|A HEART DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF
1 CHRONICLES 29:10-17
Series: Stewardship - Part Three
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
September 5, 2010
This morning is our last Sunday looking at stewardship. As we’ve been looking at stewardship we’ve been seeing that stewardship is a lot more than just how much we cough up for the Sunday offering. Stewardship hits the core of who we are and what we’re investing our lives in.
Living where we live our lives - out there - and sometimes even in here - its way too easy to get wrapped up in a self-serving lifestyle - where the focus is on me, myself, and I. That’s what we’re bombarded with every day. Right? Life is about us - fulfilling our wants - satisfying our desires. Success - happiness is when I get what I want.
The reality is that all that self stuff comes up empty. In fact - when we’re focused on ourselves - obeying our own passions - and not obeying God we’re living in sin. Sin is self-destructive. Sin destroys our relationships - our community - gnaws at how we feel about ourselves.
God has so much more for us in life. Which is where stewardship comes in. Stewardship focuses us on God - not us.
We’ve been looking at the big three of stewardship. Which are? Time, Talent, Treasure.
So many people are just marking time with their lives - breathing in oxygen and taking up space - or they’re trying to fill their time here with mind numbing stuff - keeping their minds occupied - busy doing stuff - so they don’t have to think about aging and death - and how empty their lives really are.
The stewardship of time is using our God given time according to God’s purposes. God gives us time - not to waste it waiting to die - but because each moment of time - each moment of our lives - is valuable to the work that God desires to do in us and through us.
So many people are selfishly wasting their talent - putting out so much effort - pouring their lives into pursuing careers and recognition and acquiring stuff that ultimately has no lasting value. When they get rocked with deep issues all that isn’t worth a dime. They come to the end of life and they come up empty.
When we looked at the stewardship of talent - the skills and abilities that God gives us - we saw that the stewardship of talent is giving our lives to what God has called us to do. Stewardship of talent - serving God with our God given ability - gets us focused on pursuing what’s really valuable in life - what lasts - what satisfies us deep within.
That’s a huge
contrast. Isn’t it? The
of this is our heart - self verses God - what is
and destroying our lives and the lives of those around
us verses living
in the fullness of God’s blessing - His presence and
purpose and peace.
When we get stewardship - when we come to live as stewards of what God entrusts us with - when we begin to live life trusting Him with all that we are and have - when the only explanation for how our lives are lived and sustained - whatever is produced - experienced - enjoyed - whatever the reality of our lives - when the only explanation for all that is God - we begin to live the kind of life that we crave - that we were created to live.
This morning we’re coming to the stewardship of treasure. When we start talking about stewardship of treasure - immediately we think money.
“All tithers stand, so I can pray God’s blessing on your finances. Now all non-tithers stand so I can lead you in a prayer of repentance.”
Some of you may be thinking that all this talk about stewardship over the last couple of Sundays - all that is really just a smoke screen to sucker us in - the bottom line of all this is he’s going to make a pitch for money.
“Looks like an offering we can’t refuse.”
Sometimes that’s people’s impression of the church. We’re trying to squeeze people for money. One of the top 5 reasons people give for not coming to a church is the impression - which is understandable - the impression that, “The church isn’t interested in me. The church is only interested in my money.”
That is a long way from where we’re going this morning. Stewardship is about what? Serving God with our lives. Living the kind of life that we were created by God to live. Life where we’re trusting God for everything and God gets the glory. All that doesn’t suddenly go out the window when we start talking about treasure.
Stewardship of treasure is a long way from making a pitch for money. We’re together?
Please turn with me to the book of 1 Chronicles 29 - starting at verse 10. In the Bible under the chair in front of you you’ll find 1 Chronicles 29 on page 318. As you’re turning let me bring us up to speed on what’s going on with these verses. We need some background to help us understand what it is we’re looking at.
God has a purpose - a plan - for history. Yes? God desires to use His people in the unfolding of that plan. Yes? We get to participate in what God is doing. Chronicles is God’s perspective of history - during the time of the kings - how God’s people were doing at living out God’s plan for their lives.
The last chapters of 1 Chronicles come at the end of David’s life - about 970 or so B.C. In those chapters we read about David finishing up with God’s plan for his life - David’s gathering and organizing everything needed to build God’s temple in Jerusalem.
One of the great tasks that God had for David was for David to establish God’s people in the land - subjugate - wipe out - defeat Israel’s enemies - secure the borders - unify God’s people under one king. David was a warrior who’d killed men in battle. He had blood on his hands. So, God’s plan was that David’s son Solomon - not David the bloody warrior - Solomon would build the temple.
Grab this: Solomon built the temple. But David did the prep work.
So, David bought the land the temple was built on. He gathered together billions of dollars worth of gold and silver and bronze and precious stones and other materials. Billions. One nail - made out of gold - weighed 20 ounces. Think about that: $20,000 plus for a nail. How many nails do you have in your house? How many nails were in this temple. Lots. David lined the inside of the temple with 23 tons of gold. What's that worth? A lot.
David gathered together billions of dollars worth of gold and silver and bronze and precious stones and other materials - organized all that in preparation for building. He laid out the plans - hired the contractor - organized the labor force - organized the civic officials - got the government on board - got all the permits - did all the environmental studies. David organized the priesthood to run the place.
Then David got the whole nation primed and pumped - focused and ready - to build this incredible structure which was to be the focal point of their relationship with God - the central place of their worship - their devotion - their sacrifice - serving God - glorifying God.
As his life is coming to an end, David - in these last chapters of 1 Chronicles - David gathers the nation before him - in one massive assembly of people - and once again lays out this vision of the temple before the people - what - in this last season of his life - what he’s given himself to doing - prepping for the temple to be built.
Then - in front of this assembly of God’s people - in a final act of giving everything he has to God’s work - over and above everything he’s already given and assembled - he gives more - his personal fortune - the wealth of the king. Its an astounding gift of gold and silver.
Then David challenges the people - “Who is willing to consecrate themselves this day to the Lord?” “Who’s willing to join me in giving everything to God’s work?” (1 Chronicles 29:5)
The response is unreal. Its off the charts. David’s sons - the heads of the tribes of Israel - the military leadership - the overseers of the workforce - the leadership of God’s people assembled in this massive assembly - the nation responds by bringing this offering to God - to be used in building God’s temple. What amounts to billions and billions in gold and silver and brass and iron - jewels and precious stones. Out of their hearts they “just” give.
Then they rejoiced. Because when this over-the-top offering had been brought forth - they realized how freely so much had been given. They’d offered willingly. No coercion. No gimmicks. No guilt. Just pure from the heart joy in being able to give to God. God’s people giving from hearts sold to out to God - God’s people giving over-the-top and with joy to God’s work.
Which brings us to 1 Chronicles 29 - starting at verse 10 - which is David’s response to this outrageous outpouring of giving by God’s people.
Let’s read together starting at verse 10: So David blessed the Lord in the sight of all the assembly; and David said, “Blessed are You, O Lord God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore - which we’ll come back to - now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name.”
Let’s pause there. Isn’t that a great psalm of praise? God blessed David with the ability to psalms. Didn’t He? Verses 10 to 13 focus on The God Who Gives. Let’s say that together, “The God who gives.” Verses 10 to 13 are an amazing description of the amazing God.
Walk with me through this description.
David begins, “O Lord God of Israel - or Jacob the patriarch - our father.” It is God who has - through generations of His people - it is God alone who has been - is - worthy of praise.
God is the greatness. There’s nothing - there’s no one - that is greater than God. God alone is the greatest in rank - in goodness - in grace - in mercy - in compassion - in whatever - except sin of course. God is the greatest. God isn’t limited by space - He’s greater than that. All of creation cannot contain God. And yet, God occupies all of space with the entirety of His being.
That means that God isn’t stuck in one spot so that He misses what’s going on someplace else. God is wherever we are and aware of what’s going on in our lives. When we appeal to God with what concerns us there’s no one greater.
We don’t get put on hold and transferred to some supervisor some place. “I hear you saying sir that you’d like to speak with God.” Our call isn’t dropped. There’s no one greater that we need to appeal to to get things done.
David says, “You God are the power.” No one - no
thing - is more powerful than God.
Lord God Almighty created everything.
has power and control over it all.
God wills to do it does.
“You are the glory” describes God’s reputation - His character - His attributes - who God is and what God does. All that is a huge study for another time.
Specifically here we need to think about how God’s character and actions touch our lives. That God provides for us - cares for us - listens to us - is faithful and loving and patient towards us. God is gracious and merciful towards us - even that we might know Him and be known by Him - even that He - God - should die for us - laying the foundation for our relationship with Him.
God is the victory. It’s a Hebrew word “nat-sakh” that has the idea of permanence. Say that with me, “Permanence.”
God doesn’t change. He doesn't need to improve or get more perfect. God cannot become more wiser - more holy - more just - more truthful. Or become less than He already is. That means that what God purposes to do - His plans and promises and how He deals with us never changes. God doesn’t play three card monte with our lives.
With absolute confidence we can hang onto the reality that God - in Jesus - has won victory over the crud of this world. That we have the certain hope of victory over death - of eternity with God. We can put our complete faith in God that as we trust Him with our lives He can and will change us - for the better - heal us - restore us. Living in His victory is a certainty that will never change - because God does not change.
And, God is the majesty. No one - no thing is more honorable - more beautiful - of greater grandeur and splendor than God. David writes - Psalm 8:1: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!” How awesome is God?
Everything belongs to God - in heaven - meaning creation apart from the earth - all of that out there. And on earth - terra firma. Its all God’s. His is the dominion. He is King of kings and Lord of lords - the sovereign potentate of His creation. He alone upholds all things by His power and determines their just end.
Verse 12 - “Riches and honor come from You.” Where else could they come from? The source of it all is... God. The ruler of it all is... God. The final end of it all is... God. He alone is the greatness - the power - the glory - the victory - the majesty.
In God’s hand alone is ultimate power and might - the authority to rule - to make great - to strengthen - to bestow riches and honor on whomever He chooses. Riches meaning wealth. Honor meaning the reputation - the respect - that comes to those who use their wealth with Godly wisdom. All that we have comes from... God.
All of which is behind the “therefore” in verse 13. “Therefore” - because of Who God is - and all of what God has given to us - we give thanks to You - our God. We praise Your glorious name. Literally: “We boast in You - in who You are. Not us. There is no self in this. But because You are the God who has given so much to us we praise Your glorious name.”
Do you see the foolishness of mankind’s attitude towards wealth? We’re fighting over little pieces of the pie. Struggles for power. Wars over land and who has what stuff. Nations and peoples and families in conflict. We’re selfishly hanging on to our little crumbs. What’s mine. What I’m entitled to. When it all belongs to... God. It all comes from... God. Even the stuff of life itself. The God who gives.
Verses 14 to 17 focus on The People Who Gave. Let’s say that together, “The people who gave.”
Follow along as I read verses 15 and 16 for us.
Verse 14: “But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? - so over-the-top. For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You. - We wouldn't have anything to give if the God who gives hadn’t given it to us in the first place.
Verse 15: For we are sojourners before You - sojourners are literally resident aliens. We’re only allowed to be here by Your grace - and tenants - not land owners but nomads passing through - as all our fathers were - the land we’re on is what You promised to our fathers and what You established them on - our days on the earth are like a shadow - life is brief - here today gone tomorrow - and there is no hope - no stability - no security.
Verse 16: O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided to build You a house for Your holy name, it is from Your hand, and all is Yours.
Are we together on David’s point? What do we have that God hasn’t given to us? Nothing. What can we give God that hasn’t come from God? Nothing. It all comes from who? God. The God who gives.
God gives to His people resources to be used according to His purposes - in this situation - to build the temple. That - by the way - is the definition of the stewardship of treasure: Using God’s resources according to God’s purposes. Let’s try that together, “Using God’s resources according to God’s purposes.”
Verse 17 is the bottom line. Let’s read verse together: Since I know, O my God, that You try the heart and delight in uprightness, I, in the integrity of my heart, have willingly offered all these things; so now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here, make their offerings willingly to You.”
David says that when we give to God - using God’s resources according to God’s purposes - its God who tries our hearts. The Hebrew word for heart was what? “Lebab.” Remember that? The heart is symbolic of the core of who we are. God examines our hearts - scrutinizes what’s going on deep within us as we give. God knows our motivation. Whether we give because we have to or because we long to.
God examines the heart and delights in uprightness. He’s pleased with honesty.
Think Ananias and Sapphira. Remember the dynamic duo? They did what? They wanted to look good in front of the congregation. To join in the giving like everyone else. They sold some property. Brought the proceeds to the congregation - Peter and the apostles. Said they were giving all of the profit to God. But they’d kept back a part of if for themselves.
Ananias comes in and lies about how much they sold the property for. God judges him. He drops dead. They haul him out. Sapphira comes in and lies about how much they sold the property for. God judges her. She drops dead. They haul her out.
Peter said, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?” (Acts 5:1-11)
Was the problem the amount they gave? No. Problem was with? Their hearts.
God examines the heart - the core of who we are. He’s pleased when He finds honesty there. The heart is where we succeed or fail at stewardship of treasure. Stewardship of treasure isn’t about stuff. Its about our heart.
Grab that. Its not the treasure. It’s the heart. Try that with me. “Its not the treasure. Its the heart.”
God using our stewardship of treasure to show us where our hearts are in relationship to Him. Who are we serving with what God has trusted us with?
David says - verse 17 - “In the integrity of my heart have I willingly offered these things.”
“Integrity” is a Hebrew word - “yosher” - that means pure - sincere - honest.
Integrity comes from the Latin “integritas.” Same word we get “integer” from. In math, an integer is what? A whole number. Not a fraction. Integrity is undivided. Its wholeness. The heart of man or woman that isn’t divided.
David gives from a heart that is integrally committed - wholeheartedly committed to giving to God from what God has given Him to give. Not because he’s being forced to give but because at the core of who he is he knows that the only reasonable response to God’s giving is to give back everything to God.
That is the kind of life that we were created by God to live. Life where we’re trusting God for everything. God gets the glory. We experience God’s blessings. Purposeful - from the heart - giving up self-will - self-focus - to God.
As people who give to God - can we say that about ourselves? About how we view what we have and how it gets used. Does God have your whole heart?
Practically speaking how we can take this home with us in a way that will help us to answer that question - Does God have your whole heart? Thinking about what can move us closer to whole heartedly giving to God. Please turn with me to 1 Corinthians 16 - starting at verse 1.
You’ll see in these verses - that we’re about to read - you’ll see Paul refer to a collection for the saints. At the same time that Paul is writing to the Corinthian Church he had also been instructing the churches in Galatia, Macedonia, Asia, and now Corinth - instructing the churches there to take up a collection for the church in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem at the time was a fairly poor city. There’d been a famine that had decimated the economy. The church in Jerusalem - whether because of the economy or persecution - the church was very poverty stricken. Paul is instructing the churches to take up a collection to help the Jerusalem Church take care of the needy there.
Which means we’re about to talk about money. But stewardship isn’t about money. Right? Its about deepening our relationship with God - the integrity of our heart and our willingness to trust God with everything He’s blessed us with. Financial giving is a measure of all that. Of whether or not God has our whole heart.
Let’s read this together. 1 Corinthians 16 - starting at verse 1: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me.”
There are three principles of stewarding treasure that Paul touches on here. As we go through these think about how your heart.
By the way: If these sound familiar you’re not loosing it. We’ve touched on these before. Repetition is the key to… learning. And we - myself included - need to keep working on these principles. I’m not there yet. But by God’s grace I’m a work in progress. Amen? Did you say that amen about me or us?
First is The Principle of Regularity. Let’s say that together. “The principle of regularity.”
In verse 2 Paul writes: “On the first day of every week.”
The Jewish day of worship began when? on Friday evening and went until Saturday evening - the seventh day. What Paul writes here is one of the first indications we have that the early Christians had begun to regularly come together on Sunday - the first day of the week - for worship and prayer.
If you back up one chapter to 1 Corinthians 15 - what Paul writes there - in that chapter - is one of the most powerful passages dealing with Jesus’ resurrection. Which connects beautifully with why we worship on Sunday - and Paul’s comments here in chapter 16.
The first day is the day Jesus rose from death. Its the beginning of life on a totally different level. Every Sunday we celebrate that resurrection and that life. Paul writes, with that reality in mind - that life in Jesus - give. Every first day of every week - week in and week out - give. That’s regularity.
Some of us get paid bi-weekly or monthly - giving each Sunday isn’t a practical reality. Let’s not get lost in that. Grab the principle - regularity.
Its been said that, “When we tell people to give until they hurt, we discover that the pain threshold of many people is very low.” (1) There’s good reason for that. Let’s be honest - money represents days and hours of sweat and tears. The reason we call work - work - is because its what? work. So, there’s a certain amount of pain in giving. We’re giving a part of ourselves.
It is way too easy for us to get our ego’s wrapped around our giving - how much we give - how we respond to appeals for funds - how much we’re sacrificing. Its way too easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking that our giving is about us. How much we’re sacrificing ourselves in what we’re giving.
How can we compare our sacrifice of giving to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross? The commitment to regular giving brings us back to the reality of what the Almighty God - the creator - and sustainer - and ruler of it all - what God has done for us - the very foundation of our relationship with Him through the crucified body and shed blood of Jesus.
Regularity. Second - The Principle of Priority. Let’s say that together, “The principle of priority.”
Paul writes, “Each one of you is to put aside and save” - so that when I come what you’ve already prepared to give will be taken to Jerusalem. That means that God’s part is set aside first - set aside before the rest of it gets spent. God’s part gets saved up for the collection coming on Sunday.
When our finances get squeezed - anyone ever been there? It may seem intelligent to take care of all our necessities - especially when we're living right on the line financially - seems intelligent to take care of our necessities and then to look around to see if something is left over for God. But honestly - it’s amazing how many “necessities” we have that can eat up our resources. Isn’t it? While we’re piling up debt and financial obligations - way too often spending on our selfish desires - its amazing how easy God’s portion gets squeezed.
Something I’ve found from my own life. When God comes second its amazing how the necessities never seem to really get taken care of. And this - the reverse is also true. When we give to God first its amazing how all the real necessities get taken care of. Amen?
Priority is setting aside God’s share first - off the top - the gross - the net - whatever - not the bottom. Giving God financial priority reorganizes our life - which is what financial stewardship should do - reorganize our life - in a way that forces us to trust God - not ourselves - with our lives. On the heart level draws us closer to God - to live in a deepening - dependent - relationship with Him.
Regularity. Priority. Third - The Principle of Proportion. Let’s say that together, “The principle of proportion.”
Paul writes, “as he may prosper.” God prospers us with purpose - His purposes - His ministry.
We have choices in how we spend money. Andrew’s working for Starbucks now so I can’t talk about how five Venti Carmel Frappucinos per week add up to over $1,000 a year.
We just renewed our cell phone contract. Got the new phones that come with the contract. Its amazingly hard these days to have a phone that’s a phone. All those bundled services - all those apps - all that adds up. Basic cable is over $240 a year. Add movies and is $700 a year plus. Its amazing how many people on some kind of government assistance - or are just living on the bubble - and have cell phones and cable - or maybe are doing okay - and yet struggle to tithe.
Point being we have choices in how we spend money. Those choices shouldn’t be focused on us.
God blesses us materially because He wants to use those resources according to His will - for His glory - in His work of redeeming mankind from sin. The issue of proportionality is the examining of our real needs - to consider our income - our resources - our blessings - in order to determine - in obedience - what share God would have us give.
The bottom line question is not, “How much do I have to give?” but, “How much can I give for God’s work?” How we use financial resources helps us to see how in tune our hearts are with God and His purposes.
Three principles - say these with me, “Regularity, Priority, Proportion.”
Three principles - one question: Does God have your whole heart?
1. John McMullen, Stewardship Unlimited
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE ®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.