How to Honor the Government

This lesson is all about How to Render to Caesar and Render to God what is his (Paying Taxes and being a Good Steward).

Passages: Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26

Purpose: To develop the character quality of gratitude and respect (honor) for government. Jesus taught His disciples that one way to express these qualities is to “…render (aorist Imperative) to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s”  (Matthew 22:21). This command also addresses our responsibility to give ourselves fully to God because we were made in His image which was marred through the “fall of mankind” (Genesis 3:1-24; Romans 5:12-14) but can be recovered through the cross (Romans 5:15-21).

Historical Background: Chronologically this narrative (Matthew 22:15-22) occurs the Wednesday before the crucifixion. Jesus had just been proclaimed to be “The King of the Jews” two days before as He entered Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11). The multitudes had hoped that He would enter Jerusalem and free Israel from Roman bondage. It was ironic that the next day Christ cursed a fig tree because it reminded Him of Israel’s fruitlessness (Matthew 21:18-19a; Mark 11:12-14) and attacked Israel’s own religious system (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-48).

His actions of entering the temple and overturning the tables of the money changers were questioned as to the source of their authority. Those asking this question were the Pharisees. Jesus impedes the answer to their question with one of His own. Jesus asked, “The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” (Matthew 21:25). The Pharisees found themselves in a dilemma. They desired Christ’s answer but knew it was contingent on their own. They sought to trap Jesus and found themselves trapped. When they realized the implications of answering they answered “We do not know” (Matthew 21:27). Then Jesus didn’t reveal the source of His authority to them.

Jesus proceeded to teach three parables which taught the Pharisees would be excluded from the Kingdom.

  1. The two sons (Matthew 21:28-32)
  2. The vineyard (Matthew 21:33-44)
  3. The wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14).

The religious leaders understood the parables were spoken against them and their intensity of resentment toward Jesus grew (Matthew 21:45-46; Mark 12:12; Luke 20:19). He opposed them and brought to light their hypocrisy and pride. Also, His growing popularity among the people concerned them. He claimed to be Messiah, the Son of God, and He cleansed the temple without getting their permission first! He was genuine; they were false.

The sort of authority they would have sought would have been in the form of rabbinical papers (the authorities of old). After they were publicly unmasked as hypocrites by the three parables they realized they had to do something. They designed a simple strategy which would discredit His ministry. They were hoping to ask Him a question in such a way that either way He answered, He would be in trouble. The question was about paying taxes. The Pharisees thought they could trap Christ this time.

Commanded in the Gospels: Matthew 22:21 (render), Mark 12:17 (render), Luke 20:25 (render). Men who would take more than what Rome had ordered to be collected were swindlers (extortioners KJV), were despised, and often associated with harlots and other public sinners (Matthew 5:46; 9:10-11; 11:19; 18:17; Mark 2:15,16; Luke 5:29,30; 7:34; 15:1 ,2). These tax-gatherers had offices (Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27) and a number of them repented (Matthew 10:3; 21:31-32; Luke 3:12-13; 5:27; 7:29; 18:10-11, 13; 19:2).

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: The Jews often tried to stir up Roman authority by suggesting that Christ or His followers were acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar (Acts 17:17). The Sanhedrin brought Christ before Pilate and falsely accused Him of opposing payment of taxes to Caesar (Luke 23:2). This was a deliberate distortion of Christ’s teaching.

Amplified in the Epistles: Romans 13:6-7

Discussion Questions:

1. What where the Pharisees plotting to do to Jesus? (Matthew 22:15) While Jesus continued to teach the crowds in the Court of the Gentiles, “the Pharisees” gathered privately in another part of the Temple to plan their next move. Because they were still afraid to take action against Him directly they cleverly planned to trap Him.

Mark 12:13 and Luke 20:20 provide a purpose clause (hino – “in order that”) to help us identify their intentions. Mark 12:13 says,”…in order to trap Him in a statement.” The word for “trap” (agrevo is rendered by the KJV as “catch” and literally means “to take by hunting.” It is used metaphorically of the Pharisees and Herodians seeking to catch Christ as He spoke.

Luke 20:20 uses a different word but translates it “catch.” It literally means, “they might take hold of” or “seize his words.” The Pharisees and Herodians were hoping to trap or catch him in some subversive statement against Rome that would ensure His arrest and execution as an insurrectionist. They wanted to “catch Him in some statement, “so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor” (Luke 20:20), who at that time was Pilate.

2. Who were the Herodians? (Mark 12:13) Matthew 22:16a says, “…along with the Herodians.” The Herodians were not normal allies of the Pharisees. In fact, the two groups were usually at odds with each other. Not much is known about the Herodians besides what can be inferred from their name. The Herod family was not Jewish but ldumean, descendants of Israel’s ancient enemies the Edomites. Beginning with Herod the Great, they had received favors from Rome in the form of various high political appointments, including rulerships over parts of Palestine.

The Herodians had no love for Jesus and may even have been instructed by Herod Antipas to try to instigate His death or at least imprisonment. It was that tetrarch who had imprisoned and eventually beheaded Jesus’ forerunner and friend, John the Baptist, and when Herod heard of Jesus’ miraculous works, he was afraid that He was John risen from the dead. But he was also curious to see Jesus in order to witness His miracle-working power (Luke 9:7; 23:8). Sometime later, certain Pharisees who were friendly to Jesus warned Him to flee Perea because “Herod wants to kill you” (Luke 13:31). Consequently, during the latter part of His ministry, Jesus had avoided the territory of Herod because of the hostility toward Him there, “for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33).

Any Herodians, even if they were Jews as these men were, would have had strong allegiance to Rome, and it was doubtlessly for that reason that the Pharisees asked some of them to accompany their disciples as they confronted Jesus. Should Jesus fall into their trap and make the expected objection to paying Roman taxes, the Herodian Roman sympathizers would serve as credible witnesses. Although the Pharisees despised the Herodians as irreligious traitors, it well suited their purpose to enlist these men’s help in entrapping Jesus.

3. How did the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians address Jesus? (Matthew 22:16; Mark 12:14; Luke 20:21) They addressed Him as “Teacher” (didaskos]. To address a Jewish man as “Teacher” was a high form of honor, reserved for rabbis who had distinguished themselves as astute students and interpreters of Jewish law and tradition. The Talmud said, “The one who teaches the law shall gain a seat in the academy on high.”

4. How did these disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians play the hypocrite and flatter? (Matthew 22:16b; Mark 12:14; Luke 20:21) They pretended to admire Him and flattered them with three statements. Matthew 22:16b says, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any.” Mark E. Moore writes that they were saying to Jesus:

  1. You are a man of integrity, therefore, we can follow your example in this.
  2. You accurately teach the will of God, therefore we can trust your opinion on this.
  3. You are not swayed by men, therefore we can believe your answer will be unbiased. No one was fooled by their false flattery.

Not only the Old Testament but rabbinic tradition strongly condemned flattery and hypocrisy. Despite the fact that rabbinic tradition condemned flattery and hypocrisy, Luke 20:20 says, “So they watched him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor.” They acted as if they sincerely wanted an answer to the question they were about to pose.

5. What question do they ask Jesus and how does it appear to be a no win situation for Jesus? (Matthew 22:17) They solicited Jesus’ opinion with this question: “Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” It is clear that their simple question is designed to trap Jesus. If he says, “No,” the crowds will be delighted, of course. They hate taxation. More than one third of their income goes to pay Roman taxes. While the crowds would have loved Jesus to ban taxation, the Herodians would have immediately arranged for His arrest and execution. On the other hand, if Jesus says “Yes, we should pay taxes to Caesar,” the people, urged on by the Pharisees, will stop following him. After all, any Messiah who can’t throw off the shackles of Roman domination (and especially taxation) is not worthy of support. Jesus appears to be trapped!

So, if Christ had legitimatized the payment of taxes, He would have seemed to abandon Israel’s hope; but if He had denied Rome the right to collect taxes, He would have been guilty of treason.

6. What motivated them to pose this question? (Matthew 22:18, Mark 12:15; Luke.20:23) Jesus knows what they are up to and calls them on the carpet. Matthew 22:18 says, “Jesus perceived their malice” and Luke 20:23 says “He detected their trickery.” He knew the men who posed the question were not the ones who devised it; and that the words of praise they had just showered on Him were not motivated by admiration but “malice.” The word “malice” (poneria) is better translated “wickedness” (KJV) or “iniquity.” This word speaks of the evilness of their plan. It must have hurt when Jesus identified them as “hypocrites” publicly. Jesus exposes them as hollow people, actors, pretenders, fakes. Mark 12:15 says, But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.”

Jesus calls for a coin. The very fact that they have a Roman denarius in their possession indicates they accept Roman rule at some level. After all, you can’t accept a government’s right of coinage without also admitting its right of taxation.

7. What was a poll tax? (Matthew 22:19; Mark.12:14) The name “poll-tax” (kensos) is taken from the Latin censere, from which is derived the English census. Of the many taxes the Romans exacted from occupied territories, none was more onerous to Jews than the poll-tax, a tax payable yearly by every individual and therefore sometimes called the head tax. Among other things, it was for the purpose of collecting the poll-tax that Rome took a periodic census, such as the one that had required Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem just before Jesus was born (Luke 2:1-4).

Paying for the support of the occupying forces and providing the many beneficial services for which Rome was famous required an enormous amount of money, necessarily supplied by taxation. Consequently a land tax of one tenth of the grain and one fifth of the wine and oil produced was assessed annually, as was a one percent income tax on wage earners. Customs taxes on merchandise were collected at all ports and major crossroads.

The Romans offered many services to conquered peoples, not the least beneficial of which was the Pax Romana, or Roman peace. Because of their strategic military and commercial locations, many countries of the Near East had had little respite from war for centuries. They fought one invader after another and were ruled by one conqueror after another. At least under Roman protection they were free from war and could travel in relative safety anywhere in the empire. The Romans also provided Via Romana, valuable roads and aqueducts, many ruins of which still exist today.

Although the poll-tax may not have been the most costly tax for most people, it was the most resented by Jews. Perhaps it was because they considered themselves as personally belonging to God rather than to Caesar. It was the census tax that incited the insurrection of Judas of Galilee in A.D. 6 that was instrumental in the deposing of Herod Archelaus and his replacement by a Roman governor. Judas’ rallying cry was that, because God was their only God and Lord, the census tax would not be paid to Rome. As Gamaliel reminded the Sanhedrin when Peter and the other apostles were being questioned in Jerusalem, the rebel Judas “perished, and all those who followed him were scattered” (Acts 5:37). It was the nationalistic, anti-Roman sentiment of Judas on which the Zealot movement was built and that was behind the rebellion of A.D. 66 that led to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple four years later.

It was therefore not by accident that the Pharisees had instructed their disciples to induce Jesus to make a statement about the poll-tax. If He gave an answer favorable to the tax, He would become despised by the Jewish multitudes who until then highly admired Him. In that case, the Jewish leaders would then be free to arrest and have Him executed without interference from the populace. But they presumed He would answer otherwise and openly declare that the tax was both unjust and ungodly and should not be paid to the oppressive, pagan Caesar, thus incurring the wrath of Rome as an insurrectionist.

8. What kind of coin did they bring Jesus? (Matthew 22:19b) Disregarding Jesus’ harsh accusations against them, the men readily “brought Him a denarius,” being more than glad to help Him fall into their snare. The specific coin used for the poll-tax was the denarius, which amounted to the daily wage for a soldier or common laborer in Palestine. Although several coinages, including Greek and Hebrew were used in Israel at the time, and exchange from one to the other was easy, only the Roman denarius could be used to pay the poll-tax. It was a silver coin, minted expressly by the emperor, who alone had the authority to issue coins in silver or gold. All such coins, including the denarius, bore an engraving of the emperor on one side and an identifying inscription on the other.

That fact made the coins especially offensive to Jews for three reasons:

  1. For one thing, the emperor’s picture was a reminder of Roman oppression.
  2. The coin itself had an offensive inscription: “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus” and on the flip side, “pontifex maximus” (“the most high priest”).
    1. The coinage of Christ’s day was more than secular; it was religious. The emperors, who believed they were high priests, also believed they were gods.
    2. They often usurped the authority of God by having large numbers of people killed. Many Christians lost their lives because they failed to worship the emperor. Emperor worship was a part of the Roman Empire.
  3. The Mosaic Law specifically forbade the making of images (Exodus 20:4). In modern Israel, certain extremely orthodox Jews strictly forbid the taking of their photographs, because the resulting picture is considered a graven image.

9. Why did Jesus ask them to describe the coin? (Matthew 22:20) Jesus simply holds up the coin and asks whose picture is on it. Matthew 22:20 says, and He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They must have seen where he was headed even as their answer slips from their tongues. The logic is so simple and yet so profound: Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.

10. What command does Jesus give in Matthew 22:21? (Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25) Matthew 22:21 says, they said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render (aorist Imperative) to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”

Christ here recognizes two divinely constituted spheres of authority. In the one sphere God is supreme. In the other, Caesar has delegated authority. Christ’s statement anticipated Paul’s teaching that all civil authorities are constituted by God (Romans 13:1-7, John 19:10-11). As such they are God’s ministers to maintain law and order and to provide an atmosphere in which righteous men may live in peace (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

The word “render” is the command of Christ in this narrative. This command is an aorist imperative which denotes urgency and literally means to “pay” or “give back” (apodidomi) implying a debt. It carries the idea of obligation and responsibility for something that is not optional. This is one of the commands of Christ that must be taken seriously. Jesus teaches here that we owe them to the government as surely as we have financial obligations to God as part of our stewardship (Malachi 4:8-12).

This has some ponderous (heavy, weighty) implications:

First, a government does have the right of taxation. If we cheat on our taxes, we are disobeying the ordained authority of God (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).

Romans 13:1-7 tells us… Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

The word “tax” in Romans 13:6-7 is phoros in the Greek text. Rome had one tax called kensos in Greek, and that was a head tax, or census. Every person paid it.

Then they had the poll tax, or land tax. That is what Paul is referring to in Romans 13:7. This tax was like our income tax. An assessment was made on land, property, slaves, and capital. The taxable amount of one’s possessions was determined, the appropriate tax rate applied, and then the person was charged the tax. So Paul says to pay your income tax.

Second, Paul also instructs believers to show respect or honor to government officials. The Greek word for honor denotes “assigning a price or value to someone.” It can sometimes refer to money. 1 Timothy 5:7 says, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” This would refer to respect and compensation. So our phrase in Romans 13:7, “honor to whom honor is due” could be translated, “Give money to whom money is due.”

It can also mean “respect.” It is best to see Paul as using two words that refer to money, (tax and duty), and two words that demonstrate attitude, (respect and honor). We are to pay our taxes and duty with an attitude of respect and honor. We should respect government officials for their position despite their perspective or personality.

We should be grateful for the provision and protection that is ours in this country; and thank God for placing us here where we have such freedom and prosperity. Our government leaders may not always please us as Christians, but we should be grateful to live in such a benevolent society. As we prosper we should thankfully pay our taxes, and not think of it as a chore we hate or despise.

1 Peter 2:13-17 says to Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

But, what about… What if Government spends our tax dollars inappropriately? We don’t obey a government because we like what it does, who’s in charge, or how it spends its money.

11. Is there ever an appropriate time for civil disobedience? (Acts 4:19; 5:29) There are appropriate occasions for civil disobedience (Acts 4:19; 5:29). However, civil disobedience should only be reserved for times when the government asks us directly or individually to disobey what God has commanded us to do or not to do. The same Peter that taught “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors…” told those in authority that he would not stop preaching the gospel because he was under a higher authority that had commanded him to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

12. Whose image was on the coin that Jesus was displaying in His hand? (Matthew 22:21b) The image on the coin is Caesar (Tiberias). Obviously, if his picture is on it, then it belongs to him. So what should we do? “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

13. Whose image were the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians made in? (Matthew 22:21b) God’s image! Jesus says, “Then render… to God the things that are God’s.” As Jesus looks around the audience, he sees men and women who are as clearly imprinted with the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 5:1; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). They have an obligation to give their lives to Him. But even now, Jesus the Messiah stands before them. Instead of following Him, as God intended, they are trying to trap him. They are, in this very moment, robbing God that which is due him.

14. How did they respond to Jesus’ answers to their questions? (Matthew 22:22; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:26) Matthew 22:22 says “And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.” Luke’s Gospel says, “And they were unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and being amazed at His answer, they became silent” (Luke 20:26).

The Pharisees and Herodians are stumped. They have laboriously contrived this “impenetrable” question. Their scheme was foolproof, yet in less than fifteen seconds this uneducated Galilean dismantles their question, exposes their motives, and convicts their hypocrisy. All they can do is walk away with their tails between their legs.

Application Questions:

  1. What was your attitude toward authority in your younger days? (Compliant? Obedient? Rebellious?)
  2. What bothers you the most about government? (Taxes? Scandals? Regulations? Waste? Nothing?)
  3. How has this command impacted your soul?
    1. Mind/Attitude – thoughts
    2. Will – decisions
    3. Emotions – feelings
  4. In your life, what belongs to Caesar? What belongs to God?
  5. How well are you giving to each?

The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources:
1. Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
2. The Expositors Bible Commentary, Volume 8 by: Frank E. Gaebelein (General Editor), Zondervan Publishing House, 1984
3. New Testament Commentary- Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark by: William Hendriksen, Baker Book house, 1975.
4. Mark- A Portrait of the Servant by: Edmond D. Hiebert, Moody Press, 1974
5. The New International Commentary on the New Testament.
6. The Gospel According to Mark by: William L. Lane, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1974.
7. He Came to Suffer by: Thomas R. Lovejoy, Grace Community Church, 1984
8. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 7 6-23 by: John MacArthur Jr., Moody Press, 1988.
9. Word Studies in the Greek New Testament: Volume 1 by: Kenneth S. Wuest, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1950.
10. The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Publishing Company, 1997
11. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ by: J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981

[Richard D. Leineweber Jr. © Copyright 1994]

Greed Builds Bigger Barns

We are now up to the fourth command in this infant stage, or Win Level. So far we have…

  1. Come and see – John 1:39
  2. Repent and Believe – Mark 1:14-15
  3. Fear / Do not Fear – Luke 12:5-7
  4. Greed / Covetousness – Luke 12:15

Last time we saw how GREED was a second barrier to faith in this introductory level, Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15). Only Luke records this story (SEC 147).

Our passage today is from Luke 12:13-21, regarding the issue of dividing inheritance, and Jesus’ story about the accumulation of wealth and building bigger barns.

1. Consider these opening discussion questions…

  • What did you like to collect as a child? What about now?
  • What would you like to be doing ten years from now?

2. Of what is Jesus warning (Luke 12:15)?
BEWARE and BE ON YOUR GUARD – present imperatives that could be translated, “be ever on alert and be guarding yourself from every form of greed.”

  • Jesus is pointing out that greed seeks more material possessions which are not to be equated with “really living” (John 10:10, 1 Timothy 6:19).
  • Material possessions can become a substitute for the proper object of worship, which makes greed into idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
  • A person is measured by what he is, not by what he has.
  • Mark Twain once defined civilization as “a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessities.”

3. How do you respond to the dilemma of the rich man (Luke 12:17)?

  • He had so many possession he did not know what to do. He had nowhere to store his crops.
  • How would you have responded to the man? “I sure wish I had that problem” which might reveal some covetousness on our part. If you inherited a great deal of wealth, would that create a problem for you? Or would you just ask God how to handle HIS resources?
    1. Wealth can choke the Word of God (Matthew 13:22).
    2. Wealth can create snares and temptations (1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19) and give you a false sense of security.
  • People say that money does not satisfy, but it does satisfy if you want to live on that level.

4. What was his solution (Luke 12:18)?
He was so prosperous that his solution was to build bigger barns to store all his crops. His investments had produced income for life. The farmer saw his wealth as an opportunity to please himself rather that to build God’s kingdom or his people. He did not think about others or about God.

5. What was this man’s motivation (Luke 12:19)?

  • He was comforted to think that he had all he would ever need, so eat, drink, and be merry.
  • He thought the world was all there would ever be, and life consisted in luxury and plenty.
  • How blind is this guy? What a tragic mistake.

6. Why was his solution displeasing to God (Luke 12:20)?

  • Is God intolerant of self-indulgent people?
  • Is God jealous of all other gods?
  • Is it that God doesn’t care for rich people?
  • God’s response was that this man was foolish because when he died, his possessions could do nothing for him. That night he would die, leave this world, and answer directly to God for the life he had been given.

7. What is the point of Jesus’ parable?

  • It’s okay to be successful, but remember your highest priority?
  • Prepare for the future, but look beyond your finances?
  • When you think you have it made, think again?
  • You can’t take it with you?
  • If you store up riches for yourself, you are not rich toward God (Luke 12:21)

8. How do you respond to the decision of the rich man (Luke 12:18)?

  • He was a shrewd businessman, saving for the future. Jesus commended shrewdness (Luke 16:8).
    1. Good business principles are commended (1 Timothy 5:8).
    2. Jesus does not encourage waste (John 6:12).
  • But Jesus saw this man’s selfishness (note the 11 personal pronouns used) and thought him a fool.
  • Look out for number one is not an attitude of Jesus.

9. How do you respond to the desires of the rich man?

  • This is the life: success, satisfaction, security. What else could he want?
  • Jesus did not see this man enjoying life, but rather facing death.
  • True life does not come from our abundance of possessions; the man had a false sense of life and death.
    1. “That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest” – Henry David Thoreau.
    2. “A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone” – Henry David Thoreau.

10. How do you respond to the death of the rich man?

  • Too bad this guy died, just when he had everything going for him. How tragic that he could not finish his plans.
  • The tragedy was NOT in what he left behind, but in what lay before him (eternity without God).
  • He lived without God and he died without God.

11. How would you like to be remembered?

  • Someone who gave a lot?
  • Someone who enjoyed what he had?
  • Someone who was rich toward God?
  • Someone who invested into God’s kingdom, through missions, benevolence, generosity?

This man stored up and saved for his retirement, but was totally unprepared for the afterlife. He threw his whole soul into that which would be gone in an instant. Notice how he had a deceptive conversation with his soul (Luke 12:19).

  1. Wealth is to be enjoyed.
  2. Wealth is to be employed.

It was Rick Warren who said, “It is not a sin to BE rich, it is a sin to DIE rich.” Remember the command (Luke 12:15). Jesus has this warning for those investigating the Christian faith, that greed and covetousness are a barrier to faith in Christ.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

What to do with Your Money

While there are those in America who can’t afford food or shelter, but generally speaking, if you compare yourself to others around the world, you are filthy rich. American Christians are among the wealthiest believers to have ever lived! I remember reading a book in seminary called, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (ethics class), and I have been empathetic to the poor ever since.

There’s nothing wrong with being rich, but God has some very specific things to say to rich Christians. I even delivered a message back in 2010 about Investing in Eternity.

Take a look at 1 Timothy 6:17-19. Paul tells Timothy to give rich Christians some information.

Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

So let’s take a look at 10 things God wants rich Christians to do:

1. Don’t Be Proud: Some translations use the word, haughty, which is blatantly and disdainfully proud. It might indicate the stereotypical rich snob, who feels they have more self worth than others because they have more net worth than others.

2. Don’t Put Your Trust in Money: It’s funny how we feel more comfortable and at ease when our bank account is full, and much less comfortable when our bank account is empty. Those are natural feelings, but where do they come from? Many times it’s because money is our idol and we put our hope and trust in our cash instead of the sovereign Creator of all things.

3. Put Your Trust in God: God is the One who promises to take care of his children. Everything we have ever earned, received, or worked for is a direct gift from him. He is the One we look to for our hope, faith, and trust, not wealth.

4. Enjoy Your Money: God created us to glorify and worship him by enjoying Him forever. We enjoy Him by enjoying the things He has given us. God gives us money to invest in eternity, but he also wants us to enjoy it as well. Use it to glorify him by enjoying what he’s given you, and always remember him as the source!

5. Do Good: Use your money for good things, like helping others and giving to the poor. Don’t just spend lavishly on yourself.

6. Be Wealthy With Good Works: Instead of constantly trying to dream of ways to build wealth with your business or work, dream about how to build wealth in terms of your good works towards others.

7. Be Generous: Generosity should be the mark of every Christian, especially rich Christians. After all, Christ gave up all the riches of heaven to become poor so that we (through his life, death, and resurrection) might become eternally rich!

8. Be Ready to Share: You become ready to share by getting rid of generosity killers like debt, greed, pride and busyness!

9. Store Up Treasure in Heaven: What does it mean to store up treasure in heaven? Back in those days, Jews would have understood treasure in heaven to mean deeds of mercy and deeds of kindness to those in need. We build great wealth in heaven by eagerly helping the poor, needy, and distressed of this world.

10. Experience True Life: True and lasting life is an eternity spent with your heavenly Father who loves you and sent his Son to die for you. Jesus lived the perfect life that you and I never could to make atonement for sins we have committed. He died a gruesome and horrendous death on a cross, one that you and I deserved to die. And yet, he laid his life down willingly. For the joy that was set before Him, he endured the beatings. He scorned the shame of a Roman cross, for you. He went to that hill to die and all the while he whispered that he loves you.

That is what we cling to, not our wealth. Not our money-making plans, or our business ventures. Those things aren’t wrong, but they aren’t true life! Look to Jesus Christ, the source of true life!

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Investing in Eternity

Think for a moment about money and possessions. Americans are spending a significant portion of their incomes on luxury items and recreation—and they are spending it fast. Why wait until you can afford something, if you can charge it and have it instantly? Outstanding consumer debt in this country has skyrocketed, leaving many people in financial shambles. They pursue the “good life,” the so-called “American dream.”

But there is no “good life” you can buy no matter how much money you have. The “American dream” is nothing more than an illusion and chasing that dream can become destructive. I read recently that the more money you have the more likely you are to commit suicide; and life expectancy decreases as income increases. Money adds to stress, and that in turn takes years off your life. I read Pastor John MacArthur who said that “wealth intensifies moral decline and family disintegration. Marital infidelity and divorce rates rise with income levels.” Obviously, money cannot buy happiness.

Truth enjoyment of wealth comes not from possessing it, but from investing it as God intended; into things that count for eternity.

The Story of William Borden (1887-1913).

In 1904 William Borden graduated from a Chicago high school. As heir to the Borden Dairy estate, he was already a millionaire. For his high school graduation present, his parents gave 16-year-old Borden a trip around the world. As the young man traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden for the world’s hurting people. Finally, Bill Borden wrote home to say, “I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.”

One friend expressed surprise that he was “throwing himself away as a missionary.” In response, Bill wrote two words in the back of his Bible: “No reserves.”

During his college years, Bill Borden made one entry in his personal journal that defined what his classmates were seeing in him. That entry said simply: “Say ‘no’ to self and ‘yes’ to Jesus every time.”

He was a graduate of Yale University in 1909 and of Princeton Theological Seminary. Borden was converted to Christianity under the ministry of Dwight L. Moody. He later decided to become a missionary to the Muslims of China, but died of spinal meningitis in Egypt during his training there at the age of 25. He is buried in the American Cemetery in Cairo.

When news of William Borden’s death was cabled back to the U.S., the story was carried by nearly every American newspaper. “A wave of sorrow went round the world . . . Borden not only gave (away) his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it (seemed) a privilege rather than a sacrifice” wrote Mary Taylor in her introduction to his biography.

Across town in the Egyptian National Museum is another grave, this one is called the King Tut Exhibit. The Boy King was only 17 when he died and his tomb was filled with literally tons of gold. The Egyptians believed in the afterlife, and that you could take it with you. But all of King Tut’s eternal treasures stayed right there until Howard Carter discovered his burial chamber in 1922. It hadn’t been seen or touched in 3000 years.

There are two graves in Cairo, one is off the beaten path, dusty and littered with garbage while the other is filled with unimaginable wealth. Our phrase of the month has been “you can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.” One had invested in eternity and the other did not.

Scripture for Today: 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19

This life is preparation for eternity; we brought nothing into this world and will take nothing out of it either. So how can believers send our treasure on ahead?

At the end of this passage, Paul talks about building a foundation, building a house somewhere in eternity. It’s metaphorical, yet speaks to the fact that we can take hold of what is “true life.” Many people today say they are looking for “the good life.” But Paul goes one step further and says, “if you understand how to be a good steward of what God has given you, and don’t let what you possess, possess you, you will learn about “the true life.”

An old story tells of a wealthy man who getting on in years called in a faithful employee, who had been with him a long time. He gave this trusted employee some surprising instructions. He said, “I am going on a world tour. I will be gone for a year. While I am gone I want you to build me a house. I have already purchased the lot. Here’s the check that will cover all the expenses. I want you to take this money and build a nice house. Draw up the plans yourself and do it extremely well. I will see you when I get back.”

So the old man departed and the employee went to work. With shrewd purchasing he cut corners at several points in the construction process. He used inferior materials at every opportunity, especially at those places that wouldn’t be easily seen.

Finally the house was completed and he produced a beautiful, exterior shell that covered a shoddy piece of workmanship. He lined his own pockets with several thousand dollars that he had saved by cutting corners. After all he thought to himself, the old man wouldn’t know the difference. He would never miss the money. So what if the house wasn’t that well constructed, he wasn’t going to be living in it that long anyway.

The first day back from the trip the old man wanted to see his house and so they drove there and as they were driving he said to his trusted employee, “You may have wondered why I wanted you to build this house.” “Yes I did” the employee admitted. The old man said, “Because I have a really nice house already.” “I know you do,” said the employee. The old man said, “Well you have been a faithful assistant for all these many years, I wanted to find a way to show you my appreciation. Here are the keys. The house is yours.”

What kind of spiritual house are we building with the money that God has entrusted to us? That’s really what Paul is talking about. Because in 19 he says, “they will lay up a treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age. That you might take hold of life that is truly life.”

You know he is not just talking to rich folks. Every believer is commanded to store up treasure in heaven. But how? While Paul addresses the issue of money in this passage, it’s more than just money and how much we put in the offering plate.

Robert Fulgum is a well-known author. He has written a series of best sellers the most popular probably is, “All I Really Need to Know, I learned in Kindergarten.” His books have grown to 15 to 20 million copies, in 30 languages, and 100 countries. He is pretty well off financially I would guess and as a way of keeping his spiritual life centered, do you know what he does? He visits his own cemetery plot. I don’t know what’s wrong with him but he said he likes to visit it. In spite of his great wealth, he said it reminds him to live life in a way that is rich toward God. And when he goes and visits his own cemetery plot he will sit down and he will say this to himself. “Don’t get lost here,” meaning this life, “Don’t get lost here. Know where you are going.” I don’t believe he was just thinking, know you’re going to die someday, but know you’re going to give an account and you don’t want to cheat yourself when you give an account of your heavenly investments.

So what is the key to investing in eternity? What are the marks of a good expirement plan? Well, let’s take a walk through this passage to discover how. Notice your outline in the bulletin, so you can follow along and fill in the blanks so we can I.N.V.E.S.T. in Eternity…

I – Interest as a means of great gain (1 Timothy 6:6)

Skip mentioned last week about the value of compounded interest. I’m not a math person and can’t explain it like he did, but I know the chart can have an exponential rise at the end. As we seek to live our lives for God, we are joined with a community of faith that adds even more to what we bring to God. It is like the value of the Cooperative Program, where many churches can do so much more together than one church can do alone. Same thing goes for individual believers. People can support causes, do random acts of kindness, and live a godly life, but when we all come together we can see the exponential nature of the body of Christ in action. Working together and individually we lay up treasure in heaven.

N – Nothing was brought into this world (1 Timothy 6:7)

Notice that we came into the world with everything that belongs to us. So everything that we currently say belongs to us is really not ours. You can’t take it with you. That is what stewardship is all about. Last week we learned about the first Treasure Principle Key, that “God owns everything, I’m his money manager.”

If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, you understand that the whole point of the third part is the return of the king. The city of Gondor has no king, but a steward to manage it until the king’s return. There is a tragic end for Denethor, the steward of Gondor, when he refuses to give up his power and submit to the rightful King. We are stewards of all that we possess, and nothing physical will be taken into eternity.

V – Volunteers are essential to winning (1 Chronicles 12:38 NIV)

“All these were fighting men who volunteered to serve in the ranks. They came to Hebron fully determined to make David king over all Israel.” Volunteers are essential to any successful venture. The church is a volunteer organization and the ministry that happens here is done not because of staff but because of the faithful people who have embrace the mission and vision of this congregation. In this passage, these fighting men volunteered to serve in the ranks, on the ground, where the fighting was hard, and their mission was to make David King. Noticed they were not half-hearted but were determined. Are we fully resolved to the mission of making Jesus King over all the land?

What positions will we take? Where is the battle raging the most? Let me suggest that nowhere is the battle more necessary than working with our children and youth. We often say these areas are important because we are raising the next generation of the church, but they ARE the church, now. What better way to invest in eternity than to volunteer to work with our preschoolers, children and teenagers?

There is something I noticed in the church constitution, Article V. Membership, Section 3 – Duties of Members… Every member is expected to be faithful in all duties essential to the Christian life, and also to attend the services of this church, give regularly to its support and causes, and share in its organized work.

Take out your Connection Card right now and look at the back. Mark the box about investing in our children and circle your age preference. You may be serving in many areas of the church, but not everyone is that determined. Please don’t say that you’ve been there and done that. We all must have the attitude that if we don’t do it, it won’t get done. Every week when we come to church, we must look for a place to serve before we find a place to sit. If you physically can’t do the task, can you help recruit other volunteers? Can you talk on the phone to encourage people, follow up with guests, serve on a committee, or make reminder phone calls to others who are scheduled to serve? It’s time for all of God’s people to stand up and volunteer to serve in the ranks, because Jesus needs to be the king over all the land.

E – Evil vs. Eternal, rather than temporal (1 Timothy 6:10, 17, 19)

Paul mentions that the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil. Money is not inherently bad; Dave Ramsey says that money is amoral. It can be used for good purposes and can be spent of bad choices. It’s the love of money that causes us to change our behavior. It makes us put finances and possessions on a higher level of priority than relationships. Rather than loving people and using things, we start to love things and use people.

Randy Alcorn in this book The Treasure Principle, says that “Money Leads, Hearts Follow.” This is exactly what Jesus said in Matthew 6:21, where your treasure is, there will be your heart also (Matthew 6:21). We tend to get that backwards. We believe that where our heart is, we will support that passion. Have you ever wanted a heart for missions? Then put your money into missions and your heart will follow. So, the second Treasure Principle Key is that “my heart always goes where I put my money.”

If you want to invest in eternity, take a look at where you have stored your treasure. Are you thinking on a short-term temporary level or do you see your giving as investing in God’s kingdom?

S – Sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2) and Salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2)

Paul tells us that we are to be holy and living sacrifices, transformed by the renewing of our minds. Sometimes we just need to get rid of our stinkin’ thinkin’ and start thinking in a new way, God’s way. Giving and serving is a sacrifice, but the rewards in eternity far outweigh any temporary inconvenience. We sacrifice ourselves because we love God and love others. Salvation of people is God’s main desire, and Paul tells the Corinthians that today is the acceptable time, today is the day of salvation. So how about you? Where are you on the journey of faith? Searching? Starting? Drawing nearer? Investing yourself into God kingdom? Walking day by day, living a life of faith? None of us has arrived because we continue on this journey of becoming more like Jesus until the day we see him face to face.

T – Treasure – a solid foundation (1 Timothy 6:19)

Storing up treasure in heaven is the good foundation for the future. Paul tells us that one day we will take hold of that which is “true life.” This life is only a vapor and we don’t know when our time is up, so we must spend this life in preparation for eternity. What treasure is he talking about? According to 6:18, it could be about money and generous giving, or about being rich in good works (which leads to the next point)…

I – Involvement and Instruction (1 Timothy 6:18)

I’m not sure we can be rich in good works without first getting informed and involved. We should never be comfortable with what we know about the Bible but always strive to go toward higher levels of commitment to Christ and his church. This is all about the body of Christ being a community of faith. We grow and serve together in order to bring about the kingdom of God. We have weekly Bible studies and small groups to help people get to know Christ and grow in their spiritual development. We are not meant to just believe the right stuff about Jesus, but to be involved in his mission here on earth. How are you involved? What changes need to take place to get connected to the mission of God?

N – Needs within the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:25-27, 31)

We are all part of a spiritual body, made up of different parts. They all work together in order to make a complete whole. Christians were never intended to live life as individual believers. We are what is called the church. We don’t go to a church, we ARE the church. Just as a body has many members, the church has many members who fulfill the needs of others. If the body is healthy, we work together to accomplish the mission of God.

G – Growth in Godliness and Generosity (1 Timothy 6:6, 18)

Notice what Paul says is great gain. Is it money or finances? Nope. Godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. Are you committed to growing in godliness? It is a lifelong process where God cuts away all the parts that don’t resemble his Son. We are investing in eternity when we are actively growing in godliness.

Notice also in 1 Timothy 6:18, that Paul challenges us to be generous. The true nature of God is that he is a giver. He gave us his Son to bring us to salvation; he gave us everlasting life as a free gift; he gives hope and purpose and meaning in this life. We are never more like God than when we are giving. Yes, that’s money. Jesus actually spoke a lot about actual earthly treasures, but it is also giving of ourselves to the Lord and then to others by the will of God (2 Corinthians 8:5).

After his death, Borden’s Bible was found and given to his parents. In it they found in one place the words “No Reserve” and a date placing the note shortly after he renounced his fortune in favor of missions. At a later point, he had written “No Retreat,” dated shortly after his father told him that he would never let him work in the company ever again. Then shortly before he died, when in Egypt, he added the phrase “No Regrets.”

God may not call you to the international mission field, but it is an insult to our faith if we don’t ask the question, “What do you want from me?” or “What do you want me to do?” There are many needs in this congregation and many pathways to serving in this place. The first step is to embrace the mission, then we can submit to the father’s direction, get out of the boat and onto the water where Jesus is calling out your name.

On Borden’s tombstone:

A Man in Christ
He arose and forsook all and followed Him
Kindly affectioned with brotherly love
Fervent in spirit serving the Lord
Rejoicing in hope
Patient in tribulation
Instant in prayer
Communicating to the necessity of saints
In honour preferring others

Apart from faith in Christ there is no explanation for such a life.

What will people say about you? Are there changes you need to make in your life to invest more in eternity?