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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Green Elephant

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Money is the elephant in the room that nobody ever wants to talk about, especially in church. Over the years I have discovered that nothing brings more disagreement and heated conversations than when I preach about money. People get mad…they get defensive… they become defiant…a few have even left the church.
Thus – “The Green Elephant” series.

Money is a problem on several different levels. Take debt for instance! Instead of asking ourselves, “Can I qualify for the loan? Can I make the payments?” Maybe we should be asking, “Is this debt wise? Is this debt harmful?” More often than not, debt of any kind is not a great move.

Then there is the issue of money in the scriptures. Talk about an elephant in the room. Probably the biggest question of all is, “What does God want me to do with my money?” Few people have the courage to ever ask that question and really want to know the answer. Why? If I ever go to Alaska, one of the sights I want to see is Mt. McKinley. I’m told that Mt. McKinley is a beautiful, spectacular mountain to see. It’s the tallest mountain we have in North America. If you go to Alaska, everyone wants to see Mt. McKinley.

But I’m also told that if you go to Alaska, you might see it, and you might not. It would be a shame to go all the way there, to be right next to the mountain, and not be able to see it. Even if you have 20/20 vision, you could miss it. Why wouldn’t you be able to see it? Some people never see Mt. McKinley because of the clouds. They roll in thick and heavy and often, and completely obscure the mountain. In fact, the mountain is only visible about half the days of the year.

This illustration represents that many never get to see what biblical stewardship is really all about. They are engulfed in clouds of misunderstanding. They are obscured by wrong ideas of biblical stewardship. They can’t see through the haze of their own needs and
desires. And for some, even if they do read the scriptures, they walk away with the wrong points.

One of the interesting, and potentially problematic, things about the Bible's teaching about giving is that giving is almost always associated with a reward. In Malachi 3, God says through the prophet, “Test Me...see if I do not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down an overflowing blessing.” Jesus says, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is My disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

And Paul is no exception, “the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will reap bountifully.... And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that always having enough of everything, you may work abundantly in every good work.” (II Corinthians 9: 8)

Can this be right? Give for what you can get out of it for yourself. There's an almost lottery-like appeal to it. Is giving an investment on which I can count on a return? If so, it's better than the stock market.

Let's face it, there is an element of self-interest to our faith. It would be a strange thing indeed to follow Christ and make sacrifices involved if it weren't in our own interest to do so. Being a Christian has its benefits. It affords us an
explanation to our existence. It enables us to live a life of joy and love and meaning. It places us in the midst of a community of faith and caring. And, most of all, it gives us the promise of eternal life, no small reward in this world of sin and death. That's not a bad bargain.

However, when it comes to stewardship, should we be giving to get? God is a shrewd steward of His resources. He does not want His money wasted, but is looking for a return. And when God has a cheerful giver who loves Him and offers from his or her resources with a glad and generous heart, God blesses that person. No question about it. Now, again, this is no iron-clad guarantee that we will grow wealthy through giving, or that we will never face hard times when we give. It's a general description of the way
the Kingdom works, but an important one, one we can rely on.

So, what does God want to teach His people about money? Why are His people so slow to want to hear godly principles on money management, and why are we so hesitant to apply these principles to our lives? Why?
Because we’re clouded by our own wrong views and feelings regarding money. There is a large green elephant in the room, and everyone wants to just ignore it.

Maybe it’s time to clear the clouds. Maybe it’s time we open ourselves back up to hear what God has to say about our finances. Maybe it is time we acknowledge the Green Elephant.

It's the topic that we all know is there in the church, but no one wants to talk about...money. And yet, Jesus talked more about money than any other subject. Some of what the Bible says may surprise and some will surely challenge.

It's time to acknowledge and address The Green Elephant.

Nov. 2 Why People Hate Sermons on Money
Nov. 9 Examples of Giving—Can God Inspire Me?
Nov. 16 No One Becomes Generous Accidentally
Nov. 23 How Can Giving be Good for Me?
Nov. 30 Global Impact

[Ron Otto, Preaching Minister Lincoln Christian Church]


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