Summary: Part two of a two part series on Godly X-Factors that make the equations of our life make sense.
The X-Factor - Week 2
A little girl became restless in church as the preacher’s sermon past the 15 minute mark. Finally, she leaned over to her mother and whispered, "Mommy, if we give him the money now, will he let us go?" Someone once said, “We all would like the reputation of being generous, but we’d like to buy it real cheap.”
Today we come to our second “X-Factor:” giving generously. As I begin I want us to be sure to understand two basic Scriptural principles. (1) Everything you have ever had, or have, or ever will have belongs to God. This is the principle of ownership. The Bible repeatedly tells us that we are only managers of God’s stuff. Psa. 24:1 - “The earth and everything it contains are God’s. The world and all who live in it are his.”(GW) You see, the Bible teaches that my things are really not my things. They are all owned by God and just given to me to use. (2) God never said, wealth is evil. He never says having things is a sin. But He does want us to recognize the principle of stewardship. We saw last week that the Bible does say: “The love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil.” (2Tim. 6:10 - NLT) Not money itself, but the love of it. So, the question this morning is not, “how much wealth or how many things do I have” but rather “how am I using what I have?” Since everything belongs to God and I have a responsibility, as any renter or borrower would, to use His stuff in a way that pleases Him. And one of the things God insists on is that we are generous people. So, today let’s look at God’s expectation for us as managers and givers.
Now, I understand a message like this can be uncomfortable. Many in our culture think all the church “wants is my money.” And certainly there have been churches and ministries that have been guilty of greed, mismanagement and even extortion. That is not true of Discovery. We do not harp on money here. We keep our finances open for anyone to see and we make a point not to preach on it specifically but once a year. We even tell our first time visitors that they are not expected to give. But on the other hand, to totally disregard this topic would not be very “Jesus-like.”
Jesus discussed money and possessions in 1/3 of His stories that are called parables. He talked about this topic more than He did prayer, heaven, hell or baptism. Why? Because He knew that the greatest rival God has for our affection is what we have. So, this morning I want us to look at some words of man who in life experienced wealth and poverty. His words in 2 Corinthians give us a great gauge on this concept of generosity. I want us all to understand, both those who have a relationship to Christ and those who are seeking Him, that the way to handle our possessions not only helps us in the next life, as we discussed last week, but in X-Change for our generosity we find true peace and contentment in this one. Remember, these words are here to help us not milk us.
I. THE INSTRUCTIONS IN GIVING:
First, let’s discuss the instructions for giving. The key verse in this text is vs:7. And the key word in that key verse is the word "give." "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give.." Giving is expected but God is more concerned with the attitude of giving than He is the amount. Not that the amount is of no concern, because what you give and what you give to, tells a lot about why you give.
A lot of folks, unfamiliar with the Biblical principle of stewardship, that we are managers of what God has given us, have a very different perspective and principle on giving. You see, the world’s view is: Accumulate as much as possible, invest as much as you can and then indulge yourself with what you’ve made. But God’s advice starts at a totally different level, He says: Examine what you’ve earned, knowing it all comes from Him, then give back to God first, and live on the rest.
And that is one of the greatest differences between the world’s idea and God’s about giving.. when you give. The world tells us to earn and then give out of that which you have left over. The Bible tells us to first give and then live off of the amount remaining. In the O.T. this principle was called "first fruits." The Jewish person living in Old Testament days knew that the first 10% belonged to God. Ex. 23:16-19 told the Israelites that the first of the harvest, the first of the flock, the first of the spoils of battle belonged to God. And when you think about it, isn’t that how God has given to us? 1 Cor. 15:20-23 tells us that Jesus was the first fruits of God, that His raising from the dead was the first to tell us that we can live forever too. When we apply this “first fruit” principle to our lives it is a demonstration that we trust God to provide. What faith does it take to give God out of the left overs?