Take My Sermon Challenge

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Let’s have some fun with a sermon challenge! Here goes…

Could you or would you ever compose and preach this sermon? "Jesus Is the Key to Your Financial Success." 

You’re still here, so I assume you’re either curious or just like to watch a slow train wreck!

I completely understand if you’re waiting for a pile-up. However, I am aware it looks like this sermon would plummet into the gully of “health and wealth.” But I think I can successfully bring it into the station and even keep the scheduled time. 

The Scripture for this sermon? The house of the righteous contains great treasure; but the income of the wicked brings ruin. Proverbs 15:6 (NIV)

I’d begin with the second half of this proverb and point how it easily wins our approval. “Exactly!” we exclaim. “What other result but ruin can be expected when the wicked spend their money?”

But then I would ask why this same approval is withheld from affirming that great treasure is found in the house of the righteous? Is one half of the proverb truer than the other? What changed? Why do we diffuse its power by spiritualizing treasure as a “crown of glory”? Why can’t treasure just be treasure?

Then I’d remind my hearers how Jesus himself said “all these things will be added to those who seek righteousness first. (Matthew 6:33, NIV) He’s teaching the same thing! The corollary goes like this: Anyone pursuing righteousness pursues Jesus; anyone pursuing Jesus discovers blessing and even abundance.

This shouldn’t be a scandal or even a surprise. There’s blessing and even abundance when Jesus-followers use their money to keep the law of love. Frivolous and wasteful spending is set aside in favor of proper care for families and neighbors.

The righteous take wealth and lift up the weak with it. They protect the vulnerable with it. The result is a home and a community where “there are no needy persons among them.” (Acts 4:34, NIV)

This is financial success in kingdom terms, and there’s no shame saying it’s because of Jesus. Indeed, it’s the very glory of God!

That’s my sermon, and I’m sticking to it.

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To be quite honest, I would have a hard time delivering this kind of message in light of how so much of our Western culture which has changed the gospel message into a prosperity gospel.  Preaching on the proverb that you have cited would have me questioning its proverbial wisdom.  "The house of the righteous contains great treasure; but the income of the wicked brings ruin." (Proverbs 15:6)  When I look at our western world today, it would appear that the wicked prosper and in many ways the righteous are suffering.  Proverbs are just that...  proverbs -- wise sayings; they are not truth for each and every circumstance.  How could they be?  There are proverbs that completely contradict one another, like Proverbs 26:4 "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him." and Proverbs 26:5 "Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes."

I could quite easily affirm where you ended in Acts 4 in redefining what is intended by the prosperity of Jesus.  When a faith community looks out for the needs of the most vulnerable -- the widow, the orphan, the poor, the rejected -- we are living out the gospel message.  God's love offers hope and the blessings that God gives to us are to be used for His glory living out His kingdom.  The trouble is that we and our churches are often not living out of that kind of perspective.  And for that, we should be called to repent.

 

 

Tim, thanks for taking the time for your thoughtful response. I appreciate it. I completely understand your discomfort with the prospect of preaching a sermon title which says Jesus is key to financial success. Of course, this is easily filtered through our western, capitalistic perspective and can be understood merely on those terms. I suppose what a sermon like this does is try to redefine financial success in kingdom terms to reflect the shalom of Jesus. This is no small task and certainly something a single sermon can't accomplish. At the same time, I am trying to look head-on at a verse like Proverbs 15:6 and I completely agree with you that a wise saying isn't intended as a universal principle. Still, I find this teaching - that the house of the righteous contains great treasure - often reflected in Scripture, especially in the Psalms. I want to understand this truth without spiritualizing it or ignoring it altogether. Wealth is such an integral part of our daily existence and if we can't come to terms with it then we get managed by wealth instead of the other way around. No doubt a sermon like this should end up exactly where you suggest -- with repentance.