MBS 4: Luke 2:21-39

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 

Luke 2

What consolation was he waiting for?

There was a man named Simeon, who was righteous and devout, and he was waiting for the consolation of Israel. But what was the consolation he was waiting for?

Surely, the Israelites were burdened by the taxes laden upon them by the Roman Empire, but even more so, the Jewish people did not have much peace nor sovereignty over their land ever since the Babylonian Exile (2 Kings 24).

According to the history-of-Israel.org, the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC and the southern kingdom of Judah was conquered by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Soon the Persians conquered the Babylonians and let the scattered Jews return to their homeland (538 BC), but the Greeks conquered Israel yet again in 332 BC. In 164 BC, through the Maccabean revolt, the Jews gained 80 years of independence before the conquest of Rome in 63 BC.

Now, over six decades of Roman occupation and seven centuries of defeat later, Simeon declares that his eyes have seen the salvation of God and the glory of Israel! In the context of their recent history, what would the general person assume is this salvation? What could be a consolation to Israel other than freedom from their subjugators?

Consolation in the form of a Child

The salvation and the consolation of Israel came in the form of a baby named Jesus. This would be unexpected for many, but a child was promised to the Jews for a long time. The Scriptures showed that their greatest consolation would come as a child, the offspring of Eve (Genesis 3:15) and the son of David (Isaiah 9:6-7, 7:13-16; 2 Samuel 7:12-14).

Thus it is not surprising to see that, later on, many people who met Jesus attributed him has the promised king, the prophesied descendent of David that would one day deliver Israel from its subjugation and rule over the earth. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the final time, he was greeted by the masses shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Matthew 21:9

Fortunately for the Jews, Jesus did not come to save them from Rome, he came to save them from a greater threat. Additionally, Jesus came not only to save the Jews, but to be a “light to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32), a salvation to all the world.

This threat was the sin of the world. Not only were the Jews under the subjugation of sin, but their oppressors, the Romans, were also under its subjugation along with the rest of the human race. The bondage to sin was and continues to be the greatest tragedy of humankind.

Jesus did not come to conquer nations made by man, but to take the condemnation caused by sin. And just like the blood of the lamb saved people from death in Exodus 12, the blood of Jesus saves all believers from the death that is the payment of sin (Romans 6:23).

Application

For many, consolation can come in the form of financial freedom. Especially in this pandemic, many people have been “consoled” for a moment through government stimulus. But as we all know, these forms of consolations are temporary, just as a conquering king that could save a nation from its oppressors.

Although it is easy to look to money to be out consolation in times of earthly crisis, our true consolation comes from Jesus Christ. Where does your mind turn to for consolation? Does it turn to bingeing on Netflix or food? Does it turn to shopping or traveling? Does it turn to work, exercise, or even harmful things?

One reason that Jesus may not be our consolation is because we do not know the debt we had before it was wiped clean by his sacrifice. Did you ever have an unmanageable debt? Do you have debt now? No one is very grateful over a small debt being forgiven (Luke 7:47), but what if the debt was something you could never pay off? What if it was so crippling that there was no hope for you in the future? What if it prevented you from accomplishing any dreams or goals, or even enjoying the small things in life?

We must realize the tremendous weight of the debt of sin, how it left us with no hope but death and enmity with God. We were to be judged by the holy anger of God eternally in hell, but the grace of God did not leave us to be hopeless. Jesus himself came in the form of a servant to take upon the punishment that was reserved for us. He willingly became the sacrificial lamb, that freed us from eternal despair and hopelessness.

Therefore, before we feel the need to have financial freedom for consolation, let’s remember the freedom we have from sin through the love of Jesus Christ! Before we make financial plans for our future, let’s make plans to give thanks to the Lord for his salvation!

Prayer:

Lord, let us not desire more from this world before we first understand what we already have through Jesus Christ. Help us to truly understand what it means to be forgiven of our sins, and to know that your grace is sufficient for us. We are set for life and eternity through the freedom given to us by Jesus, and therefore, as you have said, let us give thanks in every circumstance. The world says that financial freedom will give us happiness, but let all believers declare that we have everlasting joy in you, with or without financial freedom!

MBS 3: Luke 2:1-20

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:10-14

Many people would say that the desire of every human being is to be happy. The problem is that no one knows how to be happy. People think that they know what will make them happy, but the things are generally scarce or hard to get.

Unfortunately, as any philosopher would agree, human beings have an infinite appetite for pleasure. When we enjoy things in scarcity, it brings a lot of joy, but when we start receiving something in abundance, we either get tired of it or get addicted to it. Let me describe it to you through a story:

There was a child who loved cookies and would do any chore to get one from his mother. Some days he would clean his room, other days he would take out the trash, but no matter what kind of a chore it was, he would only get one cookie a day. However, the child never minded doing the chores because the chocolate chip cookie gave him so much pleasure.

One fateful night, he decided he could not wait until the next day to eat another cookie. He lied down on his bed, pretending to be asleep until he heard the low rumbling of his father’s snore.

Kicking the sheets off himself, he tip-toed into the kitchen, pulled up a chair silently next to the cabinet, and opening it he revealed the treasure of his heart: a jar filled with crispy cookies checkered with chunky chocolatey chips.

Next morning, his mother stood agasp, finding the jar emptied of its treasure. However, knowing that her son is but a child, she decided to overlook this grand cookie heist. This would not be the end of the mother’s disappointment, for from that day, a single cookie could never satisfy the boy’s enlarged appetite.

Now, replace the cookies with money or anything else that is relevant to you. Did you ever notice that your appetite grows along with the growth of the things which give you pleasure? If left unchecked, these things also seem to enslave us rather than being a simple source of pleasure. If the boy is no longer willing to listen to his parents, or cannot be happy without more cookies, the cookies no longer bring joy but slavery. What does slavery to cookies bring? Diabetes. And what comes next? The boy will be dependent on cookies, but it will be lethal to him at the same time.

Has money been the same thing for you? Has it been the chocolate cookie to your soul? Has it already caused the diabetes of your spirit? Has it enslaved you so that you are unable to have joy apart from it? And while having it does it only enlarge your appetite for more, never being satisfied?

We must ask, is there anything that offers us joy without demanding our enslavement? The answer is a resounding… “Luke chapter 2”! Which is a “Yes”! The messengers of God (Angels) declared to the shepherds that he brings “Good news that will cause great joy for all the people,” and what is that news? A savior has been born, who is the Messiah.

The Jewish people have been waiting for the Messiah for a long time. They were bullied by every major power in the history of the region: Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Greece, and now the Roman Empire. The Bible had promised that there would be a savior (Messiah) who will come and free the Jews, bring light to the world, and reign as king over the world.

While the Jews believed that this Messiah was coming to free them from their current oppression from Rome, Jesus actually came to free the world from their number one oppressor: SIN. Sin is the desire in us that twists and perverts the good things that God has give us, it only seeks to consume for selfish gain, “Every good thing and pleasurable thing must be for ME!”

This is what rebellion to God looks like: instead of honoring God, we desire to be honored; instead of serving God, we desire to be served; instead of loving God, we desire others to love us. Yet, all of these things only satisfy us temporarily and are absorbed by our infinite appetite for self pleasure. We will never have joy and always be enslaved to it.

We were in a hopeless state of never being able to satiate our hunger for joy and pleasure. We were in the shameful state of rebelling against the one who formed us with his hands. Yet, while we were still sinners, Jesus came to earth to save us. This is the good news! This is the message that brings joy to ALL men! This is the gospel! That Jesus did not only come to save your from your addictions, your hopelessness, your depression, your dissatisfaction, but from the the root that causes all of these things! He did not come to stop the symptoms of your ailment, but to cure the root of the disease: sin!

MBS 2: Luke 1:39-80

As we continue with our weekly Money Bible Study, we see that the two promises from last week are fulfilled in today’s reading: Promises of a child for Elizabeth and Mary. Elizabeth would give birth John the Baptist, whom Jesus said of him,

I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John,” (Luke 7:28)

and Mary would give birth to Jesus.

So we see our first two evidences to support the claim that God’s word never fails (verse 37). However, Mary and Zechariah does not think that the evidence ends here. Mary mentions in verse 55, “just as he promised our ancestors” and Zechariah in verse 72-73, “to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham…

They are praising God by claiming that these two children are not simply promises given a few months ago before their pregnancies, but a fulfillment of the promise he made with Abraham (approx. 2000 years before!):

I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you
” (Genesis 12:2-3)

Mary and Zechariah are claiming that the birth of John and Jesus will finally begin to fulfill the promise that all the people on earth will be blessed.

Now, as this is the Money Bible Study, we must answer the question, “What does it mean that the earth will be blessed? Does it mean that the earth will be blessed monetarily?” and let’s not forget Jesus’ statement that John the Baptist is the greatest man that ever lived, but the question “What does it mean to be great?” is best saved until we get to chapter 7.

Blessings

If we are honest, many of us have no idea what we mean by “bless” even though we bless people all the time after they sneeze and post #blessed all over social media. What about the famous American slogan, “God bless America”? What kind of specific blessings is it asking for?

Our passage today answers an aspect of biblical blessing; the word blessed is mentioned four times (v. 42, 45, 48), three of which are directed to Mary and one to Jesus. Elizabeth most clearly explains that Mary is blessed for believing that God will fulfill his promises to her. In other words, Mary is blessed for her faith.

Now as for how the earth will be blessed, we see some details in the famous Mary’s Magnificat (v. 46-55). A major theme of her song seems to be that God shows mercy to the humble and humbles the proud.

He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.

Luke 1:53

Throughout the Bible is the theme that God is the God of the orphans and the widows, who were some of the most marginalized people in ancient society. Whoever messed with the orphans and the widows, messed with God.

Biblical illustrations usually equate those who are poor with those who are in a humble state. The idea is that by being poor we are more inclined to seek God for help. In this state of relying on God, we also discover the depths of our spiritual poverty. The poor are able to be comforted because God has their back, but even more significantly, that God has met their spiritual need.

By being rich, we are less inclined to seek God for help. In our wealth, we often handle our own physical and economic needs without having to pray. However, through this life of self-reliance, we distance ourselves from God and blind ourselves from our spiritual need. Therefore, the powerless become humble and the powerful become proud; and contrary to the saying, “The rich get richer,” we find the opposite spiritually, “The humble are exalted, but the rich are sent away empty.”

God becomes the great equalizer in this unjust world of socio-economic boundaries and oppression. God has sent his champion, his very own son Jesus to begin a new kingdom here on earth, a kingdom of peace and justice, but this is all secondary. The primary way that God blesses the nation through Jesus is by meeting our spiritual need, a restored relationship with God.

Jesus has come to “seek and save the lost,” (Luke 19:10) and these lost people are not only the poor but the rich. If you are poor, don’t look to money as your savior, and if you are rich, don’t look to money as your savior. Look to Jesus Christ, who has come to rescue us from our spiritual poverty, an estranged relationship with God.

Prayer:

God thank you for your word that never fails. Thank you for Jesus through whom we were given a way to be restored in our relationship with you. Bless us all with the faith like Mary to believe in your word, that through us also, many people will find their relationship with you restored. And for those who are reading who do not know whether they have been saved from this spiritual poverty, reveal to them that you are good and you have come to seek and save them.

MBS 1: Luke 1:1-38

Introduction

I am excited to start the first Money Bible Study (MBS) on the book of Luke. Instead of arbitrarily taking bible verses out of context, a bible study that goes through an entire book will give us a clearer understanding of Money in the greater backdrop of the Gospel message. Additionally, a book study will help us avoid the danger of twisting the meaning of verses beyond the intention of the author. That said, this blog will also discuss popular verses on the topic of money while avoiding the previously mentioned pitfalls.

There are a variety of statistics about the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and money, some say that 11 of the 39 parables and one out of every seven verses of Jesus are about money Another source says that 16 of the 38 parables and 1 out of every 10 verses in the gospels are about money. The difference in the number of total parables is probably because some parables are disputed, regardless, Jesus does mention money often.

I encourage you to read the book of Luke with me and share your insights as we come across applicable verses. However, we must be careful not to interpret everything in the perspective of money. We must rid of the dollar signs in our eyes and avoid twisting the original meaning of the text. Many chapters will not mention money at all, however we may still be able to find biblical principles and values which will help us understand Christian finance.

Luke, Chapter 1:1-38

37 “…For no word from God will ever fail.”

Luke 1

This verse is a great foundation on how we should approach our MBS. Much of our lives are about investing in attractive endeavors, these can range from going to college to preparing for retirement. However, investing is not only done with money but with time, energy, and attention.

At the end of our lives we will look back and realize that some of our investments brought fruitful returns while others fell into ruin. Everyone wants to invest in endeavors that won’t fail and give significant returns. But is the saying, “High risk, high reward,” really true?

The commonly believed relationship with risk and return is not necessarily true according to this study done by Andrew Stotz. To briefly summarize the study, Stotz followed 10 portfolios of differing beta over a twenty year period from 1994 to 2015. By annually switching to the portfolios that had the three lowest beta-deciles, they were able to out-perform the market. However, the portfolios that had the three highest beta-deciles under-performed.

Does High Risk Mean High Return? – Become a Better Investor

To have low risk and high returns, isn’t that what everyone wants? But here it is, revealed to all mankind in Luke 1:37, God’s word will never fail! God’s word has no risk, but promises the greatest reward! Gabriel says the most ludicrous statements and follows that up with “God’s word will never fail!” Mary is a virgin but she will give birth? Elizabeth is beyond child-bearing age, not to mention that she’s been barren all her life! Yet, even the most unbelievable of all the promises in the bible, God’s word will never fail!

The book of Luke is the word of God, and the truths that we will gain from it will never fail us. The word of God is worth investing everything into, there is no other investment that will give returns coming anywhere close. How do I know this? Because the word of God tells us the fate of all other investments, they are all chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14).

May we have the faith like Mary to say, “I am the Lord’s servant, May your word to [us] be fulfilled.”

Prayer:

Father, you called John the Baptist great in your sight (1:15) and Mary as someone you highly favor (1:28), yet the world seeks to convince us that to be great and to be favored by God is to be rich. Forgive us for often buying into this lie, for seeing money as the source of stability and happiness. Allow us to trust that your word will never fail, and to believe that you reward those who seek you (Hebrews 11:6)!

Money as an End

When you see headlines touting, “5 Biblical Principles to Make you a Millionaire,” what it’s actually saying is, “5 ways to use the Bible as a Means to Achieve the Ultimate Goal of Money.”

I understand that some of those authors or YouTube channels are well-meaning Christians seeking to help other believers, but it seems that most are misled or misleading believers into thinking obedience to the word of God will lead to monetary blessings on earth.

What is your ultimate goal? What is your reason for desiring wealth? What do you tell God to justify your pursuit for money?

Not many are bold enough to admit that they love money more than God, but it’s much more dangerous to be unwilling to admit it. Let’s be honest with ourselves and see whether we have been using God as a means to Money.

Prayer: God, I want to confess to you that I have been idolizing money. Often money seems to be the answer to many of my problems. However, Jesus commanded his followers to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and God will take care of all these other things. Let me have the faith to trust in your providence rather than finding security in money.

Money as a Means

I’ve heard many believers say that they desire to be rich so that they can support missionaries and churches around the world. Praise God for believers who desire to use their wealth for the Kingdom of God. God knows how much they have been a direct blessing in my life.

There are many ways we can use money as a means to bless others and serve God, however, we must never think that we will be more useful to God if we are wealthy compared to if we are poor.

It is far more powerful to show the world that we can be content in poverty, far more radical to show that we can give even under immense financial strain, and far more biblical to trust God to provide our daily bread.

Wealth is a powerful tool for man, and everyone seems to grasp for it in hopes to achieve the desires of their hearts. This is why it is such a powerful testimony to the world to show them a life that is free from the love of money. The desire of our hearts cannot be bought with money but has bought us with his life.

Prayer: God, I trust that you can use me in my wealth and in my poverty. Let me not measure myself or others by the amount of money in possession, but by the amount of faith. Lord use me to be a powerful testimony to the world by declaring that you are so much more valuable than money!