Restructuring Our Finances
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Restructuring Our Finances

Nehemiah 10:30–39  (ID: 1754)

Wealth may bring us great joy, but when misused, severe problems follow. Alistair Begg describes the dangers of loving money and explains the warning signs that reveal the depth of our love for money. In obeying God’s law from the heart, we must reject opportunities that contradict His decrees and accept the responsibility of maintaining the gathering of His people.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Nehemiah, Volume 3

God’s Glory in Our Goodness Nehemiah 9:38–13:30 Series ID: 11603

Sermon Transcript: Print

Can I invite you once again to take your Bibles and turn with me then to the portion of Scripture that we read in Nehemiah?

Let’s have a brief prayer before we look at this:

Make the Book live to me, O Lord,
Show me thyself within thy Word,
Show me myself and show me my Savior,
And make the Book live to me.[1]


Well, we’re resuming our studies in Nehemiah. You need a good memory to understand that this is a return to a study that previously existed. We’re picking up the threads which we found in chapters 8, 9, and 10, where God’s people had determined that they were going to make a significant commitment to God. This had come about as a result of a simple request—at the beginning of chapter 8 it’s recorded for us—when the people had asked “Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses.” And if you have your Bible, you will see that in 8:1.

They knew what they were doing, insofar as they were asking for the scroll to be brought out and to be read. They probably had no likelihood of understanding what the implications were actually going to be for them when the Scriptures were read to them in this way. It probably was unlikely that any of them had envisaged the implications being so far-reaching as they had proved to be, as unfolds for us in the subsequent chapters.

The clear teaching of the Bible had been matched by serious thinking on the part of the listeners, and that had produced in turn, as we found in 9:38, “a binding agreement.” The Word of God had been spoken clearly, the people had been thinking sensibly, and as a result of the two things coming together, they realized that something was going to have to happen. Indeed, this is only the way in which the Word of God should be taught and responded to. If we are not making the connection between its teaching and its application, then we are severely missing the point. And as the people had heard the Word of God, realized what it was being said, they then made this binding agreement.

And in 9:38, we are told that they confirmed their commitment by “putting it in writing.” And every so often we’ll say to somebody, “I wonder, would you give me that in writing, please? I’d like to have that in writing. I would like to have it as a record. I think it would be important for you to append your signature to it. I would like for you to seal that as an indication of your commitment.”

And I wonder if you have little places in your past—flyleaves in your Bible, pieces of literature somewhere around your home or in your personal belongings—to which you can turn, where, at a particular moment in time, as a result of clear teaching and sensible thinking, you made a commitment to the Lord, and you put it in writing, and you wrote down on a page somewhere, “Lord, I am committed to you in relationship to this. I determine that as you enable me, I am going to do this. I want to serve you. I want to follow you. I want to be your man, I want to be your woman, I want to be your teen,” or whatever it might be. And as a result of that, you laid down something of a spiritual milestone. I would hope that you can’t find hundreds and hundreds of these things, but I would hope that each of us can at least find some—points along our spiritual pilgrimage where, as the result of the clear instruction of God’s Word and that coming home to our hearts as a result of the ministry of the Spirit of God, we said, “That’s it. We’re going to do this.” That’s exactly what these people did. It was going to have implications for their families. It certainly was something that would affect the generations that would follow them.

And in 10:29, we discover them making this straightforward statement as a further emphasis of the nature of their resolve. And then we’re told that they bound “themselves with a curse and [with] an oath.” In other words, they said, “God helping me, I will do this. And if I don’t do this, may this happen to me.” They were very serious. To do what? Well, “to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord.”[2] In other words, “We’re going to obey the Bible.”

Now, just in case that seems a wee bit too much, or a little vague, or a bit as if you’re hitting golf balls, and you’re just hitting them at a four-hundred-yard target down at the end, whereby you say, “Well, we’re going to hit golf balls towards the end of the field”—once you put flags out there, you’ll find out whether you’re hitting your target or not. And they determined that they would put three flags out in front of them so that when their children said, “What do you mean we’re going to obey the commands of the Lord our God? What do you mean we’re going to obey him wholeheartedly? Tell me what that means. Show me what it means. Make it real in your experience for me. I need to see it. I need to understand it.” And so they did.

And we noted that this commitment to obey God from their hearts demanded three things. First of all, it demanded the realigning of their focus. (This is all history now; I’m just bringing you up to speed.) It demanded the realigning of their focus. On that occasion, we said that they began to think in terms of God’s purposes rather than their preferences. Secondly, that they began to think in terms of responsibilities as opposed to rights. Thirdly, that they began to think long-term effect as opposed to short-term enjoyment. Those were the three implications, which would have been obvious to anyone living around them. Their focus had been realigned. And they were not talking rights; they were talking responsibilities. They were not talking personal preferences; they were talking God’s purposes. And they were not talking about immediate gratification; they were talking about a long-term goal for the sake of God’s kingdom.

The second flag that they put out concerned the redirecting of their families. The redirecting of their families. And on that occasion, we noted that this changed the gathering of their families to where and to what, the guiding of their families, and the giving of their families. They determined, as we see here in verse 30, that they would not “give [their] daughters in marriage to the [people] around” or even “take their daughters for [their] sons.” Now, this was all as a result of having heard the Book, having thought about it clearly and determined that it must have implications in their lives.

Now, that brought us to the twelfth of June. That was June 12. We come now to the third element, which had actually been some Sundays before June—the third point of one sermon. “How all occasions do inform against me.”[3] But the third element, to which we now turn, is as challenging as the other two. Not only does this obeying God from the heart realign my focus and redirect my family, but it’s going to reconstruct our finances.

And so this morning we’re going to talk for a while about money—not necessarily the first sermon that I want to preach after having been gone for four weeks, or three weeks; but nevertheless, it’s the next one in the order of events. So, here it is; preach it. And we’re going to talk about them and money and ourselves and money. So prepare to be a little uncomfortable.

Of all the good gifts which God provides for us to enjoy, the two which bring the greatest human benefit and, which when misused, the greatest human evils are undoubtedly sex and wealth. Think it out for yourself. Of all the gifts that God has given us as humans to enjoy, the two that bring the greatest joy and, when misused, the greatest problem are sex and wealth.

As a result of that, and because the evils are so stark (and they are clearly stark), the response of many through the ages has been to succumb to the temptation to adopt an entirely negative attitude towards both subjects—as a result, then, to say, “Well, since this can be very bad and this can be very bad, the best thing we can do is avoid them completely.” And the result of that, of course, is a commitment to celibacy on the one hand and a commitment to poverty on the other hand, which is the response of medieval sainthood. But if you read the medieval period, you will recognize that those who adopted a vow of celibacy and a vow of poverty were unable to deal internally with the ebb and flow of their hearts in relationship both to the desire for that which money can buy and also as it relates to the desire for sexual fulfillment.

Of all the gifts that God has given us as humans to enjoy, the two that bring the greatest joy and, when misused, the greatest problem are sex and wealth.

And right up into the present day, our world is littered with evidences of the fact that nowhere in the Bible does it demand that the normative response to sex and wealth would be celibacy and poverty, but rather that the Bible would give to us significant principles to be applied in order that money would be seen not as an evil to be shunned but as a good gift to be shared. And you can cross-reference this in your own study by simply getting your concordance and looking up money and checking it through, and you’ll turn to various passages both in Old and New Testament.

And this idea of a church understanding the place of money is nowhere more clearly expressed than in Corinth, where, in 2 Corinthians chapter 9, Paul says to the Corinthians, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” And so, in recognizing the privilege of giving within the framework of the local church, he says,

Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.[4]

Now, there are a number of basic principles as it relates to the issue of money that are contained there. And even a moment or two’s study would allow you to make note of them, and helpfully so. But I’d like to try and tackle this issue in the context of Nehemiah’s day for a moment or two, if I might. And so, if your Bible is there, that will be helpful.

What the people were doing with their resources in Nehemiah’s day was an indication of their priorities. In other words, if you took their checkbooks and looked at their stubs, you would see where their priorities lay. And the fact is that this morning, to a greater or lesser degree, that will be true for most of us—at least those who use checkbooks. And when we follow the events as they’re described for us here in chapter 10, I want you to notice with me two things.

Opportunities Rejected

First of all, that on account of their willingness to obey God from the heart and thereby having their finances redirected, there were opportunities which they chose to reject. There were opportunities which they chose to reject. And there are two that are outlined for us here in verse 31. First of all, in relationship to the Sabbath: “When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day.”

Well now, where did they get this? You need to turn back to the book of Exodus with me and to chapter 20 for a moment. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy”—Exodus 20:8. “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates,” because of the principle of Sabbath rest established by God in the work of creation.

Now, it becomes immediately apparent that in relationship to living in the world of their day, this was a bizarre state of affairs by any stretch of the imagination. Any businessman could tell you that if you would only spread the opportunities over these days, and especially the Sabbath day, when there was great movement throughout the city, then you could do far better than ever you were going to do out of six days. And there were probably some who sought to justify the expressions on the Lord’s Day, on the Sabbath, by suggesting that if only they worked on the Sabbath, they would have more to give God. And so, with the end justifying the means, God would be so pleased that he got this extra stuff that he wouldn’t mind the fact that they blew out one of his commands fairly straightforwardly.

But you see, if we’re going to obey God from the heart, if we’re going to observe this here, you either obey God from the heart, you either do what you say you’re going to do, or you don’t do it. And so they said, “We’re not going to do it. We will not trade on the Sabbath.”

Secondly, they rejected the opportunity to work the land on the seventh year. That’s in verse 31b: “Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.” If your finger is still in Exodus, you can look in Exodus 23:10: “For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused.”

“Who says?”

“God says.”

“Who’s God?”

“Creator, Redeemer, sustainer of life.”

“Other people don’t do this. Aliens don’t do this.”

“But,” says Ezra and those thirteen who interpreted the Word of the Law for them, “either you want to do what the Word says, or you don’t want to do what it says. And this is what it says.” “Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.”[5]

“But this is crazy! Six years we’ve been working this thing. There’s no reason why our seventh year couldn’t be a good year. There’s no reason why we couldn’t get a lot of stuff out of this. And we could give it away, you know, if we had it.” And so they could try and justify it. But the plain, bald statement of Scripture was absolutely clear: “Don’t do this on the Sabbath, and do this on the seventh year.” And the people said, “That’s fine. We’ll do it.”

Do you get the impression of the sort of dramatic, radical impact of the Word upon their lives? “Bring out the Book.” Out comes the Book. They read the Book. They understand the Book. They do the Book. It’s not really that difficult. And when you have a congregation of God’s people that are completely committed to this kind of ongoing process, then you will make an impact for God in your generation. The leadership of God’s people must be committed to the exact same thing: that we will read the Book, we will understand the Book, and we will do the Book, no matter who says it’s crazy, no matter what it might mean. And so there were opportunities that they rejected.

Now, the practicalities of this we dealt with in chapter 5. And in another few weeks—couple of weeks, maybe—we will realize what happened to these people when they reneged on the commitment that they made here in chapter 10. And if you want to read ahead, it’s pretty interesting and very revelatory.

Responsibilities Accepted

So then, there were opportunities that they rejected. And secondly, there were responsibilities that they accepted. And beginning in verse 32, they run through the list of their commitment to the duties of the house of God. And there, in verse 32 and 33, they make clear that their commitment to God’s house—to the temple, in this case—is going to cost them something. It’s going to cost them to be at worship. It’s going to make demands upon them in terms of who they are and what they have. And it’s not going to be the fragments of their lives. It’s not going to be the shavings, as it were, at the end of the wood. It’s going to be the very heart of the matter, they say.

Worship, says the Bible, that doesn’t cost me anything is no worship at all. And any attempt at worship that doesn’t give of myself and who I am and what I have means that I lose all the blessing of worship that is contained in it.

Now, I don’t want to go through all of this in great historical detail. If you do, I can commend you to a number of books. I’m not sure that we’re going to be served by just tracing all through these things. At least, that’s my lead on it for now. But I want you to notice all these things. Just cast your eye over it.

They said, “Now, look, we’re going to give money”: “[We’re going] to give a third of a shekel each year for the service of the house of our God.” You’ll read somewhere else that says you’re supposed to give half a shekel. It says half a shekel; now they’re giving a third of a shekel. What are they doing, diminishing the thing? No, it probably has to do with shekels and weights and measures and different things, or it has to do with the timing factor. We can rest assured that they were not trying to get by for 33 ⅓ when they were supposed to going at a level of 50 percent. Their commitment affected the money they were bringing in.

Also, verse 33, they were going to put the bread on the table. Also, they were going to bring the grain for the offerings. Also, they were going to make sure that there was “wood to burn on the altar of the Lord our God”—a wonderful picture here in verse 34 of the families determining when their time for the contribution of wood for the altar is going to be. Lovely picture. The kids could look down on the altar and see it burning there with all the offer of sacrifice and of atonement and of renewal, and they’d be able to look along at their dad and say, “That was our Sunday. That was our commitment. We brought the wood for today, didn’t we, Dad? We have a part in this, don’t we, Dad? We’re in this fellowship, aren’t we, Mom? We’re committed here, aren’t we?” See, how are our children ever going to know? Well, they’ll know by our attendance, and they’ll know by our use of resources.

If our Christianity costs us nothing, it is worth nothing.

They brought their fruit—their firstfruit. Verse 35: “the firstfruits of our crops and of every fruit tree.” “We’re going to go out, and we’re going to pick fruit.” The last few weeks I’ve been in gardens in people’s homes, and they just have these wonderful grapefruit growing there, and all manner of fruit. And presumably the picture was “Now we’re going to go out and pick the fruit together. And when we pick the fruit, there’s going to be a number of baskets. But you all know, kids, that the first basket is going where?”

“It’s going to the temple.”

“That’s right. And why is it going to the temple?”

“Well, it’s going to the temple because it is at the temple that we declare our worship and our love for God.”

“And why do we declare our worship and our love for God in relationship to these things?”

“Because, Dad, God made everything. And he made us, and he gave us this, and he gave us it all richly to enjoy.[6] And it’s all his, and it’s ours on loan, and we’re just simply taking back an offering to him, that God may be glorified and praised, and those in need may be ministered to, and the aliens around us may see the difference that comes when a people say, ‘Bring out the Book,’ and they read it, and they do it.”

And the same with their flocks. And the same with their children. Verse 36: “As it is also written in the Law, we will bring the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, of our herds and of our flocks to the house of our God.” Have you done that with your children, parents? Did you do that soon after they were born, soon after they became yours? Get down by their crib and kneel down there and say, “Hey, this is the first one. And they’re all going to be yours. But the first one’s yours, Lord, and we give him to you. We give her to you.” If our Christianity costs us nothing, it’s worth nothing.

So they made this commitment in terms of the responsibilities they accepted for the duties of the house of God and also for the storerooms of God’s house. When you look at verse 34–39, you realize that they were not simply making provision for the regular sacrifices but also for the maintenance of the temple service itself. Let me quote one commentator to give you the flavor of this: “The temple was of crucial importance for Nehemiah. It provided the religious and social cement to bind members of the community to each other, and preeminently to God and His service.”[7]

And it is within this context that we read here of tithing. And when you read the Old Testament and you take this principle of the tithe and you begin to add it up, you realize that it is not some kind of legalistic process whereby of every hundred dollars we make, we end up with ninety and God’s supposed to get ten, but rather that tithing is within the framework of the fact that God, who is the provider of all that we need and is the owner of all that we have, he is the one who actually is due 100 percent. He owns 100 percent. And God in the Old Testament plan and purpose, in order to establish some semblance of normalcy for his people, establishes this principle whereby off the top of the 100 percent would come the first portion that would be given to God, to his people, and to his work. And what we find when we read the Old Testament is that that tithing process actually got up there to significant percentages and way beyond 10.

And when we get to the New Testament, we essentially discover that the notion of a tenth being the Lord’s is virtually assumed in New Testament parlance and that it’s a fairly good guide as a starting point for our giving to God, but it is not there in order to limit us or ultimately to regulate us. And indeed, until I’ve understood that God has it all, then he is never going to get 10 percent. As long as I think that he’s supposed to get 10 percent and I’m supposed to get 90, then it’s unlikely that he’ll get 10 percent then. And it’s questionable whether as a church family we have ever taken seriously this simple guiding principle.

Tithing, then, is a good place to begin. And if we think in terms of the temple being the focal point of God’s purpose and dealings, then the focal point of God’s purpose and dealings nowadays is in his church, in his people as they gather as local expressions. And people ask me all the time, they say, “Well, now that we have this amount of money, we were thinking of giving so much over here and so much over there and so much over there, and perhaps we would actually give some to the local church. What do you think?” And the answer is: I think the focus should always be the local church. Because God’s church is the pattern and purpose for reaching the world, and everything else is extraneous to it. Therefore, all other giving should be subservient to it and beyond it, not instead of it.

That, of course, is a privilege that each of us has to work out in relationship to our own convictions and perspectives. But you may as well know how we would view it here in terms of Parkside. We would anticipate that those who committed themselves to this church body, who said that they were committed to the giving to the work of the gospel in this place, would do exactly that and not forgo the privilege of giving gifts to other ministries, but that the focus and emphasis of giving would be absolutely here. But it’s hard. It’s hard. Because nothing really shows up where we are like money does.

Warnings against the Love of Money

And money this morning is the focus of so many in our generation. I don’t know about you, but how many times in a week—it’s certainly every day of the week—somebody sends you one of those letters that tells you you’ve got so much credit, right? “The good news is you’ve got so much credit.” “The good news is you’ve got so much credit.” And you get all these envelopes. If you were a crazy person and actually believed them, you’d be in debtor’s jail. The only good place to put that stuff is in the bin—just directly! Do not pass Go. Do not collect two hundred dollars. Go directly to bin. It’s the best advice I can give to all young couples: straight in the bin. Don’t even open it! With apologies to all executives from banks that are here this morning, it goes right in the bin for me. I don’t have one, and I’m not getting one, God helping me. I don’t think you should either.

We don’t need to succumb to the mentality, in relationship to money, that it really is the provider of everything, because it isn’t. Somebody said, “Money can buy medicine, but it can’t buy your health. Money can buy a house, but not a home. It can buy companionship, but not friends; entertainment, but not happiness; food, but not an appetite; a bed, but not sleep; a cross, but not a Savior; good life, but not eternal life.”[8] Seneca, the Roman statesman, said, “Money has never yet made anyone rich.”[9] And yet in the ’60s, in which I grew up, singing with the Beatles,

The best things in life are free,
But you can keep ’em for the birds and [the] bees.

Now, give me money,
That’s what I want,
That’s what I want …
That’s what I want.

Your lovin’ gives me a thrill,
But your lovin’ don’t pay my bills.

Now, give me money,
That’s what I want. …

Money don’t get everything, [that’s] true;
What it don’t get, I can’t use.

Now, give me money,
That’s what I want.[10]

Now, just in case we get all locked up here and some of you business guys are saying, “You know, I’m not making the shift here. We’re way back eight centuries before Christ. We got fruit trees and stuff. I’m just… It’s missing me.” Okay. Let’s go to 1 Timothy chapter 6, and we’ll use this as a concluding point of application this morning. The principle from 10 is clear: commitment from the heart to God and his work redirects our finances. But just in case some of us manage to sidestep it on the basis of some kind of anachronism, let’s go to 1 Timothy 6. I think I find it totally uncomfortable.

First Timothy 6:9 addresses the wannabes:

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. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. [And] some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Okay, so this is a warning to people who are sitting saying, “I think the answer to my life is to get rich. I think if I get a lot of money, I’ll be okay.” These are the wannabes.

Now, later in the chapter—verse 17 of the chapter—he has a word for those who are actually rich. It’s a different word. It’s not that it is ever wrong to be rich. There were obviously rich people, and there obviously will be rich people. Now, what is the word for rich people? Well, this is what rich people are to watch out for: “Command those who are rich in this present world…” And you only need to look at the pictures on the television screens coming out of Cuba, coming out of Haiti, coming out of Bosnia, coming out of anywhere to realize that I don’t know any of us that don’t somehow find this one shooting straight back at us, irrespective of where we fit on the great hierarchy of finances in the continental United States. “Command those who are rich in [the] present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” Or, in the King James Version, “who gives us all things richly to enjoy”[11]—that God is happy when we’re able to enjoy things in the right way. He is not a niggardly God. He is not somehow stingy. God is delighted when his people, who have been blessed, enjoy what he has given them. “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, … to be generous … 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.”[12] Very, very practical stuff.

You see, love of money may actually be a bigger problem for the person who has little money than it is for the one who has lots of money. ’Cause the one who has lots of money doesn’t really need to worry about it anymore. He’s got lots of money, so he doesn’t have to focus on it, necessarily. The biggest problem is “What am I going to do with all this stuff?”

God is delighted when his people, who have been blessed, enjoy what he has given them.

Now, let me tell you eight things that love of money leads to. I’m just going to give you these, and these are for your own study at home.

Love of money leads to a loss of contentment. If we love money, we will never be contented. First Timothy 6:6: “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Number two: love of money leads to a loss of trust in God—verse 17 of the same chapter.

Number three: love of money leads to a loss of balance in our lives. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and into a trap. They trip themselves up. They fall over. They go down into a hole.

Fourthly, love of money leads to a loss of peace: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. [And] some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and [have] pierced themselves with many griefs.” You take some people trying to pay off their Visa bill: peace is the last thing they know anything about. They are not in a position to give generously to the house of God because they’re so dreadfully indebted. And the reason they’re so dreadfully indebted is because they love the idea of having a lot of money, and somebody told them, “If you do this and this and this and this, you’ll get all this.” It leads to a loss of peace.

Fifthly, it leads to a loss of an eternal perspective on life. Verse 19: laying up treasure in the wrong place.

Sixthly, a love of money leads to a loss of usefulness—Matthew 6:24.

Seventhly, a love of money leads to a loss of humility: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant.”

Eighthly, a love of money leads to a loss of hope. You find that also in verse 17.

“Well then,” says somebody, “how can I tell if I’ve got the problem? I mean, if this is what love of money leads to, I don’t think I love money. But thanks for telling me, because if ever I start loving it, I know what I can look forward to: these eight things.”

Well, hang on. Let’s just check and see if we do love money. There are a number of signs that I love money or you love money. This is not an exhaustive list, but I think it’s fairly helpful. Here are a number of signs that you or I love money.

Number one: when money thoughts consume my day. When thoughts of money consume my day.

Number two: when the blessings of others makes me jealous—resentful of that car, that house, that suit, that purse, those shoes. I just can’t cope with it. Why not? Possibly because I love money, and I didn’t have enough to get what she got or what he got.

Thirdly, I’m probably guilty of a love of money when success is defined by what I have versus what I am in Jesus Christ.

Fourthly, when my family is neglected in my pursuit of money. “I’m going to have a huge retirement fund, honey, and I’ll be home soon. Don’t worry, kids, I’ll be back. Right now, you can’t believe how good it’s going to be when I get through with this, ’cause I’ll have so much cash stashed. We’re going to have parties forever.” The fact that everybody’s going to be in wheelchairs with walking sticks has never occurred to this bright guy. When my family is neglected in the pursuit of money.

Fifthly, when I close my eyes to the genuine needs of others.

Sixthly, when I am living in paralyzing fear of losing my money.

Seventhly, when I am prepared to borrow myself into bondage.

And eighthly, when I give to God my leftovers rather than my firstfruits.

I don’t know about you, but I find that a pretty challenging list.

A friend of mine on the West Coast, who worked on a pastoral team there for some years in a kind of administrative position, was on the receiving end of a telephone call from an individual who said that he wanted to come and have some counsel from him. And Sam said yes, that he would meet with the person and talk with them. And they arranged a day, and they arranged a time, and at the tail end of the conversation, before he went off the phone, Sam, who had been asked for his counsel, said, “Oh, by the way, George, when you come, bring your checkbook, won’t you?” And the fellow stayed on the phone a moment longer, and he said, “Oh, Sam,” he said, “I didn’t know you charged for me to see you.” “Oh, no,” said Sam. “I don’t charge. I just want you to bring your checkbook so that I can see where your heart is.”

And they made a binding agreement to God. And their children said, “What does it mean?” And they answered, “Well, it’s going to redirect our focus, it’s going to realign our families, and it’s going to totally restructure our finances.”

Let’s bow together in a moment of prayer:

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days;
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.[13]

[1] R. Hudson Pope, “Make the Book Live to Me” (1943).

[2] Nehemiah 10:29 (NIV 1984).

[3] William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 4.4.

[4] 2 Corinthians 9:6–8 (NIV 1984).

[5] Exodus 23:11 (NIV 1984).

[6] See 1 Timothy 6:17.

[7] Howard F. Vos, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, Bible Study Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Lamplighter, 1987), 125.

[8] Charles R. Swindoll, Strengthening Your Grip: Essentials in an Aimless World (Minneapolis: World Wide, 1982), 84–85. Paraphrased

[9] Quoted in Swindoll, 85.

[10] Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford, “Money (That’s What I Want)” (1959).

[11] 1 Timothy 6:17 (paraphrased from the KJV).

[12] 1 Timothy 6:18–19 (NIV 1984).

[13] Frances Ridley Havergal, “Take My Life and Let It Be” (1874).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.