The foundation to being a disciple of Jesus; is to be broken. That means, “I see my need of God.” The Bible says;

Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. MSG Psalms 51:16-17

The reason a broken heart is so important is because when you see your need of God, when you are broken, you will follow God. So what God askes of you, you do. The reverse is true too. If I have pride in my heart, God will ask me to follow and I will say, “No, I’m going to do it my way.”

Then we said, to begin following God requires faith because life is messy.

Commitment 1: Love God because if you don’t, you will naturally want to be god and that leads to chaos.

Commitment 2: Love Others because if you don’t, you will naturally fall in love with yourself which leads to chaos.

Commitment 3: Love Growing because if you don’t, your Christianity will be like painting by the numbers. We said when you stop following Christ, that is sin and where there is sin, death soon follows.

Today, I want to begin with a parable from Jesus.

4 One day he [Jesus] gave this illustration to a large crowd that was gathering to hear him-while many others were still on the way, coming from other towns.

5 “A farmer went out to his field to sow grain. As he scattered the seed on the ground, some of it fell on a footpath and was trampled on; and the birds came and ate it as it lay exposed. 6 Other seed fell on shallow soil with rock beneath. This seed began to grow, but soon withered and died for lack of moisture. 7 Other seed landed in thistle patches, and the young grain stalks were soon choked out. 8 Still other fell on fertile soil; this seed grew and produced a crop one hundred times as large as he had planted.” (As he was giving this illustration he said, “If anyone has listening ears, use them now!”)

9 His apostles asked him what the story meant…. 11 “This is its meaning: The seed is God’s message to men. 12 The hard path where some seed fell represents the hard hearts of those who hear the words of God, but then the devil comes and steals the words away and prevents people from believing and being saved. 13 The stony ground represents those who enjoy listening to sermons, but somehow the message never really gets through to them and doesn’t take root and grow. They know the message is true, and sort of believe for awhile; but when the hot winds of persecution blow, they lose interest.

14 The seed among the thorns represents those who listen and believe God’s words but whose faith afterwards is choked out by worry and riches and the responsibilities and pleasures of life. And so they are never able to help anyone else to believe the Good News. TLB Luke 8:4-9, 14

In this story, the message of Jesus’ love and grace was planted into people’s heart. However, not everyone has the same response. Did you notice the one person who became more focused on worry and riches and responsibilities and pleasures of life? Those things, Jesus said, are like thorn bushes that grow up around us and choke out God’s message of love and grace. When those things grow in our lives, it’s hard to continue to have faith in God. And, if not dealt with, worry, money and, what we have to get done, can choke out our faith in God.

That’s what we want to talk about today. How is it possible that God’s love and grace is planted into our hearts but over time, is choked out? It happens very slowly. We can hear about God’s love and grace and be inspired. Over time, however, life happens. We face challenges. People can hurt us. We can face health struggles. We can face financial struggles. Life can stress us out. And we begin to wonder, “Will God take care of me?”

What do you think happens when you mix the question, “Will God take care of me?” with the feeling of “fear and worry and doubt”? It’s a toxic formula that will wreck us because can conclude, God might not come through for me so I need to take care of myself. That’s when we begin to have less faith in God and begin to take control. It’s the beginning of greed.

Greed simply means; I don’t think God is going to come through for me so I need to take care of myself, even if it hurts people around me.

In Jesus’ story, the thorn bushes growing around the seed, that was greed. It is important say, you will have times when you will feel worry. That’s okay, just don’t allow it to choke out your faith in God. You will have times when you need to work hard to make money to support your family. That’s great. Just don’t allow that to choke out your faith in God. You will have times when you are overwhelmed with life, that’s okay, just don’t allow that to choke out your faith in God.

In general, when it comes to greed, we struggle to see it in ourselves. If you look into a mirror, it’s just not something you see. Actually, we don’t even like the word greed. It sounds a little over the top doesn’t it? We want to nice up that term. We want to say, ‘I’m not greedy, I’m being careful.’ Or, ‘I’m not greedy, I am worried because if I don’t worry, who will?’ Greed just sounds so ugly. So today, we want to ask five questions to see if we wrestle with greed. Then we want to talk about what we do to cut back the thorn bushes around our hearts.

Question 1: Is it normal for you to feel jealous or envious of others?

I observed that the basic motive for success is the driving force of envy and jealousy! But this, too, is foolishness, chasing the wind. TLB Ecclesiastes 4:4

Working hard to succeed is great. If you want to take your success and serve others, that’s honorable. But if you are comparing yourself to others and are jealous, scripture says, that’s foolish. If you notice what others have and what you don’t have and it drives you into debt to stay ahead; that’s like chasing the wind.

Notice, that’s how greed can grow. We are supposed to live with simple faith in God. But, when we don’t think God’s is going to come through for me and I need to have the same stuff everyone else has, that can become more important than my faith in God. I can’t relax. Now I am competing. I’m worrying. I’m stressed.

Question 2: Do you feel like it’s hard to be content?

Those who love money will never have enough. How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness! NLT Ecclesiastes 5:10-11

Have you noticed this? No matter what you have, you will always want more. That appetite for more money will always grow. I must say, if you have a chance to make money, great, do that. Just don’t believe that someday in the future, when you make a certain amount, then you will be happy. It doesn’t work that way. You will never have enough.

If you are in love with money, it will never satisfy you. Love of money makes us think, with more money comes more happiness. We don’t think, with more of God comes more happiness. We become more focused on getting more money. And it’s hard for us to be content. That’s how greed works.

Question 3: Are you reluctant to encourage and celebrate others?

Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. MSG Romans 2:1-2

One of the traits of greed is a lack of love or concern for others. A greedy person thinks of themselves. They are reluctant to think about others or celebrate others. They want hear, “Great job.” If they hear you tell someone else, “Great job”, they are insecure enough to be hurt. They don’t like giving honor to someone else because then who will honor them?

It’s much easier for us greedy people to be critical of others. I include myself because I have seen this in me. It’s easier, actually more fun to point out what is wrong with others.

Let me ask you; Do you celebrate others? Are you quick to encourage people? Are you quick to gossip about people? Do you see what is good in people?

Wives. When was the last time you told your husband that you respect him, he inspires you and you begin to tell him why you are proud of him? Greedy people struggle to do that.

Husbands. When was the last time you told your wife that you love her, she brings joy and beauty into your life and you her why you are so proud of her? Greedy people struggle to do that.

Kids, when is the last time you told your parents how much you appreciate your parents? They aren’t perfect but they have done their best to raise you.

Question 4: Do you feel like life is constant work and very little fun?

I turned my head and saw yet another wisp of smoke on its way to nothingness: a solitary person, completely alone – no children, no family, no friends – yet working obsessively late into the night, compulsively greedy for more and more, never bothering to ask, “Why am I working like a dog, never having any fun? And who cares?” More smoke. A bad business. MSG Ecclesiastes 4:7-8

Do you feel like that? Life is all work, life is about all the tasks I have to accomplish and no play. You try to get so much done but your relationships around you are suffering. That can be an indicator of greed. Why would someone live like this? Because they think, ‘I don’t know if God will come through for me, so I have to take care of myself even if it hurts people around me.’ That’s greed. Someone being so driven, so task oriented, so convinced they must work like a dog that they are okay if it hurts the relationships around them.

Question 5: Do you struggle to really enjoy God and rest?

No one can serve two masters. The person will hate one master and love the other, or will follow one master and refuse to follow the other. You cannot serve both God and worldly riches. NCV Matthew 6:24

Let’s understand money. Money isn’t bad. Money isn’t evil. Money is necessary so go earn it. Here is the problem. The love of money. Money isn’t bad or evil, the love of money is. I have met rich people, they are happy people.

That being said, we can’t love God and love money both. If you are in love with God and have faith in God, giving is easy. If you have experienced God’s grace and the reality that He has shared His righteousness with you and taken your sin and poured onto Jesus, giving is easy. If you are in love with money and your faith is in money, giving really rubs you the wrong way. Maybe it’s even a hot button topic with you.

Here is the deal about money. Money is competing for your faith and affection. We are supposed to have faith and affection for God but because money is something we can touch, see and spend, we tend to want more money than more of God. We love God and use money. We should never love money an use God.

If you are like most people, you are thinking, “I can do both.” I am here to tell you from personal experience, no you can’t. At some point in your life, you will have to pursue one or the other.

Let’s review the five questions again. As we walk through these questions, remember, we would never say, ‘I have greed,’ that sounds too ugly. We would nice it up and say, “I’m just careful.”

Question 1: Is it normal for you to feel jealous or envious of others?

Question 2: Do you feel like it’s hard to be content?

Question 3: Are you reluctant to encourage and celebrate others?

Question 4: Do you feel like life is constant work and very little fun?

Question 5: Do you struggle to really enjoy God and rest?

These are possible indicators that, maybe, greed is growing around us like a thorn bush. And if we aren’t careful, it can choke out God’s love and grace growing inside of us.

Jesus said, Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have! MSG Matthew 6:22-23

When Jesus said, ‘Eyes’ He meant your conscience, your moral sense, the grid by which you make decisions. When you believe and trust God, when you are generous, your soul fills up with life. However, when you don’t have faith, you live in greed and distrust, your soul is a dark mess.

What do we do to cut back the thorn bush choking out God’s love? There is only one thing. Give and give big. Why? Being generous forces us to face your greatest fears in life. Be generous and encourage others around you. Be generous and give 10% back to your local church, or grow into that. Be generous and serve a year- round ministry like New Hope Ministries or a two-day event like, Youth Impact Project or serve at MRC.

If I asked you, why don’t you give or why don’t you give more? The response would be something like: I would give more but I’m afraid of… [fill in the blank]. I would give more but I’m worried that… [fill in the blank].

Giving and giving big is the only way to face your fear and to cut out the thorns, greed, from growing around us.

Jesus said, “Beware! Don’t be greedy for what you don’t have. Real life is not measured by how much we own.” NLT Luke 12:15

So I leave you with this; God’s love and grace that was planted into your heart, is it growing or is it being choked out?