What Matters Most to You?

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking to several students in the fifth and sixth grades. In fact, I get this privilege every week at our church. Few things are more important than investing in the next generation!

The lesson we were discussing dealt with value. More specifically, what do each of us value most?

I began the discussion by asking each student...

"What would you save from your house if it were burning down and you had only two minutes to carry something out?"

If you're familiar with this age group, you know that most of the answers related to electronics, video games, or other entertainment-oriented possessions. A few of them mentioned some sentimental items, like blankets, bears, or family heirlooms.

When the answers were over, we talked about why those particular items were more valuable to them.

And I think it's healthy for adults to ask themselves the same question--what really matters to you? 

What do you value most?



We all value money. Let's just be honest about that.

Money will always be on the "valued" list; and if you have a cash stash in your house, it would be on the list of items you would try to save from a fire! 

The next phase of our discussion was to consider two interesting characters that are mentioned by Jesus in the Bible. Both men were rich. Both men had leadership positions in their communities. Both men had a "nice" life.

Luke 18 describes a "rich ruler."

This man apparently had been a rule-follower since he was a kid. He had obeyed all the commandments (or so he said). He had jumped through all the hoops. He also happened to be very wealthy. We don't know if he earned his money, or if it was inherited; but that's not really relevant.

This man comes to Jesus and asks him, "How can I get eternal life?"

In terms of value, what could be more valuable than having eternal life? I think nothing.

Regardless of how much you attain, gather, or accomplish here on this planet, there will come a day of reckoning. You will leave this place and all the possessions you have.

Matthew 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

This rich ruler wanted Jesus to say, "Well, if you have a lot of money, and if you're a good person, and if you follow all the rules, God will give you eternal life."

But that is not what Jesus said.

Instead, Jesus responded by showing this man that his money was actually the most important thing in his life. Nothing mattered more to this ruler than keeping his wealth.

Jesus said, "Sell everything you own and give the money to the poor. After all, you will have wealth in Heaven."

That is not what the man wanted to hear; and if you're honest, that's not what you want to hear either.

But there is something very important to consider here. This is key to understanding Jesus' comment!

Jesus did not say this to raise money for God. Jesus was not a fund-raiser. If he were, he could have sold his miracles! He did not say, "God needs money to fund his projects, so give money and then God will love you."

No!

Jesus implied with his statement, "You value your money too much, and you need to let it go. God wants to be first in your life. Stop loving money, and start loving God. That's how you get eternal life."

So what does that look like?

Luke 19 describes a rich tax collector (Zacchaeus).

Many of you grew up singing a song about Zacchaeus. He was a short little man that climbed a tree to see Jesus. Cute, right?

Well, Zacchaeus was not cute. He was a manipulative, dishonest dirtball. He was a low life--indiscriminately unkind and deeply selfish. He leveraged his position as a Roman tax collector against the people from whom he collected. He demanded money from the people that was far, far above what they owed. If they refused, he had Roman soldiers imprison them and sell their families as slaves to pay the tax. When they paid the money under such threats, he gave the actual tax money to Rome and kept the rest for himself.

Despicable.

Repulsive.

Reprehensible.

Just the kind of guy that Jesus came to save.

So when Jesus sees Zacchaeus sitting in a tree overhead, he says, "Come down here. I want to eat dinner at your house."

And the crowd unanimously thinks, "Jesus must not realize how horrible this man is! What is Jesus doing?"

While eating with Jesus, Zacchaeus stands up and makes some profound statements. My guess is that he'd been to a few of Jesus' sermons. And he'd been listening. He reflected on his life and decided that money should not be the most important thing anymore.

Zacchaeus says, "I am giving half of my net worth to the poor."

Half! Can you imagine giving 50% of your bank accounts and investments to the poor? Let that sink in.

But he wasn't done.

He went on to say, "And from the other 50%, I will restore all the money I have stolen FOURFOLD."

That means he was giving back 400% of what he had taken from those innocent taxpayers. 

The Bible doesn't show us Zacchaeus' checkbook, but I'm guessing he didn't have much money left when he was done paying back all those people!

I dare say he went broke. 

And what did he get in return?

Luke 19:9 And Jesus said to him, "This day is salvation come to this house..."

Did Zacchaeus purchase salvation (eternal life)?

Nope. That's not how it works.

Zacchaeus had already received salvation when he was sorry for his sins. He had already confessed them.

His actions revealed to everyone (including us) that he had stopped serving the god of money, and he had started seeking the God of Heaven.

Ask yourself, "Am I serving money or seeking God?"

Matthew 6:24 No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money]. [Emphasis added]

Conclusion:

I am confident I was struck harder by this lesson than the 5th/6th-grade students in that room.

Every day of my life, I must reevaluate my priorities. My natural tendency is to serve money. We all want money. 

Money WILL be on your list of priorities, but you must keep it low on the list--below God, below people, below the relationships we have with God and people.

When God looks at you, does he see the rich ruler that walked away from Jesus and kept his money? Or does he see Zacchaeus who abandoned his money to seek God?

Image credit:
'Riches' image from freedigitalphotos.net

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