Some of you are naturally drawn to connections and organizing facts together, and you might have wondered why yesterday’s sermon on power, cups, and service was part of a sermon series on money. You’re right to ask the question. I’ll give you two short reasons that didn’t make the sermon. I’ll give two short reasons.
“To give his life as a RANSOM for many.”
The chief reason is that Jesus uses Money to explain his life’s work. Here he does not use traditional sacrificial imagery of scapegoats or sacrificial lambs to explain his saving death. Instead he uses a financial, monetary image to explain why he must die and rise again. "RANSOM" is a Bible word used for the monetary price paid to free a slave, a captive, or to spare a person facing the death penalty. What we see is that Jesus uses everything he has – all his power, riches, and influence – to liberate us from the spiritual extermination camp of sin and the Devil. Like Oskar Schindler, Jesus liberated us at excruciating cost to himself in order to save us from death and the Devil.
Understanding this not only liberates us from the power grab of society, which is really just slaves fighting for position within a concentration camp. Instead it liberates us to serve, to lift, to give. When you understand that Jesus is your RANSOM it will affect your money, because it will change your heart and your money will follow your heart. When I understand that Jesus ransomed me, saved me, liberated me and gives me infinite worth and value and power, I find myself wanting to give everything to make sure everyone hears this news and is liberated from the rat-race for power. I will like Oskar Schindler use all I have to help liberate all those who still live like slaves to sin.
This is why we give to churches and Christian ministries, because I have been bought, and there are thousands, scratch that, millions of men and women still fighting for power and survival because they have not heard and have not believed in the awesome incredible news that our RANSOM has been paid. That’s why I plan my giving to the church even before my grocery bill, because I can live on beans and rice, but man does not live by bread alone.
“Jesus talked about money more than anything else (including heaven and hell).”
You may have heard someone say that before, and while it is true it is misleading. Jesus did talk about money often, but most of the time, he was not giving direct financial advice. When he did give direct financial advice it was about generosity not economics. But Jesus knows the power money has over our hearts, and so much of the time that he’s talking about money, Jesus is using money as an illustration or parable or explanation for some deeper spiritual or anthropological truth. Last week for example, Jesus told a story about a businessman paying his workers, but he was offering an illustration of grace designed to show us how grace offends our sinful, self-righteous flesh. The story was not (directly) about how employers should pay employees, though there very well is something to be learned about paying “what is right” is connected to paying a living wage.
This week, Jesus uses RANSOM illustration to show us our own value. He’s using money words to talk about spiritual truth. You were bought. My dad used to say to me all the time, “Something is only worth what someone will pay for it,” and Jesus was willing to pay an infinite cost to save you. That is what you are worth, and it cannot be taken away from you by any financial situation, life circumstance, humble occupation, or embarrassing need.
Think of it this way, a $100 bill is worth $100 no matter where if it is stacked with a thousand other $100 bills in a suitcase or if it’s in the gutter covered in mud and muck. No matter if it is the hands of a banker or a beggar, no matter if it is crisp or wrinkled, no matter if it is on Wall Street or in an Indian slum. It is worth the same $100 because it’s guaranteed by the treasury of the United States of America. Believers in Christ are like that. They know their value is not dependent on their circumstances but on the guarantee of the treasury of Christ’s riches.
When you know this, you can stoop lower than the low, because all the dirt and filth and stank in the world can’t rob you of value. You can wash toilets, change diapers, serve soup, live in poverty, endure hatred and persecution, because you believe that you are worth what Christ paid for you. You will do these and crazier acts of service in order for others to hear the good news that because of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection, they too can be children of God.
If you want to learn more, here is an extra sermon for you to read or listen to. It was given by John Piper, a Reformed Baptist preacher.