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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Michael Youssef » Michael Youssef - Rebuilding Our Broken Walls - Part 5

Michael Youssef - Rebuilding Our Broken Walls - Part 5

Michael Youssef - Rebuilding Our Broken Walls - Part 5
TOPICS: Restoration, Nehemiah, Rebuilding Our Broken Walls

The fact remains that the Bible never said that money is the root of all evil. The Bible is very clear that it is the very love of money that is the root of all evil. No wonder Jesus spoke more about the use of material possessions and money than he spoke about heaven and hell combined.

Voltaire, the French philosopher, once said in a letter to a friend, he said, "When it comes to money, everybody is of the same religion". All have the tendency to make money to be our god instead of God being our god. It's the same sentiment that is echoed by Job in Job chapter 12, verse 6. Job was saying that evil people provoke God with their sin, and he said the way they do this is by bringing their god in their hands. And the god that they bring in their hands he's talking about is their money. "Atlas Shrugged" novelist Ayn Rand relates a conversation between two people. One person twists the Scripture and tortures the Scripture by saying to the other, "You know, money is the root of all evil". And the other responded, "Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is that what you call evil"?

The very discussion shows how people can be divided on their views of money, but the fact remains that the Bible never, never, never said that money is the root of all evil. The Bible is very clear that it is the very love of money that is the root of all evil. Another way of putting it is that when money becomes a god, then that person who's worshipping money is opening himself or herself to all sorts of evil. Money itself is not evil, nor it is the root of all evil in the world. Money itself is morally neutral. We can use money for good and noble causes or we can use it for evil causes. So money's neutral. In fact, one of the surest ways of telling of a person's character is to know how that person make use of his money and material possessions. No wonder Jesus spoke more about the use of material possessions and money than he spoke about heaven and hell combined.

In Matthew 6:24, Jesus actually contrasts money with God. He asked, "Who is your master"? Who is your master, God or money? In other words, who possesses me, God or my possessions? Do I possess my possessions and I use them as servants and as slaves to serve the purpose of God in my life, or do they possess me and enslave me? That's the question. And as we come to this section in the series from Nehemiah on the rebuilding of broken walls, we see how fallen nature is raising its ugly head. I hope you already turned with me, Nehemiah chapter 5, because in chapter 5, there are basically two groups of people, both possessed with love for money. There were the haves and there were the have nots, and the have nots paid for what they have.

The first group is in verses 1 to 5. You find that group of people who did not have money were equally enslaved to money. They were spending money they did not have and they found themselves in financial bondage. They were living beyond their means and they would actually enslave their children. The second group of people in verses 6 all the way to 13, these are the haves, people who had money, and they were equally enslaved to money. They used their money to exploit their fellow Jews. They were using their money to enslave their fellow countrymen. And here's the amazing thing. The amazing thing of how Nehemiah dealt with both groups of people with absolute supernatural wisdom from above. In a very short chapter, Nehemiah begins to teach everyone who truly loves God, whether he lived in the Old Testament or New Testament, the absolute brilliant principles of money management. He brought both groups into turning to the Living God and repent of their sin, in regard to money.

Here, the debtors repented of their getting into debt and the lenders repented of exploiting and placing their fellow Jews in such a bondage. It's a remarkable spiritual experience. The Spirit of God began to work in both groups and how they both turned to the Lord. Here, Nehemiah actually gives us some of the most profound principles regarding management of our finances. There are three in number, and those three principles are found on verses 14 to 19, Nehemiah 5. The first principle, keep your eyes on your giver. The second principle, imitate your giver. And the third principle, you can never, never, never out-give your giver. This is one of the most important money-management principles that you can learn. If we view your employer, if you view your boss, if you view your company, if you view even family members as your givers, or if you view anybody else as your giver, you are in a world of hurt.

That's the beginning of trouble, because that... really, if you wanna learn money management, you gotta begin there, because sooner or later, those folks are going to disappoint you big time. But if you focus on your Giver, you will never be disappointed. For this lesson, Nehemiah uses the best method of teaching. Do you know the best method of teaching? It is not preaching. Let me assure you. That's not the best method of teaching. I think that's why Paul calls it the foolishness of preaching. The second-best method is a dialogue, when you ask questions and you get your questions answered. But the very best method of teaching is personal example. Do what I do. Not do what I say, do what I do.

And that's exactly what Nehemiah's doing here. He is using his personal example of his life to show his people that the most important and the primary principle in financial management is to keep your eye on your giver, the real giver. He was totally focused on his giver. Look at verses 14 and 15. And he did not just do this on a temporary basis because he needed something from God. He did this for 12 years. Twelve years. But I want to remind you that Nehemiah was a celebrity in his day. He really was. I mean, Nehemiah was a mover and a shaker of his day. He wasn't just a nobody. Nehemiah had considerable influence on the Emperor of Persia, which was the most powerful man in the world at that time. And Nehemiah was a rock star. I mean, really in our lingo today.

Above all, Nehemiah was in the place where he could use his power and his considerable influence over the king, the emperor, to feather his nest and really make a ton of money. He could have made a killing in the real estate market, but he didn't. There's nothing wrong with making money, but Nehemiah didn't. Why? Why didn't he? Why did he forgo such a lucrative opportunity to get all you can and can all you get, and then sit on the lid. Why? Oh, because his focus was on his Giver. That was his focus. Tucked away in the end of verse 15 of Nehemiah 5, tucked away there, he tells you why. Here it is, second half of 15, the last part of verse 15, "Out of reverence for God I did not act like this". All the others were, "man, they were exploiting people". He said, "I didn't do this out of reverence for God".

What's that mean? What's that mean? If a person makes money, he has no reverence for God? No, no, no, no, listen carefully. He had such intense reverence for God, he had such intense confidence in God, he had such an intense obedience to God, he had such a focus on God as his Giver that he would not trade his calling for all the wealth in the world. Don't forget that Nehemiah was appointed a governor by the most powerful man in the world, the King of Persia. He had every right to exploit his position, and it is legal in the Persian law. He would not have been breaking any laws. And that's why I want to stop for a moment and just tell you straight here, beloved, listen to me. Just because something is legal doesn't mean always it's right.

There are a lot of legal things that are wrong. Abortion is legal in this country, but God still views it as absolutely wrong. Fornication is legal, but God says it's a sin. Homosexuality in many places are legal, but it is not God's design for humanity. Just because something is legal doesn't mean always it's right. Nehemiah's focus was on his true giver. He knew who his giver is. Nehemiah understood what Jesus taught 500 years or so later in Matthew 6:33, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be thrown in as a bonus". I know it's a rough translation, but you get the meaning. Nehemiah was ruled by God, not by love for money. Greed is a serious moral defect that enslaves its victims, and that is why Nehemiah rejected the values of the world. He did. He rejected the values of his peers. He saw what they were doing, but he rejected that. Nehemiah rejected the laying up of treasures here on earth. Nehemiah chose to focus on his true giver.

Watch verse 16. "Instead of doing this," he says, "instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall". Not acquiring land so that I would sell it in the black market and become rich. What is he saying? Here's what he's saying. "When I arrived in Jerusalem, I could have made a killing in the real estate market". There's nothing wrong with that, but that was not his calling. But he said, "I focused instead on serving the purpose of God in my life, because he is the one who gives me all that I need". And God blessed him out of his socks. I really... I'm gonna show you, because that's how it works. When you focus on your true Giver, you will be amazed, you'll be astounded at how free you are from the love of money.

First principle of money management, focus on your... Well, the second principle of money management, and you see it right here, imitate your giver. Here's the irony, as we're gonna see in the third principle of money management, that it is when you become focused on giving that you will truly receive. Nehemiah, in verse 17, chapter 5, he said, "On a daily basis, I personally provided food for 150 people for 12 years". And by the way, I mean, this was not biscuits and gravy. There's nothing wrong with that, or grits. Nothing wrong with that, but look at the lavish way that he fed those whom he supported. But in all that generosity, he totally depended on God. He totally depended on God.

Nehemiah saw himself as a conduit. Nehemiah saw himself as a channel, and you don't need to have a seminary degree to know that God is constantly looking for channels. He wants to bless his kingdom, so he's looking for people who are gonna be conduits, who are gonna be channels, constantly waiting. And he'll bless you some, and wait, and bless you some, and then wait, and see how you're gonna channel it, or are you gonna nickel and dime God to death. You know how people nickel and dime God. Well, you know, is it 10%? Was it before taxes or after taxes? What is this? And what about this? And what about... no, no, no, no. That's not how it works.

See, Nehemiah exemplified trust in the promise of Jesus that he made 500 years later in Luke 6:38, "Give and it shall be given to you a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, and it will pour it into your lap. For by the measure you use, it will be measured to you". I believe Nehemiah was addicted to giving, and what a great addiction to have. When Paul said in 2 Corinthians 9:7 that God loves a cheerful giver, God loves everybody, especially he loves his own. He loves 'em to the end. He loved 'em enough to die on the cross. So what is he saying? He's basically saying that God has a soft spot for those who are hilarious givers. Yes, hilarious. They give hilariously. You will not be a hilarious giver if you allow the world's logic to fill your mind, and your heart, and your lifestyle.

You say, "What's that mean"? Well, see, the world's logic says that what you have is like a pie. You slice, give to God, you get less slices left over. That's how the world views it. The more you give God, the poorer you get. That's the world's logic, that's not biblical logic. God's logic is very different. God's logic sees it as a silo, not a pie. Every time you turn the spigot and you give, from the top where you can't see, God is pouring it in. You can say, "What is this? This thing is not emptying. I mean, it just keeps on being filled".

See, that's God's logic. It's overflowing from the top. The world says that if you give generously, you'll become poor, but God's said when you give generously, you will be richly blessed. The world says that your statement of net worth is all the things that you own in this life. God says the statement of your net worth is what you give to God. You see, God doesn't care about how much you have. He gave you everything anyway. He cares about how much you gave. Not what you have, but what you gave. And I'm here to testify to you, not only me, but hundreds of others, that God is true to his Word, that God keeps his promise, even when you have a crop failure on occasions.

The first principle, focus on your... Second principle, imitate your... And the third principle is you can't out-give your giver. God met every one of Nehemiah's needs and more. I mean, he was in an abundance. God never let Nehemiah down. God is the perfect giver. God is the giver of all good gifts. In fact, the Bible said, "For God so loved that he gave". The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 9:15, he said, "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift"! As Paul began to reflect on the generosity of God and the self-giving of God, he says, "I can't explain it, I can't describe it, I cannot express it. I can only give thanks for it".

And you can't out-give the one who gave you everything. You can't, even if you try. Hear me right on this, if our greatest need was for information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need was for technology, God would have sent us an engineer. If our greatest need was for money, God would've sent us an economist. If our greatest need is for fun, God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need of all was a need to be forgiven, the need for forgiveness, so God sent his one and only Son, perfect Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as our forgiver. And he said, "Come unto me. Come unto me who are desperate for forgiveness and I'll forgive you. I'll forgive you".

I was thinking about this and the part of Nehemiah's leadership particularly here in leading people to repentance, and be true to God's call in their life, and rebuilding the walls that are crumbling all around them, and I thought of something I read some time ago. It took place back in 1971 when composer Leonard Bernstein premiered a musical theatre piece called "Mass," M-A-S-S. Mass, like in the Catholic church. It was commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy in the opening of John F. Kennedy's Center for Performing Arts in Washington D.C. In that piece, there is a scene, I think with all of us can identify.

Listen carefully. A priest celebrating mass, a Roman-Catholic mass, while he was dressed in the regalia of layer, upon layer, upon layer of vestments. In fact, that elegant embroidered robes were so heavy that he was struggling under its weight. These vestments represented layers of man-made rules, and rituals, and religious traditions. Bernstein did not know that he was actually communicating biblical truth. And then the priest realized that these heavy layers of religiosity were destroying him and blocking his relationship with God.

So finally, the priest begins to take them off and lay them aside, one by one, one by one, until he stands before God in jeans and T-shirt. And then, he approaches the altar and he says, "Look at me! There is nothing but me under this". My beloved, listen to me. God sees through our facade. He really does. God sees through our self-piety and religiosity. God sees through the plastic smiles. God sees through the trappings of financial success and the status symbols. God sees the false religious performances and he wants us to be just who we are before Jesus, because he sees us as we are. Liberated from the bondage of money and material possessions. He wants to liberate us from the enslavement to the false gods, false gods that some times we worship, other times we fear, other times we're anxious we're gonna lose. And he's calling us to focus on our giver, to imitate our giver, and to remember that you can never, never, never, never out-give your giver.
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