Tyler David teaches on the high stakes of Generosity using Luke 18:18-27.
This series is meant to be the beginning of God making us a generous people. We need to quit hiding the area of our finances from Him and others. We have to love one another enough to ask each other about our finances and generosity. In the scriptures, God only talks about wealth, money and possessions in terms of extreme outcomes. We must keep this in mind and continue to discuss the effect our finances can have and how generosity has to become part of what it means to follow Jesus together.
The Dangers of Wealth
Money has the capacity to lead you into both great sorrow and great joy. It can lead you to places of pain, discontentment and hardness toward God and others; or it can lead you into great joy as you give it away. It’s like a powerful narcotic. It can be used for good by easing the pain of someone who is hurt. Yet, that same narcotic can become an addiction, destroying a person over time. We should take it very seriously when something has this sort of power.
God warns us of the spiritual danger surrounding the desires to be rich and having more stuff.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (ESV)
The warning is to be careful; there is danger all around. Paul uses very extreme language here. He says you will have senseless and harmful desires that will destroy you. You will be led away from the faith and walk away from Jesus. You will be pierced with many pangs. These are extreme scenarios. The dangers are real and unseen.
It may not start with destruction, but it will end with it. Your desire for money and riches may never lead you to physical pain and destruction; you may never cheat on your income taxes or exploit people. But because we think this way, we immediately dismiss Paul’s warning. We think, “He doesn’t really mean that. I’m a Christian, I love Jesus, that would never happen to me.” We take his word lightly.
The greatest sorrow and destruction we could have is primarily spiritual. It’s to miss out on Jesus. The greatest sorrow is to have a heart that is numb to Him, His love and His friendship. The greatest destruction you could experience is the wrath of God for all the sin and evil in this world and in us.
The only way out is through Jesus.
Riches are dangerous and deadly because they feed the illusion of our rebellion; the illusion there is life, meaning and happiness away from God. Riches make you think you can find life, joy and everything you want without Him.
We Are The Rich Young Ruler
18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:18-27 (ESV)
A rich young ruler asked Jesus about inheriting eternal life. Jesus walked him through the commandments, which the ruler had kept, then told him he lack one thing; he needed to sell all that he had and give it to the poor. Then he would have treasure in heaven and could go follow Jesus.
The young ruler was sad. He had kept all the commandments, but couldn’t give up this one last thing. His discipline couldn’t save him in this moment. As he walked away, Jesus didn’t run after him, He looked at everybody else and said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” Having wealth is the one thing that makes it difficult to enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus could have said a lot of things, those who are sexually promiscuous or devious, those who don’t read their Bibles, those who have terrible marriages, will have difficulty entering the kingdom of God. But He didn’t. He said those who have money and possessions.
When we read this we learn to soften His words. We argue that with God all things are possible and only He can save. This is true, but that doesn’t negate what Jesus said. Verse 25 still stands.
We want to soften His words because we’re the wealthy people. He’s talking to us! We are the rich young rulers. We’re even richer than He was. If you go to globalrichlist.com and type in your salary, you can see how rich you are compared to the rest of the world. The poverty line in the United States for a family of four is $23,000 a year. Even by making only $23,000 a year you are in the top 2.5% of the wealthiest people in the world. If you make $33,000 or more, you’re in the top 1%.
When Jesus said how difficult it is for the wealthy people to get into the kingdom, He was talking to us.
Why is it more difficult to enter the kingdom of heaven if you’re wealthy?
It’s not because poor people are more spiritual than rich people. Biblically, that’s not the case. Every single person, regardless of your socioeconomic status, has fallen short of the glory of God, has rebelled against Him and is in desperate need of grace. Everyone is sinful; no one is righteous.
It’s more difficult because riches, like nothing else, cater to the lie that we don’t need saving. We don’t need a savior or a cross; we just need a little bit of help. We don’t have sins; we just have flaws, issues and bad childhoods. We don’t need saving.
Riches can give you a comfortable world where you see your sins less and less. As you gain more wealth you begin to confuse your circumstances with your character.
When we go a couple of hours with out food, we turn into different people. We become mean, angry and irritable. Yet, we are so rich we don’t actually know hunger like the rest of the world does. We never wonder when our next meal will be or how we’ll get it. That stressful situation just gets pushed to the side as we feed ourselves. We think we’re patient and nice because we’re good people. When in reality, we’re patient and nice, because we’re well fed.
Riches cater to us; they push away our needs. So when we feel like we don’t need saving, we won’t go to Jesus. We have everything pretty much figured out so we push our sins to the side.
For me, I’ve had the privilege to go on really great vacations. I’ve been able to see some of the most beautiful places this planet has to offer. It’s not sinful to go on vacation or visit these places, but we need to keep in mind that they’re spiritually dangerous.
Not once have I seen one of those beautiful places and thought I needed to repent of my sin and trust in Jesus. I’ve marveled at them, even thanking God for His creation, but I’ve never felt needy for a savior because of them. In those moments I think I’m doing pretty good and that I deserve the vacation.
In those moments we don’t run to Jesus, because we’re comfortable. We don’t see our need for God, because we aren’t seeing our difficulties and circumstances. We don’t get to know God as our Father through a beautiful sunset or an amazing meal. You can know something about Him and learn about His character, but you can’t know Him as your Father.
The only way we can know God as our Father, even though we’re sinful, is looking at a blood stained cross and saying, “I deserve that.”
The only way we can know God as our Father is receiving His righteousness, what He worked for and admitting that we didn’t earn anything. He did it all.
The only way we can know God is through repentance and faith through Christ. Riches cloud that; they make it hard to see that we really have a need.
Riches don’t make it impossible to be saved; it just makes it more difficult. On one side of it, riches are dangerous. But on the other side, there’s so much potential for joy as we give it away.
A Tool for Joy
35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35 (ESV)
Jesus gives us this counter intuitive promise that there is more blessing, meaning joy and happiness, in giving than in receiving. If this is true, then your money just became an incredible tool for your joy.
Money is powerful, but morally neutral. God gives you every dollar you receive. No matter how hard you’ve worked, ultimately it all comes from Him. It’s not inherently evil. It can be a tool for joy, but only as long as we continue to be generous with it.
It’s a blessing for me to give to this church. I have the joy of giving 10% of my income to the church. I believe in what God’s doing here. Through being a part of this church and giving to it, I get to be a part of things I’ve never thought I’d be a part of.
Through giving in this church, God has risen up people who have gone to places that have never heard the gospel and are coming to know the Lord. I have new brothers and sisters in Christ because of it.
So many people, who had been running from God have ended up here, been taught the gospel, been healed by God and are now on mission for him. I get to be a part of that! I give because I want people to experience what I’ve experienced. Before the Austin Stone I’d been following Jesus, but I didn’t know Him the way I’ve known Him here. His love, power and grace in my life have been more evident to me in the years I’ve been in this church. I want people to taste and experience that too.
It’s a joy for every local church to have believers who give to it. Every believer should have that joy. The hope of the world is Jesus Christ. There is no other. The way He takes His hope to the rest of the world is through His church. No other organization, no non-profit, or government is God’s ordained means of advancing His gospel. His church is.
We get to invest in God advancing His kingdom and bringing all things together and uniting them in Christ through His church.
Stewarding our finances for the glory of God is a lifetime endeavor. We have many areas to grow and we’re going to find areas in need of repentance. There is always grace and acceptance when you repent and trust Jesus.
Yet we have to start somewhere. We have to admit our struggles but also decide to be generous somewhere, even if it feels small or insignificant.
The KIDS team has been teaching the kids about generosity alongside our sermons. They’ve been learning that all they have has been given to them from God and they get to reflect His generosity by being generous to others. Last week they gave the kids an opportunity to give. In the collected offering basket there was a couple one-dollar bills, a Pokémon card and a sucker. They were giving out of what God gave them.
You know that kid thought through how he didn’t have any money, but had a Pokémon card and decided to give it up. Jesus didn’t see that and say, “Man, what am I going to do with a Pokémon card? There’s no exchange rate for that!” Do you think He thought it was nothing, or disappointed or frustrated? No. He knew they were giving the best way they knew how.
What is that first step for you? What is your Pokémon card?
Start somewhere. Don’t think you will be generous in the future, because you won’t. Start now.
7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV)
Follow Him Into More Joy
There is so much danger and potential when it comes to our finances and money. God has given us so much wealth, we have to be very serious and careful about how we use it. It will be more difficult for us to enter the kingdom of God, but it’s not impossible.
We have to constantly bring our money and finances to our Father, His Christ, His gospel, His word and His people and say, “What do I need to do? Give me wisdom as to how I should give. I want God to be my God, not money.”
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)
Jesus came and just kept giving Himself away. He came and led us by giving His time, energy, money and possessions away. He founded our faith. Through what He did on the cross for our sins He gave us an example on generosity. He did it for joy. That’s why we have to do it, for the joy that’s at the right hand of God.
We see our Jesus and how He’s loved us. We want to go where He’s going. Let’s follow Him into more joy.