Fruitful Use of Treasure
Topic: Biblical Verse: 1 Timothy 6:6–6:19
The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
Fall Stewardship Series: “Bearing Fruit for Jesus”
October 13-14, 2012
“Fruitful Use of Treasure”
We’re in week 3 of our 4-week stewardship series, entitled “Bearing Fruit for Jesus.” This is based on Jesus’ words from John 15 that we spoke after the Scripture lesson: Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches. By remaining, abiding, in him we bear much fruit, for apart from him we can do nothing. What does that fruit-bearing look like in our lives? It includes fruitful use of time – managing that tremendous gift that God has given us. It includes fruitful use of talents – managing the unique gifts and abilities that God has bestowed on each one of us. It also includes fruitful use of treasure – managing the monetary resources that God has entrusted to our care. That’s what we are focusing on today.
There are lots of pithy sayings about money out there – here are just a few of them: “A penny saved is a penny earned” (Benjamin Franklin), “A fool and his money are soon parted” (anonymous), “Money is like manure. You have to spread it around or it smells” (J. Paul Getty), “Money often costs too much” (Ralph Waldo Emerson), “Money doesn’t grow on trees” (anonymous). And here’s another one: “Money is the root of all evil.” Did you catch that? Hopefully you did, because that’s not accurate although you often hear it. The actual phrase is “The love of money is the root of all evil,” found in Scripture; in fact, found in today’s Scripture reading (1Timothy 6:6-19). There is much wisdom here in this passage from God’s Word, penned by the apostle Paul and written to the young pastor, Timothy – wisdom for us today in understanding and managing treasure, financial resources, money for the glory of God and for the good of others. The message for today, based on this passage from 1Timothy, is entitled “Fruitful Use of Treasure.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word, for Jesus’ sake.
Paul has some pretty clear words about money in today’s Scripture lesson: the love of money is the root of all evil, we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it (witness that you never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul – you really cannot take it with you!), those wanting to get rich fall into temptation, do not put trust in wealth but in God and so lay up treasure in heaven. As we consider fruitful use of treasure, Paul’s words are very instructive. My wife and I are taking a class this fall: Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. You may have heard him on his radio show giving financial advice to people everywhere. It’s very eye-opening and behind it all is behavior modification that is rooted in the truth of God’s Word about how we think of and use money. We live in a culture today where our use of debit and credit cards has really changed our approach toward money. Swiping these cards is so easy, but it removes us from actual contact with real money. One of the behavior modifications that Dave Ramsey advocates is going back to using cold, hard cash. By paying cash for purchases – groceries, gas, clothing, etc., we will be much more watchful of how we spend our money. Automatic overdraft loans netted banks more than $29.5 billion last year, which is about one-third of total banking revenue on an annual basis (quoted in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, p. 41). How can we make fruitful use of money for God’s kingdom work when we’re having trouble managing money at home? If we do not make money – the earthly treasure God has entrusted to our care – our servant, it will soon be our master. This isn’t a public service announcement for Dave Ramsey, but I do applaud his efforts and others like him who are exposing the credit crisis, the money management mess that we are in, in order to turn this around for the glory of God and for the good of others. Now, what I have outlined may not apply to you at all. You may never have had a overdraft charge on your bank account, you may never had been late in paying a bill, and if so, praise God! Praise God for the wise and faithful stewardship of money in your life; however, there are many who struggle with this and need help. What would happen to individual lives and the life of our nation if this trend were reversed? What would happen to all those marriages now torn apart by conflict and strife over money mismanagement? What would happen to all those graduates who carry staggering student loan debt? What would happen to our children if they learned the importance of saving and buying only what you can afford versus putting everything on a credit card? What amazing doors of opportunity would be opened! The terrible national debt of $16 trillion that now plagues our country would begin to melt away, but it must begin with each one of us.
Paul closes today’s Scripture lesson with these words: “… that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1Timothy 6:19). When all is said and done, earthly treasure – money – is a lifeless non-entity. It is neither good nor evil, but is made so by how we make use of it. Jesus came that we may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). That full and abundant life which Jesus came to bring is, like Paul writes, “pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11). These are things that money cannot buy, but they are the result of fruitful living for the Lord Jesus Christ. By remaining, abiding, in him, we bear much fruit. In giving his life for our sins on the tree of the cross, Jesus died that we might live – really live, as God’s Word tells us: “And he died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves but for him who their sake died and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:15). It all comes down to this: who – or what – are we living for? Jesus tells us that we can’t serve two masters; we’re going to hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). Who – or what – are we serving? Who – or what – are we living for?
Seven years ago this month, our congregation was poised to begin a very aggressive and very expensive building renovation and expansion program. We crunched the numbers and knew we were right on the edge – so much so that the Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) turned down our loan. We did find a lender who was willing to work with us, but the monthly debt service for the work planned would amount to over $30,000. People were understandably nervous and concerned, but it was the eleventh hour and it was nearing time to sign on the dotted line for the loan and with the contractor. And then, our 95-year-old next door neighbor, Mrs. Posey, passed away. We sensed that this might be an opportunity, and after a respectable time, congregational leaders approached Mrs. Posey’s daughter about purchasing their 1.8 acre property adjoining the church property. She was open to this, and so we proceeded. Our congregation recognized that this was a unique opportunity – one that we might never have again – and voted to walk away from previous plans (and all the money invested in these) and walk through this new door which the Lord had opened. St. John’s purchased this property for $1.8 million, and over these last six years, we have paid off two-thirds of this indebtedness. We now have approximately $600,000 remaining to pay, which I pray we will be able to do over the next three years. In all of this, we see the hand of the Lord at work closing one door and opening another. My friends, I believe this is truly fruitful use of money. To God be the glory!
May the Lord be glorified through our own fruitful use of money, and his kingdom work be strengthened through us. Amen.