Summary: 4 principles that can make holidays something special.


November 20, 2005

Pastor Brian Matherlee

Matthew 25:31-46

Video Introduction, “Be Thankful” from Sermonspice

Video scene is set in a kitchen where people come and go by themselves and we hear their thoughts. Each one is complaining about something someone has done or what they have to do for others or even God. It closes with words appearing on the screen that tell us what we can be thankful for.

Thanksgiving is the beginning of an important time of year. This time of year brings out the best and worst of people. Generosity seems to peak during the winter months. People give to the Salvation Army and shelters. They pack toys into shoe boxes and send them to a 3rd world country. They buy gifts and send cards, bake bread and cookies to give to their neighbors. But they also wrack up more debt than at any other time of the year.

• The average American has four major credit cards with an average total credit card debt of $9,000.00.

Now, add to that those that a sucked into the minimum payment plan scheme and you have a recipe for financial disaster. Did you know that if you have a balance of $3,900 and you pay the 3% minimum it will take you nearly 42 years to pay off the debt, and those monthly payments would total $14,530.44.

Cicero said, “Thankfulness is the foundation for all other virtues.”

• Fanny Crosby, the great hymn writer of 8,000 plus hymns in the last half of the 19th Century used to describe herself as "the happiest woman on earth" , though blind since she was six weeks old. She wrote 17 hymns included in our hymnal including, “To God Be The Glory” and “Blessed Assurance”.

Thanksgiving has for years been overshadowed by shopping, football and food. And Christmas grows more commercial every year. Next week Advent begins. Advent season covers the four Sundays prior to Christmas and therefore with Christmas being on Sunday this year—Advent this year is the longest.

How can we observe this season of the year in a meaningful way? Let’s look at a story Jesus told in Matthew 25 to discover 4 principles and then make 4 applications of truth.

Four Principles:

1. Give simply

a. Food for the hungry

b. Drink for the thirsty

c. Compassion for the down & out (stranger, prisoner, sick)

d. Clothing

2. Give to what touches you

a. The sheep who were commended had no idea that they were doing something extraordinary in the eyes of Jesus, they simply were acting on the things they saw.

b. Keep your eyes open.

• If we could shrink the earth’s population to a village of one hundred people; here’s the way the world would look:

There would be 57 Asians, 21 Europeans, 14 from the Western Hemisphere, and 8 Africans.

50 would suffer from malnutrition and one would be near death. Only one would have a college education, and only one would own a computer.

80 would live in substandard housing.

70 would be unable to read.

6 would possess 59% of the world’s wealth and all 6 would be from North America.

We attend church without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death. We are better off than 3 billion people in this regard.

We have money in the bank and spare change in a dish, food in the refrigerator, clothes on our backs, and a roof over our heads. We are richer than 75% of this world.

3. Give unselfishly

a. Jesus tells them that they gave to “the least”.

b. These people had no means to repay; they were in a vulnerable position.

c. If you have never been in need you cannot possibly imagine the feeling of those who are truly in need by their own fault or by no fault of their own.

4. Give—because that is who you are!

a. Verse 34 tells us that people act out of who they really are.

b. Verse 46 says, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” We are rewarded according to who we are.

The Application of Truth

1. Fight greed aggressively

• In his book, Jumping Hurdles, Hitting Glitches, Overcoming Setbacks, Steve Brown writes,

“The most unhappy person in the world is not someone who didn’t get what he or she wanted. The most unhappy person is the one who got what he or she wanted and then found out that it wasn’t as wonderful as expected. The secret of a happy life is not to get what you want but to live with what you’ve got. Most of us spend our lives concentrating on what we don’t have instead of thanking God for what we do have. Then we wake up, our life is over, and we missed the beauty of the present. You think about that.”

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