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!
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?