Craig Groeschel - Money and Stuff
Hey welcome today to all of our Life.Church locations and our Open Network churches, our families all over the world at Church Online. We're in a message series called Chasing Carrots: The Endless Pursuit for More. In fact, next week I think is my favorite of all four weeks. We're gonna talk about the illusive pursuit of perfection.
Today, though, I want to talk about something that I believe probably impacts most of you. I know that it certainly impacts me. We're gonna talk about chasing money and things and material stuff from this world. And so before we dive in today, I just want to get a little bit of help from all of our churches and ask you a few questions. It's no fun without you. All of our churches, how many of you would say honestly that you wouldn't mind being rich, raise your hands, raise 'em up high all over the place. Yeah, lot of hands, yup, I've got some amens goin' up in some places. I can feel it right now. How many of you would say that you know someone who is rich, raise your hands?
I'm wondering, have you ever looked at someone who's rich and thought to yourself, if I were rich like they were rich, I could be better at being rich than they are at being rich. Like, I could do it better. Sometimes they're like stupid rich. If I was rich, I'd be smart rich. Now this is a little more of a difficult question but how many of you are really really really rich? Just raise your hand, just a little bit. Really, you are really rich? I don't see hands going up. This is what I know. I know that most of you just said you're not really rich but you'd love to be really really rich and so like so many people in this world, you continue to pursue, long for, even lust after more money and more stuff. If I could just have a little bit more.
I did research on this idea to find out what people say they would actually do for more money. And I found an article that talked about what people would do for $5 million. What would you do for $5 million? According to this article, 54% of people would listen to country music for the rest of their lives. That sounds like a bargain to me. I mean, just honky-tonk down as you're driving your nice car or whatever. This one was interesting though. 42% of people said they would have all of their teeth removed. I'm rich. Maybe they're gonna like buy fake ones because they're rich, I don't know. This was shocking. 50% said, for $5 million, they would allow one random person on earth to die. 50% of people. And this one was even harder for me to get my mind around. 24% of people said they would live in solitude for the next 20 years for $5 million.
Gallop did a poll and interviewed a lot of people to find out what is rich. In other words, if you want to be rich, at what point will you know that you're actually rich? When do you have enough money and stuff for you to say, okay now, I've finally crossed the line and I am rich? What's interesting is that the responses varied depending on where someone was. For those who made $30,000 a year, some of you might make a little more or a little less, if you're in that range, the average response of what you would need to make to be rich was $74,000 a year. If you slightly over-doubled your income, you would feel very rich. There are some of you who make $74,000 a year and say, I've got news for you. That doesn't feel very rich.
For those who make $50,000 a year, U.S., they responded that it would take about $100,000 a year to feel rich. And again, there are many of you who have a couple of kids in private schools and a mortgage and car payments and such and say, $100,000 doesn't really feel rich where I live right now. But that's what people say they would need. What's fascinating to me is they asked the top income earners, so well into six figures, those people, what would it take to be rich and the average response was $5 million in assets. Then you're rich. So if you're the poor joker that only has $2 million in assets, you don't feel rich because you feel like you need $5 million to be rich.
What I know about you is that you don't feel rich but you want to be rich and so what do you do? Like many of us, we live with the continual pursuit for more. What is rich? Rich is a moving line. I bet that there are many of you that are like me. Earlier on in my life in my 20s, I even said out loud, If one day, I only get to this point, make this much a year and have this much, at that point, I will feel rich, that's enough. And guess what happened? I crossed that line and what do you think happened? The line moved. And I crossed another line and the line moved again. What do you need to be happy? To feel rich? To be satisfied in life? Most people would say, I'm not quite sure but what I know is it's always a little bit more. This is why Jesus talked so much about a right perspective on money and things.
In fact, in Luke's gospel, Luke 12:15, this is what Jesus said. He said to a group of people, Watch out! And then He states again, Be on your guard. In other words, two different times, you better be aware of this because this is dangerous. Watch out, be on your guard against all kinds of greed. And then Jesus says, because life does not consist in an abundance of possessions. Your life, the quality of your life is not measured by the volume of your stuff. Be on your guard. Be very very careful because everything in culture is shouting at you. You need this, you need more.
Again and again, the dominant message you're gonna hear from culture is what you don't have is what you need to be happy and fulfilled in life. What you don't have, that's what you need. You need more, you need this, you need that and if you finally get what you don't have, that's what's missing. And that's why Jesus said you have to be on your guard. Your life does not consist in the abundance of stuff. In fact, Jesus told a very powerful illustration to a rich guy. He talked about this guy in the Luke 12 gospel, in the story, and He said to this guy who was a rich man who had a great harvest.
The guy had a bumper year of crops. He was evidently a farmer or so and he kinda had a record year and he asked, What am I gonna do? Here I've got all this money comin' in, all these crops and the guy says, I know what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and I'll build bigger barns and then I'll retire early, I'll take life easy and I'll throw a lot of parties. And this is what God said to that rich guy. God said to him, verse 20, You fool, this very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who's gonna get what you've prepared for yourself? This is how we'll be with anyone who stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.
Here's what fascinating to me about this story is that God wasn't mad at this guy for being rich. Think about it. He was a farmer. Who made him rich? God made the guy rich. God gave the guy a bountiful harvest. God was disappointed in this guy because he was not rich toward God. He was only rich in the things of this world but he was missing being rich in the things that mattered most.
With that in mind, I want to tell you some good news and some bad news. All of our churches, which one do you want first? Do you want the good news first or the bad news first? Bad news. We're going with the good news first 'cause that's the way it's written in my notes, so I'm sorry I asked you but you really had no choice. The good news is this. I hope you're gonna understand. It's really really good news. Don't miss it, pay close attention. The good news is you are rich. You are rich. I asked you if you were rich. You said you weren't rich. But you are rich. And some of you clapped but you don't really feel it. You don't really feel rich because you feel like you got more bills than money. You're rich but you don't feel rich.
When we get a little bit of perspective and recognize that probably around three billion or so people in this world today live off two dollars or less a day and some of you spent five dollars on coffee on your way to church? It starts to put it in perspective that based on where most people live in the world, we actually are very very rich. In fact, you could often tell just how rich you are by the things that upset you. Like when you get really really mad because your Yeezys took three days to get there instead of two days and you're really upset about it. Or your fast food order, as you drove through the drive thru didn't give you your dippy sauce for your nuggets that someone else prepared or your Netflix wouldn't connect to your WiFi or you forgot your AirPods and so you have to manually hold the phone up to your head.
You can often tell how rich you are just by what bothers you. I mean, when I try to step back and think about it, that I can play any song in the world on my devices, I can stream any movie, play games. When I get hungry and when you get hungry, if you can drive your car, that puts you in the top 15% of the wealthiest people in the world. If you can drive your car past 14 or 22 other restaurants to go to your preferred restaurant to have someone else who milks the cow or caught the fish or cut the head off the chicken. Sorry to be so violent but evidently that's what has to happen before you get your chicken salad. Someone else does all that, cooks your food, cleans everything, prepares your plate, delivers it to you, puts a little garnish on it and you complain because it took seven minutes? That's how rich most of us are. The good news is you're really rich.
Now I know that right now that there are some people that are facing extreme financial situations, medical bills or a divorce or a single parent that's fighting to stay alive. And I don't want to diminish the reality of your world but overall the vast majority of people that I'm talking to right now are actually doing okay. We're pretty rich. If we're going to acknowledge before God that He's actually blessed us, that compared to most people in the world that we really are rich, then what I want to do is I want to be good at being rich. I want to be rich in a way that honors God. So in order to be good at it, first you have to acknowledge it. I'd love for you just to say at all of our churches if you really believe it, can you just say, I'm rich. I'm rich.
Now I want you to say it with a little bit of gratitude like you've really been blessed by God. Say I'm rich with a smile on your face. I'm rich. My God has blessed me. I'm rich. If for a moment you feel a little bit uncomfortable saying that, like I don't want my kids to hear this or I feel a little guilty saying it. If for any reason you feel uncomfortable saying I'm rich, I want you to ask yourself why do you think you feel uncomfortable? Why do you think you might be a little bit embarrassed? Why do you think you might be a little bit apologetic?
I love what Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 5:19. He said this about God. Moreover, it's God. Everybody say God. God. When God gives someone wealth. Who gives wealth? Our God gives wealth. But I'm a self-made man. No, actually God made you first. You have gifts, you have talent, you have opportunities. You were born in a place where we have more opportunities. God is the One behind it. When God gives someone wealth and possessions and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil, what is this? This is a gift from God. If, for a moment, you feel embarrassed or apologetic or ashamed, ask yourself, in what other area of life are you blessed and embarrassed by the blessing? Think about it.
I've got a great marriage to Amy. If you said, oh, you guys got a great marriage. Like, oh no, I'm so sorry. We really don't. I have to say thank you. If you say, hey, you guys are, you've been blessed with good health. I'd be like, thank you. Not like I'm a, oh, you got a full head of hair. Well, I didn't do anything to do, thank you, I got, oh, I feel so bad about it. I feel so guilty that I have hair. No, you don't apologize for any other area of blessing but in this one area for some reason, sometimes people feel so insecure. Say it like you mean it, like it came from God and it is a blessing. I'm rich. My God has blessed me. That's the good news.
The good news is you're rich. There's bad news though. The bad news is you're rich. Bad news, it really is and can be bad news. Being rich actually puts us at a tremendous spiritual disadvantage. In fact, Jesus had a very meaningful conversation with a rich and powerful young guy and his stuff and his money was so important to him that it hindered him, it kept him from becoming a disciple of Jesus. And this is what Jesus said to this rich powerful guy. Jesus looked at him and said, How hard is it for the rich to enter the kingdom of God? Indeed, it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.
The good news is you're rich, you're blessed. The bad news is you're rich. It's a tremendous spiritual disadvantage. Why? Because you already have a roof over your head. You've got food in the pantry. You can buy whatever you want. You've never probably in maybe recent years had the privilege of the blessing of praying, God, give me today my daily bread because you've already got a closet full of food and you missed out on seeing God provide for you. It's also a disadvantage because we're so distracted. We have rich people options. We have rich people opportunities. We're so rich and blessed with opportunities, we're overwhelmed, exhausted, tired and often missing out on what matters most.
If you don't believe me, just go to some developing nation. On day number one, you'll be shocked. Your stomach will be turned at the extreme poverty. You won't believe what you see and you'll feel so much sorrow and compassion for these people. On day three or four what you're gonna find is suddenly you realize they have something you don't have. They've got time with people and they've got relationships and they often have intimacy with God. And what they don't have that you have is stress and anxiety and the burden of managing stuff. And on day five or so, you might find a small part of yourself jealous of their simplicity, of their intimacy, of their love for one another, their appreciation for community and their adoration for God.
It's a disadvantage sometimes to have so much. Another reason that it's a disadvantage is this. Because to whom much is given, much is required. In other words, it's great you're rich 'cause you truly can enjoy what God has given you and that honors God. But God also expects more and because we're rich, we truly have a greater responsibility. And all the time we're rich, every moment of every day, culture shouts at us. What you don't have is what you need. What you don't have is what you need. The newer phone, a better TV, a brand new purse, the shoes, the watch, the sunglasses, the wallet, the jacket, the backpack, the speakers, the car, the flooring, the furniture, the countertops, accessories, the artwork and don't get me started on vacations. Because what you don't have is what you need.
And that's why Jesus said, Be on your guard. Why? Because a person's life, what really matters doesn't consist in the abundance of money and stuff. And here's what I know about you because this is true about me. We know that in our heads. The problem is our lifestyles often do not reflect that truth. And if you're really really honest, you might say, yeah, I am spending more than I make. Why? Because I've bought into the lie that more stuff out there really matters. If I just get that, then I will finally be happy.
The very way that most of us live in this culture today says what we really believe is that more will make us happy. Here's what we have to understand. Whenever we believe that lie and it comes at us all the time, every day in every way. Whenever we believe the lie that more money, more things, more stuff that's truly what we need to be blessed and be happy, we have to recognize that we are under the curse of money. Whenever we believe that our problems can be solved by more stuff and more money, we are under the curse of money. What I hope you'll understand is this. More money isn't gonna help your kids stay off drugs. In fact, more money may put them in a place where they're more susceptible to drugs.
More money is not going to heal someone who is sick of cancer. More money will not make your depression go away. More money will not save your marriage. What we don't need is more of what's temporary. What we do need is more of what is eternal. What we don't need is more money. What we do need is more Jesus, more Jesus, more Jesus. I don't want to be under the power of something of this world. I want to be under the power, living in the blessings of the eternal world, living a life that truly honors God.
And that's why I love what Paul told Timothy. He's been mentoring this young guy, trying to lead him along into something that's better and Paul's telling him to talk to the rich people. And when he's talking to the rich people, he's talking to you and he's talking to me. Don't hear this as someone else rich. Hear this as God's word to you. Paul tells Timothy this. He says, Command those who are rich. Who's that? Say it's me. Everybody say it's me. It's me. Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant.
In other words, don't think that you're all that just 'cause you have it. Nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but instead to put their hope in God, who does what? Our God richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. In other words, don't feel guilty when you're rich. God gives it to you. God blesses. He's a good God. He loves to bless His children. He freely blesses His children. When you are faithful with a little, God blesses you with more. Some of you, you've just been faithful. You've taken what God gave you and you stewarded it and you maximized it and you multiplied it. It's a blessing, it's from God.
Don't feel guilty, but do feel responsible. God has blessed you and it's not all for you. You have every right to enjoy it. You have every right to spend on your family, to have a nice place, to drive a new car, to live a great life because God has blessed you with it. But it's not all for you. To whom much is given and that's most all of us, much is actually expected. And that's why God's word to us rich people is this. Command them to do good, to be rich in what? Good deeds. To be rich in good deeds. And rich people, we better be generous and willing to share. I love this with all of my heart. In this way, they will lay up treasures for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, why? So that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. So that they may enjoy the depth of the blessings and the goodness, the character and the nature of our good God. Be generous. Be willing to share. Be rich in good deeds so you can take hold of the life that is truly life.
One of my pastor friends, his name is Andy Stanley and he taught on this theme years and years and years ago. It impacted me in such a powerful way. Many of the ideas are borne from what he taught probably over a decade ago. And he had a statement in his message that I wrote down and I've tried to internalize in my heart. I want you at all of our churches just to say this phrase aloud. I'll walk you through it, little by little. It goes like this. God has blessed me. Everybody say, "God has blessed me with more than I need. I'm rich". Let's say it again, I want you to feel it. "God has blessed me with more than I need. I'm rich. But I will not trust in my riches. But in Him who richly provides". Now watch this. Say it aloud. "Because I have more, I will give more and do more".
Feel it. It's good news. It's really good news. We're rich and blessed. That's actually bad news because it can be distracting. It can be a spiritual disadvantage and more is expected of us. So I don't know about you but with everything in me, I want to live this. My God has blessed me with more than I need. But I will not trust in stuff but in the One who richly provides. And because He has given me more, with everything in me, I am called, equipped, empowered and honored to give more and to do more. The temporary things of this world promise but do not deliver. You know it. When you get it, there's a buzz and then the buzz diminishes and then it goes in the closet and two years later, you Marie Kondo it.
Church, let's do something that matters. Let's do something that lasts. Let's make a difference like only rich people can make a difference. Let's take what's been given to us and let's use it to be a blessing to others. Maybe you'll help pay your friend's rent anonymously to be a blessing. Maybe you'll grab some boxes and give a whole day helping someone move. Maybe you'll serve at one of our local mission partners and give your time to help children or to help someone who doesn't have what you have. Maybe you'll give your time to serve in LifeKids. Maybe you'll save up your money, your money and take a week of vacation and spend your money to go to another part of the world and spend a whole week of your vacation serving people and come back and say, That was one of the greatest weeks of my life because when we lose our life, that's when we really find it.
Again, command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous and to be willing to share. They will lay up treasure for themselves so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. One of the most shaping moments that I've ever had was on a trip to another part of the world. If you've never been to a place that has no electricity, no running water, barely even shacks to protect themselves from the elements of this world, it is jarring and it helps you to see just how rich you are. During this time, Amy was on a kick that we were not gonna eat meat. Some of you, I respect and honor your choices. Dietary expressions. That was one of the worst seasons of my life. I can only speak for myself.
I respect what you all do but some pastors would go out of town and do wild things. I go out of town and eat dead cow. And so we were on this trip in this very very very, you can't even call it a house. It was cardboard and metal pieces. And there's this lady there that was smiling from ear to ear and she fed everybody in our team something different than she fed me. She put in front of me meat and I asked my translator to find out why they didn't have meat and I did. And my translator said, oh, she heard that you love meat but you don't have access to meat. And so he said, she saved her money for months and months in preparation for you coming. And then he explained to me that she hadn't eaten meat in over a year in her own life.
And she put meat in front of me. And I said, I can't eat it. And he said, You must eat it. Do not dishonor and steal from her the joy of her generosity. And so I did the best I could, through tears, to express my gratitude to her. And she said something back through the translator along the lines of I am the richest lady in my community because I have the honor of blessing a man of God with meat. Culture's never gonna stop. What you don't have is what you need to truly be happy in life.
And Jesus says, Watch out. Your life does not consist in the abundance of stuff. I don't know about you but I'm blessed. Rich. My God has blessed me with more than I need. I'm rich. But I will not trust in my riches, but in Him who richly provides. And because I have more, church, because we have more, we will do more and we will give more and in that, we will find the life that is truly life. And that is how to be rich in a way that honors God.
So Father, today we ask that You would help us feel the honor of Your blessings, the joy of enjoying what You've given to us. It comes from You. And at the same time, God, help us feel the responsibility to use it to make a difference in the lives of people in this world.
At all of our churches, as you reflect in prayer, those of you who say, I didn't feel rich a little bit ago but I actually recognize that I am and I want to be rich in a way that honors God. Would you lift your hands right now? Just all over the place, all our churches today.
God, thank You for so many people who are recognizing Your goodness, Your blessings. We don't deserve them, God. We didn't earn them. We recognize You are the source and we recognize, God, we're called to steward them. I pray, God, for anyone that feels guilty of the blessings, that they would step over that guilt and recognize it comes from You because You give good gifts to Your children. Give them the freedom, God, to enjoy all of the blessings, every type of blessing that You give. But at the same time, God, give us a sense of divine responsibility that what we have isn't just for us but you've blessed us to make a difference in the lives of others. God, for those who may give for the very first time to You through the church, bless their gift today. God, for those who may use their time to serve as only rich people can serve, may they find joy in pouring out their lives for others. God, I pray You'd give us eyes to see opportunities this week to do good, to be generous and to truly find the life that is spiritual life.
As you keep praying today at all of our churches, this should be easy for some of you, because some of you, you have been on the illusive pursuit of more. Once I get that, I'll be happy. Once I get that, I'll be happy. Once I go there, I'll be happy. Once I do that, once I have this relationship. Once I hit that level. Once I have this much in the bank. And guess what, the line always moves, why? Because there is a void in your soul that no thing on this earth can fill. You were created by God for God.
What's our problem? By nature, we've sinned against God. The trajectory of our life is now away from heaven and toward the things of this world. But the things of this world were not created to satisfy us. We were created to know God, to reflect His goodness. He is the One that brings life that is truly life. What did God do for us? In our sinfulness, while we were still sinning, God loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, the Son of God, the Lamb of God, perfect in every way who never sinned.
Jesus died on a cross, in our place for the forgiveness of our sins. He did not stay dead though. On the third day, our God raised Him from the dead so that anyone, and this includes you, who calls out on Jesus, the name that is above every name, God hears your prayer. He forgives your sin. He will meet that need, He will fill that void. He is what you've been looking for, not a thing but the Son of God.
At all of our churches, those who recognize I need Jesus, I need His grace, I want His joy, I want His forgiveness. I'm tired of settling for the lower things of this world. I want the higher things of my God. Jesus, be first in my life. I give my life to You. If that's your prayer, lift your hands high right now all over the place and say yes. As we have hands going up all of our different churches, call on His name. Church Online, you click right below me. We're celebrating with people today. At every single church, would you just stand to your feet, all of our churches, stand to your feet and we're going to pray together today, join your faith with those around you and pray aloud.
Heavenly Father I give You my life. Jesus, save me. Forgive all my sins. Make me brand new. You're what I'm looking for. You're what I need. Fill me with Your Spirit, so I can live for You. My life is not my own. Lead me to do good, to live generously and to show Your love as You've given it to me. In Jesus' name I pray, amen