“The Money Of A Servant” Nehemiah 5:14-19 11/11/01
SI: Doing some sermon study at home this week. Eliza said,
“Please preach a sermon about Jack and the beanstalk.
And make it short, short, short!”
INTRO: In Revelation 20 the apostle John has a vision of the Final Judgment.
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened . . .
The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”
Someone has said that the most revealing book that will be opened on the Day of
Judgment will be your check book.
Few things will reveal more about the state of your soul and your place in eternity
than the way you spend your money.
If you disagree, consider these words of Scripture:
1 Timothy 6:18-19 “Command those who are rich . . . to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 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.”
Luke 12:32-34 “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Luke 14:13-14 “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Nehemiah 5:19 As he reflects on way handled his finances during 12 years as governor
not only did he not extort money and land from the people as previous governors had done,
he refused to take the food allowance that was rightfully his, because another heavy tax,
instead, out of his own salary, paid the food expense, fed 150 officials visitors meat and wine
As he recounts his generous spending he says:
“Remember me with favor, O my God, (final judgment) for all I have done for these people.”
Perhaps hear all this and theological alarm bells are going off in your head.
Wait a minute—are you saying that generosity earns eternal life?
No. Jesus, Paul, Nehemiah aren’t saying that. Don’t earn eternal life, a gift.
You receive eternal life by putting your trust in Christ,
by making Him the first priority and love in your heart.
But, the way you use your money will be presented as evidence on the Last Day
to either confirm or deny your trust in Christ.
And your checkbook, as record of how you have spent your money over the years,
reveals the priorities and loves of your heart.
The use of your money is a matter of the heart.
So often Christians get turned around and think that you honor the Lord
with your money by just keeping some rules—tithe and no debt—done duty.
The Gospel is not a rule book as much as it is a gardening guide.
The Holy Spirit has implanted new attitudes and affections in Christian’s heart.
You must identify these, strengthen them by means of grace,
then work them out practically in every area of life, including financial.
When you do this, you are can bring the rebuilding power of God to broken people,
places through your money.
With that in mind, consider three great principles of Christian life,
powerfully illustrated in this passage—see how they apply to money.
1. You must worship God alone.
2. You must pursue your calling.
3. You must imitate Jesus Christ.
MP#1 You Must Worship God Alone.
The human heart is made to worship.
Every person will find something that he believes is higher than himself,
he will set his affections on that thing,
he will look to it to fill the deepest longings of his soul.
We are worshiping beings.
But there is only one object worthy of worship—
the living and true God, our Father and Creator.
to worship God means that you apprehend His holiness and presence,
filled with awe, humility, gratitude, and love toward Him
believe that He alone can fill the deepest longings of your soul
Money is one of the strongest competitors for men’s hearts.
In fact, the pull to worship money is so strong and so universal,
out of all the idols that Jesus could have chosen to mention in Sermon, chose this
“No man can serve two masters, will love one and hate the other, will be devoted to
one and despise the other, you cannot serve both God and Money.”
Didn’t say, cannot serve both God and Sex, Approval
Money—because Money is such a powerful and universal idol.
Paul, “Love of money the root of all kinds of evil.” Not love of power, success.
Idolatry is when you look to a created thing to give you what God alone can give.
people look to money for security and self-worth
sinful human mind imagines that money can provide both—can’t
God alone can provide lasting security and true self-worth.
You have to start by believing these basic truth Scripture teaches:
my heart must worship, money is a tempting idol, but I must worship God alone.
When Nehemiah was appointed governor of Jerusalem by King Artaxerxes,
it was common practice of governors who came before to get rich.
Payola was a common, acceptable practice, not illegal.
When governor you squeezed the people, appointed officials good at squeezing,
you took your share, when term over you were a rich man.
Vs. 15 “But out of reverence for God I did not act like that.”
The governors before me worshipped money, but I worship God, fear God.
So easy to overlook a phrase like that because Nehemiah man of so few words,
rejected the worship of money, not just with words, actions proved his words
he really did fear and worship God alone.
It was this most basic matter of the heart that enabled Nehemiah to be so
successful in using his money to bring rebuilding power of God to
broken people of Jerusalem.
What about you? Before you can even start to use money in a God-glorifying way,
have to answer question, Do I worship God or money?
Test yourself with the following:
1. Do you covet? 10th commandment.
Coveting is being dissatisfied with your stuff and wanting better stuff.
caressing, fondling in your mind things you don’t have, castles in clouds
Paul—“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many
foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.”
Not—people who try to get rich, people who want to get rich.
matter of your heart, if set on money and things, ruin you.
2. Do you have regular anxiety over money?
Rich people worry they are going to lose money, how protect it.
Poor people worry they aren’t going to have enough money.
Jesus, Matt 6 calls worry about money a sin—characteristic of paganism
opposite of new man—trusts God
3. Are you are biased toward people because of their money?
Prefer people who have money, judge people according to their money.
less respect if have less, more respect (even if envious) if more
James condemns in church
4. Are you are stingy? Unwilling to be generous to other people.
God doesn’t call people who refuse to give, give puny amounts stingy,
calls robbers and embezzlers
Sign of idolatry, if want to keep too much.
If honest, all of us tend toward idolatry. Is heart’s desire to worship God alone?
Confess your idolatry. Especially if has led you to violate God’s law.
So how do you make decisions about all the financial matters of daily life?
How can you be assured you are following God’s will with your money
in all the checkbook decisions big and small—matters of houses, clothes, cars?
A large part of the answer is this—Pursue your calling.
The Lord has called you to a particular place and station in life,
and in that place you are called to make use of the unique talents, gifts,
and opportunities that he has given you.
So when it comes to financial matters, you are to work out the details before
the Lord in the context of your calling.
The doctrine of calling is one of the great teachings that was re-discovered
during the Protestant Reformation—Luther and Calvin emphasized.
God calls Christians to serve Him in every sphere of life.
All callings can be used to glorify Him.
The church before the Reformation taught that there were two classes
of Christians—religious and laity.
Religious were priests, monks, nuns—these were the called ones, set apart.
Laity were butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers—played second fiddle
because the truly holy life, was the religious life, renouncing worldly goods.
Reformers brought church back to Scripture—all of life belongs to God, all holy
as Luther liked to say, the little maid with Christ in her heart,
served God better by her sweeping than many priests saying the mass.
Now let’s relate this to our finances.
The Christian should look at himself and say—God has called me to this place,
to this position and station in life, has called me to these responsibilities,
and He has given me this money to use.
When it comes to financial matters, how can I best serve Him?
And this is the conclusion you should reach:
There will be some things available to you because of your position that you will
say no to. Not because they are wrong in themselves.
But you recognize that if you have them they will harm your effectiveness
in following the Lord’s will in your calling.
And, there will be other things available to you that you will say yes to.
They will help you to be effective in your calling.
One of the things available to Nehemiah in his calling as governor was
a hefty stipend for entertainment.
This was his by right, part of his position as a Persian governor.
But Nehemiah looked at his calling, what he was trying to accomplish,
realized, if I take this stipend it will harm my effectiveness,
an added tax burden on the people, will slow down the progress on the wall.
Nothing wrong with this stipend, this was not the payola that Nehemiah rejected,
this was legitimate income, but before Lord came to conclusion he would not.
On the other hand, Nehemiah realized that as Governor he had a position to uphold
Important that he have a generous table, all the right people eat with him.
So he made sure that every day there was meat and lots of wine, every variety.
A famine, working people struggling to get by with the basics
To be effective in his calling, he needed to spend lots of money on food and wine.
Suppose Nehemiah could have been criticized about both these decisions.
About decision not to take the stipend—too pious, too fastidious.
About decision to buy meat and wine—too wasteful—could drink iced tea.
Knowing what we know about Nehemiah—probably would have said,
I don’t care what you think, I have made both decisions for God’s glory.
Means that in financial matters, you cannot compare yourself to other people
to justify certain luxuries—to think, so and so has that, I want it.
Wrong for a Christian. Shows aren’t thinking about calling, Lord, other people.
Shows a lack of self-control, false belief that money yours to spend.
On the other hand, shouldn’t deny yourself certain things just because other
Christians are denying, or because they say you will be holy if you do.
Many times I have read books on biblical finances—good, biblical, till application
Wrong for Christians to buy new cars, irresponsible use of God’s money.
Wrong for Christians to own two homes, millions of homeless, lack of love.
Wrong for Christians to eat potato chips, starving people.
The church must judge members in moral matters, talked about discipline.
But in these non-moral matters, each Christian must work out before the Lord,
in the light of his or her unique calling.
This is not an excuse to do what you want. If think I’m saying, I can buy new car.
completely missed the point. Lord holds you accountable in these matters.
You will answer to Him. Look upon me with favor. I have considered calling.
MP#3 You Must Imitate Jesus Christ.
Under this heading I want us to consider giving.
No biblical study of money complete until you consider giving.
Question asked, what about tithing? Is the tithe, 10% what you are to give?
tithe first mentioned when Abraham gives 10% to Melchizedek
tithe became the law of Israel—to be given to Levites
tithing neglected in Israel, prophets condemned, God’s judgment
Jesus mentions tithe, Pharisees—well and good, but blasts for ignoring mercy
Is tithing to be practiced today—is it our standard? Yes and no
Yes—principles in tithing, firstfruits belong to the Lord,
He is honored when you set aside the portion for Lord’s work first
Not—I’ll give if I have any left over at end of month, will give first
“give tithes and offerings” firstfruits of our income, regularly to Him
as a Christian your giving must be planned and regular, if not sinning
No—I believe (fine Christian pastors I respect) tithe like all civil laws of Israel,
was a shadow of better things to come.
the 10% requirement in the OT church has been fulfilled
by something greater through Christ’s work
So, if not 10% how much?
Great NT passages on giving 2 Corinthians 8 and 9
Paul never talks about 10% or tithing, but listen to the words he uses
gave as much as able and even beyond their ability
sow generously, generous on every occasion
Macedonians earnestly pleaded for the privilege of sharing
desire for equality among brothers, none lacking
according to your means, according to what one has
give what is decided in your heart
cheerfully, not reluctantly or under compulsion
“I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love”
Think the wonderful thing we see in Nehemiah is not a man who said, give 10%
He took on the feeding of 150 Jews every day, an enormous sacrifice.
Not bread and water, meat and wine, all out of his personal salary
Here is Nehemiah at His best, generous in giving to point of enormous sacrifice
But is there a hint of resentment? No, this is what he gladly did for God’s people.
When left after 12 years as governor, not a rich man, did not acquire any land.
Remember, all the OT saint at their best prefigure the coming Messiah
Nehemiah’s generosity is a picture of the generosity of Jesus Christ.
When it comes to your giving, it is Jesus Christ you are to imitate
Jesus was rich but for our sakes and became poor
Question you should ask is not: Am I giving 10% or 20% or 50%?
Am I giving generously? Not saying amount unimportant, amount is important.
Generous giving is sacrificial giving. Is my giving sacrificial?
Giving like Christ who was rich but for our sakes became poor.
Are your options limited because of your giving? Will be different for every Xian.
Because of my giving I was not able to go on vacation A, but on vacation B
Because of my giving I can’t eat out 3 nights a week, twice a month.
Because of my giving, the pantry is very bare before the next paycheck.
Generosity—giving beyond ability—giving sacrificially,
giving like Christ who was rich and became poor will change your lifestyle
The greatness of Nehemiah’s example is not that he gave his tithe,
but that he was so moved by the greatness of God, greatness of Kingdom,
so much desired to bring the rebuilding power of God to broken people and place,
that he gave and gave and gave.
Are you imitating Christ in your giving?