Salvation and Stewardship Should Be Inseparable
Twenty years ago, on the Mediterranean island of Malta, conjoined twins Mary and Jodie were born. The twins shared a heart and lungs. Their parents carried the twins to London.
There the doctors determined that the twins would eventually die. The only way to save the life of one would be to separate the babies. Such an operation would mean immediate death for the other.
Mary would eventually die, but Jodie was given the chance of a full life.
None of us may ever be faced with such an agonizing ethical decision.
Jesus once presented a man with a life and death decision I want you to contemplate.
Once a man came to Jesus and asked him, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may (have) eternal life?” (Mark 10:17)
This question is a good one.
Most people I have met want to go to heaven when they die. This man was no exception. How did Jesus respond?
You would think that Jesus’ response would be one that we have all been taught to use when someone asks us this question, but to my knowledge, no one ever responds to this question the way Jesus did.
How do we usually respond to this question?
Children that attend Vacation Bible School are taught the A, B, C’s.
A is for Admit. Admit that you have sinned. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 6:23) NIV
B is for Believe. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” – Acts 16:31 NKJV
C is for Confess. “That if you confess with your mouth, the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9-10 NKJV
Most of our plans of salvation like the Roman Road or the Four Spiritual Laws are some variation of this presentation.
So, are we out of step with Jesus or is Jesus out of step with the rest of scripture when he says this: “Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven? Then come, follow me”? (v.21)
Did anyone tell you to sell everything and give it all to the poor when you asked what you must do to go to heaven?
Is this a requirement for eternal life?
If not, why did Jesus tell this man that it was?
Let me begin by asking you if possessions are important to you?
Let’s be honest. Our house, vehicle, heirlooms, pictures, toys, money, property, gifts from loved ones, are all important to us. Would you trade all of it to go to heaven?
I bet I know what you are thinking.
I bet your answer is, “Sure, but do I have to do it today?”
“How about letting me use it right up till the end. Then I’ll trade just before I die? Won’t that be O.K.?”
Well, isn’t that how it works? You can’t take any of it with you.
But you can be selfish and keep all of it until you die. If you do, that’s not good stewardship.
That’s part of the problem with this man. He had a lot of wealth, which he wanted to keep till he died. He didn’t want to part with any of it.
This man was religious, but his love of money had become conjoined to his heart.
Jesus realized that either his religion or his love for money was going to win the day. His heart could not sustain both.
This man needed radical surgery. He had to decide what was most important in his life, his allegiance to Jesus, or his love for money.
Jesus, the Great Physician, began his examination by telling the man if he wanted eternal life he needed to keep the commandments.
The man wanted to know which ones he should keep, as if there was an option to keep some and not others.
Jesus was moving this man to a deeper level of commitment, so he just named a few.
“You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother, and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.”
The man likely had a big smile on his face when he told Jesus he had kept these commandments since he was a young man.
He wanted to know what else he lacked.
Then Jesus went to the source of this man’s problem.
Jesus told him that he lacked one thing. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (v. 21)
In doing this, Jesus wanted the man to know that his heart could not support his love of money and his desire to be a disciple. Surgery was needed. The two had to be separated.
The heart is not healthy enough to support allegiances to both Jesus and money. We can only serve one.
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24 (NIV)
Jesus wanted this man to give his total allegiance to him and make his allegiance to his money and possessions secondary.
What a dilemma! Was it fair for Jesus to ask this of this man?
What would you do? What if Jesus said to you – you must choose between your house, your car, your property, your bank account, your retirement, your savings, your stock portfolio, your business, your vehicles, your toys, and me. What would you do?
You might react the way this man did. His face fell. His jaw dropped open. He was stunned and speechless. He turned and went away sad because he had great wealth.
He was told that his heart could not support both his allegiance to Jesus and his devotion to his wealth.
Jesus used this as a teachable moment and told the disciples, “Truly I tell you; it is hard for someone who is rich to 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 someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (vs. 23-24)
But Jesus’ words left the disciples stunned and confused. Wealthy people were viewed as having been blessed by God. So, they wanted to know, “Who then can be saved?”
At the end of life, I often hear people speak of the goodness of the person that has died. It is from that good life lived that people conclude that the person must be in heaven because heaven is where good people go. However, goodness never got anyone to heaven. The Bible is clear that all of our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
Heaven is where people saved by the grace of God go. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that we are all saved by the grace of God.
While we lay up treasures in heaven through our good works, it is only by the grace of God that the gift of heaven comes to any of us.
This man in Mark 8 that asked Jesus about eternal life was a good man. By his confession, he said he kept the commandments, and we have no reason to believe that he didn’t.
However, being good wasn’t enough to be granted eternal life.
Jesus said more was required. For this man, Jesus demanded that he sell everything he had and give the proceeds to the poor.
If that is the way to heaven, then none of us are going. I think all of us still have a lot of stuff.
Jesus wanted this man and us to examine how much we love our stuff. How much are we attached to it?
So, this morning, the Great Physician is asking, “Are you conjoined to your stuff?”
For this man, Jesus wanted him to see that his possessions were more important than following him.
Is your stuff and what you do to acquire it more important than Jesus?
When anything comes before our allegiance to the Lord, then we have broken the very first commandment, “Thou shall have no other gods before me.”
We can say this about the disciples. They were not conjoined to their stuff.
Peter reminded Jesus:
“We have left everything to follow you!”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields-and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” Mark 10:28-31 NIV
Few people leave everything to follow Jesus. We live with the tension of loving our stuff and loving our Lord.
We want possessions to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. But how much do we need? We need savings for our children’s college and money for our retirement. But how much do we need? We need a home. But how big or how many? We need an automobile. But how expensive? We need toys for recreation. But how much of our budget do we use for nonessentials? Every Christian must struggle with these questions.
We learn to reevaluate the meaning of material things in the presence of God. As we do, we learn that there is no evil in money, and there is no evil in material things. There is only evil in the love of money and in our attachment to it.
Evil comes when our hearts are more in love with the material than with the spiritual.
Evil comes when our decisions are based on finances and not on what God would have us do with our finances.
Evil comes when we think nothing about spending hundreds of dollars on weekend entertainment but find it very difficult to give the same amount or more to the Lord’s work.
Evil comes when God gets our leftovers and not our first fruits.
Evil comes when giving to God is an afterthought and not our first thought.
Evil comes when we give just enough not to feel guilty but not enough to be obedient.
Evil comes when we give out begrudgingly or out of guilt and not out of joy.
Evil comes when we love money more than we love God’s work.
Paul told his friend Timothy, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Tim 6:10 NIV
When our hearts are conjoined with our possessions, our possessions will eventually choke out our love for the Lord.
When our hearts are conjoined with our possessions, we play at religion, but never develop a sold out, on fire, mentality for Jesus.
Until Jesus has our possessions, he will never have our heart because Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, that is where your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:21)
Where is your treasure this morning?
This morning, if Jesus is not your treasure, then you could miss heaven. You could die with a lot of stuff, which someone else will get, but what will you have?
Just as important is right now. The Lord wants you to live an abundant life now. That happens when you learn to make Jesus your treasure and not your money or your stuff. You must be willing to become a good steward of what you have, whether it’s a lot or a little.
If Jesus isn’t your treasure, I invite you to come and pray and God to help you to prioritize your life so you can make Jesus the most valuable part of your life and manage everything else the way God would have you manage it.