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.