2 Kings 5:14-27
Did you have a piggy bank growing up? Do kids even know what piggy banks are? It’s not for safekeeping a bunch of pigs. Piggy banks were the place to drop coins. If mom or dad gave you quarters for doing something around the house, it went into the piggy bank. If you picked up a penny or dime from the parking lot, into the piggy bank. Parents taught by this money could be saved. And if there was something you wanted to purchase, well crack open the piggy bank.
By no means was that the only view on money or wealth. That heart developed from parents who themselves were savers. But just as easily, and just as rightly, could come the heart more free with money. Not frivolous, but freely spending. Kids in those families might get allowances and immediately be encouraged to give and spend that money on themselves or others. For people growing up in that kind of environment the heart developed naturally enough to think of giving and spending first. Maybe not a big need for piggy banks.
Across all people are many different attitudes on wealth. Some save, some give, and both are okay. God’s Word brings to us a story from the Old Testament to help us work through attitudes towards wealth. What’s good and what’s not so good as we’re encouraged
Have the right heart towards wealth
Naaman was not part of the people of Israel. He was the commander of an enemy army. He had leprosy, a terrible disease no one wanted. His wife’s slave girl was an Israelite who thought for relief he should go see the prophet in Israel. Naaman was no believer. Didn’t expect a miracle, in fact, loaded his chariot with wealth to pay for the prophet’s services. When the prophet told him what to do, and that money was unnecessary, it was too much. Dip in the dirty Israelite river? No. His servants urged him to at least try. “So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored …”
Physically Naaman was reborn, healed. But it wasn’t the river, it held no special powers. It wasn’t the number of times he dipped, seven no better than six or eight. It had nothing to do with him, his servant girl, the man of God, or the wealth loaded onto his chariot. His rebirth wasn’t just physical. Spiritually Naaman came out of that water a changed person. Speaking to the prophet of God he said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” Naaman was reborn a believer in the true God. A gift of God’s grace had healed him of his true disease, the sin infecting his heart. His confession of faith was clear. With new priorities he now wanted to give the wealth he brought for payment as a thank you. He wanted to thank God. He wanted to give generously because his heart was so moved by God’s generosity to him.
We’ve been spiritually reborn as believers in God. That doesn’t take away the sinful nature in us. There’s a pull happening inside of us regarding our wealth. A back and forth that at times demonstrates our sinful hearts towards our wealth. We go for weeks without giving our money much thought, trust in God very high. Bills get paid and we spend and save without stress. But in a moment of panic, an unexpected expense, all our trust in God gets undercut by fear and worry over money. Our wealth at that moment is our comfort. At times we strongly trust God to get us through our financial headaches. But just as quickly we might pat ourselves on the back for paying off debt and find relief in our own efforts. In one step God is our everything. In another our savings accounts protect us.
Like Naaman dipping himself in the Jordan River, you’ve been immersed in the grace of God through Jesus. It was Jesus who always understood money perfectly. Kept it in the proper perspective. His heart always saw wealth as a gift of God, and not as his ticket to success. Success came only when he took his perfection and shed his own blood. As the sacrifice for the world, Jesus covers you with his blood. Pure and precious, the blood of Christ washes you clean of all your sin. Your heart is purified of guilt and sinful thoughts which see money as security. Christ relieves you of fears and grants peace through a relationship with God. Your heart is healed, spiritually healed.
With a different heart comes a different attitude with your money. Wealth is a gift of God, and the new heart wants to respond. Like Naaman, you want to show thanks. The amount isn’t important. The heart that gives is. You may have given special gifts to projects we’ve accomplished here, such as the beautiful new sign face announcing our presence to the community. Towards the freshened paint job that allows people to recognize something is happening here and we care. You may be considering special gifts towards future projects like a new sound and video system that we’ll use to make worship even better and capture the message proclaimed here to share with others beyond these walls. Your new heart in Christ longs to give, to be grateful. Joyfully and freely you take from the great gifts God has given you and share with others. Even the church, believers in Christ, won’t beg for money. Here is just one opportunity God gives. Your heart is moved to thankfulness, and giving here can show thankfulness taking action.
Naaman was moved to give, and that was the right heart towards wealth. Elisha’s heart was right towards wealth too. “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing. And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.” If Elisha had accepted, someone might have been given the impression God’s love and healing were for sale, and expensive. Who could afford God’s goodness if it took Naaman kind of wealth? No, people needed to understand forgiveness, God’s love, spiritual healing, these were all free gifts of God. People only could receive them with grateful hearts.
Elisha’s servant Gehazi had a different heart. He believed Elisha should’ve collected what Naaman offered. Why not? Once-in-a-lifetime money, someone should take it. “My master sent me to say two young men from the company of the prophets have just come…Please give them a talent of silver and two sets of clothing.” There were no young men. He was lying to pocket everything for himself. When Elisha questioned him, he sinned again. One lie led to more. Sin led to more sin as it always does.
At times our hearts are like Gehazi’s. When someone is giving we’re willing to take. Isn’t it deserved? Who cares why they’re giving it? We’ll have more. But perhaps we then figure they owe more. Maybe we get resentful if they don’t give more. We lie to ourselves about our wealth, convinced it doesn’t control us. But at times we let it. The church too can be accused of being all about money, and with good reasons at times. The reputation is the church is always asking, always have the handout. Expecting people to give even when they’re not physically present. Volunteering, personally paying for things, giving time whenever. Some even going as far as to look at bank records or income statements to determine how much each family owes. Some demanding 10% be given.
God’s love is free. Forgiveness is free. God gives. You receive. It’s that simple. Your heart is right because of how great God is in giving to you. Without any offer from you, Jesus came into the world. Before you could even offer to pay, God paid for your sins. Served you first. Served you with his Son. Freely God gives you spiritual healing in comforting you with the assurance your guilt is removed. With no expectation of you paying him back, God took away your punishment and fears. God still provides for you, not just what you need, but more. Not just physical but spiritual.
In response, wealth won’t rule your heart. Not connected to Christ. You’re not given to get from God. You get and now you can give. You’re satisfied and content with God’s gifts. You’re giving and generous. As a congregation, we put wealth to use. God gives so we can be about mission and ministry. Use the gifts so the kingdom expands. Not just looking to improve our building and grounds, but first and foremost looking to ministry efforts. How can we be better at sharing Jesus? How can money serve the mission we have from God to spread his Word to the community? We’re all about the work of God.
Having the right heart starts with trusting in the right place. Wealth offers nothing for your eternal life. Believe like Naaman did in the true God. Wealth will then be an opportunity to show thanks to God. Never let anyone think God’s grace can be bought. Like Elisha sees wealth as only a tool in the right context to be used by God to expand the kingdom. Trust in God’s grace, and trust in the Savior who gives you the right heart towards wealth.