The Rich, Money, And The Gospel Of Jesus Christ

by Bobby Gilles

in Liturgy & Sermons

This past Sunday I preached from 1 Timothy 6:17-19 at Sojourn Community Church (New Albany campus), as part of our Money Talks sermon series. You can hear it in the embedded audio player below, or by subscribing to our free Sojourn New Albany iTunes podcast. You can also read the text below (the actual preached sermon will be slightly different because I don’t read my script aloud. I preach from memory and a short outline).


1 Timothy 6:17 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. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 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.

Good morning. My name is Bobby Gilles, and I’m a deacon here. This winter we’ve been learning from a sermon series called Money Talks. The Bible says a lot about money, so each week we’ve explored some of its teachings.

Today’s verses are addressed to “those who are rich in this present world.” I feel challenged to preach this passage because hardly anyone thinks they’re rich. Why bother preaching it if you don’t feel like it applies to you?

You know how you struggle to make ends meet. We did a survey of church members a few months ago, and found that the average household income here is $67,000. Some of you make that amount, and some of you make considerably more than that amount, but you’re thinking, “You don’t know what a burden my mortgage is. And my student loans. And my medical expenses, and two car payments.”

Others of you are thinking, “$67,000? Wow. I wish I made that much.” Kristen and I are under that amount, so I’m tempted to envy those of you who are there or above – to think, maybe today’s reading applies to you, but not to me.

Then, something made me remember Jeff Foxworthy. Remember, the Redneck Joke guy? The one who had all the funny, “You might be a redneck if …” jokes, like:

“You might be a redneck if your wife has ever said, ‘Come move this transmission so I can take a bath.’”

“You might be a redneck if your mother keeps a spit cup on the ironing board.”

“You might be a redneck if your house doesn’t have curtains, but your truck does.”

The jokes are predicated on the possibility that you might be a redneck, but not know it.

Then I started thinking about how Jesus taught us to pray to the Father, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

I started thinking about how, in most parts of the world and in most periods of human history, “daily bread” was all people could hope for. Then I came up with a few ways to tell if today’s scripture applies to us. To tell, not if we’re rednecks, but if we’re rich. I warn you, though, I’m no Jeff Foxworthy. These aren’t remotely funny.

You might be rich if you had something to eat yesterday, and are reasonably sure that you’re going to get something to eat today. In fact, the prayer “give us this day our daily bread” is just a poetic phrase to you. Your big dilemma is figuring out how to keep from eating too much every day.

You might be rich if you can drink a glass of water whenever you want, and be almost certain that it doesn’t contain bacteria that might kill you.

You might be rich if there’s virtually no chance that your kids will be eaten by a wild animal or even exposed to the elements after you tuck them in tonight.

And let’s not restrict this to necessities. What about entertainment and the arts? Anyone in this room with internet access can listen to almost any song that’s ever been recorded, as often as you want, without paying for it (much to the chagrin of many songwriters).

Anyone who pays Netlix or Hulu a few dollars a month can watch an almost limitless number of movies, anytime you want.

And if you can’t afford that, you can borrow from thousands of DVDs, Blu-Ray and VHS at the New Albany Library, for a week at a time. Kristen and I did that for a year, before we got Netflix.

Not to mention the thousand of books at the library – more books than kings and queens had access to in past centuries. And the access to computers with WiFi, which you can use for two hours at a time.

And paintings! When we bought our house, we couldn’t afford to furnish all the walls with artwork so we started borrowing art from the library. We still do it. They have many paintings, which you can check out for months at a time. Visit us in the summer and you’ll see summer themed paintings on our walls. In the winter, we get winter themed paintings.

And what about the free concerts that the city of New Albany provides in Bicentennial Park, all summer long? What I’m trying to say is, “We have a standard of living like no other. Today’s passage applies to all of us.”

So let’s take a closer look at today’s passage, beginning in verse 17.

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant

A couple months ago Pastor Jonah preached about Jesus’ parable of the rich fool. This guy was a highly successful businessman. He’d far surpassed earning enough money for his daily bread. He says to his self, “I don’t even know what to do with all this wealth I’ve created. I know, I’ll build even bigger storage facilities. Then I’ll retire, and “eat, drink and be merry the rest of my life.”

Then God shows up and says, “You idiot. You’re going to die tonight. All your wealth won’t benefit you one bit.”

But wait … what did this guy do wrong? Didn’t he follow God’s Word? Proverbs says:

Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.

– Proverbs 6:6-8

The Bible teaches us that we’re supposed to work hard, to save, to invest, to prepare for the future so we won’t come to poverty.

Is Jesus contradicting that? No – the rich man is a fool because of his arrogance. When we think about saving and investing, we can take one of two postures:

The first posture says, “God, because you created me to be a worker, and because your Word teaches that we live in a fallen world where bad things happen, and because your Word teaches that if I follow your instructions on working hard and saving money, I can shelter my family from some of these bad things, I’m going to obey you. I’m going to be like the ant.” It’s hard to be haughty when you’re an ant.

But the second posture says, “I’m going to build up enough wealth that nothing bad could possibly happen to me. I’ll become my own functional savior.” And there’s nothing more arrogant in life than thinking that you’re Jesus. You can’t walk in his shoes. John the Baptist even said, “I’m not worthy to lace his shoes.”

You might say, “I’m not arrogant about wealth. I’m not even wealthy.” It’s hard to measure yourself. But who do we look up to? Who fascinates us?

When I was growing up in the 1980s, Oliver Stone released a movie called Wall Street, which starred Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko, an unscrupulous Wall Street trader who’s catchphrase was “Greed is good.” Gekko was an evil man, a villain, the guy we were supposed to boo. Gekko says, “You common people can pray for daily bread, but I’m the King of Wall Street!”

But something funny happened.

Michael Douglas says he can’t count the number of people who have told him, “Your character inspired me to become a Wall Street trader. I want to be Gordon Gekko.”

During these same years, every Saturday I watched professional wrestling. There were four bad guy wrestlers who were like “Gordon Gekkos who beat people up.” They called themselves the Four Horsemen. They’d show up to arenas in a stretch limo, and walk to the ring in tailored suits, Rolex watches and alligator shoes. They’d tell the fans, “We are custom made from head to toe. We’re better than you, and we’re better than the good guy wrestlers. You’re going to go home tonight in your beat-up pickup trucks, while we’re hopping onto our private jet to take us out of this second-rate city.

“You common people can pray for daily bread, but we’re champions of the world.”

But something funny happened.

Before long, many of the fans began cheering the Four Horsemen. They’d even show up to the arena in suits and ties. Wrestling fans. In suits and ties. Cheering the bad guys.

During this same time, another character made an even bigger mark on the culture than Gordon Gekko or the Four Horsemen. His name was J.R. Ewing, and his TV show was the #1 rated show in America, “Dallas.” J.R. was an evil oil baron. He lied, swindled, blackmailed, and did everything he could to ensure that Ewing Oil was #1, and that he was its president, not his good guy brother Bobby.

J.R. says, “You common people can pray for daily bread, but I’m a tycoon.”

But something funny happened.

Countless people across America began wearing Stetson hats, cowboy boots and three-piece suits, like J.R. The whole country was fascinated with the villain, and the “Who Shot J.R.?” episode became the highest rated program in TV history.

And lest you think this was just an 80s thing, consider all the hip hop songs burning up the charts these days, that celebrate the artist’s “bling.” Most of the fans are poor or middle class, but they revel in the artist’s bragging about his gold chains, his shoes, his cars, his power, his empire.

Maybe you don’t care about hip hop. Maybe you’re keeping up with the Kardashians. Or Donald Trump. We are fascinated by arrogance.

What does this say about us? Could it be that there are deep wells of arrogance hidden in our hearts, that we haven’t had the chance to display because we’re not as wealthy as J.R. Ewing or the current hip hop icon?

Now, I’m sure that some of you don’t have an arrogant bone in your body. You’re thinking, “None of these examples fascinate me. It’s the next part of verse 17 that gives you trouble:

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.

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus dictated seven letters to John, to seven different churches. His letter to the church in Laodicea has reminded many people of our contemporary American church – our relative wealth, our comfort, our freedom from persecution, the “easy come, easy go” manner of many who call themselves Christians, who don’t attend regularly, who almost never serve, and who don’t give, or are only willing to give if they get to dictate how their offering is used. Jesus says,

Rev 3:17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Yeah, that sounds like good old American self-sufficiency to me. We may not be filthy rich, and there much left at the end of my paycheck, but we take pride in providing for ourselves and maintaining a pretty enjoyable lifestyle. Our greatest fear is losing our self sufficiency. We don’t want to think that we’re vulnerable.

But the parable of the rich fool and Jesus’ letter to the Laodicians say, “You’re already vulnerable. Every second of your life. And money can’t change that. Money can be gone in an instant. Your very life can be gone in an instant, and you can’t take it with you when you go.”

Christ is saying, “Don’t put your hope in wealth. Put your hope in me.”

Two years ago we received a testimony from someone we’ve ministered to through our international ministry, and I’ve never forgotten it. We’ll call him “Andy.”

God used missionaries to lead Andy to Christ. His family disowned him. His friends disowned him. His community disowned him.

He was falsely accused of stealing from his employer. Even though it was proven that another man had stolen, Andy was sentenced to prison.

In a dank, crowded, disease-filled prison, Andy led twelve men to Christ. All he asked of our missionaries was that they bring Bibles for these new Christians. After spending many months in jail, Andy became a free man but he continues to preach Jesus to prisoners, and to the villagers who disowned him.

Andy doesn’t have much stuff – he’s doing well if he receives his daily bread. But Andy has Christ. He isn’t only an example to us of how to put our hope in God instead of in wealth, he’s an example to us as we follow these next verses …

18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 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.

Remember I noted that Andy asked our missionaries for Bibles, for his prison converts. Those Bibles came from you – from your tithes and offerings to Sojourn. And not only the Bibles, but the missionaries. Your tithes go to reach them with the gospel here, to build them up as the church – first, through our Sunday worship services here in this building.

Then, through our equipping and training resources, before they are sent into the world – Men’s and Women’s Leadership Schools, Missions School, sermon podcasts, church planting conferences. Could it be that this is why we’re so rich, compared to Andy? To support this work – for Andy?

In the Old Testament, a Jewish lady named Esther becomes Queen of Persia, through some crazy circumstances. Later she has the opportunity to speak to the Persian King in order to save her people from slaughter. Her cousin Mordecai says, “Look at you, Esther. You’re just a girl from a conquered, despised race, and yet somehow you’ve become queen of the realm. Could it be that God raised you to your position for such a time as this? To save your people?”

Could it be that God has given us our resources for such a time as this? For Andy? And not only for the Andys overseas but the Andys right here in New Albany? For those who have and who will give their lives to Christ, right in this room?

But I know it’s hard to remember this, in the daily grind.

Eight years ago, Sojourn received grant money from a seminary in Michigan to create a project that would teach healthy worship habits. We used the money to record Before The Throne, a record of 11 worship songs that many of you own. It’s still, to this day, the most popular worship album we’ve ever recorded.

One of the assignments for Before The Throne was to write a song for the offering. I wrote “All I Have Is Yours,” with a lady named Rebecca Elliott. It says, in part,

“The more I give, the less I need
I learn that you’ll provide for me”

I believed those lines when I wrote them. And I believed that — out of the many ways God wants us to be generous — the first way is to give to his church. The Bible teaches that the primary way God wants us to spread the gospel is through planting and supporting local churches. If I were part of a church where I couldn’t trust the pastors to steward the offering, I’d find a church that I could trust. If I couldn’t find a church, I’d know that the problem was my own trust-and-control issues, not God’s churches, because if God says, “Do it this way,” then that must be the best way.

But shortly after writing that song, hard times hit me. I didn’t know how to pay all the bills that were coming due. But wait, here’s a simple solution: If I just skip one month of giving to the church …

Then it became easier to skip the next month – I told myself I was being fiscally responsible. Then the third month I gave a little bit. This pattern continued for over a year – a year during which I only gave about 3% of my income.

I can’t tell you how convicting that was: to hear a whole church sing words that I’d written, knowing that I wasn’t living those lyrics. And I say, “convicting” on purpose. Here at Sojourn, we always say, “Don’t give out of guilt.” But there’s a difference between worldly guilt and the conviction of the Holy Spirit – when he says, “You aren’t living the way my Word says to live, and the way I’ve empowered you to live. I still love you, you’re still mine, but I’ve given you the grace and strength to become more like Jesus.”

The crazy thing is, looking back, I can’t really say that cutting back on giving is what got me out of my financial hole. In fact, the periods of my life when I’ve been most faithful in my giving are the periods when I’ve seen God’s faithfulness most clearly. “The more I give, the less I need – I learn that you’ll provide for me.”

When Kristen and I got married we determined right away that we’d give 10% of our income to the church. Some of you are more generous than that. Some of you are giving 13, 14, 15 percent, in faith. We’re not there yet.

We give 10% — the Bible calls this a “tithe.” This is our “baseline.” If we give to a special vision campaign, a year-end gift, a special offering for missions – we don’t take that out of the 10%. That’s “above and beyond” giving.

Like I said, some of you are more generous than that. Others may be thinking, “10%? 15%? That’s a lot of money.” So let me be clear: giving a certain percentage doesn’t make you a Christian. Not giving a certain percentage doesn’t “un-make” you as a Christian. But when you’re considering how much to give, sacrificially, regularly and generously, let me go back to Gordon Gekko in the film Wall Street for a second.

Gekko became rich through insider trading. This is an illegal stock trading practice, where you gain access to confidential information, often through underhanded means. You have information that other investors don’t have, which gives you an unfair advantage.

Well, here’s the ultimate insider trading tip – a 100% sure thing: the kingdoms of this world are passing away. And everything you invest in them will eventually pass away, too. But whatever you invest in the kingdom of God pays eternal dividends. Author Randy Alcorn says it like this, in his book The Treasure Principle:

“You can’t take it with you when you go, but you can send it on ahead.”

Where does he get that? It’s right here in our reading:

19 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.

Finally, must you only give to the church? Of course not. Many of you give to charities. Some were even founded by Sojourn members – like Scarlet Hope, which ministers to women in the sex industry, througout the Louisville area. And Nadus Films, which documents injustices around the world, creating films that shine the light in dark places.

There are many other good charities, too. We sponsor a Compassion International child. His name is Ito. He’s 15, and he’s from a village in Indonesia. The kids write letters to him. Because of Compassion International, he gets his daily bread.

But again, we don’t subtract the support we send for Ito from the 10% we give to the church. It’s “above and beyond” giving.

Ito’s church is teaching him about the gospel. In his letters to us, I can sense that he knows something about contentment and generosity. If Ito could visit our little Cape Cod house, he’d say “Wow, you guys are rich.”

I’d like to think that Ito is like the boy in the Gospel of John, who shared his daily bread and two fish with Jesus. Then Jesus prayed over it, and miraculously fed 5000!

Maybe today, you don’t even have a full loaf to bring to Jesus. Maybe you forgot it. Maybe you do not yet have the faith to bring it before him. Maybe you are holding tightly to it, thinking, “I can’t let it go – I might need it.”


Jesus says, “That’s okay for now. Here’s mine (hold loaf of communion bread up before the people). I’ll share with you. And when you finally taste this for what it is, you won’t have a problem laying yours at my feet. Then watch what I do with it.”

He says, “My bread has fed billions for two thousand years, so that they never hunger again. And it will feed you.”

On the night that He was betrayed, after giving thanks, Jesus broke a loaf of bread, saying, “This is my body, broken for you.”

Then he took a cup of wine, and said, “This is my blood, shed for you. Drink this in remembrance of me until I come again.”

Here is abundance. Here is opulence. Here is a well so deep, it will never run dry.

Remember this, as you come forward, tearing off a piece of bread and dipping it into either wine or juice as your conscience permits. The cups with wine will have twine tied around them. And we have a gluten-free station right over here.

If you’re not a Christian, we ask that you don’t come forward to take this symbolic meal, because it symbolizes a reality you haven’t accepted yet. Instead, I invite you to walk up to someone with a lanyard that says “Pray,” in the back of this room. Accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, and ask them to pray with you. Then we can prepare you to join us in this feast in the weeks to come.

As for the rest of you, if you feel convicted by the Word of God today, take a moment to pray at your seat or with our prayer team in the back. God offers forgiveness for those of us who cling tightly to our mouldy bread, and he offers the chance to feast, instead, on the bread of life.

Let’s pray.


Previous post:

Next post: