X-TRIALS: TAKIN’ LIFE TO THE X-TREME
October 28, 2001
This weekend, I have a confession to make. I have thought about it for a long time and I just feel like I should come clean. So, here it goes. I am a wealthy man. Don’t laugh. I’m serious. I have a lot of stuff. You might be saying about now, “Well, Ed, you are wealthy? How much do you have?”
I’ll tell you. I’ve got a closet full of clothes. I drive a car. I have a house that is fully mortgaged, but again, I am a really rich guy. I dare say that every single person hearing my voice is in the same state as well. You are wealthy. Against the backdrop of the world, if you have food on the table, clothes on your back and a roof over your head, you are loaded. You are a heavy hitter. You have got some serious strokes. It’s very important to understand that.
Recently, we have been going through the book of James. James is the most practical book in the New Testament. James is talking to us today about wealth. This letter was disbursed to Christians throughout the Mediterranean world and a lot of these Christians had an improper read on their riches. They thought their stuff was their stuff. They didn’t realize the fact that their stuff was God’s stuff. They didn’t understand the fact that they were just managers and stewards of it.
So, today we talk about wealth. Now, remember James was driving at spiritual maturity, spiritual authenticity. One of the ways that we grow and mature is we realize that our stuff is not our stuff. It’s God’s stuff. One of the ways we mature is we become rivers and not reservoirs. When we allow money to flow through us to others, instead of damning it up. That’s what James was driving at several thousand years ago.
A lot of people don’t realize this, but the Bible talks a lot about money. I want to give you some quick Biblical fund facts. Get it? That’s f-u-n-d. Did you know that one out of every ten verses in the New Testament talks about money? Can you believe that? One out of ten verses in the New Testament talks about money.
Jesus told thirty-eight parables in the Gospels. Sixteen of the thirty-eight have to do with money. There are over five hundred verses talking about prayer in the Bible. About five hundred talk about faith. There is a whopping two thousand that talk about cash money. Are you ready for that?
So, really, I don’t talk about money enough. If I was going to be truly Biblical, I would talk about money about half the time. I’m sure you would love that. What is so hilarious is that I wish you could see yourselves right now. Whenever I talk about sex, death or money, many of you have this deer-caught-in-the-headlights expression on your faces.
You say to yourself, “Sex, death and money. Two out of the three are negative.” That’s what most people think. So, just chill and relax. We are talking about something that God talked about and, obviously, God knew it was going to be important to you and to me. That’s why he talked about money so much. So don’t ever say, “Man, this church talks about money a lot,” because we are not even approaching the biblical standard.
The Bible, though, as it talks about money, has a bunch of warning labels. I was thinking about warning labels over the last several weeks as I prepared for this talk. I thought about different warning labels on the Bible and also different warning labels in our world today.
I want to stop and see how well you know your warning labels. Here’s a little quick and humorous exercise to see how well you know your warning labels. See if this label matches up with what you think it matches up with.
Let’s do one. Warning: Contents under pressure. Cap may blow off causing eye or other serious injury. Point away from people especially while opening. Where do you find that warning label? I’ll tell you where. That’s the warning label on a Dr. Pepper bottle cap.
Here’s another one. Warning: Use of this device does not enable wearer to fly. You have probably guessed that one. That is on the back of a Superman costume.
Here’s a good one. Warning: Pastry filling may be hot when heated. That’s right, Pop tarts, that nutritious snack, high in fiber and protein. There is nothing like a good Pop tart in the morning or any time for that matter.
Here’s another one. Warning: Do not operate vehicle with screen in place. Do you know what that is? That’s the warning label on the back of those sun shields. I mean, who is going to do that? “Honey, let’s take a trip to the hill country and keep our sun shield in place.”
Here’s my favorite. Warning: Do not lick lid. This warning label is found on the lid of a liquid radiator sealant. “I just want to taste this radiator sealant. That’s good stuff.”
Insane. Well, warnings are everywhere. James just places a huge warning label over this excerpt from Scripture, the Scripture we are going to study today, James, chapter 5, verses 1-7. So, I want you to think about warning labels. You will notice today’s title is called Mine-1-1, that’s M-i-n-e-1-1. Because for some reason, all of us have a certain amount of stuff and all of us are wealthy. We think, though, the stuff is ours, don’t we? That is why I called it, Mine-1-1.
I remember years ago, I learned a little song with my kids about 9-1-1. It goes something like this, “911, 911, call for help, dial 911, for policeman, fireman, all emergencies, 911, it’s got to be.”
Thanks very much. One of the first words I learned was the word, “mine.” How about you? My mom has told me, “Ed, when you were a little boy, you learned to say ‘mine.’” So did you. We struggle with that one word our entire lives.
As we get older, we are sly about how we deal with it, but we still problems with this little word, “mine.” No, it’s mine. It’s not God’s stuff, it’s my stuff. I owned it. It’s mine. It’s a part of me and it’s just mine.
Here’s what James says. James gives us some wealth warnings. I am going to go through these wealth warnings very rapidly. You might want to jot them down as we talk about James 5:1-7.
Wealth warning number one: Anticipate Misery. That’s what James says. Now, isn’t that weird? That seems kind of contradictory. Anticipate misery. So James is writing the people who had a lot of stuff, like we all do, people who had a roof over their head, clothes on their back and I’m sure, a cool chariot in the garage. He was writing those people and he was saying to anticipate misery.
He says in verse 1, “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.” I wish James was more direct, don’t you? He was kind of sweet, wasn’t he? “Weep and wail, you rich people, because of the misery that is coming upon you.” That’s sounds contradictory. I said that earlier. Rich people shouldn’t weep and wail. We think the rich should say, “Yeah, I’m having a party. Everything is great. Everything is hunky dory. I’ve got money. I’ve got stuff. It’s my stuff. I can spend it on what makes me look good and feel good.”
James says to anticipate misery. Their source of security, he writes, is going to end up being a source of God’s fury one day because these people were mismanaging their wealth. Look at verse 2, “Your wealth has rotted.”
Look at your neighbor and say, “I smell something, baby.” You might smell some rich rot in the house.
“Your wealth has rotted and moths have eaten your clothes.”
I remember several Christmases ago, I got this sport coat for Christmas. I was so happy about this sport coat. I loved this sport coat. I took care of this sport coat. I hung it up in my closet and one night, Lisa and I were going out. I went in my closet, took the sport coat out, put it on, and when we were walking out the door, Lisa said, “Ed, you’ve got holes all in your new sport coat.”
Here is what I said, “Man, those kids.” That was my first reaction. But it was a bunch of moths. My sport coat was the main course of a moth feeding frenzy. Moths are real. The Bible says that, if you count on your riches to do it for you, your stuff will corrode, it will rot, and the moths will have a field day on your stuff.
Look at verse 3, “Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire.”
Wow. James is fired up. He is hitting on all cylinders now, isn’t he? I have been praying for a friend of mine who attends this church, that he would trust Christ. He is not a Christ-follower. This man is going a very difficult financial time in his life right now. I truly believe one of the main reasons that he is going through this difficult time is because God has knocked the props out from beneath him financially. I think God has knocked him down on one knee and it is time for him to put the other knee down. God will do that in all of our lives if we stray away from him. If we one day say to ourselves, “My stuff, God, is not your stuff. It’s mine. I’ll do with it what I please.” Watch out.
James says watch out because you are talking about rot, corrosion and moths having a feeding frenzy on all of your stuff.
Let’s do another wealth warning, wealth warning number two: Stop Hoarding. James 5:3. Let me just tell all of you to chill for a second. The Bible is not anti-investing, or anti-saving. The Bible says to save and invest and live and enjoy stuff. But hoarding is something different.
“You have hoarded wealth in the last days.” The word “hoard” comes from a word which means to “hide.” When I hoard, I hide. I try to hide it from others. I even try to hide it from God. A lot of us like to try to hoard stuff.
How do you know if you have a hoarding tendency? Let me ask you this question. I know it sounds like Regis, but let me ask you a question. How many of you, seriously speaking, would like to become a multi-multi-millionaire? Don’t answer out loud. If you said, yes, and I am sure most of you did, why? Why did you say yes? Be honest with yourself. Did you say yes so that you can do stuff to make you look good and feel good, so you can advertise your wealth. Is that why you said yes?
Or maybe you said yes because you want to help others. What is so funny is that some people say, and they have told me this before, “Man, Ed, when my ship comes in financially, when I hit this big windfall, I am going to turn into this supersonic, generous person. I’ll be generous with my family. I’ll be generous with the church. If I were to win the lottery, Ed, I’d probably give half of it to Fellowship Church.”
Now and then, over my ministry, I have seen people’s ship come in, or I’ve seen someone receive a windfall, and normally, the pattern is for us to fall into the spin cycle of selfishness, do you hear me screaming? Most of us are not as generous as we think. Most of us are selfish.
I like the word “selfish” because you have self in it. You know, it’s all about me. And then you have got fish on the end. So if you are into your self with your stuff, you will end up smelling like a fish. It’s a natural tendency to be selfish, because most of us have more than we need. God has blessed us with more stuff than we need. Why? Most of us think it’s just for me, for my enjoyment, for my deal, for my needs.
Well, James says time out. You have got it all wrong. James says to stop hoarding. So, if we have a wrong view of our wealth, we are going to have misery, and we’d better anticipate it, in this life, and also when we meet God face to face. Also, James says, because we are living with wealth, our tendency is to hoard it.
The third wealth warning is: Don’t Use People Up. These rich people were using people. They were making their money on the backs of poor people and they weren’t even paying the poor people. Can you believe that?
Look at verse 4. You thought hoarding was bad, you thought being selfish was bad, “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen…” Back in biblical times, workmen were hired and they were paid by the day. No legal contracts. No teams of lawyers here. It was just a daily thing. “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you.” The wages are crying out. “The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord almighty.”
They were cheating people out of money and, because they were cheating their workers out of money, they were robbing the worker’s family from even eating at night. The rich people were doing that. So, if you are materialistic, you are sinning against others and against God.
Let me define materialism. Materialism is not about how much you have. People think, “Oh, she is so materialistic because she has got a lot of money.” Or, “He is so materialistic because he has been so successful.”
That’s not necessarily true. You can be on the materialistic trip and just be middle class or even lower middle class. Materialism is having a wrong attitude about your possessions. Being a materialist means that your possessions possess you. You don’t possess your possessions. So another wealth warning is don’t use people up.
See, again, we have misery happening. We are hoarding. Now, because we are hoarding, we are using people up, and here is the fourth wealth warning: Money May Cause a False Sense of Security. Do you think money can give you a false sense of security? I believe so. Check out James 5:5-6, “You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.”
God wants us to enjoy blessings. It’s not a sin to enjoy the fruits of your labor or of my labor. That’s cool. There is a difference between enjoyment and living extravagantly. There is a difference between enjoying the blessings of God and just going out and doing recreational shopping because you have got the bank to do so.
“Yes, I’ll buy this and I’ll buy that. It’s a triplicate of what I already have but, because I have money, I’ll just go ahead and buy it.” That is living in luxury and self-indulgence.
A lot of times you talk to someone who really has a lot of money, and they think they are bullet proof. They think they are autonomous. They think they are independent. Now and then, they will be reminded that their stuff is not their stuff. They will be reminded of how quickly life can go. For example, Princess Di and Dodi Alfaed were in that beautiful Mercedes Benz, screaming through that tunnel. They had the world by the tail, romance, money, prestige, looks and all that. They came out on the other side in body bags. Just like that it can be gone.
“You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.”
Back in these ancient days, you would fatten a cow for the party so that you could have a lot of beef at the party. James is saying that you are fattening yourselves with all your riches and your riches will come back and jam you.
“You have fattened yourselves for the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men who were not opposing you.” If you study your history, what happened? About a decade later, Jerusalem fell to the Romans and all their stuff was taken, all their riches and possessions.
James is talking to rich people. We are all rich against the backdrop of the world. Don’t think you are not rich. There might be one or two here who is not rich, but we are all rich, I would say. Because all of us are dressed and all of us look pretty well fed, have a roof over our head and all that. That’s good.
What do we do now? Let’s answer a question. I think we need to. The people that James wrote to had more stuff than they needed. We have more stuff than we need. Why? Why do you have more than you need? Why do I have more than I need? When we don’t understand why we have more than we need, what do we do? We think about ourselves. We think it’s for us. That is our natural tendency, me, mine, it’s all about me. Why do we have more stuff than we need?
I did this exercise this past week and I want to do this exercise with you. “Maybe,” I said to myself, “I have more than I need because God wants me to live a worry free life.” Maybe he doesn’t want poor Edwin Barry Young to have all of the stress and worry so he wants to bless me financially. No, that’s not it. Because the wealthiest people I know are people who are freaked out and worried, insuring the money, protecting the money, worried about people robbing them. That’s not it.
I thought maybe God wants me to have more stuff so I can have an affluent lifestyle. That’s it. God wants me to have an affluent lifestyle. He just wants me to be affluent. I mean, we are affluent. We are a church of much, a town of much. That’s it. No, that’s not it.
I wrote something else down: inheritance. God has given me more than I need so I can give it to my kids, LeeBeth, Laurie, Landra, EJ. That’s the deal. So, I have more than I need, and I will save it and invest it and, one day, I will give it to the kids. That’s not it.
I have met a lot of people in my life. But I have never met a person who said, “You know, Ed, my problems started when my parents didn’t give me enough money.” I’ve never met a person like that. Now, I have met many people who are all messed up because their parents gave them too much money. I’m not saying, “Ed said we should never worry about the future.” I’m not saying that. But a lot of us freak out about it. A lot of us are paranoid about leaving an inheritance. “I’m going to leave this and I’m going to leave that.”
Listen to me. We all leave it. We all leave it. And in the New Testament, no one gets any credit for leaving it. We get credit for giving it. Some people here, a few, have spent large blocks of time in estate planning. That’s fine to plan your estate. But what is estate planning. Let’s just be honest with ourselves. Estate planning means you have got so much money that you can’t spend it, so you’d better get it in someone else’s estate, your kid’s estate. That’s what it is.
We spend all this time, energy and effort worrying about estate planning and we don’t think at all about helping others. It is so funny. It goes back to Mine-1-1. Again, your stuff is not your stuff. My stuff is not my stuff. We have only got about five or six decades here and then we are gone. It’s God stuff.
Here is another one I wrote down, maybe God gave us more than we need because he wants us to retire early. I can just move to the mountains or the shore and just put it on autopilot. No. Its fine to retire, but you don’t stop.
Let me talk to a select group of people here. There are probably a few people here and God has really gifted you in making a lot of money. That’s good. That’s great. God, I said, has gifted you in making money.
Let me give you an example. Take myself. I’m up here talking and I am kind of vulnerable. God has given me a gift to speak. It’s not about me. God gave it to me. What if I said, “You know what? I’m just going to stop speaking. I’m just going to retire. I’m in good shape. I’m forty years of age. I’m just going to quit. Last year was a good year. The church grew, lives are being changed, and I know, God, you gave me this gift but I’m just going to stop now.”
That’s like someone who has a gift of making money to stop it. My gift to speak is not about me. Your gift at making money is not about you. It’s about God. Speaking is about God. So, now, if you have all of this money, go ahead and continue to use your gift to make money and leverage your money for good, for eternity, the Bible says.
So why do we have more than we need? Why? Maybe this story will give you the answer. Two weeks ago, I took my family to a high school football game. During halftime, one of my seven-year-old twins walked up to me and she said, “Daddy, I’m hungry.”
So, I am trying to teach her a little bit of responsibility, and I took out a couple of dollars from my wallet and said, “Here you go, Landra. There is a concession stand. You go buy whatever you want.”
Landra came back with some Skittles. She opened the Skittles and she was just chowing down on the Skittles. She was kind of looking at her brothers and sisters like I’m going to eat these things quick, baby.
I said, “Landra, can I have a couple of Skittles?”
What do you think she said? “No.”
I said, “Landra, I want just a few Skittles.”
She said, “They’re mine.”
Let me stop here and tell you several things. Number one, if I wanted to, I could have forcibly taken the Skittles from her. Number two, she didn’t realize that I was the one who bought them for her. Number three, I had fifty bucks in my wallet at the time. I could have gone to that concession stand and bought fifty dollars worth of Skittles and I could have gone, “Landra, here’s your Skittles.”
We come into the house of the Lord with our stuff, with our Skittles and God says, “Can I have a couple of Skittles? Just a couple.”
What do we say? “No. This is my stuff, God. These are my Skittles.”
Now, if God wants to, he can take our Skittles forcibly. Boom! Everything gone like that, wiped out. If God wants to, he can go to the concession stand and buy millions and millions of Skittles and say, “Here you go, baby.” He’s the one who gave them to us anyway.
What should we do with our stuff? Why do we have more stuff than we need? Right up front, the Bible says we have more stuff than we need because God wants us to give it away. He wants us to share. He wants us to share with the local church. The Bible says that God wants his church to be fully resourced. And I am just assuming that those of us here who go by the label of Christ-followers are giving the minimum worship requirement to the local church, which is ten percent of everything we make. If this is your church, you should give ten percent here. If it’s somewhere else, give ten percent there. They are not my words. They are God’s words.
God being God, could have said, “Hey, you give 90 % and live on 10.” He didn’t. He said give a minimum gift of 10 and you live on 90.
Here is what the Bible says, 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, “Now, about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week (that means it should be a regular thing. If you get paid weekly, give weekly. If it’s monthly, give monthly, quarterly, give quarterly), each one of you should set aside a sum of money (It should be a systematic thing) in keeping with his income (It should be a proportional thing).”
Look at Malachi 3:10, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse…”—The word “tithe” means ten, that’s strategically— ‘that there may be food in my house.”
And here’s the only time in the Bible that this is mentioned, God said, “’Test me in this,’” says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’” Yet most of us, Malachi says, are robbing God. We are not giving God his due. Because of that, we are involved in blessing blocking.
There was a guy in a small group who, during a time of confession, began to talk to his small group leader and others there about tithing. He said, “When I made fifty grand a year, I had no problem tithing. I tithed five thousand dollars to the church. But over the last several years, I have been incredibly blessed. Now, I am making over a half a million dollars and I am choking down on the check, fifty thousand dollars. I am struggling with tithing.”
This insightful small group leader looked at him and said, “I tell you what let’s do. We are going to pray for you right now. We are going to pray that God will reduce your income so you will feel comfortable enough to give.”
Isn’t that funny? We make a little bit, “Oh, God, here.” We start making a lot and “Oh, it’s mine.” We choke on the check.
So, one of the main reasons we have more than we need is because we are to keep the church fully resourced. The church is called the Bride of Christ. Two things on this earth will last forever, people and the church.
Another reason why we have more than we need is because God wants us to live below what we make. In other words, God wants us to have a certain lifestyle and, as our income hopefully goes up over the years, we lock into a lifestyle and, because we have more, we can give what the New Testament calls offerings. The Bible talks about offerings. An offering is over and above your regular giving. We are to give ten percent, a bare bones minimum, to the local church. Then above that, we are to leverage our funds for other ministries. There are some great ministries out there. Think about this church and the ministries we have.
Let me tell you some cool stories about ministry. Next week, we have a group of people leaving for South America to build a church in that area. We had a guy in this church who attended a missions meeting who decided he was going to do something for this trip. He is providing the resources and the labor to build a sizeable church in South America. This guy is doing it over and above his regular giving.
See these lights here at Fellowship Church? A while back, a woman approached some of our staff and said she would like for our church to have some different light settings and the technical staff said, “We don’t.” She said, “Well, I will just donate some lights.” She donated the lights over and above her regular giving.
I talked to a man Thursday in the weight room who was talking about the youth ministry and how his children have a heart for God and what God is doing through our ministry here. He said, “Ed, when we had to raise money at Fellowship Church over and above our normal giving for this youth facility, I just really stretched. I gave over and above and look at the return on my investment.”
There was another man in this church who approached some of us about the Apex Building. At that time, our church was tapped out financially. We had just moved into this facility. We just bought all this land. This warehouse became available and this guy who has been blessed, he bought the warehouse. He held the warehouse for about a year and during that time, our church raised the money to renovate the warehouse, and a year later, he gave the whole thing back to the church over and above his regular giving.
I could talk on and on about people with missions opportunities here, with youth opportunities here, with children’s church opportunities here, who have donated resources over and above their regular giving. That is cool. You guys are awesome because of your faithfulness, your love and your openness to giving. You realize that your stuff is not your stuff. You are a river, not a reservoir.
Right now, as you know, we are building this new Creative Communications Complex. We are building it not to have some big church. We build it because we need it. Children are our future. The lion’s share will be used for our children. We will have a chapel in there and some other classrooms, but basically, it is going to be for the kids. This is over and above our regular giving. This is going to cost 14 million dollars. That’s a lot of coin. I think this next video will show you why we are so adamant and why we are so white hot about building.
There are literally tens of thousands of people out there like the people in that video who need the Lord. That is why we do what we do here. The fact is, we have the wealth. It’s a matter of whether or not we turn it loose and let God use it.
Some of you are walking around saying, “Man, I have been very successful financially. This is incredible.”
Let me tell you something. I’ve got news for you. It’s not because you are that smart. I know a lot of you and you are not that smart. It’s the blessing of God. God has blessed a lot of people here strategically just so you will finance this great move of God. It’s something I can’t make you do. I’ve just got to tell you the truth and let you do what you want to do with it.
Remember that song I taught you earlier? “9-1-1, 9-1-1, call for help, call 9-1-1, for policeman, fireman, all emergencies, 9-1-1, it’s got to be.” All emergencies. A lot of us financially speaking are in an emergency right now and we need to say, “No longer am I going to say mine-1-1, it’s going to be 9-1-1.” We need to dial God’s 9-1-1. Where is God’s 9-1-1? 2 Corinthians 9:11, “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”