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Following Christ in a Material World

God blesses us so that we will bless others.


"Living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl"

The princess of pop, Madonna, has sung the lyrics of this song many times. And as we enter the season of Advent and Christmas, Madonna's lyrics seem to ring louder and louder. We are living in a material world and we have increasingly become as someone put it a "culture of stuff." We accumulate stuff. We buy stuff for ourselves and stuff for others. We live in an age where the more stuff we have the more successful and happier we appear to be. And friends, the truth is that none of us are immune to materialism.

For instance, it seems pretty crazy to me that rather than get a good night's sleep after Thanksgiving Day, millions of Americans are willing to get up at two or three in the morning just to wait in line in the frigid cold to have the opportunity to shop on Black Friday and potentially purchase one of three laptop computers. Is $299 a fantastic deal for a laptop? Sure. Is it worth the hassle and the effort? I'm not so sure. But, once again, "we are living in a material world," and we are material boys and girls.

My purpose today in this message is not to give us a tip on bargain shopping. Instead, for the next few weeks during this Advent season, I'd like for us to put our thinking caps on and consider what the Bible has to say about money, wealth, material goods, and prosperity. As we journey through life, few of us will actually stop to think through the ramifications of how we use money and our role as stewards of God's resources. We're going to title this short Advent series: "Following Christ in a Material World."

We're going to start this series with a case study of a well-known Bible person who was well-to-do. The story of Abram's journey spans Genesis chapters 12-25. As we study Genesis 12 and 13 together today, we will consider God's perspective on material blessings.

God blessed Abram.

At the end of Genesis 11, Abram's father, Terah, removed his family from Ur which was in Southern Iraq to settle in Haran which is in Eastern Syria. And, in Chapter 12, God tells Abram that his family is going to relocate again. This time he will move his family from Haran to Canaan (modern day Israel, Lebanon, and Southern Syria) which comprises a distance of about 400 miles. Remember, back then, this was considered a monumental move. Imagine you did not have access to a car. You did not have the luxury of renting a truck from U-Haul, Budget, or Penske. Everything you owned had to be carried by animals.

It's scary enough driving a moving truck across the country. My wife and I drove across the country in our move and it was a very stressful experience. But, think about having to move and deal with crazy animals at the same time. Relocating a family back then was a big deal especially since Abram was 75 years old. So, what does this tell us about Abram? It tells us Abram risked everything in order to follow God and leave his comfort behind in Haran.

But we see that God makes some promises to Abram in the process of this move. What does Genesis 12:1-3 tell us?

The LORD had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. 'I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.'

So, how does God bless Abram?

God blessed him with the promise of offspring.
If we have been around the church, we have probably heard that Abram and his wife Sarai could not conceive a child. At this point Abram was about 75 years old. To him, God's promise must have seemed pretty far-fetched. He may have thought, "God, I'm 75 here. My wife is 65. I don't know if you remember in health education, but it's really late." But, God's promise is that he will make Abram into a great nation. What does that mean? Well, it takes many people to form a nation so God must mean that he's going to bless him with offspring. We see later in Chapter 15 where God says: "Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them … So shall your offspring be." Not only does God promise him with an abundance of offspring, but he also promises him something else.

God blessed him with the promise of material blessings.
God not only promises an abundance of children but he also says to Abram in the second part of verse two: "I will bless you." Many scholars believe that the blessing that God is referring to here is one of material abundance. How do we know this? Well, if you turn with me to Genesis 13:2 it says, "Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold." And then in verse six it says Abram and his nephew Lot were so wealthy that, "the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together." So, it is quite clear that God had blessed Abram with an abundance of riches.

God blessed Abram with a name of honor.
Lastly, we are told that God promises to honor Abram's name. Post-relocation Abram would no longer be known by his neighbors. In some ways, he would lose his identity. Just like our parents left South Korea, China, and other countries to immigrate here to the United States, Abram would leave his native country for a foreign new world. However, God promises him that people would remember his name even in future generations. We know from our own experience that carrying on the family name is important to our families. It was also important in Abram's day.

So, we see here that God commands Abram to leave Ur, but he does not leave him empty handed. God's going to bless him for his obedience. The natural connection that people want to make is that since God blessed Abram in these ways he must also want to bless me in the exact same way.

God must want to bless me in the same way.

There are many teachers of the Bible out there today who argue that since God has covenanted and promised health, wealth, and family well-being to some the same promise holds true for all Christians living today. But, is that really true? We are often disappointed by God because we live as if he should always bless us in these ways. Dear church family, God loves his children so much but he never promises us that we will always be healthy, wealthy, or prosperous after we receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. If we read the New Testament, Jesus says the very opposite. We will look into what Jesus says about money in a couple of weeks.

At the same time, one huge misunderstanding in today's churches is that money is inherently evil. Money is not necessarily evil. In fact, we need money. We need it to live. We need money to buy food and to provide shelter for our families. Money is not evil in and of itself. But, remember, it is "the love of money" that will lead to very destructive patterns in our lives.

John Schneider wrote a book in the mid-90s called Godly Materialism. In this book, Schneider points out all of the positive ways that money and wealth can be used by God's children. Rather than placing guilt on Christians concerning our use of finances, he asks us to simply consider our attitudes when we give. Regarding the Apostle Paul's understanding of money, Schneider writes,

Moreover, like Luke in Acts, Paul respected human freedom. The last thing he wanted was a system of legalistic compulsion, such as is required by the manna of utilitarianism. In the texts cited, he insists on the importance of authenticity, genuineness, giving no more than really comes from the heart. Giving must be "cheerful," not merely a matter of duty.

Guilt should not be the primary motivator for how we spend money and how we choose to give. Rather, love for God and love for neighbor are what motivates our use of God's money. In light of that, why do you think God chooses to bless Abram with affluence?

God blessed Abram to be a blessing to others.

What does it say in our Scripture text? I'm paraphrasing here but God is saying, "I will give you blessings beyond measure in the form of children, wealth, and an honorable name. So now you will be a blessing and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." So, what does this mean for us today? God blesses us so that we will bless others. He does not bless us simply to use his blessings only for ourselves and only for our enjoyment. The world teaches us that we earn the money we have in our bank accounts so that means we can spend it however we want to.

Let's be honest with ourselves. Our church has been blessed tremendously by God with material resources. Many of us make a healthy wage. But the Bible tells us clearly that God blesses us so that we will bless others. If we look deep within our souls, can we honestly say that this year we used God's blessings to bless others? If we can answer yes to this question, praise God! But if not, let's ask ourselves this question: How am I using God's blessings?

No, this is not a sermon that seeks to induce guilt. It is a call to discipleship and stewardship and allowing ourselves to be completely honest. As Christians who claim that Jesus is our Lord and Savior, we must examine every aspect of our lives including our finances. Are we blessing others with God's blessings or do we use it all for ourselves?

How you can bless others.

What does it mean to be a blessing to others? To be a blessing can mean many different things. But this morning I want us to consider how we are being a blessing financially to others in need. To do this, we want to ask ourselves this tough question, "Are we living at a reasonable level as God intended or are we living beyond our means?" This will help us determine our commitment to giving.

Now I cannot make that judgment for you, nor will I judge you for how you spend God's resources. But, through prayer and seeking God's will, I want to encourage every single one of us to think about whether we are living according to God's standards or by the standards of the world. If we always compare ourselves to others, we will never have enough. If we never have enough, we will never give to others and bless them. So, are we living as God intended or how the world teaches us to live?

There is a financial ministry service called Crown Financial Ministries. Crown Financial Ministries may be a very beneficial tool for us individually and as a church in thinking through whether we are living as good stewards of God's blessings. I want to encourage us to check out their web site and ask yourself some very tough questions about your level of stewardship. I know that for many of us this is not a message that we want to hear especially in light of the Christmas season where we're consumed with shopping. But as we enter this Advent season, it is critical for us to think about money. How are we spending God's blessings?

Richard Foster, an expert on spiritual disciplines, tells us that being a blessing is to serve others in all that we are and in all that we have. He says, "Service is not a list of things that we do, but a way of living." In the same way, Abram left everything behind in faith that God would provide for his every need. I want to challenge myself and every person here. The next time we shop for large ticket items or even small personal ones, consider first this question, "Is what I'm about to purchase going to bless someone else?" I'm not talking about the basic necessities of life. But, in whatever we buy, let's first ask ourselves whether that purchase is going to bless others.

During this Advent season, we want to be a blessing to others as a church family. I want to encourage you to participate in our Angel Tree giving project where we will be collecting basic household and personal items for various families in need here in our community. Many of these families don't have basic necessities: toothpaste, tooth brushes, socks, soap, hair brushes, warm clothing and many other items that we take for granted. I encourage every single person and family in our church to give at least one box to a family in need. Won't you be a blessing to others with all the blessings we have received from our great Savior?


I believe that many of us here in this room seldom think about economic stewardship. We go out and buy whatever we feel like buying. At the heart of today's message is one simple truth: God blesses us so that we will bless others. He expected the same from Abram that he does from us. When we receive God's blessings, may we give to the Lord's work first in our tithes and offerings. When we receive God's blessings, may we prayerfully consider giving to those in need. When we receive God's blessings, may we consciously spend a reasonable amount on ourselves for the things that we need and carefully budget how we will bless an individual or family. God blesses us so that we will bless others.

Matthew D. Kim is Professor of Practical Theology and the Hubert H. and Gladys S. Raborn Chair of Pastoral Leadership at Truett Seminary, Baylor University.

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Sermon Outline:


I. God blessed Abram.

  1. God blessed him with the promise of offspring.
  2. God blessed him with the promise of material blessings.
  3. God blessed Abram with a name of honor.

II. God must want to bless me in the same way.

III. God blessed Abram to be a blessing to others.

IV. How you can bless others.