Deron Smith of Springfield, Missouri, is one of many believers around the world who observes Lent, which starts this Wednesday. Not too long ago, he and his wife sat at the dinner table with their three daughters, ages 6, 8, and 11, and attempted to explain what Lent was all about.
As part of that explanation, he said, “Some people like to show they are thinking about what Jesus gave up for us [on the cross] by giving up something they think has become too important to them, like their computers or coffee or dessert or meat or television. It doesn't make God love us more; it just makes us more open to God and less cluttered with our own junk.”
Then he told his girls, “Your mom and I are going to give up all desserts until Easter. We want you girls to think of what you could give up, something that means a lot to you.”
Their oldest daughter, following her parents’ lead, said, “I will give up sweets.”
“Me, too,” their middle daughter chimed in.
However, their youngest daughter wasn’t very quick with an answer. Her six-year-old mind was working the angles. Finally, she decided and confidently said, “I want to give up consequences!” (Deron Smith, Springfield, Missouri; www.PreachingToday.com)
Wouldn’t we all like to give up consequences? But, alas, that is impossible.
To be sure, Christ sets believers free from the law of sin and death. That means you are free to serve one another; you are free to live by the Spirit, and you are free to truly love one another. These are things you could not do before Christ set you free. You are truly free to do so much more than you ever thought possible!
But that does not mean you are free from the consequences of your own actions. And that is especially true when it comes to the way you use your money. If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Galatians 6, Galatians 6, where the Bible tells you how best to use your money to give you a good return on your investment.
Galatians 6:6 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. (ESV)
Do you want to use your money in the best way possible? Then…
Give some of it to those who have taught you God’s word.
There is a special relationship that develops between a pastor and his people. There is a special relationship that develops between a teacher and his or her students, especially when it’s the Word of God being taught.
It’s a relationship in which teacher and student share with each other. Now, the word for “share” in this passage comes from the Greek word koinoneo, from which we get our word “fellowship. It literally means to hold things in common, or as it is translated here, “to share.”
In other words, I’m not here to do a job for pay, no. You have invited me as your pastor to share our lives together, to share in ministry together, and to share what we have with each other. I share the Word of God. You share “all good things” with your pastor.
And we share voluntarily. We share willingly. We share not because we have to by law. We share because we want to out of love.
What we have here is not a contractual relationship between employer and employee. We have a covenant relationship between brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s a joy, not a job, for me to be your pastor and to teach you the Word of God. I mean there are days when I can’t believe you pay me to do what I enjoy doing so much! And I’m sure it’s a joy for you to take care of your pastor, to make sure he has enough to eat and provide for his family as we work together to reach this community for Christ.
We don’t tax you for religious services like they did in Bible days. Then, the Jews were required to pay 10% of their earnings to support the priests, and the Gentiles paid set fees for religious services. They were both in bondage to their religious systems. They had to pay their teachers, because that was the law.
But now that Christ has set you free from the law, you don’t “pay” your teachers to do a job, no. You “share all good things” with them, because they share the Word of God with you.
Does that mean your teachers get less? No. Many times, it means they get more, because of the relationship you share with them, which is always stronger than any requirement or regulation.
Pastor Ken Shigematsu in British Columbia, Canada, talks about his wife's pet chipmunk named Forte:
His wife Saiko, who often takes in abandoned animals, once took in a wild chipmunk. The chipmunk had been the runt of the litter and the veterinarian had said it would probably only survive for a few days. However, Saiko named him Forte—with the hope that he would grow strong. Well, he not only survived, but he began to thrive.
When Sakiko came back to her apartment in the evening after work, Forte would wake up and run excitedly around her apartment doing figure eights. Or if Sakiko was working on her computer at home, he would scamper up and down the keyboard, pressing on random characters. She noticed that Forte would take his most treasured possessions—his walnuts—and place them where he slept. Apparently, this was a kind of hibernation instinct for him. But as his relationship with Sakiko developed, he began to take half his walnuts and put them under her pillow. He somehow came to understand that Sakiko was the one who provided for him and was his family. So out of gratitude, he wanted to share with her what he had so freely been given. (Ken Shigematsu, British Columbia, Canada; www.PreachingToday.com)
That’s like our relationship with the Lord and each other. Out of gratitude, we share what we have so freely been given. Those who are under the law give the bare minimum, and they do it grudgingly. Who wants to pay more taxes than they have to? But those who are free give as much as they can, and they do it gratefully.
The best way to use your money is to share as much as you can. Then you…
GET SOMETHING BACK.
You collect a return on your investment. You gain so much more than you ever give.
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. (ESV)
If you sow corn, you reap corn. If you sow wheat, you reap wheat.
Galatians 6:8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (ESV)
“Whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” It’s a principle of life, and in this context, the Apostle Paul applies it to our sharing of “all good things.” Specifically, he’s taking about MONEY here. How do I know that? Because in the only other place he uses this same metaphor, he is encouraging people to give MONEY to the poor.
In 2 Corinthians 8-9, Paul is taking up a collection for the poor believers in Jerusalem, and there he encourages them to be generous. Then he tells them, “The point is this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6).
In 2 Corinthians 9, he is talking about HOW MUCH money you give. Here, in Galatians 6, he is talking about WHERE you put your money. And since he is talking to farmers, he uses the farming metaphor of sowing and reaping. If he were talking to businessmen, he would probably say, “Where you invest your money determines the kind of return you will get on your investment.”
As believers in Christ, you are free to spend your money any way you want. You can spend it on yourself, or you can spend it on others.
But know this: if you choose to spend your money on yourself, it will ruin you in the end. That’s what the Bible means when it says in verse 8, “The one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption.” If you spend your money to satisfy your fleshly desires, you will be ruined; you will become corrupt.
Right after I graduated from seminary (1985), I candidated in a church that did not “share all good things” with their pastor. They didn’t need to. He was independently wealthy; and because of that, he had refused to accept any salary from the church. He had planted that church in Baltimore 40 years previously, and he was getting ready to retire.
When I met with the men of this small, struggling evangelical congregation, I saw no spiritual vitality. They didn’t even know what they believed. A daughter of one of the couples in the church was a missionary the church helped to support along with her husband, and they were home on furlough. She told me she was not even sure her parents were believers.
Think of it. Forty years of preaching and teaching, and no one could tell whether or not the church members were believers. No doubt, there were several reasons for this, but I believe a primary reason was the pastor. He crippled his congregation by not accepting a salary. They didn’t have to invest their money in spiritual things, so they spent it on themselves and reaped ruination. Not long after that, the church died.
If you spend your money on yourself, it will destroy you in the end; but if you spend your money on spiritual things, you get a return on our investment that lasts forever. Verse 8 says, “The one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” When you spend your money on things of the Spirit, like good Bible teaching, you reap eternal rewards!
Roger Babson put it this way a long time ago: $1 spent for lunch lasts 5 hours; $1 spent for a necktie lasts 5 weeks; $1 spent for a cap lasts 5 months; $1 spent for a car lasts 5 years; $1 spent for a railroad lasts 5 decades; $1 spent for God’s service lasts for eternity.
Where are you spending your money? On yourself or on things of the Spirit? That might explain the vitality (or lack thereof) in your own spiritual life. Jesus himself said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
A grandfather was talking to his grandson. “Grandson,” he said, “there are two wolves living in my heart and they are at war with each other. One is vicious and cruel; the other is wise and kind.”
“Grandfather,” said the alarmed grandson, “which one will win?”
The grandfather paused before he said, “The one I feed.” (Author unknown; www.PreachingToday.com)
If you feed the flesh, it will viciously devour and destroy you. But if you feed the Spirit, His wise and kind ways will prevail in your life. In other words, if you invest time and money in things of the flesh, your life will be ruined. But if you invest time and money in things of the Holy Spirit, you will grow spiritually.
But this is no magic pill. You can’t put $100 in the offering plate today and expect to be a spiritual giant tomorrow. No. If you want to see any real benefits to your giving, then you must persevere in your generosity.
Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good” – literally, of doing THE good – I.e., the good talked about in verse 6, the good of “sharing all good things” with the teacher of God’s Word.
Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (ESV)
Don’t be discouraged. You WILL see results – you WILL reap a harvest; there WILL be a return on your investment, if you don’t quit.
How many of you have a can of WD-40 (display) sitting around your house somewhere? Do you know what the “WD” stands for. It stands for “water displacement.” And the 40 refers to how many times they tried to develop an effective formula. They failed 39 times, but succeeded on the 40th try. (Ted De Hass, Bedford, Iowa; www.PreachingToday.com)
The point is, don't give up. Don't quit when you are tired. Don't quit when you fail. Don't quit when you meet obstacles. Continue to invest your time and money in spiritual things, and you will eventually see lasting, spiritual results.
In the early 1900's a young man named Otto Rohwedder overheard a woman complaining about the need to slice her bread. It was a common complaint in the day, because the task was burdensome, time-consuming, and sometimes hazardous. Otto Rohwedder began to think, “What if there was a machine for bakers to pre-slice bread?
In fact, the thought so captured him that he sold his jewelry business and began a long, painful journey to bring his invention to life. In 1916, he built his first prototype of a bread slicing machine in an abandoned warehouse outside of town. That prototype failed, so Rohwedder retired to his warehouse and feverishly sketched hundreds of blueprints. A year later, in 1917, a fire broke out and all his blueprints, along with previous years of hard work, were burned to ash.
It took him ten years to build a new and improved bread slicing machine. Unfortunately, in 1927, nobody showed any interest in his 5-by-3 foot monstrosity. Finally, a friend invested a considerable amount of money in the project, and on July 7, 1928, the first loaf of commercially sliced bread was sold.
A newspaper ad claimed that the sliced bread was “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped” – a phrase which eventually morphed into our current expression, “the greatest thing since sliced bread.”
Sales of the sliced bread took off; and in late 1930, a New York-based company used Rohwedder's machines to build an entire business around sliced bread. That company called their product, “Wonder Bread”, and it is still being sold today. (Zachary Crockett, "The Invention of Sliced Bread," Priceonomics blog, 11-12-14; www. PreachingToday.com)
The next time you see or use some sliced bread, think about the decades Otto Rohwedder spent toiling in his workshop, bringing bread to the world – one slice at a time. Good things happen to those who persevere, so don’t quit. Don’t be discouraged by set-backs and failures. In due time, you will see the results of your generosity if you don’t give up.
The best way to use your money is to share it, getting a return on your investment, and then…
SHARE IT SOME MORE.
Keep passing it on as God grows your generosity. Keep on giving as God gives you opportunity.
Galatians 6:10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (ESV)
Our first priority should be the church, “those who are of the household of faith”; but we should be generous with “everyone” as God directs by giving us opportunity.
Vance is an African American living in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood, so he stands out. But what really sets Vance apart is that he is a servant-hearted father who cares not only for his own kids, but also for the many other kids who play in the streets by his building.
One night at 9 p.m., there was a knock at Vance's door. The 16-year-old boy who lives a few doors down needed help tying his tie. He had a big presentation at school the next day, and he had no father to help him get ready. After Vance had finished tying the tie, the boy sheepishly asked, “Do you have a pair of black dress shoes I could borrow?”
Immediately, the Spirit brought to Vance's mind the $60 pair of shoes in his closet that he hadn't even taken out of the box yet. He was certain God was telling him to give the boy those shoes.
Vance cringed inside. He told the boy to wait at the door as he headed into the apartment to look for any pair of shoes but the expensive pair. Before he went to the closet, though, he told his wife what he sensed the Spirit was saying to him. She agreed that it sounded like God had given him a great idea. So Vance got out his new shoes and brought them to the boy. His last hope was that they wouldn't fit. After all, how many 16-year-olds have size-12 feet?
They fit perfectly.
Just a few weeks after Vance gave away his new shoes, he and his wife sensed God telling them to start a Bible study for the kids in their building. After much prayer, they decided to invite the kids to their apartment for a Sunday evening study. They ordered four Bibles in case any kids came. That Sunday, seven kids showed up at Vance's apartment—led by the 16-year-old owner of a new pair of shoes. The following week they ordered more Bibles, and 14 kids showed up!
Who would have thought the kingdom of God would come to the kids of that apartment complex just because one man chose to give away a new pair of shoes? (Bill White, Paramount, California; www.PreachingToday.com)
What is God asking you to share today? And to whom?
Do you want to use your money in the best way possible? Then share, gain and share some more, so that the Kingdom of God can be expanded in this place and around the world.
However, don’t give, because you have to – you don’t. You are not under law. Instead, give, because you want to, because God has already given so freely to you. Freely, freely, you have received. Freely, freely give.