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Extreme Wealth
Mark 10:25 

 

This morning, the title of our sermon is "extreme wealth," and before I began, how many of you think this sermon is about you? Do you consider yourself extremely wealthy? Let me see your hands.

The first definition in my dictionary of extreme is: "very great or intense, extreme cold." Do you have very great wealth? Do you have intense wealth?

How much money would it take for you to consider yourself extremely wealthy? Take a minute to think about it and write that figure down on your bulletin.

Now before we get into this sermon, I've got another question for you. If you were extremely wealthy, what would you do with the money? Write it down. Whatever pops into your mind, write it down. I'll pause for a minute while you write.
 

Regis is making a bundle right now asking America, "Who wants to be a millionaire?" Who in their right mind would say no to that question? FOX recently asked the question another way, but ran into a problem after the airing of their show, " Who wants to Marry a Millionaire," and from what I've heard about the situation, Darva showed a little more common sense after getting off the cruise ship than when she signed on to be a contestant.

Jesus talked about money a lot. On one occasion, He said, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:25 NASB)

Why did he say that? Is it really easier for a camel (the largest common animal in the region where Jesus ministered), to go through the eye of a needle (the smallest opening of a common object) than a rich man to enter into God's kingdom? Is there something inherently evil in being extremely wealthy? Is this verse talking about you and me?

Today, as we continue our series on "Extreme living" we're focusing on finances, and though I've never considered myself a wealthy person, really I am. In fact, I'm extremely wealthy. Let me explain.

This week, I made a tough financial decision. Some of you know that we just signed a lease for a house and that we'll be moving out of our apartment soon, but that's not the decision I'm talking about. I had to decide whether to pamper my pickup and give it $2.10 a gallon gasoline, or pamper my wallet and only spend $1.90 a gallon gasoline. (Does that phrase only spend $1.90 a gallon gasoline sound as strange to you as it does to me?) 

During the agonizing decision of how to treat my trusty pickup that has served me faithfully over 160,000 miles, I didn't for a single minute reflect on how inexpensive gasoline is and say, "its too cheap these days!" Let me see your hands. How many of you have complained lately that gas is too cheap?

But that's exactly what William Stephens, vice-president of CMS Energy's oil and gas exploration and production operations would have us believe. In a recent interview with the Detroit news, he said, "We're all paying higher gas prices, but energy is still very cheap. Some would argue that it's too cheap. In 1986, gas prices were about $1.25 a gallon ($1.93 in 1999 dollars, after adjusting for inflation) and oil prices were about $30 a barrel ($46.50 in 1999 dollars) right before energy prices crashed in 1986. If you adjust those dollars for inflation, you're well over $1.80 a gallon. So is $1.80 a gallon high? Well, it's high relative to 50 cents a gallon, but it's not high relative to $3 a gallon being paid in Europe and not high relative to what was being paid in the 1980s." (The Detroit News Sunday, March 12, 2000 http://www.detroitnews.com)

As much as I hate to admit it, Stephens has a point. I'd rather pay a buck, eighty than 3 bucks a gallon. To take it a step further, I'm fortunate to have a pickup that is running right now. It's all a matter of perspective.

Are you wealthy?

Before you answer that question, perhaps you should reflect upon the plight of the people in Mozambique. "Last year Mozambique had one of the highest economic growth rates in the world." according to Brady Anderson, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (http://www.washtimes.com Washington Times March 8, 2000)

But with the rising flood waters came famine and poverty. According to President Joaquim, "the tragedy has affected 2 million people, with 250,000 displaced or without homes, women forced to give birth in the treetops, and the death toll likely to reach several thousand."

(Direct quote from Washington Times attributing the statement to Joaquim http://www.washtimes.com March 12, 2000)

Are you wealthy? Relatively speaking, that is.

Perhaps your finances aren't what you want them to be and as you look around, you see many people with more than you. But as bad as times may be for you, when's the last time you had to fight with 12,000 other people to find a dry spot atop utility poles, trees and rooftops to avoid 36 feet of rising disaster?

Could it be? Could it be that Jesus, who owned only one pair of sandals and one garment would consider us rich?

I suppose a third variation on the question, who wants to be a millionaire or who wants to marry a millionaire might be, "What price are you willing to pay to be wealthy?"

Are you willing to sacrifice your health?

Are you willing to sacrifice your family?

Are you willing to sacrifice your freedom?

Are you willing to sacrifice your faith?

Are you willing to sacrifice your life?

One man did.

"A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. [17] In fact, his barns were full to overflowing. [18] So he said, 'I know! I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I'll have room enough to store everything. [19] And I'll sit back and say to myself, My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!' [20] "But God said to him, 'You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get it all?' 

(Luke 12:16-20 NLT)

When this man's ship came in, all he could think about was himself. Instead of providing for others with his surplus, he was willing to tear down perfectly good barns and build bigger ones. Instead of recapitalizing his resources to employ others, he said, I've got mine, now I'm going to take it easy. His focus was completely upon himself, not others. No wonder Jesus said, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:25 NASB) To enter the kingdom of God, we must be willing to turn control over to God and not trust in ourselves.

Twenty minutes ago, you made out a list. Take a look at it again, whom did you focus on?

While you're doing that, I want to read you another passage of scripture, this time about an extremely wealthy person. 

"Jesus went over to the collection box in the Temple and sat and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. [42] Then a poor widow came and dropped in two pennies. [43] He called his disciples to him and said, "I assure you, this poor widow has given more than all the others have given." (Mark 12:41-43 NLT)

Why do I call the widow extremely wealthy? Was it because she was rich? Obviously not. Jesus called her poor. She was wealthy because she didn't trust in her money for her security. She knew that God would take care of her, her hope was not in her resources it was in her God, and with a supplier like Him, she believe what the Apostle Paul said, "But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Philip. 4:19 KJV) and she dropped her money into the offering plate because she knew her future wasn't dependant upon her coin, but on her God. She'd turned control of her life over to God and wasn't trusting in her meager resources. That's wealth-to the extreme.

By the way, look at the first part of that verse again, "Jesus went over to the collection box in the Temple and sat and watched as the crowds dropped in their money." How would you feel if Jesus would have watched you contribute this morning? 

You do know that He did, don't you?

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