need to worry.

But we worry. We worry about the spiraling inflation and the rising cost of living. Since the government allowed petrol prices and electricity bills to increase, everything else have increased. A bowl of wanton noodles cost RM5.00 now. Even my Indian barber haircut has increased. He used to charge me RM8.00. Now he charges me RM9.00, a 12.5% increase. I wondered how he linked the increase to the increase in petrol prices. I walked to his barbershop!

We worry about saving enough for our children’s education. We are saving for our children twinning program for their undergraduate studies. A basic degree may cost RM 125,000. Medicine will cost about RM 500,000.00. How do we save enough for them?

We worry that we outlive our savings. We planned for our retirement, hoping that we go before our money go. Unfortunately Employee Provident Fund is not giving us good returns for our money. Investments in the stock market is not profitable and risky. Healthcare costs are rising and just when we are old and in need of medical insurance coverage, the insurance companies refused to cover us.

Jesus said not to worry. I shall take care of you. Do not worry about having enough money, trust Him. Look at the birds, look at the flowers and look at the grass. The grass of the field. This is an interesting comment. The grass is considered useless. Maybe to feed the sheep. They will grow, be cut down and burnt. I used to have a lawn at the side of my house. I find it such a bother to cut the grass that I have the area tiled. God said He will take care of the grass of the field. If God is concerned about such a small thing about the grass growing in the field, would He be not concerned about us, who are infinitely more valuable?

The root of greed and hoarding is that we worry we do not have enough money for ourselves. Jesus said not to worry. (v.22a) Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.

VI. Let’s Talk about Investment (v.31-34)

But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Key verse (v.31) But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Jesus said do not worry. You do not have to be greedy or to hoard your money. God have given you the best investment portfolio-membership in His Kingdom. You can sell all your possessions and give them to the poor because you have will have no worries about money in the kingdom. In the kingdom, you will need extra large and durable purses because there are so much trouble treasures there. Throw away your fifteen dollars imitation “Gucci” bags.

Jesus said to invest in the kingdom of God. That is the best investment of all. It gives good returns and absolute protection. No financial institution can give you absolute protection. Banks, finance companies, insurance companies, hedge funds and even government can be bankrupt.

No financial institution can give you a guarantee on returns on your investments. I meet a lot of people selling investment products. They think I am a doctor I have money. They will introduce financial products such as insurance linked capital preservation fund, mutual fund, properties linked funds, stocks and shares. They will show me calculation that proves that if I invest a certain amount, I will get so much more in five years. Usually they guarantee about 8% returns which they assure me is more than what EPF or bank deposit will give. How can they guarantee 8% return? Somewhere there is in small print that says investment returns is dependent on market performances. Somehow this was never emphasized. I am upset that sometimes, some gullible old lady will put their life sayings into such funds because of unscrupulous salesperson. I wish we could sue them for selling an obviously defective financial instrument by appealing to greed.

The best place to put your money is in the kingdom of God. This investment is a fool-proof, guaranteed great inexhaustible returns and absolute protection. God Himself is your guarantor. And there is no expiratory date. I know when you buy a property; your title deed may be freehold. But when God destroy this earth to create a new heaven and earth, it’s gone. This investment in God’s kingdom is forever-eternal. It will come to term in the new heaven and earth. That’s why Jesus said, “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well”.


VII. Lesson for Us

How do we invest in God’s kingdom? John Wesley, the founder of Methodism gave us a very good way of doing so.

John Wesley’s Trilateral about Money

a. GAIN all you can

Wesley was one of the highest earning preachers of his time. He received his income from donations, preaching and his books. On his best year he made about the modern day equivalent of 1.4 million pounds per year. That’s a lot of money.

He taught us to make money. Making money is not wrong as long as you employ legal means. Work hard and work smart to make money.

b. SAVE all you can

By saving, Wesley does not mean putting it in a bank. What he meant is that we are to be careful in how we spend money. He advocated a simple and frugal lifestyle:
a. Simple food
b. No expensive clothes
c. No elaborate houses
d. No fancy gardens

Why should Christians be thrifty? So that they can give away their money. That’s the whole idea of gaining and saving as much as you can.

c. GIVE all you can

Wesley identified 4 areas in which one should give
a. Give to yourself all you need for the basics
b. Give to your family and employees their fair share
c. Give to the ‘household of faith’
d. Give to all men in need

Wesley made 1.4 million pounds per year. He lived on 2% of his income and gave away 98%. That is far, far from our giving 10%. That is kingdom giving.


The kingdom way of investment is gain all you can, save all you can and give all you can. Notice that he did not suggest that you gave everything and beggar yourself. Then you become a burden to society. What he meant is to live a simple lifestyle that you are comfortable with, providing for your family and give the rest away. That is a radical investment of our money.

Concluding Summary
Greed, hoarding and anxiety are all aspect of not enough faith in Jesus concerning our money. The best financial investment instrument is to invest in the kingdom of God. John Wesley taught us the kingdom investment portfolio: gain all you can, save all you can and give all you can.


                                                                                                                                                                           Soli Deo Gloria

|posted 11 June 2006|

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