Robert Jeffress - The Problem With Prosperity - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". Money, in and of itself, isn't a bad thing. The Bible makes that very clear. Money becomes evil when it sabotages our friendship with God. Today we're going to learn an important lesson from two wealthy men. One allowed his riches to draw him closer to God. The other allowed his wealth to push God away. My message is titled "The Problem with Prosperity," on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
Abraham understood the truth that Jesus would echo many years later when he said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand". You know, people are so ignorant of the Bible today. They think Abraham Lincoln is the one who came up with those words. Abraham Lincoln stole that from Jesus. Jesus is the one who said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand". Abraham was saying, "Look, Lot, we're brothers. We're one family. The enemy is not you or me. The enemy is them. Let's remember we are brothers". Christians, we need to remember that today. In Romans 12:10, Paul said, "Let us be devoted to one another in brotherly love". That word, "brotherly," "adelphos," in Greek, means we are from the same womb. Paul is saying, "The enemy we're facing is not another Christian".
Quit the strife. Quit the fighting. Our enemy is not other Christians. The enemy is Satan, and he's looking for any opportunity to divide Christians and destroy them. We need to remember we're from the same womb, the same blood. The blood of Jesus Christ flows through us. That's what unites us to one another. Abraham understood that, and it's out of that spirit that he was going to offer a compromise. Let's not let there be any strife. You know, in our culture, compromise means weakness. Our philosophy in America is "Don't give an inch in negotiations. Stand your ground. Don't leave anything on the table". That is a carnal perspective. God says, "Be willing to make peace".
Proverbs 17:14, says, "The beginning of strife is like the letting out of water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out". Proverbs 19:11, "A man's discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression". So in that spirit, Abraham offers a compromise. Look at Genesis 13:9, "Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you want to go to the left, then I'll go to the right; or to the right, then I'll go to the left". In other words, "Lot, you choose whatever land you want, and I'll take what is left over".
Why was Abraham willing to do that? Why was he willing to be taken advantage of? Three reasons: First of all, Abraham had a greater purpose. He had a greater purpose in life. You know, every life, listen to this, every life is either self-focused, or it's God-focused. It's one or the other. It can't be both. Lot was self-focused. His credo for living was, "Get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can". That was Lot's philosophy. "Look out for number one". Abraham's focus was the glory of God. He knew that, if strife broke out between them, if the Canaanites overtook them because of that division, the reputation of God would be ruined because God had promised them that land. And so he put the interest of God above his own. He had a greater reward.
Secondly, not only did he have a greater purpose in life, he possessed a greater faith than Lot. They hadn't always been that way. There had been a time in Abraham's life when he thought he was responsible for his own well-being, and that's what led him to make that disastrous trip to Egypt that almost cost him his wife. But after that, he learned his lesson. He believed that God could be trusted to take care of him. I like what one biographer of Abraham has written: "The person who is sure of God can afford to hold loosely the things of this world".
And, finally, he not only possessed a greater faith, he looked for a greater reward. He was looking for a greater reward. You know, if you go to an investment counselor to get advice on how to invest your money, after they find out how much money you have, the question they will ask you is "What is your investment horizon"? In other words, when are you gonna need this money? If you're gonna need this money in the next year, in the next 12 months, well, you can't afford to take any risk. You better put it in the bank. You don't earn much, but you don't risk losing it. But if you're not gonna need it for 5 years or 10 years, or your retirement's not for 30 years, you can afford to take riskier investments because, although you may have some short-term losses, in the long term, you'll have more reward, more returns.
Abraham looked at his investment horizon. It won the next year, the next 5 years, or the next 100 years. His investment horizon was eternity. He was thinking in terms of eternity, of eternal rewards that would keep on paying dividend after dividend after dividend, and that's why he could take a risk in losing this land in the short term in order to please God. That's what Hebrews 11:10 is all аbout: "For Abraham was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God". He was lookin' at heaven, not this life, and because of that, he was willing to risk a loss.
What did this compromise me for Lot and Abraham? Look at the consequences, first of all, for Lot. Some of you right now are facing a choice about a career, about a move, about a mate, about your money. You're facing a choice right now. I want you to notice the three mistakes Lot made in his bad decision to take the land that looked the best to him. First of all, he refused to be content with his present circumstances. He refused to be content. It was that discontent that led him to make the wrong decision. Look at verse 10: "Lot lifted up his eyes, and he saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere. This was, by the way, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah," two cities in that valley, but it looked luscious, "like the garden of the Lord, that is, Eden, and like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar".
The Bible says, as he looked out there to what he was gonna choose, he saw the land, the oasis of the Jordan. That word, "saw," in Hebrew, means more than he just glanced at it. Literally, the word "saw" means to look longingly at, to gaze, to say, "That's what I want. That's what I need". You know what the greatest enemy of contentment, satisfaction in your life and my life is? It's what I call "the oasis syndrome," to believe that there is an oasis out there that is different, that, where I am, that, "if only I could reach that oasis, then I could truly be happy. If only I had that job, if only I lived in that city, if only I had that home, if only I had that amount of money, if only I had that mate, that I could truly be satisfied in life".
That's the oasis syndrome. "Happiness is someplace other than where I am right now". You never quite get there. It's always someplace just beyond where you are. That's why the secret for satisfaction is not more. It's the word "contentment". Paul said it this way in Philippians 4:11, "For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am". That word, "contentment," comes from a word that literally means "containment". It refers to somebody whose happiness is found inwardly, not outwardly. He is self-contained. And, of course, for a Christian, that containment is a relationship with Jesus Christ. "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me".
Lot didn't have that contentment. That led him to make a bad decision. Secondly, not only did he refuse to be content, he failed to consult God in his decision. Genesis 13:11, says, "So Lot chose for himself all the valleys of the Jordan, and he journeyed eastward". Not once is there any indication he prayed to God for wisdom. He just made the choice and went after it. You know, the longer I'm in ministry, I am convinced that the majority of Christians are really atheists. I'm not talkin' about theological atheists, not yet anyway, but they're practical atheists.
They get up in the morning. They go to work. They go through their activity list. They come home. They spend their money. They do that. They do this without ever once thinking about God or consulting God. They live their lives as if there were no God whom they should consult, a God to whom they are accountable. That's what you call an atheist, somebody who lives apart from, without God. James had a word about that in James 4, beginning with verse 13. He said, "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow, we'll go to such and such a city, and spend the year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you don't know what your life will be like tomorrow. You're just a vapor. You're a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes away".
Is James saying we shouldn't plan? No. But he is saying we shouldn't plan without God. He says, in verse 15, "Instead, what you ought to say is 'If the Lord wills, we will live, and then we'll do this or that.' But as it is, you boast in your arrogance, and all such boasting is evil". What was Lot's mistake? He refused to be content, he failed to consult God, and, third (and this is so important) he neglected to consider his family in his decision. He neglected to consider his family. Look at verses 12 and 13: "Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord".
He moved to the edge of Sodom. What was the mistake? He never once thought about how it would affect his family. He made this choice because, first of all, he underestimated the power of sin. Now listen to me: He underestimated the power of sin. Lot was a righteous man. He had heard all the stories about what life in Sodom was like. He knew it was an exceedingly wicked place, but he thought, "I'm strong enough to withstand it". So he moved to the edge of Sodom, not into Sodom, just on the edge of Sodom. He probably rationalized it: "Well, I need to be a witness to this community, so I'll get as close to the edge of sin as I possibly can". But Lot's motivation was not the glory of God. It was his own lust that drew him to the edge of Sodom, his own curiosity.
Interestingly, next time, when we see Lot again, he's right smack-dab in the middle of Sodom. He's like the proverbial moth that tries to fly as close to the flame as possible without getting burned, and it usually doesn't work out real well for the moth. It didn't for Lot, that's for sure. No, wisdom is not getting to the edge of sin. It's running as far from sin as you possibly can. 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul says, "Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart". Not only did he underestimate the power of sin, but he overestimated the spiritual strength of his family.
You see, the Bible indicates that Lot was distressed by the wickedness of Sodom, but there's no evidence that his wife and two daughters were distressed by it. Even though Lot thought he could handle the temptation, he never once thought about what this decision, what this move to another city, another place, would mean for his wife and for his two daughters. They weren't distressed by the wickedness. His wife ends up being destroyed. His two daughters married men who were exceedingly wicked, the Scripture says, and they were destroyed.
When a father, a mother makes a decision, they need to think about what this decision means not just for themselves but for their family as well. Even though I may have the freedom to do something, it doesn't mean I should do it. May I be real practical in how I illustrate that, talk about a really controversial subject in Christian circles today? A couple of weeks ago at our Dinner with the Pastor, a young woman who's new to our church said, "Pastor, what is First Baptist's policy on alcohol? Are members allowed to drink? What about the policy toward alcohol"?
Now, let's be honest. There's no Scripture verse that says, "No drop of alcohol shall ever pass through thy lips". There's no verse that says that. There's no verse that says, "You're going to hell if you have a drink". The Bible says you're not to get drunk, and even more than that, you're not allowed anything, anybody or anything control your life other than the Holy Spirit of God. But there's no absolute prohibition against a Christian drinking, but that's not the question.
The question is not whether it's okay for me to do it, whether or not I can handle alcohol. It's how my freedom impacts other people. Even though my freedom gives me the opportunity to drink, how would that affect other people who may not be able to handle alcohol? What about my children? I don't know if they're able to handle alcohol or not. The statistics are, right now, 15 million Americans are already diagnosed as alcoholics. That's 6% of the American population.
What if you went out to DFW Airport? You're about to get on a plane, and the ticket agent said, "Now, before you board today, we are required to tell you there's six chances in a hundred that this plane is going to crash". How many of you would get on the plane? "I'm willing to take my chances". No sane person would do that. Now, are you willing to take that chance yourself? You don't know whether you're an alcoholic or not till it's too late. And even if you're not, are you absolutely sure your children or grandchildren aren't in that percent, that 6%? No.
Lot made the mistake of not considering his own family and the impact this decision would make on them, and because of that, he lost everything dear to him. What was the result of Abraham making the choice he did to give up his rights to the land? Look at this, in verse 14: "And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, 'Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and your descendants forever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth, for I will give it to you.'"
I love what one writer said. He said, "For Abraham, the place of surrender became the place of possession". When Abraham opened his hands and said, "Lord, for your glory, I'll surrender this land," God said to Abraham, "That's all I needed to hear. This land is yours forever and ever and ever. Nobody will take it from you".
The Old Testament scholar Allen Ross said it this way: "Abraham had learned that it was not by his own plan or power that he would come into possession, not by jealously guarding what he thought was his. God would give it to him even if Abraham gave it away a hundred times". The place of surrender became the place of possession. Have you learned that lesson yet? Do you understand that, if you put God's interest and the interest of others above your own, God will take care of you?
You may have read recently about David Green, the founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby. He is a multibillionaire and a committed Christian. He recently announced that he's giving away his company, his multibillion-dollar company, and he says one of the things that motivated him to give it away, the foundational belief was he wasn't the owner of anything. It all belonged to God. He was just a steward, a manager of what God had given him. It was because of that attitude, I believe, God blessed David Green, and he'll do the same with you, maybe not financially but spiritually and in every other way that counts.
What about those dreams, those possessions, those relationships? You can hold on them tightly just like Lot did and end up losing everything, or you can open up your hands, give it to God, trust him to do what is right and best for you. I read this story this week. I thought of the words of Jim Elliot, that faithful missionary who was killed by the Auca Indians in Ecuador. When he was a college student, he had written in his spiritual journal these words: "He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose". That was Abraham.