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Money Matters: Giving in Light of the Gospel

Matt Carter    /    Aug 03, 2008

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Matt Carter teaches on Ephesians 1:3

Series: Money Matters

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Sermon Transcript

Throughout this series, we’ve seen three separate responses to our discussion of money, finances and giving. There are a handful of people where God is birthing inside of them a God-sized vision for their finances, a vision of using their money as a tool to expand the kingdom of God. People are realizing they may not be able to lead worship or preach, but they can use their money to truly impact the kingdom in a radical way. Another group of people have responded anywhere from complete skepticism for why we would talk about money to being downright venomous. The third group has been listening, processing and then coming back with some great questions. They understand God is asking them to give a portion of their income for His name, glory and kingdom, but they’re asking whether to give from the gross or net of their income. College students without an income are asking what they can do. Ultimately, these questions come down to one. 

 

How much do I give to God? 

 

The Old Testament seems to be asking and answering that same question. We learned last week that God gives a straightforward answer: a tithe, one tenth. 

 

However, the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus don’t answer that question as precisely as the Old Testament does. Jesus did affirm the tithe, but then He moves past it and challenges us to consider weightier issues such as justice, mercy and faithfulness. 

 

Actually, the New Testament asks a completely different question. It’s not asking how much do we give to God. But rather…

 

How much do we dare keep for ourselves?

 

An Example

 

I want to share our financial situation to show you we’re also struggling and wrestling with the question of whether we’re doing enough in light of Jesus’ teachings.

 

I give 10% of my gross income to the Austin Stone. Scripture never says you have to give your money to the church. It alludes to the idea in the Old Testament and the New Testament church did. But scripture never says you have to give your money to the local body of the church. But I do. 

 

I love the church. I believe the local church is the hope of the world. I don’t believe the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, John McCain or Barack Obama are the hope of the world. The local church, through believers empowered by the Holy Spirit, is the hope of the world. Not only that, but I believe in this church, in you. In our elders. In our staff. It is an absolute positive joy to write a check every two weeks to this church.

 

I also give about 2-3% to Compassion International, a couple of missionaries and a portion to homeless people. Overall, I give about 12% to the kingdom of God.

 

But I’m wrestling with this. You might think 12% is healthy and good. But look at the life of JC Penney, who gave 90% of his wealth away, living on only 10%, or Mother Teresa who gave everything away to minister to the poor and needy of Calcutta, or John Piper who could be a multi-millionaire with the amount of books he’s sold, yet lives more modestly than most of us in this room. When you look at these 5 lives and how they spend their money and then hold up the words of Jesus, you realize they’re eerily similar.

 

Then you look at my life and my 12%. When you hold my 12% up to what Jesus taught they really don’t look that much alike.

 

Praying Sincerely & Honestly

 

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10 (ESV)

 

When you pray, you’re praying to your Father who is in heaven. He is your heavenly Father! 

 

Pray that His name would be hallowed. This means it will be made first, exalted in your life. His name should be exalted above our business, our families and our church. 

 

Pray for His kingdom to come. Ask for His kingdom to show up in power, in your marriage, your family and in your workplace. 

 

Pray for His will to be done. In the Greek it means we don’t want what we want, but what God wants. 

 

Almost everybody in this room could pray these things with sincerity, honesty and integrity. Most of us want God’s name to be made first and to be known more than our names. Most of us mean it when we ask for His kingdom to come. Most of us want what He wants in our lives, even though it’s a tough thing to ask for. 

 

But even the most devout among us would have a ton of difficulty praying the next line and truly mean it.

 

Asking For Your Daily Provision

 

11 Give us this day our daily bread, Matthew 6:11 (ESV)

 

All of a sudden we have trouble praying with honesty. Ask God to give us today only what we need for the day? That’s so difficult to pray and actually mean it.

 

Over the years our prayers have had to shift. We’ve had to change the Lord’s Prayer. No longer do we ask God to provide for today. Now we thank Him for the abundance of what He’s already given us. Which is a great prayer. We are to come to the Lord with thanksgiving in our hearts. But think about what we’re praying. 

 

It’s one thing to pray thanking God for what He’s given us in abundance. That takes a certain amount of faith. But it takes an almost infinite more amount of faith to ask God to only give you what you need for the day. How do we pray that prayer with honesty and mean it?

 

My wife has a 401K. She worked at Hewitt & Associates before we had kids. She did really well. Her 401K was growing like crazy. I’ve got a retirement account and life insurance. We’ve got money in the bank and a pantry full of food. If everything went to pot today, I could probably feed my family for two months, if I had to. 

 

How do we be honest with that prayer?

 

Would Jesus answer that question for us by saying, “Give so much away that you are forced to depend on me,” is that possible? 

 

Whether you make $15 million a year or $15 thousand a year, what would it look like for you to be such a radical giver that you’re in a place where you need to ask God for your daily provision? 

 

Storing Up Rusty Treasure

 

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, Matthew 6:19 (ESV)

 

What does this mean? How can we please Jesus in living out this verse? What does He really want from us?

 

Consider the words, “where moth and rust destroy.” The only way moth and rust could ever destroy your treasure is if it’s just sitting there, doing nothing. If our treasure is on the move, then moths won’t be able to destroy it and it won’t get rusty.

 

Could it be that Jesus is not necessarily preaching against becoming wealthy, but rather He’s preaching against our wealth doing nothing?

 

Halim, Andy and me went to Israel with our wives. We visited Masada, King Herod’s palace. It’s a monstrosity. Herod built this huge palace for just himself, nobody else. There were storehouses that he filled up with food. When they found this place, 2,000 years later, a lot of the food was still there. They estimated there was enough food stored to feed 1,000 people for 5 years. 

 

During the time King Herod had all that food stored up, the kingdom of Israel was suffering. They were starving to death. I wonder if this is what Jesus meant. Maybe we probably shouldn’t sit on our mountains of treasures, storing for ourselves wealth, while there are people in our city suffering and hungry.

 

Regardless, there are only two ways to interpret this verse. Either Jesus is teaching us that we can’t save money or that He desires for us to be extravagant givers. I believe it’s the latter. 

 

We are to be extravagant distributors of wealth. 

 

It’s not that we can’t become wealthy; we just need to distribute it. Don’t hold onto it where it’s doing nothing.

 

The question is not how much do we give to God, but rather how much do we dare to keep?

 

Because You Are Blessed

 

Why does Jesus ask so much more of our hearts, our time, our service and worship? Even with the money He’s given to us, He asks for much more than the obligatory ten percent. 

 

In the Old Testament you gave in order to be blessed. You gave to God so that He would bless you. Ninety-nine percent of the sermons you hear today will end right there. They will tell you to give and God will bless you. 

 

But the New Testament teaches to give because you are blessed. 

 

Old Testament:

10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. Malachi 3:10 (ESV)

 

New Testament:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, Ephesians 1:3 (ESV)

 

See the difference? You have been completely blessed in Christ Jesus, therefore extravagantly bless and give.

 

My wife and I will celebrate 12 years of marriage soon. It makes me think about our first date compared to our 10-year anniversary. One our first date I didn’t really know her. I knew she looked good and loved Jesus. That was all I needed to know. I figured the rest would work itself out. I wanted to impress her. Being in College Station, I did the best I could and took her to Chili’s and went to a dollar movie. Half way through I was feeling it, so I asked if I could hold her hand. The first date, I gave, she blessed. But something shifted in me at the 10-year anniversary.

 

I had a great desire to extravagantly bless and give to her. Chili’s just didn’t do it anymore. It wasn’t enough. So I took her to Hawaii for ten days; one day for every year she’s had to put up with me. Why did I do all of that? 

 

After ten years of marriage, I began to understand and realize something about this woman. She is the bride of my youth. She has carried inside of her and given birth to all three of my children. This is the woman who has faithfully walked beside me for over a decade of ministry. She has never complained. She has been nothing but a constant source of encouragement in my walk with Christ. She walked with me through the death of my mother and me having cancer. She has been a rock of trust and faith, never wavering. My wife is the Proverbs 31 poster woman. If she were to die today, I could stand at her funeral and without wavering say, “Many daughters have done nobly. But you excel them all. Charm is deceitful and beauty is in vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised” (Proverbs 31:29-30).

 

The only appropriate response was for me to give to and bless her extravagantly in return. 

 

How Much Do You Dare to Keep?

 

Have you forgotten what your Bridegroom has given to you? Is your generosity a reflection of the generosity that He showed to you?

 

Have you forgotten…

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, Ephesians 1:3 (ESV)

 

22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 7:22-8:2 (ESV)

 

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:1-6 (ESV)

 

38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (ESV)

 

He has already blessed you and there’s more to come. He has given us everything!

 

It just makes the whole gross versus net argument seem a little silly.