This week, a couple called David and Carol Martin from Scotland attended a news conference to be given a cheque for just over 33 million pounds. The National Lottery had rolled over 14 times in a row, bringing the jackpot to a record 66 million pounds. The Martins only won half of it, but I doubt they were complaining.
The world is full of schemes to let you get rich quick! The National Lottery is only one of them. Websites you can visit. Investment schemes you can join. Call this number. It’ll only take you an hour a week. There’s no risk involved. Buy this ticket, this scratch card. Oh and let’s face it, who doesn’t like the idea of inheriting vast sums of money, with little effort and no risk? They say that money won’t make you happy. But most people would be willing to give it a try to find out!
This morning, we are going to think about the question: Where do we get money from? We are in the second of five sermons looking at what the Bible has to say about the subject of money. Last week, we asked the question: What is money? If you weren’t here, you can catch that up on our website. Today, our subject is earning money.
Often, we want to know whether a particular area of life is our responsibility or God’s, and the Bible’s answer is: Both.
It’s the same here. Ask the Bible where money comes from, and you get two answers. It comes from God, and it comes from us. Both.
So the first answer is that we need to trust God. Here is Jesus, in Matthew chapter 6: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
God will look after his people. We must trust him.
But that is only for the first answer.
The other answer is that we get money from hard work. That is where our Bible reading from 2 Thessalonians chapter 3 comes in. The Apostle Paul gave the church this rule. It’s in verse 10: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” This is how we get the money we need to buy food: We do a good hard day’s work.
There is an important flip side to this for those of us who employ other people. One reason that people work is because they need to eat. James, the brother of Jesus, warns the people of his day who have got themselves rich by failing to pay their staff properly. Here is James chapter 5 verse 4: “Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.”
We should not be idle. And if others work for us, we should pay them properly.
Where does money come from? Trust God: he will give you what you need. And work hard.
But if we’re going to say that we work in order to earn enough money, we need to qualify that very carefully. Here are the two things that we must be careful to say.
There’s more to work than money.
Firstly, there’s more to work than money. There’s more to work than money. That is to say, work is about more than just the money we are paid. We work because we are made in God’s image.
Jesus taught, in John chapter 5, that God is a working God. It’s why Jesus went around healing the sick and giving life to the dead. But it’s also why we work.
Turn with me to Genesis chapter 1. Page 3 in our Bibles. At the bottom of the page, verse 26: “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” So what does it mean to be made in God’s image, in his likeness? We read on: “… So that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
God is in charge of this world. But he exercises his control by asking us to look after the world for him.
And so God goes on, in verse 28: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” The world needs to be ruled, subdued, tamed. There needs to be order out of chaos. And so we work. Providing structure, order, beauty,… making this world the best it can possibly be. And as we do that, we do God’s work. It doesn’t matter whether you are a teacher, drive the bin lorry, a hairdresser, an architect, a builder, or a driving instructor. We work to rule and subdue the earth. We work because we are made in God’s image.
Genesis chapter 1 is only the first chapter of the Bible. By Genesis chapter 3, we’d blown it. We sinned. So we are cursed. And part of the curse is that work is now painful. Verse 17, over the page: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plans of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Work is now painful. It’s hard work. But we are still in God’s image, and we still need to eat. So for both of those reasons, we still work.
There is more to work than money. This is why unemployment is such a serious problem. It’s not just about the loss of income. It’s about the loss of dignity. We were made to work. Part of what it means to be human is to have something useful to do with our hands. So to be unemployed is to be robbed of the chance to live a full human life.
Again, we see this in 2 Thessalonians chapter 3, the reading we heard earlier. The problem there was not forced unemployment, but idleness. Yet again, the lack of income was only part of the problem. Here is verse 11: “We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.”
These people weren’t willing to fill their time with hard work. So with too much time on their hands, and not enough to do, they passed their days in idle chatter and interfering with other people’s affairs. We need to work, and not just because we need the money.
Here is the test question for us: What would you do if you suddenly found you have enough to live on, and you no longer needed to work? The Bible is teaching that earning money is one reason to work, but it’s not the only reason. So just because we don’t need the money any more, it doesn’t mean we don’t work.
Last week, I quoted from Abba’s song about money. Here’s one line from that song: “In my dreams I have a plan: If I got me a wealthy man, I wouldn't have to work at all, I'd fool around and have a ball” The Bible says no. That’s what we do.
More realistically most of us will never have to decide how to fill our time once we inherit a vast fortune. But we will have to work out how to spend our retirement. You leave your paid job. The exhaustion of 9 to 5, or more often 7 to 7, is behind you. But what’s next? Endless rounds of golf and foreign holidays? The Bible says that we are made in God’s image, so we should seek out useful work for ourselves.
There’s more to work than money.
Just in case you’ve got lost, let me recap where we are. Where does money come from? Number one: We trust God. Number two: We work hard.
In saying that we work hard, in order to gain money, there is a danger that we think this is the only reason we work. But work is part of what it means to be made in God’s image. There is more to work than money.
There’s more to life than work
Then there is one more misunderstanding we must guard against. Not only is there more to work than money, there is more to life than work. There is more to life than work.
God gave his people a wonderful gift. It was called the Sabbath. The weekly rhythm, of 6 days in which to do our work, and then one day in which to rest. To rest, to worship, to celebrate God’s goodness and his blessings. And whenever the Bible talks about work, Sabbath is never far away.
For example, I’ve mentioned John chapter 5. Jesus works, because God his Father is always at work. But the background for that conversation is the Sabbath. Jesus was being criticised for working on the Sabbath. How does work fit into a world where God has given us the Sabbath?
Or let’s go back to Genesis chapter 1. That was where we saw that God made us in his image, which is why we work –ruling and subduing the earth for him. God made human beings on day 6. Day 6 is not the climax of the creation story in Genesis chapter 1. The climax is day 7. That comes in Genesis chapter 2. Verse 1: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
The climax of the story is day 7. God finishes his work of creating, and he rests. The message of the rest of the Bible is that God invites us to join him in his rest. The work he gives us to do can honour God; but it is to be done against the backdrop that we are first and foremost worshipping creatures, made by God to know, love and treasurer him.
The Bible numbers the days of the week. Sunday is day 1, Monday is day 2, and so on, until you get to Saturday, which is day 7. And so the Jewish people, even today, have their Sabbath on Saturday, day 7.
But Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday morning, early on the first day of the week. And so early Christians moved the day when they gather to worship to a Sunday. Now, we start the week with worship. We don’t work our way through Monday to Saturday, and then collapse in a heap on Sunday. We start our week in worship, as the people of God. And then, our worship extends into the rest of the week, as we serve God in our work. Our work is energised by our worship. Our work is itself an act of worship.
And so, there is more to life than work. First and foremost we are worshipping creatures. Our work is the outflow of that.
Let’s draw things together. How do we get money? We trust God. We work. And because we live in a fallen world, we work hard.
Last week, we looked at both capitalism and socialism. Both, in their way, are prone to forget that God owns everything, and that we are accountable as individuals for the things he has entrusted to us.
Both are also prone to measure a person’s value by what they own, or what they earn, or what they contribute to the economy as a worker. The Bible completely inverts that. Our value as human beings comes from the fact that we are made in God’s image. First and foremost, we were made to worship him, to love him, to treasure him, to delight in him.
From that worship flows our trust that he will provide for our needs. And from that worship flows the work we do in his name, to tend his world, and to provide for our needs.
So where does money come from? There are twin dangers to avoid. Idle and idol. We are not idle; we work hard. But neither do we make money or work our idol. We worship God.