Right on the Money

Title: Right on the Money

Bible Book: James 5 : 1-6

Author: Mark Adams

Subject: Money; Stewardship



Have you ever noticed that in movies where the plot is some version of good vs evil—the evil person—the BAD GUY—will often be filthy RICH? Think about it. In Frank Capra’s, It’s A Wonderful Life, the GOOD guy is POOR George Bailey striving to help the whole town make ends meet while struggling with the BAD guy in this film: the evil Mr. Potter, a wicked self-centered man who has so much money he could buy out the banks during the stock market crash of the 30′s. In Disney’s 101 Dalmatians the GOOD GUYS are the POOR song writer and his wife who are trying to make a good home for all those cute little spotted puppies and the BAD guy is the filthy RICH, skunk-hair-dooed Cruella Deville. And then, pick any of the classic James Bond films and I’ll show you an evil genius with enough billions to finance the construction of some secret base from which he plans to take over the world.

Why is it that we see so many screenplays like this? Why do we tend to associate the pursuit of evil with money? I think it is because you and I are wired to think this way. We are created in the image of God. His fingerprints are on each of us such that, even in our fallen state, we see a reflection of His thinking on issues like material wealth. And if we want to see His thinking we only need look to the Bible because it is much more than a reflection. It’s God’s written Word and in its pages God tells us plainly over and over again that if we are not very careful, the LOVE of the things of this world—the love of money—will lead us into sin. The Bible very clearly teaches that if we make it our purpose in life to amass great wealth there’s a very good chance that we will find ourselves on the side of the “bad guys.” This is what Jesus was getting at when He said that it is hard for someone who pursues riches, “…to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” In fact He went on to say, “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone like this to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23)

Now—please don’t misunderstand me here. Jesus is not saying that RICH people are evil people. In fact God’s Word cites several examples of RICH Godly men and women down through the years—people who LOVED our Heavenly Father—people who sought first His kingdom, and because they did—because of their spiritual maturity, God entrusted them with great wealth. I’m thinking of wealthy people like Abraham, Moses, David, and Job. And then there are the wise men who visited Jesus as a toddler and apparently had vast wealth at their disposal. They were some of the first to recognize Him as the King of Kings. And what about Joseph of Arimathea? He was a very rich man and he donated his tomb to Jesus. Even though it turned out to be a loan—the fact that he owned a tomb carved out of rock showed he was a wealthy man. Tradition says that after the resurrection—after he got his tomb back—Joseph became a Christian and played a key part in the growth of the early church. The church of Philippi was started by a wealthy woman named Lydia—who allowed those Christians to use her home as their first facility. Paul’s companion, Barnabas, was apparently a rich man. We know this because the book of Acts records the fact that he sold some of his land and gave the profits to the leaders of the church in Jerusalem, an example that inspired other wealthy men and women to do the same. I’m saying there is nothing necessarily UNCHRISTIAN about being rich. The problems that come with earthly riches have to do with how we use it—how we RELATE to it.

In his commentary on James, Charles Swindoll points out that there are FOUR ways that people relate to money and the things of this world.

A. First, there are those who are poor WITHOUT and poor WITHIN.

These people have little or none of the world’s goods, and at the same time they know nothing of Jesus Christ or God’s love. They are poor without and within. And, of all the people in the world, they are the most to be pitied.

B. Then, there are those who are rich WITHOUT and rich WITHIN.

These are people like Abraham and Barnabas and Lydia and the others I mentioned who have a great deal of material wealth but who also maintain a rich, full relationship with God. I have known people like this—as have you. In fact several times I have been astounded at the generosity of Christians like this…many of whom are members of this church. The selfless giving of people like this who are rich WITHOUT and rich WITHIN has helped believers to do amazing things to help further God’s kingdom.

C. Third, there are those who are poor WITHOUT and rich WITHIN.

These people have little in the way of possessions but they are growing Christians and as such are rich in the things of God.

And then finally, there are people like those James mentions in our text for today and they are the TRUE bad guys in our world….

D. For they are rich WITHOUT and poor WITHIN.

The men and women James is speaking of here in chapter 5 were probably Christians, but they were poor in their faith because like the church at Ephesus, they had forgotten their first love and had given their heart to the things of this world. As a result they had made it their life focus to accumulate EARTHLY wealth. They are like the people Paul described in 1 Timothy 6:9-10 when he said, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction…for the LOVE OF MONEY is the root of all kinds of evil.”

James is very specific when he describes the KINDS OF EVIL their love led them to practice. Do you remember what he said in this text? First of all, instead of using their wealth for some constructive purpose they HOARDED it. James points out how foolish it is to do this because all earthly wealth is temporary. By the way, in James’ day earthly wealth came in three basic varieties: grain or food, clothing, and precious metals or jewels. James says that none of these things last. Grain hoarded in barns rots as does clothing left hanging in closets. Even gold and silver eventually crumble to dust because ALL the things of this world—even those things we value the most highly—are temporary. Let me put it this way: everything has a “best if used by label.” No THING lasts. Every THING expires eventually.

Plus—the Bible teaches that God gives us things—He gives us material wealth not to HOARD but to USE. Our money is to be spent, not only to provide for our families but also to advance God’s kingdom, to share the Gospel and to care for those in need. In short, those who name the name of Christ are not to amass a fortune that is uselessly stashed away in barns and closets and bank accounts with no regard for God’s will. We are blessed so that we can bless others. We are not to focus on GETTING.

But that is what these people in James’ day did. They selfishly hoarded. They ignored the needs of others around them and closed the doors of their estates and lived in the lap of luxury while their neighbors were cold and hungry. Second, these rich men had cheated the people who worked for them by not paying them their wages. They hired men to do specific jobs—like harvesting their fields or making their clothes and then when pay day came around they refused to distribute the payroll so their personal bank accounts could remain full. This caused the poor workers and their families great hardship.

Finally their evil was such that they condemned and murdered innocent men as a way of getting more. In the same way that Ahab and Jezebel twisted justice so they could get Naboth’s vineyard these guys corrupted the courts such that the innocent were killed, so these bad guys—these lovers of money—could then get their property to add to their own. To sum it all up, these wicked, foolish Christians loved their wealth—they loved material things so much—that they became one of the bad guys of the world. I’m sure you’ll agree, that when it came to money, they got it all WRONG.

Okay—the question I want us to deal with this morning is this: How can we avoid their mistake? How can we resist the seductive lure of money? To borrow an old archery term, how can we be “right on the money?” How can we be on target Biblically when it comes to the way we relate to wealth? The answer to these questions is found in the words of Jesus—words that obviously inspired what James says in today’s text. We find them in the 6th chapter of Matthew’s gospel.

Take your Bibles once more and turn there and let’s read verses 19-24.

19 – Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.

20 – But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

21 – For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 – The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.

23 – But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 – No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

In his commentary on this text, GREG LAFFERTY, pastor of Christ Community Church in St. Charles Illinois, points out that with these words Jesus taught us there are things we need if we are going to avoid the mistakes of the wealthy Christians in James’ day—things we need to be right on target Biblically when it comes to money. Let’s review them together:

I. First of all He says we need the right STOREHOUSE.

In other words, to be right on the money, every day of our life we’ve got to be “investing” in the right PLACE—and the Bible says this place is HEAVEN—eternity. You see, money is not inherently evil. We can do amazing good with it if we invest it in things that have eternal significance—Heavenly significance. It’s when we start using it ALL for things of THIS WORLD that we get into trouble. This is what Paul is getting at in 1st Timothy 6:17-19 when he says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, Who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

Now exactly why is it so important for us to make HEAVEN our “storehouse?” I mean, what makes it the RIGHT “storehouse?”

A. Well first of all there is the issue of SAFETY.

You see, everything we invest IN HEAVEN is absolutely secure. We can’t say that about things that you invest here ON EARTH can we? As Jesus says, the things of THIS WORLD are susceptible to thieves, rust, and moths.

This week I read a story about an army of termites who munched through 10 million rupees ($222,000) in currency notes last year—notes that were stored in a steel chest at a bank in northern India. I don’t know how they got into a steel chest but they did. Here’s a picture. As you can see TERMITES corrupted a fortune in earthly wealth.

I also came across a story this week about a valuable painting—one done by Pablo Picasso. In at art auction in 1997 at Christie’s in New York City, a man named Steve Wynn purchased this Picasso for 47 million dollars. His purchase actually turned out to be quite an investment because in less than a decade, Wynn completed a deal to sell the painting for $139 million—tripling its value! This transaction would have set a record for the sale of a piece of art but right after he completed the deal, Wynn, who was standing close to the painting, turned and inadvertently clobbered the Picasso with his elbow, placing a six-inch hole in the middle of the masterpiece. When the buyer heard about that, he withdrew his offer and the record-breaking $139 million sale evaporated. Stories like these illustrate the fact that even the best this world has to offer loses its worth. Eventually everything crumbles to dust.

You know, I’m sure the bankers who discovered their rupees had been eaten by hungry bugs groaned. I’m sure Wynn did the same thing when he put his elbow through that painting. Well, in verse 1 James says this is what the rich Christians who are investing in the things of this world are going to do at the judgment—only they will groan AND moan! James says when that great day comes they’ll “weep and wail” as they see how foolish they were to invest in the HERE AND NOW at the expense of the THERE AND THEN. This reminds me of Jesus’ words in Luke 6:24-25 when He said, “Woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall MOURN and WEEP.” People who invest in the things of this world—the pleasures of this world—WILL weep when they get to Heaven, for they will realize that their investment did not last. They will see that they laid all their treasures in STOREHOUSES where moth and rust corrupted and where thieves broke in and stole. They’ll see that their investment was not safe.

B. And this leads to a second reason we must invest in the things of Heaven—the issue of YIELD.

You see, things invested in the Kingdom of God are not only safe—they also pay the highest possible return! These days we like to invest our money and get a 5-7% return in the long run. Well, Scripture talks about heavenly investments yielding a 30, 60, or even hundredfold return. That’s 3,000, 6,000, or 10,000 percent! Does anyone know of a bank that pays that kind of interest? Of course not—no earthly bank that is! Let me put it this way. When you and I get to Heaven, we aren’t going to care about how our retirement funds did. We won’t care about our 401K’s. We’re not going to care about how big a house we owned. We won’t care about how nice a car we drove or how much we were able to travel and play golf when we retired. All we’re going to care about when we die and get to Heaven are those things we invested in the Kingdom of God.

This week I read about a woman named Marcella, who was born to a noble Roman family in 325A.D. and was highly revered by Jerome, the 4th-century translator of the Latin Vulgate version of the Bible. You see Marcella offered her palace as a sanctuary for Christians who were being persecuted. She was also active in leading Bible classes and prayer meetings among other noblewomen. Marcella was widowed at an early age and had no children. She chose to not remarry do as to devote her life to serving Christ and the church. When Pope Damasus commissioned scholar Jerome to make a newly revised translation of the Gospels, taking the latest available Hebrew and Greek texts and translating them into Latin, Jerome moved into Marcella’s palace for the duration of his task. For three years, he depended upon Marcella and her other house guests to critique his ongoing work, which eventually became a classic, the Latin Vulgate Bible. Marcella also founded the first convent for women in the Western church, and gave liberally of her wealth to help other Christians, clearly showing to her fellow noblewomen that she believed greater rewards and fulfillment come from storing up treasures in Heaven than from hoarding treasures on earth. In fact, I’m sure that when Marcella got to Heaven seventeen centuries ago she rejoiced in the way she invested her earthly wealth. I’m sure she heard our Lord say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant!”—and listen, there is no greater return on an investment than to hear those words!

C. A third reason it makes sense to use the “storehouse” of Heaven is the issue of TIME because that’s where we will SPEND most of our lives.

Of course that’s a vast understatement. In comparison to eternity our time on this world is infinitesimally brief. James reminds us that our entire lifespan is like a vapor that evaporates almost immediately. Because of that it’s foolish to invest only in things of this temporary, “vaporous” world.

This fall I will go on my second sabbatical—and I want to thank you in advance for providing that wonderful blessing for me and the rest of our pastoral staff. It’s wonderful to have two months every five years for rest and renewal. Thanks to the generous gift of some family members, Sue and I are going to spend the first two weeks of my sabbatical on a pilgrimage in Israel. We’ll be joining a tour group of the Holy Land led by one of our former BCMD state staffers and we’ll visit Jerusalem and Capernaum, the baptism site of Jesus, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Masada, Qumran, and more. I can hardly wait! To top it all off, the tour group has arranged it for us to have a day in Paris on the way home!

Of course before we start our day in the City of Light I’ll need to convert some money into the local currency which I believe is Euros. And I’ve been thinking—I’ll probably only convert about $100—and will rely on a credit card for anything else. Now—I am in no way a rich man financially, but I have significantly more than $100 at my disposal. I could convert much more than that to Euros. In fact, if I wanted to, I could have taken all my worldly wealth—even to the point of, cashing in my retirement fund and selling the house. I could take all that cash to spend on our day in Paris. But I’m not going to do that. Why? Because I’m only going to be spending 24 hours in Paris. I mean, it would be foolish to cash all my assets into Euros since I’m only going to be there a short time.

Well—since I’m a Christian I’m going to spent billions and billions of years—all eternity—in Heaven. So, it only makes sense to invest in things that will benefit me there doesn’t it! Of course it does. Well, for these three reasons Jesus told us to STOP investing in the things of earth and instead to invest in things of eternal significance. He told us to put our money in the right storehouse. As our “eternal Stock Broker,” Jesus has advised us to STOP spending your money on things you won’t need in Heaven and START investing it in things of His kingdom.

Please understand. Jesus is not making an argument here about MORALITY. His argument is for WISDOM. Lafferty writes, “If you’re building up treasures on earth, it’s not so much that you’re wicked…it’s that you’re stupid.” That may sound a bit harsh but Lafferty is correct. To be right on the money we need the right storehouse.

II. And then Jesus says we also need the right STANCE—the right mental and emotional posture before money.

In other words we need to LOOK at money from the correct perspective. This is what our Lord is talking about in verse 22 where He says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

Let me try and explain what Jesus is saying here. There’s a great deal of light in this room, especially up here by the pulpit and if your eye works, which means if it takes the light in, that light will enable you to see so that you can move our body through the room. You’ll see where the aisle is and where the chairs are and you won’t stumble or fall. But if for some reason your eyes aren’t working, even though there’s light around the rest of your body, your whole body, is in darkness. Well, Jesus is saying that materialism has the peculiar effect of blinding us spiritually. It distorts the way we see things. Even though His truth is there—we can’t see it. He’s saying that when we love money we stumble around in life blind to the really important things of life. Materialism or greed has this effect on us. In fact, it can cloud the way we perceive everything such that we focus our thoughts and interests on this world only. If we are not careful wealth gradually enslaves those who are attached to it and perverts their values. The more we have, the easier it is to be possessed by our possessions, comforts, and recreations and when this happens our growth as believers comes to a standstill. As Jesus said in Mark 4:19, “The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the Word.” This week I came across a list entitled, “You’re suburban if…” but I think it might also be entitled, “You might be blinded by wealth if…” Listen to this list and evaluate your own vision. “You might be blinded by wealth if…

You have the luxury of a two-car garage but the cars don’t fit in it.

You built a shed to store your Christmas decorations.

Your kids have never crossed the street at a stop light.

You pick your dog’s haircut out of a magazine.

Your mortgage could balance the national debt of a third-world country.

That may sound a bit harsh—but do you get the point? If we are not careful our love of THINGS blinds us to truth—blinds us to the needs of others—blinds us to things of eternal significance.

You know, greed is different from other sins in that it is what you might call an “eye sin.” I mean Jesus never said to anyone, “Watch out, you might be committing adultery.” because if you’re committing adultery, you know you’re committing adultery. You don’t look on the other side of the bed and say “Oh, my goodness, you’re not my wife!” It doesn’t happen that way. But Jesus does say, “Watch out you might be greedy!” because Greed hides itself. It blinds you in a way that adultery and other sins don’t. It warps your vision so that before you know it you have wandered into sinful actions. 1st Timothy 6:10 puts it this way, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money, people with their eyes on money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

You see the STANCE we take toward God and money is determined by our vision—by what we are focusing on in life. “Good” eyes in this context means singular eyes—eyes focused on one object of desire—CHRIST and HIS KINGDOM. “Bad” eyes wander from God toward the things of this world. And Jesus says that people who focus on the things of this world may think they are enlightened, but actually they are darkened. The light within them is actually darkness. They think they’re smart and wise and going down the right road, but they’re filling their whole life with darkness. This is what Jesus is saying. So, we’ve got to look at our money—at the things of this world—from the right perspective, the right stance. We have to “SEE” that we are STEWARDS and that a day will down when we will be evaluated by our care of the things God has put into our hands. In his classic commentary Matthew Henry put it this way: “It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for our last day.” And he’s right. We need to LOOK at our days with this stance.

So, to be RIGHT on the money we need the right STOREHOUSE and the right STANCE,

III. And then finally we need the right SOVEREIGN.

Now, Jesus did an interesting thing here in Matthew 6. He gave money a Semitic name: “Mammon” – with a capital “M.” No one else in the culture of Jesus’ day had ever given money a name like this—as if it were a living thing—but Jesus did, because from His sinless perspective He saw things the rest of the world could not. Jesus saw that money is not just a neutral medium of exchange but rather something that we very easily lift to idol status. And when we do this—when we love it to excess—Jesus knew that money could even take on a “power” and a life of its own.

But please understand. It is not the AMOUNT of money that is the problem. Idolizing MAMMON is not a habit limited to those who are wealthy. The poor and middle class can just as easily slip into this practice. John Michael Talbot is the founder of The Hermitage, a community of monks, nuns, and families belonging to a religious order called The Brothers and Sisters of Charity. Everyone in the group is committed to living a simple life, and has relinquished all but the most necessary possessions. Talbot writes, “Taking a vow of poverty is not a cure for materialism. Many people come to this community and go from being selfish with thousands of dollars to being selfish with a coffee mug.” So, you see, our problem with things is not how much we have but how much they have us!

As I said a moment ago when I quoted 1st Timothy 6:10 MONEY is not the problem. It’s when we love money to excess—not matter how much or how little we have—that it can take on a personality and power of its own. In Proverbs 30:8 Solomon referred to this principle when he said: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”

So the truth is, to be RIGHT on the money, we have to make a choice. We have to pick a SOVEREIGN: GOD or Money. Jesus says it can’t be both for, “No one can serve two masters.” The idea of dual lordship is an impossible one. You might be able to have dual citizenship but never dual Lordship. As Deitrich Bonhoefer once put it, “Our hearts have room only for one all-embracing devotion, and we can cleave to only one Lord.”

The Bible says there is a way to break MAMMON’S hold. The way to say, “I choose GOD as my Sovereign!” is to use our money to further His kingdom—to give of our tithes and offerings so that people’s physical and spiritual needs can be met. You see GIVING is a very powerful tool for foiling money’s grasp on our lives. This is what Gordon Crosby meant when he said, “To give money away is to win a victory over the dark powers that oppress us.” And this is true.

Every time we tithe to this church, every time we give to someone in need, we remind ourselves that God is on the throne of our life—not money. Tithing is a way to say, God is my Lord and I’m going to trust Him to provide for my needs. Sue and I tithe. We learned to practice this spiritual discipline early in our marriage—and don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t an easy thing to do then and it’s still not. It is not easy for me to write my tithe check every other week on payday. I can always think of other ways to use that money. But every time I obey God and write that tithe check, I consciously decide to trust Him…to put my faith in Him as sovereign Lord and Provider of my life. Every time I put that envelope in the plate, I’m saying I trust God—not MAMMON—to take care of me and my family. So the right STOREHOUSE, the right STANCE, and making sure God is the only SOVEREIGN. These three things will put us right on the money. We come now to the close of our service and as we do I want to point out that in a very real sense, the offering is not limited to what we do in the middle of our service each week. It is also what we do now—at the end of the service. We sing a closing hymn each week to give each of us an opportunity to offer—TO GIVE—our lives to God in some way. Today that offering may involve your joining this church. It may involve a commitment to begin tithing. It may mean deciding to become a Christian…surrendering your life to God as you repent of you sin and embrace the forgiveness that Jesus offers. We invite you to share any public decision with us now, as we stand and sing by coming forward and sharing that decision with me.

Posted in


Scroll to Top