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Jesus Came To Set Us Free From The Grip of Materialism by Marc Axelrod
John Ortberg tells the story of a successful businessman. He worked 14 hours a day, even on weekends. He
thought the 40 hour work week was such a good idea he would often do it twice a week. His goal was to be the
best businessman he could be. Even when he wasn’t at work, his mind drifted toward his work so that it was not
only his occupation, it was his preoccupation.
His wife tried to get him to slow down. She knew that they weren’t as close as they used to be. But because of
his work, he hardly ever gave her any time. He gave at the office.
In the back of his mind, he knew that his kids were growing up, and he was missing it. His kids complained
about the ballgames he missed, the meals around the table he missed, the school concerts he missed. After a
while, they stopped complaining because they figured he was never going to change.
The businessman told himself, “I’ll be able to spend more time with them when things settle down. Besides, they
have a nice house and nice clothes and cool video games because of my job! Everything I do, I do for them!”
Deep down, he knew that he would be living this way even if he didn’t have kids. But it made him feel better to
say it anyway.
He also knew he wasn’t taking care of himself the way he should. His doctor told him he had some serious
warning signs-high blood pressure, high cholesterol. The doctor told him to cut back on the sweets and the fast
But instead, the businessman stopped going to the doctor. He said “There will be plenty of time for that when
things settle down.”
His wife tried to get him to attend church. But he said “Sunday is the one day I get to crash! It’s the one day I
get to sleep in! I don’t have room in my life for God and the church. There will be plenty of time for that when
things settle down.”
One day, the president of the company said “We have a new account with the Kohler company! We’re going to
be rich! We have a lot of work to do over the next year or so. But it will be worth it!”
Later that night, the businessman tells his wife “Do you realize what this means? We can relax! We can take life
easy! We’ll be able to take that vacation you’ve been talking about!”
But his wife said “I’ve heard this speech before.”
Besides, there was one small detail the businessman had overlooked. An artery that had once been as supple as
a blade of grass was now as dry as plaster. The blood cells could barely squeeze through. Each day, while the
man anxiously watched the stock market and stressfully did his work, the artery accumulated more and more
Later that night while he was hunched over the computer, his heart skipped a beat. Then another. Then another.
He gasped for air. He clutched at his chest. And he fell asleep.
His wife woke at 3am wondering “Where is he? Why isn’t he in bed yet?” She sees him slumped over his laptop.
She says “Figures. He’d rather sleep at his desk than come to bed.
She touched his arm, and she realized how cold he was! She panicked! She called 911. They came to the house.
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They told her that he had a massive heart attack and that he’d already been dead for hours.
People came from all over to attend the funeral. His work buddies said “He was a great leader! A dedicated
worker! A good man!”
The company paid for the business man’s headstone. It said “Here lies Barry: A visionary! An innovator! An
But later that night, God sent an angel to the headstone. There, the angel traced with his finger the word God
had in mind to describe the life of this wealthy, successful businessman. Fool. God said “You fool! This very
night, your life will be demanded from you. Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?”
This is a modern version of the story Jesus tells in Luke 12. Jesus was very frank in his diagnosis. He didn’t say
the man was wicked. He didn’t say the man was evil. He simply says “You fool.”
Why does Jesus use this harsh word? The man didn’t deliberately set out to alienate his wife and kids. He didn’t
deliberately choose to become a self-centered, greedy man. He never said that he didn’t believe in God. He
simply devoted his life to the wrong things. He became too self-absorbed and too busy for the things that matter
When you look at Luke 12:16-19, you can see that the farmer’s priorities are completely out of whack. When I
read this to you, I want you to notice all the “I’s” and all the “mys.” The rich man says “’This is what I’ll do. I will
tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I’ll say to
myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."
The rich man only cares about three people: Me, myself, and I. He doesn’t see that God Almighty is the One who
fills his barns with crops! He doesn’t see that God Almighty is the One who gives him faithful workers who do all
the hard work of harvesting the crops!
And instead of using his blessings to be a blessing to the people around him, all he cares about is how he can
make his own life more comfortable. There’s nothing in his future plans about helping the poor, and there’s
nothing in his future plans about giving thanks to God. 1 Peter 4:10 says “Use whatever gift you have to serve
others, and he’s not doing it. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “Give thanks in all circumstances, because this is Gods
will for you in Christ Jesus,” and he’s not doing it. His life consists in the abundance of his possessions rather
than in the abundance of a loving relationship with God.
Reminds me of the lawyer who gets a call from the community association. The man from the association says
“Sir, our records show that in spite of your wealth, you haven’t donated to this year’s drive.”
The lawyer says “Do your records show that my elderly mother was left penniless when my father died?” The
man says “No.”
“Do your records show that I have a disabled brother who is unable to work?” The man says “No.”
“Do your records show that my sister lost her job and that she can barely make ends meet?”
The embarrassed man says “No.”
The lawyer says “Well, since I don’t give anything to them, why should I give anything to you?”
That guy is stingy! That guy is self-centered! That’s what’s wrong with the farmer in Luke chapter 12. The
problem isn’t that he has great possessions. The problem is that his great possessions have him! That’s why God
says “You fool! This very night, your life will be taken from you! You have frittered your life away on trivial
pursuits and you have failed to realize that life itself is a gift from Almighty God! Now you will be punished!”
Then in Luke 12:21, Jesus says “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself, but is not
rich toward God.” Life is not about the accumulation of material possessions. Jesus says the purpose of life is to
be rich toward God.
You say “Pastor Marc, how can I be rich toward the One Person who already owns everything?”
One way for you to be rich toward God is to be generous with the people He brings into your life. I saw a movie
a while back called “It Could Happen to You.” It’s about a cop and waitress who win the New York State Lottery.
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They’re so grateful for how they’ve been blessed that they want to do something to bless others.
So one day, they head for one of the subway stations. The guy says “My name’s Charlie. This is Yvonne. We just
won the lottery, and today’s ride to work is on us!” They gave everyone in the station a token for the subway.
That simple act of kindness and generosity brought a lot of happiness to New York City that day.
Psalm 112:5 says that “Good will come to him who isgenerous and lends freely.”
I have a friend down in southern Ohio who likes going to Starbucks. Sometimes he gives an extra 20 bucks to
the cashier and he says “Use this for the people in line behind me until the money runs out. Tell them that it’s a
gift to show God’s love in a practical way. I’m sitting at the middle table if anyone wants to come over.” Just by
doing that a couple times a month, he gets to share God’s love with a lot of people. It’s a great way to be rich
Another thing you can do to be rich toward God is by being generous with your time. This month, Maggie, Tracy,
and Susan have been very generous with their time getting the kids ready for the Christmas pageant. In fact, we
have A LOT of people in our church who are generous with their time, and as a pastor, I feel like I’m in heaven!
Volunteering your time and your talents for the kingdom of God is a great way to be rich toward God.
Another way to be rich toward God is to as generous with your charitable giving as your situation will allow.
Our congregation has always been rich toward God with its charitable giving. When the youth group was raising
money for starving children around the world, you helped us raise $746! That was awesome!
And when the church needed to become more handicapped by putting in a wheelchair lift, the members of our
church gave generously. You were rich toward God.
And even though we’re in the middle of the worst economic recession since the 1930s, Peace church is able to
pay ALL its bills. Why is this true? Because God is good, and this congregation is rich toward God!
Psalm 37:21 says that “the wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously!”
Every time you give generously, you’re breaking the grip of materialism on your life. You’re saying, "I do not
believe the lie that life consists in the things I accumulate. I don’t believe the lie that my net worth and my self
worth are one and the same." Giving generously is a great way to be rich toward God.
But the number one reason why we should be rich toward God is because God has been rich toward us! On
Christmas day, He gave us His one and only Son! He sent Jesus to die for our sins! And if you repent of your sins
and ask Jesus to be your personal Lord and Savior, He gives you the gift of eternal life!
Since God has been so rich toward us, let us learn to be rich toward Him! Proverbs 3:9 says “Honor the Lord
with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops. Then your barns will be filled to overflowing and your vats
will brim over with new wine.” Let us be rich toward God. Let’s pray.