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As you know, our desire is to build a sanctuary that is more conducive to worship than the temporary quarters that God has graciously given us up to this point. Because we want every aspect of our lives to be governed by Scripture, this means that we must turn to Scripture for guidance and protection as we are preparing to undertake this significant project. When we look at the map that Scripture provides, there are zoom out and zoom in features. This message, and the next two, are at the zoom out level.
“Now, my son, the Lord be with thee; and prosper thou, and build the house of the Lord thy God, as he hath said of thee. Only the Lord give thee wisdom and understanding, and give thee charge concerning Israel, that thou mayest keep the law of the Lord thy God. Then shalt thou prosper, if thou takest heed to fulfil the statutes and judgments which the Lord charged Moses with concerning Israel: be strong, and of good courage; dread not, nor be dismayed. Now, behold, in my trouble I have prepared for the house of the Lord an hundred thousand talents of gold, and a thousand thousand talents of silver; and of brass and iron without weight; for it is in abundance: timber also and stone have I prepared; and thou mayest add thereto. Moreover there are workmen with thee in abundance, hewers and workers of stone and timber, and all manner of cunning men for every manner of work. Of the gold, the silver, and the brass, and the iron, there is no number. Arise therefore, and be doing, and the Lord be with thee” (1 Chron. 22:11-16).
Summary of the Text
At the end of his life, King David is entrusting the next big task to his son Solomon. That task was the building of a Temple, and in this passage we see some of the essentials. The first thing is the charge to build the Temple (v. 11). This is the mission. David’s desire is that God give Solomon wisdom and understanding so that he will keep the law of God (v. 12). The result of keeping this law in wisdom will be prosperity (v. 13), not truncated legalism. Wisdom and prosperity are given through adherence to the words of God. How could they not be? David then says that in the time of his “trouble,” he had nevertheless made a number of preparations for the building of the Temple (v. 14). Not only that, he had assembled the workmen (v. 15). The gold, silver, brass and iron were gathered “without number” (v. 16). Therefore, David said, be “up and doing.”
The principle is that you should take up the hard task of counting your shekels before undertaking the relatively easy task of spending them. Jesus teaches us this bluntly. “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:28). Now if your response to this is that Jesus was making something called a “spiritual point” about the cost of discipleship, I grant it. But the spiritual point is not one you can grasp is you don’t understand the thing Jesus compares it to. You can’t afford what you can’t afford, and this is something that needs to be determined first.
The Authority of Imitation
David was a king, which meant that he could assemble these riches, and dispose of them the way he does here. He gives these resources to Solomon, and says that this is for that. He didn’t have to route any of this through committees. Our position is different. We are in a much more democratic setting—which has strong and weak points. There are virtues connected to this position of affairs, and there are vices. This means that our financial preparation has to include things like cost estimates, budgets, fund-raising, etc. So much is obvious. But another thing we must do—and which I am doing here—is to prepare our hearts to understand money.
We need a big church, and you can’t have a big church without big money. But you can’t have big money without a big problem, and what is that? Whenever you have big money show up, more than a few people will start acting funny. This funniness runs in two directions—and we need to learn how to mortify both these tendencies. They are temptations. Treat them in just the same way you would treat a temptation to perjure yourself, or commit adultery, or rob banks.
I am not addressing the temptations that people with money face. The warnings of Scripture are well-known, and are pretty clear. We do not need to rehearse them here. What we do need to do is go over the temptations faced by people in the proximity of money. Teaching on this is also found in Scripture, but we are not nearly enough on our guard about it. If someone in our congregation received a windfall inheritance of 100 million dollars, the chances are good that this person will receive scores of warnings not to let it go to his head. All the people around that guy will not receive any warnings, and they are the ones who really need it.
The first warning they need is to guard against unctuous flattery. “For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness; God is witness” (1 Thess. 2:5).
The second warning is against envious carping. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s” (Ex. 20:17). “A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones” (Prov. 14:30).
A Non-Monetary Illustration
Suppose someone in our congregation, out of the blue, won the Nobel Prize for carving a cure for cancer out of bar of soap. Next Sunday someone walks up and says, “Congratulations . . . don’t let it go to your head.” He should reply, “Thanks . . . and don’t you get envious.” Or someone else walks up, “Congratulations! I always thought you were wonderful! And it turns out you are really wonderful! Cousin!” The reply here needs to be more creative.
Assembling Heart Resources
So in order for us to handle this great task properly as a congregation, we must learn how to take financial information in stride. In order to do this right, we have to practice, practice, and practice. And, of course, this has everything to do with Jesus.