Summary: A sermon on giving

Why Give?

Matthew 6:19-24

Bob Doyle tells the story of overhearing a father and daughter in their last moments together at the airport. They had announced the departure. Standing near the security gate, they hugged and the Father said, 'I love you, and I wish you enough.' The daughter replied, 'Dad, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too.' They kissed and the daughter left. The father went through security and over to the window where he was seated. Standing there he could see the old man wanted and needed to cry. Bob tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed him in by asking, 'Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?' 'Yes, I have,' he replied. 'Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?'. 'I am old, and she lives so far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is - the next trip back will be for my funeral,' he said. 'When you were saying good-bye, I heard you say, 'I wish you enough.' May I ask what that means?' He began to smile. 'That's a wish that has been handed down from my parents. They said it to everyone.' He paused a moment, looked up, smiled and continued, 'When we said, 'I wish you enough,' we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with just enough good things to sustain them.'

And that is what God wants for us as well. In fact, that’s God’s promise. So why should we give? First, God provides for our every need. Last week, we looked at the question of “Why Trust’ in God? We looked at Matthew 6:25-34 which says in part, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life….Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Jesus went on to encourage us not to worry about clothing or food either because we are God’s children and God will provide for our every need. When we can trust God in his promises, including his promises to provide for our needs, it opens our hearts to giving and stepping out in faith, even when it may appear that we don’t have it to give.

Second, we give because God owns it all. "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." Ps. 24:1 When Giovanna was working for Channel 38, they had a suite at the Saints game. In the suites people spend time sitting in the seats watching the game and time sitting inside the suite on the couches provided. I got into a conversation with Giovanna’s boss at the time. Steve was a man of the world, who worked hard, played hard and drank hard. We got to talking about money and I mentioned that I tithed. Steve asked what that was and I said it’s the first 10% you make which you give back to God. He asked why and I said it was based on the understanding that everything I make and everything I have is God’s. He created everything and He owns everything, I’m just a caretaker. The things I earned, I did so because God not only gave me the opportunity for the education and the job, but the gifts and abilities as well. And a hush came over Steve and I saw the wheels turning in his mind and finally he said, “I never thought about it that way.” Many of us have never gotten to the point of knowing and accepting that God owns it all. But everything is His, and he has asked us to manage it. All of us have been blessed, some more than others. That blessing did not come from your hand. It comes from the hand of God. The fact is it makes all the difference in the world when you realize you’re handing someone else’s money.

Third, God calls for the tithe. God said in Malachi, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house." Many people think the tithe means giving, rather it means tenth. To tithe is to give back to God your first 10% of what you earn for the God’s purposes and His Kingdom. If I bring $20 out of every $1000 I earn, that’s not a tithe. It’s $20. A tithe is 10%. Why does God need food in his house? Well, how's he going to feed the needy in the community? How is he going to take the Gospel to people who have never heard it? How will children discover the good news of Jesus? It happens as we bring the food, our financial resources, to the storehouse. Being faithful has nothing to do with how much or how little you have, it’s a matter of what you do with that which has been entrusted to you.

Fourth, God should be first in our life. It’s really easy with the multiple priorities we have in life to try to separate the spiritual from material. The fact is, we can’t. To this end, Jesus says, you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is. You can’t separate what you profess from what you actually posses in your life. What you believe, you have to be. What’s most valuable to you? One way to answer that question is to look at your calendar. There are a lot of things we believe in that we would love to have on our daily schedules, but we can’t find the time for. For example, how many of you believe in healthy eating and exercise? How many of you, however, failed to find time for exercise this week? I made it to the gym 5 days this week. No matter how busy or tired I am or even if I’m travelling or on vacation, I find time to work out. If you really believe it or value it, you’ll find time to place that in your schedule, no matter what. What about Scripture reading? Only 19% of Americans read the Bible every day yet more than 60% would like to do so but say they’re greatest hurdle is time. Every day this week, I started my day in the word of God. I get to the office before anyone else and that’s the first thing I do. No matter how busy I am, I have time to place that in my schedule. Another way to expose your priorities is to look at your possessions. If you invited me into your home today and allowed me to go through your garage, closets and drawers, I would get a pretty good sense of what you value. A third way to see your priorities is through your spending. How you spend your money reveals your true life priorities. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you’ll hate the one and love the other or you’ll be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 5:20 Whoa! Isn’t it our nature to want our cake and eat it too? We want it both ways. But you can’t. Here’s the other thing how you spend your money reveals: your true faith, what or who you really trust.

Now what Jesus is doing is showing us the contrast between our religion and true faith. They aren’t the same thing. Religion is kind of the mixture of scriptural truth and cultural values. Have any of you been to Haiti? The first time I went to Haiti a couple of years ago. We started rebuilding one of the churches which had to be torn down due to earthquake damage. On my first day, I was looking out the back window frame of the church and there five feet from the church was the voodoo sacrificial area. And on the construction crew was the actual voodoo priest. I was shocked to see how they blend Christianity and voodoo. But in reality, it’s like oil and water. How do you mix the devil and Jesus? It doesn’t go together. In America, what we’ve done is mix Christianity and secular materialism. On one hand, we hold up the Word and we believe in the values of God, but on the other hand, we place our faith or trust in the pursuit of things. Like we’re going to find life and meaning in things, or in money.

In Matthew 6:22, Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body.” Literally, that means window. The old-fashioned oil lamps have the glass covering over it. The glass covering is the lamp part of the oil lamp. The verse continues, “If your eyes are healthy,” it’s saying if right focus in life, “your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness.” The focus of your life passion is your desire. Desire is king. Whatever you focus on, whatever you truly desire in your life, you become. The word says “as a person thinks within themselves, so they become.” Your desire determines what you will be. So what do you desire the most? It’s important when we think about life focus to distinguish the difference between life interests or kingdom passions. I’ve had a lot of interests throughout my life: football, golf, girls, sand volleyball, my home. But interests change. Life passion stay the same. Look at Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness and all of this other stuff will be added to you as well.” The Kingdom of God is the purpose of God, the presence of God, and the work of God on earth We often invert the order; we pursue life interests thinking that when we get that settled, we’ll focus on Kingdom passions, Kingdom’s desires. When Jesus was speaking to the Rich Young Man with many possessions, he was saying that the passions we have for the things we own can get in the way of God’s purpose for our life. That’s why we need to seek first the Kingdom of God and God then will take care of the rest.

Fifth, we give to serve Jesus’ purposes. What are God’s purposes? To save the lost and to serve the poor. Jesus’ last command is to “Go forth and make disciples…” Jesus mission is summarized when he read from Isaiah in the synagogue: “I have come to preach good news to the poor.” To do either of those, it takes an offering. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus says, “But you should not only have tithed, you should have given attention to the weightier matters of the law which are justice and mercy and faithfulness.” Justice, mercy, and faithfulness are about what we are doing to, for and on behalf of others. If you want to know what’s closest to God’s heart: it’s the lost and the poor. The reason we give is not to build big sanctuaries or even to have wonderful ministries here at church. That’s not mission; that’s self-care. The reason we give is to take the good news to the least, the lost and the oppressed and minister to the needy. It’s not about us. And it’s not about how much or how little you have, it’s a matter of what you do with that which has been entrusted to you.

Sixth, we give because it blesses us. For “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6 Paul goes on to say, 2 Corinthians 9:8, “God is able to bless you abundantly so that in all things, in all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work.” God is able to bless me abundantly in all things - not just spiritual things - but in all things and at all times. The late Danny Thomas lost his life savings of $600.00 at a time when he was out of work. He and his wife, Rosie, had a baby on the way, and they needed money. Danny worked at part-time jobs so Rosie could buy groceries. He also borrowed money from friends. It was a tough time in his life. A week before the baby was born, Danny had the grand total of $7.85 to his name. What would he do? "My despair led me to my first exposure to the powers of faith," On Sunday morning Danny went to church. When the offering plate was passed, he put in his "usual one dollar." But something unexpected happened that day. A special missions offering was taken. The priest explained where the mission offering would go, and Danny felt he had to give something. "I got carried away," Danny said, "and ended up giving my seven dollars." He had given away all his money that Sunday. What in the world had he done? He walked up to the altar rail, got on his knees and prayed aloud. "Look, I’ve given my last seven bucks," he prayed. "I need it back tenfold because I’ve got a kid on the way, and I have to pay the hospital bill." The next morning, the phone rang in the rooming house hall. It was a job offer for a part in a commercial. The job wasn’t much but the pay was good--$75. "I literally dropped the telephone receiver," Danny remembered. "First I whooped with joy; then an eerie feeling came over me." He remembered what he had prayed at church the day before. "The $75 fee," he said, "unheard of for me at that time was almost exactly ten times the amount of money I had donated to the church."