“If I were a rich man”

Matthew 6: 19-34

Introduction:

Would you take God’s word and look with me again at the Sermon on the Mount. The title of my sermon today is, “If I were a rich man!”.

I thought of this title because several years ago a musical came out. It was called, “A fiddler on the roof.” It was about a Jewish father who wanted to marry off his daughters. However, he didn’t have the ability to offer an attractive dowry. So one day he starts to daydream and to sing: “If I were a rich man, doodoo doodoo, doodoo doodoo!”

Before we read our passage, let me ask you this, “How does money affect our lives?”

All of us are affected by money in one way or another. Some are affected by not having it, and others are affected by having it in abundance.

This reminds me of a story of a married couple who went to a fair in Kentucky each year. More than anything, the husband wanted to fly over the city in an old biplane airplane that was a big attraction at this fair. However, each time that he asked his wife she told him, “I know dear, but it costs $100 and $100 is $100!”

Finally one year, the husband said to his wife, “Martha, I am now 81 years old. If I don’t do this now, I may not have another opportunity in my life. Then his wife said, “But it’s $100 more than we should spend, $100 is $100!”

While they were discussing this, the pilot of the airplane overheard them. He then came over to them and said, “My friends, I have heard you talking to one another. If you want, I will make a deal with you. I will bring you along for free if you don’t say a word or make any sound whatsoever. If you do make any noise, you must give me $100.”

The old couple was tempted by his offer and so they agreed and took off with the pilot. There’s almost no need to need to explain what the pilot intended to do. He did everything he could to make them cry out. He did some pirouettes, some nose dives, some shaky turns and spins. They didn’t make a sound. Impressed, he landed the plane. When they were on the ground, he turned to the old man and said, “I can’t get over it. I have performed all the aerobatics that I know, but you stayed quiet as mouse.”

The old man responded to him with a tear in his eye, “No, I almost said something when during the last spin Martha fell out of the plane, but $100, is $100.”

This illustrates in a funny way, how some of us are affected by money.

If you would like, please read with me in Matthew 6:19-24 “…”

Jesus spoke of a problem that each human encounters. What place should money have in our lives?

Sooner or later, the desire to become richer knocks at our door. It’s a matter of time. I don’t know if you have already experienced this knock or not, but be prepared for it because it’s inevitable.

When this desire presents itself to us, we should determine if the love of God or the love of money will lead us.

If our eye turns to material possessions, likewise our body will follow by plunging us into obscurity, as Jesus said in verse 23. In other words, if I make a bad choice when the enemy knocks at my door, it will lead me to a hellish life, and to an obscure/dark place where misfortune and eternal destruction will later be found.

Jesus adds, there are times when we will think we’re able to live with one foot on one side and one on the other. But in truth, no one can serve two masters at a time. Thus, it’s impossible to love money and love God at the same time. The interest of one will always end up by being in conflict with the interests of the other.

I’ll let you think about this for a minute, how are the interests of money usually coming in conflict with the interests of God in our own lives?

We could make many lessons on this subject. We could talk about collection, debts, the number of reasonable hours for a man to spend working and about the ways to handle inheritances. However, I’m not going to go there for the moment because I would like to discuss the rest of Jesus’ words in this section. It’s sufficient to say that there isn’t enough room for the love of God and money both in our hearts. God wants all of us, or we can’t really be useful to him.

Plus, our choice could cause us to live in hell. I’m not just talking about hell in eternity, but hell in hurtful relationships, in disputes with our families, in health problems and constant worries.

And just in case you think that more money will help you avoid worries, let me give you a quote on the matter, from Sylvester Stallone. Some years ago he spoke those words during an interview, when he was asked what effect money had on him following his success: “Let me tell you, money doesn’t give spiritual peace. In truth, it brings more problems. Everything is multiplied by ten. I don’t mean to complain, but when you amass a huge fortune, at first you believe that it will make life easier. It isn’t true. It brings added worries. And the vices that money brings along are frightening.”

Judas could give us witness of the same thing today. He handed Jesus over to the Jewish authorities for money.

A recent study revealed, many families haven’t understood this, “64% couples argue regularly about money. 54% of all divorces occur on the basis of money problems. Moreover, it’s the number one cause of divorce.”

Jesus knew the danger of money, and so he issued a warning against that which could make us a loyal friend of money. In verse 25 all the way to 32, he said “…”

I. The definition of worry:

So after this exhortation on the love of God, rather than the love of riches, Jesus said, “For this reason I say to you”.

So he linked his upcoming words with what had preceded.

Then he repeated this phrase several times, “Do not be anxious.”

Worry according to Jesus is dangerous. It has the ability to distract us from the direction in which our lives should go.

I’ve come for that matter, to discover an interesting detail concerning the origin of the word, “worry”. Did you know what it signifies in Greek? Worry means, “Being pulled in several different directions.” In other words, worry spreads us so thin; it finishes by pulling us apart.

Worry doesn’t allow us to focus on what we should do. It distracts us from our goals, and from God. It plunges us into the fog. It doesn’t take much for us to be consumed by worry.

Jesus begins again by saying that all worries can assail us. They can be classified into four areas. According to him there is:

Jesus talks of all these things by saying, “Do not be anxious”. He forbids us to make ourselves sick by thinking about the problems of tomorrow. To put it more poetically, he forbids us to pull the clouds of tomorrow to hide today’s sunshine.

I like how one preacher define “worrying”. He said, “Worries are the interest paid on borrowed problems.”

II. Reasons why we need to discard our worries:

Why should we refuse to worry?

  1. Because it’s futile.
    • Listen to what this study put into light:
    • 40% of things worried about never happen
    • 30% concern events of the past (things that nothing can be done about)
    • 12% are from a fear of being criticized (see Eccl. 7: 21-22).
    • 10% concern health issues. However, worry doesn’t change anything. Even more, it’s proven to deteriorate one’s health.

    In total, 92% of things we worry about are unchangeable.

    So, even the human specialists consider that only 8% of human worries are really worth being concerned over.

  2. Because it insults the nature of God.

    In Matthew 6 in verse 26, Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?”

    For further understanding on this concept let me explain in other words what Jesus is attempting to establish. We could put it this way, what farmer would feed his chickens, and in the meanwhile starve his children?

    So, worrying ourselves over if we will eat tomorrow or not, is in a sense putting God’s kindness in question. It’s like saying that he prefers the livelihood of chickens over his children. What an insult!

    In addition to the insult, there is a lack of faith involved. Jesus said it like this in verse 30: “But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?”

    I have read that in those days Jewish women gathered the wilted flowers from the field because they would use the stems for making haystacks. Later they used them in lighting fires for their stoves.

    The idea of this passage is that God gave beauty to plants that, in essence, don’t have much importance. Thus, since he took the time to decorate nature, he will also spend time on the appearance of his children.

    Worrying ourselves over whether or not we will be clothed is like saying that we don’t believe that God is taking care of us. It’s a lack of faith.

    Let me ask today, “Are we worried?” If yes, by it what are we saying to God?” “Would we really like to send him a message that is a blow to his goodness?”

III. The cure for avoiding worry

All this being said, let’s also be balanced in our understanding.

We need to realize that we can’t stop certain things from entering our minds and frightening us. But when it happens we can, chose how we will deal with it.

We can nurture the worry and let it enslave us, or we can chose to put it aside and force our mind to turn away from it! However, it doesn’t mean we should become fools and ignore something that needs to be tended to.

  1. Oftentimes people of the world say “Don’t worry, let it go!” What they mean is don’t take action. They want us to completely ignore certain questions. This is not what Jesus wants us to do. God takes care of the birds; but the birds still must pick their warms from the fields. God doesn’t send pre-chewed food directly into their nest. The birds must work to feed themselves.

    It’s important for us to then be wise and as much as possible use foresight. In Proverbs it says, “…”

    What Jesus condemns is letting ourselves be controlled by the fears of tomorrow, instead of being controlled by foresight and wisdom. There is a difference between foreseeing retirement, actively searching for a job, working to be clothed or compromising our Christian values in regard to money because of our worrying.

    Therefore, the way we can avoid being controlled by worry, is to not ignore what can bother us. It’s to do our best and to remember that we are not alone.

  2. We must also remember that God is there. In verse 32 Jesus tells his onlookers to not be like the pagans. They have a father who looks after them.

    This brings up an interesting question, today have we chosen to have a father to look after us? Many people love their independence in regard to our Heavenly Father because they would rather manage on their own. Are you like this?

    Let’s imagine for a moment that a millionaire comes into this room. He goes straight to Alex, looks into his eyes and says, “I want to adopt you as my son!” If you let me, I’ll provide for all your needs, but you will have to live under my roof.”

    Would you accept Alex? We would think you were crazy if you refused. And yet many react this way when God asks if he can become their adopted father, and they reject his offer.

    In this passage, Jesus says that God is an extraordinary father. According to verse 32, he knows what we need. He knows us better than anyone. He knows even those things that we don’t know about ourselves. He knows the number of hairs on our head! (Matthew 10:29-30)

    If we accept his adoption, he will in return give us all we need, and much more. Not everything will be perfect; I still will encounter some problems. Even the birds of which Jesus spoke of are sometimes hurt and have difficulties. However, God is there when each of them dies. Nothing happens without God’s knowledge or permission.

    Why does he allow tests and trials?

    Because he knows that certain experiences in life will make us. He also knows that without trials in life, we won’t grow. Each day he gives us exactly what we need and what is enough so that we will continue to depend on him. Trials, my brothers, remind us that we have a need of a father. As an ancient proverb said, “The sun in the sky by itself produces the desert.” It is true also with our temperament and God wants better for us. He allows these trials to happen, but in the midst of them he is looking after us.

    On day there was a ship that was caught in a storm. This ship began swaying dangerously and the deck began filling with water. One of the shipmen who had become more fearful by the minute started to panic. He couldn’t take it any longer, so he took off up the stairs to go to the rescue boats. When he opened the hatchway, he saw the captain at the wheel of the high deck. He froze. Then he noticed that the captain at the wheel, smiling confidently and winking at him. The effect was immediate. The shipman calmed himself and returned below deck to his fellow shipmen. When he entered their room, he said to everyone, “None of you worry; I saw the captain and he smiled at me. All will be fine!”

    When we worry, let us look to heaven. We will see there that God is smiling at us. Like someone once said, “Each morning, go to your balcony, look toward heaven, see the face of God and return to face the day.” We have a father who knows us and loves us enough to take care of us.

    Let’s remind ourselves that during each trial he gives us adequate strength to face what we need to face. He doesn’t promise to give us the strength for borrowing potential problems of tomorrow, but he does give strength for today. He gives it for everyday problems, day after day. If we take in advance the “clouds” of tomorrow, it only makes sense that we would disrupt the ecology!

  3. Finally, to avoid worry let’s remind ourselves of our present blessings.

    Just like the French spiritual hymn says “When the storm comes to cast a shadow over your blue sky, count your blessings, name them one by one”

    These blessings will help us to remember that we have good reasons to trust him.

    So let us not forget the things that we’ve received, by worrying about those things we don’t yet have.

Conclusion:

So today as we finish our study, let’s ask ourselves this question, “How does money and possessions affect us?” Do we own things or do our things own us?” According to Jesus, God alone should own us, because he alone can care for our needs and keep us from a hellish life.

I would like to end with a short story. It’s the story of a guy who unloaded boats. One day he fell in the water carrying two loads under each arm. He started to go under, and in a panic began to yell, “Help! Help quickly! If no one comes to help me, I will have to let go of these anvils that I’m holding onto!” This example is a little comical, but it helps to conclude this lesson. If I don’t pay attention, we risk becoming like this man. The material possessions and the worries will finish by drowning us.

So today, are we ready to put everything back into the hands of God? Let’s read Psalms 34: 17-19.