Foolish Generosity – Sermon Manuscript

-Micah did a great job over the past couple weeks with some very difficult topics

-As both he and I mentioned last week, the issues that he brought up cover a HUGE area, of which he covered a tiny little portion, which means there are things that were left out, intentionally. In Sermon Scraps he listed a few resources that were helpful for him if you want to study transgenderism further.

-I had a couple people grab me last week and call me a coward, so I thought we should deal with that issue head on this week! Micah volunteered to preach both of these messages, and if you couldn’t tell, mental health and gender issues are both topics he’s very passionate about and much more studied than I am. I consider it a privilege to have him on staff to help me think through these topics in a healthy and helpful way, and I hope you think similarly!

-But just to prove that I don’t give Micah all the difficult topics, I started thinking through what other issues are we facing today that are tricky to navigate or talk about. Since Micah talked about gender/sexuality, that leaves either money or politics as the things we’re not supposed to talk about. I’ll save politics for next year, so today we’re going to talk about money.

-As I was thinking about money this week, it struck me that from my perspective, money has become the issue we’re not supposed to talk about, at least in the church. When I was growing up, we weren’t supposed to talk about sex, but now it seems that money is the taboo topic in the church, and because it’s the taboo topic, many of us don’t have a good idea of how to engage or talk about it.

-I was thinking about some of this as we were preparing this sermon series, many of these topics are things we don’t hear about in church, but there the issues we most need to hear! If we don’t talk about it in the church then all we’ll have is ungodly and unbiblical answers to the questions we, or our friends and neighbors, are asking.

-As I read through the Gospels, it strikes me that nothing is too sacred or taboo for Jesus to talk about. Similarly, I think we far too often segment our lives in such a way that Jesus doesn’t transform everything, instead He’s relegated to a little “Sunday morning box” that only comes out to play Sunday, then we stick Him back in the box and live however we want the rest of the week. Unfortunately, that’s not what Jesus calls us to – He calls us to die, and that call is required for every little tiny part of our life, not just what we think of as the big stuff.

-I hadn’t made this connection until this week, but throughout the Gospels, Jesus connects sanctification (growth in holiness/godliness) to the way someone spends their money. Think of Matt. 6:21 “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Or one of my kid’s favorite stories Zacchaeus in Luke 19. What is the mark that salvation has come to Zacchaeus? Is it because he prayed the sinner’s prayer, or walked down the front to an altar call? No! He gives half of his goods to the poor, and restores everyone he’s defrauded 4-fold. He moves his treasure from earth to heaven!

-As we walk through this, I was highly influenced by a little book called The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn. (in the library)

-Let’s read together first, pray, and then dig in. LOTS of texts to get through!

READ/PRAY (1 Tim. 6:6-19)

-I’m intentionally doing this sermon right now! We aren’t behind budget (THANK YOU!), we don’t have any major building projects right now (but as you heard this morning, we will have some big expenses coming up soon).

-Just as Micah had all sorts of caveats as he started, so I want to share with you that I hear all the comments: pastors only care about money, pastors are just trying to increase their salary, we talk about money all the time now. My salary is set! I’m not looking for a raise! I think it’s important to talk about this because Jesus talked about money more than heaven and hell combined. And I want to talk about this because I care about you and want you to experience life to the full (being obedient to God). 

-Categorized this idea into 3 questions: what is a tithe, how do you measure your growth in godliness, and where is your treasure?

-Micah: our culture has flipped gender and finances around, we act as if finances are stable and won’t change and gender is fluid, but the opposite is true. There are all sorts of stories about people who put their hope in money being disappointed at the end of their lives, one that I read in The Treasure Principle about John D. Rockefeller who at his peak controlled 2% of American GDP. His accountant was asked how much money he left behind when he died. The answer: all of it!

  1. What is a “tithe”?

-Generally when churches talk about money, they talk about what is known as a tithe. But what is that? Why don’t we just call it a giving?

-Giving appears very, very early in the Bible. After Adam & Eve are banished from Eden, Moses tells us the story of Cain and Abel’s offerings. Gen. 4:3-7. We read that one offering is accepted and the other is not. All sorts of debate about why that is, does God only accept blood? Is Cain’s not the best, aka the “firstborn”? Lots of debate and conjecture, what I want you to notice is the giving reveals the heart of the person. Can’t distinguish the gift from the giver. 

-First time the word “tithe” appears in the Bible is in everyone’s favorite book, Lev. 27:30. It’s literally just 1/10th, that’s all it means. So anytime you come across it in the Bible, just mentally replace it with one-tenth. Here we see the tithe is God’s idea. This was put in place by God to provide for His work among the people. Now, when you really think about it, how much of this is the Lord’s? Yeah, all of it! He doesn’t need us to give Him anything, He literally created it all! This is where we see that the idea of a tithe isn’t for God, as if He needed anything from us, instead tithing is a way for us to be reminded that we’re merely stewards tasked by God with managing His resources. 

-As you know, most of the OT follows the story of God’s people obeying, then disobeying leading to punishment, then being reminded of the truth they’re supposed to be living by, repenting and renewing their commitment to the Lord. In one of the periods of reform for God’s people, King Hezekiah leads the people to cut down all their idols and reestablishes the temple worship, meaning the people needed to start giving! Look at how the people responded in 2 Chron. 31:5. Later on the text says they had to go through “heaps” of the tithes the people gave to God’s work. That’s a good description of what God has provided to us: heaps of gifts! This leads us right into the next text:

-Prov. 3:9-10 here’s where this gets a little uncomfortable for us in the conservative theological stream. Isn’t this just prosperity gospel? Are we just giving to get something from God as if we can manipulate or coerce Him into fulfilling our wants/desires? Hold on to that thought, we’ll flesh it out more fully later, but this text seems to be telling us that if we are faithful in giving the “firstfruits” or the best to the Lord, He will bless us in return. But what happens if we don’t give God our best?

-Mal. 3:8-10 This seems to double down on what we saw in Proverbs! If we don’t give to God we’ll be cursed! So we have 2 options: give our tithes if we want to be blessed, or hold back our tithes if we want to be cursed. 

-There are only 2 places in the NT where tithing is discussed, leading some to argue that tithing it no longer a required practice for new covenant Christians (us), which means I just wasted 15 min of your time by talking about it! I’m going to reverse the order of these from your notes and start with Hebrews before going to Matthew.

Heb. 7:1-10 It’s a little confusing because the author is making a really big deal out of someone that Scripture doesn’t give us a lot of information about! We learn more information about Melchizedek here than we do in the OT. Once again we see that blessing comes from God because of the giving. Look at vs. 7. This is another way of saying God doesn’t need us to give Him anything, it’s already His, but by responding to His invitation by faith and reminding and demonstrating that we acknowledge His Lordship, it leads to God’s blessing of us.

-Finally, let’s look at the 1 thing Jesus said about tithing: Matt. 23:23-24. The religious leaders are called out because they’re being faithful in tithing, but forgetting to act with justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Does Jesus say they shouldn’t be tithing? No! Actually, when Jesus talks about OT ideas, He makes them even more difficult, doesn’t He? “You’ve heard it said you shall not murder, but I tell you…”

-No verse that says “all Christians must give a tithe” what you’ll find is that we’re supposed to give: generously, joyfully, and view giving as a gift.

-Have you ever thought about why God brings people from different socioeconomic backgrounds together? Even his early disciples were comprised of rich AND poor (tax collector and blue collar). I remember a few years ago stumbling across Luke 8 and feeling dumb for not noticing it before. How did Jesus survive during His ministry? People provided for Him and His disciples as they went about their ministry. 

-Friends, giving isn’t a 21st century idea. Giving isn’t done to pad the pocket of the church or the pastors. Giving is done because it’s a reminder that every good and perfect gift is from above, from a good Father in heaven who has given first to us. Then He allows us to join with Him and His body to demonstrate that His kingdom isn’t of this world. We’re not trying to build a holy huddle, but we are trying to take care of each other. 

  • How do you measure your growth in godliness?

-We talked about discipleship being your whole life the past couple months. But did you know that also includes your money? In fact, one of the best ways to determine how much you’ve grown in your godliness is by how much you’re willing to live without for the sake of your brother or sister. Why is it that we act like it’s nobody’s business what we make as well as how much we give away? If Jesus is so willing to talk about money, and money is one of the ways we determine how much we’re growing, shouldn’t we ask for help, accountability, and support with money just like other areas God is making us more holy?

-Let’s look at a few passages that talk about this, first: Matt. 6:19-21. When I first graduated from college, I got a job as a contractor in the Cities teaching new hire nurses how to use healthcare software (good use of my Bible degree). The owner of the company was very wealthy, and would regularly give me financial advice (invest in gold, start your retirement account yesterday, stuff like that). That’s not terrible advice! And taking care of your family is required for those who are believers (1 Tim. 5:8), but the goal isn’t to become materially wealthy on earth because you can’t take it with you. Notice some of the phrasing here: “lay up for yourselves.” Don’t be selfish with your money on earth because it doesn’t last, and here’s where God subverts our thinking, if we want to be wealthy for eternity, pay more attention to what kind of wealth you’re storing up for eternity! And as I mentioned about discipleship earlier, your pocketbook reveals where your heart is, or where you’re placing your ultimate hope and focus. This is a similar idea that Jesus brings up in our next passage:

-Luke 16:10-13. As your kids grow up, you get to slowly increase their responsibilities. If they prove themselves incapable of handling one step of their growth you don’t skip that step and move on to the next one, you take time to work with them on the current issue so they’re ready to handle even bigger issues as they get older. This passage tells us that’s how God is with our finances. The way we handle God’s earthly possessions is a good test of how we’ll handle God’s eternal possessions. 

-Here’s the crazy thing about this passage: Luke uses an Aramaic word in here to communicate a bigger truth about money than many of us are generally aware of, and he uses it twice in this section, vs. 11 and 13, first translated as “unrighteous wealth” and then “money.” That word is “Mammon” Often the NT writers would keep the Aramaic for names (NT written in Greek), this led the early church fathers to comment that Mammon is referring to a demonic power that seeks to use earthly possessions for power, comfort, and privilege leading to us putting our ultimate hope in Mammon, not God. And think about it: don’t many of us tend to view money through that lens? Money is what we think will guarantee comfort and ease, but what if it all disappears? Money (mammon) is a great tool and a terrible god. But with that in mind, what Jesus says here makes a lot more sense: You cannot serve God and Mammon (false god). 

-This is another way of saying money has a tendency to become an idol. We look to money (Mammon) as our sense of worth, of satisfaction, security and comfort. Those are all good things, but the only way those will ever really be solved is by God!

-One last passage for this section is the reason some of us in this room make more money than others: Rom. 12:3-8. We’ve looked at this passage before in looking at the way we all need to be using our gifts to serve each other and to function as a healthy body, but let’s pay careful attention to the list of gifts here. 

-Included are things we often think of in connection to church ministry: prophecy, service, teaching, but then what else is included in here? The one who’s gifted with contributing, or giving. Friends, the reason some people are gifted with making money is so that we can live out Acts 4:34 “there was not a needy person among them.” God knows exactly what each body needs and ensures that each body can function and be healthy., which includes giving generously. This is why, when we have a financial need we share it with you! Some of you are gifted with giving, so we’re trying to make you aware of a need. Just like we will ask for help with loving and teaching kids or joining in prayer, giving is a gift from God that we need people to be faithful in.

-This leads us to the last question:

  • Where is your treasure?

-ROI, I’m not a money guy, I know there’s some people that love spreadsheets and data, give me words! Lots and lots of words and I’m in my happy place! But let’s look at the return on investment we get by stewarding our money in a generous way.

Matt. 19:29. I’ve been told that by investing in the stock market, I can expect at least a 3% return, if you knew that you were guaranteed a 100% return, would you take it? How much of your wealth would you put in to a 100% return? Would you sell everything you had in order to put your money in this account? I would! And that’s what God offers us (in fact there’s a parable like this about a man finding an incalculable treasure in a field). Not only do we get eternal life, we also get a hundredfold return on our investment. I don’t know about you, but I would go all in on a return like that!

-Why else do we invest our money in different ways than the world? 1 Cor. 9:24-25. We’re supposed to view our lives like an athlete. I’ve been working hard on this post-athlete body for a few years now, but back in the day I was athletic! In fact, I got a prize my Senior year that I still have. But do you know where this prize is going to end up? With all the other stuff I collect throughout my life: dumpster. This has sentimental value for me, but no one else. Unlike this “perishable wreath,” I’d rather put my time and energy into my hundredfold return. 

-We have just a few more passages to look at, and these passages are more immediately applicable to us today. The norm throughout human history is that most of the world is poor, and a very small group of people is incredibly wealthy. That has changed over the previous 100ish years where there are way more wealthy people today than ever before in human history. But that means we are the wealthy ones compared to the rest of the world.

-2 Cor. 8:1-7. One of the reasons Paul went on one of his missionary journeys was to collect money for the church in Jerusalem who was experiencing persecution. This was an incredibly poor church, nothing to give, but how do they respond to a need? In their extreme poverty, they “overflowed in a wealth of generosity.”

-Isn’t it amazing how Mammon can blind us to our wealth? If any of you, like me, have had the privilege of going on mission’s trips to other parts of the world you’ve seen this happen. Those who have nothing pull out all the stops to share the best of the best with their visitors. We need those reminders regularly so we don’t become blind to the way Mammon was so influenced our lives. 

-Just as we pursue growth in other areas of our life (faith, speech, knowledge) we should also pursue growth in being foolishly generous with our money. Remember: it’s not ours, we’re mere stewards entrusted with it for a small season of time, and it serves as a test of how well we’ll handle things of eternal value. 

-Paul continues this line of thought in the next chapter. 2 Cor. 9:6-15. How big do you want your storehouse to be in heaven? If your stingy in your generosity here, God will be stingy in His reward of you in heaven.

-What is this “not reluctantly” if we’re supposed to tithe? Dear friends, unlike the OT, I can’t demand you do anything! But I do want what’s best for you, and because what’s best for you is what God has commanded, why would you sow sparingly when you’re guaranteed the best ROI you’ll ever find?

-Paul says this in vs. 11-12 too. In your generosity God will support you. I was listening to a podcast on the idea of Mammon yesterday with Andy Crouch, an author. He said they have decided as a family, to not just tithe on their regular income, but twice in the past decade they have liquated 10% of their entire assets and given it away. He said it hurts! But the joy and thanksgiving that comes out of that is worth far more than the money they’ve given away. Jesus quoted in Acts 20:35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

-And pay careful attention to the last verse here. Paul has been encouraging the Corinthians to give generously, but then who does he thank for this generosity? Not the church! He thanks God. Have you ever thought of God using, gifting, and equipping you to be ridiculously foolishly generous with the resources He’s given you?

-Paul summarizes everything we’ve been talking about in this message in another text, and our last text for the day! 1 Timothy 6:6-19. 

-He begins with a good reminder: do you want great gain? The key is godliness + contentment. This from the guy who learned the secret to being content in everything! It’s not being content with stuff, you can’t take it with you. 

-This idea continues with a verse I’m sure many of you have heard before: the love of money! But pay careful attention to the words here! Money is not THE root of all evil, it is A root of all KINDS of evil. Money itself isn’t evil. Money becoming Mammon, or your god, is where money can become evil. Putting money above everything else is how you can end up wandering away from the faith.

-As if that’s not enough, there’s this last exhortation to us. Remember, we’re the rich in this present age! We have food and cars. We had some delicious donuts as a snack this morning. That’s not wrong, but we need to make sure that we’re careful and faithful stewards! So let’s read this last verses carefully. 

-Don’t be haughty, full of yourself, expecting special treatment because you have money. Riches will fail you either here or in heaven. Instead, put your hope, trust, and confidence in God who does richly provide us with everything (and often it’s through each other!)

-Additionally, we should do good, be rich in good works (be kind, considerate, look for ways to help and serve others), do all of this generously, and be ready to come alongside and share. That’s how you make deposits into your heavenly retirement account! And don’t stop doing it! It’s going to be much better for you to spend your money on bring foolishly generous with your money now because you don’t know how long it’s going to last.

-If someone got a hold of you bank statement, or credit card account, would you be proud or embarrassed about how you’re spending your money?

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