Allen Jackson - A Biblical Worldview - Part 2
It's an honor to be with you again today. We're gonna complete this discussion with a question: Is God a socialist? A lot of pressure in our culture these days that suggest equity is the objective, that we should all get the same outcomes. No matter where we start, no matter what energy we put in, no matter what sacrifices we make, that the government should put their thumb on the scale and see that we all get the same outcome. And a lot of Christians have imagined that that's a biblical perspective. I don't agree. I don't believe we are all given the same gifts. Jesus talked about people with different talents, different opportunities, the challenge is to take what God gives to us in his divine wisdom and use it to honor the Lord. We're gonna explore this notion in a bit of detail, so that if we can understand and we can run the race God created us for in a way that he will respond, well done. That's the goal. Grab your Bible and get a note pad. Most importantly, open your heart to the invitations God puts before you today.
There's a second component of this worldview as it begins to come together, and that's this: there's a tension between helping the poor and extravagance. What's the right answer? And it's not a simple question, and I don't want to present it to you in a simple way. In Mark chapter 14, we get to watch Jesus in a setting where this topic is pushed at him. "While he was in Bethany," it's a city, a little village on the Mount of Olives on the opposite side of the city of Jerusalem.
It's where Mary and Martha and Lazarus lived. "He's reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, and a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume. And she broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus's head. And some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, 'Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor.'" That's a pretty extravagant expression, isn't it? Whatever a year's income would be for you, so you can get a number in your mind. That was spent in a simple moment as an expression of kindness to Jesus. And there's critics in the room. Shouldn't have happened, shouldn't have been done. "They rebuked her harshly. And Jesus said, 'Leave her alone.'"
I smile sometimes when I watch the battle against the people of God. I watched my friends struggle and sometimes the unfair resistance to them and I often think to myself, you'd stop pushing that person if you knew my boss. 'Cause you keep pushing, he's gonna take cards in this game. And they're criticizing this woman and Jesus said, "You leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She's done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you'll not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. And I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will be told, in memory of her".
At that point, don't you think Simon, whose house he's in, wishes he had had the good sense to have done it? You see, we need more information than we have, we have to think with thoughts other than what our secular culture hands us. We need more components in the equation. Jesus did not tell us that elimination of poverty is the assignment. In fact, he said, "The poor will always be here". It doesn't mean we don't have a responsibility to help, but you're much more easily manipulated if guilt and shame can be used to convince you you should eliminate poverty.
What's happening in our border is largely being pitched to us as a humanitarian effort. It's simply not true. Five billion people in poverty in our world. If we take a million people a month into our nation, which would bankrupt us as a people, it wouldn't make a dent in global poverty. If we want to help those people, there's a different set of values that we can go and help them with in their locations. Matthew 25 verse 31 says, "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he'll sit on his throne in heavenly glory". You know he's coming, and this time, he's not coming to a stable out, in Bethlehem, he's coming in all of his glory and all of his angels are gonna be with him. Remember when he said in the garden of Gethsemane, "Peter, put your sword away, I wanted to call legions of angels". We would rock these boys' world.
Well, when he comes back, he's coming with his angels, so this is a pretty triumphant scene. And he says, "All the nations will be gathered before him, and he'll separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He'll put the sheep on one side and the goats on the other. And the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance.'" Resources aren't evil, there's an inheritance for choosing to honor the King of kings. "Come take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world".
And then he tells them how they qualified, he said, "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, and I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger, you invited me in, and I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, and I was in prison and you came to visit me". And they'll answer him, he says, "Lord, we didn't see you hungry or thirsty when did we see you as a stranger and invite you in? When were you sick and in prison"? And he says, "I'll tell you the truth, what you did for one of the least of these brothers, you did for me".
So it's not that the Mark passage and the expensive perfume negates the assignment we have to care for the poor, it's not either/or. We need wisdom, we need wisdom. And we get caught in too much self-righteousness defending our old carnal self, not really yielding who we are and what we have to the Lord. We'll argue for the one that suits us in the moment. If we're not inclined to be supportive of whatever it is, we think it's too extravagant. Shouldn't be that nice.
2 Chronicles chapter 7 is what God has to say to Solomon as Solomon has completed the temple, one of the most elaborate buildings ever constructed by human, human beings. Overlaid with gold. It was a relatively small structure, but its cost was almost beyond calculation. In the midst of a desert nation. Think of all the people who could have been fed with the gold from Solomon's temple. The utensils they used to, the priest used to serve in the temple were made out of gold. The walls were lined with gold. They got the hungry people that could've been helped, think of the things that could have been done, surely God was angry.
2 Chronicles 7: "When Solomon had finished the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the Lord and in his own place the Lord appeared to him at night and said: 'I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.'" In fact, he goes on to giving the promise that most of you know: when things turn bad and it's not goin' the way you want it to do, "if my people will humble themselves and pray and turn from their sin and their wicked ways, I'll heal their land," all as a response to Solomon's completion of the temple. God didn't choose to chastise Solomon for his extravagance, for failing to spend the money to feed the poor or to... quite the opposite, he promised to bring generational blessings upon the people.
So you and I are gonna have to be a bit more sophisticated in this tension between extravagance and helping others. Don't judge other people. Guard your heart. And then there's some very direct commands given to the rich, and by now you all know you qualify. So you can pencil your name right in here, 1 Timothy chapter six and verse, "Command those who are rich in this present world," command 'em what? "Not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, it's so uncertain, put your hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous and willing to share. In this way they'll lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they can take hold of the life that is truly life".
You're on a short-term assignment accumulating things you can't keep in preparation for an eternal assignment where you'll be granted things that you can't lose. And a biblical worldview says, use your journey through time and those things that are transient so that you can be rich towards God for all eternity. It's a good bargain, but it's counter-cultural. There's not a lot of messaging that underscores it. It's unfortunate, there's a lot of messaging within the church that doesn't underscore it. The Bible asks us to imagine another category of wealth, one that reaches beyond those things that we put in our bank accounts.
In Luke 16, Jesus is talking, verse 10, he said, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much". If you're greedy and dishonest with a little, you'll be greedy and dishonest with more, you won't get honest with more. If you're covetous and filled with envy when you don't have a lot, you'll be filled with those things when you get a lot. "So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you've not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who would give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he'll hate the one and love the other, or he'll be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money".
So this category is introduced of "true riches," not with just worldly wealth. I like to think of it in this way of true riches and false or deceptive riches. Deception means you believe something's true which in fact isn't, and you think you're holding something that can secure your future; in reality, it can't. Now, I've had a little and I've had a lot, and a lot's better. That's why God promises us abundance. I'm not coaching you towards poverty, but your bank account's not a validation of your spirituality. And you don't want to imagine the you accumulate are what insulate you or protect you or commend you to God, because everything but God belongs to God already and he's not impressed no matter what my tally is.
True riches are enduring. This is the category I want to invite you to begin to think about more. What would it look like for me to acquire something that could endure, could never be diminished, could never be devalued, would never erode? False riches are temporary. So anything that we put our hands to that are temporary, we understand are not true riches. And Jesus invites us into this idea that there is training available to us in handling valuable things.
Look at Matthew 6 (I'm about done). Jesus again: "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you'll have no reward from your Father in Heaven". Well, he's just introduced an idea: God rewards us. He's got my attention now, where is that line, where is the line that God rewards? I'm intent to go get in it. You sit there, if you want to, if there's a line God rewards, you're gonna have to move 'cause I'm going to push you out of the way. I want to be in that line. This is not a joke to me, no game to me. If there is a life that God rewards and you don't care about it, just exactly what do you care about?
And if there is a life that God rewards, everybody should begin saying to the Spirit of God, "Help me understand what that looks like in the context of where I live and who I am and what I've been entrusted with," because it's not the same for all of us because God's not a socialist. We have different gifts and different talents and different abilities and different opportunities. If English is your first language, you have more access to the Word of God and information about the Word of God than anybody else on the planet, and you didn't do anything to earn that, it's just... either God's grace or the random results of your birth, but it comes with a responsibility. I'm sorry... I'm not sorry. "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you'll have no reward from your Father in Heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues or on the streets".
So there were times when they would help the poor, they would make an announcement about it. "We're about to help the poor over here"! Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you". So Jesus said when you help those that are less fortunate than yourself, don't draw attention to it. Don't do it to get honor from other people. If you do, you've gotten all the reward you're going to get.
So there's another way to do it. If you do it and allow the dignity of those persons to remain intact, your Father in heaven will reward you. Now, he's introduced a larger idea to us: there are different ways to give. This is not the only biblical discussion on how to give, he doesn't say, "Every time you give, give in private". The Bible does not teach that. We teach that because we say, "It's my business and nobody has a right to know my business," the Bible doesn't teach that either. The Bible does say Jesus said, we just read it, "When you help the less fortunate, don't take their dignity. Don't humiliate them as an expression of your generosity so that you can be lauded for that. Don't do that".
But there are other places where the Bible clearly tells us to give as an inspiration to others, that our giving is made public knowledge to inspire other people to that behavior so that they might give generously as well. All giving is not secret. When Paul, in his writings of his letters to the other churches, he celebrates gifts he received from the churches and shares it with others to inspire them, and tells us that. Jesus was watching the gifts being presented at the temple.
You know the story, he comments on a widow's sacrificial gift. She gave all that she had, while others had given extravagant amounts. Jesus doesn't criticize the public giving. It's like an electronic tote board giving the tally of what you've given, and they're all sitting there watching the tote board. And Jesus doesn't criticize the process, he comments on the sacrifice of the widow. Secret giving to the Lord is often misconstrued as a holier response. It's not biblical. When we help those less fortunate, it is. We're strengthened by expressions of generosity and community. I'll take that as an amen. But it's not always easy to live that out. It's not easy for us to do that.
When we collect toys at Christmastime and we put them in the lobby because there's something encouraging for all of us when you see the generosity of the church. But we don't even do the distribution, we provide the majority of those go to agencies that do the distribution. The one who receives the gift at the end doesn't even know we were in the chain. I think that's okay. "So I'd like to be there to watch it," I understand, and there are times and places I think that's helpful. We help dozens and dozens and dozens of families, like through the Christmas season or the holiday season, not typically things to be celebrated in public. We don't have to be hidden. And it isn't just "what does the church do," what do we do, what do you and I do?
When Jesus talked to the parable about the Return of the King and the sheep and the goats, he didn't talk about our institutional responses, he talked about our personal responses. There's more than one way to give; a biblical worldview. See, if you don't know your Bible, if you don't read your Bible, if you don't talk about your Bible with other believers, if you don't process life and the choices of life with other believers, you began to think and feel and engage life with the information that comes to us from a secular culture.
Now, the part of that that is most distressing to me is you will miss the rewards of heaven. We've got to have the courage to talk about it. Typically, we don't like to talk about it in church 'cause you think the preacher's trying to get something from you. We're not above it; just not the goal in this session. A biblical worldview. It's not your time, and they're not your talents, and it's most certainly not your treasure. Oh, it's credited to you, but it's a stewardship assignment. And we'll be asked to give an account for what we did with it. And we can do things that we find rewarding for ourselves, and the full reward will be what we have established for ourselves in that context; or we can choose to do what God has said he will reward, and there'll be a reward for all eternity.
It's worth thinking about. It's worth asking the Holy Spirit to help you. It's worth being a little different from the broader culture and your secular friends. It's worth to start thinking about the decisions you make and the plans you make and what's feeding those decisions and what are the facts that you're gathering to sort through them, 'cause I like logical conclusions, but I need a God perspective if I'm going to get to a godly conclusion. We'll need one another for that. Folks, the blessings we have, the abundance we have, the liberty we have has come from the hand of God. It's not because of our abundant natural resources, we're not smarter as a people.
In fact, we're not a people, we're a melting pot, we're a nation of immigrants. God has blessed us because of the worldview we have held, and if we turn our backs on God, we will forfeit his blessing. I don't expect a secularist to understand that, but the church must. We simply must. We're called to be salt and light. That means we're called to be different. Not goofy, different. Don't be goofy and blame Jesus. That's another sermon. I brought you a proclamation. It looks a lot like Psalm 119, because it is. But you know, proclaiming the Scripture over your life gives an authority over your life, and I think it's an appropriate way to conclude this session.
If you'll stand with me, if you're joining us digitally, you stand and say this with us too. Your words have authority when you stand; it's an expression of respect. I was reading my Bible today, I didn't put down the reference, but I believe it was in Leviticus. It says, when an older person enters the room, stand. Thought, "Wow". Now, I'm okay with a lot of the expressions of casualness that had made a way into our lives, but I regret the lack of respect. We don't respect authority, there's so many things, so this proclamation gives it authority over your lives, and we stand before the Lord out of respect for him.
Psalm 119, beginning in verse 65: "Do good to your servant according to your word, O Lord. Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart. Their hearts are calloused and unfeeling, but I delight in your law. It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold," amen.