Summary: God rewards those who trust him enough to invest in his kingdom.
You work hard for your money. Why would you give it away? Jerry Lewis hosts an annual telethon to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Last year 63 million dollars was pledged—a significant amount, no doubt. Still, however, on a per gift basis, neither guilt nor warm feelings produced drastic generosity, at least not like it was in the New Testament church.
We are studying Acts 2 to see a dynamic church in action. I chose the word, “dynamic” because of its two-fold meaning: both alive and active. A dynamic church is spiritually alive, not merely going through the motions, but living out their faith in God, growing in love for him and his people, and increasing in knowledge of the Scriptures. And, the dynamic church is active: their life results in ministry. They do not “sit, soak, and sour,” but bear fruit in the kingdom of God.
There is both edification—the people inside the church are built up, and there is outreach, evangelism and works of mercy—so that folks outside the church benefit from the light and salt of those who walk with Jesus.
This dynamic church in Acts 2 devoted themselves to certain things: to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Today we begin to consider some of the effects of their devotion, specifically a passion to invest financially in the lives of fellow believers and the work of the kingdom of God. Acts 2.44-45 informs us that: “all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
For us to explore beyond the mere report of their generosity and investigate the motives behind such behavior, we are turning in God’s word to 1Timothy 6. [Read 1Timothy 6.6-19. Pray.]
According to Forbes Magazine, Warren Buffet is the wealthiest man on earth, with a net worth of $62 billion. If you compare his net worth to our nation’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product), however, his relative wealth is less than half of what John D. Rockefeller had when he died. Rockefeller’s $1.4 billion was about 1.5% of the United States GDP; Buffet’s wealth is less than 1% of our country’s GDP.
So the story told that John D. Rockefeller was once asked, “What is the secret for becoming wealthy?” Rockefeller responded: “There are three simple rules for anyone who wants to become rich: 1) Go to work early. 2) Stay at work late. 3) Find oil on your land. Probably good advice, today even more so than in the 1870s when Rockefeller’s Standard Oil created a monopoly out of its headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio.
But I’m not here, this morning, to tell you how to fatten your wallet. In fact, I want to help you lighten it—to learn generosity. But generosity with a twist; I want your gain to be greater than Rockefeller’s. I’m offering you an investment plan that cannot lose. My goal is to help us lay up more treasures that Gates and Buffett and Steve Jobs can imagine. If you are a Christian, then your Father’s wealth is beyond measure, for “the world and its fullness are [his]” (Psalm 50.12). I want us to lay hold of the “riches of his glorious inheritance,” which are ours as daughters and sons of the King.
1. Faith in God Demands that We Seek Personal Gain (1Timothy 6.6-8)
As you probably know, there are many religious hucksters in TV land seeking to profit from the sale of religion. This does not surprise us; it merely illustrates the truth of the Bible’s teaching about mankind’s sinfulness. Nor is this new. The context for God’s teaching about wealth and contentment here in 1Timothy 6 is the young pastor, Timothy, facing the exact same problem. They did not have television, but they had slick sales-preachers who (according to verse 5) used godliness as a means of gain.
So we might expect the instruction for this young pastor to run along these lines: “Timothy, you must teach your people that Christians do not live for gain. Christians do what is right for its own sake. Preach the profit motive out of their minds; because a desire for personal gain is worldly.” That is not what the Bible teaches. Instead of quashing our desire for personal gain, God asks why we are satisfied with so little.
C. S. Lewis describes this beautifully in Weight of Glory: “If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”