Talk 15: Commitment and Class

We’re here again in our beautiful exploration of Matthew.

Today, I want to preach the simple message, “Love people over things.” Here’s a Warning: When we love things more than people, we destroy relationships, families, companies, churches, ministries, friendships. We destroy ourselves.

Think about it. Our worst problems—corruption, war, crime, drugs—all come from this one decision of loving things more than people.

Let me ask three questions…

Question 1: Why Do Families Breakdown?

          One big reason is money.

According to Ramsey Solutions, the number one cause of marital fights is money. And the number two cause of divorce in the US (next to infidelity) is money. According to TD Ameritrade, 41% of  Gen Xers ended their marriage because of money. That is an astronomical number I’m still trying to wrap my mind around.

I remember Robert (not his real name), a 37-year old man who was sobbing like a child in front of me. He told me how his wife finally walked out of their home, bringing his two kids with her. “I can’t blame her. It was my fault,” he said. “I put my job over my family. I hardly spent time with my them…” But now, it was too late. No matter how much he begged his wife to return, she just doesn’t want to come back.

Question 2: Why Are There Drugs?

It’s all about money.

Each year around the world, 750,000 people die of overdose from illegal drugs—Shabu, Cocaine, Heroin, and a truckload of others.

But how many of the 269 million drug users around the world “die” in other ways? They are physically alive, but emotionally and relationally and professionally and spiritually, they are already dead.

Question 3: Why Are There Wars?

Here’s the truth: No one wins a war. Even the country that claims victory still lost. Wars have produced billions of orphans and widows and widowers. Just in the last 100 years alone, 108 million people died from war.

And why does war happen? Answer: Greed.

In World War I, it was all about who controlled the wealth of the colonies in Africa and Asia. In World War II, it was about Germany and Japan wanting more land and oil and resources.

Let’s talk about something you know very well: Why did Spain conquer the Philippines for 333 years? If you asked the missionaries at that time, they’d say, “To spread Christianity!” And I’m sure there were many very pure-hearted missionaries who came here and were willing to die to make Jesus known. And I thank God for them. I’m a happy Catholic today because of those selfless missionaries. I believe that “What was meant for evil, God meant for our good.” (Loose paraphrase of Genesis 50:20-21)

Because historians tell a very different story about why Spain came here. Kings wanted more wealth. Spain conquered South America for gold and conquered the Philippines for spices. And in their desire to get richer, it was okay to kill and cause the suffering of millions.

Money Is A Blessing Or A Curse

Look. I’m not against money.

For crying out loud, I’m a financial teacher.

With my friends at the Feast, we built a number of ministries for the poor. One of them is Anawim, a home for the abandoned elderly. To house and care for Lolos and Lolas that we pick up from the streets, we spend a million pesos a month. A million! And that’s just one of our mercy ministries.

Where do the millions come from to support all these works of love? They’re given by generous people (like you) who earned via jobs and businesses and investments. So how can money be bad?

We need money. You cannot put food on the table or live under a roof or send your kids to school without money. You cannot build an orphanage or send out missionaries or broadcast God’s messages through media without money.

But you must follow this one rule: “Love people over things.” If you don’t, mark my words. You’ll destroy your life and the people around you.

Money is a blessing or a curse.

Like everything else in life.

After that loooong intro, let’s dive into our Scriptures…

Small People vs. Big People

One day, a rich young man talked to Jesus. Matthew is so brilliant a writer, he places this story right after Jesus meets with kids and tells everyone, “For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (Matthew 19:14 NLT) Last week, we said Jesus wasn’t referring to their personality—cute and innocent and playful—but to their position in society. They were nobodies. They had no wealth or power.

And then right after, this dude enters the scene. He has everything. He’s rich, he’s young, and he’s even religious. So from the bottom rung of society, we jump to the very top. The irony is that Jesus welcomes the small people but rejects the big people that wanted to follow in their own terms.

Are you now excited to dive in? In this message, we’ll answer 5 questions.

Here we go: Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16 NLT) Let us dissect three words in this verse: “teacher”, “good deed” and “eternal life”.

Question 1: Is Jesus Your Teacher Or Lord?

This young guy calls Jesus “Teacher”.

But in Matthew, did you know that only outsiders called Jesus “Rabbi” or “Teacher”?  The Pharisees and the demon-possessed called him Teacher.  But the insiders like His disciples—plus the Roman Centurion and the Canaanite Woman who had faith—called Jesus “Lord”.

Here’s my guess why: We listen to Teachers but we obey the Lord.

Right of the bat, Matthew gives us a hint of how this story will end.

May I ask you a blunt question? Do you see Jesus as a Guru, a Life Coach, a Consultant, someone who teaches many nice things? Or do you see Jesus as the Owner and Master of your life?

Question 2: Do You Want To Retire In Paradise— Or Serve God Here And Now?

This young man asks, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (v.16)

For modern people, “eternal life” makes us automatically think of Heaven. But in the original Greek, “eternal life” means “living the life of God.” It’s so much deeper than a visa to enter Heaven.

Ask yourself: What is your spiritual life about? Are you just after a happy retirement in paradise? Or do you desire to live the life of God here and now?  And co-build the Kingdom of Jesus in your present world?

Question 3: Do You Get The Heart Of Jesus For Others?

The young man asks, “what good deed must I do to have eternal life.”

By his question, you know he was thinking like a Pharisee. For him, religion is transactional, not relational. But for Jesus, everything is relational.

And Jesus gives a brilliant answer. He reveals His heart by saying, “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.” 18 “Which ones?” the man asked. And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. 19 Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (v.17-19)

Jesus mentions five of the ten commandments. Why didn’t He not just enumerate the ten? And why in this upside down order?

Answer: Jesus was revealing His heart.

The ten commandments have two sections. Section one is about loving God and section two is about loving others. And the four commands Jesus mentioned are all from the second half. He said, ”You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely.”  The fifth command He mentioned is from the first half. It’s “Honor your father and mother,” the only command in the first set that includes loving other people.

And that’s why Jesus summarized everything by saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which is not part of the ten commandments but a quote from Leviticus 19:18. In Matthew 22, Jesus will quote this again as the second part of the greatest commandment.

What was Jesus saying? Loving others is not an option. If you want to love God, you must love others. It sounds obvious to us, but it’s not.

This becomes even clearer in the next verse…

May This Disturb You!

The rich guy answers Jesus, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?” 21 Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. (v.20-22)

When Jesus said “Perfect”, he didn’t mean what it commonly means today. The first time I read this, I thought Jesus was calling this dude into a higher level of spirituality. Like he was really doing well spiritually as God’s soldier, but Jesus was recruiting him to the elite Navy Seals.

Not so. The original Greek word for “perfect” meant “complete”. Meaning? If this guy won’t say yes, his relationship with God was dangerously lacking. His faith was the faith of the Pharisees. He’s excellent in his religious observance but his heart is still far from God.

You can follow the religious commands legalistically and still violate them spiritually. Bottomline, the rich man was living a selfish life. Oppressing the poor doesn’t only mean scamming them or stealing from them, but it also includes just being indifferent to their suffering.

There’s an early manuscript called “Gospel of The Hebrews” that wasn’t included in our canon of Scriptures, but its version of this story is even more explicit. Here, Jesus said to the rich young man, “many of your brethren…are clad in filth, dying of hunger, and your house is full of many good things, and yet none of these good things are shared to them? (my paraphrase version).

I know this is very disturbing. People ask me…

Question 4: Can I Be A Catholic Without Loving The Suffering?

Sorry, you can’t.

If following Jesus is a car, loving the suffering isn’t the lemon-scented air freshener or the tint on your window or the souped up stereo-surround speaker system. Loving the suffering are the wheels of the car. If you don’t love the suffering, that means you’re not loving God.

Why is loving the suffering so important to God?

Because they’re His children. Jesus doesn’t hate money; He hates how money desensitizes us to the suffering people around us. If we don’t watch it, wealth makes us selfish and we become indifferent to the poor.

And we end up loving things more than people. That is a spiritual disease that will kill our hearts and destroy our families.

Which brings us to a more difficult question…

Question 5: Should I Sell All and Give All To The Poor?

I have two answers. First, know that this was the only time Jesus asked someone to sell all and give all. He met other rich folks like Nicodemus and Zachaeus and He didn’t ask them to do this. In fact, Zachaeus decided on his own to give half of his wealth to the poor, and Jesus was fine with that.

Second, if all Feasters sold homes and businesses and gave up jobs, and lived like the disciples who were dependent on others to feed them, we’ll create an economic meltdown—and the poor will suffer even more.

Here’s what I think Jesus wants us to do: Go to God and ask Him, “Lord, how can I love people more than things?”

For some of you, God calls you to simplify more so you can give more.

I know of a 9-year old girl who saved up her allowance for a year and donated P11,000 for Anawim. I was reading her letter and felt so inspired—and a little bit ashamed—by her amazing generosity.

For others, God calls you to earn more so you can give more.

For me, I heard God tell me a long time ago, “Bo, build your businesses, pay your employees as much as you can, let them share in the profits of the company, and help them retire as multimillionaires.” By trying to do this, I had to simplify my life so that I could share more. But believe me when I say this—it’s all worth it. Loving others is the best way to live.

For others, it may mean giving time—your most precious asset. Because there are many kinds of people in the bottom rungs of society. Not all of them are materially poor.  Like Matthew the Tax Collector. He had money but he was very poor. Today, if you look around you, there are many who are lost, wounded, afraid, and far from God. Reach out to them. Build small communities of love called Feasts Lights. Sacrifice your time and meet them each week and just love them.  Love them over things!

One day, a guy who was so distraught at the massive suffering in the world, walked into an empty church, and screamed, “God, what are you doing about the hungry, the sick, the lonely, the lost? Why aren’t you doing anything about it?” After the deafening silence that followed, he heard a soft whisper in his heart.

God said, “My son, I did something. I created you.”

Love People With His Love

Just in case you misunderstand this message, Christians are not just called to be social workers. Nor is Christianity just a social movement. Christianity is a relationship with God. But a relationship with God is so transformative, it makes us His Love in this world.

God sends us to love with His love. If you only give your own love, you become empty and burn out very soon. You must have His Life in you. And that’s what you give to others.

As we come and worship, receive the life He shares from the Cross.

That’s what you share to the world.

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