September 28, 2008
The Treasure Principle
Pastor Brian Shimer
“What is Your 30-million Year Plan?”
2 Timothy 2:1-13; Mark 12:41-44
- Some of the questions at the back of this little book, The Treasure Principle, by Randy Alcorn make me squirm. Have you noticed them?
“Lord, You commended the poor widow for giving everything she had to You, leaving nothing for herself. So is it ever irresponsible for me to give to You now—no matter what my situation—rather than wait until later? Have I fallen for the lie that I just don’t have enough to give, despite the fact that the greatest examples of giving in Scripture were poor people?”
Try these on:
Question 9 says:
Or Question 12: “I need some help thinking this through, Lord. Doesn’t the fact that You entrusted Your money to me, not others, indicate You want me—during my lifetime—to invest it in eternity, rather than passing along that responsibility to my children? (Shouldn’t I let You decide what money You want to entrust to them? And in the case of children who’ve demonstrated lack of wisdom in money management, wouldn’t it be mismanagement of Your funds to pass them on?) Once my children have finished college or are working on their own, would inheriting my wealth (beyond items of special sentimental or heritage value) help their eternal perspective and walk with You—or would it be a complicating or even a corrupting influence that could cause them to stumble? Should I, like John Wesley, seek to make my own hands, while I still live, the executors of the greater part of “my” estate?”
Or Question 18, which is based upon the Matthew 19 passage where Jesus says that his disciples who have given much up on this earth will inherit 100-fold returns: “Father, Wall Street or real estate can’t touch the eternal returns of investing in Your kingdom. Who could match Your promise of 10,000 percent (a hundredfold return)? So why are my eyes so often focused on temporary, earthly investments with such pitifully small returns? Lord, please broaden my perspective, increase my faith and expand my eternal investment mentality.”
I like his thinking in these prayers, not because they are easy nor because they do not make me squirm, but because they force me to do some hard thinking about my own attitudes toward money, which I confessed to you a couple weeks back need adjusting anyway. I know I cannot just give it all away, for God is not asking me to do that, and I have a family that God has given me responsibility over, however, what is my attitude toward what I have. How do I view it? How am I clinging to it? These are worthwhile questions and force me to begin to “broaden my thinking” as the question I just read was asking God to do.
- I hope that over these weeks as we look at our own stewardship of our time and finances, that God does that for us, that God broadens our thinking. And this is a highly interesting time to talk about finances isn’t it – when our nation is in the throes of one of the worst financial crises ever, with congress debating over a $700 billion bailout! I cannot even conceive of that amount of money!
We are living through a time of incredible history – when the two candidates vying for election to the office of President have called off their campaigning in order to BOTH meet with President Bush to discuss this crisis. Has it ever happened previously?
So here we are at this crossroads of history and still this is the truth… we are living in a very brief time and soon, very, very soon, our time will end.
That may sound somewhat morbid this morning, but, it is truth, right? And yet as we are facing bills that we cannot pay, life situations which have left us stretched to the limits, encountered illnesses that remain chronic or life situations which have left us grieving, it can seem that the time will never come when anything will be “right” again. I have just been reading the book of Job and I can testify that Job felt that way! When we cannot “see” our way through our situation, we do not know how to get “out” and therefore feel so stuck. But the truth is that in light of eternity, our lives are a small slice of time spent on earth.
Mr Alcorn in his book talks about this idea as living for the dot or for the line.
The idea is simply this, that our lives are just a tiny dot of space, just a blip in comparison to eternity. So, the challenge is not to get all caught up with the dot – with living as if it is all about “us” – decorating our lives for this brief time. But we must remember the line—to live for eternity, for the eternal rewards, for the eternal promises of God.
- Does this mean we cannot spend anything on ourselves or have investments or saving accounts, etc? No. Does it mean we cannot remodel our houses or spend money on new gadgets? No, still it does mean we ought not to be doing so because that is just what everybody does. We ought to be spending and living with the “line” in mind.
Suppose this cord across the sanctuary is a symbol of eternal time – pretend that it goes on forever – and that this small dot on the line is our lives – our years here however long they are. Indeed, this “dot” is too big for our time on earth in light of eternity!
Scripture compares your days and mine to a “mist” that is here for a moment and then gone. Here watch this mist and get the picture. (Spray it) You’re alive. Now it’s gone, so are you! That our lives. Or Scripture compares our lives to a handbreadth – look at the width of your hand. Not that big. That is your life. Or, in Psalm 39 God gives the psalmist perspective on this life and he wrote: “the span of my years is as nothing before You. Each man’s life is but a breath.” A breath! Wow. Take one in now. Okay you’re alive. Release it— there, you’re dead! That is the size of your dot. No wonder the fullness of our years are compacted into just a hyphen on a gravestone – that is how brief it is.
You get a feel for this when reading through the Old Testament especially. Forty years can pass in a sentence. That alone can speak of the brevity of this life.
From the perspective of eternity, Jesus says that the widow who put all she had to live on into the temple treasury gave more than those who had put in 100 and 10,000 times that much.
From the perspective of eternity – how do we live here, in this breath of a life to impact eternity? Stock and Mutual Fund brokers will ask about our 70 year plan for investment, but what about a 30 million year plan?
Every paycheck my first check written is to this church – Karen and I have continued to give first right here, where our lives are invested. When I give into the church, it is into an investment. It is something better than mutual funds. I am giving into the advance of God’s Kingdom. As I give, I know that most of what I give is supporting the ministry that happens through us here in Banks to reach the hungry, the poor, the hurting, the needy, the depressed, and the brokenhearted with the good news of Jesus Christ. By giving here lives are being changed for Jesus Christ both in Banks and around the world.
I know for example that pennies of every dollar I give goes to the general church and I know my dear friend David Upp is one of those I am supporting in his teaching ministry in a Bible College in India, teaching young men and women to more effectively reach their country for Jesus Christ.
So, when I give it is as an investment into God’s Kingdom – it is into the best of all investment portfolios which will be reaping interest not over my lifetime but over countless lifetimes.
- This is to live for the line – for eternity. To give based upon what will make a difference for eternity not just use our funds for what will give us pleasure in this brief dot of a life.
We cannot take it with us. We know this. So how can we send it on ahead? It is by giving, by investing it into God’s work now… giving it away, sharing it with others. Like that widow dropping her coins into the offering box.
This theme of living for eternity is Paul’s point to his son Timothy in the second chapter of this letter. In the start of this chapter Paul turns from talking about another disciple back to address Timothy telling him to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” – for he will need this strength from God to endure the hardships that will be coming.
Then Paul compares this endurance to which he is calling Timothy to that of a soldier, an athlete and a hardworking farmer.
These three illustrations are similar in that all three have a goal in mind as they go about their work.
The soldier in active service, in times of warfare, knows that peril is a possibility for him and cannot afford to be distracted from this labor. But he also knows that beyond warfare is victory.
The athlete does not go through the rigors of training and running in the race according to strict rules without keeping in mind that beyond the athletic effort is a prize. And wasn’t this how Michael Phelps participated in this summer’s Olympics by keeping before him during his rigorous training the goal to win more gold medals than Mark Spitz won years before!
The hardworking farmer is about work that is devoid of excitement and lacks the glamour of peril or applause! His is a life of patient plowing, sowing, tending and eventual reaping, for beyond the agricultural labor will be a crop. The promised share in the crop is not viewed here as a temporal but rather the future eternal reward.
Each of these endures hardship for the future goal. Notice everything in this life is subjected to the goal. These are people living for the line not the dot. They live just as Paul has been living. He writes to Timothy that he has endured hardship and suffering even to the point of being chained, but “God’s word is not chained”. That is a great line!
- Paul calls Timothy to “Remember Jesus Christ” – both as the one who has stepped outside of the dot by rising from the dead and as the one who lived within that dot for his time on earth -- and we too would do well to do likewise! It is Jesus who can teach us how to live here for eternity! He is the motive for our living, the one in whom we trust as we give as we live as we walk.
Remember Jesus Christ.
Last week I was talking to my 18 year old daughter Susanna on the phone about some things that were pressing in with fear and worry upon my heart, and she responded: “Dad, it sounds like a good time to trust.” In essence her words said to me: ‘Remember Jesus Christ’!
As we give, as we release to God what is ours in this world, as we remember that all we still have is HIS given into our lives we must “Remember Jesus Christ” – who lived on this earth and who goes before us into eternity.
The trustworthy saying was an ancient hymn or possibly a corporate public confessional prayer as it is written as such with “we” language.
It begins with a reminder of our baptisms: If we died with him, we will also live with him. This is what happens in baptism – we die and are raised with Jesus.
Remember Jesus Christ!
It continues with the call to endurance, just as Paul has called Timothy and us to: If we endure we will also reign with him. This underlines the appeal to “live for the line” that future reward not the current “dot” of this life! Remember Jesus Christ!
Then a warning to persevere as the confession continues: If we disown him, or deny we know him, he will disown us. So we hold onto to Jesus, we Remember Jesus Christ, we do not turn from him but toward him in this life. This idea reflects those who truly turn from him, a description of them is found beginning in the 3rd chapter.
The confession ends with this fact that even if we are faithless or disbelieving, God will remain faithful for he cannot disown himself—He IS he cannot believe otherwise. This applies on another level that even when we are disbelieving in how we don’t use our finances in the best way, in how we don’t make the best decisions, in how we act out of fear not trust, even then, God will remain faithful to us.
Our eternal God is faithful. So, live each day as that soldier, as that athlete, as that farmer who all live for the goal of that eternal reward not as if the whole purpose of life is locked into this short span of time we have on earth. Call to mind the Lord Jesus who also lived for that future reward while on this earth and let us use time and money as those who are living with our eyes set upon that goal. Let us offer Him our attitudes, our time, our relationships, our spending of this life, day by day, for this life is all about eternity.