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Stewardship – Money and our Purpose

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

Stewardship Series
Week 1: Money and our Purpose

Who are you? What is your identity?
We answer this in a variety of ways. I belong to the Barrett clan. I am a man. Husband. Father. Grandfather. A pastor.
All true.

But this morning, I want to dig down to something more foundational. In light of God and eternity and humanity, who am I?

And there is a second question I want to answer: Why am I here? Why am I on the earth? Do I have a purpose?
What we’re really asking is, “What is my life all about? And, does my life have meaning?” Am I here for a reason? Or am I some cosmic accident?

The answers to this question have been rolling around in my head and heart for several weeks now. How we answer that question shapes… how we live our lives. And let me say this: Every human alive answers this question in error until God helps them see what is true….because there is something in our human nature that blinds us—at least in part—to the true answer to the question, “Who am I.”

We are beginning a 3-week series looking at what the Bible has to say about money. You might ask, “What in the world does my identity have to do with money?”

I propose it has everything to do with it.

Money by itself is neutral. It is just numbers in a bank account. Just material objects. It is morally neutral. But the Bible is clear: money is connected to our hearts. And God is ultimately interested in our hearts. One example of the connection of money and our hearts: Jesus’ own words.
Matthew 6:21 ESV “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

So to make the full circle, “Who I am” and “Why am I here”— these are heart and mind questions that affect the outcome of our lives.

Who Am I?
Who are you? Who am I?

40 years ago, God saved my soul. I believed in Jesus Christ, and I was born again. If you wonder what that all means, I would truly enjoy talking with you more about it. Or talk to a friend here at Stonebrook. But before that time, I don’t remember ever wondering about those deep questions like, “Who am I” and “Why am I here.” Perhaps subconsciously I thought about them, but I have no recollection.

However, after believing in Christ as a 19-year old, I realized not only were those crucial questions, God actually has revealed his answers to them in the Scriptures. I don’t need to imagine what the answers are, or develop my own answers. God has given the answers.

So this morning, I want to begin answering that in the most fundamental way.

Genesis 1:1 ESV “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

This is how the Bible begins.

If this is true….if God truly did create the heavens and the earth—and I am completely convinced he did… then this one simple sentence begins to shape our answer to the questions of “Who am I” and “Why am I here.”

(As an aside, the reason I’ve been studying the first 3 chapters in Genesis is that we pastors and many of our leaders are digging into the Bible with a simple approach we call, “The Twenty Passage Challenge.” We make a list of our 20 favorite passages and daily read, study, and obey. Our goal is to go deeper in the Bible together, and let God transform our lives. It’s been a blast for me. So Genesis chapters 1, 2, and 3, are my 4th passages I’ve studied.

Now back to Genesis 1:1, “God created the heavens and the earth.”

Then just down the page, we get more details.
Genesis 1:27 ESV “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
God created the stars in the sky. He created this 8000-mile diameter ball called the Earth that we are on. And importantly, he created man and woman in his likeness. He made us.

The Scriptures emphasize this from cover to cover. And I believe it with all my heart. And that belief has shaped my life for 40 years.

But if we doubt this, the rest of the Bible and the foundations of Christianity itself are on shaky ground. Because God made us, and he made us in his image, we are unlike all other creatures on the earth. We are the crowning point of his creation.

So who are you?
A creation of God. Made in his image. This gives ultimate meaning and identity in life.
You and I are not cosmic accidents. Your parents might have said your existence is an accident, or even that you were unwanted. But God had a plan, and it included you. And he crafted you in your mother’s womb, and made you like him. I’m not precisely sure what that “image” entails, but it makes you very special in his sight.

Again, you might be wondering what in the world this has to do with Money. Hold on. Trust me, it’s crucial.

Then the second question:
Why are you here? What is the purpose for your existence?
Colossians 1:16 ESV “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”

I’ve been praying for you all this week that this would sink in. This is life-altering.

On Thursday, I saw a video clip of an author of a new book. In this clip, he said, “We are all here for a reason. We have a purpose.” I agree completely. I haven’t read his new book, so I don’t know if his reasons for living line up with God’s reasons for our living.

So the NT here in Colossians is, in a way, repeating the message of Genesis 1. And it tells us a little more. Not only were you made by God, you were made FOR God. This verse, speaking about Jesus Christ. You are created for him. For his purposes. As part of his plan.

Only in arrogance and ignorance do we deny that core identity and purpose.

This message is all over the NT. For example, in Philippians 1:21, Paul says, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” As long as Paul was alive, his life was orbiting like a planet around the sun (S-U-N), which is the Son (S-O-N). The implications of this are staggering. They are all-encompassing. They give direction to your life.

This past week on Wednesday, as is my habit, I was spending time in the morning worshiping and praying. (For me, I pray out loud and walk around my living room and dining room. If I don’t keep my feet and my lips moving, my mind is prone to wandering quite easily.)
So I was praying for my day. I had a long and important list of To Do’s. Very long. Christmas and New Year was over. Faithwalkers conference was over. Now I was back to work. And even though it was a Wednesday, it felt like a Monday after a long vacation. Honestly, I didn’t feel like getting back at it. And my list of To Do’s was long.

So I began praying, acknowledging to the Lord that I didn’t feel fired up about getting back to work. As I was praying, the Holy Spirit brought to my mind these truths from Genesis and Colossians. With my entire list of To Do’s, in prayer I committed them to the Lord. I prayed, “Lord, my life belongs to you. I am here for you. Show me what I should do today. Help me to walk by faith, not by sight. Give me wisdom and direction. Guide my steps. I have been created BY you and FOR you. Help me, that my life today would be lived for you.”

Let me give you one more Scripture that doubly emphasizes the truth that you are on this earth BY God and FOR God.
Ephesians 2:10 ESV “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

If we had more time, we would study vs. 1-9. There we find a beautiful summary of the Gospel message of salvation. Of how we can live forever. We were dead before God because of our sin. We were not children of God, but children of wrath, headed for destruction.

But God is great in love and rich in mercy, and he sent his Son, Jesus Christ. When we believe in him, we are made alive. We are born again. Not by our good works, lest we can boast. Rather, we are made alive through faith in Jesus Christ.

Now here in vs. 10, instead of saying we are saved by our good works, Paul says the opposite. God has created you in his Son— given you new life, new birth, born again– to do good works. The outcome and a purpose of your new life in Christ is to live out the plan of works God has established for you to do.

We were born once physically. In Christ, we are born again spiritually. In both instances, we are created BY Christ and FOR Christ.

This is so important. I don’t know if I’m explaining it very well. God owns us twice over. Thru physical and spiritual birth, we belong to him. And we are made FOR him. For his purposes. To do his will.

The very reason for our existence is for God. He loves us. He made us. He made us in his image. He saved us. Now He wants us to live in the plan he has for us.

One of my most frequent prayers in the morning is based on Jesus’ instruction for prayer:
Matthew 6:10 “May your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Many mornings, even this past week, I have prayed, “Lord, today as I go about my life as a child of yours, as a husband, friend, father, and pastor, may your will be done. May I do your will. May others do your will.”

We can all talk about living for a purpose. But if that purpose—as noble as it might be—if that purpose is not under the overarching purpose of God for you, that it is pointless.

How Does This Connect with Money?

So…. we are in a 3-week series on money. What does any of this have to do with money?

Since you are created BY him and for him, every aspect of your life is to be for him. Your time… is to be used for him. Your job…. s to be centered around Christ. Your school work. Your family. Your money. Involvement in the church. On the mission God has given us. All of this is to be under the headship of God. To do his will.

Pastors (like me) often speak of “stewardship” of our money. Stewardship means you are managing something that has been entrusted to you by the Owner.

God has entrusted to us the care, not just of money, but of our physical lives and our spiritual lives. We are his, and so we are Stewards—Managers– of our own lives.

The greatest commandment is in that vein:
Matthew 22:37 ESV You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
With everything we have—our very breath—we are to love the Lord. Our jobs. School. Family. Time. Activities. And our money. We love him with all we have. We are created BY him and FOR him. We are created in Christ—born a second time— BY him and FOR him.

If this is our conviction, we will look at all of life—including money— in a very different way.

So Now What?
So now what?

So far, we are talking about the big picture. This overarching purpose of life. But it doesn’t seem very specific yet. So what specifically does all this mean concerning our money and possessions? As I said earlier, money in itself is morally neutral. It is neither inherently good nor bad. The good or the bad comes in how we view money and what we use it for. The Scriptures actually speak frequently of money and possessions. God gives commands. He gives principles to follow. He gives wisdom on how to handle money well.

That is what we will look at the rest of this morning and also the next 2 Sundays.…how we are to steward our lives, particularly in this area of money and possessions.

Matthew 6:19–34 (ESV)

This morning, we’ll spend the remainder of our time in Matthew 6. If you have a Bible, I encourage you to turn to it. In this passage, Jesus has some commands and warnings for us about money and possessions and our hearts. In order to be good stewards of our lives, including our money, we should pay attention to Jesus’ words.

In this passage, I see seven application points for us all related to money and our Stewardship of our lives, including our money.

Let’s read Matthew 6.

Store Treasures
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

The first application by Jesus:
1. Store treasures (vs. 19-21)

Use your money for things that will matter in heaven. Greed. Materialism. Worry. Worldly priorities. That is treasuring the things on the earth. The here and now.

One of the best ways I have found to store my treasure in heaven is in giving. Giving money and possessions away. By faith. With no strings attached. Not to make people like me. Not to impress God or others.

Simply to be generous because God is generous, since I am made in his image.
For wherever our treasure is, our heart will be. So if I want my heart to be in heaven and on God and on eternal things, I have to put my treasure there.

Guard our Hearts
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The second application by Jesus (and related to the first) is:
2. Guard our hearts (vs. 21)

As our Creator, Jesus is quite away of our fickle hearts. We can easily treasure things on earth inappropriately…. Things that rust and wear out, and have no intrinsic eternal value.

We must not underestimate the lures of money.
For most of us, money has a subtle but powerful influence on our hearts. Daydreaming about money. Longing for more and better possessions. Wishing we would win the lottery so that we can quit our jobs and all our troubles would go away. All these things can capture our hearts.

The issue here is not about having wealth. It’s about longing for it. 1 Timothy 6 does not say “Money is the root of all kinds of evil.” It says, “The love of money….just the love of it… is the root of all kinds of evil.”

So any activity or daydreaming or slaving at a job or spending $2 on a lottery ticket…. anything that increases our longing and love for money and stuff is going to lure us away from Jesus, who created us and saved us. If you doubt me, all I would ask is that you consider what Jesus is saying here.

We must not be naïve of the lure of material things to capture our hearts. Jesus says to GUARD OUR HEARTS.

Serve the Lord
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light,
23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Vs. 22-23 are difficult to understand. He is using an analogy of light and eyesight to make a point about money. Here’s what I think Jesus is getting at. “Just as your eyesight affects your whole body, so this area of money affects your life.” If your physical eyesight is bad, it will affect your entire life.
So with money, if we don’t handle this topic well, it will throw our entire lives into darkness.

Then in vs. 24, he is quite clear, making a 3rd application for us.
3. Serve/love the Lord (vs. 24)

Serve the Lord. Love him. Do not straddle the fence, following the lures of money and possession while—at the same time—trying to follow Jesus. You cannot do both. It’s like having a wife and another lover. It simply doesn’t work.

If we say we love the Lord and want to serve him, we must not simply try to avoid serving and loving money and stuff. We must run from it. And reject it. And then pursue our one lover: God.

Don’t be Anxious
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
4. Don’t be anxious (vs. 25,31,34)

Or to say it positively, “Be at Peace.”

Many of you are like me. I can waste precious hours and even days in anxiety. Over money and many other topics. My wife doesn’t worry often. (Perhaps she figures I do enough for two people.)

Jesus is going to tell us more about how and why to have peace over money. So let’s continue reading.

26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

The 5th application by Jesus (and it relates to peace over anxiety):
5. Consider/look (vs. 26,28)
Contemplate. Slow down, stop hurrying.
The world around us has signs of a Creator. Are we contemplating that? Are we looking?

Friday I was in my living room, and I saw 3 squirrels in our tree. And they started chasing each other and running from tree to tree. Like the birds of the air, God provides for them.

Jesus says, “Consider. Consider. Look.” Look at the birds fluttering around us. God provides for them. And you—you who are created in my image and for my purposes—you are infinitely more valuable. Stop being anxious. Instead, be at peace. Consider the birds.

He continue his point:
27 “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,
29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

Go find a native prairie area or forested area. Consider….again, consider….consider the beauty of it. Stop and look. God clothes the surface of the earth with such care and detail and beauty.

In vs. 30, Jesus comes to a central point:
6. Trust (vs. 30)

If we are anxious, it is because we are “of little faith.” We are not trusting God. We don’t believe what he says. We are doubting him.

At the core, doubting God is like calling God a liar. When I doubt God, I am essentially saying, “Well, God, I guess I simply don’t believe you. You are lying.” That is an alarming statement to me.

Jesus calls us to trust God that he is real, that he is good. For if he knows how to feed birds and clothe a field, how much more will he care for you? This doesn’t mean you will never have money trials. It doesn’t mean the bank account will always be full and overflowing. It DOES mean that your Father knows what you need, and you can trust him.

31 “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”

Again, he speaks of anxiety, implying to be at peace.

Seek First
33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
The 7th application by Jesus:
7. Seek first (vs. 33)

Make God first in your heart. Every morning, set the things of God’s kingdom as the highest priority in your life.

One way I do that is to start every day in prayer and the Word. My habit is in prayer I commit that day and all its activities to him. Most mornings this week, I prayed something like this: “Lord, I meet with this person here. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. As my wife and I interact, may your will be done. As I counsel this couple about their marriage, may you be first in my heart and in theirs. As I run this errand and have conversations with strangers, may I have you first in my heart.”

Seek the Lord and the things of his heavenly kingdom first over all other things.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

This command has saved my life many times: Focus on today. One day at a time. Why worry about tomorrow? For today has enough trouble.

Before I wrap up here in one minute, I want to promote one thing: In your bulletin are some details of a class to help us with our finances. Called Financial Peace University. Many of us here at Stonebrook have taken this. My wife and I found it extraordinarily helpful, even life changing. Consider taking it to help you live out what Jesus is calling us to here in Matthew 6. The class is extraordinarily motivating and highly practical. And some of you may want to consider re-taking it.

What Shall We Conclude?

What shall we conclude here this morning?

You and I all have a clear identity and purpose. We don’t need to guess what it is. God has told us.

Who are we?
We have been created by God. We have been created in his image.

Why are we here on earth?
We have been made by him and for him. We have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, through faith in him. So we have been created in Christ for good works, which God prepared for us to walk in.

I think the great challenge now before us to humble ourselves before God. To yield. To surrender to his Lordship and his will. He is the Creator. We are the created ones. He is Lord. We are the servants. We must yield to his authority.

And he is calling us to believe him. To trust him. He has proven his trustworthiness in the greatest of ways by sending his Son as the substitute for the death we deserve. He is a good and gracious God. Our kind, heavenly Father. May we trust him not simply with our money but with our very lives?