Allen Jackson - Dollars and Sense - Part 2
It's good to be with you again today. We're gonna complete our study with the question, "Is God a Socialist"? And we've answered that pretty clearly, I think, in the first session, but in this one we're gonna look a bit more just the dollars and cents part of that. I'll give you the key. I think the goal of our lives is contentment. Not complacency, not to turn away from the opportunities of life, but to find contentment no matter what place we find ourselves in today. You know, life is not easy, and we have almost accepted a sense of discontent. I think so much of the messaging that washes over us is intended to make us discontent with our homes, with our families, with our lives, with the resources around us, but the Bible says godliness with contentment is great gain. Get your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
In 2 Corinthians 9, I gave you verse 7 just so you can see that the context has to do with financial things. It says, "Each man should give what he's decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion. God loves a cheerful giver". Verse 8 is the definition, the biblical definition, of "abundance". "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work". What's God's promise for us? That because of his grace... now, remember, grace is not merit-based. It isn't earned, it isn't deserved, it's not attached to our ability to accomplish or do or achieve, it's an expression of God's nature and character and his love for us. God is willing "to make his grace abound to us," to express his grace abundantly towards us, and how will we see that? Well, "In all things at all times, you'll have all that you need, for every good work," amen.
I'll get in that line. Now, what's the problem? Where is the challenge come with this? Well my observation is that no matter what we have, none of us typically think we have enough. In fact, we use terms like "wealthy" or "rich" or "affluent". They're very subjective terms. They're very relative terms. If I ask everybody here who's rich to stand up, everybody'd be sitting in their seat 'cause we always think of it somebody beyond us, and I understand that. We're doing some comparison. We know somebody that drives a car that's more expensive or lives in a larger house or somebody who you imagine their resources are greater than yours. Maybe you don't have to imagine it. You know for sure they are, and so we think, "Well, by comparison to that, I'm diminished," but it's a very narrow perspective to hold that.
By conservative statistics, about 8 billion people in the world, 5 billion people on Planet Earth today have a daily income of less than $10. 5 billion people with a daily income of less than $10. That means for the overwhelming majority of us, 99% of us that are here or listening, 5 billion people on Planet Earth think we are filthy rich, amen? See, this notion of wealth and resource accumulation is very subjective, and if we don't guard our hearts, the adversary causes us to be disgruntled and unhappy and discontent and angry and frustrated, and he can lead us to any number of destructive places from that platform, and many of the blessings and good things came to us simply because of the location where we were born. I've been other places in the world. I've been on tributaries of the Amazon River in those jungles.
You know, they sound so romantic and we wanna save the rainforest, but if you're isolated in that place and you meet the people who have spent their whole lives there, absent electricity and the opportunity for education or any health care, you come to understand the circumstances of our lives are dramatically, dramatically different. Let me give you a different example. Being old, anybody here and say, "I'm old"? I have come to understand how relative that is, because in reality, within us, none of us ever thinks we're old. There's something on the inside of us that will look at somebody else and think, "Now, they're old. Forget their birthday count, you know, that that's an old person right there," but somehow we don't ever imagine that's true of ourselves.
When I was 14, if I were working with someone who was 21, I remember thinking, "Now, they are old". I worked all day with a 21-year-old. If you have children that are six or seven and they spend an afternoon with someone who's 16 or 17, they think they spent the afternoon within an old person. They can't even wrap their mind around 50. That's beyond the pale. So that self-imagination is distorted. It's not accurate. You don't have enough markers. You don't have enough compass points to get an accurate trajectory. It's true of your resources as well. 'Cause you can be perfectly content, and then you meet someone with a different resource evaluation and a different set of choices, and all of a sudden you're discontent.
So there's a challenge for us to allow God's definition of abundance: "All things at all times, for all that I need". Are your needs met today? Did you have what you needed today, not what you wanted, not what you wanted for 30 days from now? Could you accomplish the good works God put before you today? "Well, yes, but it was harder". I didn't say it was easy.
There's a third component of this worldview, and that's that priorities matter. If we're stewards, if it really isn't ours, if it isn't my time or it isn't my talent or it isn't my treasure, I'm a steward, then I have to be willing to accept priorities from the one who has entrusted me with those gifts. You can't have the gifts unless you're willing to accept the priorities, and if you reject the priorities you will forfeit the gifts. It's not complicated, but it's not easy to yield, 'cause we wanna be in charge, and we can go back to the beginning chapters of Genesis, "If you'll eat that apple from that tree, or eat the fruit from that tree, you can be God," and we've been nibbling on that fruit ever since.
In Matthew 6, Jesus is speaking, he said, "Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' The pagans run after all these things. Your Heavenly Father knows that you need them," he created you. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own," amen, brother. We're given a priority statement. What's your first thought? What's your first initiative? What's your first focus of all of those things: your time, your talent, your treasure? It's the Kingdom of God.
Now, that is not our default position. That has to be learned. It has to be cultivated. It has to be nurtured. It has to be developed. It has to be protected. We have an adversary, and he will attack your mind, your emotions, your thoughts, to put you on another path because he wants you to do anything but live in God's abundance. Jesus said, in John 10, "The thief comes to steal, to kill and destroy". The lowest level initiative he has in your life is just to steal. If he can steal from you what God intends you to have, steal days from you, steal from the gifts and talents God has given you, to get you to invest them in things beneath God's best for us, to steal your treasure.
Proverbs 3, in verse 9, "Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine". Now, this is not a session where we're going to talk about giving. Take a deep breath. The skeptics can relax. That's not the point. I would like to begin to plant some seeds, or ideas, to start to construct a perspective on how God looks at our resources and our time and our talent so that we can see the world through that filter and not be deceived, and the instruction we're given, very plainly, was the very first of what God entrusts to us, we wanna direct it back towards him. Begin your day with a devotional, begin your day with a prayer time, begin your day with the Bible reading. Honor God with the first of what he gives to you. Begin to find ways to put that into practice. In the simplest, most practical ways, give it to the Lord. You'll be amazed at what happens when you practice obedience to the Creator of all things.
Now, the fourth component in this worldview is understanding the comparison we have in Scripture between abundance... what do you imagine the opposite of abundance would be? How about poverty? Does that work? And the Bible gives us a very clear comparison. Deuteronomy 28 is the chapter. The first 12 verses list the blessings that come with obedience to God, and the remaining two-thirds of that chapter describes the curses that come with disobedience.
Now, the chapter is directed towards the covenant people of God, not towards pagans or the immoral or the ungodly, so these outcomes are choices that will be manifest in the lives of God's people, and in chapter 28, in verse 47, it says, "Because you did not serve the LORD your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the LORD sends against you. He'll put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you".
Again, in simple language, in the biblical perspective, abundance is a blessing and poverty is a curse. That doesn't mean we don't go through seasons that are lean. In the same language, I believe health is a blessing from God, but we all understand that we live in an earthen vessel that is fragile, in a world that's filled with challenges, and there are times that we are not well, but it doesn't change God's intent for us, and God's intent for his people is abundance.
Number five, what God's described as his objective for us is contentment. 1 Timothy 6:6, "Godliness with contentment is great gain". Godliness with contentment is tremendous gain. I thought tremendous gain was more. Hebrews 13, in verse 5, "Keep your lives free from the love of money. Be content with what you have. God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" Folks, if God is with us, what we have is enough. He'll provide our daily bread, so if there is shaking and stirring and deterioration and confusion and circumstances that we haven't seen before, we need to understand who our source is, what our future is linked to. We wanna begin practicing contentment long before we need it.
Isaiah 57 gives us a contrast. In verse 20, it said, "The wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. 'There is no peace,' says God, 'for the wicked.'" On one hand it says, "Godliness with contentment is tremendous gain". Be content with what you have. "Keep yourself free from the love of money," but then he shows us the opposite side of the equation, and he said the wicked cannot be content no matter what they have. You can be born in a palace with almost unlimited resources, and you'll do an international interview to tell how hard your life is. It's hard to keep your perspective. It's not easy. We'll need God's help. We have to understand the objective is to learn to be content, not complacent. There's a difference. Contentment doesn't mean you're passive. Contentment means you have made peace with your circumstances of the moment. It doesn't mean your circumstances define your future.
Paul said, "I've learned to be content in any and every circumstance, whether I have a lot or whether I have a little". See, we have to understand the journey we're on means that our circumstances can change from day to day, but our contentment is anchored to the one who has promised, and that's a different platform, but when we talk about contentment, there's some ideas that enter, and they're all over the New Testament. They're beyond our study in this session, but they're words like "envy" and "covet" or "covetousness". When you see what someone else has and you want that, or you see how they live and you wanna live like that, and you lose your contentment with the place you are. I'm not asking you to check your brain at the door or to give up your ambition. I'm telling you the objective is to be content.
If you don't cultivate contentment, your station won't matter. You'll never be content. There's one more piece I wanna give you in this session and that has to do with the notion that money moves. It's not static, and your choices impact what is moving towards you, whether it's God's abundance or its lack. Now, that's a biblical principle, so it'll take faith to apply that into your behaviors, but your choices determine what's moving towards you. Now, there's layers to those choices, but I can demonstrate this. Proverbs 24, in verse 33, "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man". It says that poverty will come upon you, break into your home, that your choices will attract poverty.
Proverbs 22, verse 16, "He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he gives gifts to the rich, both come to poverty". Again, poverty is something that moves. Think of it in terms of a virus. Your behaviors impact how susceptible you are to contracting a disease. We've learned that: social distance, wash your hands, pay attention to all of these things. Well, the opposite side of the spectrum, Proverbs 10, verse 22, "The blessing of the Lord brings wealth. He adds no trouble to it". God will bring wealth to you. Again, not a passive posture, what's your assignment? "Seek first the Kingdom of God". Give him the firstfruits of your life, not just your resources: your time, your talent, your energy. You could spend your whole life trying to accumulate things, ignoring God's principle, and they'll slip through your fingers time and time again, or you can practice God's principles and he will bring abundance to your life.
Proverbs 22, in verse 4, "Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor in life". Wealth and honor in life are brought to you, delivered to you. They'll come after you. Some of you are way too young. You remember "Indiana Jones"? I've seen it in rerun, thank you, me too, me too, Netflix. Well, I don't remember which one in the series, but there's one of the "Indiana Jones" movies where he's fleeing in a cave, and behind him there's this enormous stone ball rolling.
It looks as if it's a certainty that it's gonna crush him. That's the image in my mind of God's blessings. You wanna make life choices in such a way that if you don't keep moving, they will just crush you. You don't have to chase them; they're coming for you because you have given God first priority. You have honored him in how you conduct yourself, in how you do business, in your thoughts and how you've invested your talent, in what you do with the treasure that's been entrusted to you. You have helped those less fortunate than yourself. You have applied yourself. You're willing to work.
God's not a socialist. We're not all gonna be the same. We're not all gonna have the same. Don't spend your time angry at people that have more than you. Some years ago, I was in a meeting with a group of pastors and a businessman came to speak to us, and it's been a few years ago. I'm confident he's gone to heaven, so you don't have to figure out who it was, and he had been a very successful businessman, and he was a believer, and I didn't know him well, but he seemed to be a man of great compassion, and we just had a little Q&A time with him and somebody said, "When you're with Christians, what's the most consistent response?" and he said, "I feel like they're angry and they are judging me," and I remember sitting there, I was trying to catch up. He owned two professional sports teams.
I mean, he'd had a lot of success, and he said, "I feel like they think I've done something inappropriate to accumulate these resources, because many of them say that to me, as if somehow it's immoral or wrong," and somebody said, "Well, if you could tell everybody one thing, what would you like them to know"? And he said, "Well, I have eight full-time employees whose only job is giving away resources," and something inside of me changed that day. I understand that my perspective is not the only perspective, and it's easy to look at somebody else and know what they should do, what sacrifice they should make, and how they should live, but you and I don't have to answer for all of those people. We have to answer for ourselves.
Have we learned to be content? Have we learned to live with integrity? Have we learned to accept what God has put before us and take up the task that's at hand? I mean, I could give you perspective, there was a time in my life I thought happiness was Murfreesboro in the rearview mirror. I mean, I just couldn't imagine that there wasn't something far better and far greater opportunities, and I mean, I was focused and somewhere along the way, God did a work in my heart. No matter where I travel in the world, the highlight of the entire trip is coming back to Murfreesboro. Who knew? And I don't get credit for that. It's something God did in me, but do not make space for discontentment. It'll never be satisfied. It'll never be satisfied because it didn't originate with God, and demons and demonic attitudes are never satisfied.
They're tormentors, and it's tearing apart the fabric of our nation, but the change has to start in the church. The change has to start in the church. I brought you a prayer. It may be a prayer you've never heard before, but I can say with some confidence it's a God-directed prayer. I didn't write it. If you could say a prayer and you knew it was in complete alignment with God's will, how many of you would be willing to say it at least once a day for the next week? You know, I appreciate that commitment, 'cause I brought you a prayer that I assure you is in complete alignment with God's will.
Why don't you stand with me? It's in your notes. They'll put it on the screens. We'll read it slowly 'cause I know it's new to many of you, but I'm gonna give you the punchline with regard to this particular session. In there, Jesus told us to pray, "Give us today our daily bread". If we're praying for something beyond that, something other than that, we're not paying attention to his instructions, and one of the things I have discovered is it's not incumbent upon God, and very seldom does God gives me instructions beyond the ones I'm willing to be obedient to. If I'm going to be entrusted with resources beyond my daily bread, it will happen when I become content with my daily bread, and if you're not content with that, if you'll practice that contentment, then God can trust you with more, but if you won't practice that contentment, if he gave you more, it would be destructive for you. Let's pray together:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever, amen.