Summary: We are called to give what we have, but we must make sure that what we have is the right stuff.
Giving the Right Stuff
Intro: As we look at the background of this passage, Peter and John were together again. They had done a lot together when Jesus was around. When Jesus sent the disciples out two by two, there is a good chance that Peter and John were paired together. Now they are on their way to the temple to pray. Even though Jesus the Messiah had come and provided salvation, these early believers were still Jews who worshipped at the temple. Jewish historians tell us that people came to the temple to pray during the time the sacrifices were offered (9AM & 3PM), and then they came to say prayers again at sunset. As Peter and John arrived at the east side of the temple at the Beautiful gate, they encountered the lame man. This gate was made of Corinthian bronze, which was shiny and was more valuable than the gates plated with silver and set in gold. Being on the east side of the temple, this gate may have received its name, Beautiful, from the way the sunrise illuminated it with the beautiful brilliant rays of the morning sun. Little did this crippled man know that something more beautiful than the shiny gate Beautiful would shine into his life that day. Peter did not have what the beggar thought was needed; he had something 1000 times better, and he did not hesitate to give it away. Here is the heart of the message today:
Prop: We are called to give what we have, but we must make sure that what we have is the right stuff.
Interrogative: How can we share the right stuff with those in need?
TS: We are going unwrap 3 ideas today that will help us give the right stuff.
I. Earthly Riches Produce Diminishing Returns
-In terms of money, it’s not how much you have that matters; it is how you use what you have. Having less does not excuse you from good stewardship. The Bible says if you are faithful with a little, God will entrust you with more. If you are unfaithful with a little, the little you have will be taken away and given to someone who can be trusted with it. Many people dream about winning a load of money and think that they could do so much good if they only had lots of money. However, “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). Faithfulness and contentment with what you have appears to be the Biblical model. Do what you can, and let God do what only He can. God wants to bless His people financially, but He will generally not do so until He sees that we can be trusted to manage His resources wisely and share them with those in genuine need.
-Having said this, we also need to recognize that money is often not what will help meet a person’s need. Peter did not stop and wring his hands and say, “Oh I wish I had more money so I could help this poor beggar.” Keep in mind, the money that people brought to the apostles was not theirs to keep. It was the Lord’s money, and they used it to help the needy among them. Could Peter have accessed some of that money to bless this poor man with? I think so. He could have talked it over with John and the other apostles and I’m sure they would have been willing to help this poor crippled man out. However, he was not distracted by the man’s request, because he knew there was something available that was far greater than any amount of money. We will talk about that in a moment, but for now I want us to see that the lack of money does not limit God from working in and through our lives. We could spend thousands of dollars on this church building (and we hope to do so one of these days); however, that money in and of itself will not bring anyone closer to knowing Jesus. Money is not evil; in fact, it is quite useful, but it can never be a substitute for the presence & power of God at work in our lives.
-In economics, the law of diminishing returns implies that beyond a certain point, additional investment in a given venture produces less and less of a return. I think that may be true to a large extent in our own pursuit of worldly wealth. We need a certain amount just to live on, but if we put too much of ourselves into the pursuit of money, we may wake up one day and realize that it wasn’t worth what we traded for it. In Mark 8:36 Jesus asks, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” There are diminishing returns on the pursuit of worldly riches. There are also diminishing returns on giving money away to an individual.