Simplify Week - 4
Contentment will only cost me one thing: Control!
Do you collect anything? If so, what?
What is the most extreme length to which you have gone to get one of your collectibles? What does your collection say about your interests and passions?
In what area of your life is materialism most likely to surface?
As we look at some of the Bible’s teaching on wealth, we will see how our financial decisions reveal the condition of our hearts. Sometimes our attention shifts and our energy is focused on things that distract us from what truly matters. The Bible shows us that seeking wealth for personal gain demonstrates we are failing at being rich. The way to be rich is to be generous.
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” 16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ 21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Read Luke 12:13-21.
What similarities do you see between this man and the consumer culture we live in?
Why do you think Jesus said that we must be on guard against greed?
How was this man failing at being rich?
It’s not wrong to accumulate wealth or have a desire to make more money. What is wrong, though, is wanting more money only for our own comfort, security, and happiness. The man in Jesus’ story wanted a comfortable and easy life full of luxury. He was failing at being rich! This runs contrary to Jesus’ teaching on self sacrificial service (see Mark 10:45) and care for the poor (see Matt. 5:3; 25:37-40).
Has greed ever snuck up on you? If so, how? Why is that an easy thing to have happen?
Why were the rich man’s actions in the story so foolish? Does that mean we should never save for the future? Why or why not?
The rich man’s actions were foolish because he was only thinking of himself and wasn’t considering how to use his wealth for kingdom purposes. The Bible commends saving for the future as long as we do so with a desire to honor the Lord.
Read Luke 12:31-34.
How might examining how we spend our money help us gauge our spiritual health?
Pastor Tony gave us 5 things that will help us gain contentment and lose the overwhelmingness of financial pressure in our lives:
I will believe that all I have comes from the hand of a loving God!
I will trust God’s provision for my life and live joyfully within it!
I will honor God by giving of my first, not the leftovers!
I will set aside a portion of every paycheck in savings!
I will get my financial house in order so that I can respond to the Holy Spirit’s promptings!
Place these 5 in order from least difficult to easiest for you. Discuss your order.
How can you refocus your money and resources toward storing up heavenly treasure?
What are some practical ways you might begin making your money a tool for God to use?
Thank God for the generosity He has shown us by giving up Jesus on the cross for our sins. Pray that God would help us learn how to be rich. Ask His forgiveness for the many ways we have fallen prey to being selfish with our wealth. Ask God to help you focus your wealth on His kingdom and glory.
12:13-14. An anonymous member of the crowd interrupted Jesus. He set Jesus up as a human judge deciding inheritance rights. Jesus denied that He had any right to act in such a position. That belongs to the nation’s court system.
12:15. Not making a legal judgment, Jesus did make a moral one. Your request shows how greedy you are, He told the man. Lay aside your greed. Think about life. What is most important to you? Money or relationship with God? Surely, your life is more important than what you own.
12:16-19. Jesus illustrated His teaching with a parable. A farmer overcame all agricultural odds and achieved great success. But this brought a new problem. What do you do with your riches? How do you store it until you can sell it or use it? How can you keep it from rotting and ruining? The answer is obvious. Build bigger barns. This is a great short-term solution, but can you afford the capital investment in relationship to what you normally expect? Sure I can, the farmer declared, for this crop is so good it will support me for years to come. I don’t have to worry about money and work any more.
12:20-21. God has another perspective: you must die tonight. Then what happens to all your wealth? This is not an exceptional case. It applies to anyone who trusts in riches. Riches have one major weakness. They have no purchasing power after death. They cannot buy the currency needed to get to heaven. Do not try to be rich in regard to the bank or barn. Be rich in relationship to God. Through prayer, study, obedience, and practice of the Word, be sure you are part of the kingdom of God.
12:31-32. Freed from worry and stewing over material things, what are you to do? Set up one goal and accomplish it. Be part of God’s kingdom. Do the work He gives you to do. Concentrate on being God’s instruments to establish His kingdom here on earth. As He provided for the mission of the Twelve and of the seventy-two, so He will provide for you. Surrender your fear. Do not let anxiety rule your life. Trust the Father. The delight of His life is to find ways to give not just daily needs but His whole kingdom to you. Kingdom heirs don’t have to worry about the small stuff.
12:33. We must go one step further. Dedication to Jesus is more than becoming worry-free. It is loving and living like Him. So do not depend on your money. Give what you own to the poor. Do not even be tempted by your moneybags or purses. These will just grow old, rot, and be ruined. You need purses that can never be ruined. Such are not earthly, but heavenly. Obey God, practice His Word, follow with Him to the cross. Trust Him. You will store up your heavenly treasures. Treasures here bring fears of thieves and robbers. Such people do not exist in heaven. Nothing can destroy or rob you of your treasure there. Earthly treasures you will constantly worry about. Heavenly treasures give no cause for worry.
12:34. To summarize the matter: Choose where you want to store up treasure. Your heart, the center of emotions and mental activities, will concentrate on where you have your treasures. Your identity is determined by where your heart is. Ignore God, and spend all your physical, emotional, and psychic energy on the world’s goods and earthly success. Or trust God, and spend all your efforts on kingdom matters.
DAILY QUIET TIME GUIDE
HOW TO HAVE A DAILY QUIET TIME
The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.
UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.
FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!
INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.
OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
You know what’s great about being a Christian? Life comes with a survival kit. In all the twists and turns and hiccups of life, we have a trusty and handy source that can get you through it all. Of course I’m referring to the strength we find in Jesus. The Apostle Paul serves as an excellent example of surviving everything life throws his way. He wrote today’s devotional Bible verse. Verse 13 is often used more on a regular basis by than the previous two verses: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ( Philippians 4:13). I like the fact that this verse is written in direct support of “I can be content in any situation.” So often we isolate this verse and we apply it to only encourage us to do the impossible, which I am all for. However, sometimes we need to remember that Christ is also here to help in our day to day.
Paul says he can remain content no matter what the circumstances are around him. I don’t know what is going on in your life right now, but think about it. Paul wrote these words while he was locked away in prison. And even while captured, he wrote about rejoicing and being full of joy (Philippians 4:4)! I heard a preacher once say “You’re either in a storm, just got out of one, or about to enter one.” That can sound daunting at first, but realistically we all know change and difficulty happen. But, we can be breathe easy and rest confidently because we can handle it. Jesus gives us strength. And he is with us before, after, and during the bad parts in our lives.
Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com
They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.
The Israelites time and time again were saved by God through miracles as they were in and leaving Egypt. But they continually rebelled against God. Reading these accounts in Scripture can easily make us feel competent and prideful.
Our minds are filled with the notion that if we had seen the miracles the Israelites saw, we would never have forgotten them. Generally, we could rightly assume that none of us reading this has ever seen a sea part, a river turn to blood or mana from heaven. But, we think that if we did, we would never act faithlessly as the Israelites did toward God.
What if we are looking at this scripture and others similar in the wrong way? We can claim we have never seen God do a “big” miracle, when God is blessing us with “little” miracles every day. The job you have, the healthy family, your relationships, even your salvation are all gifts, all blessings.
We are told that every good gift comes from God (James 1:17). If our good gifts come from God, then we are right to assume that they aren’t our doing and come from the Lord. This can and should translate into a humbling experience that allows us to trust God more while striving not to be like the Israelites who seemed to continually forget God’s miraculous works in their lives.
Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
Most kids shook when the summer was over, but I loved going back to school. I looked forward to the prospect of learning new things, of taking on novel challenges, and—of course—the school supplies. I couldn’t wait to get a new backpack and lunchbox—as well as the pencils, folders, crayons, glue, and other bric-a-brac that makes education possible. I would stack up all my goodies on the kitchen table, and my Aunt Anita (who had impeccable handwriting and loved school supplies as much as I did) would write my name in beautiful cursive script on each item.
Sadly, I can’t say the same for my two sons, who were in foster care until April of 2017. The first two years we had them in our home, we received donated school supplies from some well-meaning folks in the community. They arrived on our door in a black plastic garbage bag, which is how most items—including kids’ clothing and personal possessions—are transported in the foster care system. (Don’t tell me that doesn’t send a message to a young, vulnerable heart.)
As adoptive parents-to-be, we assumed we weren’t eligible for such things and had already gone on the gleeful shopping spree I so enjoyed as a child. Still, I’ve never been one to look a free box of markers in the mouth, so we unpacked everything we’d been given. Looking it over, I noticed something. Sure, most of the necessary stuff was there, but there was a sale sticker on both backpacks, which were much flimsier than the ones I had purchased. All the supplies were off-brand, and several things—rulers and calculators—broke after just a few uses. I noticed it, and sadly, the kids did too.
I’m certain the men and women who purchased these goodies did so with the purest and most noble of intentions, but there’s more to a gift than the item itself. The thought and motivation behind it matter just as much, if not more so. When you choose to share with someone in need, don’t think of them only as someone experiencing want or—worse still—as someone who should be grateful with whatever you choose to bestow. Picture him or her as a whole person—someone who, like you, is made in the image of God, who has goals and dreams, but who has to fight a little harder to get there. You’re helping them move one step closer to that goal—and I’m not arguing against thrift by any means—but what message are you sending with the gift of less-than materials?
For school-supply aficionados like myself, it’s Ticonderoga or nothing when it comes to pencils. I have never written with anything but those well-crafted slivers of wood, graphite, and rubber. Those puppies sharpen easily, write smoothly, and the erasers just plain work better. And the first time my sons used them, they both oohed and aahed over the difference. They packed them alongside their heavy-duty binders, Crayolas, Sharpies, and Expo markers (all labeled of course) in sturdy new backpacks with their names stitched inside, and they entered their elementary school with heads held high. For the first time, they weren’t different or odd, nothing screamed “foster kid” to those around them. They belonged. They were valued. And they knew it.
Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.” I think the same can be said of our acts of largesse as well. We honor God when we provide the best we have to those who cannot repay the favor. Giving our best brings Him glory and affirms the God-given dignity of the recipient, and that’s far more important than simply checking charity off the to-do list.
Adapted From: http://intouch.org
So don't worry about these things, saying, 'What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?' These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
When Jesus told us not to worry about food and clothing, His emphasis was on the word worry. He didn’t say, "Don’t think about it." Nor did He imply, "Don’t plan ahead for your needs." He said, "Don’t worry."
The fact of the matter is that the Bible criticizes the lazy person who lives off the generosity of others and refuses or neglects to work for a living. The Bible says that if you don’t work, you shouldn’t eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Go get a job. Provide for yourself. The Bible even encourages us to plan for the future and learn from the example of the ant, that tiny creature that is always planning ahead (see Proverbs 6:6-8).
But there is balance here. The Bible is saying to us, "Yes, do an honest day’s work and be financially responsible, but don’t be obsessed with these things. Jesus said that is how nonbelievers are: "Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek" (Matthew 6:31-32).
Isn’t that the emphasis of so many people today—what to eat, what to wear? Their whole lives revolve around materialistic goals. Jesus said this won’t satisfy the deepest needs of your heart.
Don’t make these things your primary purpose in life. Rather, seek God first and foremost in your life, and everything that you need will be provided for you. God will take care of you. He cares about you. He will supply all of your needs.
Adapted From: http://harvest.org
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:7-8
Have you ever tried to count your blessings? No matter how long a list you could compile, it would barely scratch the surface. Only the Lord can reveal to us all the ways He has provided, guided, and blessed us. But Scripture helps us recognize amazing blessings that are ours in Christ.
For example, today’s passage teaches that we don’t lose anything by being generous. God calls us to give cheerfully, not grudgingly; bountifully, not sparingly; and voluntarily, not under compulsion. When we do, He responds with abounding grace that overflows in our life (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).
God’s grace …
Flows to us. Our Father promises us sufficiency in everything as He supplies our needs, provides more for us to give, and increases our righteousness. In fact, He says we will be enriched in everything for our generosity (2 Corinthians 9:11).
Reaches out to others. When needs around us are met through our generosity, some people will begin to correlate our giving with obedience to God. As a bond of fellowship is formed, they may respond by praying for us (2 Corinthians 9:13-14).
Brings glory to Him. We are not the heroes in the story; the Lord is. Our obedience and dependence on Him demonstrate that He alone is the one who provides us with the means to give. And those who receive our gift will glorify God, who is the ultimate source of their provision (2 Corinthians 9:13).
Don’t allow human reasoning or the fear of not having enough prevent you from experiencing God’s abounding grace, which He showers on those who obey Him.
Adapted From: http://intouch.org
One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.
Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.