The Challenge - The problem is materialism
Do you like challenges? I like challenges. Well, I admit it depends on the challenge. If you were to challenge me to a hot dog eating contest I would pass – I mean is there really a winner in a hotdog eating contest? Did you hear that on May 26, Colo, a gorilla, at the Columbus Zoo took advantage of an improperly secured door and started walking the hallways used only by zookeepers? Colo found a marker and wrote on the wall and on a shovel handle. Who’s going to tell her she’s not suppose to write on the wall? And who drew the short straw here - one of the zookeepers tried to coax the 52 yr old gorilla back into her habitat using yogurt and a cup of coke. She wouldn’t budge, but less than an hour later she returned to her exhibit.[i] Challenge – you encounter a gorilla in the hallway. Something tells me the gorilla is going to win!
I have a few challenges for you today. Do you need to lose weight? The summer months make this a little easier in my opinion. I am 6’2” and I weigh 205. My ideal weight – taking my age (47) and height (6’2”) is 187. 187 – Are you kidding me - the last time I weighed 187 was when I stood on just one leg. Actually the last time I weighed 187 was in college. My doctor thinks it would be good for me to lose about 15lbs. Anyone up for a losing weight challenge? 90 days – check with your doctor – come up with a plan. My plan is simple – I need to eat less snacks or better snacks and eat better food. How about another challenge – have you ever read the entire Bible? Well, let’s not bite off more than we can chew. How about reading the entire New Testament in 90 days.[ii] That is a worthwhile challenge. Simply go to our website and you can print off this form. David said “The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”[iii] That’s what the Bible will do – these words will help you see the world like Jesus did! Speaking of the world – I have a 3rd challenge for you. Find the gold insert in your newsletter. We are collecting food for WARM the entire month of June. WARM receives the least amount of food donations during the summer. We’ve helped them already this past February but of course hunger has no season. I challenge this church to a TON OF FUN! In June let’s give a ton of food to WARM! Now I think those three challenges are worthwhile. But the Apostle Paul has a challenge for us that knock your socks off – literally, his challenge will not only transform this church, your life, but the world! Turn in your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 8. Do you need a Bible today? Just raise your hand. The Westerville Christian began in 1968. The church at Corinth began in AD. 50. Paul would write four letters to this church. Two are gone – two we have right here. While Paul is in Ephesus visitors arrive from Corinth and they give Paul an ear full. The church at Corinth is not doing well. The church is divided in loyalty, immoral - believers are taking each other to court. Throw on top of doctrinal misunderstandings on marriage, public worship and the resurrection and Paul is facing a HUGE problem. Paul acts as the Holy Spirit leads him to write. 1 Corinthians is very practical – 2 Corinthians is very personal.[iv] False teachers are trying to convince the church that Paul that he has no authority. So his 2nd letter is spent defending his actions, ministry, collection and authority. Now his collection is what we’ll focus on. Paul has been traveling from church to church asking for financial contributions for the church in Jerusalem. The people of Jerusalem are experiencing bad economic times. So bad – many are living in poverty – barely surviving – bread and rice at best.
So Paul now begins his challenge to not only the church at Corinth but to every church on the planet. Chapters 8 & 9 provide the most detailed model of Christian giving.[v] Look at what Paul says. (Read 8:1-6) (MAP)
The offering at Corinth had begun perhaps a year[vi] or more earlier. For some odd reason they stopped giving. A delegate from each church is going to gather and Paul wants to save them from the embarrassment of a pitiful financial gift. So to do that Paul gives the Corinthians both good news and bad news.
Do you like good news & bad news? Sue phoned her husband, Bill, wanting to talk, but he cuts her off. "I'm sorry babe, but I'm up to my neck in work. I don't have time to chat." Sue replied, "Well, I have good news and bad news." "OK, give me the good news." "OK," agreed Sue. "The air bag works just fine!" [vii]
A lawyer calls his client. I have some good news and some bad news. Well, give me the bad news first. The bad news is that the DNA tests showed that it was your blood found all over the crime scene. That’s awful. What’s the good news? The good news is that your cholesterol is down to 130![viii] Twenty-six year old Amy Lynn Slenk was married on May 25 to her longtime boyfriend, Cole Handley, at a CA vineyard. Her mother, Diane Slenk said her daughter was enjoying the happiest day of her life when she collapsed and died at her wedding reception from a brain aneurysm.[ix] How can good also be so bad? Find verse 7 in 2 Corinthians 8. (Read)
But this is where you are not doing so well! I am challenging you to become a church that gives. A church that excels in giving. Truth is Corinth is not the only church that struggles to give. (FINANCIAL SNAPSHOT)
Now why – why do most churches struggle to give financially? Is it possible the problem the Corinthians faced is the same problem we face? What was their problem? They were swimming in materialism. How do we know that? The Macedonian churches were struggling themselves and yet they gave. The Corinthians had much more than the Macedonians, but they gave less. The answer to the age old question – why do churches struggle to give can be answered succinctly – the problem is materialism - we are consumed in having more! When we have MORE the kingdom of God receives LESS.
It is true Jesus often went to people, but people often came to Jesus. Some times they would just yell from the crowd. A man did that one day crying out, hey…"Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." And do you know what Jesus says to this brother in return? Turn to Luke 12:14. (Read)
I find it very interesting that Jesus doesn’t help him directly, but he does indirectly. Directly, he doesn’t solve his problem. Dr. Mark Moore believes the brother yelling here is the younger brother. Well, Jews give a double portion of the inheritance to the older brother. The younger brother is trying to manipulate the audience and Jesus to make them feel sorry for him so he can swindle a little more cash! Jesus won’t fall prey to his little scheme. But indirectly Jesus helps him by offering this warning. Be careful of GREED. When Jesus says greed he means coveting – coveting is “wanting-more-ish-ness.” Greed is the “insatiable desire for excess.”[x]
I am in no way picking on teenagers right now. But the facts state – 6 years ago - teenagers in the United States spent $112.5 billion. 20.5 million Teens = $100 a week and their primary purchase - clothes.[xi] I counted in my closet – I have 47 shirts. Almost all of them are Westerwear. But when is enough, enough? Look at Jesus’ words again. (Luke 12:15) It so does. My possessions shout to the world that I’m somebody. They show I’m significant. That I’ve accomplished something in this world.
A famous football coach was on vacation with his family in Maine. When they walked into a movie theater and sat down, the handful of people there applauded. He thought to himself, "I can't believe it. People recognize me all the way up here." Then a man came over to him and said, "Thanks for coming. They won't start the movie unless we have ten customers or more."
Jesus is warning all of us – the applause of people & the the stuff of life will never satisfy your deepest longing for purpose and meaning – that can only be found wrapped up in walking with God each day!
The USA Today surveyed young adults ages 22 to 28 asking them to name the most important issues facing young adults today: 4-3-2-#1 answer – making better money management decisions.[xii] The Apostle Paul wants us to realize that when we make better money decisions everyone wins – but especially the church!
It had been a long hard winter in the Rockies. The snow piled deeper and deeper. The temperature dropped below zero and stayed there. The rivers froze over. People were suffering. The Red Cross used helicopters to fly in supplies. After a long hard day, as they were returning to base, a rescue team saw a cabin nearly submerged in the snow. A thin wisp of smoke came from the chimney. The men figured these people in the cabin were short of food and fuel – so they set their helicopter down, put on their heavy emergency equipment and trudged through the snow. Finally making it to the cabin they pound on the door only to have a thin gaunt mountain woman answer the door. The lead rescuer said, “Ma'am, we’re from the Red Cross. Before he could say anything else, she said, “Sonny, It’s been a long, hard winter. I don’t think we can give anything this year.”[xiii] Offering Now
Do you follow the Scripps National Spelling Bee? Even ESPN has coverage of the Spelling Bee. This year’s winner is Kavya Shivashankar. She won cash, prizes and a big old trophy. Her competitor was 12 year old Tim Ruiter of Centerville, VA. He misspelled “Maecenas.” Kavya’s winning word was “Laodicean.”
Laodicean means “lukewarm or indifferent.” I could have spelled that word. Why? Because I’ve read about the church at Laodicea in Revelation 3. They had become completely materialistic. And one clear symptom of being materialistic is becoming comfortable. And what does Jesus say they need to do – they need to repent!
[iii] Psalm 19:8b (NIV)
[iv] LAB, Notes, 2483
[v] MacArthur Bible Commentary, 2 Corinthians, 1637
[vi] MacArthur Bible Commentary, 2 Corinthians, 1638
[x] Mark Moore, Chronological Life of Christ, 31-32
[xi] www.preachingtoday.com/ U. S. Teens Spent $112.5 Billion
[xii] www.preachingtoday.com/Better Money Management is Top Priority of Young Adults
[xiii] Bob Russell, Take Comfort, 135