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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
April 30, 2006
How to Have Financial Peace
Anxiety, worry, fret, distress, agitation, tension, irritability. All of these are words that describe an inner turmoil that results in a feeling of outward uneasiness. They describe common feelings & emotions of man that come as we consider what the future may bring to us personally and to the ones we love. They effect our outward look on life, our decision making, and ultimately the direction of our lives. Jesus addresses these emotions and what to do about them in Matthew 6:19-34.
We do not need to be anxious and full of worry. Jesus wants us to live life in a different manner and make our decisions based on a different foundation. We do not need to fear the future.
In verses 19-21, Jesus centers in on the issue of what you value the most. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Your heart will be set on what you value the most. If you value the treasures of this earth – things such as fame, fortune, power, pleasure and ease of life – as most of American society does, then your heart will be set on those things and your life will be spent in an effort to gain them. But consider the feelings and emotions that result from this effort to gain the treasures of the earth.
There is worry that what has been stored up will decay. Mold, fungus, insects and rodents are notorious for causing the decay of the things we store up for ourselves, so we build storage units to try and protect them, but success is often only partial. In the financial world inflation devalues the finances saved up. Fame is also quickly lost so those that are after it must continually do more to keep their names in the limelight.
There is also fear that someone will steal what has been accumulated. We put locks on everything and with theft increasing, companies that install or monitor security systems are growing rapidly. What amazes me is how often the security systems in a business are designed to keep the employees from stealing. Fame can be quickly lost when someone else does better than you at whatever has made you famous. People hardly remember who was the winner or the top in their field, so it is no surprise that second and third place are forgotten very quickly. And if power is your pleasure, there is always someone else who is working hard to take your power away from you so they can have it for themselves.
There is anxiety that some catastrophe will happen that will destroy what you have worked so hard to gain. It is not just natural disasters such as volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes and other weather related events. It is also political and economic disasters such as stock market crashes, market runs, hyper inflation, assassinations, war, passage of bad laws and bad court rulings. Then there are the personal disasters such as being slandered, falsely accused, arrested, cancer or other serious medical conditions, personal rejection, divorce, rebellious children, death of a loved one.
Anxiety and worry are caused by the fear that what you treasure will be lost. There could be major losses such as I listed above, or relatively minor losses, but both cause anxiety. In my many years of ministry I have seen people express those feelings of inner turmoil over things I would consider minor, but for them it was the source of a major emotional upheaval. Extreme worry can be caused by many relatively minor things and not just fear of a major catastrophe.
If you treasure the things of this earth, then your heart is going to be subject to the worry and anxiety related to them. But if you treasure the things of heaven, then your heart will be set on things above, and your life will be spent in gaining heavenly rewards that do not decay and cannot be stolen. No disaster can destroy them. You can be at peace because this heavenly treasure is safe and secure.
These truths lead to the next truth stated in verses 22-24, “The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
This is a principle we can build our lives upon. You cannot serve two masters, or more accurately, you cannot be a slave to two masters. You will be either a slave to God and serve Him, or you will be a slave to the things of earth and serve them. If God is your master, then He is the one who will take care of you and you can have peace. If the things of earth are your master, then you must rely on them for your future and that is precisely the cause for anxiety.
Notice Jesus’ introduction to verses 25-34. “For this reason,” or in the KJV, “Therefore.” Jesus is saying that in light of the principles He has just stated He is now going to give instruction on how to live life. Based on the principle that earthly treasure can decay or be stolen and heavenly treasure cannot and on the principle that you can only be a slave to one master, Jesus now gives a command against anxiety. “Do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on.”
In the KJV, the phrase, “Take no thought” is simply an old English expression which means to not worry or be anxious. The phrase is descriptive of the root Greek word here merimnaw / merimnaô that carries the idea of “to be thoughtful” in the sense of “caring,” “considering,” “striving after.” The words “worry” and “anxiety” express this thought today. We do have to think about and work to gain what we shall eat, drink and clothe ourselves, but the idea here is to not have our thoughts bound up by these things by a brooding, fearful concern. These are not the things that should occupy our minds, and we should have no apprehension that we will not have what we need.
Jesus’ command is stated plainly. We are not to have a fearful concern over the basic needs of life which include food, drink and clothing. Jesus could have simply given the command and left it there with full expectation that we should obey Him, but He goes on to explain the basis of the command and why we should obey it. That explanation helps us to better understand God and His relationship with us. The primary argument is from the lesser to the greater. Jesus says, “Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?” The obvious answer is that of course life is more than food and the body more than clothing. The argument here is that since God is already master over your life, then He will also take care of the insignificant needs of that life. Jesus uses two analogies to demonstrate this.
First, Jesus talks about food and anxiety. He points out the birds that are flying around them as they are sitting there and uses them to illustrate this spiritual truth. “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?”
Again the answer is obvious. Of course you are worth much more than the birds of the field. Jesus did not set aside His glory and become a man for the sake of birds. He did that for the sake of the salvation of man. If God will take care of insignificant birds, don’t you think He will take care of you?
But let me throw a caution in here. There are some that have taken this passage and concluded that they do not have to work. They get the twisted idea that God will miraculously bring to them their food. Now God is certainly capable of that and He has done that in the past. Remember He fed the children of Israel manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16), and He fed Elijah by ravens (1 Kings 17). But this passage is not some promise for God to give you manna or have the birds feed you if you refuse to work. Man is still under the curse of sin that “by the sweat of [his] face shall eat bread.” Man still has to sow, reap and store. That will not end until we are in heaven.
Paul had to give specific instruction to some people in the church at Thessalonica on this issue because they refused to work. Paul corrects them in 2 Thess. 3:10-12 stating, “if anyone will not work, neither let him eat. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.” In the previous verses Paul said he, Silvanus and Timothy had with “labor and hardship” worked “night and day” so that they could pay their own way and set an example and not be a burden.
Jesus is not saying in this passage that you can quit working because God will provide, but He is saying that we do not have to be anxious because God will provide. The birds do not sow, reap and gather in order to eat. They simple go out and find the food and eat what God has provided. They are not anxious about eating. God values us more than the birds, so though we are to work, we are not to be anxious about the outcome. We work and plan ahead, but we do not fret because God will provide.
In verses 28-30 Jesus brings up the matter of clothing and anxiety. Food is a basic need and so is clothing, but there is no need to be pre-occupied with either. When it comes to clothes, Jesus says in verse 28, And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow, they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown in to the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith.”
Again, Jesus is not saying that we should expect to be clothed like Solomon without working or that you will be more lovely than a flower, but He is saying that if God takes such good care of such insignificant things, then He will take care of us. The lilies of the field were the common flowers they would have seen all around them as Jesus was speaking. They were also aware that later that year those same plants would dry out and then be used for starting fires in ovens used to bake bread. If God cares for something so temporal and insignificant, then He will take care of us.
These truths apply regardless of whether you are rich or poor. We should not be preoccupied by food or clothing. The poor are tempted to worry about having enough to eat and anxious about having clothing to keep warm. Their minds are filled with thoughts of how they will be able to get the food and clothing that they will need. Jesus says here that you are worth more than the birds of the sky or the lilies of the field, and since God takes care of them, then God will also take care of you.
The rich, on the other hand, are not tempted to worry that they will have enough food or clothing. The preoccupation of their minds is over what kind of food they will eat and the fashion of their clothing. That leads to not being thankful for what God provides. We want steak and lobster but we get macaroni and cheese so we complain about what God has provided. That is the sin of ungratefulness. We need to be grateful for what God provides and we need to teach our children to be the same way regardless of what is on the plate or on their backs.
Fashion is big business and some people worry about their clothes because they want to fashionable. Men can get caught up in this just as much as women. How many of you worried about what you were going to wear to church this morning? Did you choose your attire to impress people or please God? Remember, God looks at your heart, not your clothes. You should dress out of respect for God as 1 Peter 3:3 says, “And let not your adornment be merely external – braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses, but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gently and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” Fashion is focused on premise of dress to impress. We are to dress with thankfulness to God and in a manner that reflects holiness and our reverence for Him.
Worry and anxiety are foolish for several reasons. First, in verse 27 Jesus points out that they will not any benefit. “And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span.” Worry adds nothing to the length of your life. In fact, if anything, it shortens it. Dr Charles Mayo, of the famous Mayo Clinic, wrote, “Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the glands and the whole nervous system. I have never met a man or known a man to die of overwork, but I have known a lot who died of worry.” The first reason worry is foolish is because it brings no benefit.
A second reason it is foolish to be anxious is stated in verse 30. It demonstrates that we are “men of little faith.” That leads into verses 31 & 32 in which Jesus says, “Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” God already knows your needs. Your anxiety level is a good indicator of how much you really trust the Lord. It seems easier for us to trust God to save our souls from Hell than to trust Him to provide for our daily needs. Partially this is because dealing with what will happen to our souls after death is usually far removed from our daily lives. We think of death as far in the future. The truth is that death could come at anytime. What we eat and what we wear, those are things we deal with daily.
Like the story of Blondin, the great tightrope walker of the early 20th century. People were impressed as they watched him him go back and forth across Niagara Falls with different items. He would even lower a cup into the river and get a drink of water. It was easy for the bystanders to say that they believed that he could do about anything including walk across that tightrope carrying a man across on his back. But when that claim of belief is made personal in current time and space then trust can quickly flee just like the little boy did when Blondin challenged the boy’s stated belief by asking him to get on his back for a trip out over the river.
We know that God knows our needs. We have all heard a hundred stories of how God has met this person’s or that person’s need. Most of us have seen this in our own lives as well. Diane and I certainly have. When I have needed to earn money, God has consistently supplied the work. One time we had a large medical bill come in the mail marked, “paid in full,” and neither we nor the hospital could explain how that happened. We were just glad that it did. We have had anonymous people give us money just when a bill was due. Years ago when I went to Australia as part of a missions team I did not have the money to go, so Diane and I prayed about it. The result was that people I had not heard from in years wrote to say they wanted to do something special for me and did I have any suggestions.
Many of you can recount similar stories. We know that God will meet the needs we have. Sometimes it will be through gifts by relatives or friends or even strangers. Sometimes it will be through an opportunity to earn some extra money. Sometimes it will be by God’s graciousness in allowing us to stretch our funds out to incredible lengths. (One thing I have learned beyond a shadow of a doubt over the years, is that the amount left over after giving to the Lord goes a whole lot further than if I had kept the whole amount for myself).
But even with all of this as a background, my faith can weaken and I can start doubting that the Lord will continue to provide. It is precisely at that time that I need to remind myself of these truths. Jesus tells me that my heavenly Father already knows my need. I do not need to have my thoughts pre-occupied with those things. God already knows my need.
The secret to having financial peace, the cure for anxiety, is stated simply in verse 33. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Those that do not know God are preoccupied with seeking after their material needs because they can only trust themselves. They will worry. We who know God are to be pre-occupied with God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. Jesus states here that if we will seek after those first, then God will supply the all other things that I need to live. The cure for anxiety then is simply to seek after what God wants first and then let Him take care of you. You can then rest in His loving care knowing that He will provide for you. And if your mind is occupied with Him, then it cannot be occupied with the things of this world.
This is simple in theory, but it can be very difficult to do because of the pressure the world places on us. We look around and see people with a higher standard of living than our own, and we feel pressure to try to achieve the same. We look for ways to make more money so that we can get the things other people have. Longer hours, double incomes, high pressure jobs, lowering our standard of business ethics. We want people to be impressed with what we have and how we look. The house we live in, the car we drive, the kind of dinner parties we can prepare, the clothes we wear. Our minds become preoccupied with the things of this world and we start becoming anxious. Once a standard of living is achieved, we do not want it to go down, so the same cycle can start again. We will do whatever we need to do so that we can maintain our lifestyle. The result is that we become concerned about the future and we start to worry. What will happen if. . . I must prepare for that by. . . I must do this or. . .
That is what verse 34 is speaking about – the future. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself, Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Worry is the preoccupation in the present with the fear of what may take place in the future. There is nothing wrong with having contingency plans. You need to plan ahead, but you must not become preoccupied and fearful of the future. The future is in the hands of God, and frankly, you may never make it there anyway. You need to live for God in the present, not live for yourself fearing the future.
But please take note that God’s promise to take care of you is conditional. You must seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. If you are not doing that then there is no promise and you have good reason to fear the future.
The remaining question then that still must be addressed is, what does it mean to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness? It means that at every point in my life I will view things in light of what it will do to expand the kingdom of God and reflect His perfect righteousness. The preoccupation of my mind must be the things of God and not my own kingdom because life really is not about my fame, fortune, power, pleasure or ease of life.
Here are a few areas to consider. What is your standard of living and why is it at that level? Scripture is not against having material possessions for many of the righteous including Job, Abraham, and David were very wealthy, but Scripture is against loving those possessions over God. What are you doing to keep your standard of living at its present level? How does your standard of living and your practices to maintain it fit with the kingdom of God? Are your activities helping expand the kingdom? Are they reflective of God’s righteousness?
Let me be more pointed. Americans are tending to work longer hours or two jobs or have double incomes not primarily because it is necessary to meet the needs of life, but because we are striving to gain and maintain a certain high standard of living. The question is what sacrifices are made to achieve this and what are the effects of them on the kingdom of God? Is the spiritual welfare of the family being compromised? I am not just talking about the children, but also about the husband-wife relationship. Do you have time left to actively pursue growing in Christ or using your spiritual gifts? I am asking these only to get you to think about the issues without anyone in particular in mind. Some of you can handle pressure better than others, but all of us need to think through the issue of seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness verses our standard of living and keeping up with those you envy.
Another area to consider are your business ethics. This is not just business practices, but also personal practices. Do you cheat on your income taxes? Do you return overpayments? Do you keep your word even to your own hurt so that you are trustworthy? Did you know that petty theft is expensive for businesses? Do you take things from work home that do not belong to you without approval? True righteousness is above even petty theft of taking home pens and pencils without permission.
Do you give sacrificially to meet the needs that God places in front of you. In 1 John 3:5 we are told “whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” It doesn’t. Are you willing to wisely meet such needs or do you refrain simply because you are keeping it for yourself?
A final area to mention this morning is entertainment? What do you do with your recreation time? Is the use of your “free time” somehow beneficial to the kingdom of God? Do the things you do promote righteousness? If not, then spend some time thinking and praying through the issue so that you might see how God wants you to seek first His kingdom and righteousness in very practical ways.
Matthew 6:33 is a wonderful promise from God, but it is conditional. If I continue to put the priority on my own desires – whatever they happen to be – my own fame, fortune, power, pleasure or ease of life – then I will have all the worry and anxiety that accompany them. I am left on my own and I cannot control the future. However, I can remove the common worries about life that plague most people if I will seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. I can rest in the peace that comes from knowing God will provide for me. I will have even financial peace, and that is a wonderful way to live. Which way do you want to live?
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch.
Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up. 2) Count how many anxiety or worry is mentioned. Talk with your parents about what you worry about & how God can bring you peace.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What kids of things do you worry about? Why are those things important to you? What do you treasure? Why do you treasure those particular things? What is the relationship between what you worry about and what you treasure? What are the dangers of having your treasure on earth? Explain. What are the benefits of having your treasure in heaven? Explain. What does “anxious” / “worry” / “take no thought” mean in Matthew 6:25? If God provides for the birds that do not sow, reap or store, does man need to work? Why or why not? What to the poor worry about? What do the rich worry about? Why is worry foolish? What does worry produce? What does it demonstrate? How have you seen God provide for your needs? What does it mean to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness”? Why can that be difficult to actually do? What makes it difficult for you to do it? What is the relationship of worry and the future? What is your standard of living? How hard was it to gain it and how hard is it to maintain it? What are your priorities in life? How do those priorities exhibit themselves in your use of your finances, time and talents? What about your business practices? How do you respond to those who have legitimate needs? What are your entertainment choices? How do they reflect God’s standards of holiness? (Phil. 4:8). If you have financial anxiety, what will you do to gain God’s peace?
Sermon Notes – April 30, 2006
How to Have Financial Peace – Matthew 6:19-34
A Matter of the Heart – vs. 19-21
Treasure on Earth
Treasure in Heaven
A Matter of Masters – vs. 22-24
A Matter of the Mind – vs. 25-34
The Command – vs. 25
The Illustrations – vs. 26-30
Food – vs. 26
Clothing – vs. 28-30
The Explanations – vs. 27, 30-32
A Matter of Priorities – vs. 33-34
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