Following Jesus in Giving
Following Jesus in Giving
Today we are going to talk about honoring God with our finances. Money can make us do strange things. Talking about it reminds me of a joke I once heard about Morris and his wife, Esther.
Morris and his wife Esther went to the state fair every year, and every year Morris would say, "Esther, I'd like to ride in that helicopter".
Esther always replied, "I know Morris, but that helicopter ride is 50 dollars -- and 50 dollars is 50 dollars".
One year Esther and Morris went to the fair, and Morris said, "Esther, I'm 85 years old. If I don't ride that helicopter, I might never get another chance."
Esther replied, "Morris that helicopter is 50 dollars -- and 50 dollars is 50 dollars".
The pilot overheard the couple and said, "Folks I'll make you a deal. I'll take the both of you for a ride. If you can stay quiet for the entire ride and not say a word I won't charge you! But if you say one word, it's 50 dollars."
Morris and Esther agreed and up they went. The pilot did all kinds of fancy maneuvers, but not a word was heard. He did his daredevil tricks over and over again, but still not a word. When they landed, the pilot turned to Morris and said, "By golly, I did everything I could to get you to yell out, but you didn't. I'm impressed!"
Morris replied, "Well, to tell you the truth, I almost said something when Esther fell out, but you know -- 50 dollars is 50 dollars."
It is amazing what people will do for money. It is important to talk about.
I want to teach on financial giving. Relax. I’m not going to ask you to do anything right now or today. But I do want you to think through Scripture and your finances in light of this message.
I want to make a few caveats about this. I know we are a small church, but I don’t know who gives what here. I see the financial reports, but not who gave what. I’m glad for that. I don’t want my pastoring to ever be thought to be based on if you give or don’t give. I think that is important to be above reproach. So as I talk about this I don’t want you to be worried about if I am talking to you or about you. I want to talk about this topic because it is a key part of our walk with Christ. Jesus talked about money more than any other topic. That shows he was concerned about how we honor God with our money. I think in our capitalistic culture money is our biggest idol. I want to look at a text that can help us get rid of this idol and be faithful to God with finances.
And a ruler asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 19 And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'" 21 And he said, "All these I have kept from my youth." 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, "How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." 26 Those who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" 27 But he said, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." 28 And Peter said, "See, we have left our homes and followed you." 29 And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life."(Luke 18:18-30 ESV)
The Stumbling Block of Riches
This man comes and asks Jesus what he must to do have eternal life (v18). Jesus points him to the commands that the man already knows. It’s clear the young man has been to Sunday school. He knows and has kept all of these from his youth. In Greek 'All' comes first showing an emphasis on it, and pointing to his immaturity. No one keeps all the commands. His question reveals that his understanding of gaining life with God is the path of doing good. He perhaps has not really understood his need for God and how desperate he is for God’s intervention and forgiveness. He feels an inadequacy in his life but believes he can make up for it by doing some good.
Jesus tells him to go and sell everything and give to the poor. The man is not able to do it! He is sad (23). He will not inherit eternal life. Jesus just told him what to do and he will have life! He is sad because with the choice of eternal life or his riches he takes his riches.
He is not willing to follow God. He has not even kept the first commandment. Idols blind us. Love of money blinds to many things. Many are rich because they love money, and that is why Jesus said it is so hard for them to enter into heaven.
Money is a fraud.
Jesus addresses his core issue. Jesus tells him to go and sell everything he has. Jesus didn’t tell that to other people. Zacheaus trusted in Christ and said he would give half his possessions to the poor. He healed lepers and told them to simply offer the sacrifices required by law (Luke 5:14). It seems Jesus is telling him this not so much to set a prescription, but to get to his heart. And that is the precedent for following Jesus. It is giving your heart to him in complete faith and trust. Money is the only thing Jesus says you can't love and also love him.
“Jesus teaches on generosity not to get money out of our pockets but idols out of our hearts.” @jdgreear
There is a cost of following Jesus. Deitrich Boenhoeffer said, “When Jesus calls a man he bids him come and die.” Many today preach come to Jesus and he will make you rich. They preach a Jesus that is there to serve your every need. That is not the Jesus of Scripture. Must come to a complete dependence on Jesus. Following Jesus will change your entire life. It will cost you all you have. This man was not willing to pay the price of following Jesus.
Jesus never turned anyone away who came to him in genuineness and abandonment. Those who left rejected were those who came in pretense and where their lives did not truly match their words. It's amazing to think about this man. Did he live on the good part of town or the bad part? Did he have a reputable position or lowly position in society? Was he looked up to or down upon in society? Was he in the church or outside the church? By all appearance he is a person that we might think highly of inside the church. But Jesus knows his heart, and what is going on inside a person's heart is the most important thing about them.
“The one who chose Calvary for himself is apt to prescribe sacrifice to others.” Glover. In all three gospels that this occurs in, the story is told just before Jesus' prediction of his death on the cross.
Is it possible he knew his struggle with money and rather than address it he was looking for other ways to make up for it. “I know I have an issue with money but perhaps Jesus can tell me something I can do that makes my addiction to money OK. Make it so I don't have to deal with that issue, don't have to address the wrong place I feel for it.”
Encouragement for the Disciples
Jesus made a bold statement of the failure of riches saying, “Truly I say to you” and now he gives comfort to his disciples.
The great encouragement to all of us is that life does not come from money and possessions. Money is a status symbol in the world. It allows us to get things that make us fit in with others: house, car, clothes. But is not what makes us fit in with God. If that were the case Jesus would not have gone to die on the cross for us. Money cannot atone for your sins. It does not make you whole no matter how many doctors you go to.
But even more this passage is about God providing for our current needs. God is able to provide for us both now and in the life to come. V30 God is able to more than abound. Einstein said one of the miracles of modern day is compound interest. If you knew an investment was going to pay 30, 100 times, would you not put your money into it??!!
God is able to repay. Hudson Taylor said he had never succeeded in making a sacrifice for God. Every time he gave up anything for God he found so much blessing he felt himself better off rather than worse off for having given up whatever it was.
So let’s get practical. How are you in your finances? Talking about finances can be like getting a root canal. It is that way because of the idol we make it.
Giving to the Lord/Tithing.
The Bible speaks about honoring God with finances by tithing. In the Old Testament your tithes and offerings were brought to the temple. It allowed the temple to function in offering sacrifices and teaching God’s word.
Every tenth of the land's produce, grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. (Lev 27:30).
Tithing is giving ten percent of what you make to the Lord. it is 10% of everything and anything. No matter how big or small. It begins in Genesis and continues throughout Scripture. If you make $100 you tithe $10. It is simple, but man makes it very complicated. The first muder in the Bible resulted after a failure to first give to the Lord.
We were teaching this to our kids recently. They received Christmas money so we were talking about honoring the Lord. One had gotten fifty dollars and we were talking about tithing. I said do you want to tithe?'' “Yes.” OK, then ten percent of fifty is five dollars so that is what you can give. He was thinking about buying a new lego set so when I told him that the wheels started turning. “Well, I was thinking more of giving a dollar.” I was in a difficult place because I didn’t want to make him give but I didn’t want him to think it was ok. So I told him, “OK, you can give a dollar but a tithe would be five dollars.” He replied, “Well, maybe I'll give two dollars.” Me, “you can give two dollars but a tithe would be five.” He replied, “Well how about three dollars…”
Love of money and stuff is not something we need to teach our kids. They come by it naturally. We need to teach them serving God is greater than anything else.
Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 sell a field of land and then lie about how much of the proceeds they gave to the church. They are struck dead for it. It is a reminder how the Lord views integrity. It is sobering.
Churches are sustained through this giving. It's not the ultimate thing but it is important. Sacrificial giving was...
One thing about finances is that it provides an objective view of how we are doing. Serving God can be very subjective. Bank accounts and calendars are two things that don’t lie. It reminds me of a friend in high school trying to sell on old beater of a car. Someone asked him how it ran and he said great! The buyer inspected things a little more, checked the oil level and saw it was low, and that was when my friend revealed that though it ran great you needed to put in a quart of oil every few days. Certain metrics clarify reality.
One of the reasons I wanted to talk about finances is because it forces you to consider what is important in your life. You give to things that are important. Is church important to you. One thing you can do is look across your budget and see what level your giving is on par with. I have known people who can’t afford to tithe but they spend lots of money on venti lattes. That tells me your latte is more important than church. It's not a big deal what I think but how are you going to explain that when you stand before the Lord. Are we willing to sacrifice some of our privileges for the kingdom of God. We can say I don’t mind selling all and moving to India to live in a hut, but are you willing to go without some of your luxuries.
Mal 3 God says the people are robbing him because they are not tithing. They are not honoring him. How are you doing?
What can you give up to tithe? I don't say this because we need it as a church, but because you need it as a follower of Christ. Yes, there is grace when we fail. No one is made right with God based on their giving. We are made right through Christ. But don't let grace become an excuse from doing what God calls you to.
Giving impacts the house you buy, the car you buy. Those bigger decisions can keep you from being able to give to the Lord. Those moments of car buying show what values you really have.
Honor God with 100%.
It's not just 10% God is concerned about. In this passage the man was told to give it all. It is not just about give God 10% and do whatever you want with the other 90%. Honor him with that too.
Some people point out the New Testament does not mention tithing. Good point. It doesn’t. Jesus changes all the commands. Where it does give percentages Zachaeus gave 50% and a poor widow gave 100%. Giving is to be sacrificial.
Plan for difficult times. Save some money. Also think about being generous to others. When we got married I felt like I was doing good because I tithed. And then Amanda wanted to start having people over and feeding them dinner. I could be there and start adding up in my head how much each person cost. That is being stingy. It's not my money. It's God’s. I just want to be a steward.
Give with Faith/Joy.
The disciples followed Jesus and worried about the rest later. The issues of their giving up things does not occur until now, which is amazing. Jesus says he will take care of them. We need that same faith. If we are trusting in finances and stuff for our future we will never be happy. This week mega star Kobe Bryant passed away. Heard people talking about how they just never thought he would die. He did. And you will too. And all that money he left behind.
Invest in eternity. That means give with faith. You are playing a part in the mission going forward. That is exciting. Don't regret how much you could have spent elsewhere.
Jesus’s parable of the kingdom of God was a man who found a treasure in a field and in his joy went and sold all he had to acquire that field.
One of the reasons I want to teach on this is that I believe to ignite our church requires all of us putting the things of the Lord first. It means putting Jesus' mission first. The church is the one institution that Jesus started. He died for his church. Is it a priority in your life? Is it a priority in your giving? Does your giving indicate God is first or a leftover. First means gets first dibs on things. Leftovers mean I got my fill, she got her fill, he got his share, and this is what is left after everyone else got their part. God is last. Called to give him the first fruits, the best part.
I want sacrifice to be at the heart of what we do as a church. Don’t give because it's easy. If we are going to push this church forward it is going to take everybody going in.
We have mentioned the need to go in key areas. We want to be living lives of consistently:
reading, praying, doing God’s word.
participating in life with believers.
inviting people to know Jesus.
giving financially to the cause.
Part of my vision for our church. It is not about us being here to build a Bridgeway empire. Yes, I would like to grow. But how small a vision do we have if it is only about getting big here. We need to be healthy, but being healthy is having a view beyond here.
As I think about these, I get excited about people growing and experiencing more of God. I get excited about sending people out. I love the idea of people coming in no conviction about tithing, going to church on Sunday, inviting people to know Jesus. And coming to a place where they are finding joy in sacrifice. And then after a few years they move out on a church plant. Maybe they go overseas to a strategic city, work there, participate in a struggling church, and their giving enables the church to take off. I would love to have a map of people who have been discipled here and gone out into the world to build churches.
*The Gospel changes people and people change the world.
Give where you are at. An interesting phenomena today is people are so transient and connected all over the world. This probably is not your first church and will not be your last church. I want to encourage you to give where you are at. The new testament churches took collections when they gathered, like we do. They weren’t directed to mail it it. It's about being present where you are at. Wherever you go to church you are receiving, or should be receiving something from there. Pastors should know you, should care about you. They should know the same from you. So yes, I am saying when you are at Bridgeway do this. But I am also saying when you leave Bridgeway, I want you to go all in where you are at. Invest deeply wherever you are in the church.
Maybe we develop a map of the world and on it we can put people who have come here, were discipled and taught about the need for fellowship, participation, giving, reading the bible and then they go out to be a blessing to other churches and parts of the world.
Money makes a terrible God. If you are serving money you ll do anything for fifty dollars, might not even tell the pilot your wife fell out the helicopter. It will keep you from investing in eternal things. It will leave you sad and keep you from following Jesus. There are many people who are choosing money over God, and they are sad and miserable. They need to know there is something better. Something greater to live for. We have a Savior who loved us and gave himself for us. He didn’t give 10% but his whole self. And he is redeeming every part of who we are.
What was the problem with the young man in this passage? What was his hope in?
What encouragement does Jesus give to his disciples?
What do your finances reveal about your trust in God? What can you do to better honor God in financial stewardship?