No one wants to be mastered by anything, but the question remains: Do you have money, or does money have you?
- What would you do if you received an extra paycheck this month?
- Is there anyone in your life who you consider a generous person? What financial habits do they practice?
- When you think about your finances, which of the following do you prioritize the most: giving, saving, or spending?
- Andy described Jesus’s “others-first” lifestyle as a way to avoid money’s control over our lives. How does this land with you?
- Do you agree that “More money does not generate more self-control, discipline, or contentment”? Why or why not?
- Do you feel controlled by money? If so, what’s something you can do in the next month to loosen its grip?
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
In a few minutes, I’m gonna challenge you to do something I have challenged people to do for years. And for some of you, you’ve heard me say this before, for others of you, this will be new. For some of you, you’ve heard me say this before, and you never did anything about it and you’re gonna be like, “Oh no, that again.” But I’m gonna ask you to flip the script on your entire financial world, and I’ll explain what I mean by that in just a few minutes. Now also, before we get to that part of what I wanna talk about, I just want you to know that I know I am not the boss of you, okay? Nobody died and left me in charge of you. I don’t have any authority over you, but I’m gonna use all the persuasive skills I have to try to get you to do something that some of you know you need to do and you just haven’t done it, and others, for others of you, again, this is going to be brand new.
Now, if our money could actually talk, and our money began to give us financial advice, none of us, for the most part, would be shocked about the advice that our money would give us. The shocking thing is the parallel between what our money would say if it could talk, and what Jesus did say when He did talk. As we talked about last time, Jesus said more about money and possessions than He did about Heaven. And perhaps, He talked more about money than Heaven, because for most people, “There is no money,” would be worse news than, “There is no Heaven.” And so perhaps He knew where our hearts were, and He knew where our interest was, and so He leveraged what was most important to us to get our attention. And perhaps Jesus knew as well, that money never promises, that money promises more than it can actually deliver. The promise being, as soon as you get a little bit more, I’ll finally deliver, right?
So if money could talk, if money could talk, it would tell us things that we already know. If money decided to start giving us financial advice, I don’t think we would be shocked. So last week we looked at the first thing we know for sure our money would tell us, and one of the things our money would tell us, one of the things your money would tell you is this, “I can add meaning to your life, but I’m not the meaning of life. I can add meaning to life to your life, but I’m not the actual meaning of life.” That money becomes most meaningful when you begin to view it and you begin to use it as a means to an end that isn’t you.
Today, the second thing that our money would tell us if our money could talk is simply this, and you’re not gonna love this one, “Your self-control determines which one of us or which of us gets control.” Your money would tell you, “You know, by the way, this isn’t about how much you have, this is about what you do with it. Your self-control is actually gonna determine which one of us gets control.” That the financial pressure that many, not all, I understand that, but the financial pressure that many of us feel has less to do with how much we make, and more to do with what we did with it, or what we’re doing with it. In fact, the reason I know this is that the financial pressure that most of us feel, and that most of you feel, the financial pressure that we feel would make absolutely no sense to over half the world’s population.
Because in the context of what happens in the rest of the world, we are so ridiculously well off, and so ridiculously wealthy, but because we have no margin, we feel financial pressure that half the world will look at us and say, “If I made that much money, I wouldn’t feel any pressure. All my dreams would come true.” So we say, “If only I had more money.” Money says, “If only you had more self-control,” because your self-control, as we’re gonna see, determines who or what gets control of your life. If your money could talk, it would tell you, “I’m a much better servant than I am a master. Because ultimately, I will always go, I’ll always go where you send me.”
Now, this is where the topic of faith and finances intersects. Because if you’re a Christian, and by the way, if you’re not a Christian, you’re gonna be so glad you’re not. I’m telling you, [laughter] at the end of this message, you’re gonna turn to your Christian friend and say, “Good luck with that,” okay? [laughter] But if you’ll listen and if you will decide to do what I suggest at the end, I promise, I promise, you will either thank me or somebody later on. This is where faith and finances intersect. So if you’re a Christian, here’s the thing: Your Heavenly Father, your Heavenly Father will always nudge you towards…
Actually, I think I’ll let a professional tell you. The Apostle Paul talks about this. The Apostle Paul steps into the pages of history, as you know, as somebody who hated Christians, then he became one, and he wrote letters to Gentiles, non-Jewish people all around the Mediterranean rim in the first century, planted all these churches, and he talks about this tension that we all feel when it comes to self-control and our stuff. And here’s how he said it, he says it way better than I ever could. He says to Christians, Jesus followers, He says, “Look, I say, I want you to walk by the Spirit.” In other words, walk in sync with the internal spirit, and this isn’t spooky. This is simply that God will nudge you in your conscience, that when you decide to become a Jesus follower, when you surrender your life to Christ, your conscience will change over time, and things that never bothered you before will start to bother you. And that may bother you, but the bothering won’t go away, because the Holy Spirit of God moves inside of you, and through your conscience begins to nudge you.
And here’s the direction in which the Holy Spirit will nudge you, Paul tells us. He says, “By the way, the outcome of that internal nudge looks like this; the fruit of the Spirit, that is the outcome of saying yes to that internal nudge is actually things that you want your sister-in-law to have more of, your brother-in-law to have more of, your children to have more of, your fiancé to have more of, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your husband, and your wife to have more of. And your Heavenly Father would like for you to have more of it too.” The fruit of the Spirit is this, it’s love, it’s joy, it’s peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and then here’s our phrase, our compound word, and self-control. That the Holy Spirit is going to nudge you towards self-control in all things. And the reason he’s going to nudge you towards self-control in all things is because, all of these things on this list war with our internal natural appetites, including our appetite for more stuff, and the security that comes with more money.
And we shouldn’t be surprised that God, who says He loves you, and God who’s invited you to relate to Him as a Heavenly Father, we shouldn’t be surprised that God would nudge us towards self-control. Why? Because He’s some sort of cosmic kill-joy, because He wants to take over and ruin our lives? No. Because God knows what you know. Nobody wants to be mastered by an appetite. In fact, in a room this large, and with an audience this large, there are a lot of people who spent a lot of money wrestling and trying to get free from an appetite, an appetite that baited them into something that they thought would just be a pastime. That baited you into something that you thought would be a pastime. And when it was too late, you discovered it was a pathway, and your appetite took control of your life.
And if God loves you, then of course, your Heavenly Father doesn’t want you to be mastered by an appetite. And besides, if you’re a Christian, you already have a master. But last week, at the end of the extraordinary story that Jesus gave, this extraordinary parable, Jesus swings back around, and He makes this very familiar statement, something perhaps you’ve heard before, even if you didn’t grow up in church.
It’s not only… [chuckle] It’s not only familiar, it’s extraordinarily brilliant. In fact, it’s statements like this, after you begin to understand and unpack what Jesus is talking about, that makes me believe that the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are actual events, that they record actual events and actual stories and teachings of Jesus, because I don’t think anybody could make this up, and even if they could, I don’t think anybody would make this up. And here’s what Jesus says, He says, “Let me direct your attention to this thought: No one can serve two masters.” And the little word “master” here, the Greek word is “kurios”, which is one who is in charge by virtue of ownership. Someone who is in charge of another person by virtue of ownership. In fact, it’s usually translated in the New Testament as the word “Lord”. He says, “You can’t have two Lords, you can’t have two masters.” And when we hear the term master, we think, “Well, not only do I not have two masters, I don’t have any master, I don’t even have one master,” [chuckle] to which your Heavenly Father would say, “We’ll see.”
Jesus continues. He says, “Here’s your choices. You cannot serve, no one can serve both God and money.” Now, this is the brilliant part of Jesus’ teaching. Because if you’ve never heard this statement before, and I were to put a blank there, and you were to look at the contrast, you cannot serve both God and fill in the blank, virtually nobody would put the word “money” there. And Jesus says, “Let’s just be honest, okay? What this really comes down to in the real world is, you can’t serve God and stuff, you can’t serve God in the pursuit of wealth, you can’t pursue God and the pursuit of something that you think will make your life richer if you have more of it.”
And here’s the interesting thing; Jesus, Jesus, Jesus viewed money along with the quest for more as the chief competitor for our hearts. His question to you, His question with me would be something like this, “Do you have money or does money have you?” To which you may shrug and respond, “It doesn’t have me, ’cause I don’t have enough of it to have me. I would like to have so much money that I struggle with it having me. “I mean, if wealth is a difficult test to pass, I’d like to at least sign up and take the test, right? [laughter] If having too much creates too much stress, I’d like to sign up and just see how well I handle that stress, right?”
So who is He talking to? I mean, is Jesus just talking to rich people? Who is Jesus talking to? Is it possible that Jesus is talking to a group of people who get home from work in the afternoon, and see three Amazon boxes… Amazon Prime boxes sitting on the porch, you pick them up and look at them and they have our name on them, and we don’t even know what’s in them, and we ordered it. Could He be talking to us? It’s Christmas every week. “Look, I got a prize.” “Who is it from?” “It’s from me.” “What is it?” “I don’t know.” [laughter] Could He be talking to people like us? See Jesus, that’s why He’s so brilliant. It was 2,000 years ago, He’s talking to everyone. And here’s why, because everyone is at risk of making money their ultimate pursuit, or don’t miss this part, or their ultimate concern. Everybody runs the risk of making money or the pursuit of stuff their ultimate pursuit or their ultimate concern, which makes it their ultimate… It makes it their Lord.
Now, here’s something really odd that I hope bothers you so much you pay attention to the rest of the message, okay? Think about this. If you’re… Only for if you’re a Christian, if you’re not a Christian, again, talk amongst yourselves. But for those of you who are Christians, this is a big deal. I want you to think about how much easier it is for you to trust Jesus with your sin. In fact, you’re somebody who did rarely ever prays, but every once in a while you do a real whopper and you’re not even sure there’s a personal God, and you’re like, “To whom it may concern, [laughter] please, whoever, whatever is out there, please don’t let them find out. Please help me to get home safe, please don’t let there be blue lights.” Isn’t it amazing how easy is to take our sorrows to God?
“God I’m so lonely. God I’m just… I’m at the end of myself. God I don’t know what to do. God, my heart is so broken, I’m just… God, I don’t even know what words to bring. God, they say he’s… You heard what the doctor said, I don’t have to tell you what the doctor said. God, please don’t let him die. Please save my little girl, God.” Isn’t it amazing how quickly, how easy it is to take our sorrows to God and give our sorrows to God?
Isn’t it interesting how hard it is to give your money and your stuff? This is why Jesus was so smart. Jesus was so smart and He never asked anybody to give Him money. This wasn’t about Him getting money. Do you know what this was about? This was Him about… This was about Him wanting to get you. So He was clear… If you haven’t surrendered what you have, you haven’t really surrendered. If you haven’t given Him access to what you have, He doesn’t have access to you. You have opted for the lesser master. And Jesus addresses this. I mean, Jesus addresses this head on. He says, “This isn’t about either/or, this is about priorities.
Here’s what He says, “But seek first, seek first the key,” this is so important, “The key to keeping the pursuit of more or infatuation with better out of the driver’s seat of your life, is to prioritize something else.” Seek first. The way forward, the key to keeping the pursuit of more or the concern over even having enough, the way to keep that out of the driver’s seat of your life is to prioritize something else over it. So Jesus says, “You wanna get this right? You wanna be free? You wanna live a different kind of life? Do you wanna find control over yourself? Control, so that your lack of self-control, especially in the area of finances, doesn’t continue to get you in trouble or embarrass you?” He says, “Then, here’s my invitation.” And this is, this is, this is amazing. He says, “Here’s what I’d like for you to do. I want you to seek first my Father’s Kingdom and His righteousness. I want you to seek first my Father’s Kingdom, my Father’s “Others-first-me-second” Kingdom. And I want you to seek His righteousness.” And this isn’t a religious word, and this isn’t a complicated word. If you wanna know what this means, you just read Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, and watch Jesus, because Jesus was righteousness personified.
And righteousness was not stand apart holiness, and righteousness wasn’t praying all the right kind of prayers, and righteousness wasn’t walking around like this. Righteousness was… It was Jesus in motion, it was Jesus in action. Jesus, this is amazing, who fearlessly and courageously put other people first. It gets better than that. Jesus, who fearlessly and courageously put you first.
This is… I can’t even describe this scene. I’ll just do my best. Jesus and His guys are going to Jerusalem., and the Apostles, and they’ve got all the camp followers; everywhere He goes there’s a new crowd of people. They’re going to Jerusalem, and Jesus is gonna be arrested and die, and He knows this. This is our last trip, guys. And so He hears the guys behind Him arguing and talking, and He hears them talking about, “Hey, when we get to Jerusalem, who’s gonna be number two and number three? ‘Cause we know Jesus is number one. But there’s gonna be a two, and a number three, okay?” So they’re arguing about who gets to be number two and number three, because they think when He gets to Jerusalem, He’s gonna rip off, we talked about this, his Rabbi robe, He’s gonna be Messiah, He’s gonna be king, He’s gonna set up an Earthly kingdom, and whoever is closest to the king, you get to be kingly, you get to live like a king. They’re thinking in terms of the only terms they know, kingdom, empire.
And Jesus says, “Okay, time for a little conference.” Sends all the crowds away. He sits the 12 down. He says, “Okay, let’s go over this one more time, we’ve been over this before. Do you wanna be great?” Here’s how great works in my Kingdom: You have to serve everybody else, you have to serve each other. If you’re willing to serve each other, you can be great in my Kingdom.” He says to them, “You know how it works in the rest of the kingdoms of this world, right? You know how it works. The person at the top, the person with all the resources leverages their resources to get more resources, they leverage their power to get more power. They leverage everything they have to the detriment of everybody else. You know how it works in the kingdoms of this world?”
And they’re like, “Yeah, we know how it works. Why do you think we wanna be number two and number three? We wanna be the top of that pyramid.” And then Jesus, oof, He says, “Look at me, guys, not so with you, ’cause that’s not the way it works in my Father’s Kingdom. You wanna be great in my Father’s kingdom, you flip the script and you serve.” And then He finishes with this, this shut them down. “For even,” talking about Himself, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. Now come on, let’s go.”
They get to Jerusalem, they have this final Passover meal, there’s so much drama, and all of a sudden they’re talking amongst themselves, and you know, “Where did Jesus go? Where did Jesus go?” They’re looking, He’s in the back of the room. He’s taking off his clothes. He’s like, “What’s up?” And then He puts a towel around Himself, And now, Jesus, the king, He’s got a towel around His waist and He starts washing their feet, and they’re freaking out, and He’s like, “Sit down guys. Peter, sit down, I’m washing your feet.”
This takes a long… It takes a long time to wash 12 dirty feet. It’s silent. He finishes, puts His rabbinic robe back on, nobody’s saying a word, and He says this to them, He says this to you, I think He says it first of all to me. He says, “Gentlemen, you call me teacher and Lord,” there’s our word, “You call me teacher and Lord, and rightly so, because that’s who I am. And now that your Lord has washed your feet, you are to wash one another’s feet. And doing this, I have set an example for you, because the servant is never greater than the master. I have flipped the script on the kingdoms of this world, and if you’re gonna be a part of my Kingdom, if you’re gonna seek first my Kingdom, you are joining an “Others-first-Kingdom”. You up for that guys?” And they were. And the next day, they watched the King give His life for the subjects, and the world has never been the same.
But this isn’t others an exclusion of you. I mean, you’ve got bills to pay. I mean, you’ve got college tuition to figure out, right? I mean, you haven’t had a job for three months, and you’re starting a job, and you gotta catch up. I mean, He understands all that. Look what He says next, this is amazing. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. And by the way, I love you, and all these things that you worry about, all these things that you fret about, all these things that have to get done, all these things that have to be paid for, all these things that are crucial to being able to survive in whatever century we live in, for us, the 21st century,” He said, “They’re gonna be given to you as well. This isn’t either/or, this is one and two. This is first and second, because somebody’s kingdom has to come first, and your Heavenly Father has invited you into the “Others-first-Kingdom”.”
And here’s the thing, because He’s so smart; Here’s what Jesus knew that we all figured out: When we put us first, we eventually come in last. And here’s why; because when you put you first, you have a difficult time saying no to you, right? I mean, if you’re first, if it’s all about you and your kingdom, it’s hard to say no to you. And the problem is, eventually you’re not mastered by you, eventually you get mastered by an appetite or a bunch of appetites. And nobody wants to be mastered by an appetite, and your Heavenly Father doesn’t want you to be either. And here’s why: Because you are a created being, and you were created to seek first your Creator. And when this gets out of order, our lives become disordered.
So, what do we do? And the great news is, Jesus already told us. We have to put something ahead of us. We have to join in a practical, tangible, I-see-what-you-did-there way, other people ahead of us. We have to flip this script. Because this is the script that all of us were born into. I’m gonna live and spend whatever I want on me, I’m gonna save a little bit for my future kingdom, and if there’s any left over, I’ll give it away. This is the “me-first” living with some left over giving, okay? [laughter] Welcome to average. You wanna be an average person, knock yourself out. Welcome to just like everybody else, because this is what everybody else does.
And if all there is to this life is this life, you might as well eat, drink, and be merry, because tomorrow you die, and you won’t be concerned about your kids or your grandkids, ’cause you won’t be around to be concerned, and they’ll have un-fond memories of you, but who cares? Live it up and consume it all, it’s all yours. But, if Jesus is who Jesus claimed to be… then the wisest thing you could do, the smartest thing you could do, the most thoughtful thing you could do is to flip this script. So it’s, “Seek-Ye-First” Living, that you give first. You save for your kingdom second, and then you live on whatever is leftover. You prioritize something or someone over yourself.
This is evidence, this is measurable, this is tangible evidence that Jesus, or something or someone else is the Lord over your life other than you. This is what Lordship looks like. Or to put it another way, telling your money to go is proof your money ain’t running the show, right? [laughter] “Money, you get out of here.” “Well, what about… ” “I’ll worry about that, you get out of here, you go over there and help them.
You get this right, this impacts all of your finances. You get this right, this will ultimately impact everything in your entire life, I promise. And ultimately, this will lead to a deeper, richer, stronger faith and confidence in your Heavenly Father. Jesus was so clear. The litmus test, this is hard for us, the litmus test of our devotion to God is our willingness to put Him or others first in the arena of our money and our possessions. Not include them, not include them or factor them in, to put them first in the arena of our money and our possessions.
So, if you’re not already doing this, I wanna issue you a two-month challenge. And I wanna issue this to those of you who are Christians. If you’re not a Christian, you can do whatever you want. Obviously, I’m not the boss of you, but I wanna challenge you to at least consider this, okay? For the next… Just two months, not two weeks, not two paychecks, for the next two months, okay, there’s two parts, so don’t zone out after I tell you the first one, okay? Or don’t leave before I tell you the first one, either. Or don’t turn me off after I tell you the first. The first one is this, the first part is this: I want you to choose a percentage of your income, and I want you to give it away as soon as you get paid. Whether you’re getting bonuses, whether your commissions, whether your paycheck, however it works, hourly, whatever it is, I want you to pick a percentage, and I want you to pick a percentage you feel. Don’t do, “I gave a half a percent,” you won’t even miss it. I want you to pick a percentage that makes you do a little bit of this, “Arghh… ” Okay, whatever that is, okay? And I want you to give it first.
And you say, “Where do I give it?” You can give it anywhere you want. You just pick an organization that supports something you love, something that breaks your heart, that you’re thinking, “Wow, I wish there was more of that in this community, ’cause what’s happening in my community… ” Just pick an organization, pick it ahead of time. And don’t wait to be asked, you’re gonna… As soon as you get paid, as soon as money comes your way, you’re gonna take a percentage, you’re gonna give it away off the top. The second part of this is just as important. The second part is this, I want you to pay attention to the internal tension that this creates in you. In other words, when you start thinking about this, that battle you start having, I want you to hit pause and I want you to think about what is the struggle about? I want you to listen closely to those internal conversations, the ones that you have with yourself, right, the ones that you’re preparing to have with your fiancé, the one that you’re preparing to have with your wife, the one that you’re already having with me, ’cause you’re already arguing with me in your mind, that’s okay.
I want you to pay attention, and here’s why, because I want you to discover what is at, this is so important, you owe this to yourself, you don’t owe this to me, I want you to discover what is at the center of your resistance? I want you to discover what is at the center of your resistance? I want you to listen to the excuses you’re telling yourself. And then I want you to just give it anyway. And what you might discover is this: This is not about money, this is about something else. You might discover this is exactly about what Jesus said it was exactly about; who or what is going to be the master and the Lord of your life? And if your money could talk, it would say, “Hey, by the way, remember, I’m a much better servant than I am master. Don’t put me in charge.”
So, once again, here’s Jesus’ words to us, “No one… You can try, you can learn it the hard way, but 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.” What is He talking about? He’s talking about the “Arghh… ” He’s talking about the, “Okay. Do I add a zero?” He’s talking about, you’re gonna discover it, you’re experience it, that tension. When you feel that tension, when you start wrestling, when you start having those conversations, when you start making excuses, when you start talking yourself out of it, you have just entered the war zone that Jesus puts His finger on and invites us into. You’re about to discover what’s most and who’s most important to you. He’s so smart. You’ll love the one or you’ll despise the other, you cannot serve both God and money.
So my friends, come on, come on, just two months, two months, and then pay attention to what’s going on in the inside. And perhaps you will discover something about you that you didn’t know before, and more importantly, perhaps, you for the first time in your life would do this, and make all of you available to your Heavenly Father, seeking first the “Others-first-Kingdom” that changed the world once, and will continue to change the world to whatever degree we choose to live like this.