Twenty -Second Sunday after Pentecost: Giving Back What Belongs to Others
The love of money and material things can destroy us.
Let us look to two verses from 1 Timothy 6:9-10. It starts with, "For they that will become rich." This doesn't apply to everybody in the world. It applies to those who want to get rich. Do you fall into that category? A lot of people do, even a lot of believers. So, if that (those who want to get rich) refers to you, then read carefully. Because the Bible warns you in advance of what is going to happen to such people. "For they that will become rich, fall into temptation, and into the snare of the devil, and into many unprofitable and hurtful desires, which drown men into destruction and perdition. For the desire of money is the root of all evils; which some coveting have erred from the faith (Again, this does not apply to everybody but to those who long for more and more and more money. Are you in that category? Here is what Almighty God says will happen) and have entangled themselves in many sorrows."
So, what are the results of wanting to get rich and longing for more and more money beyond what we need? Falling into temptation, falling into the snares and traps of the devil, falling into many unprofitable desires, many harmful desires, plunging into destruction and ruin, erring from the faith, and being entangled with many sorrows. Do you want such a life? All you have to do is pursue after money beyond your needs. Now the Lord is not against our earning our living. The Lord is not against our seeking to increase our income in getting a better job with a higher income. This is not what it is talking about. This is talking about a passion. Love is a passion, where your heart is possessed. You know what it means when you say a boy and a girl in love with each other? They are everything to each other. And when a person loves money like that and wants more, and more, this is exactly what is going to happen to him.
Satan doesn't tell us, right in the beginning, what all is going to happen if you go along this way. He first lures us by giving us a little taste of the enjoyment of wealth, you know, just like people who sell drugs and get people hooked on drugs. They begin by giving a little bit of a drug, maybe mixed in a candy, sometimes they give it for free at first, to a little child in the school. Once the child gets the taste of it, once that young boy or girl gets a taste of it, they want more. Then we say they are hooked. They want more and more and then the people who sell drugs make their money through that.
That is exactly how Satan does it. He increases our appetite for money and material things by giving us a little bit until you have plunged your family and yourself into ruin and destruction. People get into debt, to buy this and buy that. And the result is Christians whose lives were meant to build the church, now have their lives being wasted in the pursuit of money. Many believers have sold their heavenly birth right for a bowl of porridge, just like Esau. Just think what regret they will have in eternity. Any sensible Catholic believer, therefore, will never, never pursue after accumulating wealth beyond his needs, just like he will not jump off the 10th floor of a building. Supposing you climb up a building to the 10th floor, if you are a sensible person, you don't jump down from the 10th floor.
It is more foolish to pursue after money. Why is it then people do it? They don't think any harm will come to them. Just like that senseless person who jumps off the 10th floor and thinks no harm will come to him. 'Oh yeah,' he may say, 'Other people got hurt but I am not going to get hurt.' That is how a lot of believers run after money till they have destroyed themselves. The pursuit of money and jumping off a 10th floor of a building, both of these actions can destroy you. If you take the warnings of scripture, you will protect yourself. But, if you jump off the 10th floor of a building and you say, that God will protect me, you are foolish. God is not going to protect a person who jumps from the pinnacle of the temple.
Now, it is possible for a person to say sincerely, 'Lord I want to know how to be free from this.' I believe there are many Christians like that around the world really seeking to be free. And to such people, I want to tell two things which are mentioned in Matthew 22:21. You may remember how Jesus answered when somebody asked Jesus, 'Should we pay taxes?' Jesus asked them to show Him a coin and then He asked, "Whose picture is on that coin?" They replied, 'Caesar's.' That is when the Lord made these statements in Matthew 22:21. He said , "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God, the things that are God's."
There are two statements here that can deliver you from the pursuit of money. Jesus was telling us there about our responsibility in relation to material things. First of all, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's" Notice, Jesus did not say, first give to God what is God's and then give to Caesar what is Caesar's. No. Let us get the order correct. He did not put God first here. He said, First of all, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's." Secondly, give God "the things that are God's." He was first telling us to be just in money matters and then he was telling us to be faithful in money matters. These are two different things. One is higher than the other: First of all, we have got to be just in money matters and then we got to be faithful in money matters.
What does is it mean to be just in money matters? This is the kindergarten lesson in money. This means we must give to Caesar what belongs to him. Caesar, here, represents another human being or the government. For example, if you have borrowed money from somebody, call that person Caesar. Don't give God that money. God doesn't want it. You give back you debt to Caesar. What belongs to Caesar must go back to Caesar first. That is why Jesus put God second. Do you recognize that? God doesn't want Caesar's money. So, you better give back to Caesar what belongs to him and then decide what you want to give to God; those of you who are in debt, who owe money to others. I am sorry to say that there are many Christians who have gotten this very bad habit of getting into debt.
I want to encourage you to start giving back to Caesar what belongs to him, unless that other person has released you from your debt saying, 'Okay, that is alright, you don't need to pay it back.' You have an obligation to pay it back, even if you borrowed it from him 25 years ago. It may not have been borrowed. It may have been stolen. Supposing you had stolen something that belongs to somebody else, may be his property, maybe you got somebody's book lying around for many years at home, you never returned it, a book that you had borrowed. Maybe a drill or a shovel or something you borrowed, which you never returned. Return it. Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's. If it is money that you took wrongfully, maybe you worked in an office and you stole things from that office, send a check to that office. Return that money. Maybe you worked in a hospital and stole drugs from that hospital, or stole equipment. Return that money. Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's.
We have to begin by giving to Caesar what is Caesar's. If you haven't set these things right with Caesar, then don't give to God. God won't accept it. That is why Jesus said to put Caesar first. The same thing applies to the government. Supposing, in the past, you cheated the income tax by not telling them how much you earned. Well, calculate that and give the money back. Maybe you came back from a trip in another country and brought in a lot of things and hid it from the customs to avoid paying the customs duty. What should you do now? Well, calculate the duty and pay it back to the government. You say, 'that would be a lot of money!' Forget it. Set it right with the government.
So this is where we must begin. Return all money that was taken wrongfully. Zacchaeus said to the Lord, "if I have wronged any man of any thing, I restore him fourfold." (Luke 19:8). He calculated the interest and said, 'I took it many years ago. They could have put it in a bank and could have got more interest. I better give back four times.' And then he thought of all the people whose addresses he didn't know, how to give back their money. He said, 'I will give it to the poor instead.' So when you have money with you that belongs to other people and you don't know where they are living today, then you must give it to your church or to the poor; one of the two.
Even if your debt is very large, don't get discouraged. Start by paying a small amount every month, maybe 10.00. But start paying it back. If there is a willing heart, God will bless you from the very first day that you start paying back your debt, even if it takes you 15 years to pay your whole debt. He doesn't wait until the whole debt is cleared. He sees a willing heart and He sees that you are willing to set it right. "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's."
It is no use hanging a plaque in your house saying, 'God bless our home' if you got things in your home, money in your home, that has been obtained unjustly, "Owe no man any thing" is what the Bible says in Romans 13:8. Let us begin today. Make a decision right now, as you are concluding this study, to give back to everyone that belongs to them.