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Don't Fall in Love with Money

Series: Better: A Study of the Christian Life in Hebrews

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Oct 6, 2013

Hebrews 13:5-6

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If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me again to Hebrews chapter 13.  We’re going to be looking at verses 5 and 6.  Now already scanning the congregation, I note a number of people who are here tonight who were not here this morning, so if those who were here this morning will bear with me for just a very brief moment I’ll remind everybody to look back to Hebrews chapter 13 verse 1 and allow your eyes to run down all the way through verses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 and get the flow of argument.  The author of Hebrews is telling us how to live the Christian life, or to borrow a phrase from later in the chapter, how to live as a “sacrifice pleasing to God.”  If Paul calls us to be living sacrifices, the author of Hebrews in Hebrews 13 calls us to live as sacrifices pleasing to God.  How do you do that?  He’s telling you in this passage.  First he says let brotherly love continue, show hospitality to strangers, remember those who are in prison and who are mistreated, let marriage be held in honor, keep your life free from the love of money.  So if you follow the argument of these specific exhortations is comes out something like this.  Love Christians, love strangers, love prisoners, love the mistreated, honor marriage, don’t love money!  This is about what we’re supposed to love.  The author of Hebrews is asking us to think about life from the standpoint of the teaching of God’s Word.  That’s one reason why we sang Psalm 1, “Blessed is the Man that Fearing God,” because the blessed man, the righteous man, is the one who has built his life on God’s Word.  And the author of Hebrews is asking us to base our outlook on life on the Word, not derive it from the world.  He wants us to be in sync with the Word of God and out of sync with the world.

A Timely Word

Now this passage that’s before us tonight about the love of money is very, very timely and it hits close to home.  And I’m preaching as much to myself as I am to you.  This is a standing issue in the Christian church and it really ought to shock you that the author of Hebrews is addressing this to a 1st century Jewish Christian congregation.  I mean think of it.  Even in a time of persecution where many Christians were, because of their faithfulness to Christ, losing their possessions, enduring persecution, and from the underclasses.  He’s still worrying about the love of money! He’s still encouraging them not to give in to a preoccupation with, an inordinate desire for, a placing of the treasure of their hearts on money.  That’s amazing, especially in the light of what he’s already said about them.  Would you turn back to chapter 10?  Look in verse 34 in Hebrews chapter 10.  “You had compassion on those in prison” - isn’t that interesting?  He’s started this chapter out by telling them to have compassion on those in prison after already saying that they’re doing it!  And then listen to what he says next - “and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property.”  There are people in this congregation that he is preaching to, that he’s writing to, who because of the testimony of Jesus, because they love the Lord, because they’re basing their life on the Word, they’ve lost property!  And he’s still telling them don’t love money!  

A Sobering Perspective

That ought to have your attention because by comparison, we are fantastically wealthy.  We are far - I don’t know this congregation at all personally.  I only know it through the Word.  I don’t know what the condition of the congregation was in terms of its material wealth - how many people came from families with assets, how many people had jobs that allowed them to live at a higher standard of living, how many of them were impoverished.  I don’t know that.  You can derive some things, you can guess some things; I don’t know.  I do know our congregation and I do know our country.  If this congregation had to be warned against the love of money, how much more do we?  If you make $50,000 a year, there’s a total of $50,000 of income coming into your household a year, you are in the top 50% of income earners in the United States of America and you are in the top 0.28% of income earners in the entire world, if there’s a total of $50,000 coming into your home this year. If you make $89,000, if $89,000 are coming into your home, you are in the top 25% of income earners in the United States and you are in the top 0.08% of income earners in the entire world.  If you make $89,000 a year, there are only a few million people out of seven billion that make as much as you do in the entire world.

A Standing Issue

So this issue is a standing issue.  It’s a standing issue in the Christian church and it’s one of the great spiritual challenges of the Christian life.  C. H. Spurgeon, our favorite dead, Baptist preacher, once said, “There is no trial like affluence.”  There is no trial like affluence. And we have been blessed with great material possessions. And let me say this.  I’m thankful for that.  I’m thankful for that.  I am thankful every time that poll comes out every year and Mississippi is right at the top as the most generous state in the nation in terms of charitable giving.  I kind of puff up my chest - “Yeah, I’m here in Mississippi!”  And did you know that Jackson, Mississippi is the most generous giving non-Mormon or non-Roman Catholic city in the country.  Did you know that?  Christians in Jackson, Mississippi give a larger percentage of their income to charitable work than any other non-Mormon and one Roman Catholic city in the entire nation.  You’re in the top ten.  You may be closer to the top five.  And I’m in a very generous congregation.  There are other congregations that give more on a percentage basis and even on a per capita basis, but there’re not many.  And I’m thankful for that.  

And so I know all of us know something of the lessons that are being taught in this passage.  But if the author of Hebrews had to say this to people who had had their property plundered because of the testimony of Jesus, I want to have my ears wide open to what he has to say to me!  And that’s what we’re going to do tonight.  We’re going to consider God’s Word, and once again, the author of Hebrews is asking us to think about the world from the standpoint of the Word, rather than copying the attitude of the world. He knows that it’s hard for us not to have the world’s attitudes and priorities and outlooks kind of get into our pores and seep into our veins and cloud our vision and corrupt our commitments and our values.  And so he brings to bear the Word of God.  Literally he quotes from passages of Moses in the Psalms to drive home truth about our attitude toward the use of money.  

So let’s give attention to God’s Word tonight and as we do so I want you to be on the lookout for four things.  First of all, two exhortations in verse 5.  We’re just going to look at verses 5 and 6 tonight.  Two exhortations from verse 5 - one about the love of money; the second about contentment.  Be on the lookout for that.  Then, I love the author of Hebrews - he doesn’t just tell you what to do; he tells you how to do it.  Isn’t that kind of God to do that?  He doesn’t just say, “Do this; don’t do that.”  He says, “This is how you do what I’ve asked you to do.”  And I want you to see two things - one in verse 5 and one in verse 6 - that he says to help us know how to do what he’s asked us to do with regard to the love of money and contentment.  First, he tells us something about God’s providence, verse 5, and then he tells us something about God’s sovereignty.  So love of money, contentment, providence, and sovereignty.  Just be on the lookout for those four things as we read God’s Word.  And before we do, let’s pray and ask for His help and blessing.

Father, this is Your Word.  We’re thankful to be in it again tonight.  I thank You for the many people in this congregation that have been an example to us all in the use of money and in their attitudes.  Lord, it’s my prayer that You would raise up a generation of Christians behind them that have the same Biblical outlook, the same life free of money love, the same generosity and commitment to the work of the Lord, the church, and the kingdom that their forbearers in the faith, who have lived and served and ministered in this congregation so long have had.  Raise it up, Lord, a generation to come behind a generous generation and continue that legacy.  I pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.

This is God’s Word.  Hear it in Hebrews 13 verses 5 and 6:

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’  So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”

Amen, and thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant Word.  May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.

The Puritans used to say that a Christian loves the Lord and uses the world, but a worldling loves the world and uses the Lord.  That is, that you can tell much about a person’s spiritual state from what their heart, their affections are set on.  Are they set on the Lord?  Is He their treasure?  Or are they set on the world - mammon, stuff, material blessings, money? Well the author of Hebrews in this passage wants us to love the Lord and use the world rather than using the Lord to get us the world that we love.  And by the way, that is one of the great, great mistakes of the health and wealth gospel.  It has turned Christianity into using the Lord to get something that you want more than the Lord, which is material blessing and physical health and general prosperity and influence and reputation.  The author of Hebrews says that’s worldly.  That’s not the way a Christian thinks!  That’s how a worldling thinks!  A Christian wants to love the Lord and use the world.  Deploy the resources that God has given to her, to him.  Thank God for the resources that God has given to her and him!  Use generously the resources that God has given to her and to him but love the Lord, take delight in the Lord, treasure the Lord, instead of using the Lord to get us the world that we love.  That’s what this passage is about and I’d like you to see four things that we learn here tonight.

I. Live Life Free from Love of Money

The first thing is the first exhortation that we encounter in the passage that’s in verse 5 - “Keep your life free from love of money.”  The exhortation is for us to live life money free.  In a time of decision, you will go with what you love the most, and so if a challenge comes because of the testimony of the Lord Jesus that puts you in the position of losing your material blessings, you’ll go with what you love the most.  And so the author is saying, “Don’t love money,” even to a congregation in which there are people who have had their possession plundered because of their fidelity to Jesus!  That’s huge for us, my friends; that’s huge for us.  Now let me just pause right here and say, notice he does not say, “Money is bad.”  Just like in the previous passage he doesn’t say, “Sex is bad.”  The problem - it’s not sex; it’s lust.  The problem is not money, it’s the love of money.  How does 1 Timothy 6:10 most frequently get misquoted?  “Money is the root of all evil.”  Have you ever heard anybody quote Paul in 1 Timothy 6:10 that way?  He doesn’t say that!  He does not say money is the root of all evil.  It gets quoted that way.  He says, “For the love of money is a (or the) root of all kinds of evil.”  That is a far more helpful statement and it also has the benefit of being true.  

And notice again the prohibition here is for the love of money.  The problem’s not money; it’s how we love it.  It’s fixing our hopes and our affections on it.  And so what he’s saying here is, if what you really care about is your material security and that material security is threatened because of your fidelity to Jesus, what are you going to give up when the threat comes?  He knows that those who love the world will not stand firm in a storm which asks them to choose you this day whom you will serve - the Lord Jesus or your money.  If you love the world then you’ll choose and it won’t be Jesus.  This is not a theoretical question for us today, even here in the United States of America.  We are already seeing Christians in our culture lose their jobs and businesses because of their fidelity to Scripture.  Do not think that this will not be practical for you and me.  And he’s just saying before that test ever comes, you’ve got to be clear in your heart about what you love - do you love Jesus or do you love the world?  Keep your life free from the love of money.

II. Cultivate Contentment 

Second, notice what he goes on to say - “and be content with what you have.”  In other words he says cultivate contentment.  Not only do you need to look at your heart and ask, “What do I really love?  What’s really my treasure?” but I need to ask, “Am I content in the condition in which I find myself?”  This is not saying all ambition is bad.  He’s not saying to businessmen and women it’s wrong to want to have a larger yield next year than this year.  He’s not saying that at all.  It’s a question of attitude.  And once again the issue is this - our contentment is a witness to our brothers and sisters and to the world that we treasure Jesus more than anything.  If we’re discontent, clearly we think that contentment is only going to come from something that we don’t have.  We already have Jesus if we are believers.  He must not be enough!  So contentment says to the world, “Jesus is my treasure.  I’ve got food, I’ve got some clothes on my back - I’m good to go!”  

And of course the Bible talks about this all the time.  You remember Ecclesiastes 5:10?  “Whoever loves money never has enough.”  Boy is that true!  “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.”  What you have doesn’t satisfy and so you think that more will satisfy so you get more and guess what?  It doesn’t satisfy because God didn’t make you to be built up by that.  Kent Hughes says this.  “A boatload of discontented materialists (lovers of money) will not do well in the coming storms.  Those who always want more will turn away from God when their Christianity brings material subtraction rather than addition.  On the other hand, those who are content who have found their ultimate treasure in the unflagging presence and care of God will sail on.  Contentment says to our fellow Christians and to the world that Christ is with us, Christ is for us, and Christ is enough, more than enough.”  Hallelujah, all I have is Christ, and He is enough!  But you have to cultivate that.  Isn’t it interesting?  “Be content.”  He’s exhorting you to contentment.  He knows that that’s something that has to be cultivated.  The Puritans used to write whole books on that because they know that contentment doesn’t come easy.  So Jeremiah Burroughs writes, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment and gives you two hundred pages of Biblical instruction on how to fight for contentment.  

III. How? Believe God’s Providence

But in this passage, the author of Hebrews does a little of that himself - not two hundred pages worth but a verse and a half.  In verse 5, the very end, and verse 6, he offers two Scriptural arguments to help you not be captive to the love of money and to help you cultivate contentment.  See the question we ought to be asking when we hear him say, “Don’t love money.  Live life love-of-money free,” and when we hear him say, “Be content.  Cultivate contentment,” our question ought to be, “How?  I need some help!”  And he says, “Right with you.  Here is it.”  Point one - believe God’s providence.  Believe God’s providence.   Look at verse 5.  “For he has said” - now that’s right on the heels of, “Keep your life free from the love of money; be content with what you have” - “For he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”  Now isn’t that something?  That quote either comes from Deuteronomy 31:6 and 8 or from Joshua 1:5.  Isn’t that interesting?  Because what had been a continual struggle of the children of Israel in the wilderness?  “Is God going to provide for us?  Lord, You brought us out of Egypt and we’re going to starve to death!  Lord, You brought us out of Egypt and we’re going to go thirsty!  There’s no water out here in the wilderness!”  And over and over what does God do?  He provided.  

And so the author of Hebrews says, “Now let’s just look back at Moses and Joshua and let’s remember that the Lord said, ‘I will not leave you nor forsake you.  I’ll be present with you and I’ll provide for you.  I will not leave you - I will be present.  I will not forsake you - I will provide for you.  I will give you what you need.’”  Remember what Paul says in Romans 8:32?  “He who spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?”  Everything we need!  The author says until you believe in God’s providence you’ll never ever master the contentment thing.  And my friends, you’re never done learning God’s providence.  Even preachers who preach God’s providence can fail to believe in it.  You see, that’s why he’s speaking to people who have already lost their goods because they love Jesus in saying, “Don’t love money,” because that fight is never over in this world!  Isn’t that encouraging?  You’re not weird!  You’re normal!  The fact that you’re having the same fight this year that you had in the second year that you were a Christian - you’re not weird; you’re normal!  And that’s why the Book keeps coming back to you and telling you sometimes the same thing over and over again because you need to hear it.  Trust God’s providence.

IV. How? Believe in God, your Sovereign Help

The second thing - look at verse 6.  “So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’”  Now he’s quoting Psalm 118.  And one of the great passages that calls the Lord our help, our helper - we sing about it all the time - Psalm 90.  “Our God, our Help in Ages Past.”  It’s all over the Old Testament, but guess what?  This is the only time in the New Testament that the Lord is called your Help.  Earlier in the book he’s called Jesus, your Help.  Isn’t that sweet?  You see how concerned He is to help you in your fight against the love of money and in the battle for contentment?  He reminds you, “I’m your Helper.”  “I will not fear; what can man do to me?”  We sang about it in the very first hymn.  Did you miss it?  Go back to 402.  This is one to memorize.  Brister, you’ve got it memorized.  Brister’s quoted this hymn to me I don’t know how many times - maybe even verses that aren’t even in here!  Listen to what - look at just the first stanza.  “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide.  The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide!”  What’s he asking for?  He’s asking for the Lord’s presence.  And then listen to what he says.  “When other helpers fail and other comforts flee” - who is the Lord?  “He is the help of the helpless.”  And what does he ask Him to do?  “Abide with me.”  Presence, providence, sovereignty, because the Lord is our Help and nothing in the world can challenge Him.  “What can man do to me?”  

There is a story that the great preacher, John Chrysostom, was called before the emperor for challenging the emperor’s authority.  And the emperor said to John Chrysostom, “If you don’t stop saying what you’re saying I’ll banish you.”  And John Chrysostom said, “This is my Father’s world.  Where are you going to send me?”  And then the emperor said, “Okay, I’ll kill you.”  And he said, “No you won’t.  My life is hid with Christ in God.”  And then he said, “Well I’ll drive you away from all your friends.”  And he said, “I have such a friend in heaven who will never leave me or forsake me.”  And then he said, “Well I’ll take away all your possessions.”  And he said, “No you won’t.  The Lord is my treasure.”  Do you hear what John Chrysostom said?  He said, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear.  What can man, even the emperor, do to me?”  That’s a man who’s content.  And the author of Hebrews is calling us to the same contentment.

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word.  Work it into our hearts.  Make this show, really Lord, make it show in the way that we approach our possessions, the way that we approach our reputation, the way that we approach our position, our influence, the world’s attitude towards us.  Grant that we would so believe in Your presence and Your providence, in Your character, in Your sovereignty, that we would not fear but that we would be content.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Would you stand for God’s benediction?

Peace be to the brethren and love with faith from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, until the daybreak and the shadows flee away.  Amen.

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