Pastor Stephen Muncherian
May 16, 2010
As a congregation we’ve been praying that God would provide financially for His ministry here at Creekside. We’ve shared that every Sunday we fall about $800 to $1,000 behind budget. In real dollars we’re about $20,000 in the hole. So we’ve been praying.
Part of that prayer is a recognition that God is opening up opportunities for us as a congregation - opportunities of ministry and reaching the greater Merced metroplex with the gospel. And that looking around the congregation - at us - the reality is that unless God does something miraculous - the financial support of those opportunities isn’t going to happen.
Most of us are not loaded financially. Probably the just the opposite. No amount of cleverness on our part is going to come up with what’s needed to support what God is doing.
God tells us, “You don’t have it because you haven’t asked for it.” So, we’ve asked and we’re trusting God to provide.
The second part of our prayer - part one being: “God please provide for your ministry” - part two is for our own openness before God - being open to allow God to teach us and to use us as people that God may choose to use to meet the financial needs of His ministry - stewardship.
Which is the focus of where we’d like to go this morning. Thinking about our finances and about our hearts - what goes on deep inside us - thinking about all that in a way that I hope will be helpful to all of us as we’re praying and thinking through what God may want to teach us about how we’re handling the resources God blesses us with.
There are message notes in your bulletin that you might want to look at. And also - please turn with me to Luke 12:33,34.
In Luke 12 Jesus is teaching about making wise choices about what we value in life and what we invest in. Verses 33 and 34 are a key point in that teaching.
Luke 12:33,34 - let’s read these out loud together: “Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (ESV)
Walk with me through what Jesus says here. What’s the first thing Jesus tells us to do? “Sell.” Get rid of your possessions. Stop hanging on to a bunch of worthless stuff.
I used to visit an elderly lady that lived in one of those San Francisco houses that has the garage down below and the house above. Have you seen those?
When I went in the front door there was a main trail that ran through the house towards the kitchen with a couple of branch trails going to the bedroom and a place in the front room where she would sit. Trails - like little canyons - with stuff piled up on each side - about 2 to 3 feet of stuff. Junk. Newspapers - cups from McDonalds - neatly stacked in about 20 or so in a stack - magazines - papers. Her cupboards were filled with - plates - dishes - knick knacks - broken - working - it didn’t matter. The garage had a car in it that was wedged in between garden tools and garden stuff and things left over from house repair projects - pipes - fixtures - old camping stuff. Can you picture this? A lifetime of stuff - decades of stuff. Nothing every got thrown out.
Her kids were trying to get her to downsize. So they’d gotten one of those portable storage units to help her move out some of her stuff. They’d parked it in the driveway. She’d filled it without making a dent in what was inside the house. Her insurance company had dropped her because the house was a fire hazard - it was. It actually did catch on fire.
Do you know people like this?
Jesus says, “Sell it. Empty out that auxiliary storage unit commonly known as a garage. Get rid of what you’re hanging on to.”
What’s the second thing Jesus tells us to do? “Give to the needy.” Give to the poor - have compassion for others - mercy - pity. What Jesus is talking about here is Almsgiving - which was a requirement tied in to the whole religious welfare system of the Old Covenant. Something like our Benevolence Ministry but on steroids. Point being - that we need to move from being self-focused with what we’re accumulating for ourselves to being other focused with what we’re giving. Getting off of our purposes and onto God’s purposes for having wealth.
The third thing Jesus tells us to do here in verse 33 is to what? “Provide yourselves with moneybags - or purses - or wallets - that do not grow old.” That moths - literally the little moth larvae that eat away at cloth - where moths aren’t going to eat holes in your sacks of money and all your money is going to fall out and get lost.
The word “treasure” - has the idea of where we put our treasure - where we store what we value - a treasury. In other words - put your treasure in a treasury - that’s safe - put what you value in a place that no thief is going to be able to break into and steal your treasure from.
The treasuries of earth - our portfolios - our houses - whatever we’re hanging on to or investing in - all that may seem secure. But stuff gets consumed by insects and stolen by thieves. Point being - all that is an investment in what’s ultimately going to be lost. Pretty worthless. We’re together?
at verse 34. Where’s our
heart? Where our treasure
Treasure could be any number things or attitudes - pride - ego - anger - whatever is of value to us - what we invest our lives in. A lot of people are investing their lives in anger. Which is something different. Here in Luke 12 Jesus is teaching specifically about our attitude towards treasure - wealth - what we possess.
All this stuff we’re accumulating and hanging on to - as it rots and rust - its going to testify against us - its going to speak volumes about our attitudes - our greed - our selfishness - our foolishness - in what we thought was important in life. It speaks volumes about where our heart - the core of who we are - where our heart is focused.
Years ago I bought stock in this company. Anyone remember Webvan? Great idea. Order groceries online and in 30 minutes a truck comes to your door with whatever you ordered.
Every day - after I bought that stock - everyday I’d check to see how my Webvan stock was doing. If it dropped I got nervous. If it went up I’d tell myself what a financial genius I was. Every day checking the stock. Sometimes more than once a day. I became obsessed. My thoughts were there. My time was invested there. Because that’s where my treasure was.
Webvan went bankrupt in 2001. In June 2008 CNET called Webvan one of the greatest dotcom disasters in history. What I’d invested myself in - time - thoughts - money - lost - worthless.
Treasure is more than just money. It represents effort - thought - work - time and tears. It represents a chunk of who we are. It really doesn’t matter how much or how little of it we have. If its treasure to us then that’s where our heart is going to be. That’s where our lives are going to be focused.
Jesus gives us a choice. Sell what’s worthless and invest in what’s really valuable. When we do that we begin to invest our lives in what has true value.
Isn’t that what we want? To invest our lives in what’s really worth investing our lives in?
That’s what this acronym on your message notes is all about - helping us to explore this choice that Jesus gives us - rather than buying into what’s worthless - instead to focus our hearts - to invest our lives in what really does have value.
The first letter - “H” - stands for Honesty. Let’s say that together, “Honesty.” We need to come clean with God.
Its been said that if you look at someone’s credit card statements you can tell what’s important in their lives. Those purchases are the things that someone is willing to risk their future to possess. They’re willing to mortgage any future freedom in order to own that thing right now. It has that kind of value to them.
Remember the Capital One commercials? “What’s in your wallet?” We need to take an honest assessment of what we value - what we’re investing our life in - what we can’t life without. What’s in our garage? What’s on our credit card bill? What are we writing checks for?
On a scale of one to ten - ten being my life and everything in it is focused on heaven - God and His purposes. One being my life and everything in it is focused on earth - the unholy trinity of me, myself, and I. Where are you? Be honest. Most of us are probably someplace in the middle.
If you’re a five - what would you need to “sell” - or to stop investing in - to move up to a six? What do you need to let go of and get out of your life. If you don’t know - come clean with God.
You might say something to Him like, “God, I don’t know. Please show me what I’m hanging on to that’s keeping me focused on what’s worthless. Help me to let go of it”
Or maybe God’s been speaking to you for a while about something. Maybe you need to say something to God like, “God I’ve been hanging on to this. I’m giving it to you.”
Second letter is E - meaning Eternity. Let’s say that together, “Eternity.” We need to see God at work.
From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 - the Bible is a description of how God is working His plan - His purpose - His will. The theme is very simple - what God is doing in history: God’s redemption of mankind. God saving mankind. History is “His Story.” Right? Jesus going to the cross - dying for us - in our place for our sins - His resurrection - our hope. Our coming to a point of decision to trust Jesus as our Savior.
John 3:16 - say it with me: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” That’s what God is doing in history.
Its what’s behind the Great Commandment: “Go and make disciples of all the nations…” (Matthew 28:19 NLT).
Jesus telling His disciples - as He’s heading up to heaven: “You will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere…” (Acts 1:8 NLT)
That purpose - that great work of God - God’s redemption of mankind - and our part in God’s work in history - all that should rearrange our use of treasure - reorganize our investments - our priorities.
We need to lay aside our arrogance - lay aside our knowledge and cleverness - our own priorities and planning - our own vision of what we want to accomplish with what God has blessed us with - and acknowledge that God is sovereign. That He is the eternal God Who is working all of creation according to eternal purposes.
Do you ever ask yourself, “How does my use of wealth - the things that God has given me - how does my use of all that fit within God’s plan for the redemption of mankind?”
Answering that question is a daily - minute by minute - if not second by second - process of discovery, submission, and faithful dependence on God. A life in which everything we do - all of our financial decisions and priorities are first taken before God in prayer. Where all that we do is evaluated by His word. In which, from the core of our being, our passionate desire is to seek the accomplishment of His will in us and through us - so that if there is any purpose or priority or direction given to our lives - to our use of treasure - it must be coming from Him.
If you’ve never done this - today would be a good time to start. Ask God, “God what is your purpose for blessing me with wealth - with what you’ve given me. What would you like me to do with what you’ve blessed me with?”
The third letter is A - meaning Attitude. Let’s say that together, “Attitude.” We need realize that its all God’s.
King David - towards the end of his life - gathered together all the political, military, and religious leaders of Israel - the most wealthy and influential people in the Kingdom. Before the gathered assembly, David donates his personal fortune for the purpose of building the Temple. All his life, David has been faithfully managing material things to be used for God’s spiritual purposes. Now in one last act of stewardship - he donates a vast fortune for God’s glory. Solomon may have built the Temple. But, it was David who financed it.
As David gives - the entire assembly is motivated to give - gold, silver, brass, iron, coins, precious stones - an incredible fortune is given. 1 Chronicles 29:9 says that the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly - they made their offering to the Lord with a whole heart. And David rejoiced - seeing the people freely giving - faithfully using material wealth for God’s spiritual purposes.
Then David says this, “But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You.” (1 Chronicles 29:14)
I heard about a proposed 1040 short form from the IRS. Line one says, “List all the money you made.” Line two says, “Send it all in.” Its all ours anyway. Just send it.
In a spiritual sense that’s true of God. He does own all the wealth. Its His. Everything we have - our bodies - even our very souls - belong to God. Ability comes from God. Intelligence comes from God. Our start in life comes from God. Nothing we have comes to us apart from God. Apart from God we’re dust. And even the dust was created by God.
When our attitude towards wealth is that its my wealth - my house - my car - my portfolio - we have an expectation of attaining - preserving - a certain standard of living - an entitlement to luxury. We get caught up in spending our time - our thoughts - our efforts to pursue that standard. We get bent out of shape when our comfort zone is impinged upon. We get anxious thinking that someone or something - a disaster or a downturn in the market - could take some of our stuff away.
When our attitude towards wealth is that its my wealth we get resistant to God when He prompts us to give - especially if that might mean sacrificing some of that wealth - taking a lower standard of living - giving up some of our comfort - changing our lifestyle. We spend so much money on ourselves - and yet church budgets go unmet. Missions go unsupported. Ministries which could expand and grow - which could reach so many with the Gospel - are hindered because we cling to our wealth.
When our attitude towards wealth is that its my wealth our attitude towards other people changes. We find it easier to cut corners - to treat people unfairly - to deal with others in ways that benefit us. We begin to think that “less fortunate” people somehow deserve their lives - that those of us with more have no or little responsibility towards them. People may be dying because of our attitude. That’s hard to hear - isn’t it?
Having wealth isn’t the problem. A person can be wealthy and still be Godly. A little tougher maybe. But still possible. We get in serious trouble when we loose sight of where all this comes from. Life is about God not us. Treasure is about God not us.
The fourth letter is a “R” meaning Regular. Let’s say that together, “Regular.” We need to get out of the driver’s seat..
Look with me at 1 Corinthians 16:1-3.
At the 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.
1 Corinthians 16:1: “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”
There are two principles of regular giving here in what Paul writes that we need to grab on to. First: When are the Corinthians to put aside and save? “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.
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 - bring what you’ve been
saving and storing up - and give that to the church.
“On the first day of every week 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 - God’s part gets the priority - gets set aside before the rest of it gets spent. Because its amazing - isn’t it? How many things can chew up our finances and we have very little left over for God - to bring with us on Sunday.
God’s part gets set aside first for the collection coming on Sunday. That’s regular.
Second: Where does this money come from? Paul writes, “as he may prosper.”
Who prospers us? God.
God prospers us not so we can spend more on ourselves - better cars - bigger houses - more toys - retire - buy a Winnebago - drive around the country eating - playing golf - and buying a lot of cheap souvenirs. God prospers us with purpose.
John Wesley said, “When the possessor of heaven and earth brought you into being and placed you in this world, He placed you here not as owner but as steward.”
Where did all this wealth come from? God. Why? For God’s purposes. His plan. His work in history. We’re back to that nagging question: “Does my spending bring people to God? To salvation in Jesus?”
If we were selling tickets - like a theater - it costs an average of about $40 per Sunday - per person sitting in one these cushy teal colored chairs - to keep the doors open. So, if you’re an attender here, your obligation per week - bottom line - is $40. That’s all that’s required. There are churches that look at ministry that way. God doesn’t.
When we start totaling up a church budget and dividing it by the number of giving units to determine “what’s my share” or what’s expected of every member - it puts us in the driver’s seat.
When we look at the church’s income - or lack of it - or what’s in the bank - or think about what parts of the church’s ministry interest us - and base our giving on that rather than simple obedience to God - it puts us in the driver’s seat.
When we divide up our giving between missions organizations or parachurch ministries - or to wait for some special appeal - thinking about all the things we’re able to do with our money - and the church - which should have the priority - the church is shoved down the list someplace - we put ourselves in the driver’s seat.
Regular giving takes us out of the driver’s seat. The bottom line of regular giving as God prosper us means 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?”
When we come to the altar to make the commitment of marriage - when we say, “I do” it means we now have a permanent date. Come Saturday night, we don’t have to think real hard - get all stressed out - about who we’re going to take out. We’re just following through on the decision that’s already been made.
Regularity is following through on the commitment we made to follow Jesus. Make the decision to follow Jesus and when the time comes to give the question of, “To give or not to give” - its already settled. Its what followers in Jesus Christ do. There’s no reason to debate or question whether we should or shouldn’t give. Prayerfully - before God - we make one basic decision. Then it’s simply a matter of carrying out that decision regularly and systematically. On this day we give to God.
The last letter is “T” meaning Trust. Let’s say that together, “Trust.” We need to hang on to God.
Last week the Associated Press released a study that showed Merced County as the second most economically stressed county in the nation. Any guesses who was number one? Imperial. But not by much. If we try hard we might be able to catch them. Nine out of the top 20 most economically stressed counties in the country were in the Central Valley.
Giving is a very difficult issue to talk about. Especially in these days with all the demands on our finances. There are some very hard choices that we need to make. Providing for our families - planning for retirement - living - even in the central valley - isn’t cheap. Gas is going up yet again. Our dollars get stretched.
In the Old Testament God’s people were instructed to give the first tenth of the produce - crops - lambs - goats - whatever. Bring the first 10% - it was actually much more than 10% - bring the first fruits to the Temple - New Testament equivalent - the church.
People argue back and forth about whether the tithe - 10% - is binding on the church in the New Testament. But they're missing the point. The bottom line of tithing is that God is after our hearts.
What’s God after? Our hearts.
Who’s in control of our lives? Who sets the priorities? Who do we trust to take care of us?
Remember the manna - the bread like stuff that God provided for His people? Five mornings of the week - how much manna did God tell the people to collect? Just enough for that day. What happened if they tried to save some for the next day? Worms - maggots - stench. On the sixth day how much were the people suppose to collect? Enough for that day and the next day - the Sabbath. What happened when they obeyed God? No worms - no maggots - no stench. (Exodus 16)
Why did God set it up that way? What’s God trying to get His people to understand? Trust Me.
Most of us can’t see how we’re going to live off 100% of our income. If we give 5% away, can we really make it on 95%? If we give 15% away can we really make it on 85%? In that sense - for some people to give 5% would be a huge test of faith - a huge commitment of the heart to God. For others they could give 50% of their income and still not be tithing.
Financial stewardship is trusting God - surrendering control of our hearts - surrendering to God’s sovereignty over our lives - giving up the junk we’re hanging on to - so that the priorities of our lives actually get rearranged - returning us to God - moving us into a process of a deepening - dependent - relationship with God. So that our hearts get reorientated away from focusing on ourselves and the stuff of this earth that’s worthless - reorientates our hearts - our lives - towards God and heaven and what has real lasting value.
Which puts a question in front of every one of us this morning. Here it is… Where are you investing your heart?
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.