PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
(Illustration) A young executive pulled his new Jaguar in front of the office to show his colleagues. As he exited a speeding driver swerved toward him and ripped off the door. The executive grabbed his cell phone, dialed 911, and in less than five minutes the police arrived. Before the policeman could ask a question the executive went into a hysterical outrage. “That crazy driver, I just spent $120,000 on this vehicle and now it’s ruined. The body shop can’t possibly match this car’s color onto another door.” The officer stood in disbelief and then intoned: “I can’t believe how materialistic you are. “You’re so focused on your possessions that you can’t notice anything else.” The executive replied: “How can you be so insensitive when my luxury car has been mutilated?” The officer replied, “Don’t you know your left arm has been ripped off at the elbow?” The executive jerked around his head and in absolute horror began screaming, “Oh no, I’ve lost my Rolex too!”
I know that’s fictitious, but it does help illustrate the undue attention we place on our material riches. I’m preaching, “I Want To Be Happy, But I Don’t Know How,” And right here, top, front, center, and one minute into the message I want to answer that: In order to be content you have to understand what is most important and focus on it. And Jesus Christ is most important. The earth’s purpose is to revolve around the sun and nothing else. Man’s purpose is to revolve around the Son of God.
That’s the bottom line to this message. You have to sell out to what’s important in life or you’ll never be content—you’ll never be happy from the depths of your being. The reason that’s so, is because God created you like nothing else in the universe. You are “created in His divine image.” And nothing but seeking Christ and His Kingdom satisfies.
That’s the meaning of Christ’s statement: “a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (NIV). Life consists with Who possesses us, not the materialism we possess! When we rush toward materialism it cheapens our dignity and demeans our purpose from worshiping God to worshiping “things.” Materialism destroys people because it poisons the root of their being. This is what Solomon so powerfully stated in Proverbs 27:20 when he said “Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of men are never satisfied” (NIV).
We can never satisfy our desires by obtaining the world’s goods. Because the moment we obtain something we begin setting our affection on something else. We’re always thirsty for more!
When Jesus attended the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7 He said: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. (38) Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (NIV). Think about that statement: “If anyone is thirsty?” Jesus knew the crowds were thirsty! Thirst is man’s most dominate instinct. Thirst isn’t like hunger that can be suppressed for days. We’re driven to quench a dehydrated body. Dry, parched thirst overwhelms us. That’s why liquid refreshment products are some of the most prosperous of all products.
(Example) There are cola dispensers on every corner; and there’s never just one, single choice: There’s coke, diet coke, cherry coke, caffeine free coke and caffeine free diet coke. And Pepsi duplicates that. Then there’s RC, Sprite, 7-Up, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, Surge, Orange and Grape soda, fruit drinks, juice drinks, and you-name-it drinks. Why all these choices? Because the Cola industry knows it can capitalize on those that constantly need liquid refreshment. Think about it: you don’t sustain refreshment by drinking one cup of water each morning. Your body constantly demands rejuvenating.
I’ve known people that I wouldn’t recognize without a soda or coffee mug in their hand—they’re always slurping on something. And when Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink,” He meant He was the only true thirst-quencher! And we should drink from Him all day! The reason people chat for hours online and dizzy themselves in social clubs and weary themselves with entertainment and seek out the latest fashions is because they’re looking for happiness—but “in all the wrong places!” To be happy we have to guard against becoming secularized and understand our purpose is to enthrone Jesus at the center of life. Otherwise, we worship at the Altar of Materialism and succumb to greed.
The Danger of Covetousness
Let’s pause and take a deep breath, because I know this message has created tension. That’s because secularism has so masterfully convinced us that “greed is good.” It has appealed to our indulgence and suggested that we can’t be content without the latest “whatever.”
Do you know who is most aware of our propensity toward materialism? Marketers—the advertisement industry! They are constantly brainstorming to devise commercials that arouse a desire for their product. Advertisers are fully aware of our compulsion to obtain more and they know exactly how to get us dissatisfied with our possessions. It’s immaterial whether we need their product, their goal is to make us want it and buy it.
In one night of watching television you can be bombarded with more than 250 messages that suggest you’re missing something. And this marketing strategy works because man’s natural instinct craves “things.” Again, remember what Proverbs 27:20 says: “Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of men are never satisfied.”
(Example) Think about how marketers hook you: Imagine a technology corporation named, “Cunning Computers.” Cunning Computers advertises its latest device by offering a plan that you “Buy and pay no interest for six-months.” It’s a deal you can’t ignore. So thirty minutes later, you’ve succumbed to the charm of that commercial and you’re inside the showroom of Cunning Computers purchasing its offer. For the moment, you feel good all over. But here’s my question: How long will that warm, fuzzy feeling last? A day . . . week . . . a month . . . maybe two months? Then what? Do you upgrade to another one?
(Quote) Mark Twain said: “There is no such thing as material covetousness. All covetousness is spiritual. . . . Any so-called material thing that you want is merely a symbol; you want it not for itself, but because it will content [you] . . . for the moment. . . . It is so with all things . . . while they content . . . they are precious, when this fails, they are worthless.”
Good sermon, Brother Mark! Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting that we throw away modern devices and revert to primitivism. This generation is blessed with developments unknown to any other generation. The Bible never condemns technology or fashion or conveniences. We should delight in using technology but nobody should be consumed with consuming because that’s greed and greed destroys!
You see, cramming life with unnecessary “things” crowds out God and enshrines possessions. And that’s why Colossians 3:5 calls greed “idolatry.” It’s idolatry because we make things our object of affection and it crowds out God!
You’ll have to decide when enough is enough—when the car, carpet, or computer needs replacing.
You’ll have to decide whether to keep the one year-old device or purchase the newer one.
You’ll have to determine when it’s time for a new wardrobe or a different style of sunglasses or even another toothbrush.
The reason I’m being so specific is because Jesus said; no, He “say,” He “shouted”: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.” Jesus understood greed’s destructive power! He knew the continual pursuit for more ruined people.
Greed Separates People From God
Covetousness wrecks, ruins, and destroys our relationship with the Lord because it always separates us from God. It separates us by getting us preoccupied with something other than God. Our affection is divided and we’re consumed with managing “things” rather than fulfilling our destiny of worshiping God and seeking first His Kingdom.
Did you see how greed destroyed the foolish landowner in our text? He thought: “I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. (19) And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry. (20) But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’” (NIV)
Jesus didn’t mind this man building bigger barns. He wasn’t condemning wealth. Jesus condemned this man’s selfishness! The man thought of nobody but himself and it destroyed him. The Bible condemns selfishness because, in the end, it leads to eternal separation from God. That’s why 2 Peter 2:14 calls the greedy “an accursed brood.” Think about that: Peter said that greedy people live under a curse that will eventually seal their fate! I’ve never known anyone to be happy that “hoarded.” Sharing is the only path to contentment! You’re going to wither with loneliness if you succumb to a self-indulgent, miserly lifestyle.
(Insight) Let me share a “general” way to enjoy material blessings: Whatever you acquire—clothes, vehicles, houses, technology, furniture, piano, etc. . . . God wants you to use it, share it, expire its usefulness, and then replace it, because there’s more where that came from. When we treat “things” this way, we understand what Paul meant in 1 Timothy 6:17 when he said, “[God] richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (NIV).
(Example) And remember this, too. Share your material enrichment with others! How would you feel if you searched for the perfect gift for a friend, gave it to them, and a year later discovered them hawking at a yard sale? Well, how do suppose God feels when He blesses us with gifts and we don’t enjoy them and share them with others?
When the house carpet is too plush to walk on there’s a problem.
When our money feels so good that we can’t share it or tithe it greed has jeopardized our spiritual footing. And the Barna Research Group reports that only 3% of Christians tithe.
When the china is too nice for dinner guests there’s a problem! What good are cups and saucers hiding in the cabinet?
Take your possessions and use them, wear them out, and move on! Get happy about your blessings. Don’t let selfishness choke your contentment.
Greed Destroys Faith in God
There is another way greed injures us: Greed destroys our trust in God. The landowner in this parable planned to build bigger storehouses because he couldn’t trust God to supply anything beyond what he had accumulated that season. That’s what greed does. It’s never sure that God will supply anything more than what you presently possess. It inhibits trust in God and creates fear. Remember, the Bible says, “without faith it is impossible to please God.”
If God can rain manna in the desert for over a million people He’ll supply for you.
If He used birds to deliver bread to Elijah He’ll supply for you.
If Jesus could feed 5000 people from one lunch basket you have nothing to fear. God will provide!
And He’ll provide for whatever you need.
Hear me saints of God. Never cling to anything out of fear. If you can’t hold your possessions with faith, let them go! If you’re holding onto something out of fear then you’re doubting God can supply anything more than what you’re so desperately clutching! Some of you may be clinging to a boyfriend or girlfriend that’s not a Believer, or, you know the person you’re dating isn’t God’s choice for you. And it all boils down to that gnawing fiend of doubt that makes you wonder whether God has somebody to rescue you from your loneliness. That’s the sin of fear and it destroys faith in God to supply for the future!
I’ve seen people entrenched in a compromised means of moneymaking because they couldn’t trust God to supply any other way. The reason God can’t move for some people is because they operate from fear and not faith. Listen, if God provided for your needs today He’ll supply tomorrow!
Let’s go back to the beginning—the very beginning. When you examine man’s original estate in the Garden you’ll discover Satan struck at contentment. He taunted Eve with the thought, “You’re missing something. You need more. Eat the fruit or you’ll be deprived!” Satan hurled that temptation at Adam and Eve despite the perfect conditions of their environment!
The Garden of Eden was filled with opulence. There was absolutely no lack. And yet, Adam and Eve bought into the greed-filled lie that said, “Enough isn’t enough.” And for centuries since that time man has repeatedly fallen prey to that lie. The great breakthroughs of the 19th and 20th centuries brought convenience but not contentment. There’s been an explosion of knowledge, which Daniel prophesied would exist in the last days. The technology is astounding that’s arisen from the Industrial Revolution, science, space, medicine, computers, communications, etc. There has been an unparalleled utilization of natural resources. We have the ability to harvest precious metals and crude oil, to purify water of all types, and to turn desert land into fertile fields—things unknown to preceding generations.
But despite the luxuries of modernism, men still live without contentment. The God that created us and fully understands human nature gave the command, “Thou shall not covet.” He issued it because covetousness is the opposite of contentment and it always leaves us unfulfilled. Our toys and gadgets will always tarnish and deteriorate leaving us empty. So what’s the prescription for happiness? How can we guard against greed? Make absolutely certain that Jesus is your focus. Then make your material pursuits in light of four questions: Does this glorify God? Is it a need? Can I share it with others? And will it distract me from God?