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Moral Earthquakes & Secret Faults: Going down - Part 8

Moral Earthquakes & Secret Faults: Going down - Part 8

Friday, May 7, 2021 2:32 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 2:32 PM


Luke 22

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Proverbs 16:18

Luke 22

In any natural disaster, the greatest heartbreaks and the greatest joys focus on the way people respond to the crisis. Feats of heroism, selflessness and courage abound in times of need. Simultaneously, the exploitive greed and avarice of men seem to come to the fore in the most tragic of circumstances. The Bay Area earthquake in 1989 highlighted both. Rescuers risked their lives for others hour after hour, day after day in the aftermath of the disaster. At the same time, looters were pillaging the remains of victims’ homes, shops and businesses.

While many neighbors shared selflessly, others proved to be appallingly callous. One landlord reportedly continued to charge rent on his Marin apartments even though no one could live in the damaged building. A restaurant owner was charging $15 for a sandwich the night of the quake. Some people broke into damaged stores and stole as much as they could carry away. These people all saw a chance to profit from the disaster.

It should not surprise us that the same kind of dynamic is at work in the spiritual life. Following a moral earthquake, we are liable to see both the best and the worst in man. We are also likely to see the best and the worst in the church.

All of us know that Christians experience problems relating to one another. Christians have arguments and disagreements with each other. But beyond that, Christians sin against one another continually. We harm one another with our thoughts, words and deeds. Although there is no escaping the fact that we will always continue to sin, two major differences should exist between us and unbelievers. The first is that our standards for conduct — what is right and wrong — are higher because they are God’s standards. The other important difference is that God has given us a way of mending and healing those wrongs perpetrated against each other.

A different pattern

God has devised a process through which reconciliation takes place, allowing us a second chance with one another. He has also prescribed the manner in which we are to act when involved in a dispute with a Christian brother or sister. The reconciliation occurs privately between the concerned parties. Gossip, slander and bitter words — common to disputes in worldly situations — are simply inappropriate, and even disgraceful, when Christians are mending their relationships. Indeed, the typical patterns of worldly avarice are explicitly prohibited from the process.

It is not all right for Christians to drag their problems with each other through the world’s arena. God has given us a program in the Word of God of how to deal with these things, and it is not to bring them to the world.

It is not all right for a pastor — or even for a lay leader — to divorce, for instance. It is not an option for the believer. Now to be sure, a lot of second marriages are better than the first ones were, but none are as good as the first ones could have been. We have a job in this world — where more than half the marriages now end in divorce — to build a wall as high and as thick as we can and to keep young people from falling off the cliff. We must let them know what the Bible teaches, and at the same time, keep an ambulance waiting at the bottom of the cliff, full of gas, to bandage up and to bind up the lives of those who have fallen. Then we help them see that there is a land of beginning again. This kind of program of reconciliation requires a good deal of balance.

This truth is evident all throughout the dramatic story of Simon Peter. Always brash and bold, Jesus warned him that “Satan has asked for you, that he might sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail” (Luke 22:31–32).

That must have seemed to be a needless prayer to the apostle. Peter responded saying, “I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). He was absolutely confident in his faith, his reliability and his constancy. Jesus knew better. He said, “The rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34).

I suppose it is unfortunate that despite all the wonderful things Peter did during his career, when his name is mentioned, the first thing we all think of is this one incident which shows him in his worst light. Then again, perhaps it is because of his dramatic failure that this story gives a vivid warning to all of us of the danger of denying our Lord. It clearly reminds us that no one is immune to the possibility of a calamitous spiritual downfall.

Ask a dozen Christians who their favorite apostle is, and the majority of them will probably say Simon Peter. Perhaps the reason is that he is so intensely human. He’s just like we are: impulsive, impetuous and impossible. When he made mistakes, he made big ones. When he spoke unwisely, he spoke very unwisely.

Clearly, Simon Peter did not expect to deny the Lord. In spite of Christ’s clear warning, turning his back on the Lord Jesus Christ was the farthermost thing from Peter’s mind. But then, none of us deliberately intend to indulge in a spiritual downfall. None of us actually plan to fall into temptation and sin. Like Peter, we’re more inclined to expect that we’ll remain forever stalwart. So, we’re always a bit shocked when the inevitable happens and we do fall.

It is a very precarious spiritual position to place ourselves in — to assume that we will never fall. It is a dangerous thing to be where Simon Peter was — actually boasting to the Lord, “I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Between that statement of spiritual machismo and his subsequent denial of Christ, Peter obviously underwent a transformation. But again, he certainly did not set out to change. Yet his fall was not sudden or unpredictable. No, his fall was slow, almost an imperceptible alteration within him.

On the slopes

Almost everyone has heard the term “slippery slope.” That phrase refers to some sort of process that occurs so smoothly — many times unwarily — that whoever is on that slope cannot perceive it or does not know how to get off of it. A good example of this is the way an adulterous affair begins.

Most people do not wake up one morning and think, “You know, I think I’m going to begin an affair today.” Instead, it begins with a gradual distancing that occurs between a husband and wife — many times in response to some other situations or circumstances occurring in their respective lives. At some point though, the distance becomes so great that they believe it cannot ever be effectively bridged again. True heart separation occurs, and eventually an affair results. This spiritual fall is gradual. It is a process. It takes place in stages, one leading to another in a sort of chain reaction. Once on that slippery slope, we drift ever downward, unable to arrest our inertia. Eventually, our speed carries us farther than we ever thought possible.

Peter’s fall was no different. He mistakenly stepped onto that slippery slope. Without realizing it immediately, he followed its downward course. As we look at Peter’s life, we can discern at least seven steps in his life that led him toward his denial.

1. Pride

The first step was pride. Jesus said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I prayed for you, that your faith should not fail” (Luke 22:31–32). Jesus warned Peter in the gentlest and most compassionate manner imaginable. So, what was Peter’s response? He said, “Lord, I am ready to go with You.” It doesn’t matter where. If it’s prison, I’ll be with you. I can handle it — whatever it might be.

Step one on the spiritual downgrade is thus an overweening confidence in the flesh. It is a dangerous thing to be so sure of ourselves, yet it is almost as if we are intent on training people to flaunt confidence in the flesh by redoubling our efforts to teach self-esteem, self-confidence, self-reliance and self-actualization.

Moral earthquakes don’t just happen. But then, they aren’t really plotted and planned either. There isn’t a preacher or layperson who has stumbled who really intended to do so. A great fall comes along in life when we forget that we need to rely on the daily bread of grace and we begin to rest in the confidence of the flesh. It is all too often fatal when a Christian begins to boast about what he is going to do or not going to do.

The same thing happened to Peter when he stepped out to walk on the water. He was doing fine — until he took his eyes off the Lord and put them on the waves. At that point, he sunk. The fact is, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Prov. 28:26).

2. Prayerlessness

What happens when we exude confidence in the flesh? The answer is that we take the next step on the spiritual downgrade. We resolve ourselves to prayerlessness. Notice the pattern in the life of the disciples: “When He came to the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation’” (Luke 22:40).

Well, is that what they did? Not hardly: “When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, he found them sleeping from sorrow” (Luke 22:45).

Prayerlessness. Pride and self-confidence naturally lead to prayerlessness. They go together, like steak and potatoes, corned beef and cabbage, or peanut butter and jelly. Pride and prayerlessness. One who thinks he can stand alone has no sense of the need for a life of prayer. After all, what need is there to pray if we think ourselves strong enough to resist temptation.

For most of us, prayer is an admission of weakness and insufficiency. We know that we can’t do what God alone can do. We throw ourselves at His mercy because we realize that our own efforts are woefully inadequate. We pray because we need, and only God can supply the answers to that need.

Sadly though, because Simon Peter was anything but weak and insufficient and because he was unwilling to confess his dire need of God’s good and providential work in his life, he abandoned prayer. It was not particularly important to him. He would rather sleep instead. So he did.

Peter’s downfall was thus directly related to his prayerlessness.

3. Presumption

The third step along the spiritual downgrade is presumption: “While He was still speaking [in the garden of Gethsemane], behold, a multitude; and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss him. But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’ When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, ‘Lord, shall we strike with a sword?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear” (Luke 22:47–50).

So, who was the mysterious fellow ready to go to war for the cause of Christ? John tells us in his Gospel: “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it . . . and cut off his right ear” (John 18:10). The reactionary hothead was Simon Peter. What was happening to him?

His problems began with pride. That brought about prayerlessness, and that brought about presumption. It is always an indication of someone being out of touch with the Lord Jesus when we say and do irrational, presumptuous things. A Christian who operates in the energy of the flesh dishonors the name of the Lord and loses the respect of others around him.

Paul thus argued: “I, brethren, do not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (1 Cor. 3:1–3).

Operating in the flesh is a real sign of infancy in the Christian life. Simon Peter acted like an undisciplined child when he struck off the ear of that servant.

4. Paranoia

The fourth step along the spiritual downgrade is paranoia. Peter exemplified a quintessential paranoia: “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). That is what he boasted, but the reality was substantially different. “Having arrested Him, they led him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance” (Luke 22:54).

He wasn’t so excited about going to prison with Jesus after all, was he? He followed at a distance. That kind of thing happens all the time. It is the fourth step in this long and tortured chain reaction, from pride to prejudice to presumption to paranoia.

Simon Peter was afraid — of what others might think and of what others might do to him. He was afraid of his circumstances — a situation we might all be able to identify with. Thus, he was sunk in a sea of fear. It wasn’t that he wanted to abandon the faith altogether. He didn’t. At least he came to the house of Caiaphus. The rest of Christ’s disciples forsook Him and fled in the darkness. No, it wasn’t so much that Peter wanted to quit following the Lord. But he followed at a great distance due to his own paranoia. He was gripped with fear.

Jesus said, “No one having put his hand to the plow, and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). To turn away — even to be distracted — from our calling is a disgrace precisely because it calls into question the authenticity of our faith.

5. Peer pressure

The fifth step along the downgrade was peer pressure. Notice how Peter yields to the opinions and inclinations of others:

Peter followed at a distance. Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, “This man was also with Him.” But he denied Him, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow was also with him, for he is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying” (Luke 22:54–60).

What happened? Peer pressure and worldliness finally molded Peter into a member of the crowd. Peter was worried about what other people might think, and as a result, he betrayed his first principles at the drop of a hat. The psalmist says: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful” (Ps. 1:1). Sadly, that description hardly fit Peter at this point in his walk.

When Jesus was arrested, He was taken to the house of Caiaphus, and Peter followed. He made some big promises, but now, he was identifying with the world which rejected Jesus. He was sitting among them at the fire denying that he had ever known Him, molded into their world. His sense of identity suddenly shifted from his Master to his peers. He caved in to the expectations of those around him.

That, in turn, led to the next downward spiral.

6. Paralysis

The sixth step along the spiritual downgrade is paralysis. Now it appeared things were going from bad to worse for Simon Peter. He became more and more insensitive to the Lord. His bold pledge of allegiance just a few hours earlier faded into the background of his consciousness. He became numb to the warning Christ had pronounced concerning the terrible denial — which was now sure to follow. Thus, he arrived at the fire in the courtyard and found that he was spiritually paralyzed.

This always happens when we backslide. The descent is a gradual slippery slope that begins in pride and goes down from there. But, it doesn’t go straight down. If we are not careful, in fact, we might even miss its import altogether. We can become so insensitive that we actually, without ever intending it, end up like Peter, denying our Lord.

There is no prayer we need to pray more frequently than the prayer that God will graciously prevent us from getting into a position or a place where we become insensitive to His voice. There is no danger we need to be on guard against any more studiously than spiritual senses dulled to the point that we are frozen from appropriate activity — spiritual or physical.

7. Perjury

The final step along the downgrade is perjury. Open denial. Lying. Not once, not twice, but three times Simon Peter lied; and if Simon Peter can do this, which of us can possibly be immune?

Hours before, he had boasted of his willingness to die for the sake of his faith if need be. Now, he is not even willing to be honest in a casual conversation for the sake of his faith. Before, he was a champion of the gospel. Now, he has become a spiritual Casper Milquetoast.

All’s well that ends well

Thank God this not the conclusion of the story. In the end, Simon Peter marvelously repented and returned to the fold of faithfulness: “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ So Peter went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61–62).

The ultimate result of Peter’s tortured walk along the downgrade was the shedding of bitter tears of remorse. He did not remain recalcitrant. He recognized his betrayal for what it was, and God honored that repentance.

Later, when the women came to the tomb following the crucifixion, an angel greeted them and told them, “Go, tell His disciples — and Peter — that He is going before you into Galilee” (Mark 16:7). The message specifically singles out Peter. Jesus especially wanted Peter to know that his one failure didn’t make a permanent flop. He was graciously given a second chance.

Still later, the apostle Paul tells us, “[The risen Christ] appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve” (1 Cor. 15:5, NIV). Somewhere, someplace that day, Christ had a private meeting with Simon Peter. The only way to overcome a spiritual downfall is to rebound into the favor of the Lord. The only recourse is to receive His rest. For Peter, that process began when he wept bitterly — when he cried out in repentance.

There are seven steps to an open denial: pride, prayerlessness, presumption, paranoia, peer pressure, paralysis and perjury. It all started when Simon Peter began to put his confidence and trust in his own flesh, when he became self-confident, self-assured and self-actualized.

No wonder the first Beatitude asserts: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3). If we always remain in humble submission to the sovereign purposes of the Lord, many of our sinful problems might never become so great in magnitude. Thus, many a moral earthquake would never occur.

This seven-step descent along the downgrade is, of course, not restricted to Peter alone. It affected many characters throughout the Bible — and it affects us as well. We must be vigilant against the din of pride in our lives. Yet, even if we fall, God’s love does not fall with us; it remains strong, able to lift us again.

God is a God of the second chance. His love for us dictates His actions. He desires to see us reconciled to Him so we may commune with Him and carry out the tasks He has set for us. Therefore, He makes sure that we are reconciled. Christ restored Peter to Himself just as God restores any one of us to His fold.

God is the Great Shepherd and loving Father of us all. The God of the second chance delights in that chance being extended and accepted, whether it is to reconcile a sin by one of His children or to cover a multitude of sins when someone is born again. All of Heaven rejoices when either occurs.

Moral soundings

  • Do you find yourself somewhere along the seven-step downgrade that leads to a spiritual fall?
  • Do you detect the telltale signs of pride, prayerlessness and presumption in your life?
  • What about paranoia, peer pressure, paralysis or perjury?
  • In what ways have you self-confidently relied upon your own flesh?
  • Is your spiritual identity tied up with your past spiritual accomplishments — or in Christ?
  • Have you arrived at the place of Peter — crying out in repentance?
Moral Earthquakes & Secret Faults: Fight and flight - Part 5

Moral Earthquakes & Secret Faults: Fight and flight - Part 5

Friday, May 7, 2021 2:32 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 2:32 PM


1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.  - 1 Cor. 6:18

1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Theoretically, an earthquake can happen almost anywhere. Although this statement seems to defy what we know about plate tectonics, it is true. The facts speak for themselves. In 1818, a violent quake shook Missouri. In 1886, another struck South Carolina. In 1988, another ripped through Australia’s Northern Territory; and in 1990, one hit Britain. As far as geophysicists can tell, there are no active plate boundaries in any of these areas. They theorize that instability well below the top layer of the earth’s crust—undetectable faults far deeper than the plate boundaries—may be the cause of this rare form of subduction.

The one solace of such phenomena is that they are, after all, rare. Even though it is possible for an earthquake to occur anywhere, it is far from probable. In fact, the vast majority of earthquakes occur along predictable fault lines along plate boundaries. They always have and they always will.

Moral earthquakes follow a similar pattern. Though it is possible for a moral earthquake to be caused by the most inconsequential moral faults, it is more likely to be caused by more predictable faultlines. In fact, the vast majority of moral earthquakes are caused by greed, avarice, bitterness, and, of course, sexual promiscuity.

Sex. We are consumed by it. We are immersed in it. We can hardly escape its smothering influences. Our entire pop culture seems to revolve around it. Yet our obsession has hardly brought us satisfaction. On the contrary, it has brought untold suffering and destruction.

It is ironic that our sophisticated society cannot see that sexual immorality has devastated our culture. The evidence is glaring: millions of illegitimate births, the highest divorce rate in the world, rampant sexually transmitted diseases—including AIDS—not to mention an unchecked abortion industry that not only victimizes preborn children, it haunts millions of women with the plague of post-abortion syndrome.

Yet we are continually bombarded with sex, sex, and more sex. We can’t pick up a newspaper, a magazine, turn on a television set, go to a movie, or see an advertisement without salvos of innuendo, bravado, and libido. Sex sells in America. It sells blue jeans. It sells music. It sells mouthwash. It sells everything: cars, computers, and cameras. As a result, yesterday’s shocking behavior is quite commonplace today.

To make matters worse, we’ve raised a generation of young people, by and large, with no moral absolutes and no spiritual leadership at home or in the church. Almost everyone talks to them about sex—except moms and dads and pastors. Consequently, a generation of kids have learned about it from Madonna and the media, from public education and the Dr. Ruths of this world who fill their young minds with misinformation and half-truths.

In the church, these young people have stood by and watched as we steadfastly avoided addressing the most critical issues of our day. At the same time, however, they observed all too many high-profile leaders of the church fall into sexual sins.

Is it any wonder that so many young people succumb to these sexual pressures and temptations when the home, the church, and the nation fail to give them the moral support they need? We’ve raised a generation without moral absolutes because in school, at home, and in the church our young people are not hearing the whole story. There’s only one way to have safe sex: the Bible way.

America is in the midst of moral collapse and we’re asking, “What should we do about it?” Many say, “More education. Distribute condoms. Find a cure.” However, what we really ought to be asking is why? Why are we standing idly by watching our culture fall into decay and disintegration?

The apostle Paul confronted this issue head-on when he wrote to a church of men and women living in a society in every way as perverted as ours. He didn’t back away from this indelicate subject—because he knew how important it was. He said, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:18–20).

There are four things Paul lays out in this passage. There is an admonition: the faithful must flee from sexual immorality. There is an addition: sexual sin directly alters our lives. There is an admission: we are not our own. And finally, there is an ambition: we are therefore to glorify God in our bodies.


Notice the force and urgency of Paul’s exhortation, his admonition. He states very plainly, “Flee sexual immorality.”

Don’t misunderstand what he is saying here. He is not saying to flee sex. Some people think to even mention the word is ugly and naughty. On the contrary, within the marriage relationship sex is beautiful, pure, and good. The Bible is absolutely clear on this point. It is a magnificent and joyous experience when placed within the boundaries God affords. Only when we wrench sex out of its God-ordained parameters does it become evil, perverted, and divisive.

For the Christian the issue is not sex per se. It is sex outside God’s design. The apostle does not say, “Flee sex”; he says, “Flee sexual immorality.” Christians are not antisex. We simply have a higher view of it than mere animal instinct.

The real issue here is immorality. The Greek word for “immorality” is porneia, the same root from which we get the word pornographyPorneia appears a dozen times in the New Testament, and in each instance it refers to illicit sexual encounters outside a husband-wife relationship. Sometimes that illicit activity is fornication. Sometimes it is adultery. Sometimes it is homosexuality. Interestingly, no distinction is made among these perversions—one is not somehow worse than another. Any illicit sexual activity outside the sacred marital bed of a husband and wife is a perversion of God’s perfect plan and providence.

Therefore the apostle asserts that whenever temptations in this arena present themselves, we are to flee. In the original Greek text, there is a present imperative in this admonition. It means we shouldn’t weigh our options or consider alternatives. In the face of sexual temptation, we are to flee. Literally, we are to run rapidly away—without hesitation, without consideration, without consultation. We are simply to flee. The same word is used in Matthew’s account of the infancy of Christ when Mary and Joseph took the baby and fled down to Egypt. They ran away when Herod decreed that all the babies in Bethlehem two years of age and younger would be killed. The same word is found later when Christ’s followers ran away in fear following His arrest: “All the disciples forsook Him and fled” (Matt. 26:56). In its every occurrence, the word means immediate departure, flight, a quick escape.

So Paul’s admonition is not simply to avoid sexual sin. We are to consciously, purposely, and perpetually run away from it. Get away. Run. Flee. Don’t even get in a situation where sexual impropriety is possible. Flee.

Some of us try to fight this kind of temptation. We try to resist it thinking, Oh, I’m strong. I can handle this situation. I’ve never fallen yet. I can fight these temptations. To this, the apostle Paul simply says, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

He doesn’t say, “Fight sexual immorality.” Nor does he say, “Muster your faith in the face of sexual temptation.” We might think, Well, I’m a Christian; I know the Bible; I’ve lived a life of faith. I’ll just exercise my faith here.

Sadly, I’ve watched several friends in the ministry stumble into sexual immorality, and I’ve seen the catastrophic results in both their personal and professional lives. Invariably, they were men who thought they had the faith to avoid such a moral earthquake.

That is why Paul is entirely unambiguous here. He does not say to “faith it.” His admonition is crystal clear: “Flee sexual immorality.” Get out of there. Run. Don’t hesitate. Don’t weigh the situation. Don’t stop to consider your options. Don’t even pause to pray about it. Just get out of there. Flee.

Now when temptations come in the realm of the spirit, that is when we are supposed to use faith. (Read Ephesians.) That’s when we faith it. When temptations come in the realm of the soul, that is when we fight it. But when temptations come in the realm of the flesh, we are not to muster our faith or fight the good fight. We are supposed to flee. When you feel the temptations of the flesh, get out of there!


The reason we are to flee is simple: sexual immorality brings devastation to all three types of relationships in life—with others, with ourselves, and with God. Sexual immorality affects your worth, your witness, and your worship. It adds an unnecessary dimension of tragedy and destruction to our lives.

Men and women often have different reasons for engaging in illicit sexuality. By and large, women give sex to get love. Many young ladies have never known a father’s love. Their souls cry out for someone to love them. So they give their bodies away looking for love.

Men do the opposite. They give love to get sex. To satisfy themselves, they say, “I love you.” Yet what they are often saying is, “I love me,” and consequently, “I want you to satisfy me.” It just comes out “I love you.”

Tragically, many teenagers have never witnessed the loving relationship of a husband and wife. They have never seen firsthand a marriage that defies worldly logic. They have never seen a man love his wife like Christ loved the church, nor known a woman willing to love and submit to her husband. The end result is that both men and women feel brutally betrayed and utterly unsatisfied in their most intimate relations.

All too often the church is quick to say, “Don’t do it. Just say no. Flee sexual immorality,” yet we neglect to tell kids and adults why they should abstain from sex until marriage. Well, the apostle Paul was not that inconsistent. He said, “Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (v. 18).

Sexual sin is unlike other sins because it adds consequences to life that other sins don’t. Sexual sin marks us and masters us. This type of sin defines us and dominates us. It takes over our minds.

Other kinds of sin make us unclean externally, but sexual sin pollutes us internally. It adds a dimension of destructiveness to our lives—and thus inevitably heralds moral earthquakes like no other sins possibly could.


The apostle Paul does not stop with an admonition and an addition. He next proffers an admission: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price” (vv. 19–20).

In the New Testament, there are two different words that we translate “temple.” The first refers to the entire temple complex in Jerusalem—the temple mount, the court of the Gentiles, Solomon’s portico, the colonnades, and all the inner courts. The other word is used exclusively for the sacred space just behind the altar and beyond the veil in the inner court—the Holy of Holies.

When Paul says, “Your body is the temple,” he uses that second word. He asserts that a believer’s body is the most holy place, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. It is God’s Holy of Holies.

In the Old Testament, God came to the temple and dwelt in that holy place. The shakinah glory of God inhabited that space between the cherubim over the mercy seat of the ark in the Holy of Holies. Now, in this dispensation, He says that the believer’s body is that sacred place.

Even if we should ever become involved in illicit sexual sin, most of us would never think of committing it in a holy place. We would never think of desecrating a church, for instance. We would never flaunt our brazenness so profligately. Nor would we ever think of going into a beautiful cathedral or a great sanctuary in Bethlehem and committing sexual sin there. In a much more vivid and biblical way, we should recoil at the thought of committing such sin at all, regardless of the place or the geography. God doesn’t inhabit a building or a plot of ground or a historic site. He inhabits His temple, and the believer’s body is that temple.

We shouldn’t anymore think about sexual sin outside the parameters of God’s Word in our body than we would in any holy place. Our bodies are, in fact, the only genuinely holy places in the created order.

The truth is, our bodies are not our own, and we have no right to injure property that does not belong to us. God bought us with a price. We were purchased out of the slavemarket of sin by Jesus Christ Himself—at great price. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).


Finally, the apostle Paul portrays an appropriate ambition for our lives: “Therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (v. 20).

What should be our ambition in life? Should it be to satisfy our own personal whims, our own personal desires, our own personal expectations? Or should it be to glorify Jesus Christ?

Paul makes the case clearly: We ought to glorify God in all that we are and all that we do. He states this mandate in the strongest possible language. This sentence is even cast in the imperative mood. This is not an option for the believer. We are to radiate the life of Christ and His ownership of us with our whole being—including our bodies. In every way, in every matter, in every manner, we are to glorify God.

Yet how can we glorify God in our bodies? When we come face-to-face with temptation, there are three questions we should ask. When I was seventeen years old, I wrote these three questions in the flyleaf of my Bible. I’ve written them in every Bible I’ve owned since.

The first question is “Can I thank God for it?” The Bible says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18). At every temptation, I ask myself, “If I go ahead and do this, can I look back after it’s done and thank God for it?” If not, then I need to flee. I need to get out of there.

The second question is this: “Can I do it in Jesus’ name?” The Bible says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17). I ask myself, “If I go ahead and do this, will I actually be able to do it in Jesus’ name.” If not, then I need to flee. I need to get out of there.

The third and final question is “Can I do it for God’s glory?” The Bible says, “Therefore whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). I ask myself, “Can I possibly do this for God’s glory?” If not, then I need to flee. I need to get out of there.

God calls us to purity of mind, morals, motives, and marriages. Paul’s words of admonition, addition, admission, and ambition offer us a glorious hope—and a way to avoid the devastation of the innumerable moral earthquakes of our time.

Moral Soundings

  • Have you ever faced sexual temptation and tried to fight, resist, or muster faith against it?
  • Have you therefore made victory over sexual temptation practically impossible?
  • Have you ever consciously fled from temptation?
  • Have you ever fully made the admission that you are not your own?
  • Can you honestly say that in all of your relationships God receives the glory He is due?
Moral Earthquakes & Secret Faults: And then came conviction - Part 9

Moral Earthquakes & Secret Faults: And then came conviction - Part 9

Friday, May 7, 2021 2:31 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 2:31 PM


2 Samuel 11:1

But David remained at Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 11:1

2 Samuel 11

Though the science of seismology has made great strides in the past few years — making the prediction of earthquakes possible from time to time — for the most part, they continue to catch us by surprise. We know what causes them — secret faults — but precision in identifying their timing, location and intensity still eludes us. Often they strike when we least expect them.

In October 1989, most Americans, if they were thinking about Northern California at all, were probably thinking about the World Series between the crosstown rival San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics. Certainly, they were not thinking about an earthquake. But in less than ten minutes, all that changed. Suddenly the nation was transfixed by the unfolding tragedy that gripped the entire Bay Area.

Moral earthquakes likewise strike when we least expect them. Though the causes of these catastrophes are all too predictable, the moment of devastation is almost always a surprise.

Certainly that was the case with King David in the Old Testament. At the least likely moment, he found himself in the midst of a terrible moral earthquake that would affect him for the rest of his life. And it all happened in the flash of an eye.

The story is sadly familiar:

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.” So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house. David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next” (2 Sam. 11:1–12, NIV).

It was the time of year when kings went to battle, but David decided not to go. Instead, he sent Joab, his general, to do his fighting for him. Meanwhile, he stayed in Jerusalem. He was not where he was supposed to be. David should have been out in battle leading his men. But he stayed behind in the lap of luxury.

Then one evening, the idle and irresponsible David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From there he spied a woman bathing. The exposed woman was very beautiful, but instead of looking away, as he ought to have, he ogled her. He not only was where he shouldn’t have been, now he was looking where he shouldn’t have been looking — his second big mistake.

David made the leap from looking to plotting very quickly — as you might well expect — and then came sin.

At this time in his life and career, David had reached the pinnacle of success. He was the undisputed king of Israel. He had driven out the enemies that had so long plagued his people. Not only had he reached the pinnacle of success politically, he had reached the pinnacle of success spiritually as well. He was a man after God’s own heart. He had even fulfilled his covenant with Jonathan by showing kindness to Mephiboseth. He had made this crippled son of Jonathan one of his own sons.

It is hard to believe that a man could descend from such heavenly heights to such devilish depths in such a short span of time, but David did. Just as we all do so very often. In fact, the Bible says that all of us have hearts that are “desperately wicked,” that are constantly prone to sin, and we are just as likely to embrace perversity at the height of our success as we are in the depths of our despair.

One obvious tactic of the devil is to strike when things are going right — when we are riding the crest of some great victory. He knows that at such times we are apt to be vulnerable — because it is then that we are most likely to let our guard down. Satan knows this only too well.

So, at the moment of his greatest triumph and glory, the beautiful Bathsheba came into David’s life. Then came sin.

Recognize the cause of sin

There is one thing that we all have in common. Though some are rich, some are poor, some are tall, and some are short, all of us have “sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). In fact, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10).

That is not a fact we generally care to admit. Yet, no one can live in victory until he or she recognizes and realizes the cause of sin. David is a prime example of the cause of sin. If we are honest with God, we will see ourselves in his sad story.

David was out on the roof of his palace. He looked down and happened to see a woman bathing, but he didn’t stop there. After all, it is not a sin to let a thought pass through our minds. Sin comes when we don’t allow the temptation to pass through. When we begin to harbor it, when we begin to look upon that temptation with intensity, then we get into trouble. David saw. But instead of averting his gaze, he ogled Bathsheba. Then the inevitable happened: he coveted.

You see, he didn’t let it go. He saw. He wanted and then he explored. He sent and inquired about the woman. With deliberate premeditation, David plotted the parameters and possibilities of his sin. He saw, he coveted and then he took.

He sent for her, and they committed adultery. Today, we are a bit too sophisticated and cosmopolitan to refer to such breaches as “adultery.” We prefer euphemisms for our sin. We don’t call people who steal “thieves” anymore. We use a more sophisticated word: we call them “embezzlers.” We don’t call a person who is addicted to alcohol a “drunkard.” Instead, we use the euphemism “alcoholic.” Thus we are loathe to call David’s sin “adultery.” Today we refer to “affairs.” Maybe we think that by softening the word, we have softened the sin. We try to gloss over the import and impact of our sinful actions. Nevertheless, the facts can’t be avoided. David and Bathsheba didn’t simply have an affair, a fling or a tryst: they committed adultery.

David saw, he coveted and then he took. Notice the progression. His sin followed the same pattern as every other great moral earthquake in the Bible. When Eve was in the Garden of Eden, she saw, she coveted and then she took. Following the great battle of Jericho — when the walls came tumbling down — a single Israelite man, Achan, sinned. Because of his violation, a pall fell upon the whole people. It ultimately caused the children of Israel to lose the battle at Ai and lose 36 of their men. Predictably, Achan’s sin came because first he saw, then he coveted and finally he took.

Realize the curse of sin

David found himself in an awful predicament. Bathsheba sent to him and told him she was pregnant. What made this such a difficult situation was that her husband wasn’t home and hadn’t been home for some time. He had been out fighting David’s battle. He was out there on the front lines of the battle — where David should have been. David became frantic — as well he should have. So he called Uriah back from battle and said to him, “Now Uriah, you’ve been such a great soldier. I appreciate all you have been doing for me. I want to give you a weekend off. You take some rest and relaxation. I want you to go home and relax over the weekend. Then you can go back to battle.”

David had a plan. He thought Uriah would go home, go to bed with his wife, and then when he discovered that she was pregnant, nobody would ever know that the child she was carrying was conceived in sin.

However, the faithful Uriah would have none of it. He would not cooperate; he was too honorable a man. He went outside the palace by the gate, got out his bedroll and slept right there. He said, “If all my other friends are out there on the battlefield, why should I come back and go in to the pleasures of my family and my wife. I’m not going to do it. I’m just going to sleep out here.”

When David heard Uriah didn’t go home, he made some plans. He decided to invite the diligent soldier into the palace. David said, “I’m going to get him drunk and then he’ll go home to his wife.” At this point, it is hard to believe that this is David — the man after God’s own heart. But that is the effect of sin: it takes a man and his affections and twists them all out of proportion. So, David got Uriah over to his house and got him drunk. He then shoved him out the door. He nudged him along and said, “Uriah, go on over to your house and see your wife.” But Uriah — even in this drunken stupor — stood firm. For the sake of his honor, he refused go.

By this time, David was desperate. So, he sent his loyal servant, Uriah, back to the battle. He also sent word to Joab, the commander-in-chief, to put Uriah up on the front lines of the battle. This was to be done in such a way that it would be sure to cost the life of Uriah.

That way, David thought, he would be able to adequately cover his heinous sin. No one would need to know that the child Bathsheba was carrying was actually David’s. He tried to cover over his sin with treachery, lies and, finally, the death of Uriah. This is the curse of sin. Once it starts, it takes over; it completely dominates our lives. We find ourselves constantly looking over our shoulders to see if anyone is coming. We have to cover over this sin with a lie. We have to cover over that lie with yet another, and on and on it goes.

After Bathsheba’s time of mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house and she bore him a son, but the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of God. Even if he had been clever enough to hide it from everyone else in the whole world, God knew. David thought that he could sin and win. He thought he could get by with it, but he was wrong.

Review the consequences of sin

David learned all too quickly that the pleasures of sin were but for a season. Nathan the prophet came to him and related a remarkable story of injustice. The story made David mad, and he said, “Whoever sins like that ought to restore four-fold.” He didn’t realize he had just prophesied his own fate. But in fact, David was soon to discover that it was his household that would suffer fourfold consequences for his sin.

David and Bathsheba had a little boy, but the child perished soon after. The wages of their sin was death — visited upon the succeeding generation. What began in pleasure ended in tantamount anguish and pain. That was the first consequence of David’s sin.

Some time later Amnon raped his own sister, Tamar. Both were David’s own children. The awful blotch of enmity, abuse, incest and betrayal had now been visited in full measure against the house of David. Again, what was supposed to be the wellspring of joy had become the headwaters of pain. That was the second consequence of David’s sin.

Absalom, another of David’s sons, upon hearing what Amnon did to Tamar, killed his brother. David’s sin had cost him the life of Bathsheba’s firstborn. It had cost him the harmony and integrity of his family. Now it had cost him the life of another son. That was the third consequence of his sin.

And if that were not enough, shortly thereafter, Absalom revolted against his father, David. He tried to take over the throne. During the rebellion, Absalom was killed by those loyal to the king. David wept over the body of his son, saying, “Absalom, oh Absalom, would to God I could have died in your stead, oh Absalom, my son.” He had now lost three of his sons and witnessed the utter decimation of his family. That was the fourth consequence of his sin.

Sadly, the sins of parents are often passed on to children. Our foolishness and rebellion don’t simply affect us. It affects all those around us — and it most fully affects those closest to us.

Before any of us chooses to pursue the path of sin, we should carefully review its consequences. In those moments when we might be anticipating illicit pleasures of the flesh, thinking of ways to satisfy our desires outside the parameters of God’s will or harboring selfish passions, if we would only review the consequences, we would realize the curse of sin — and hopefully, we would recoil in horror. Sin is never worth the consequences it brings.

Regard the conviction of sin

The thing David had done was evil in the sight of God, but until the prophet Nathan pointed it out, David didn’t have ears to hear. He didn’t have eyes to see. He was unable to comprehend the truth. David was so full of sin that he didn’t realize Nathan was bringing an indictment against him. He was so fixed on the appeasement of his own concerns that he was utterly devoid of spiritual discernment.

Yet by the time Nathan concluded his covenant lawsuit, David’s eyes were opened; conviction had gripped his heart and mind. At that point, David actually accepted the blame. He knew that it wasn’t the circumstances; it wasn’t the situation; it wasn’t the peer pressure; it wasn’t the devil. He took responsibility: he realized he was to blame, and the convicting power of the holy God fell on him.

God knows us all. He knew us before the foundation of the world. He knows where we were Friday night and what we did. God knows everything about us — and yet He still loves us. Indeed, that is amazing grace.

David confessed his sin in genuine repentance. “I have sinned against the Lord,” he wailed. None of us are to the place of confession until we recognize that we are to blame for our sin, until we take responsibility for our sin and stop blaming others.

David confessed his sin, and that was the beginning of his restoration. He accepted the cleansing that comes only in accord with God’s good providence. Though he couldn’t erase the damage he had caused and undo the havoc he had wrecked, he could have a fresh new start — as hard as that might be given the stern consequences of his sin.

It is no wonder so many of us are without purpose and joy and power and victorious Christian living. The terrible thing about sin is that when we sin, we are not merely sinning against our children, our wife, our husband, our rival or our enemy. When we sin we are, first and foremost, sinning against the Lord.

David realized this — and thus, he began the passage from death to life once again. He heard the Word of God as it spoke clearly and decisively to his situation. He immediately realized the fullness of his own sin. He immediately recognized the consequences of the wickedness he had wrought. His heart was pierced at last.

He was, after all, David. Though he had fallen from the pinnacle of his earlier success, he was a man who knew how to pursue the heart of God. He was a man who was familiar with the courtyard of grace and the threshold of hope. He knew well the parameters of everlasting joy. He had once been a frequent guest of the Great Shepherd’s green pastures and still waters. So, when David heard the Word of truth, he was stricken.

Then came conviction.

And then came repentance — and with repentance came the gracious environs of hope.

Moral soundings

  • Have you fully recognized the cause of sin in your life?
  • Have you ever come to grips with the awfulness of the curse of sin?
  • Have you ever calculated the full dimensions of sin’s consequences?
  • How do you regard the conviction of sin?
  • How long has it been since you have done what David did and confessed your sin?
Moral Earthquakes & Secret Faults: Aftershocks - Part 2

Moral Earthquakes & Secret Faults: Aftershocks - Part 2

Friday, May 7, 2021 2:31 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 2:31 PM


Judges 16

Judges 16

Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? James 3:11–12

In 1956 Princess Elizabeth, the widow of the beloved King Albert of Belgium, visited Soviet-dominated Warsaw. A chief of protocol was assigned by the government to accompany her to church one Sunday. She asked him, “Are you a Christian?”

“Believing,” replied the bureaucrat, “but not practicing.”

“Oh, of course,” said the princess. “Then you must be a Communist.”

“Practicing, Your Majesty, but not believing,” he responded with a wry smile.

Sadly, that is the kind of irony that haunts many of us today. We claim to believe the gospel, but we don’t act like it. Meanwhile, we disclaim the ways of the world, and we conform ourselves to them. Mere expediency makes a mockery of our confession.

It also paves the way for disaster in the future. Such cracks in our character today are inevitably the precursors of devastating moral earthquakes tomorrow.

As we have seen, the story of Samson is a case in point. Though he was blessed beyond measure, he squandered his great advantages through a series of seemingly insignificant slights and slanders. Secret faults began to develop in Samson’s life. Though they preceded his eventual demise by some 20 years, they were undoubtedly the root cause of his devastating moral earthquake.

Samson went where he was not supposed to go. He did what he was not supposed to do. He associated with those with whom he was not supposed to associate. He flirted with disaster until, at last, disaster struck. Though he seemed to have a supreme knack for escaping the consequences of his sins early on, the aftereffects of his rebellion proved too much for even the great Samson to withstand.

Like the Polish bureaucrat, when it came to matters of faith Samson was believing but not practicing. When it came to matters of the world, he was just the opposite. That is always a prescription for disaster.

Powerful aftereffects

In 1755, the great Portuguese city of Lisbon was struck by a tremendous earthquake. Though powerful, it appeared that the initial damage was minimal. Then, after a few moments of calm, an aftershock hit. It lasted only two minutes but brought with it terrible devastation. Many older buildings broke apart. A number of roads buckled. Several wharves surrounding the busy port collapsed under the turbulent waters. Even so, most citizens breathed a sigh of relief. The worst was over—or so they thought. The land actually stilled only for a moment. Suddenly, another aftershock rocked the city for nearly ten minutes. This time, almost everything in sight was left in a shambles. The once resplendent city was reduced to little more than a heap of ruins.

Yet there was more to come. The survivors had to face fires that had broken out all over the city. The few homes and buildings that remained standing were so unstable that even the slightest breeze threatened to topple them. As if all that were not enough, a succession of great waves caused by the quake began shattering the already decimated shoreline. Fifteen- to fifty-foot-high waves pounded into the rubble of the city three times. Hundreds of panic-stricken people, waiting in the harbor to cross the sole remaining bridge over the Tagus River, were suddenly swept away. Almost two hours after the first tremors began, Lisbon continued to reel from the aftereffects of what at first seemed to be a rather trifling quake. By the end of the harrowing ordeal, an estimated 70,000 of the 275,000 people living in the city had died from the quake and its frightening succession of aftershocks.

As the residents of Lisbon discovered on that calamitous day, even an apparently minor tremor along a fault line can have ongoing, residual effects—one aftershock following another—that can ultimately usher in complete destruction. Moral earthquakes are very similar. They can have devastatingly destructive residual effects. Sometimes those effects are not manifested until sometime much later.

Moral earthquakes are thus not only preceded by secret faults; they are succeeded by sudden aftershocks. Witness again the sad saga of Samson.

The Delilah dilemma

You would think that somewhere along the way, Samson would have learned his lesson. Sadly though, his disappointing experiences with the Philistines only deepened the pattern of rebellion in his life, exacerbating the cracks in his character. He claimed belief in the ways of the Lord, but he didn’t act like it. Meanwhile, he disclaimed the ways of the world but then conformed himself to them at every turn. Mere expediency had already made a mockery of his confession. Before long it also reduced his life to utter ruin.

By the time Samson had his infamous encounter with the temptress Delilah, he had actually reinforced his impassioned rebellious habits for some twenty years. During that time, the character of Samson had become so damaged—so weakened by secret faults and cracks in his character—that he was unable to stop himself. Even in the face of obvious danger, he had become a slave to his passions.

You see, when we allow our secret faults to continue without arrest and unabated over the years, we lose the ability to exercise even the most basic elements of common sense. Have you ever witnessed that phenomenon? It can happen to anyone. Remember when evangelist Jimmy Swaggart suffered his great moral earthquake? At the time he was perhaps the most recognizable man in his hometown, and one of the most recognizable men in the nation. So what on earth possessed him to begin prowling the streets, not far from the headquarters of his international ministry to pick up prostitutes? It simply doesn’t make sense. But the fact is, when secret faults are left without arrest, we tend to lose all sense of propriety. Common sense deserts us altogether. We begin to do things we would never have done before, and the results are disastrous, as they were for Samson:

Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her, “Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and every one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.” (Judg. 16:4–5)

Up to that time, though Samson had allowed secret faults to run all throughout his life, he had been a scourge to the dreaded Philistines. He disrupted their reign of terror among the people of Israel and became a champion of freedom. Now they saw an opportunity to exploit his obvious weakness for beautiful women. They came to his latest object of illicit affection, Delilah, and struck a bargain with her to betray him.

So Delilah came on to Samson and begged, “Please tell me where your great strength lies” (Judg. 16:6). Of course, she didn’t just come right out and brazenly ask him to betray his secret. She enticed him first by inviting him into her lair. She wined and dined him. She utilized all of her provocative allure. She broke down his few remaining defenses, scruples and inhibitions. In that sensual setting, the story unfolded ominously:

Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and with what you may be bound to afflict you.” And Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man.” (Judg. 16:6–7)

Having weakened his sensibilities with raw physical passion, she plied her question, “What is your secret?” Apparently though, Samson still had some of his wits about him and he lied to her. Delilah, intent on her betrayal, proceeded to bind about him “seven fresh bowstrings” while he slept (Judg. 16:8). Immediately after, she disingenuously cried out, “The Philistines are upon you.” But when his attackers came out of hiding in the bed chamber to pounce on him, Samson surprised them all, sundered the bowstrings “as a thread of tow is broken when it toucheth the hearth fire,” and then furiously smote them (Judg. 16:9, KJV).

Dumb and dumber

Amazingly, Samson failed to learn from this betrayal and narrow escape. He was so smitten by his fleshly attraction to Delilah that he remained captive to her affections. The moral earthquake in his life had finally taken its toll. Now one aftershock followed another, bringing with them increasing ruin. In a very real sense, Samson went from dumb to dumber—just as we do when we become captive to our temptations.

Thus undeterred, Delilah pressed her ploy further:

Then Delilah said to Samson, “Look, you have mocked me and told me lies. Now please tell me what you may be bound with.” So he said to her, “If they bind me securely with new ropes that have never been used, then I will become weak, and be like any other man.” (Judg. 16:10–11)

Again, though Samson was toying with complete disaster, he kept his wits about him and deceived his lover. Once again Delilah called the Philistines out of hiding, and once again, Samson defeated them handily. Nevertheless, he allowed the farce to continue. His expedient accommodation to fleshly desire not only made a mockery of his calling and confession, it completely undermined the foundations of his life. Remember, moral earthquakes are not just preceded by secret faults; they are succeeded by sudden aftershocks:

Delilah said to Samson, “Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me what you may be bound with.” And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my head into the web of the loom.” (Judg. 16:13)

Do you see what was happening? Samson had weakened. One aftershock after another had left him practically defenseless. He came tantalizingly close to telling her the truth. He had become so overconfident that he thought he could get away with just about anything. That is what habitual sin always does to us. We become so dominated by our worldly desires that we are utterly myopic in our thinking.

So pulling out all the stops, Delilah said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me?” (Judg. 16:15). That line may be the oldest cliché in the book. It has been used in the moral collapse of more men, women, and young people than perhaps any phrase since the Fall. Though it is patently transparent, it is amazingly effective, isn’t it? And thus, like so many before and so many since, Samson fell for it. Delilah pestered him with her cloying affections and maudlin sentiments until, finally, his resistance was completely worn down and he relented:

He told her all his heart, and said to her, “No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazarite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.” (Judg. 16:17)

Even in the midst of his collapse, Samson could still articulate the truth. He still understood the essence and significance of his calling. He could still stand at the sacred desk and pronounce the truth in a persuasive manner. Though he played into the hands of his own betrayal, though he left untended secret faults and cracks in his character for all those years, right up until the time of the whole collapse he could still speak the truth. Some people wonder how a man can stand in the pulpit or exercise authority in the home or take a public stand for righteousness when all the while immorality has begun to consume his mind, will, or emotions. Samson exemplified the greatest irony of sin in the life of a believer: he knew full well the difference between right and wrong, but he chose wrong anyway. Of his own volition, he rejected truth for a lie.

Blind, bound and belittled

That night, Samson’s ruin was assured. Delilah cut away his long Nazarite braids—the final remnant of his righteous commitment was shorn from his life:

She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” (Judg. 16:20)

Alas, his demise was now complete. His moral faults had remained unexamined for so long that he was unaware of the full extent of the damages. His moral earthquake had wreaked havoc on the foundations of his life, and he didn’t even know it. This final aftershock collapsed the tottering remains of his pride:

Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in the prison. (Judg. 16:21)

At long last the consequences of his profligate life were made evident. The great champion, Samson, was left to grope in a shattered darkness, bound in chains, sentenced to grind the meal of his enemies, like some lowly ox. For years, he had flaunted his dominion over his enemies while at the mercy of his base animal instincts. Now his enemies flaunted their dominion over him while he was forced to live out his final days as an animal. His humiliation was complete.

Samson was blind, bound and belittled. For their parties the Philistines would bring him out to mock him and to mock God. That is just what sin ultimately does to all of us if we persist in it. It blinds us, it binds us and it belittles us. It makes a mockery of us, and it makes a mockery of our God as well.

Samson lost his strength. He lost his sight. He lost his freedom. He lost his usefulness. He lost his testimony. He lost his reputation. He lost everything. But it didn’t just happen. His great moral earthquake was preceded by secret faults. It was then succeeded by a whole host of sudden aftershocks. Anywhere along the way, he could have arrested the process.

Behind the business desks and the church desks all across this nation are men and women who for years have said, “I love the Lord Jesus Christ.” Yet underneath their facade is unseen secret faults—cracks in character that one day will bring about a moral earthquake for all to see. The results will be no less catastrophic than they were in the life of great Samson.

Better late than never

The Philistines had a great feast:

So it happened when their hearts were merry, that they said, “Call for Samson, that he may perform for us.” So they called for Samson from the prison, and he performed for them. And they stationed him between the pillars. (Judg. 16:25)

Can’t you see it? They had the man of God. They wanted him to perform for them. Blind, bound and belittled, Samson was little more than a humorous sidelight—a grotesque freak show.

The sad irony is impossible to miss. Once the most powerful man of his day, Samson was reduced to practical irrelevance by his own foolish adherence to the ways of the flesh. This is what even the most trivial of sins can do to us. We think such things are really no big deal, but we are so wrong—as Samson would quickly attest:

Then Samson called to the Lord saying, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left. Then Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life. (Judg. 16:28–30).

This ought to be a warning to us all. The end of Samson’s life is a solemn reminder that there are consequences to sin. For 20 years, Samson assumed he could ignore all of the secret faults that lay beneath the surface of his life, but he was wrong. He thought he could get away with a few minor indiscretions from time to time, but he couldn’t.

We all tend to believe at one time or another that we can ignore our sins. But the fact remains, our sins will not ignore us.

With his last burst of energy, Samson took hold of the pillars on either side of him. He was blind, but he had actually begun to see better than he had in more than 20 years. He heard the Philistines mocking God, so he prayed: “Oh Lord God, remember me and strengthen me just one more time.” At long last, he realized that the strength he once possessed was not his, but God’s. So he pleaded, “Let me die right here.” With all of his great advantages thoroughly squandered, Samson finally began to understand: he surrendered his life completely to the will and purposes of Almighty God.

Better late than never.

Moral soundings

  • Do you claim to believe in the ways of the Lord but fail to act like it?
  • Do you disclaim the ways of the world but then conform yourself to them at every turn?
  • Has mere expediency made a mockery of your calling and confession?
  • Are you feeling aftershocks from what appeared to be a minor moral tremor some time ago?
  • Have you ignored the shaky foundations of your life for far too long?
  • Who--or what--is your "Delilah dilemma"?
Money Talks – But What Is It Really Saying? Modern Money Myths

Money Talks – But What Is It Really Saying? Modern Money Myths

Friday, May 7, 2021 2:30 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 2:30 PM


2 Corinthians 8:1-7

2 Corinthians 8:1-7

Many approach the subject of stewardship with long, drawn-out apologies. I have never apologized for my leadership responsibility at this point. In fact, we do people an injustice if we do not lead in teaching Biblical principles of stewardship. Greed is one of the biggest obstacles to personal and corporate revival. When the back of greed is broken, the human spirit soars into regions of spiritual awakening. Ask a little lad with a little lunch. Ask a lovely lady with alabaster box. Ask our Lord Jesus Himself. In the 8th chapter of the second Corinthian letter, the apostle Paul talks about our stewardship. His emphasis is not on our giving by guilt because we have to. Nor is his emphasis on giving with a grudge because we ought to. But his emphasis is upon living with grace because we want to. He even begins with grace in the first verse of 2 Corinthians 8. The Corinthian church was not giving to the Lord’s work. When we are not spiritual we are generally not generous. Pail encourages them by using the Macedonians as an example. The Macedonians had suffered greatly for the faith, and yet they gave so sacrificially for the Lord’s work. They excelled in what Paul called “the grace of giving” (2 Cor. 8:7).

As Paul wrote these words, the Jerusalem church was being scattered throughout the world. There was a depressed economy. However, the Greeks in Corinth were doing well financially. But, they were not giving to the Lord’s work as they should. Thus, the apostle writes and uses the Philippians, the Bereans, and the Thessalonicans as examples to them. Little did those Macedonians know when they gave what they did that they would influence us two thousand years later.

Now there are some modern money myths from Corinth that need to be dispelled today. The Corinthians were living with these myths and seeking to justify their lack of giving to the Lord’s work because of them. In so many ways the church of the Western world today is living with these same money myths.

Myth number one — only people with money should give

“… their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.” 2 Corinthians 8:2

Some people say only people with money should give. Let Bob or Bill do it. He has the money. We often exclaim “If I had their money I would give; I would tithe.” Yes, myth No. 1 is that only people with money should give. But that is just a myth. Paul said that these people gave out of “a great trial and out of deep poverty.” They gave out of what? Stock reserves? Certificates of deposit? Savings? No, out of deep poverty and great trial. The Greek word translated “trial” in 2 Corinthians 8:2 is the same word that means purging. The word picture is of a precious metal that is heated until the liquid impurities rise to the top and are scraped off. Pure metal is left and when it is cool, it’s stronger than ever. Here were people who were being tested. The heat was being turned up on the. Yet, out of this great trial they gave to the Lord’s work.

The apostle also says that they gave out of “deep poverty.” The word means “rock bottom destitution.” They had lost their jobs. But circumstances did not keep them from giving. The people in Macedonia did not buy into the myth that those in Corinth did, that only people with money should give.

Our Lord Jesus destroyed myth No. 1 when he encountered the widow with her last coins. We all know the story well. A lot of people would counsel her to keep it. They would tell her that only people with money should give. And they would have robbed her of a great blessing and us of a great example. Our Lord placed that widow with a few pennies in the Bible to show us that our money talks. He still sits opposite the treasury to see not what we give but how we give it. She gave out of her want and not out of her resources. How many times have we heard, “Only people with money should give?” I have had people tell me that if I had a million dollars, or if I won the lottery, I would give to the Lord’s work. If God can’t trust you to give out of poverty how will He ever trust you to give out of riches?

It is a myth that says that only people with money should give. The greatest givers are most often those with little. This is because it is not what we give, but how we give, that matters most to Christ. Look at the Macedonians. What an example they are to us today. They gave out of “great trial and deep poverty.”

Myth number two — it is unpleasant to give

“… that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.” 2 Corinthians 8:2

Some say it’s unpleasant to give. Many think we would be happier if we kept our money for ourselves. Some people believe we should “give until it hurts.” That is a myth. There is great joy in giving. It is said of the Macedonians that they gave with “the abundance of their joy.”

The Lord Jesus destroyed myth No. 2. He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Think about that at Christmastime. When you and your family are all around the tree opening gifts, what do you do? Do you watch the one who is opening the gift? I don’t. I watch the giver. I watch the expression on the giver’s face that is filled with delight when they see the recipient enjoying the gift they have given. It is written all across their face! This is why parents like Christmas so much. Because it is fun to give! The only reason some of us have not found the “abundance of joy” in giving is because we simply have not practiced it.

It is a myth to say that it is unpleasant to give. Those who know what it is to have an open hand with God have joy. We remember back in Bethany this very expression of blessing. Jesus said to the woman in Bethany that she had done “a beautiful thing to Him.” She walked home on a cloud with joy in her heart that night. Have you given anything lately that caused the Lord Jesus to say, “You have done a beautiful think to me?” Look at the Macedonians. They gave out of “an abundance of joy.” It is a myth to say that only people with money should give, and it is an equal myth to say that it is unpleasant to give.

Myth number three — giving results in a lack of resources

“… their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality.” 2 Corinthians 8:2

Some fear that if we give we will not have enough for ourselves. It is a myth to say that giving results in a lack of resources. Some of us never add the supernatural into the economic equations of life. This is myth No. 3. Jesus Himself said, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). Listen to the message of the Macedonians — “In a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality” (2 Cor. 8:2). Some of the richest people I know are poor and some of the poorest people I know are rich! Some have what money can buy and some have what money cannot buy.

The Lord Jesus destroyed myth #3 one day in Galilee when He took a little lad and a little lunch and taught us all a lesson. The boy left home with all of the potential of the world that day and didn’t even know it. His giving started a chain reaction. He gave to Christ. Christ gave to the disciples. The disciples gave to the crowd. The crowd gave back to the disciples. And all because the boy gave “beyond his ability” (2 Cor. 8:3). He “abounded in riches.”

It is a myth to say that giving results in a lack of resources. Many who are reading this can attest to that very fact today. The fact is often our lack of giving is what results in our lack of resources. God will never allow us to be the loser when we are faithful to His word and obedient to His will. There are many modern money myths from Corinth that need to be expelled.

Myth number four — just do what you can

“… and beyond their ability, they were freely willing.” 2 Corinthians 8:3

No, you can do more than you ever imagined you were able to do. Listen to the message of the Macedonians. “For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing” (2 Cor. 8:3).

Some people give today in a strange way. They sit down. Add up all the bills. Pay them all. Set aside money for incidentals. Put aside money for their monthly recreation activities. Then at the end of the month if anything is left over, they give it to the Lord Jesus and His church. They are the ones who say, “Here is what I am able to do.” Thus, this type of individual never tithes and never benefits from God’s plan of economy. He buys into myth #4 from Corinth that you should just do what you can do.

Long years ago, my wife Susie and I learned the truth of this myth. We have learned through the years that we could not only do what we were able to do but along with the Macedonians “beyond our own ability.”

It is a myth to say that you should just do what you can do. When you say that, you leave God out of the equation of life. I don’t necessarily know exactly how it works, but those of us who practice it know it’s true. It is a miraculous thing to be able to “give from God’s hand.” David said, “Everything comes from You and we only give You what comes from Your hand!” (1 Chr. 29:14-16). A lot of people today are like the Corinthians who justify their lack of giving with modern money myths. But they are only that — myths. It is a myth to say it is unpleasant to give. It is a myth to say giving results in lack of resources. It is a myth to say, “Just do what you can do.”

Myth number five — you have to give; giving must be coerced

“… they were freely willing…” (2 Cor. 8:3-4)

Some say you can’t get people to give without putting pressure upon them. Some use gimmicks. Others use guilt. Some try to make us feel like we have to give, while others try to make us feel like we ought to give. But that is a myth. Stewardship is voluntary. Stewardship is a privilege. Listen to the message from Macedonia — “I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (2 Cor. 8:3-4). These Macedonians saw it a privilege to give. They were “Freely willing to give. Wow! They begged for someone to take their offerings. They got more excited about the offering than they did any other part of their worship. The grace of giving will open our hearts but it will also open our hands.

It is a myth to say that we have to give. Those committed to Christ see giving as a grace and a privilege.

Myth number six — we give to other causes to help them

“… but they first gave themselves to the Lord…” (2 Cor. 8:5)

Some people give today by saying, “Here is a need; let’s give to this need and help this cause or help this particular person.” Btu that in itself is a myth! Look at the Macedonians. Look at their priorities. They saw it not so much as giving to others as a gift to God Himself. Paul says, “They first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God” (2 Cor. 8:5). This is what makes Christian giving different from any other kind of giving. Some people give “A Day’s Pay to the United Way.” Others give to the Salvation Army. As followers of Jesus Christ we give ourselves first to Him. Our giving is always to the Lord. The Lord Jesus said, “inasmuch as you do it unto one of these the least of mine, you do it unto me.” When David was raising the money to build the temple he said, “I have seen with joy how willingly Your people who are here have given to You” (1 Chr. 29:17).

Myth No. 6 says that we give to other causes to help them. No, in Christian stewardship we give ourselves first to the Lord, and then our resources. If our priority is giving ourselves over to the Lord then we will have no problem with giving our resources. This is why many churches have such a high level of stewardship participation. They have a high level of personal discipleship and devotion.

How should we give? Some are miffed today by modern money myths from Corinth. Where do we get our motivation in stewardship? Paul relates it in the context of those verses when he says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Our Lord laid aside His glory and became poor. He did not begin in Bethlehem. He became poor. He laid aside His glory and stopped down to earth. He veiled his deity in a cloak of humanity. Why Because the Son of God became the Son of Man in order that “for your sakes He became poor that you through His poverty might become rich.” What ultimately matters is not what money can buy but what money cannot buy. Christ is who makes us rich!

Paul said, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Do you? He did not leave heaven gritting His teeth nor clenching His fists. He did not leave shouting to the Father, “Okay, okay.” No, it wasn’t obligation that caused Him to give. It was grace! They did not drag Him up the Via Dolorosa screaming and kicking. No, they led Him like a sheep to the slaughter. Yes, we know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor that we through His poverty might become rich.” And, that is our motivation for Christian stewardship. No wonder Paul concludes his discourse on giving in 2 Corinthians by saying, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15).

Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying?

Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying? Setting the Stewardship Standard

Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying? Setting the Stewardship Standard

Friday, May 7, 2021 12:41 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 12:41 PM


Proverbs 3:9-10

Proverbs 3:9-10

There are many pastors and churches that avoid the subject of stewardship like a plague. In fact, many modern church gurus are telling pastors across the country not to talk about money or stewardship. I find that to very strange since our Lord spoke of it in one-third of His parables. In the churches I was privileged to pastor, we made no apologies in challenging one another in the realm of stewardship for it was a great part of our own spiritual development and growth.

Money consumes us in our current culture. Our churches are full of financial planners, bankers, stockbrokers, money managers, venture capitalists, CPAs, lawyers and all kinds of men and women who are constantly giving financial counsel. How would you like the free counsel of a man recognized the world over as one of the richest, most successful, and wisest men who ever lived? This particular man “wrote the book” on international commerce. In fact, of him it was said, “God gave (him) wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. Thus (his) wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men — than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five” (1 Kings 4:29-32). His name? Solomon. Listen to his counsel on money management. “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of your increase; so you barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine” (Prov. 3:9-10).

As far-fetched as it might seem, our finances generally mark the position of our own spiritual pilgrimage. We are no farther along in our walk with the Lord than the point in which we learn to trust Him with the tithe.

There are a lot of questions regarding stewardship. How can we afford to return one-tenth of our income back to God? How much should we give? There are four questions every believer should ask about stewardship: (1) What is the purpose of my stewardship? (2) What is the product of my stewardship? (3) What is the priority of my stewardship? (4) What is the promise of my stewardship?

What is the purpose of my stewardship?

Honor the Lord… (Prov. 3:9-10)

What is the purpose when we attend a worship service and the offering plate is passed and we place our gift in it? Note the first three words of our text — “Honor the Lord.” This should be our single most important goal in life — to honor God. It is always a good thing to check our motivation, our purpose regarding the issues of life. Honoring God should be our primary motive in everything we do, whether in our marriage, our social life, our business or whatever.

What is the purpose of our stewardship? Some are motivated by guilt. That is they give because they think they ought to. Others are grudge givers. That is, they give because they think they have to. The New Testament teaches us to be grace givers — we give out of a heart of gratitude and love because we want to!

The Hebrew word that we translate into our English word “honor” is very enlightening at this point. What does it mean when we are exhorted to “honor God?” Often this word is used to describe the concept of being weighted down. For example, a king is weighted down with all the accessories of royalty — the crown, the robe, the train, the scepter, the medallion. When we honor God it means that we weigh Him down. Crown Him Lord! It is closely akin to what young people used to say, “That’s heavy!” This being translated means, “That is incomprehensible, awesome, powerful.” To say that we honor God means that we give Him His rightful place in our lies. He is Lord!

What is the purpose of our stewardship? Is it some lucky rabbit’s foot? Is it that I give so that I might get, as some teach? Is it some legalistic Old Testament discipline that keeps me bound to the law? Our purpose in stewardship has to do with honoring God by exhibiting trust in Him.

We are nothing more than stewards passing through this world. Fifty years from now everything you own will be in someone else’s name. Fifty years ago what is in your name today was in someone else’s your land, your home, your assets. When you entered this world, you entered it naked without a dime, and you will leave it the same way. In reality, we do not own a thing. We are simply stewards. Therefore, it is imperative that we honor God with our possessions. This is our purpose in stewardship. God makes an incredible statement in 1 Samuel 2:30 when He says “those who honor Me I will honor.” What is the purpose of our stewardship? It is to honor God!

What is the product of my stewardship

“… with your possessions…” Proverbs 3:9-10

We are to honor God. With what? Our possessions, our money, our wealth. Note the product of our stewardship is not just our time. It is not simply our talents. This is not what Solomon is saying. It is our treasure that is specifically addressed here. Some of us live as if our lives were a hotel corridor with room after room. As God walks down the hall, He sees the family room with the door open for Him to come in. He sees our social room, our work room, our exercise room, our activity room, our hobby room, and they are all open to Him. But in many lives when it comes to the room where we have our possessions, our money, He sees a “Do Not Disturb” sign on that door. What is the one thing that is prone to dominate and dictate our lives? Money! In fact, God says in 1 Timothy 6:10 that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. We get trapped by government policies and our own lifestyles into thinking that money is the answer to every problem. How many times have we asked someone how they were doing, only to have heard the reply that everything was ok and they had no problems that money would not solve! Thus, the Lord indicates an area of our lives which tells us more about our spiritual condition than any other. He says it is our possessions, and hence Solomon says, “Honor God with your possessions.”

It is good to have things that money can buy. However, there is something better. It is to have what money cannot buy. We have recently had another first in our family. Our oldest daughter, Wendy, is now wearing a wedding ring. As I write these words I am thinking back to the ring I gave her mom. It is now in a stickpin. I was a student in 1970 and could only afford a small ring. I remember the salesman making a special deal on the particular ring I purchased because if you look closely enough you will see a big carbon spot in the middle of it. I would be embarrassed for her to know how little I paid for it. However, that ring symbolized a tremendous amount of live as well as the confidence that God had brought us together. At about the same time a college friend gave his fiancé one of the biggest, most beautiful diamond rings I have ever seen, worth thousands of dollars. The tragedy is that their marriage did not last a year. Money can buy a lot of things. It can buy million dollar homes, but all the money in the world cannot transform a house into a home. What is really important is not what money can buy, but what it cannot buy.

While some of us desire to honor God with our lives we never think of honoring Him with our possessions. How do we do this? There are three ways in which we honor God w2ith our possessions. First, we honor God with how we get it. Some people get wealth in ways that are dishonoring to God.

We can also honor or dishonor God by the way we guard it. The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 6:19, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.” Many guard their wealth. Some even make arrangements to keep it hoarded and guarded even after they are gone. It is no accident that our last will is called our Last Will and Testament, or Testimony. It is the last opportunity we have to give our testimony to the world of what was really important to us. One day someone will read it and tell what really held your heart because Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).

James spoke of a man who “hoarded” his wealth (James 5:3). Later in this series, we will see that guarded wealth brings no joy. Some people get their stock portfolios or checking and savings statements each month. No matter how much we have we wish it were just a little bit more. When we begin to love money, it ceases to bless us and begins to curse us. No wonder Solomon said, “Honor the Lord with your possessions.”

God is as concerned with how we guard our wealth as He is with how we get it. Susie and I do not have much of an estate after one-quarter century of marriage. We have invested in the bank of heaven. Much of the savings of our first 20 years of marriage is in the auditorium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where hundreds of people came to know Christ every year and from where dozens of missionaries have been sent. Our daughters know they are not going to get much from us. I intend to leave them something far more important than a pile of money to hoard or to guard or even to throw away. We have sought to teach them the importance of laying up treasures in heaven. Why? Because our heart always follows our treasure (Matt. 6:21). If we wait until we feel like giving, we will never do it. The natural man wants to guard it. Thus Solomon gives us wise counsel when he says we are to “Honor God with our possessions.”

We honor God by not only how we get and guard our money, but also with how we give it. We are stewards of God’s blessing. How we give is vitally important. The lord Jesus still sits over the treasuries to see how His people give. One day I will stand before this great God. He is not going to say to me, “Let me see your Bible.” Quite frankly, there is not a page in my Bible that is not marked and filled with notations. He is not going to look at me and ask, “Is your Bible all marked?” He is not going to say, “Let me see your sermon notebook. Are there any notes there?” I don’t believe He is even going to ask for my prayer journal. Some of us may be shocked. I think He might say, “Let me see your checkbook, I want to look at your canceled checks.” Why? Because how we use what He gives us tells us where our heart is. He said, “Where your treasure is, there you heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).

This is the purpose and product of our stewardship. The way we handle our possessions is so much a reflection of what is on the inside of us that our Lord Jesus Christ addressed it in one out of three of His recorded sermons and His parables.

What is the priority of my stewardship?

“… with the firstfruits of all your increase…” Proverbs 3:9-10

Note that Solomon is specific with the portion of our possessions with which we are to honor God. HE calls it the “firstfruits.” The Israelites brought the firstfruits of all their crops to God in order to acknowledge that He was the ultimate owner of the land. God said, “The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me” (Lev. 25:23). God owns the land of Israel today, and by His grace Israel is His tenant. Thus as they brought the firstfruits offerings they were honoring Yahweh. Should we do less?

The first portion of everything we own should be set aside for God’s use. The old and the New Testament both refer to it as the tithe — one-tenth of our income. The New Testament pattern is characterized by freedom. But freedom does not negate the validity of the tithe. The Believer’s Study Bible note says, “Tithing is only the beginning place of Christian stewardship, not the end. God does not want you to give less than a tithe, but He may want you to give so much more through His enabling grace.” For me personally, I have never felt that in this dispensation of grace that I should give less than the Jews gave under the dispensation of the law. Hence, tithing is only the beginning place, the firstfruits.

In his own inimitable way, Dr. W.A. Criswell frames this point with these words, “Four hundred years before the law was given, Father Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, priest to the most high God. Tithing was the foundation of supportive worship of the Israelites throughout the dispensation of the law. It was in that era that the Lord Jesus lived and had His being. It was He who said we ought to tithe (Matt. 23:23). In this dispensation in which you and I live, it is the Lord Jesus Christ who receives our tithes even though our human hands take it up in the congregation. Hebrews 7:8 says, ‘Here mortal men receive tithes, but there He receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives.’ There is a sense in which every time we receive an offering in church although mortal men are serving as ushers to receive the gifts, it is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself who is receiving them.”

What is the priority of our stewardship? We are to honor God. With what? Our wealth. And what part of it? Firstfruits. I well remember the day my pastor, W. Fred Swank, taught me this truth. I was a student at Southwestern Seminary and serving as assistant pastor at Sagamore Hill Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. I was about to be married, and Dr. Swank called me into his office on a particular day. He was known for always being blunt and to the point. He said, “Son, your giving has been a bit sporadic.” With those words I knew I was about to learn a lesson. Those of us who were “his boys” never got away with anything! I quickly replied, “Preacher, I am trying to tithe, but I get to the end of the month, and it just seems like there is not enough there.” He looked at me and said, “We are to honor God with our possessions, with the firstfruits of all our increase.” He continued, “Now let me see your checkbook.” Reluctantly I handed it to him. He asked another question, “What is fruit?” “That which you earn,” I quickly replied. He countered, “What does first mean?” “First means first, the front of the line!” “Then, when you deposit your check on the first and fifteenth of each month make sure from now on the first check you write is the Lord’s tithe, the firstfruits of all your increase,” he said. He went on to explain to me that giving is an act of faith and showed me the meaning of Proverbs 3:5-6 which says we are to “trust the Lord with all of our hearts and lean not unto our own understanding. In all our ways acknowledge Him and He will direct our paths.”

Since that day years ago, I have never deposited a paycheck except that the first check I wrote after it was “unto the Lord,” the firstfruit. Many years ago, Susie and I discovered the joy of giving way over the tithe every year of our married life. We did it when we had little or nothing. We did it when we were struggling with a young family. We did it when were responsible for college tuition, graduate school tuition, and weddings, and we are still blessed by it. It is the priority of our stewardship.

I am often asked by people who are contemplating becoming tithers if the tithe is to be given before or after taxes. For me, I never even considered the fact that taxes to a human government should be the firstfruits. To me the issue is plain. Solomon said, “Firstfruits” — of what? “All your increase.” That is how we honor God. This is the priority of our stewardship. If we wait until we think we can afford it and continue to give our firstfruits to ourselves, or to others, or to our own pleasures, it won’t happen. An unknown poet framed it best when he or she said,

The groom bent with age leaned over his cane

His steps uncertain needed guiding,

While down the church aisle

With a warm toothless smile

The bride in a wheelchair came riding.

Who is this elderly couple thus wed?

We’ve learned when we quickly explored it,

That this is that rare most conservative pair

Who waited till they could afford it!

Our purpose in life is to honor God. With what? With our possessions. And what part of our possessions? The “firstfruits” of all our possessions. There is one other question of stewardship that all of us should be asking.

What is the promise of my stewardship?

“…so that your barns may be filled and your vats overflow with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9-10

Full and overflowing! That is a far cry from the haunting call of many today — “Not enough.” Here we see the John 6 principle in action. The boy gave his little lunch of loaves and fish. Thousands of people were fed and twelve basked remained. In the words of Solomon, “Your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.” This is an amazing thought we find in Proverbs 3:10, “So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.” It is supernatural. I don’t know how it works; I just know that after doing it every week for over quarter of a century it does work. If act, the word “be filled” in verse 10 is in the imperfect tense. It is an ongoing process. It just continues to be true as I continue to honor God with my possessions, with the firstfruits of all my increase. He just keeps on and on filling my barns.

Have you ever noticed that when God addresses our stewardship in the Bible, His emphasis is not on our giving, but on our receiving? Malachi says, “’Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that here may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.’” (Mal. 3:10). The emphasis is on our receiving. In Proverbs 3:9-10 once again the emphasis is snot on our giving as much as it is on our barns being filled — our receiving. In the New Testament, Jesus said it like this, “Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). God’s emphasis is always on our receiving, not so much on our giving. Solomon’s statement in Proverbs 3:10 about our barns being filled is an incredible statement. It all boils down to one question, “Who are we going to believe?”

We have the wisest advice ever given on stewardship by the wisest man who ever lived. He put it like this, “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine” (Prov. 3:9-10). What is the purpose of our stewardship? Are we honoring God?  What is the product of our stewardship? Are we simply trying to be a steward of our time and talent and not with our treasure? God said the product of our stewardship is our possessions. What is the priority of our stewardship? Remember the firstfruits belong to Him. What is the promise of our stewardship? We can take Him at His word. However, the real question is not if we ask ourselves these four questions, but fi we will act upon them. If we have not been regular tithers, will we begin to do so now?

The greatest stewardship verse in all the Bible is found in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The Lord Jesus was the product of the Father’s stewardship to you. He was His only Son, the firstfruits of all who would be born again after Him. We have a tremendous opportunity to honor God with our lives — the greatest of all our possessions. He said, “Those who honor Me, I will honor” (1 Sam. 2:30).

Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying?

Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying? A God-honoring offering

Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying? A God-honoring offering

Friday, May 7, 2021 12:40 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 12:40 PM


John 12

John 12

What constitutes a God-honoring offering? If indeed the desire of our heart is to honor the Lord Jesus Christ with our time, our talents, and our treasures, then the Biblical basis for a God-honoring offering is found in the 12th Chapter of John’s Gospel. The text unfolds a few days before Golgotha in a private home in Bethany. The little village of Bethany, on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, can still be visited to this very day. The Lord Jesus was reclining at the table with His disciples, His friend Lazarus, and others. Mary enters the room and brings to Him a God-honoring offering. She kneels at His feet, breaks open the alabaster box, and pours it out upon His feet. Then she wipes His feet with her hair. The fragrance of the perfume fills the room as tension fills the air. Judas is quick to rebuke her. But the Lord Jesus honored her. He blessed her gift, and Matthew, Mark and John all recorded it for posterity so that we might know what truly constitutes a God-honoring offering.

Four ingredients in a God-honoring offering leap from the pages of Scripture into our hearts as we read the text. A God-honoring offering is precious to us. Mary gave something very costly. It was not a token gift. It was precious to her. A God-honoring offering is pleasant to others. The whole house was filled with the fragrance of perfume. Everyone got in on the joy of her gift. A God-honoring offering is perplexing to some. There will always be those like Judas who can’t let go and give themselves. They are perplexed by those who can and do. Finally, a God-honoring offering is pleasing to Christ. He looked into her lovely face and exclaimed that she had done a beautiful thing to Him.

A God-honoring offering is precious to us.

“Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil…” John 12:1-3

AN offering that honors the Lord must first of all be something that is dear to us. God is not honored by token gifts, by putting our finger in our own alabaster box and simply dipping and dabbling a little upon Him. A God-honoring offering is something that is precious to us. King David said this when receiving the offering to purchase the threshing floor for what would become the altar of the temple. He said, “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24).

When Mary brought her offering it was precious to her. Verse three refers to it as “very costly oil.” It is also recorded that it was an offering worth three hundred denarii. One denarii was a day’s wage in the first century world. Think of that! This lady brought the equivalent of one year’s salary and poured it out upon Christ. It was beyond what was expected of her. It was beyond what many might have thought was reasonable. It was a God-honoring offering that was precious to her.

It is interesting to note that Mary’s position was at Jesus’ feet (John 12:3). This lady has center stage only three times in Scripture, and each time she is at our Lord’s feet. She sat at His feet to hear His word (Luke 10:38-42). She knelt at His feet in sorrow over the death of her brother Lazarus (John 11:32). She worshiped at His feet when she brought her offering (John 12:3).

What a wonderful place to be found… at Jesus’ feet. Perhaps we should ask ourselves if we have been there lately. Have we been too busy? Too proud? Too self-reliant? It was Mary’s favorite place. We see her there in times of sorrow. We see her there in times of joy. We see her there in times of receiving. We see her there in times of giving. We see her there when the sun is shining. We see her there when the storm clouds are gathering.

This lady’s motive was love. The Bible records that her brother Lazarus was at the dinner party. WE will quickly remember where he was in the previous chapter of Scripture. He was in the tomb! How grateful she was for what the Lord Jesus had done for her family. She came in love and she came with a grateful heart. She gave not out of duty but out of devotion. Love motivated her. This is a good point for us to ask ourselves if we have given anything to our Lord lately, not because we thought it was our duty, but out of deep devotion and gratitude. Whatever love exists in the heart there is a desire to sacrifice something for the object of our devotion. A God-honoring offering is something that is precious to us.

This was no sudden impulse on Mary’s part. She had “kept” this offering (John 12:7). The word is best translated “protected.” She preserved it. She saved it. She kept it. She protected it. It was something that precious to her. Mary came that day to pour out on our Lord what she had long reassured. She came to pour out upon Him something that was of value to her. God-honoring offerings always consist of something that is precious to us.

A God-honoring offering is pleasant to others.

“…and the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” John 12:3

“The house was filled with the fragrance of the oil” (John 12:3). The whole house was filled with this fragrance and not just the room in which they were seated. It had an effect on everyone who was present. Sooner or later everyone would know what had happened. Even those on the rooftop would know that something sweet had been offered below. Everyone in that house got in on the blessing that evening.

When we examine all the God-honoring offerings in the Bible, we see that they are not just precious to us but they are pleasant to others. Mary’s offering brought a blessing to others who were caught up in its fragrance. There is a very real sense that it was not simply a blessing to those in Bethany that evening but also to those of us today wherever we are. The Lord Jesus said, “Wherever this Gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Matt. 26:13). The offering she gave so long ago continues to be a challenge and blessing to us today. I think of the churches I have pastored and the godly men and women through the generations who have given so sacrificially whose offerings are still being blessed in so many ways today by others. I know young people who are provided scholarships because of the God-honoring offerings of those in years gone by. I know retired preachers and many of their widows who are living with dignity in their declining years because of the God-honoring offerings of those who have gone before us.

We encourage one another with our giving. When we hear of someone who makes a God-honoring offering it encourages us to do more. It becomes a challenge and blessing to us. The Apostle Paul called the gift the Philippians sent to him “a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Phil 4:18). A God-honoring offering is not simply precious to us, but it becomes pleasant to others.

A God-honoring offering is perplexing to some.

“… why was this fragrant oil not sold…” John 12:4-6

Ironically, not everyone is blessed when others give God-honoring offerings. They are perplexing to some. A God-honoring offering exposes the phoniness in some people who begin to murmur like Judas and call it “a waste.” Judas called Mary’s offering just that — “a waste” (Matt. 26:8).

Perhaps there are still some today who would say the same thing to Mary that Judas said. That is, they would say it should have been sold and given to the poor. That type of criticism sounds so spiritual, doesn’t it? Listen to Judas. Talk about audacity! Look at this phony. Talk about waste; he wasted his opportunity. He wasted his life. He wasted his very soul. He asks, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor? (John 12:5). Doesn’t that sound holy? Why was this not so? The answer is because what Mary had was not for sale, it was for sharing!

Some today in many churches say the same thing that Judas said. Had some been in Bethany that night they would have chimed right in. Oh, perhaps they don’t say it with their lips, but they say it with the checkbooks. Judas subtly used the excuse of the poor to bring more money into his own hands. This was the real issue. In fact, the Bible even says so — “This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it” (John 12:6). There are still people like this today. Some people have a problem giving sacrificial and God-honoring offerings because they don’t want to let go of their own money. So, like Judas, they use excuses not to give as a way of putting more money into their own pockets. Do you see the real tragedy here? Mary had just drawn all of the attention of the house to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was the center of attention. Judas turned the attention away from the Lord Jesus and put it on the poor. People like him give themselves away.

It is a fact of life that while God-honoring offerings are precious to us and pleasant to others, they are certainly perplexing to some. They are perplexing to those who love money more than the Lord Jesus Himself. Churches are filled today with men and women who are as lost as Judas. He was not in love with the Lord Jesus Christ. He was in love with what was in his bag — money! John records that Judas took money out of Christ’s treasury (John 12:6). He says he was a “thief.” Here was a many putting his hand in Christ’s only money bag and stealing from Him! But before we are quick to rise up in indignation, we must ask ourselves if we do the same thing. Malachi asks, “Will a man rob God?” When we ask, “How?” the answer comes back “in tithes and offerings.”

Think about waste. The great waste comes in hoarding up things. The great waste comes in keeping them from their proper use. What if Mary’s perfume had been hoarded up? Then it would have been wasted had it not been used. Here is a world in desperate need of the gospel and so many Christians are hoarding up estates, and never pouring any of it out on the Lord Jesus. Oh, once in a while we dip our little spoonful out as a token gift. Many will go to the grave with great estates but what good will it do them and what good will it do the gospel? Now this is waste! Wasted resources. Wasted opportunities to be a blessing. Wasted resources that will be left to the government to fund illegitimate social programs and in some cases heirs for whom it may become their own destruction. No, Mary’s gift was not waste.

Men and women who are ruled by money will do anything to get it. For thirty pieces of silver Judas would later betray the Lord Jesus. Gehazi pursued Naaman for a talent of silver. The sorcerer Simon offered Simon Peter money for Holy Spirit power. The power money has over people can keep them out of heaven. No wonder Mary’s offering was perplexing to Judas. He loved the money bag. It is interesting that Judas made such an issue out of Mary’s gift and turned around the very next week and bargained with the chief priest to sell Christ for thirty measly pieces of silver.

A God-honoring offering is precious to those who give but perplexing to those who gripe. Where do you find yourself? Are you opening your hand to give to God what is precious to you or clutching tight to your possessions, perplexed by those who give God-horning offerings?

A God-honoring offering is pleasing to Christ.

“… For she has done a good work for Me.” (John 12:7-8; Matt. 26:10)

While God-honoring offerings may be perplexing to some, they are always pleasing to Christ. There was not a voice heard in the home that night in Mary’s favor except One. It was the voice that really counted — the voice of Christ Himself. He looked into her lovely face and spoke to the others saying, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me” (Matt. 26:10). When we give something that is precious to us it is always pleasing to Christ.

He said to those around, “Let her alone” (John 12:7). Matthew adds, “She has done a good work for Me.” Our Lord saw the broken alabaster box that was precious to Mary. It was worth a year’s salary to her. He felt the oil on his feet. He smelled the sweet fragrance that filled the whole house and He said, “You have done a beautiful thing to me.” Some people might call us crazy to do what Mary did. That is to give what we worked so hard to acquire. But our Lord Jesus calls it a “good work,” a beautiful thing. It is pleasing to Christ. What about your alabaster box? Where is it? Is it locked safely away in a safety deposit box? Is it invested in a stock portfolio? Is it tucked away in certificates of deposit? Or, is it poured out on the Lord Jesus Christ?

Our Lord Jesus emphasized the fact that Mary’s gift was “For Me” (Matt. 26:10). This should always be an underlying reminder to all of us who give our tithes and offerings to our local churches and various ministries. WE are in reality giving to Christ Himself. It just so happens we are giving to Him through a local expression of His body that we call our local New Testament church.

Christ wrote Mary’s biography that day. She never said a word with her mouth, but her biography that day was written that day. Earlier, our Lord had said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Our Lord Jesus watches over the treasury (Mark 12:41). He looked at Mary and came to her defense with a word of sweet affirmation.

In Mark’s account of this experience, he adds that Christ also said, “She has done what she could” (Mark 14:8). The fragrance of that perfume has long since evaporated but the memory of that woman will survive as long as the Gospel is preached because she “did what she could.” Mary’s offering was pleasing to Christ because she did what she could. She could not keep his enemies from arresting Him in Gethsemane’s Garden. She could not hold back the man with the cat o’nine tails who whipped His back. She could not hold back the hand of the man with the hammer who drove the spikes in His wrists and feet. But, she could identify with His cause. She could assure Him of her love. And “she did what she could.”

What does the Lord Jesus expect of me? TO do what I can! Our measure of faithfulness is not what someone else has done. We are to “do what we can do.” All Moses had was a rod, but he delivered a nation. HE did what he could. All David had was a slingshot. But he did what he could and slew a giant.

You say, “I don’t have much.” Then do what you can. Most of us don’t do that much. Do what you can regardless of criticism. God honoring offerings are perplexing to others. Do what you can regardless of the cost. God-honoring offerings are precious to us. DO it now, for the time is right. Do it now, for the time is short. Opportunities that are here today may be gone tomorrow. The widow of the gospels was the poorest of the poor, but she did what she could. Joseph of Arimathea was the richest of the rich, but he did what he could. They both gave to the Lord Jesus something that was precious to themselves.

The Lord Jesus said that what that woman did that evening in Bethany would be written about, preached about, talked about and read about everywhere around the world as long as the Gospel is preached. And the fact that you are reading these words is the fulfillment of that prophecy in Bethany so many centuries ago.

Our Lord Himself reveals the truth of what constitutes a God-honoring offering. It is something that is precious to us. It is something that becomes pleasant to others. It is perplexing to some, but mainly, it is pleasing to Christ.

Long before we ever thought of giving to God, God gave to us! Yes, He broke His own alabaster box and poured it out on you. His offering was precious to Him. IT cost Him something dear. He gave His only begotten Son that we might have eternal life. Love is always expressed in giving something that is precious to us. God’s gift to us is pleasant to others. We are a testimony of that today. The gift of Christ is what makes life worth living and fills whatever room we are in with the sweet fragrance of His love. His gift was perplexing to some. Some still look at the gift of Christ as Judas looked upon the gift of Mary and called it “waste.” Some think that those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ are wasting our lives doing so. Finally, God’s gift was pleasing to Himself. Isaiah 53:10 says, “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him.” Mary broke her alabaster box because she knew He would not need a marble monument. He wasn’t going to be in the grave long enough to even have a marker made.

It would do us all well to find our own place at Jesus’ feet and say what missionary Jim Elliott of old, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose!”

Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying?

Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying? Your money talks... what does it say?

Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying? Your money talks... what does it say?

Friday, May 7, 2021 12:38 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 12:38 PM


James 5:1-6

James 5:1-6

“Come now, you rich…” With these four words James begins his discussion of Biblical stewardship (James 5:1-6). Many of us are prone to skip over this paragraph, erroneously feeling that it does not apply to us. We think this passage is for the men and women who live in the multi-million dollar homes on the water. We may think, “Yes, Lord, give it to those rich snobs!”

There are basically two reactions to James’ discussion of money. Those without money somehow feel that they are more spiritual than those who have money. Well, they are not. On the other hand, those who have money somehow feel as if they have to be defensive. Well, they don’t. These verses apply to everyone, for being “rich” is relative. Compared to the rest of the world, almost everyone reading these words is filthy rich. Most of us have automobiles with power steering. We can afford to buy hamburgers for lunch. Most of the world’s people cannot.

I wish I could take each of you out into the African bush a few miles from Mombasa, Kenya, in East Africa. I have preached in some churches there. It is not uncommon for three or four thousand people to walk miles to attend the services. They sit on the ground, not on pews. If their pastor to preach on James 5:1-6 this coming Sunday, they would be thinking about people in America who make the minimum wage when they heard the words, “Now listen you rich people…”

No matter how much we have, someone else has more. No matter how little we have, someone else has less. These words in James 5:1-6 are for each of us. I know many poor people who are more preoccupied with money and possessions than some wealthy people are. The real issue is not whether we have money, but whether money has us. James was touching a sensitive nerve regarding the danger of materialism — being possessed by things.

Many of us think that money is all we need to solve our problems. We think if we just had a little more money we could take care of this, or take care of that, and then we would finally be happy. But what happens when money comes? The more money we have, the more we need. The more we make, the more we spend. We get a raise and usually it just helps us get a little more in debt. Money is deceptive. It can so subtly and unconsciously become our god. If we are not careful, it begins to possess us instead of our possessing it.

There is nothing wrong with wealth itself. Genesis 13:2 says, “Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.” In 1 Chronicles 29:28, it says that the psalmist David “died in a good old age, full of days and riches and honor.” King Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, had more than Abraham and David put together. Joseph of Arimathea, who furnished a tomb and arranged for our Lord to have a decent burial, had tremendous wealth (Matt. 27:57). Barnabas, a wealthy landowner, made possible the expansion of the early church by selling some valuable real estate on the island of Cyprus and giving the proceeds to the apostles. No wonder his name means “son of encouragement.”

If there is nothing wrong with wealth, what was James saying? He was trying to tell us that the problem with wealth lies not in having it, but in how we get it, how we guard it and how we give it. The way we deal with our money can bring “misery” upon us (James 5:1). The word “misery,” when translated, comes from two Greek words. One means “to undergo or to endure,” the other means “callous, or that which brings joy only momentarily but is followed by misery.” Getting our money by ungodly means will bring misery sooner or later. If we hoard our money we will be of all men most miserable. And if we give our money to self-indulgence, the result will be misery. James did not say that wealth in itself is wrong. We should not misunderstand what he was saying. His point was how we get our money, how we guard it, and how we give it tells the whole world what our values are.

Our money talks. In fact, it says volumes about what we really think is important. It is so much a reflection of what is inside us that Jesus spoke often about it. One out of every three of His sermons had to do with money. Jesus told 38 parables, and one-third of them dealt with possessions. He said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21). He was a diagnostician. And in a very real sense, the accountant who prepares our tax return knows more about us spiritually than our Sunday school teachers or prayer partners know. How we deal with our money is a reflection of our spiritual health.

How we get it

“Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.” (James 5:1, 4, 6)

The issue of how we get our wealth is so vitally important that the through pervades the first paragraph of James 5. When writing this passage, James had in mind a man who received his money through exploitation and expropriation.

James said, “Indeed, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth” (James 5:4). The Bible never condemns the acquisition of wealthy by legal and legitimate means. At issue here is the acquisition of wealth by illegal and illegitimate means. The man who received his wealth through exploitation had promised to pay his employees a certain amount, but when they completed their work he refused to pay them. The phrase “Failed to pay” is a translation of a Greek word that refers to an illegitimate or fraudulent action. From the very beginning, this many had no intention of paying his workers. He was always looking for loopholes in the contract to get out of paying what he owed. Because of this he came under God’s judgment.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God warns us, “Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him. Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight.” Deuteronomy 24:14-15 tells us, “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren or one of the aliens who is in your land within your gates. Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the Lord, and it be sin to you.” Exodus 2:23 tells us that God heard the cries of the slaves in Egypt: “Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage.” In Luke 10:7 Jesus says, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

The tense of the verbs in James 5:4 is important to the understanding of this verse. The verb translated “mowed” is aorist, indicating the task had been accomplished. The verb translated “failed to pay” is in the imperfect tense, indicating that the employer held back the wages permanently and had no intention of paying what was due. The verb translated “crying out against you” is in the present tense, indicating the continuous crying out for these wages. The employees began to cry out to God about this injustice. We will see later that payday comes sooner or later.

Remember the term “rich” is relative. We do not have to be employers to be guilty of exploitation. Some employees exploit their employers. For example, suppose your employer pays you for eight hours of work a day. You show up 10 or 15 minutes late, take an extra five minutes on your morning and afternoon breaks, come back from lunch 15 minutes late, sit and your desk and read a magazine or do your nails, and then leave a few minutes early. You have only put in about six and a half hours of work, not the eight you agreed to work. You are just as guilty of exploitation as the man who did not pay a fair wage. If your employer pays you for an eight-hour day and you only work seven hours, you are stealing from him. You might as well go into the petty cash box and take out the money.

Christians in the work force ought to work harder than anyone because they are doing their jobs unto the Lord (Eph. 6:5-8). Ill-gotten gains will come back to haunt us. We must guard against acquiring our wealth through exploitation.

James made a stinging accusation: “You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you” (James 5:6). The man James had in mind not only gained his wealth through exploitation but also through expropriation. The Greek word translated “condemned” is a judicial term suggesting the manner in which the rich pervert the legal system to accumulate their wealth. The term speaks of those who control the courts in such a way that justice is eliminated. In other words, they have the power to use the courts to take away someone else’s means of support. The man who exploited his workers had the political power to control the system and prevent his employees from opposing him. Thus he deprived them of their livelihood. It was just as if he had murdered them.

There are ways of killing people without taking away their physical lives. We can kill a person’s reputation through slander. We can kill a person’s incentive through constant agitation. James was thinking of a man who stepped over anything or anyone in order to reach the top.

The victims did not offer opposition because the system controlled by the rich rendered them unable to retaliate. James 2:6 says, “But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?” To exploit is bad enough, but it is worse still to expropriate when resistance is impossible. In the end, wealth gained by expropriation can only bring misery.

We cannot help but remember that the love of money was at the root of Christ’s betrayal. Judas loved money. Yes, he received 30 pieces of silver and looks how he got it. He is the epitome of someone who ended up weeping and wailing.

Yes, our money talks. What is it saying about how we got it? If we have obtained our wealth through exploitation or expropriation, our gold and silver will testify against us.

How we guard it

“…You have heaped up treasure in the last days” James 5:1-3

How we guard our money is also revealing. The man James had in mind “hoarded” his wealth (James 5:3). “Hoarded” is a translation of a Greek word from which we get our word “thesaurus.” It means “a collection” and has the connotation of gathering all we can and storing it up. There is nothing wrong with a savings account. In fact, the Bible puts its stamp of approval on fiscal responsibility. See 2 Corinthians 12:14 for an example. However, it is wrong to hoard wealth that is owed to others. James said that guarding such wealth is deceitful, decadent, and deceptive.

Guarded wealth promises joy, but only brings misery. When we begin to love money it ceases to bless us and begins to curse us. We think that just a little more money will make us happy, but that is a deception.

The parable of the rich fool illustrates the deceitfulness of guarded wealth. Jesus said, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). The man in the parable accumulated wealth “for himself” with utter disregard for anything or anyone else. So God said, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” (Luke 12:20). We sometimes think a new suit, a new car, or a new home will make us happy. But those things never really satisfy. They are all deceitful. It is good to have things money can buy, but it is better to have the things money cannot buy. Behind mahogany doors and iron gates are some of the most miserable people in the world. What is really important is not what money can buy, but what money cannot buy.

Andrew Carnegie, who will always be remembered as one of America’s greatest entrepreneurs, said, “I was born in poverty and would not exchange its sacred memories with the richest millionaire’s son who ever breathed. What does he know about a mother or a father? These are mere names to him. Give me the life of the boy whose mother is nurse, seamstress, washer woman, cook, teacher, angel, and saint all in one, and whose father is guide, exemplar and friend. No servants to come between. These are the boys who are born to the best fortune. Some men think that poverty is a dreadful burden and that wealth leads to happiness. What do they know about it? They know only one side. They imagine the other. I have lived both, and I know there is very little in wealth that can add to human happiness beyond the small comforts of life. Millionaires who laugh are rare.”

Yes, hoarded wealth is deceitful.

Money can also be decadent. It decays. If we don’t use it, we lose it. WE cannot take it with us when we die. It is temporal. Only what we deposit in the bank of Heaven will last. That which is used for God’s glory never fades away. Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19-20).

Emphasizing the perishable nature of worldly riches, James 5:2-3 says, “Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days” All these verbs are in the perfect tense. James was so certain of the temporary nature of riches that he described their decay as having already happened. He was showing us the present worthless state of our own possessions.

The first century world did not have certificates of deposit or stock certificates. Their wealth was measured in grain, garments, and gold. When James said, “Your wealth has rotted,” he was referring to grain. A man’s worth was often determined by the amount of grain he could store in his barn. Remember the rich fool had many goods laid up for future years. But grain rots. How does grain rot? By lack of use. Our guarded wealth, like grain, is decadent. If we don’t use it, it does us no good and we eventually lose it.  

When James said, “Moths have eaten your clothes,” we know that in the ancient world garments were also symbols of wealth. When Joseph blessed his brothers in Egypt, he gave them garments (Gen. 45:22). Lust for a Babylonian robe led to the downfall of Achan (Joshua 7:21). Naaman, commander-in-chief of the Syrian army, brought Elisha garments as a gift (2 Kings 5:5). The man James had in mind made his money for the express purpose of showing off to others how rich he was; he wanted to be noticed by his fancy and flashy outer garments. (The Greek word “himatia,” translated “clothes” in James 5:2, means “outer garment.”) But garments ruin.  Moths eat them.

A moth is subtle and silent, lurking behind the scenes. He eats away at our treasures and before we know it they are gone. A month is not like other insects. A roach will badger and taunt us. He will eat away at our cabinets and leave his droppings on the drain board. A cricket will bug us (no pun intended) by making noise and remaining hidden. A mosquito will bite us. A fly will bother us. But a moth will beguile us. He keeps to himself. He will not badger, bug, bite, or bother us. He will not gnaw at us or make a lot of noise. He will simply hang out in the back of the closet and work in secret until it is too late.

Moths eat our clothes when they hang in our closets for long periods of time. Garments ruin because of lack of use. Likewise, when we guard our wealth instead of using it, it decays. WE do not see our riches being eaten away, but before we know it they are gone

Grain rots, garments ruin and gold rusts. James 5:3 says, “Your gold and silver are corroded.” Again, it is lack of use that causes decay. A hinge on a gate that hasn’t been opened in a long time can become corroded. A pair of pliers left outside can gather so much rust that they can hardly be opened. The Greek verb translated “corroded” is singular, indicating that James was speaking of gold and silver as a symbolic unit. HE was talking about assets that symbolize our wealth. The Greek preposition kata (The first part of katiotai) means “through,” indicating that the gold and silver are completely corroded. The point of the illustration is that unused wealth that is hoarded and guarded is decadent.

Most of us know that real gold will not rust. Therefore, James was also saying that our wealth is actually fool’s gold. It has no eternal value. What a disappointment to discover that what we thought was valuable is worthless. Guarded wealth is both deceitful and decadent. Wealth brings a false sense of security. The stock market is up one day and down the next. Money markets and financial accounts fluctuate from hour to hour. Riches are uncertain. James’ contemporaries experienced firsthand the deceptiveness of guarded wealth. Within a decade after James wrote his epistle, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, and the Jews’ accumulated wealth was taken. This siege in A.D. 70 brought famine and disease. The situation was so bad that those who had been wealthy before were now reduced to demoralizing and depraved activities such as cannibalism.

IT is a mistake to think that security is found in wealth. It is also a mistake to think that it is good stewardship to guard our wealth. James 5:3 says that our corroded gold and silver will testify against us. Wealth is deceptive. The man James had in mind guarded his wealth in self-defense, but in the final analysis his wealth was used against him. How ironic. The question at the judgment seat of Christ is not going to be, “How much did you make?” The question will be, “What did you do with what you had?” Your money talks!

Hoarding our wealth affects not just ourselves, but others as well. James 5:3 says, “You have heaped up treasure in the last days.” The last days began with Christ’s ascension and will end with His second coming. We may be nearing the end of these last days. The question is, “How will we use our wealth in these days of tremendous evangelistic opportunity?” Too many of us guard wealth rather than give it to the Lord’s work.

James reminded us that these guarded resources will testify against us and eat our flesh like fire. They will expose us. This is a serious warning, not an irrelevant addendum. James’ words ought to make us sit up on the edge of our seats. There are many people who do not believe that ultimately they will be punished by God. They think of God only as a God of love. However, the same God who says that He is a God of love says that He is a God of justice.

God is as concerned with how we guard our wealth as He is with how we get it. What are we going to do with the money that we have hoarded up? One day each of us is going to die and someone else is going to spend it. In many cases, our money will only cause our heirs misery because it will take away their incentive to work. Our influence for good or bad will continue after we are gone. All the accounts are not in yet. This is why our judgment awaits Christ’s return. We will not be judged as soon as we die.

It I a great tragedy to come to the end of life and have treasure laid up in this world only. We came into this without anything and we will leave the same way. We do not own our possessions. They all belong to God, we are but stewards. People who hoard the possessions they think they own will one day weep and wail in misery (James 5:1).

Their problem was not in possession money, but in letting it possess them. Money is not the root of all evil. Paul said, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). Those who are deceived into loving money will covet. Although “You shall not covet” (Ex. 20:17) is the last of all the 10 Commandments, it may be the most dangerous commandment to break. Covetousness makes a person break the other nine commandments. David broke the seventh commandment— “You shall not commit adultery” — because he broke the tenth and coveted Bathsheba. Gehazi broke the eight commandment — “You shall not steal” — because he broke the tenth and coveted Naaman’s riches.

There is nothing wrong with money, but money that is guarded will never spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, money in the hands of a good steward can be a testimony. At the end of your life will you be considered a hoarder or a steward? Your Last Will and Testament is your last testimony. It is read at the end of your life, and it says what is really important to you. What does your will say as a testimony of Jesus Christ?

How we give it

“You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury…” James 5:5

Our money talks primarily by how we give it. Some people simply give their money to themselves in self-indulgence while others give it to the Lord to advance His kingdom. The man James had in mind gave his ill-gotten gains to himself. He “lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury” (James 5:5). The word for “luxury,” means “extravagant comfort, to lead a soft life.” The word for “self-indulgence,” means to give oneself to pleasure.” It is also found in 1 Timothy 5:6: “But she (the widow) who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives.” (See Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 for another example of someone who lived in luxury.)

James 5:3 continues, “You have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.” This image communicates well to me because I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, where the famous stockyards are on the north side of town at the beginning of the Old Chisolm Trail. If you were to walk the streets of the north side today you would see steers penned up in the stockyards. They are given the finest grain and do not realize that they are going to be slaughtered. Consequently, they eat and eat and eat, taking the pleasures of the moment. And the more they eat the quicker they will be led to the slaughterhouse. When they are all fattened up, the workers throw a little corn in front of the stupid steers and their desire for self-indulgence and luxury entices them right out of the pen and into the slaughterhouse next door.

James was saying that some of us are like those Texas steers. We just keep fattening ourselves, not knowing that we are hastening the day of our own slaughter. The slaughterhouse represents the judgment to come. Those who guard their wealth and give it only to themselves are blind to the fact that they are headed toward a day of reckoning. They follow their selfish appetites and are too blind to see that it is to the ruin of relationships or to the ruin of self-respect.

There are some supernatural laws that should govern our giving. The first is the law of clarification, which states that God owns all the wealth in this world and the next. In David’s words, “For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours” (1 Chronicles 29:11). “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness” (Psalm 24:1).

The law of circulation states that God wants His wealth in circulation. In God’s economy the earth had one theme in the beginning: give, give, give. The sun gave. The earth gave. The animals gave. The man gave. The trees gave. But Satan came and introduced a new concept: get, get, get. Man became greedy and began to live by Satan’s philosophy, but God’s original design for the use of resources still applies.

The law of cooperation states that all of God’s wealth belongs to His children. The problem is that they are not cooperating with Him. Paul said, “We are heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).

Finally, the law of cultivation states that the way to appropriate God’s wealth is to give. We never reap until we sow. Jesus says, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). To coin a phrase, we are to “give out of God’s hand.” We are to reach into His unlimited resources and give from Him to others. What a privilege. Perhaps King David said it best: “For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given you” (1 Chronicles 29:14).

We live in a world where accumulation is the name of the game. Caught in this trap, many of us get everything we can and guard it as long as we can. Some of us foolishly think that the issue at the judgment bar of Christ will be, “How much have you accumulated?” or “How much have you guarded?” However, let’s not for a moment think our Righteous Judge will ever look at us and as, “How much did you make?” His question will be, “What kind of steward were you? What did you do with what I gave you?”

The fundamental danger inherent in having wealth lies in the fact that it can cause us to focus our complete attention on this world. We may begin to live for this world alone. Once we possess wealth, it may begin to possess us. The Christian must beware of this danger. He must get his wealth honestly, guard it loosely, and give it selflessly to Christ.

As we have seen, it is not what we guard but what we give that makes us rich. When we guard earthly treasure, it rots, ruins and rusts. And one day it will stand up to testify against us. Yes, your money talks Does it say, “Get me any way you can, whether it be through exploitation or expropriation?” Does it say, “Guard me, hold me tight, keep me, clutch me?” If so, you of all people are most miserable. Does your money say, “Spend me on yourself and no one else?” If so, it has become your master. Or does it say, “Give me away to others in the service of Jesus?” If so, you know the peace and joy that can only come from Jesus Christ.

Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying?

Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying? Robbery Without a Weapon

Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying? Robbery Without a Weapon

Friday, May 7, 2021 12:35 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 12:35 PM


Malachi 3:7-12

Malachi 3:7-12

As far-fetched as it may seem, our finances generally mark the position of our spiritual pilgrimage. We are no farther along in our walk with God than the point where we have learned to trust Him with our tithe. Someone has well said that more could be learned about a person’s commitment by looking at their checkbook than their prayer book. This one area could be the reason for many unresolved conflicts and unmet needs.

The tithe is the place where many Christians go astray. Some because they have never been taught the spiritual truths concerning stewardship. Others because they have not studied the Word of God to find these truths for themselves. But mostly, because of willful rebellion against the Word of God. Many Christians profess to love the Bible and take it as their rule of faith, yet deliberately ignore the plain teaching of the Word of God regarding the tithe.

Now please do not misunderstand. This is not designed to get more money for the church or for God’s work. It is designed to lead the listener into spiritual growth and blessing by being obedient to the Word of God. One of the common complaints about many preachers is that they are always preaching about money. It is usually a telltale sign that those who are making these statements are generally the ones who are disobedient to God’s Word regarding the tithe.

There is a lot of misunderstanding today concerning the tithe (one-tenth of our income belonging to God). In fact, one of the great injustices that many of us preachers have done to the church is to insist that God demands one-tenth of our income and one-seventh of our week. This implies that the other nine-tenths of our income and the other six days of the week are ours to do with as we please. The truth of the matter is that everything we have belongs to God. Not just the tenth — everything! We are nothing more than stewards passing through this world. For most of us, fifty years from now everything we own will be in someone else’s name. Fifty years ago what you own today belonged to someone else… your land, your home, your assets. When you came into this world you came into it naked without a dime. And the obvious truth that follows is that you will leave this world the same way. We do not own a thing. We are merely stewards of God’s resources. Consequently, the tithe is a great place to start in our stewardship with God… but it is a terrible stopping place.

As our text unfolds, we will see that the whole emphasis of the Word of God is not on our giving as much as it is on His opening the windows of heaven to pour us out a blessing there would not be room enough to receive. God wants to bless us far more than we want a blessing. The tithe is a starting place in getting God into action in the affairs of man. Let’s venture into the realm of this exciting journey with God that promises to “open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:10).

God’s apparent problem with us

“…You have gone away from my ordinances and have not kept them… you have robbed me!” (Malachi 3:7-9)

First, we note in our text God’s apparent problem with us! “Yet from the days of your fathers you have gone away from my ordinances and have not kept them. Return to me and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. “But you said, ‘In what way shall we return?’ “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation” (Mal. 3:7-9).

We have before us God’s problem with us. We see initially that this problem is personal. “YOU have robbed ME!” (Note the personal pronouns.) Have you ever been the victim of robbery? I recently talked with a lady whose home had been broken into, all he drawers ransacked, money stolen along with valuable papers, including her deceased husband’s wedding ring and many sentimental items of great value. Her anguish was intensified by the fact that someone, uninvited, had invaded the privacy of her own domain and took items of value that belonged to her. You see, robbery is a very personal matter and only one who has been a victim of such an experience can know the real anguish of heart. God’s apparent problem with us is personal. He said, “You have robbed Me.” This is a strong accusation and not a mere insinuation. He calls to us in Malachi 3:7 saying, “Return to Me and I will return to you.” The point of return is always the point of departure. God said the place of departure for many of us is the matter of the tithe.

Here is God’s apparent problem with us. It is robbery without a weapon. “YOU have robbed Me!” But the truth is when we rob God there are some other things we rob in the process. When we do not faithfully bring the tithe to God we rob the church of its ministry. We also rob the world of the gospel through great missionary enterprises. But even more personally, we rob ourselves of great blessings. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

In the New Testament we find these words escaping the lips of our Lord, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). Is it not amazing that some church members would never entertain the thought of not paying their taxes (that is, rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s)? Many of us would never think of not paying taxes on our home, sales tax, or federal income taxes. And yet many of us never render unto God the things that are God’s! That is God’s apparent problem with us. It is a personal problem. We have robbed Him.

AS we further examine the text, we see the problem is not only personal, but is also pointed. God says, “You have robbed Me” (Mal. 3:8). We answer back, “How have we robbed You?” His answer comes in a very pointed way, “In tithes and offerings” (Mal. 3:8). Tithing is God’s appointed program for us. It always has been, and it always will be. There are some today that say the tithe is merely an Old Testament law and is not applicable for this dispensation of grace. The truth of the matter is the tithe existed among the people of God long before the law was given. In Genesis 14:20, we see Abram giving tithes to Melchizedek. In Genesis 28:19-22, we see Jacob vowing to give a tenth unto the Lord. When the law was given the tithe was definitely incorporated in it. “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree is the Lord’. It is holy to the Lord” (Lev. 27:30).

In the New Testament we see Jesus approving and obviously practicing the tithe. The Pharisees were out to catch Him at any point they could. Certainly had Jesus been failing on the matter of the tithe, He would have had stern fingers of accusation pointed His way. Note what He says in His rebuke of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” This verse is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. Here Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, not for their tithing. In fact, He says, “These things you ought to do.” The word “ought” is an imperative and is translated in other versions as “must.” Jesus saw the tithe as a requirement from God. It is unthinkable in light of the cross on which our Savior died that any of us under grace would give less than the Jews gave under law!

I am amazed at many churches’ mentality concerning the tithe. Some hand out pledge cards during stewardship campaigns, asking the people to sign their names on a card promising to give an amount that “moves toward the tithe” or to pledge a certain amount that is not a tithe. This is astounding that we would ask people to promise to rob God!

It is helpful in our understanding of the tithe to know that it is holy unto the Lord. “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the see of the land or of the fruit of the tree is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord” (Lev. 27:30). The Bible says that “The tithe is holy to the Lord.” That is to say, God reserves for Himself, as His own, one-tenth of what He gives to us. It is holy to Him. There are not many things called holy in the Word of God. When something is set aside as holy it is a dangerous thing to keep that from the Lord. You may say you can’t afford to tithe. The very reason you think you can’t is no doubt because you have robbed God of something that is holy to Him.

Note that the text says, “The tithe is the Lord’s!” (Lev. 27:30). This should open our eyes to a misconception that has blinded many from the truth of the Scripture that one-tenth of our income is not our own personal property at all. It does not belong to us. We have no say about it whatsoever. Regardless of what we have done with it, the tithe is the Lord’s. God’s tithe may be on your back in the form of a new suit of clothes. It may be in your home in the form of a new video game for your television set. You may be watching the Lord’s tithe each evening on a big screen television set in your den. You may be driving the Lord’s tithe down the street in the form of a new car. You may be investing the Lord’s tithe in a bank or another investment institution. You may be stealing it, robbing it, driving it, wearing it, investing it… but it is still not yours.. the tithe is the Lord’s! It belongs to God, and in reality we do not give anything to Him until we give over our tithe.

We need to change our mentality toward the tithe. God says to withhold the tithe is the same as robbing His own treasury. It is indeed a penetrating question, “Will a man rob God?” Friend, I would rather rob the First National Bank than to rob God. It doesn’t’ matter who we are or what we have, we need to tithe. The worse our financial condition, the more we need to tithe. The tithe is holy. It is the Lord’s. According to the Bible, there is a blessing when we give it and a curse when we steal it. The Bible warns us plainly not to touch the tithe. WE tithe because we love the Lord Jesus Christ. A Christian should tithe for the same reason he keeps all the other commandments. If we render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, let us also render unto God the things that are God’s. God’s apparent problem with us is personal and pointed.

God’s appointed program for us

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse” (Malachi 3:10)

Secondly, let us note God’s appointed program for us. “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house, and try me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts. “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Mal. 3:10).

If we are indeed guilty of robbing God of the tithe, then certainly there will be some program of rehabilitation to bring us into right relationship with Him. God lays down this appointed program for us in the text above. Note first the plan. “BRING all the tithes into the storehouse.” Every word of Scripture is important. Note that God told us to bring the tithes, not send them. The Wise Men did not send their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ Child; they brought them .The woman with the alabaster box did not send the box for Jesus’ anointing; she brought it! God says that we are to bring the tithe. There is personal worship in the act of bringing. This is God’s plan — bring.

Second note the person. “Bring YOU all the tithes into the storehouse.” YOU bring! You bring the tithe because you are commanded to bring it, and love obeys. In the Scripture love is equated with action. Jesus aside, “Do you love me?... feed my sheep.” At another time He asked, “Do you love me?... keep my commandments. He said, “He who hears My words and does them, he is who loves Me.” Love is something we do. Love doesn’t’ sing, “Oh how I love Jesus” ? love tithes! You can tithe without loving, but you cannot love without tithing.

I am always a little intrigued by bumper sticker evangelism. We have all seen the bumper sticker that declares, “Honk if you love Jesus.” However, the latest one that says, “Tithe if you love Jesus — anyone can honk!” contains a lot more truth.

Third, note the proportion in God’s appointed program. “Bring you all the TITHES into the storehouse.” 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 says, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also: On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” Note the words, “As God has prospered him.” This signifies a definite proportion of income. It does not say, “Let everyone laid in store as he feels led.” Nor does it say, “Let everyone lay by in store as he feels moved by the Holy Spirit.” Friend, the Holy Spirit will never lead us to do anything contrary to the Word of God. And the Word of God teaches us that the tenth is the Lord’s. The Bible says, “Let everyone laid by him in store as God has prospered him.” That is, in a proportionate way, according to a percentage basis. This makes giving equal. The millionaire and less wealthy person are equal in their giving relationship s God has prospered.” Thus, we see that the proportion of our giving is the tithe.

Next, the text reveals to us the place of our tithes. “Bring ye all the tithes into the STOREHOUSE.” Where is the store house? Again 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 says we are to “lay in store.” This clearly points us back to Malachi 3:10 which says for us to “Bring all the tithes into the…” what? Into the storehouse! Also note that we are to do this “upon the first day of the week.” What happens on the first day of the week? Obviously, the local New Testament church is at worship. And the truth of the Scripture is that the local church is the storehouse! IN the New Testament, over 90% of the time the word church is mentioned, it refers to that local, first-day worshipping body of baptized believers. It is not our privilege to scatter our tithe around to all sorts of parachurch or evangelism organizations, youth groups, etc. They are to receive offerings, not tithes! The tithe is to be brought to the local New Testament church, the storehouse, on the first day of the week. And by the way, don’t sell the church short. It will still be here when all the other organizations and groups are dead and gone. Any organization that does not originate in, cooperate with and build up the local New Testament church will come to naught. The place of the tithe is the storehouse — the church.

The text also reveals to us the purpose. “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse THTAT HERE MIGHT BE MEAT IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE.” The purpose of bringing the tithe is to further the work of Christ through the church in bringing salvation to men and women. This is our good and godly purpose given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ in the great commission.

Finally, note the proposition. “Bring ye all the tithes into the store house that there might be meat in my Father’s house, and PROVE ME.” This is unbelievable! God is saying to you, “Put Me (Almighty God) on trial. Prove Me, try Me, with the tithe!” This is one directive in the Scripture that can be put on a trial basis. We are challenged to return to Him the one-tenth that is rightfully His and see whether or not He will let us be the loser. This is amazing condescension that God allows Himself to be put on trial by us in such a manner. If there is any doubt as to God’s existence, here is the way to prove Him. What a proposition — prove me, put me to the test!

God’s appointed program for us is definitely the tithe. The tithe is a great place to start, but a miserable place to stop in our stewardship. In fact, in the purest biblical sense, a tither is simply a reformed thief.

God’s abundant provision for us

“… pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10-12)

What happens when we become aware of God’s apparent problem with us, and meet the conditions of God’s appointed program for us? Note finally God’s abundant provision for us!

“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” says the Lord of hosts; “And all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,” says the lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:10-12).

Oh, the promises of God that are ours for the claiming! We see first that there is the promise of provision. God says to us that He “will open the windows of heaven and pour us out a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive.” There has never been a time when we ore needed to know how to open the windows of heaven than today. Remember that these promises are contingent upon our returning to God in the matter of the tithe.

Note that this promise of provision involves quality. These blessings come right out of heaven. They are supernatural. God says, “I will open the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing.” He will “pour out.” They will be sudden. Have you ever poured tea from a pitcher? If you are not careful it will pour out in rapid force. God says our promise of provision will be right out of heaven. What does it mean that He will “open the windows of heaven?” Let Scripture interpret Scripture. Listen to Genesis 7:11-12: “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the foundations of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights.” Here the identical expression is uses. This same expression used with the deluge of the flood is the same expression used in Malachi 3 in God’s response to our tithe. God has promised to honor us with an abundant outpouring! We are not talking about only spiritual blessings, but temporal blessings. The truth of the Scriptures is that we “reap what we sow.” If we sow oats, we will reap oats. If we sow wheat, we will reap wheat. The laws of the harvest simply stated are that we always reap what we sow, awe always reap after we sow, and we always reap more than we sow. Surely we do not suppose the Lover of our Soul will allow us to be the loser because we are faithful to His Word and obedient to His will. I have never seen nor heard of a consistent tither who did not find this to be true. The reason so many are in financial straits today is the simple fact that they have robbed God.

The promise of provision not only involves quality, it involves quantity. Notice the quantity of the blessing “there shall not be room enough to receive it.” This simply means we shall have to give it away. This “more than enough blessing” is for all that meet His conditions. Isn’t this a far cry from the haunting need today where so many are crying “not enough?” Man’s rebellion leads to this kind of economy… the cry of not enough! But not God’s. His abundant promise to us is that He will open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing for us that we will not have room enough to receive it. This is the John 6 principle in action. The boy gave his lunch of a few fish sandwiches and thousands of people were fed and basketfuls were left over. John Bunyan is reported to have said, “There was a man; some called him mad; the more he gave; the more he had!” This is God’s promise of provision in a nutshell, involving quality along with quantity.

There is also the promise of protection involved here. God says, “I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes.” This is quite a promise! When we return the tithe to God we step into the supernatural protection of God. I confess to you that I do not know all the ramifications of this promise. However, that does not mean that I do not choose to abide in the promise that God will supernaturally give protection. If the devourer is a plague on our crops, God says He will devour him. “I will rebuke him.” If the devourer is recession, God says, “I will rebuke him in your behalf.” God gives supernatural protection to the consistent tither. It is His abundant promise to us.

We are not commanded to tithe because God is dependent upon our gifts of money. This brings the wrong concept of our sovereign God. He is certainly not dependent on you or me. The truth is, God doesn’t need our money. He commands us to tithe in order that we might get involved in His program of economy that unlocks the floodgates of blessing upon us. The whole significance of this passage of Scripture is that when the tithe is presented it releases the vast treasures of heaven and moves God into action in our behalf. It always has and it always will!

God’s apparent problem with us is obvious. It is personal. “You have robbed me.” It is pointed. “In tithes.” But God doesn’t leave us in this sad condition, for we see His appointed program for us. The plan, “bring,” the person “ye,” the proportion “all the tithe,” the place “into the storehouse,” the purpose “that there will be meat in my Father’s house,” and the proposition “and prove me.” Almighty God is saying to us, “put Me on trial. Prove me herewith… tithe!” And once again we have met this program we see God’s abundant promise to us — the promise of provision and the promise of protection. “If you return to me…. I’ll return to you.” This is God’s promise to you today.

The tithe is the Lord’s. It is holy unto Him. And He led the way. The greatest stewardship verse in the Word of God is found in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In light of the cross upon which our Savior died, the question of our text has penetrating proportions. “Will a man rob God?”

Many say, “I know I need to b obedient to God with the tithe, but I just can’t seem to get started. The following are a few simple and proven practical suggestions as to how to begin:

  1. Make it a matter of definite prayer.
  2. Give the tithe priority over everything else. The Bible speaks of our giving of “the firstfruits.” Each time you deposit your paycheck, make sure the first check you write is “unto the Lord.”
  3. Be just as strict and systematic with the tithe as you are in business matters. In fact, even more so, for it belongs to God.
  4. Always rest in the fact that we can trust the Lord. There has never been a consistent tither who was sorry he tithed. The Lord Jesus gave Himself for you and will not allow you to be the loser because you are faithful to His Word and obedient to His will.
  5. GO ahead and do it! “Prove me,” says the Lord, “If I will not open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” (Mal. 3:10) “Return to me, and I will return to you” (Mal. 3:7).

Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying?

Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying? Lord, do it again

Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying? Lord, do it again

Friday, May 7, 2021 12:34 PM
Friday, May 7, 2021 12:34 PM


Ezra 8:21

Ezra 8:21

“Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions” (Ezra 8:21”

It is interesting how throughout history bodies of water, and in particular, rivers, seem to mark spots not only of reflection but also spots of embarkation to new opportunities. For Julius Caesar it was the Rubicon River. He stood there in 49 B.C. The order came disband his armies and give up the struggle to conquer Rom. He pondered the dilemma. He could give up and give in or cross the river and press on. However, once the Rubicon was crossed, there could be no turning back. Caesar made his decision and the rest is history. For George Washington it was the Delaware River. On Christmas night, 1776, he crossed the Delaware and marched on the enemy troops at Trenton. He went on from there to establish the greatest and most unique nation in world history. For General George Patton it was the Rhine River. This river marked a significant crossover point in the fall of Nazi Germany.

The fact that bodies of water often mark spots of embarkation to new opportunities is never truer than within the pages of the Bible. Moses had his Red Sea. For him it was the point of embarkation out of bondage toward the Promised Land. Joshua had his Jordan River. It was the crossover point into the Land of Promise and new challenges and opportunities. Elijah had his own Brook Cherith which prepared him for a life of ministry and power. For Jacob it was the river Jabbok. Israel sat down by the rivers of Babylon, hung their harps on the willows, and lost the song in their heart as they were captive to Babylon.

As the remnant of the children of Israel left their captivity, they made their way back to Jerusalem under the leadership of Ezra. They never made a more important stop on their pilgrimage en route to restoring and repairing their lost heritage than the stop at a little-known river mentioned in only one chapter of the Bible called the river of Ahava. They once knew such glory. Jerusalem! The Temple! But for a time they had been taken into captivity, stripped of their pride. They hung their harps on the willow trees and could not sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land. But now they were returning under the leadership of the likes of Ezra and later Nehemiah. Yes, they were returning to be used of God in restoring the glory of the house of the Lord.

We often hear a lot about what happened when the remnant returned to Jerusalem. In Nehemiah’s book we read how the walls were completed and how Ezra stood to read the Word of God, and all the people gathered as “one man” in the square and wept as they heard the Word of God. However, we seldom hear about one of the most important parts of their journey. They made a strategic stop along the way. Ezra “gathered them by the river that flows to Ahava, and camped there three days” (Ezra 8:15). The Bible goes on to record that Ezra “proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions” (Ezra 8:21). They stopped at the river of Ahava to seek the Lord for two things — to humble themselves and to find the right way home.

These men and women had been through difficult times. Their leadership had failed them in the past. They had some leaders that were more interested in self-serving than they were in leading the people. Their leaders had used their people to build their own positions instead of using their positions to build their people. They had been without direction for a period of years. They had hung their harps on the willow trees. They had no spirit of conquest. They longed “for the good old days.” Now Ezra comes on the scene and God appoints him to lead them back Jerusalem to restore their lost heritage. He is no real hero. He is simply God’s appointed leader in God’s own time.

There is a sense in which we see many of our own churches’ pilgrimages here. Like Israel of old, we know what it is to have seen the glory. Perhaps some of us have had leadership difficulties in the past. Some have hung their harps and longed for the good old days. Sometimes we forget how greatly God has blessed our churches.

We are on the march. But we need to make an important stop at our own river of Ahava. Why? To humble ourselves and seek from Him the right way for us; He is not through with us yet. We also are going to seek the right way for “our little ones,” those who are coming after us, and seek the right way from Him for “all our possessions.” It is interesting that Ezra adds this in Ezra 8:21 along with seeking the right way for our families. Why does He deal with our possessions? Because Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).

We are living in a time when churches all over the Western world need a new paradigm, one that goes beyond the traditional dimension of properties and buildings and programs, a new paradigm that touches a world. As many of our churches stand at the banks of the river of Ahava, we have a unique opportunity. What has happened to many churches in America over the last twenty years? One of the reasons God has blessed us in so many ways is that we have given ourselves to so many people and so many ministries outside our walls. Our world mission projects literally are around the world today. They are out there from hospitals in India to seminaries in Canada, hundreds of other projects where our churches have given so sacrificially not only of our money but also of our time and talents. We have not awakened to the fact that our own local bases are in need. Like Jerusalem, some of our own walls are beginning to break down. This is particularly true in some of our children’s areas. Many have already lost a couple of generations to the church.

The Western church needs to camp here at our own river of Ahava for a while. Why? “Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions” (Ezra 8:21). When I was pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, we called a fast. There was nothing legalistic about it. We challenged each other to fast on Fridays (sundown Thursday to sundown Friday). Then we received a love offering for some much-needed remodeling of our present facilities and upgrading of much of our equipment. As pastor, I certainly could identify with Ezra who went on to say, “So I was encouraged, as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me; and I gathered leading men of Israel to go up with me” (Ezra 7:28). As pastor in Dallas, I lived with these words of Ezra for the many weeks we challenged our people according to Ezra 8:21.

Many people in our churches have disposable income. Giving a worthy offering on a special day for some is not much of a sacrifice. Others wonder, “Where will we ever get anything extra to be able to give to the Lord through this offering?” I remind you of the words of Solomon in Proverbs 13:23. He said, “Much food is in the fallow ground of the poor.” What does this mean? Fallow ground is ground that hasn’t been plowed or planted in a long time. The Bible says there are resources available of which we’re not even aware but will be as we pray and fast and seek the Lord’s will and way. One of our deacons related to me the story of a lake lot he had owned for years. It had simply been sitting there with nothing happening, and it dawned on him that this lot was “food in the fallow ground” that he could sell and bring to the Lord’s offering. There is probably enough jewelry in safe deposit boxes in Dallas that hasn’t been taken out in years to educate all of our young preachers and send all of our missionaries to the field!

When Moses raised the money for the building of the tabernacle, the people prayed, met God in the offering, and brought their offerings for God to Moses in such a fashion that he had to stand up finally and say, “Please don’t bring any more. We have more than enough for the task. Yes, Lord, do it again! Do it again, Lord, like you did in 1 Chronicles 29 when David raised the money for the temple in Jerusalem. Do it again Lord like you did when Ezra went back to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Ezra said, “The freewill offering of the people and the priests, are to be freely offered for the house of their God in Jerusalem” (Ezra 7:16). LORD, DO IT AGAIN!

Lord, do it again. What will it take? It will take four things to awaken the church. The “where” is important. The “what” is impassioned. The “why” is imperative. And, the “who” is implicit.

The where is important

“Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava…” Ezra 8:21

It was “there at the river of Ahava” That Ezra camped with his people for a certain period of time. They were on their way out of years of bondage. Ahava preceded the blessing of the rebuilding of the temple. As they camped at Ahava, they were not what they were going to be, but they were not what they used to be either. There is a sense in which most of us find ourselves at this strategic point of our journey at our own river of Ahava.

These men and women of old were about to make a momentous decision to leave the relative security and comfort of a life in exile to which they had become accustomed and comfortable. This can happen in a church when they’ve lived without really being challenged for a period of time. The Jews I exile under Artaxerxes found favor and were granted permission to take a remnant back to the Holy City. The river of Ahava was a separating point between the two places. It was the place along the journey where they either went forward or turned back to be content with an existence outside Canaan.

The church stands on the brinks of our own river of Ahava. We can exist a few more years as we are, but we will not settle for that. We have seen the glory in the past. We’re at a place in our own pilgrimage that calls on us to do the impossible and become true crossover people. As we stand at our river, we can look both ways. We can look to Babylon which would be the easy route. It’s the way that calls for no real sacrifice. Or, we can go on up to Jerusalem where the Lord has called us. The “where” is an important point along our journey. Ahava is the deciding point.

There are many of us at our own personal river of Ahava, that place where we must decide to go on or turn back, for some of us in relationships with others or even in our relationship with Jesus Christ. The “where” is important. The river of Ahava is the separating point.

The what is impassioned

“… I proclaimed a fast…” Ezra 8:21

What did Ezra do there at the river of Ahava? He “proclaimed a fast.” They fasted for three days. They were impassioned. If the Lord is to do it again with us, it will take our men and women beseeching Him with prayer and fasting. Fasting most often appears in the Bible in connection with prayer. Down through the centuries the people of God have practiced fasting; that is, doing without food for a certain period of time. Why? To focus our attention on our prayer need. To allow every simpler hunger pain to remind us of our point of prayer. It is a personal discipline. People in Bible days fasted at many times and for many reasons. They fasted on the Day of Atonement. They fasted in times of need, such as war (Judges 20:26, 1 Samuel 7:6). They fasted in times of sickness (2 Samuel 12:16). They fasted in times of mourning (1 Chronicles 10:12). They fasted in times of repentance (Nehemiah 9:1). They fasted in times of danger (Esther 4:3, 16). They fasted in times of preparation for ministry (Exodus 34:28, Daniel 9:3). In the midst of fasting, the Bible warns about making it a show for others to see (Jeremiah 14:12). In fact, Jesus rebuked the religious phonies of His day who put ashes on their faces to look long and drawn during days of fasting so that people might look upon them and see them as spiritual. He told us when we fasted that we should wash our face and get well groomed so as not to be a show for those around (Matthew 6:16-18). True fasting is always accompanies by prayer, humility, and confession. God seems to honor our turning aside from time to time from ordinary pleasures and pursuits in order to humble ourselves and to seek from Him the right way.

Ezra stood on the banks of the river of Ahava with the vision of rebuilding the broken walls. He had a vision of what could lie ahead for the Jewish people. Therefore, he called his people to get on their knees and to seek God in humility for the right way. A leader is not a leader without a vision and without calling his people to prayer. There’s never been a greater need for us to get on our knees and stay there until God directs each of us His way as we plead with Him to “do it again.” The “where” is important. IT was there at the “river of Ahava,” the separating point. The “what” is impassioned. They got serious in seeking the Lord with prayer and fasting.

The why is imperative

“…that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way…” Ezra 8:21

Why did Ezra proclaim a fast at the river of Ahava? That he and his people might humble themselves before God and seek from the Lord the right way. They could have gone back to Jerusalem with self-determination and pumped up positive mental attitudes with the idea that “we can do it” in our own strength. Or, he could have played the guilt game and sought to get the people to give of their time and treasures and talents through motivating them by guilt. He could have played the grudge game and sought to get them to give out of a grudge, not because they wanted to , but because they felt they had to. Instead, we join him in simply beseeching the Lord and learning more about grace giving — meeting God in the offering and giving as He puts it upon our hearts.

Why should we fast? To humble ourselves before God. And to seek from Him the right way, to depend upon Him. It is imperative to seek from Him the right way. The Hebrew translation means that we are to seek from Him the straight journey, the direct road so that we would not be turned aside by those who seek to get us off track. There are always those people in the Bible and people today who seek with their own agendas to try to get us onto detours, dead ends, cul-de-sacs or even side streets. They “why” is imperative. For us, it is to humble ourselves before God as a church and to seek from Him the right way.

The who is implicit

“… for us and our little ones and all our possessions.” Ezra 8:21

Now, for whom are we going to beseech God over the next few weeks? First, for “us.” Sometimes when we’ve been a Christian for years, we think we no longer need to seek from Him the right way for ourselves. Some Christians seem to get on automatic pilot and sail along through the Christian life with nothing ever being fresh and new in the way of seeking from God the right way day by day. There are a lot of things in our own personal lives and in our church life for which we need to seek the right way for us. There are many prayer needs at this particular point of our juncture. God is not through with us yet. There are some who have been coasting for a time, some who are just waiting to get back in the joy of the Lord. We need direction individually.

This is for us. Every single one of us is important to God. No one else has a fingerprint like mine, or a DNA like yours. There are many people in our churches who do not have much time left to do something big for God. Many of our people have resources that ought to be in God’s work.

Ezra says we are to seek the right way not only for us, but also our “little ones.” Ezra was wise enough to know that there was a whole generation coming after them for whom they had a responsibility. We used to sing a song that spoke volumes to my heart. The song related our hope in saying, “May all who come behind us find us faithful.” Many of us rejoice in the wonderful church facilities we have had through the years because of the tremendous sacrifices of those who went before us. Now we must pass the baton to the next generation, and I wonder if those who come behind us will find us as faithful as those from whom we’ve enjoyed the blessings over these last years. Many of us have children and grandchildren who will learn about Christ and receive Him as a personal Savior in our churches. Our children and the children of adults we will reach in the future may never know the true way unless we cross our own river of Ahava and are faithful in our own stewardship. Some of us have never had to make significant sacrifices for what we’ve enjoyed for years. Someone else did — another generation. But now it is our turn. When Israel was on their way back to Jerusalem, they were called upon to “Go through, Go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway! Take out the stones, lift up a banner for the peoples!” (Isaiah 62:10). They were to prepare the way, pave the way, and point the way. But why? They were already on the way. They were already there. They built up the highway and left the banners to point the way for those many who were coming after them. We too have an obligation to pave the way so it will be easier for those who come after us to get home. It is no wonder, Ezra said, that we were to seek the right way not  only for us, but also for “our little ones.”

Finally, he said we were to seek the right way from God, for us, our little ones, and “all our possessions.” It dawned on them that they were stewards and that they needed God’s direction, the right way, not only for themselves and their children, but for all their possessions. We are but stewards passing through this world. We own nothing. We are but stewards. Some of us have sought the right way for ourselves and for our children, but have never thought of asking God what we should do with our possessions.

The children of Israel never had a more important stop on their pilgrimage back to rebuild the glory of Jerusalem than at the river of Ahava. Nor will we at our own river of Ahava. It is the palace where we proclaim a fast, humble ourselves, and seek from Him the right way for us, our little ones, and for all our possessions. Ezra 8:23 records, “So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.” I pray that this verse will be written all over our churches. In fact, this has been the testimony of God’s people down through the centuries. Ezra goes on to say that, “Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. And the hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambush along the road” (Ezra 8:31). The Jews returned to Jerusalem, and they turned over their treasures. The journey which began with a fast ended with a feast, and the chapter concludes with these words, “So they gave support to the people and the house of God” (Ezra 8:36).

Here we are. Lord, do it again. What will it take? It will take stopping by our own river of Ahava on the way back. The “where” is important. It will take getting serious with God in prayer and fasting. The “what” is impassioned. It will take humbling ourselves before God and seeking from Him the right way. The “why” is imperative. Finally, it will take seeking the right way for us, our children, and all of our possessions. The “who” is implicit.

Money Talks - But What Is It Really Saying?