Episode 1. Winners and Losers
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In this world we learn pretty quickly that winning is good, losing is bad. Fair enough. But sometimes winning is losing and losing is winning. That’s actually what Jesus said. He meant it in …
In this world we learn pretty quickly that winning is good, losing is bad. Fair enough. But sometimes winning is losing and losing is winning. That’s actually what Jesus said. He meant it in every part of our lives – and He particularly meant it, when it comes to money. Our Money. Touchy subject that.
Last week we kicked off a series of programs to talk about money. Why? Because so many people have issues with money. Sometimes we don’t have enough, other times the desire for money and wealth and all that that brings can overwhelm us.
So many of us, particularly those who live in the affluent countries are immersed in cultures that worship wealth. Advertising that rampantly and without check promotes conspicuous consumption and governments keen to make their economies grow who tacitly or explicitly endorse excessive consumption. All that leads to a malady, a social pandemic that sees us becoming enslaved to the idea of wealth and success. Many people labouring so hard, so excessively on this treadmill that it’s killing us.
Any of that sound even vaguely familiar? So last week I guess we started looking at this problem and how this love of and desire for money tears many lives apart. On the one hand we want to live a balanced life, we want to be generous and to do good in this world but on the other many of us want to be wealthy so we hang on to our wealth and in doing that we become enslaved to it.
We’re like a dog with two masters and as we saw that just never works does it?
Today and in fact over the course of this week we’re going to take the next step in this series, we’re going to start looking at some solutions. Now I come at this whole issue of money and materialism as one whose spent much of his life, at least the first thirty six years before I met Jesus somewhere out there along the dusty road of my life.
I spent it as a rampant, extreme, committed, born again materialist. The sole focus of my life, the one thing I wanted was to be rich. To live in a big, impressive, luxurious house. To drive a flashy car that make people sit up and take notice. To fly around the world business class. To stay in five star luxury hotels. To be able to buy all the boys toys, the sound system, the latest technology, all that stuff, all the stuff my little heart desired. That was it for me.
That’s my background, that’s where I come from and perhaps you’ve heard me say before but as hard as I worked at that, man I worked hard and I was well on the way you know but as hard as I worked at that it simply never ever delivered the satisfaction and the contentment that I was looking for. I mean it promised satisfaction, it promised contentment, it’s just that it never delivered.
Over the last decade and a half, walking each day with this Jesus, far from perfectly some days but just walking with Him the best way I knew how, I’ve discovered a different way. Another way of handling wealth and money and it’s the only way that I’ve been able to find that actually delivers what I’m looking for.
And that way goes back to a simple yet radical and to so many a challenging, even repugnant principle of life that Jesus talked about. We touched on it briefly last week if you were able to join me and that principle is this.
Those who want to save their lives will lose them but those who lose their lives for my sake will save them.
Now there was a much broader context within which Jesus made that statement, the context was about winning and losing but the principle here is this. It’s this paradox that by hanging on to things and that includes wealth and money, eventually we’ll lose everything. But by, in a sense, letting go we’ll save ourselves. In other words winning leads to losing but as a deliberate choice to lose leads to winning.
I know it sounds bizarre but the first part of that is something I’ve really proven in my life. Trying to win, trying to be wealthy by serving the god of wealth, what I discovered beyond any reasonable doubt is that, it just doesn’t work.
So does that mean we have to go around and live in poverty, all of us? No not necessarily. Of course poverty does take many different forms, emotional, spiritual and for many physical. So over the coming days on the program we’re going to meet a few people who were poor in different ways and see what the solution is. But what it does mean, here’s the underlying principle, is that when we’re prepared to give up some of what we have, when we’re generous with who we are, with our time, with our resources and yes with our money that’s when we discover true wealth.
Friend there are so many different ways of doing that. The choices we make on where we’ll live and what we’ll drive and how much our lifestyle is going to cost us. Will I have a high flying job that earns me lots of money but demands 120% of my life or will I have a slightly lesser paying job so that I can do some of the things with my family and in my community that will really make a difference and leave a good legacy behind?
When it comes to supporting the needy for instance, will I throw my loose change into the bowl or will I give sacrificially, will I give in a way that truly costs me something? See that’s where the decisions are made, that’s where the rubber hit’s the road and it’s when we choose to lose, it’s a great phrase that, when we choose to lose in the money department, when we get into the business of giving sacrificially and that sort of giving is the giving that always hurts, that always costs us something, that’s where we discover the satisfaction and the contentment that we were always looking for.
Because then, all of a sudden, we gain mastery over our money. Instead of us worshipping wealth now our wealth serves us and not just us but God and when we lay it down like that our hearts change;
For where our treasure is (said Jesus) there also your heart will be.
Now let’s look at the broader context of winning and losing that Jesus was in fact talking about because when we do that all of sudden it starts to make sense. Luke chapter 9 beginning at verse 18:
Once when Jesus was praying alone with only the disciples near him he asked them, ‘who do the crowds say that I am?’ They answered, ‘John the Baptist, others say Elijah and still others that one of the ancient prophets has risen.’ But he said to them, ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘the messiah of God’.
Jesus sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone saying, ‘the son of man must undergo great suffering and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised’.
Then he said to all of them, ‘if any want to become my followers let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words of them the son of man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the father and of the holy angel.’
So his closest disciples had figured out who He is, the Messiah, the Son of God, God Himself in the flesh and I don’t know about you but at this point I would have been thinking, “Boy, am I on a winner here, the Son of God, woohoo!” And right then Jesus launches into the suffering that He’s going to have to go through and the sacrifice He’s calling each of them to.
This miracle man Jesus as we know ultimately gets Himself nailed to a cross, He becomes the ultimate loser so that you and I can become the ultimate winners. That’s what happens to Him and that’s what He says has to happen to His disciples, you and me included, if we want to follow Him.