Anyone here making out a Christmas list? It’s hard to figure out what to put on it. But, I almost wonder, if it isn’t just as hard to figure out WHO to put on it?
There’s family. For sure. At least Mom and Dad, because they always get me stuff. But maybe not all my sisters. One of them always forgets about me. Mom’s gift should be in the $40-$50 range, but the siblings gifts a little less. That’s 5 gifts. But what about Julianna’s family? That’s 6 more people to get gifts for. Should each gift be $5 or should I divide up by family? $100 for the Kiecker side and $100 for the Meyer side. What about coworkers? Pastor Rockhoff? Pastor Lange? What about the Precious Lambs staff? Full time workers & part time? And then what about the kids? Their families? Just the ones that attend church? Speaking of – what about you guys? Presents for all of you? Presents for each of your families? Or presents just for those who have been here for every sermon in this Simple Christmas series?
Giving isn’t simple.
Today we’re continuing our series called A Simple Christmas and we want to talk about Simply Giving. Our Goal is to (1) define bad giving attitudes, (2) see how God gives to us and finally (3) see how Scripture describes a giving attitude.
Beware of Greed. This is not a passage that you’ll find on any Christmas commercials. Not at all. In fact, did you see that Thanksgiving commercial for Verizon? They talked about how nice it is to GET STUFF at Thanksgiving. They talked about all the phones that were available at cheap price.
The name of their sale? Thanksgetting. Not Thanksgiving; Thanksgetting.
Getting has affected America so much that even our giving is a lot more like getting.
“I’ll give my friend a gift card if she’s nice to me the next couple of weeks.”
“I’ll give my dad a present if he remembers to get me one.”
“I’ll give me friend a Christmas card if that person gave me one last year.”
“I’ll give my friend a cup of coffee if I have enough $ left over on the Starbucks card after I’ve gotten myself something.”
Thing is, these might sound like good things. But, not giving means you don’t lose anything, and Giving to Get, gives you what you want.
But not everything. Take a look at two problems from Scripture.
1) You’ll Miss a Blessing
Proverbs 22:9 says this, “He who is generous is blessed.” If you aren’t generous, you’ll miss a blessing!
No, this isn’t an investment strategy. “Blessed” doesn’t mean “will get hundreds of dollars.” Sorry Joel Osteen! In fact, if you are giving only to get money, aren’t you just giving to get anyways?
Proverbs 22:9 says you will be blessed. While it might not be with money, certainly there is a spiritual blessing with giving. You are doing a godly thing. You’re training your body to do righteous things.
If you take care of your talents, God might give you more.
Do you remember the story of the talents? A master was going on a trip and before he left he called three servants to him. He gave the first 10 dollars; another 5 dollars; and another 1 dollar.
When he returned, the first gave him $20 back. He had invested it and made money. The second gave him $10 back. He had invested his five dollars and made money. The third…he went out back and dug up the $1 that he had hidden.
Who do you think the master was pleased with? Not the guy with dirt under his fingernails.
In fact, to those who had been using the gifts he had given; he gave more. They were blessed.
2) Your Faith May be Dead
But a second reason – this one is a bigger self reflection and is found in the words of John the Baptist. He said, “You brood of vipers!" Which would really make for a great Advent greeting card title, huh? “Happy Advent, you brood of vipers.” "Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
Repentance is a 180. A turn from sin to God. A turn from unbelief to faith. Repentance always produces fruit. Just like a lemon tree produces lemon and an apple tree produces apples; so a repentance tree produces repentance fruit.
God’s Word says that we are that repentance tree. We are to produce repentance fruit or fruits of faith. That fruit is response to our Savior’s work.
For example, those who struggle with lust will be thankful that Jesus died for it and set filters on their computer so they won’t look at it anymore. Repentance fruit. Those who struggle with alcohol will be so thankful for God’s forgiveness that they join a support group and ask their family for help. Repentance fruit.
Those who struggle with greed? They will be thankful God emptied out all his riches on the cross in order to win heavenly riches and they will give.
But…if you aren’t giving? If you aren’t producing giving fruit? If you only give in order to get and aren’t producing any repentance fruit, then…?
Yesterday I went out back to the tomato plants that the kids grow. Guess what? There aren’t any tomatoes. The leaves are brown. There is no fruit and…I’m pretty sure…the plant is dead.
If you don’t give, your faith might be dead. And dead, ain’t good:
For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
II. God’s Unconditional Giving
What’s the cure then? If you don’t have repentance fruit, how do you produce it?
Zechariah had had a long time to think about that very question. Nine months in fact. Nine months since the angel came to him. Nine months since the angel gave the incredible news. Nine months since the angel told him that he would be a father even in his old age. Nine months since God had given him this incredible gift.
And it had been nine months since Zechariah had given God lip. “How can I be sure of this? I’m an old man!”
How foolish. He had doubted God. God had proved his point by causing Zechariah to be mute!
Still. God came through. God gave him a child. Zechariah looked down at his son and smiled. Then, he heard a commotion. All around him relatives, friends, and the teachers of the law were confronting his wife.
“Why would you name him John? There isn’t anyone in your family with that name. You’re being foolish. What would your husband say?”
What would he say? They gave Zechariah a writing tablet and Zechariah gave them the name that angel had given him. “John.”
And just like that…Zechariah could speak. God had given him his voice back. One of the first things that Zechariah gave was praise to God. Take a look at his words in Luke 1:68-69 – we can learn a lot about how God gives gifts from Zechariah’s words, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them, He has raised up a horn of salvation for us.”
Zero in on that word “redeemed.” That means “paid for.” It would take the blood of the Son of God to give us forgiveness. Jesus gave us every last drop.
With Zechariah, this was as good as done. He only had his son John, the forerunner to the Redeemer in his hands, but as he held John, Zechariah knew that God had already made the payment.
How much more is it true for you? God has completely, utterly, absolutely, seriously, redeemed you. Every last one of your sins has been paid for.
Think about it: That’d be like heading to your credit card bill – a bill that might be getting a little high during the Christmas season – imagine logging in and finding a ZERO balance. Then, you log into your phone bill and find a ZERO balance. Same thing with the electricity, the water, and the cable bill. Even the mortgage payments and the students loans at a ZERO balance -- all without a change in a single number of your online banking account.
That’s what God did. He redeemed you. He paid for the gift in full. There were not conditions. He didn’t say, “If you get rid of sin first…” He didn’t condition, “If you pay for half….” He didn’t say, “I’ll only give this to a certain percentage of you…”
If you are a human, Jesus Christ has paid for you in full.
Zechariah says, “He raised up a horn of salvation.” That calls to mind the ancient battle horn. It was trumpet like. You’d blow it to signify victory. This was the old school version of “We are the Champions.” Jesus is that horn of salvation. It means that this paid for gift was all that we needed for victory!
Salvation isn’t like getting a used Starbucks card. This ever happened to you? You get in line at Starbucks. You order a nice tall blonde coffee. You watch them fill it up. You lick your lips with excitement. Then, you give them your gift card.
And it pays for .19 cents.
That’s not Jesus. His salvation doesn’t fall short. His salvation is everything that you need! It means eternal life. It means forgiveness. It means peace with God.
III. Simply Giving
So…give! Produce fruit in keeping with repentance and give!
How do you do that? Look again at John’s words in Luke 3. He gives us a few tips on giving this Christmas.
1) Give to those in Need.
John said, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
Notice the encouragement. Give to those who are in need. He doesn’t say, “Give to those who already have 7 shirts." He says, “Give to those in need.” That doesn’t mean giving to those who have is a bad thing. Not at all. But it does mean there’s a special fruit of the Spirit shown when you give to the poor.
Why? Because they don’t have anything to give back to you. They can’t fulfill your conditions. To give to them, you just have to simply give.
It’s kind of like salvation. When you had nothing to give God but your filthy, disgusting sins, but God gave you heaven. No conditions required. Wow. This is God like giving.
If they need a shirt, give a shirt. If they need food, give food. If they need gas, give them a lecture on how they should work more. No. That’s between them and God. What is between you and God is whether or not you help them. Simply give.
2) Give with What you’ve been Given.
This is key. You might be thinking, “Pastor, I don’t have the money to give someone for food. I’m struggling as it is. I must be a terrible Christian.” Careful. Look again at the passage. It says, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
It does not say, “Anyone who has zero shirts, should give 17.” That doesn’t make sense. Because God doesn’t ask you to give what he hasn’t already given you. Did you hear that? I’ll say it again, “God doesn’t ask you to give what he hasn’t already given you.”
If you have money, give money. If you don’t, give time. If not time, give a smile; give a hug; give a prayer; give a word of encouragement; give a piece of paper with a few scribbles of crayon that’s supposed to be a Christmas tree.
Whatever you have…give it.
One thing we all have? The message of a Savior. The kids are giving it next week. Won’t you find someone to give it to too?
3) Give without Greed.
Look at John’s next words. He says, Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” Remember. Tax collectors had a known problem with greed. They were around money all the time. They would see someone’s bill that said, “$10,” and they’d make it into $100 and then pocket the change. What fruit of repentance should they have?
13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
In other words, get rid of greed.
Can you do that actively this Christmas? When you find your heart having a hard time giving OR focusing solely on what you might be getting, repent. Confess your greed. Hear God’s promise of forgiveness and then ask him to give you a heart free from Greed.
4) Give with Contentment.
14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
There was a preschooler the other day who was having a hard time sharing the Duplos. Do you remember duplos? Those are the big Legos. His friend wanted one Duplo. But he wouldn’t give it.
"Why Not?” I asked.
He looked down at the pile of about 78 Duplo blocks that he had in front of them. Some on the building, others simply floating around aimlessly not even in use and he said, “Because I need it!”
It took a bit, but he admitted, he had all he needed and he could in fact share.
It’s the same thing with us. We need to stop and look around. Look at the gifts God has given us. Both the visible gifts and the invisible ones. That’s why we come to church. We hear again and again about how much God has given us!
We need to do this! Because advertisers will tell you that you don’t have what you need. You don’t have the highest internet you need. You don’t have all the Pandora charms you need. You don’t have all the video games you need and all the 24/7 NFL access that you need either.
But you do have all you need! When you stop and remember that – how can you not give?
Scripture says this, “God loves a cheerful giver.” That’s not an excuse not to give unless your happy about. It’s an encouragement to be happy about it. God has given you everything you need dear friend.
Drop the sinful complications this Christmas and simply give. Amen.
Jesus sat down.
He was tired. Because constantly proving that you are in fact the Son of God, and the true Messiah, and the only way to heaven, and that it is by God’s grace that people are saved, and through faith that people will be in heaven, and that the miracles He did were in fact true honest to goodness, incredible miracles that proved all of the above – was hard work.
Jesus sat down opposite the temple treasury. It was a large chest located outside the temple doors. It was an easy way for anyone to come and drop off an offering to God.
And people came. One after another they came and dropped off their money into the box. They gave to God.
Since it was the time of the Passover, there were many in Jerusalem. More than usual. It was quite the spectacle too. Back then, people didn’t wireless confirm their gifts via an anonymous smartphone app. They didn’t write checks. They didn’t slip a few hundred dollars bills into an envelopes. They dropped bags of coins. Think Scrooge McDuck – with the big dollar signs on the side.
Because of this, it was very easy to distinguish between large gifts and no so large gifts. Large gifts filled a whole bag or more. Smaller gifts did not. Large gifts caught the attention of the Pharisees – smaller gifts did not.
In fact, you can almost hear the Pharisees gathered around the box, singing praise as one of their own drops off a large bag filled with shekels. “Oh what an awesome gifts! Hundreds of dollars given to the LORD, you are blessed.” “What’s that? Another bag? Incredible! You are an incredible giver. Your money will go a long way.”
So it continued – large donor after large donor passing by the treasure box as if they were models competing in a Miss America pageant – showcasing their “giving” to the Pharisaical world.
Then, a widow. She approached the chest. She reaches into her pockets. She removed a handkerchief and began to unravel it – slowly and delicately removed her offering.
There wasn’t any laud adulation coming from the onlookers. A few looks of disappointment, sure. Maybe a few giggles. No praise for her gift. It was too small. No one said anything.
“I tell you the truth this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.”
I. Our Culture on Giving
Doesn’t it seem strange for Jesus to say that? You almost feel like Jesus might need to head back to Kindergarten where he can grab a bunch of yellow plastic bears and use them to count that the woman’s offering was ridiculously smaller than the offerings that day. It was insignificant!
Because that’s the way our culture defines giving. We love to define giving by the amount.
Ever been to a hospital? Who makes it onto the wall? The big donors. They are the ones who get their names etched in stone and memorialized for all to see. Sometimes they even have a key on the side – ‘Copper plates mean copper donors – hundreds of dollars.’ ‘Silver plates mean silver donors – thousands of dollars.’ ‘Gold plates? – those are the super donors --- they have given over 500,000 dollars to the creation of this hospital!'
Do you ever fall into that trap? Maybe you look around during the offering. How much is that person giving? How many zeros are on that check? What size of a bill is everyone else putting in?
At Kroger, they’ve been doing this thing where they ask you to donate one dollar to Cancer Research right at the end of scanning all your groceries. Has it happened to you? It always catches me off guard. Sometimes I say “Yes” because I don’t want the grandma behind me to think I’m stingy. Other times, I say “No,” but then I explain, “Not this time. I give to a few others charities. I’ll keep this in mind for next month.”
Do I really need to explain myself? Does society really judge us on the basis of the size of our gift?
The answer is a definite “YES.” But more than that. We’ve regulated giving to the rich. In other words – we expect giving to come out of richness.
There is a YouTube video filmed by a man in Los Angeles. He’s rich, but he wanted to prove that very concept that our society expects giving to come out of richness.
So he dressed up as a homeless man. Then, he waited on the side of a downtown skyscraper. As people passed by in suits and ties, he got their attention.
“Hey buddy!” he said. (Oftentimes they’d keep walking because they didn’t want to give to him.) Then, he’s speak again, “No, no. I don’t want anything. I just want to give. I don’t have a lot in the world, but I do have the ability to give. So…here’s ten bucks. Buy yourself a lunch or something.”
How do you think people reacted? (How would you react?)
People were furious. They started calling him names and dropping four letters words. One man even threatened to punch his teeth him if he ever insulted him like that again. He was rich. He didn’t need money. And that guy was poor. “Giving wasn’t for him.”
Ask this question with me: Why do we think like this? Why do we insist that giving – true giving – can only come from the rich?
Could it be that if a gift isn’t measured by quantity – if a poor person could give a gift to God that is thousands of dollars less on the books – yet it’s just as rich in God’s eyes – then of what benefit is the gift to the rich? If giving doesn’t getting you brownie points before God, then…we’ll have to face our Almighty God in the cesspool of our sins. No amount of bargaining or bribing will change God’s mind. He will see us as the imperfect, unholy, holy wrath inducing creatures that we are.
II. The Greatest Giver
Which is why a correct understanding of giving is going to start with a correct understanding of the Gospel. A knowledge that God gave up all of his riches to save you.
I love this passage from 2 Corinthians 8:9. Take a look. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
This about our Lord Jesus Christ. He was incredibly rich. He resided in heaven above. He had copious amounts of whatever he wanted. Barrels full of lightning? Check. Golden lined streets of heaven? Yes. Diamonds and rubies and emeralds appearing on His fingers with a simple snap? Yes!
But he gave that all up. He was born in a place where cattle were fed. He grew up the son of a poor carpenter. He journeyed from place to place without any money around his belt. He was homeless! He slept on the ground. He, the God of sustenance, depended on others to sustain him!
Then, his life ended in the poorest of ways. All he owned was the crown of thorns piercing through his brow and the bloodstained cloth around his waist. Then, he gave up his richest possession – his own, Divine life.
Listen to that again. God who owns all things in the entire universe – gave it all up – including his life!
In doing so he donated to a charity that you know very well. Not the Red Cross. Not the Salvation Army. Not even WELS Home Missions.
He donated to you.
You were fresh out of righteousness. On the cross, Jesus gave you his.
You owed God a sin debt. With his debt, Jesus paid it in full.
You didn’t have any way to buy heaven. With his life, Jesus reserved a room specifically for you.
You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Here’s the deal then, brothers and sisters, if you believe in Jesus, then you are rich. You may not have a fully funded emergency fund. You may not own an IRA. You might not drive anything but a used car.
But if you believe in Jesus, you have peace. You have forgiveness. Things that Donald Trump, Bill Gates, and every members of the Forbes richest people’s club could not buy!
III. New Thoughts on Giving
1) Giving Comes out of Love.
Therefore, on account of Jesus – giving takes on a whole new meaning. Now giving doesn’t come from wealth. But giving comes from love.
1 Timothy 6:10 is a very famous passage and often misquoted passage. You’ll find all kinds of memes on the internet stating it incorrectly “Money is the root of all evil.” That’s not what the Bible says. Look at what is written: "The Love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”
It makes sense when you think about it. Dave Ramsey says this. Money is like a brick. It’s inanimate. It’s neutral. There’s nothing good or bad about it. You can pick up the brick and throw it through a window – bad. You can pick up a brick and build an orphan’s hospital – good.
Same with money.
You can use it to buy a nice car just to show off – bad. Or you can use it to provide a reliable, safe, nice car for your family – good.
You can use it to horde money in your sock drawer because you can’t bear to part with it – bad. Or you can use it to save up to send your child to college – good.
You can use it to give a gigantic offering to church just to get your name on the wall - bad - OR you can empty out your spending money for the month to buy a bunch of Evangelism fliers with the hopes that the message of Jesus the Savior might reach some – good.
Do you see the difference in each of those examples? It isn’t the amount of money. It isn’t the gift. It’s the motivation.
If you love money, bad. If you love God, good.
It’s why 2 Corinthians 9:7 says this, “God loves a cheerful giver.” Not God loves the one who gives $200 or more each week. Nope. God loves a cheerful giver.
2) Giving Comes out of Trust.
However…pump the breaks for a second. Because I guarantee a bunch of you saw that and thought, “God loves a cheerful giver? Phew…I’m not too happy about this offering I was gonna give today. So, let me just take a moment and rip this check up and never look at it again.”
That’s not what God is saying to you with 2 Corinthians 9:7. It’s not a license for you to say, “I don’t feel 100% happy about this, so I’m not gonna give this.” If that were the case, pretty sure we’d be bankrupt.
Before you resolve never to give God another cent, look at the verse that immediately follows. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says this, “God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all time, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
In other words – Giving doesn’t just come out of love. Giving also comes out of TRUST.
Isn’t that exactly what the widow did? She had nothing left. Yet she gave it all up. Out of love, absolutely. God had given her a wonderful husband and a blessed life. But also out of trust. She trusted that God could and would give her everything she would need in the coming days to continue to serve God on earth. And if he didn’t, then she’d get more than she could ever dream of in heaven.
Do you trust God? He won salvation for you on a cross. He paid a debt you couldn’t pay. He has a storehouse full of infinity of everything!
Do you trust God to take care of you?
Today’s challenge is to consider increasing your offering. Whatever it is. I’m not naming numbers, because it isn’t about the amount. But I am asking this. Can you take another step forward in trust and give a bit more to the work of your Lord?
For us – we use the money to share the Gospel. To start with it’s the building which we use to share the Gospel. Then, it’s my salary – which isn’t commissioned based – so I don’t get more for you giving more. Let’s be clear on that.
Then, it’s Evangelism. We use gifts to share Jesus love to those in Raleigh. Through a website. Through online ads. Through pamphlets and fliers and signs.Through invites and THANK YOU gifts.
And a big project that we are considering – the Expansion of Precious Lambs. It’s gonna allow us to connect with even more families and share the message of the God who loves them. It’s going to allow us to connect with little kids and teach the true message that Jesus Loves Them to them. It's gonna open opportunities to expand our youth group outreach during the week back in the Current Precious Lambs area. It's’ going to open up opportunities to start an English as a Second Language Ministry to share Jesus’ love with the many global members of our community.
In short – your gift will be a gift of love for God and trust in God. Amen.
Integrity. HighTower. Bluefin. CreditKarma. Transcendent One.
Those aren't the names of super heroes. They are financial companies.
I know because now that my wife and I have all of our student loan paid off, we think it's wise to start investing.
Jesus thought investing was wise too. He said so in a parable. But, since it was a parable, it's fair to say that this had less to do with making a physical fortune and more to do with making a spiritual fortune. Check it out:
Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 “ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’"
It's a harsh punishment from the master. To throw the servants out into the streets. But it's understandable. He's firing his guy because his guy didn't do any work for him. He simply took what was given him and hid. He didn't use it.
Wouldn't you expect the same thing for the fast food employee who was left to clean the walk in cooler, but three hours later hadn't started because he didn't want to make it look worse? The parable makes sense from an earthly perspective.
But parables are earthly stories with heavenly meanings. There is more to it here.
God is the master and we are the servants. He has given all of us gifts to serve him. These gifts range from monetary to musical, from administration to athletics!
But remember this is spiritual. God's goal isn't that we put what we have to work for the growth of our own kingdom, but for the growth of his kingdom. In every case God provides the correct combination of abilities, talents, responsibilities, and opportunities, so that all of us can be of real service to him in his kingdom.
This means you too!
God has given you exactly what you need to serve him. So...PUT IT TO USE to grow his kingdom.
Jesus used everything he had for you. He didn't just use his gifts to serve himself. He used them to serve you. He used his perfect life to earn eternal life. He died an innocent death to pay the price for your sins. He used his Almighty power to defeat rise from the dead to prove his victory. He used his loving promise to hold out for you the joys of heaven through faith in him.
Jesus didn't bury these talents in the ground. He put them to use. He wanted to grow in his kingdom. He wanted to add someone.
He invested in you!
Isn't it worth investing in Him?
PRAYER: Lord, thank you for all of the gifts that you have given me. Help me to recognize my talents and gifts and to use them for service in your kingdom. Please give me strength to serve you. Amen.
I remember it vividly.
Our Sunday School had sent Mission Trifolds. The trifold could be folded out to reveal a faded picture of a church in progress of being built. In the foreground were tiny stamp sized boxes all in a row. In order to receive a stamp, you had to bring a quarter for mission money. Each stamp could be placed on the trifold until it was filled up. (Total of about $10) The idea was that you were helping to build a church.
I saved up my allowance. I took 25 cents out of my dollar each week. I slowly built my 2D church.
I remember another kid. He hadn't done anything with his mission money. That is until the day it was supposed to be complete. On that day, his mom had given him a $20 bill!!! He completed the charts all at once.
I was frustrated. It was so easy for him to give lots. It was so hard for me. Didn't God want me to build up my stamp collection for Jesus? I must not have been that impressive of a Christian. If I was, I would've needed the teacher to order more trifolds because I went through them so fast.
Is dollar amount what impresses Jesus?
Check out a similar situation: 41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12)
For some reason, I picture the rich people to look very similar to the people on Shark Tank. Mark Cuban throws a couple million in. The guy from FUBU throws another some million. Mr. Wonderful grimaces at them all and places a billion in. There's a big commotion. Everybody watches as the rich put in glorious amounts. Man do they look good.
But this woman didn't make much noise at all. No more than the noise of two copper coins hitting the bottom of the money box.
Yet to Jesus, the woman's gift was more impressive. She gave out of love for her God who loved her. She gave out of thanks for a God who had given her everything. She gave out of trust that He would take care of her -- even if this was her last amount.
Today, I don't want to ask how much you give? But...why? The WHY is so much more important than the 'how much?"
It's easy for us to give for selfish reasons. "Because it makes us look good." "Because it keeps us from looking bad." "Because we feel like we have to." "Because we can afford it." When that happens the cure is to take that selfishness to the cross. There we see a selfless Jesus who was "rich, but for our sakes became poor."
He was God. He owned everything, yet he sacrificed it for you.
Now he has given us eternal riches: forgiveness, eternal life, victory over death and the devil. (These are all things that are not for sale at your local Macys!) So give out of thanks to him! Give out of trust that he'll take care of you. Give out of love because he loved you first!
When you give to a church, a church uses that money to share the Gospel -- this good message of Jesus the Savior. Some goes to keep the lights on at the church. Some pays those who work there so they can focus on sharing the Gospel. Some goes to fliers, invitations, books, Bibles, etc. that are used to share the message with others. Still more goes to help the poor or to enable a missionary far away.
What an awesome opportunity it is! God enable us to participate in his ministry. And he's less interested in the amount, as he is interested in heart that gives out of love.
If only I had realized that in Sunday School!
PRAYER: Dear Lord, forgive me for my selfishness. Oftentimes I give of my time, talents, and treasures in order to look good or in order to get something from you. Forgive me. Instead, help me to give to your Gospel out of thankfulness for the Gospel. Use my gifts to spread your Word this Easter. Amen.
Have you read it recently? What's your favorite verse? Where can you find this
book in the Bible?
Did you even know Haggai was a book of the
Careful now. When you're looking for it, don't blink. It's
38 verses long. Two chapters. Two pages.
But there are some powerful words of the Lord in this tiny book. Words that have a lot to say about our final cross. Words about the Cross of Giving.
Haggai was a prophet who preached to the Israelites who had returned from around a 70 year exile from their native
Think about that. A group of people who had lived in a foreign land for 70 years. Most were probably born in Babylon and had never seen their homeland. The few that had would have had foggy memories at best. This homeland was the stuff of dreams. They had heard stories about the land of milk and honey, but had never used either of them in their breakfast bowl of Corn Flakes. They had probably heard of the strong wall that surrounded Jerusalem, but had not so much as a memory of what it might have looked like. They had listened to accounts of the beautiful temple of the LORD, but these exiles could only imagine what such a temple might have looked like.
They had nothing of their own heritage. Instead, everything they had grown up Babylonian. Babylonian architecture. Babylonian stores. Babylonian marketplaces. The Israelites in captivity ate Babylonian food, lived in Babylonian houses, sat at Babylonian tables...while they dreamed of one day having their own homes again.
Then, things changed. By the decree of the Persian king who had defeated the Babylonians that enslaved them, they were suddenly freed. They were sent back to their homeland. Their dreams would become a reality.
And that's what happened. They went back to Jerusalem. They rebuilt the citiy. They built their own homes. Their own lives. And they personalized it: Maybe, one built a fine archway for the door of his house. Another might have constructed a large living area with an open concept that stretched to the kitchen. Maybe, a few even made sure that they had their own man cave--complete with a table for having a grainy beer and talking about the last chariot race!
After much hard work, I imagine they were feeling pretty good about themselves. Things were starting to shape up. They had everything they wanted. Their homeland was their home again! They had made it just as the memories that had been passed down had described.
But their memories betrayed them.
"This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’"
They had forgotten about something very important. Do you see what it
was? HINT: It wasn't a half bath, a guest bedroom, or even a wine cellar.
It was The LORD's house.
Make no mistake, this wasn't an "Oh, it slipped my mind because I was busy," type forgetting. They had forgotten because they were too concerned with THEIR OWN houses. Look at what God describes through Haggai in verse 4:
“Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, "a feature of royal houses,"
while this house, My house remains a ruin?”
It's easy to see how this might have happened. One says, "I could help with the temple, but first I need to make sure that the dining room table is gets finished before the party this weekend." Another says, "And I know, I did sign up to help lay the foundation for the temple, but...I really need to get this new grill pit set in place." Even another says, "I know someof the ladies were starting to talk about collecting jewels for the temple, but I can't give them mine. I haven't finished bejeweling the back foyer. I'd like it to look nice when I go out to do laundry!?!"
These people didn't care about anything but their own home. But God wanted them to care about his house.
Maybe, you see the connection. We too are often more concerned about our houses than God's house!
But Pastor, you're thinking, I know there was a "work on the Preschool Day yesterday," but...we aren't adding on to this building right now! In fact, we haven't done anything with this church for quite a while now. How could I possibly be forgetting about building God's house, if we aren't in the middle of a building project?
In 1 Corinthians, the apostle Paul wrote a letter to a group of Christians in which he describes his own building project. He says, "We are co-workers in God’s service; you are...God’s building. 10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ!"
If you are wondering, Paul had no history in the construction business. He grew up a
scholar. I don't even think he would have known how to use a trowel.
Yet he called himself a builder. Why? Because he was building God's house. He was adding to God's kingdom. He was using God's Word to add new believer after new believer as stones in the house of the Lord!
Brothers and sisters, this is exactly what God has called us to do in North Raleigh. He has called us to build his home! That doesn't mean a new narthex. It doesn't mean a Megachurch like movie theater. It doesn't even mean a Gothic like cathedral.
It means God wants us to share his Word. This is how he builds his house. A house of believers built on the foundation of Jesus!
So, how much have you cared about that house lately? How much have you cared about telling
others about Jesus?
Think about it: Have you been too busy worrying about your own agenda of moving up in the work world so you might one day achieve the American dream of owning a charcoal BBQ with your own back yard, that you've completely forgotten and ignored God's call to give others the news about Jesus? Have you decided that you can't give money to help spread God's Word, because you think it's more important to spend that money on a 70" HD Television? Have you decided that you won't give any of your time to help your fellow Christians spread God's Word, because you need to give all your extra time to yourself?
If that's your attitude, then God's Word today says: "You're wrong. You're sinning. You've totally forgotten who gave you all that stuff in the first place.
Look at what God told the people of Israel. “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
In other words, "All you care about is your "dream home." But did you notice something? You don't have it! Why? Because you aren't the one who gives yourself a dream home...I am. And if you don't want to use the gifts I've given you to build my
I'll just stop giving you things."
It's kind of like a mom who gives her child a straw. You're supposed to use that straw to suck milk out of. BUT kids are smart. They find out soon enough that it's way more fun to blow air into the straw. They make bubbles.
What does mom do? She threatens to take the straw away unless her child uses it for the purpose that she gave it to them!
God gives us everything! Brothers and sisters, if we won't use what he gives us for what he tells us, why would he keep giving it us? Isn't that exactly what he told the Israelites in verse 10? "Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”
Brothers and sisters, the same threat is for us. If we don't use the gifts he has given us to build his house...to spread his Word, then don't be surprised if he takes his gifts away from us. And I'm not so much talking about earthly gifts. There are lots of rich unbelievers. I'm talking about the spiritual gifts we hold dear. We could lose them. The gifts of forgiveness. Eternal life. And Salvation.
Repent from this attitude. Repent from caring about your house, home, and life...more than God's!
This is what the people of Israel did. From their political leader, to their religious leader, to the average laymen. They heard God's threat and repented. According to verse 12, "they obeyed the voice of their God and the message of the Prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD."
Hearing their repentance, God immediately began giving again. This time. He gave a message: 13 "I am with you,” declares the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, we have the same giving Lord. To the repentance, he gives forgiveness for our sins of not being concerned about God's house. He gives forgiveness for being more concerned about our own houses. He gives forgiveness for not using his gifts to build house!
And he gives us salvation. This salvation is the promise of deliverance from this society of greed, disappointment, and failure. It is the saving from that greedy, lying devil named Satan. It even defeats the terrifying selfishness of our own heart and brings us into the selflessness of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Jesus who gives, has given, and will give us eternal life.
I'll tell you what. Whatever kind of a dream home HGTV has instilled into your mind, whatever kind of home you hope to raise your children in, whatever kind of getaway you hope to retire to, it is nothing compared to the riches of heaven. There is no place more beautiful, more peaceful, more glorious than the marvelous home. A home that's free.
A home that's yours. A home that's God's.
Think about that. God promises you a place in him home! This is true because, through faith, God has built us into his house!
Now, my dear friends, he simply asks you to join in the building. Join in the giving of your money to buy books that tell about Jesus. To buy flyers that tell about Jesus. To pay for outreach programs, pastors, and teachers that tell people about
I'll tell you what. There was a young child I met with not that long ago. This child was having trouble in school. I asked her if she knew about Jesus. She didn't. So I brought over a piece of artwork that your gifts provided. I spent time telling her about Jesus since your gifts have made it so that is all I spend my time doing. I handed her mother a book that your gifts have provided so she could keep telling her child about Jesus.
Guess what. Three days later. This child was up front for a children's lesson. When I asked what Jesus did on the cross, do you know what she said?
He died for my sins.
Guess Jesus just added a new addition to His house. Isn't it amazing that he used your gifts to do it?
Fellow construction workers, we are in the midst of a gigantic building project. We are building God's house! God bless our gifts as we keep on building. Amen.