Randy Alcorn tells this story about Alfred Nobel. “It was 1888, Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist who made his fortune inventing and producing dynamite. His brother Ludvig had died in France. But now Alfred’s grief was compounded by dismay. He’d just read an obituary in a French newspaper—not his brother’s obituary, but his! An editor had confused the brothers. The headlines read, “The Merchant of Death Is Dead.” Alfred Nobel’s obituary described a man who had gotten rich by helping people kill one another. Shaken by this appraisal of his life, Nobel resolved to use his wealth to change his legacy. When he died eight years later, he left more than $9 million to fund awards for people whose work benefited humanity. The awards became known as the Nobel Prizes. Alfred Nobel had a rare opportunity—to look at the assessment of his life at its end and still have the chance to change it. Before his life was over, Nobel made sure he had invested his wealth in something of lasting value (The Treasure Principle, page 79-80).
Randy Alcorn then made this challenge: “Put yourself in Alfred Nobel’s shoes. Find a piece of paper and a pen. Sit down; think about it; then write your own obituary. Make a list of what you’ll be remembered for, Go ahead. Done? Now read your obituary. How do you feel about it?
The reason Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes, when he was old, was like Alfred Nobel, to change how he would be remembered.
Before Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes, Solomon was known as a religious Hugh Hefner.
Solomon indulged in wine, women, and wealth. His autobiography of those backslidden years is Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. Someone has called this section, “The Confessions of a Workaholic.” Solomon experimented with pleasure (2:1-3), building projects (12:4-6), Solomon spent 7 years building the Temple and 13 years building his own house. Solomon also experimented with possessions (12:7-10). The result of his experiment is in 12:11, “all was vanity and frustration.” American preacher Henry Ward Beecher said, “Success is full of promise until men get it and then it is last years nest from which the birds have flown.”
His biography is recorded in 1 Kings 3-11. His annual income was 133,000,000 a year (1 Kings 10:14), just in gold, not including benefits and royal perks.
Solomon’s wealth turned his heart away from God. The last chapter in Solomon’s biography in 1 Kings is chapter 11:1-9, which documents Solomon departure from the Lord.
But the very last chapter of Solomon’s life, however, is Ecclesiastes. Many believe Solomon repented and wrote Ecclesiastes to young adults who are wealthy (11:9,10; 12: 1; 5:19) potential leaders.
To these young upcoming leaders, Solomon warns in 5:10, “Don’t love money!” Don’t make the same mistakes I made.
Next, Solomon gave some personally painful reasons why we should not love money.
1. We Should Not Love Money Because Money does not Satisfy (5:10).
Even though Solomon’s annual gold income was over 133,000,000 in 2:17, he confessed, “I hated life….”
The person who loves money cannot be satisfied no matter how much is in the bank account—because the human heart was made to be satisfied only by God (3:11). “Take heed and beware of covetousness,” warned Jesus, “for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things which he possesses” (Luke 12:15, NKJV) (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Satisfied. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, 19).
2. We Should Not Love Money Because Money cannot buy Friends (5:11).
When Joe Louis was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world, he helped many who were less fortunate than he. There were literally hundreds of folks he ‘looked after’ who loved him—idolized him. But when Louis lost his heavyweight title, his wealth, and his health, he found himself a lonely man. ‘Where are my friends?’ he wondered (Ed Young. Been There. Done That. Now What? page 95).
3. We Should Not Love Money Because Money doesn’t bring Peace (5:12).
More than one preacher has mentioned John D. Rockefeller in his sermons as an example of a man whose life was almost ruined by wealth. At the age of fifty-three, Rockefeller was the world’s only billionaire, earning about a million dollars a week. But he was a sick man who lived on crackers and milk and could not sleep because of worry. When he started giving his money away, his health changed radically and he lived to celebrate his ninety-eighth birthday! (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Satisfied. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, 19).
4. We Should Not Love Money Because Money will Hurt you (5:13).
5. We Should Not Love Money Because Money doesn’t Last (5:14).
Money is either lost in life or at death.
6. We Should Not Love Money Because You Cannot Take It With You (5:15).
The comedian Jack Benny was known as a stingy tightwad who hoarded his money. Folks used to say, ‘If Jack can’t take it with him, Jack won’t go.’ But Jack is gone. And his money is sill here (Young, page 99). Jesus agreed with Solomon when He preached on money in Matthew 6:19, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.” Jesus is also saying, “You cannot take it with you.” But listen to the next statement by Jesus, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal.”
Jesus is saying, “You can’t take it with you but you can send it on ahead.”
Jesus preached more on the topic of money than on the topics of heaven and hell combined. Why did Jesus preach more on the subject of money and possessions than any other truth? Because Jesus knew you cannot separate money and our love for God. After Jesus instructs us to send our money ahead to heaven by investing in the Lord’s work, He tells us why: “For (or because) where your money is there will be your heart be also.” You cannot separate faith and finances.
My wife Becky and Debbie Johnson and Joy Ratlift are in charge of crafts on our Alaska mission’s trip. They want the children to make crafts that give a witness to these kids some of whom have never heard the gospel. They could be ministering to 50 kids a day. So they are going to need around 50 crafts per day or 250 crafts for the week. So instead of trying to carry 250 crafts on the plane they are going to order the crafts and sent them on ahead so they will be there when they arrive in Alaska on June 16.
The same is true with our money. We can’t take it with us but we can send it on ahead by investing in the Lord’s work here at Gospel Baptist Church.
Where can we start investing in the Lord’s work here at Gospel?
The place to start is the place where God started in the O.T. God started with the tithe in the O.T. such as Leviticus 27:30. Jesus validated the tithe in Mt. 23:23. After the Gospels the tithe is neither commanded nor rescinded. But does God expect us today to give less than believers gave in the OT or the Gospels?
The Corinthians had written and asked Paul about giving and he responded in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2.
1. Give on the Lord’s Day because giving is part of our worship to God.
Paul described the gift the Philippians sent to him as an act of worship to God: “I am full having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God” (Phil 4:18). We worship God in a public service by giving God our praise in singing, by giving Him our time and service. And by giving God a portion of what He has given us.
2. Every member should give regularly.
20% of most members in most churches give 80% of the money. 30 % of most members give 20% of the money. 50% do not give. That means one half of God’s people are not spiritually blessed by God. Paul makes this point to the Corinthians who had not given what they had promised: “He who sows sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). Giving is just as much a means of God’s grace in our lives as prayer, Bible Reading, listening to the preached Word, using our spiritual gifts, and witnessing.
Jesus said as recorded in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
3. Every member give regularly where you attend and are fed and are ministered to and where you serve.
The Corinthians promised to give. But one year later they still had not given what they promised. At Ephesus, in response Paul writes 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 on giving. He started this doctrinal section on giving by referring to the dirt-poor believers on welfare and food stamps at Macedonia as examples of giving liberally out of their poverty.
Every once and while some believer will say, “I can’t afford to tithe.” My question is, “If your salary were reduced 10% would you be able to survive?” Sometimes the same people who say they cannot afford to tithe can afford cable TV, Netflix, smart phones, and eating out.
Did Paul’s teaching on giving work?
When Paul left Ephesus, he travelled to Corinth. From Corinth he wrote Romans and stated his plans in 15:25-27. The Corinthians responded to Paul’s teaching on giving. They Changed. If we only had 1 Corinthians where Paul deals with the selfishness of the Corinthians we would remember Corinthians as carnal believers. But we have 2 Corinthians where Paul commended them for dealing with sin. We also have Romans where we learn that they responded to Paul’s teaching on giving. Now the Corinthians are remembered for being growing believers who respond when God’s Word is taught.
What will we be remembered for?
Randy Alcorn concludes his book The Treasure Principle with the story of Charles Dickens’ classic story A Christmas Story. The Story opens with Ebenezer Scrooge wealthy and miserable. He is caustic, complaining, horrendously greedy. After his encounter with three spirits on Christmas Day, he is given a second chance at life. After his transformation, Scrooge walks through the streets of London, freely distributing his wealth to the needy. He is giddy with delight. He, who only yesterday had scoffed at the idea of charity, now takes his greatest pleasure in giving. On the story’s final page, Dickens says of Scrooge:
Some people laughed to see the alteration of him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them. . . .His own heart laughed, and that was quite enough for him. And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.
Through a supernatural intervention, Scrooge was allowed to see his past, present, and the still-changeable future through the eyes of eternity and Scrooge changed. Now we remember Scrooge not for being miserable, always angry, and self-centered but happy, giving, and thinking of others (page 93-94).