This Week: Various Passages
Date: May 1, 2016
Series: Shoe Leather Theology: Study of James
This Week’s Resources:
- The Compass Bible Study (pdf)
- Lighthouse Discussion Guide (pdf)
- Lighthouse Leader Study Guide (pdf)
- Word Search Answer Key (pdf)
This Week’s Lighthouse Lesson
Overview of this Lesson
This week’s lesson is adapted from the book, Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn. This is a “pull no punches” look at what the Bible teaches about money and possessions. I thought as part of the overview for this lesson it would be helpful for you to read Alcorn’s introduction to the book. It gives some perspective on where he is coming from and the overall thrust of the book.
This book trespasses on enemy territory. It invades the turf of a powerful adversary, attempting to cross a war zone laced with mines. It seeks to recover strategic territory that rightly belongs to the true King.
Satan is the Lord of Materialism. “Mammon” is but an alias of the Prince of Darkness, who has a vested interest in whether or not we understand and obey Christ’s commands concerning money and possessions. The Enemy will not give ground without a fight. Because of the spiritual warfare that surrounds this great subject of money and possessions, if this book is to be read with eternal benefit, it must be read with prayer. Our use of money and possessions is a decisive statement of our eternal values. What we do with our money loudly affirms which kingdom we belong to. Whenever we give of our resources to further God’s kingdom, we cast a ballot for Christ and against Satan, for heaven and against hell. Whenever we use our resources selfishly and indifferently we further Satan’s goals.
The key to a right use of money and possessions is a right perspective—an eternal perspective. Each of our lives is positioned like a bow, drawn across the strings of a cosmic violin, producing vibrations that resound for all eternity. The slightest action of the bow produces a sound, a sound that is never lost. What I do today has tremendous bearing on eternity. Indeed, it is the stuff of which eternity is made. The everyday choices I make regarding money and possessions are of eternal consequence.
The game becomes only more serious as the stakes are raised—or when we begin to realize how high the stakes already are. Far too many evangelical Christians have succumbed to the heresy that this present life may be lived disobediently without serious effects on their eternal state. Never have so many Christians believed the lie that their money and possessions are theirs to do with as they please. Never have so many thought that as long as they affirm with their lips a certain doctrinal statement, they may live their lives indifferent to human need and divine command, and all will turn out well in the end.
There is something in this book to offend everyone. Some of it offends me—and I wrote it. Please understand that it is not my intention to insult or irritate anyone. Any offenses are simply the by-product of trying to be faithful to the principles of Scripture—which have an annoying tendency to take issue with the way we prefer to think and live.
I have undoubtedly erred in some of my conclusions. I invite you to examine carefully the hundreds of passages cited, searching the Scriptures like the Bereans, to see whether these words are true (Acts 17:11).
God’s Word is grain; our word is straw. His Word is the fire that consumes and the hammer that breaks (Jeremiah 23:28-29). This book should be judged not in the light of prevailing opinion, but in the light of God’s Word. A. W. Tozer said, “Listen to no man who has not listened to God.” To the degree that my words do not match up to Scripture, they are worthless. To the degree that they stand up under the scrutiny of God’s Word, they should be taken seriously.
The best way to check our heart’s attitude regarding material possessions is to allow all the principles of God’s Word to penetrate our innermost being. “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).1
The following New Testament passages provide an overview of the Bible’s perspective on money and possessions. I’ve included a Passage List at the end of this week’s lesson with each Scripture printed for you to review. Below are the lessons Randy Alcorn sees from each text:
1. Luke 3:7-14. In this passage, John the Baptist forcefully exhorts a crowd of questioners about how to live—and how to give.
a. Luke 3:11. Based on this verse, to whom do our possessions and wealth belong? How does our possession of wealth imply a responsibility apart from our own enjoyment?
b. Luke 3:12-14. What special responsibilities do people have who work with money? What is the responsibility of everyone who is paid to work?
c. Based on Luke 3:7-14, what can we conclude about the money and possessions entrusted to us? What are the dangers of using them wrongly?
2. Luke 19:1-10. What principles about the proper use of money can we draw from the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus?
3. Matthew 19:16-30. In this passage, Jesus tells a rich man to take a radical step in regard to his wealth. What can we conclude about wealth and our willingness to depend on Christ?
4. Acts 19:18-20. In this passage, we see a radical response to ill-gained or inappropriate wealth. In what situations might new (or mature) Christians today be prompted to take such steps?
5. Acts 2:42-47. This passage records an example of true community in the context of Christian fellowship. What principles can we draw from this passage that will help us discover what God intends our attitudes and actions to be concerning money and possessions?
6. Acts 4:32-35. How should our gratefulness to God for our salvation prompt unusual generosity far beyond the requirements of Old Testament law?
Memory Verse for This Week
Matthew 6:19–21 (ESV) – 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. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Possessions (Luke 16:11–12): I seek to maintain an eternal perspective on money and possessions, realizing God has give me all that I have, and that he expects me to manage it wisely for His glory.
- Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
- Which is more dangerous and why: being very rich or being very poor?
- Why is it so appealing to have a lot of money? What attracts us to this lifestyle?
This Week’s Take Home Truth
“Since we have everything in Christ, money and possessions are tools not our treasure.”
Read the Text (Matthew 19:16-26)
In order to understand this incident correctly we need to distinguish carefully between salvation and discipleship. God’s salvation is absolutely free. It is offered to men on the principle of pure, unmerited grace. But discipleship literally costs all that one has—the loss of all things (Philippians 3:7-8; Luke 14:33). No one can be a true follower of Christ who does not take up his cross—that which speaks of death to the flesh—and follow the Lord Jesus in His path of rejection by the world and devotion to the Father’s will Ironside. Read Matthew 19:16-26.
Matthew 19:16–26 (ESV)
The Rich Young Man
16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions.
4. What evidence is there that money and how Christians relate to money is important to God?
Consider this fact: The Bible devotes twice as many verses to money (about 2,350 of them) than to faith and prayer combined. Jesus said more about money than about both heaven and hell.
The sheer enormity of Scripture’s teaching on this subject screams for our attention. And the haunting question is this—why? Why does God give us so much instruction on money and possessions? Considering everything else he could have told us that we really want to know, why did the Savior of the world spend 15 percent of his recorded words on this one subject? Why did he say more about how we are to view and handle money and possessions than about any other single thing?
NOTE: the next two questions give you the opportunity to test our modern-day thinking against a biblical perspective on money. Read the next two questions together, and discuss how you would counsel someone given both scenarios. Do this before you go to the Bible and see what the Bible teaches.
5. What is the connection between someone’s true spiritual condition and their attitude toward money?
This underscores one of the overall themes of the Bible–there is a clear connection between how we value and view money and the condition of our soul. As we noted in last week’s lesson, there are few outward indicators that point to the true status of our faith than our view towards money and possessions. This is why James brings such a pointed discussion to the topic in James 5.
Richard Halverson said,
Jesus Christ said more about money than about any other single thing because, when it comes to a man’s real nature, money is of first importance. Money is an exact index to a man’s true character. All through Scripture there is an intimate correlation between the development of a man’s character and how he handles his money.
6. How would you summarize Jesus’ perspective on money and possessions?
As we will see in this week’s lesson, how Jesus views money is often in contradiction to how Christians today view money. One of the most familiar teachings of Jesus concerning money is summarized in Matthew 19:23-25:
23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:23–26 (ESV)
Notice, that when Jesus made this statement his disciples were “greatly astonished.” Why? Because it seems so counter-cultural. We believe those with all of the money and possessions also have the greatest opportunities and privileges. Jesus is saying just the opposite. He is saying that it is “only with difficulty” that a rich person will enter the kingdom of heaven.
The word translated “with difficulty” is actually a pretty soft sounding translation. Recognizing that it’s the nature of all of us to focus on those words He restates the point and this time says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. The implication here is that it is impossible.
If this is the case, then the disciples ask the next logical question: “Who then can be saved?”
Here’s the principle to focus on here: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
One of the great barriers wealth and comfort bring with them is a sense of self-reliance. This sense of self-reliance permeates the very core of our being. It’s not a far stretch to see how someone who has learned to be completely self-reliant in this life will make the wrong assumption that they can earn their way into the kingdom of heaven.
7. How would you counsel someone with little money yet feels led to give what little she has left to the Lord?
As you may know, this is the exact scenario we see with the widow who gave all she had as an offering to the Lord.
Lead your Lighthouse in a conversation to reach consensus on how they would counsel this woman. Most of us would probably advise someone who is struggling to make ends meet to not give to the Lord. We would cite common sense and a responsibility to feed ourselves.
Now read the Scripture:
Mark 12:41–44 (ESV) 41 And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”
Again, we would have likely counseled the woman against giving an offering because she had so little to give, yet Jesus commends her for being sacrificially generous. It would be hard to argue that Jesus considered the actions of the widow unwise.
8. How would you counsel a friend who has worked hard all his life and as he reaches mid-life wants to begin saving and investing all he has for retirement? His hope is that he can retire early.
Again, this is the scenario Jesus offered in a parable about a rich man. In many cases, we would probably consider this man to be a wise steward of what God has given him. After all, investing and saving for retirement is a wise decision.
Now read the Scripture:
Luke 12:16–21 (ESV) 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” ’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Here is how Randy Alcorn summarizes the lesson from these two parables:
By our standards, both outside and inside the Church, the widow’s actions seem unwise and the rich man’s seem wise. But God, who knows the hearts of both and sees from the vantage point of eternity, regards the poor woman as eternally wise and the rich man as eternally foolish.
This shows that our beliefs about money are not only radically different from God’s but diametrically opposed to them.
If we take these passages seriously, we must ask some probing questions. Who are featured more frequently in Christian magazines and talk shows— poor widows or rich fools? Who receives the most respect and attention in many Christian organizations? Who is more highly esteemed in most churches? Who typically serves on our boards and determines the direction of our ministries? Today, don’t we have a scarcity of poor widows and a surplus of rich fools?
9. Do you think Jesus pays attention today to what Christians give and how we use our money?
Notice in the text above about the poor widow the Bible tells us, “And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box” (Mark 12:41). It doesn’t say, Jesus happened to see a widow woman…, it tells us that He intentionally sat down to observe how people were giving.
Randy Alcorn observes,
This passage should make all of us who suppose that what we do with our money is our own business feel terribly uncomfortable. It’s painfully apparent that God considers it his business. He does not apologize for watching with intense interest what we do with the money he’s entrusted to us. If we use our imagination, we might even peer into the invisible realm to see him gathering some of his subjects together this very moment. Perhaps you can hear him using your handling of finances as an object lesson.
The question is this: What kind of example are you?
10. Would you agree or disagree that money is a true litmus test of our character? Explain your answer.
Randy Alcorn argues that money is indeed a true litmus test of our character. What we spend our money on is clear evidence of what is a priority in our life? If it is on ourselves, then this is a reflection of our character; if it is on the things of God, then this is a reflection of our character. He says it this way:
The study of Zacchaeus, the rich young ruler, the poor widow, the rich fool, and many other Bible characters shows that our handling of money is a litmus test of our true character. It’s an index of our spiritual life. Our stewardship of our money and possessions becomes the story of our lives.
If this is true of all people in all ages, doesn’t it have a special application to us who live in a time and place of unparalleled affluence? who live in a society where almost everyone enjoys comforts and conveniences that King Solomon never dreamed of? who live in a country where the “poverty level” exceeds the average standard of living of nearly every other society in human history, past or present?
Take for example a man or woman who works from age twenty-five to sixty-five and makes “only” $25,000 a year. Forget for the moment the huge additional value of health and retirement benefits, interest, pay raises, and other income sources, including inheritance or Social Security. Even without these extras, this person of modest income (by our standards) will receive a million dollars. He or she will manage a fortune. Because we all will eventually give an account of our lives to God (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10), one day everyone must answer these questions: Where did it all go? What did I spend it on? What has been accomplished for eternity through my use of all this wealth?
These questions are given to prompt both reflection and learning on a personal level, and should likely be completed individually and apart from your regular group time.
11. Has this lesson challenged your perspective on money? In what ways?
12. As you have studied and meditated on what Jesus says about money, have you felt led to make any changes in how you handle money and possessions?
13. What is one change you can make this week that will move you one step closer to Jesus’ view of money?
- Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions, and Eternity (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2003). ↩︎