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Matthew

Social Security

Matthew 6:19-34

Lesson audio

The problem of wealth in America is largely confined to the middle class. The rich feel it in different ways; the poor have so little that they must trust God. But it is almost a definition of the American middle class that they see in their finances clear and present danger. It shows up in (at least) these three ways:

  • The desire for security. To know that you have enough money packed away so that you won’t have to worry. You have to worry now, of course, but later you won’t have to. (Big surprise coming on that theory).
  • The desire for saving face. If you have money problems, and we all do at one time or another, you don’t want to let it show. Otherwise, people will conclude you do have money problems. Then they might offer to help – and how would that make you feel?
  • The desire for the “right stuff.” We want so much to be accepted in the group; we therefore want to buy the right thing. The slightest mistake in constructing the look (or the rebuild on the house) is worse than death.

So let us see what our Lord has to say about all this:

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. "The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. "But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? "And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? "And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

(Mat 6:19-34 NASB)

Looking for Security

“It doesn’t cost to look.” Yes it does. If you’re looking for security in the form of your money (or pension, or Social Security, or whatever), just looking can give you problems:

  • You get to worry about what might be. It is a fact that God will not take your worries from you if you’ve borrowed them. God does not deal in “might be” but “is.”
  • You become, in fact, less secure. If you put your heart where your money is, you transfer what is valuable to a place where it can be stolen or used up.
  • This also divides you – for a while. Usually the Christian will try to serve two masters, and it works for a while. The deciding point is often unnoticeable. That’s why Christ tells us to seek first the kingdom.
Security in God

My wife’s father tells me that money is a fine servant but a poor master. He is wealthy in this world’s things, so I suppose he knows it from experience.

Experience. Think back upon your own experience, see with path you have followed:

  • Those who put their faith in God experience a “trust relationship.” That’s a relationship in which each party must have trust for the other. Each knows the other to be trustworthy; promises will be kept.
  • Those who put their faith in money have a “service relationship.” Neither party can trust the other, so precautions must be taken, progress monitored carefully and audits run to catch anything going astray.

Both these are methods of managing the future. Now, knowing that the future, like the past, belongs to God, just which method do you think is going to work?

Tithing

Most of us see out tithes as provision for the preacher. This is good; your tithe says that you support your church.

But your tithe also tells this story: you believe in God’s providence. No matter what else may occur, you believe that 90% with God will be more secure than 100% without Him.

Now the math of that does not seem to work. But math is very short on trust[1]. If you want to measure the results, get a calculator. If you want the results to measure, tithe.

Saving Face

“I don’t have any money problems – at least not that I’d want you know about.” When money troubles arrive we don’t want anyone to know. We’ll do almost anything to save face.

For example, here’s something that happened to me – and stuck so that I put it into our cookbook:

Beans, in our society, are somewhat a symbol of hard times, of poverty.  We
sometimes say that a person is "down to their last bean." I know the feeling. The layoff
is the cloud over the aerospace industry, and when I was laid off, we ate beans.  Lots
of beans, particularly in Navy Bean Soup. We were a young couple, with one child and
another on the way, and it was rather a difficult time.  The church we attended was
mostly middle class, and being out of work was somehow not quite respectable.  So
when anyone asked, "How are things going?" I always answered, "Fine." My pride was
not going to allow me to say what I was really thinking: "I'm worried stiff, don't have two
nickels to make change for a dime, and I have a wife who's pregnant and a small child
to care for."

It was a small church,  however.   In a small group you notice these things.   So one day
the minister's wife (a sweet soul) came up to me (privately) and handed me a food
basket.
You want to know what pride is? It's wondering how you're going to pay for next
week's groceries, and still saying "Give it to somebody who needs it." It sounds so
generous, so self-sacrificing, so "Christian" and it's so false. Praise God, the lady was
wiser and gentler than I. "John," she said, "how are they going to learn to give if you
will not receive?"

Accepting what God gives us

One occasionally gets the complaint that God not very forthcoming in providing. Why is it that all those promises about prayer seem to go unfulfilled?

  • One reason is that you may be using God as an means to your end. “Oh Lord, make me the smartest investor in the stock market,” is not going to be met with the answer you want. It may, however, cause you to lose enough that you begin to pay attention to the God you pray to.
  • Another reason is that you might not be giving faithful stewardship of the money you have. If He can’t trust you with a little, will He give you a lot?

Seek contentment in the kingdom of God first. Then He will provide for you.

It is well to review some of the symptoms first:

  • Are you misusing what He has given you, in order that you may have “more?” This can be as obvious as the heroin addict stealing to support his habit or as subtle as a man buying a car for the status it gives. If you only shop at the Mercedes dealership you’re pretty certain to come away with a Mercedes.
  • For others, impulse buying is best done by credit card. Don’t think; want. Grab it now! This is a sinkhole for money.

But for many of us there are times when the money is tight through no fault of our own. (Any father who has given his daughter in marriage knows this story). Medical bills often can cause this. If so, are we still too proud to admit the difficulty?

Envy

One of the sure symptoms of saving face is envy. Your neighbors all have big, powerful, high speed cabin cruisers. You have a rowboat. Obviously, you need a cabin cruiser, right? That’s what the world will tell you. But let’s see if your neighbors understand your problem. The test? They are constantly telling you that you’ll get a great deal on a boat down at their dealership.

And what do you do about it? Worry – about how you’ll ever keep up.[2]

Get along, go along

Sometimes we want what the other guy has; other times we just want to be one of the boys. It is amazing what people will spend just to be thought one of the right people.

That’s the thrust of Christ’s point when he speaks about the eye being the light of the body. He, and his hearers, would have been familiar with the thought that “the eye is to the body as the mind is to the soul.” So the question might be asked, just what am I looking for? Sometimes it is our personal gain, but more often it is our own glory. “I am so cool.” If our eyes are constantly comparing us with others (who, of course, define “cool”) then they are not looking for the things of God. You know it, of course:

  • The desire for the “right” things, such as the right clothes, the right car, the right neighborhood.
  • The unthinking purchase: it looked cool, so I bought it. I didn’t even look at the price.
  • The unthinkable purchase: I had the abortion because being pregnant and (insert excuse here) is definitely not cool.

Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.

Easily led astray

The Christian is taught to be holy, as God is holy. Sometimes this drives us away from the saving face or social acceptability. The way we remain holy starts with “lead us not into temptation.” We balk at that when it comes to money; we know what our wallets should look like. Perhaps we should find out what he wants our wallets to look like. He is sovereign; do you believe it?

Finale

Recently I have installed a personal finance program on my computer. Setting it up means that I have to get all the records into it. It’s a great reminder of how much I have. It also brings up temptation: I have so much, what could a little more hurt?


[1] Except, of course, for Fermat’s Last Theorem

[2] The opportunity for sacrifice in such situations should be quite evident – and isn’t.

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