David Jeremiah - God's Basic Plan for Security
Well, it was the fall of 2007 and financial markets were collapsing and Wall Street was losing massive amounts of money as if Wall Street was trying to give back a decade's worth of profits in a few brutal months. An investor, whose name is John Paulson, somehow was making huge profits. His winnings were so enormous they seemed unreal, even cartoonish. His firm, Paulson & Company, would make $15 billion in 2007. Mr. Paulson's personal cut would amount to nearly $4 billion or more than $10 million a day. That was more than the 2007 total earnings of J.K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, and Tiger Woods put together.
At one point in late 2007, a broker called Paulson to remind him of a personal account that was over $5 million, an account which was so insignificant to him at that time that it had slipped his mind. You see, Mr. Paulson bet that the housing market would collapse and risky mortgages would tumble in value, and the moves put the fund manager from Queens, New York, alongside Warren Buffett, George Soros, Bernard Baruch in Wall Street's pantheon of investors. While Paulson was making billions in 2007, as you remember, many others were entering a once-in-a-lifetime financial crisis. In fact, one study estimated that the financial crisis cost more than $22 trillion. It was a reminder that there is no such thing on this earth as a completely secure and safe investment.
Today, there are almost limitless numbers of ways to invest our money, each with a varying degree of risk and reward. But according to Jesus, there really are only two types of investments. The simplest terms Jesus used were this: we can invest our resources in insecure investments or secure ones; in earthly treasures or in heavenly ones. In Matthew 6:19-20, he puts it this way: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven". Randy Alcorn has said, "Christ's primary argument against amassing material wealth isn't that it's morally wrong, but simply that it's a poor investment". Jesus isn't saying it's wrong to invest. He's saying, "Don't make stupid investments, make smart ones".
So I wanna talk with you about these two ways to invest this morning. This is much broader than giving your tithe but it includes that. First, let's talk for a moment about what the Bible can teach us about making insecure investments. First of all, let's don't adopt the idea that some Christians seem to have picked up along the way that what we do with our money here on this earth is not important, that as long as we give God his, we can do whatever we want to with the rest of it. God really cares about what we do with money. In fact, throughout the Scriptures, here and there, often in the Old Testament writings of Solomon and other places in the New Testament, we're given little clues about what we should do with our resources. Here's one that most of us know but perhaps need to review. 2 Corinthians 12:14 says: "For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children".
So one thing we should be doing with our resources is providing for our children. In case the passage in Corinthians is not strong enough, let me read to you another one, this one from 1 Timothy: "If anyone does not provided for his own," his family, "especially those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever". The Bible says that all of us, as Christians, have a responsibility for our families. Now, that's not news to anybody in this room. We all believe that. We practice it. We practice it when our kids are at home and we practice it after they leave home and we practice it all that we can. We are kind of like the safety net for our children. Isn't that true? And that's the way it should be. In Luke chapter 8, in verse 3, we read about some women who used their money in a different way: "And Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others provided for Jesus from their substance".
Having resources isn't wrong. We're told here that these women took their resources and used their resources to help Jesus do ministry. It's not wrong to have resources. It's wrong when resources have us. God tells us to be careful how we make investments in earthly things. He wants us to keep life in perspective and to understand the issues involved in earthly investments. Here's some things to remember when you make investments in things on this earth. First of all, earthly investments or treasures deteriorate and depreciate. Can I get a witness? Here's Matthew: "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal".
The Bible says when you put your treasures in earthly things three things are likely to happen. Number one, sometimes they will end up in ruin. Number two, they might end up in rust. Or number three, they might end up in the hands of robbers. When you put all your money into earthly things you discover that they have a tendency to depreciate. So here's the question to prove my point, is the car you bought 3 years ago worth the same today as when you bought it? Did you know that the average new car loses 11% of its value the moment you leave the lot? And by year 5, the car will be worth 37% of what you paid for it? On a $20,000 car, that means you have lost $2200 the second you drive off the lot and $12,600, 5 years later.
And, of course, some cars depreciate faster than others. We all know you can't ever get ahead buying a car. As soon as you buy it, it starts to wear out. And then somebody comes up with another car almost like the one you bought, with so many more good things in it for you to play with. More gadgets, more stuff, and you just gotta have that car. Earthly treasures deteriorate and depreciate. Number two, they demand constant vigilance. Oh my goodness. Have you ever noticed that? Have you noticed that when you get stuff, if you're not careful you spend the rest of your life keeping it repaired, fixing it, something's always broken. Something always needs to be replaced. And the more stuff you have, the more time it takes to manage your stuff. So if you're not careful, your earthly investments just grab hold of all of your resources of time and take you out of the game.
Number three, earthly treasures can desensitize us to the needs of other people. Do you know that sometimes if we have resources, especially most of us as Christians, we just want enough to be comfortable and not feel threatened if we have a minor emergency. And many of us have more than that. Some of you have a lot more than that. But if we're not careful, as our security goes up because of our resources, our sensitivity to those who don't have resources goes down. In 2 Corinthians 8, verses 1 through 5, we read about a group of Christians who gave to an offering and the Bible describes them as a group that were "in a great trial of affliction but yet out of the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty, they abounded in the riches of their liberality". In other words, they gave all that they had. They gave like crazy.
Sometimes when we get a lot of stuff, we can become insensitive to the needs of hurting people. Do you remember the story in Luke 6 about the rich man and the beggar? That story has many purposes and many applications but don't lose sight of the picture. Here's a beggar lying at the gate of a rich man, hoping to get a few crumbs from the rich man's table. And yet, every time the rich man left his residence, with the poor man lying there, nothing happened. He lived so far above the poverty of this man that he never even saw the connection that he might need to do something to help him. He was desensitized to the poor man's need. Let me give you an illustration of how that happens to us.
We see people begging, asking for help, and our eyes glaze over and we look straight ahead so we don't have to catch their eyes. I've done that. We've all done that. Does that mean we should always stop and give something to everyone? No, but we should ask God to help us see them. Not just look at them, but see them. Because sometimes, when we see them, God will put it on our hearts to help them. But if we are so secure ourselves, have no needs ourselves, it's easy for us to kind of build a little wall around us. It's very uncomfortable to see people in abject need. It's very easy to spend time quandering whether or not it's real or whether you're about to be taken and we've both been on both sides of that. Earthly treasures deteriorate, they depreciate, they demand vigilance, they desensitize us to the needs of other people.
And here's the fourth one. They don't go with you to heaven, no matter what anybody says. "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out". There are no pockets in a shroud. You don't take it with you. But the Bible says you can send it ahead but you can't take it with you. When you invest in your earthly portfolio, it is for the here and now but it doesn't go past the grave. You know, if you read the Bible, you keep running into these passages that you wonder, "How did I miss that? I don't really remember ever seeing that before, even though I read it". I came across these verses in Psalm 49 that are so pertinent to what we're talking about. It's Psalm 49:10 through 12 and 16 through 17: "For he sees wise men die; likewise the fool and the senseless person perish, and they leave their wealth to others. Their inner thought is that their houses will last forever, their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names".
They put their names on their land. "Nevertheless man, though in honor, does not remain; he's like the beasts that perish. Do not be afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dies he shall carry nothing away; his glory will not descend after him". We get all bent out of shape over people who have so much and we don't have that much and the Psalmist says, "Don't get bent out of shape over that 'cause when they die they're not gonna have any more than you do. You're all gonna have the same. You can't take it with you". I'm always amused when I hear somebody say, "He died a millionaire". No, he didn't. He died a pauper. He brought nothing into the world and he carries nothing out. Somebody said, "How much did he leave when he died"? He left it all. Nobody gets to take anything with them.
What I'm trying to do is build this case, not for not enjoying the money we have but being careful that we don't get false assumptions about it. Earthly treasures also can drive you to do things you don't want to do. Oh, is this critical for us to hear! There are many people with many things who would just like to go back to the simple life. But they can't. They're stuck and they can actually end up doing a lot of stuff they don't want to do. 1 Timothy says: "But those who desire to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown them in destruction and perdition. For the love of money," not money, but the love of money, "is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows".
Susan Bradley is a certified financial planner in Palm Beach, Florida. She's the founder of an organization called, Sudden Money Institute. It's a resource for new money recipients and their advisors. Listen to her words. As far as I know, she's not a Christian or a follower of Christ, even a student of the Bible, but she got this right. She said, "In our culture there's a widely held belief that money solves problems. People think if they had more money, their troubles would be over. When a family receives sudden money, they frequently learn that money can cause as many problems as it solves".
There are all kinds of stories written about the tragedy of people who win the lottery. I know some of you would like to have that tragedy but there's a lot of problems with that. I don't know a lot of very wealthy people but the few that I know would confess, and have to me, that their resources, while being a blessing, are also a great burden because there are so many hands reaching out for those resources. And if you're not careful, if you don't have your spiritual view and perspective of things, you can let money drag you into a lifestyle that you don't even want, that you don't even like, just because it's what's expected of persons who live that way. Here's the next problem with earthly treasures. They don't satisfy us even now.
The idea that if you have more money, you're gonna be happy, just isn't true. You cannot find any evidence to support that. Isaiah the prophet asked, "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy"? You can go through your life with so much in your resource fund that you get caught up in it and get off-track. We just have to be careful that we don't get a false sense of security because we have resources. Then earthly treasures are doomed to ultimate destruction. Only two things are forever: the Word of God and the souls of men and women. They're the only two things. The only two things that are gonna survive are the souls of men and women and the eternal Word of God. Everything else is gonna go away.
The Bible says that "the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; and the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up". One of my friends once told me of a guy in his church that was trying to make this point for himself and his family so he went around to everything they owned and put a tag on it that said, "Soon to be burned". He said it gave him a great sense of reality. And all this stuff we so get excited about has no shelf life. So there you have it. That's kind of what the Bible says about putting all your eggs in the temporal basket.
The Bible doesn't say it's wrong to have money, it doesn't say it's wrong to have things that money can buy. The Bible says don't get your heart caught up in all the money that you have, investing it all in earthly things that have no eternal value. Now here's the other side of the picture, much shorter than the first because it doesn't take many points to prove this one. First, here are just some things about eternal investments. Heavenly investments continually appreciate. They're always appreciating. "So Jesus answered and said, 'I assuredly say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for my sake and the gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come, eternal life.'"
Jesus said when we invest in eternal things what are those things? The souls of people and the Word of God. When we do that, our investment never depreciates. It always appreciates. It keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger. How does that work? Well, you gave some money to God and that money was used to win a family to Christ. That family is won to Christ and then their children are won to Christ and then their children grow up and their children are won to Christ and their friends are won to Christ, and it just keeps appreciating and appreciating. You can never know where it ends. You won't know 'til eternity. Heavenly investments are cared for by somebody else. That gives me great joy. You don't have to worry about heavenly investments. Whatever you've got up there, God's taking care of it. Matthew tells us that whenever we put our investment in heaven, it is not subject to rust, ruin, and robbery. It can't be touched because God is taking care of it.
Let me just say again, how do we send investments to heaven? Through the investments we make in ministry that touches the lives of people and increases the spread of the Word of God. When we do those two things, the Bible says we are investing in a way that can never depreciate and will just continue to grow and grow and grow. Sometimes, I think about that and it just overwhelms me that when we give to the things of God, God takes that gift and it begins to just multiply. And God is not into addition. God's into multiplication. If God has a calculator, it doesn't have addition on it, only multiplication. He's prolific at multiplying what we give to him. And then heavenly investments continue for eternity.
In the book of John chapter 6, we read these words: "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set his seal on him". Whatever you give to God will never go away. When you invest in evangelism, God uses that to bring many sons to himself and they go to heaven. Here's another one. Heavenly investments please God. Heavenly investments cause God to be pleased. God is honored with us. You know, we try to make this really spiritual but let me take it off the spiritual realm and just put it down on the bottom line. If you're a father and you see your children doing the right thing, doesn't it just give you a warmth around your heart?
More and more as you get older, you see your children replicating things perhaps they learned when they were growing up and when you see your kids doing something that they should do, something you taught 'em to do, your heart just kind of beats a little extra. Can you imagine that if God is our Father, he does not feel the same way when he sees his children honoring him and believing him and trusting him and walking by faith? In the book of Philippians there's a story about Paul receiving an offering and, at the end of the verse, in Philippians 4:18, he calls that offering, "a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice that's well pleasing to God".
The Bible doesn't have many succinct statements about what it means to please God, but here's one you can't get away from: "When you invest your resources in eternal things, God is pleased". He's honored. And when you do that, you create joy in the body of Christ. Heavenly investments create joy in the church. When we give to God, we accomplish things that no one could do individually. We do more together than we could ever do by ourselves. So what that says is when we do what we do together, we get to have what no one could ever have on his own and we see the body of Christ grow and develop. I wanna encourage you that what you do with your resources when you invest them for eternity, it's pretty special.
Finally, let me just share with you that heavenly investments certify your passion. The Bible says that "no one can serve two masters; you're either gonna hate one and love the other, or you're gonna be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon". Mammon is materialism, that's what it means. So you can have both, you can't serve both. Do you get that? You can have money and God but you can't serve money and God. You can only serve one master. And when you give your money, you tell everybody who knows what you give, if there is such a person, you certainly tell yourself, "This is what I believe in. This is what I'm excited about". Here's another verse that you know in Matthew 6:21: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also".
In other words, if you invest in a stock, you're pretty apt to read the stock numbers and find out how it's doing. If you invest in a company, you wanna know in the annual report how's my investment doing. When you invest in the things of God, your heart's in it. You wanna be a part of it. You have an ownership system that is put into place. So it's hard to say, "My heart is really in the kingdom," if none of your resources are in the kingdom, 'cause your heart and your treasure travel together in the same car. So as you think about this, let me ask you who is the greatest investor of all time? Today most people blurt out the name of Warren Buffett. At the age of 26, he invested $140,000 in 1956 that turned into $52 billion.
But I wanna tell you there's a better investment story. Jesus was a carpenter who, through his ministry with a ragtag, not-so-disciplined 12 disciples over a short 3-year period, was able to change the lives of billions of people spanning generations, centuries, and it's still going. Jesus, using the shortest time, the barest resources, the fewest people, converted the most number of lives for the better by the most degree, covering the widest geography, over the longest period of time. The greatest trade was made by Jesus. Did you know that? He gave his life to pay for the sins of mankind, giving his life so that we might live. Any rational investor would rate this offer a strong buy because the trade has no downside, limitless upside. It's priceless.
Jesus may not be the greatest investor on Wall Street, but he is certainly the greatest investor for eternity. And we are part of that investment. I would just tell you with all of my heart that when you put things right and you're giving and you begin to honor God with your resources, perhaps even starting this year to become a tither, you're in for an adventure. You will find your heart more tuned to what's going on here, you'll be more excited about the victories that are won, you will sense ownership when people are baptized or when they come to Christ. I counsel you to do it because I know the blessing you will miss if you don't. I don't wanna miss that. I don't want you to miss it either.