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Perils of Money

An unhealthy love of money can bring many griefs.

Our lives revolve to a certain degree around money. In fact, I dare say there was probably not a day this past week when you didn't engage in some money related conversation during the course of a day.

Maybe it was a conversation about how expensive back to school clothes are. Or maybe you were looking at the headlines of Thursday's Trib or USA Today noting the radical drop in the stock market. Or maybe you were expressing your hopes for a raise at work as the fall term starts.

God's Word recognizes the key role that money plays in our lives. Did you know that sixteen out of Jesus' parables touch on the subject of money or material possessions? Did you know that one out of every ten verses in the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—speak about money? Did you know that there are approximately five hundred verses in Scripture on prayer, and about five hundred verses on faith, but there are nearly two thousand verses on topics? Money, evidently, is a spiritual issue. So God's Word has a lot to say about how to save it, how to spend it, how to make it, how to use and not abuse it, and what happens when you trust it and love it too much.

No amount of money can keep you out of trouble. See, you can end up at the bottom of the river with a wallet full of fifties just as easily as you can with a wallet containing a twenty and a few ones. Not only is money powerless to insolate you from trouble, money can cause of a lot of pain.

The first peril of money is a lack of contentment.

The perils and pleasures of money are flip sides of the same coin. Today we're looking at the perils. If you brought a Bible, would you turn with me to 1 Timothy 6. We're going to look at four perils of money that the apostle Paul outlines for us in this text. The first peril it describes is a lack of contentment. 1 Timothy 6:6: "Godliness with contentment," Paul writes, "is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we'll be content with that."

There are a couple of important lessons here that we could learn about contentment. First, contentment is an internal disposition. In other words, it's got nothing to do with external possessions or circumstances. It's got nothing to do with what you have or what you don't have. In fact, the word contentment in Paul's original language meant independence or . It meant you didn't need anything outside of yourself to make you happy. Your contentment comes from within. Do you believe that? I suspect that most of us believe that. We just don't live like it.

Illustration: John Roseman is a nationally syndicated columnist who is also very funny. He's also a family psychologist, and I saved an article that he wrote several years ago about the epidemic of boredom in our culture among suburban affluent American kids. He has taken three informal polls on the subject.

He said for poll number one, he did a lot of traveling internationally. He said whenever he was in a foreign country he asked parents, "Are your kids bored? Do they complain about boredom?" He said without exception he was always told "no." He said not only that, but parents in other countries looked at him with incredulity, as if to say, Boredom and kids? They don't go together.

The second poll he took was among parents who raised their kids in the forties and fifties; parents my parents' age. He asked them the question, "When you were raising your kids, did you hear them complain about boredom?" The response typical of those parents was, "Rarely." In fact, the parents said that when their kids did complain about being bored their typical response was, "If you can't find something to do" what? "I'll find something for you." How many of you remember that line? It had a way of cutting right to the quick on the boredom bit. Right?

For his third survey, Roseman asked adults his age, in their , "How many toys did you have growing up?" He said the answers ranged from zero to ten. In fact, he said those that answered, "Zero" typically said, "Toys? We took a cardboard box and we made something out of it." He said by contrast, according to studies, the typical American child has accumulated about two hundred and fifty toys. Now, when you stop and think that a five year old has only lived for two hundred and sixty weeks, two hundred and fifty toys equals about one toy per weekand these kids are bored.

Where does contentment come from? Adults, does contentment come from having more toys? Does contentment come from going to more movies? Does contentment come from eating out more often? Does contentment come from taking more weekend getaways? Does contentment come from enlarging your wardrobe?

Contentment comes from within. Contentment is an internal disposition.

The second lesson about contentment I want us to learn from Scripture is that contentment is a learned disposition. I wonder how many of us agreed with what the apostle Paul wrote in verse 8. Or were you in vehement disagreement? Let me read it to you again. Paul says, "If we have food and clothing we'll be content with that."

When I read that, how many of you were thinking to yourselves, "You talking about me, Paul? Paul, speak for yourself. I mean, if you're happy with a steady diet and the clothes on your back, good for you. But it takes a few more worldly possessions to keep a smile on this guy's face."

You know, what I didn't like about what Paul said here as I studied it this past week is that it's so matter of fact. Please note, this is not an admonition. This is not a challenge from Paul. Paul is not using the imperative form of the verb here. He's not preaching at us. Paul's making a statement here. He says if our bare necessities are being met, that's cool. We're content with that.

How could Paul be so certain that contentment is within our daily grasp? Isn't the barebones contentment he's talking about here only possible for super spiritual saints and martyrs? Paul would tell us absolutely not. Any one of us can learn this disposition. Please understand. We don't gravitate instinctively toward contentment. This is a virtue that has to be learned. Paul says in Philippians 4:11, "I have learned the secret of being content whatever the circumstances." I've learned the secret. What did Paul learn? Let me tell you in three steps, three things you can do if you want to learn contentment.

Number one, you have to trust Jesus to be your Savior and your Lord. You have to put your hope in him for the forgiveness of your sin and the promise of eternal life. You have to ask him to begin directing your life as your Master so he can come and fill the vacuum you've been trying to stuff with other things. When Paul says in Philippians 4:11, "I've learned to be content whatever the circumstances," he tells us how in the next verse. He says in verse 12, "Because I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." We often quote that verse out of context. We quote it to mean I can go after my goals and Jesus will help me meet them. Just the opposite. In this context Paul's saying, you know what Jesus helps me do? He fills the hole in my life so that whatever happens to me, I'll be content.

The second thing I would recommend that you do if you want to learn contentment is to make a habit of saying thank you. You've got food. You've got clothes. Thank God. Every moment we're tempted to be discontent over something we want but we don't have is an opportunity to thank God for what we do have in that same category.

Illustration: A week ago my neighbor called me over to his driveway and he showed me his new van. This thing has got everything on it. It has a CD player and a little button that you push and the side door opens and closes, and all sorts of cargo space. I and I . Then I walked from his driveway to my driveway where my 14 Chevy wagon with 120 thousand miles on it was parked. Do you want to know something? As I walked in my driveway I prayed, "Thanks, God." I meant it, because that car just got us back from a wonderful vacation, and it runs like a top. We could fit nine that wagon.

You know, when we came back from vacation we passed through Brooklyn, New York. It was Sunday, and we wanted to stop and hear the Brooklyn Tabernacle choir. Do you know I left my car unattended for four hours, and nobody touched it? The next time you're tempted to grouse about what you don't have but wish you had, thank God for what you've got.

The third piece of advice I want to give you is to stop teasing yourself with images of what you don't have. When you go to the mailbox and you see the Land's End catalogue, drop it in the garbage can. Don't hang out at the mall just to hang out at the mall. Don't go out to eat when you've got food at home in the refrigerator. I mean, there are times to go out to eat, but limit the amount of time that you spend doing so. Don't stare at travel posters dreaming about where you'd go if you had the money. Don't keep dwelling on what you don't have.

Illustration: I was working on a household project this past week, and I had to go to Menard's. What I needed was at the back of the store. By the time I had wandered back up to the cash register after getting what I came for, I was amazed at the number of things I saw that I couldn't live without. I didn't know I needed all of these things before I got to Menard's. Have you been there?

Contentment comes from within, and it is a learned disposition.

The second peril of money is a landslide of sin.

The second peril that money can expose you to is a landslide of sin. Look at the next verses. Verse 9: "People who want to get 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 the root of all kinds of evil."

In my study of this passage this past week I learned that there are about 450 references to evil in the Bible but there's only one verse that specifically states this is where evil can originate: 1 Timothy 6:10. What's behind much of the wickedness in our lives? Paul says it's our love of money.

Please note: he doesn't say money. Money is neutral. He says it's the love of money that can be a root, not the root because there are other roots of evil, but it can be a root of all kinds of evil. If we get too chummy with money and the things that money can buy, if we walk around with a mental wish list of things we'd purchase or things we'd do if we just had more money, if our favorite indoor sport is shopping, then our love of money and the things that money can buy will open the door to a landslide of other sins in our lives. I chose the word landslide deliberately. Look at verse 9. It speaks of many foolish and harmful desires. Look at verse 10. It mentions all kinds of evil. See, there is a great variety of sin that grows out of in our lives.

Friend, think about all of your sinful attitudes that could be related to money in your life.

Have you ever lied for the sake of money? Have you ever shaved the truth on your income tax return or your expense report or in the information you give a customer in order to close a deal and get the commission?

Have you ever coveted something owned by somebody else? Did you know that coveting is one of the big ten? This is amazing. "Thou shalt not covet" is right up there with "Thou shalt not murder" and "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

Have you ever become angry, bitter, or hateful with someone else because of money—a boss who didn't give you what you felt you were worthy of? A business partner who cheated you out of a deal? A family member who got a more sizeable portion of the inheritance than you did?

How about sins related to the spending of money? Have you ever spent too much? Made a god out of the things you purchased? Have you ever spent your money on stuff like smutty magazines or a movie you shouldn't have seen?

Have you ever worked seven out of seven days in order to make more money, ignoring God's clear command—another one of the big ten—that you ought to set one of those days aside each week to focus on worshiping him?

Have you ever used your money to register your kids for so many extracurricular activities that there's no time left in their schedule for you to pass on spiritual values to them? You've got the money, so you sign them up.

Have you ever ignored the Lord's work? Have you ever ignored the poor with that portion of your income that God says needs to be set aside for others?

It's your turn. What would you add to my list? What sin in your life could be traced back to a love of money?

This is serious business, friends. Look at verse 9 again. The apostle Paul says that our love for money, our desire for more, more, more can lead us into a temptation trap. Did you know that when the apostle Paul uses that word trap in his New Testament letters he is tipping us off that there is a spiritual enemy out there who is plotting our destruction? He's setting traps for us. See, the love of money is not just a character flaw that we need to work out. The love of money is also a strategy that the evil one uses against us to ruin our lives and destroy our relationship with God.

Do not take it lightly. As you look at your own life, keep an eye out for the love of money. Fight it every time you see it. If you see evidence of the love of money in your life, take action against it. Deliberately do the opposite of what it's tempting you to do. Get it? Good.

The third peril of money is wandering from the faith.

Look at the middle of verse 10. Paul says, "Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith." Now, let me quickly point out that those who forfeit eternal salvation never had the real thing to begin with. I say this because the Bible teaches this elsewhere. It teaches us that one of the marks of genuine faith is that it keeps on keeping on. So when I speak here of the loss of salvation, I'm talking about people who get real close to owning it, but drift away from God because of their eagerness for money and for material possessions.

I wonder if the apostle Paul didn't have this in mind when he wrote Mark 10. Remember the story of the professional guy who comes to Jesus one day and asks the question, "What can I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus looks at him. He looks at his designer clothes and the Rolex watch, and says, "Here's what you do. Sell everything you have. Give the money to the poor. Then come and follow me." Understand that nowhere else in Scripture does Jesus make those kinds of demands of anyone who inquires about following him. In this guy's case, Jesus was perceptive enough to get right to the root of the sin in the man's life. The root of sin in his life was a love of money. What Jesus was saying was, friend, you have to choose. Is it going to be all that stuff or is it going to be me?

Jesus will never share priority number one in your life with anything else. He will not share it with your job. He will not share it with your house. He will not share it with your family. He will not share it with your vacation trips or your recreational activity. He will be number one. He will be, as they say, Lord of all or not Lord at all. If that kind of stuff is getting in the way of you obeying him, stewarding your resources, worshiping him, or serving him in some way, Jesus would say you've made your choice. He says, you can't follow me and follow that other stuff. I think it's very interesting. Sadly, the fellow in Mark 10 turned and walked away. He was willing to turn his back on the offer of salvation in order to hang onto his possessions.

Look at verse 10 again and note the word wander. I find this to be an interesting word to describe how a love for money and the things that money can buy can cut us off from a relationship with God. Wandering doesn't suggest to me that this is something you deliberately set out to do, to defiantly turn your back on God. Wandering suggests to me that it is something that just happens. You get lost because you're not paying attention to what you should be paying attention to. You get lost because your focus is on other things.

Are you taking your eyes off Jesus because you've told yourself, This is just a temporary diversion. I know it's a case of misplaced priorities, but I'll find my way back to the trail. It's a good way to wander from the faith. What are you looking for? What's taking your attention off Christ? Don't forget that Jesus said, "You can gain the whole world"—Do it. You can gain the whole world.—"But in the process you'll lose your soul."

The fourth peril of money is a lance of sadness.

Finally, the fourth peril: a lance of sadness. Look at verse 10. "For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money have wandered from the faith"—now listen—"and pierced themselves with many griefs."

This word pierced, I learned this past week, is a strong word in the New Testament. I traced its use through other passages and I discovered that it's associated with things like emotional distress and weeping and physical suffering and mental anguish. Paul is warning us here that our eagerness for money can result in us being pierced by many griefs. One translation puts it this way. Instead of the word pierced it uses the expression, "put on a spit." I thought, That's pretty graphic. You can get roasted over your griefs and troubles that are brought on by your love of money.

Illustration: Somebody handed me an Ann Landers column a couple of weeks ago. It was a collection of anecdotes that people had sent to Ann Landers describing local news stories in which crime didn't pay. It was amusing to read of these accounts of people who were so eager to get their hands on money that they did stupid things and eventually were caught because of it.

Like the burglar in New Jersey who left a piece of paper slipped into the lock of the door at work so he could come back after hours and rob the place. Only trouble was the little piece of paper was a traffic ticket with his name on it. They traced him down.

Or the guy in Wichita who was arrested for trying to pass a couple of counterfeit bills at an airport hotel—two $16 bills.

Or the convenience store that was robbed in Topeka, but the guy stayed around too long and was caught. See, when he first came in the place there was so little money in the cash register that he tied up the clerk and began to wait on customers to get more money until the police finally arrived.

These stories about people who were too eager for money are obviously funny. But I want to tell you that there is nothing funny about the lance of sadness that will pierce us with grief if we go that route.

You say, What kinds of grief are you talking about?

I'm talking about things like death. I'm talking about workaholism. I'm talking about families pulled apart because both parents are working at breakneck pace to make enough money to maintain a certain lifestyle. I'm talking about foolish investments, the schemes that we fall into.

I'm talking about gambling. I never thought I'd have to say this, but it's amazing to me every time I go into the city how many casino billboards I see. I thought people were too smart to fall for such advertising schemes. I was talking to a guy the other day who said, "I've got two employees who are in deep weeds because of gambling losses; tens of thousands of dollars."

The list goes on. I was reading a newsletter by Ron Blue this past week, and I was made aware of another grief that hadn't occurred to me among Christ followers. Ron Blue is a Christian CPA. He runs a financial consulting business nationwide. Some of you hear him on the radio or you've read his books. The newsletter was titled something like, Ten Reasons Why Most Christians Don't Give to the Lord's Work. I thought, this will be interesting. I read it. Reason number two was they want to but they can't. They want to, but their mortgage is so big or their car payment is so big or there is so much debt run up on the credit card, or they've got their kids in so many expensive activities that their heart says, I would love to give to God's work, but they feel they just can't do it.

You say, What do we do to keep ourselves from being pierced with griefs like this? In closing, here are a couple of practical suggestions.

First, get serious about the topic of today's message. Pick up the tape and listen to it two or three more times. If you're married, you sit down with your spouse and say, "What ought we to be doing about this kind of stuff?"

The second thing I'd encourage you to do is to identify the black holes in your spending where money is getting vacuumed out. This is going to be hard to do honestly because for some of us we're going to discover that the biggest black hole is a mortgage that's too big and we're going to be faced with the alternative of whether or not we've got the courage to downsize. I want to tell is a long time. The rewards that you'll have there for serving God in this life are incredibly important. Don't forfeit them to hang onto a bigger house that you can't afford for the next several years.

The third thing I encourage you to do is get some budgeting counseling. Don't let the perils of money put you on the spit and roast you over the griefs that result when money isn't handled God's way.

Jim Nicodem founded Christ Community Church in St. Charles, Illinois in 1984. Prior to that, Jim served as pastor of a church on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

Jim Nicodem

Preaching Today Tape # 205


A resource of Christianity Today International

Jim Nicodem is founder and pastor of Christ Community Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

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Sermon Outline:

Introduction: God's Word recognizes the key role money plays in our lives

I. The first peril of money is a lack of contentment.

II. The second peril of money is a landslide of sin.

III. The third peril of money is wandering from the faith.

IV. The fourth peril of money is a lance of sadness.