Integrity Is Handling Money

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8: 16-24

16 But thank God! He has given Titus the same enthusiasm for you that I have.
17 Titus welcomed our request that he visit you again. In fact, he himself was very eager to go and see you.
18 We are also sending another brother with Titus. All the churches praise him as a preacher of the Good News.
19 He was appointed by the churches to accompany us as we take the offering to Jerusalem —a service that glorifies the Lord and shows our eagerness to help.
20 We are traveling together to guard against any criticism for the way we are handling this generous gift.
21 We are careful to be honorable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to see that we are honorable.
22 We are also sending with them another of our brothers who has proven himself many times and has shown on many occasions how eager he is. He is now even more enthusiastic because of his great confidence in you.
23 If anyone asks about Titus, say that he is my partner who works with me to help you. And the brothers with him have been sent by the churches, and they bring honor to Christ.
24 So show them your love, and prove to all the churches that our boasting about you is justified.

INTRODUCTION

Whereas we have been talking primarily of the responsibility and priviledge of giving, tonight we are talking about the integrity of handling the money that is given in good faith by believers.


I have been in the ministry for 47 years and I can tell you from experience, it is not important to handle the tithes and offering with integrity, it is vital. The last thing any church needs is a question about the money and how it is being used. We do have some discretionary funds that are not made public but any member or contributor has the right to review the books and records. We do have a benevolent fund and we have helped various families and we did it in a discret and private way [several reasons for not making these gifts public] but nothing is hid from those who give the money. You are more than welcome to stop by and we will show you exactly where the money went and I will take full responsibility. I do discus all benevolent needs with the deacons except in cases of emergency. Nothing is hiden.


I heard a radio broadcast this morning about the failure of the public school or government education. At one time, the U.S. ranked one in the world and now we are close to the bottom. I’ll tell you why its a failure and it has nothing or very little to do with the teachers. [1] The Federal Government filing it up which they do to everything [2] and no accountability to the public, to the tax payers. There are more bureaucrats in education than there are teachers and they make more money. If you tried to run a business the way public education and the postal service is run, you would go bankrupt. Accountability may not be pleasant but it makes us better.


Those who handle church money should be….

I. SERVANTS: THEY SHOULD HAVE A DESIRE TO SERVE OTHERS [V.16-17]

16 But thank God! He has given Titus the same enthusiasm for you that I have.
17 Titus welcomed our request that he visit you again. In fact, he himself was very eager to go and see you.
Sometimes church veer from that purpose. We lose sight of what God had placed us here today. Dr. Wiersbe says, “It is good to have soul winners in charge of your money because they will keep evangelism and mission forefront in your spending.” A lot of churches make the mistake of putting bankers and accountants in charge of the money but this may not be a good idea. Although the church is considered a small business and must operate like one in many ways, we are not really a business. The church is a ministry and a mission. A business must profit to stay in business but a church involved in ministry, evangelism and mission is not going to show a profit. It takes money to do missions, ministry and evangelism.

So when we are putting someone on the budget committee, it needs to be someone like Titus, someone who is enthusiastic about God’s work.

II. SINCERE IN THEIR LOVE FOR OTHERS [V.18]

We are also sending another brother with Titus. All the churches praise him as a preacher of the Good News.

This unnamed member of Paul Finance Committee was a faithful preacher of the gospel and he cared enough about the situation to take the risk of travel. Travel is getting dangerous today because of the shere numbers. June could not get over the volume of traffic last Friday as we made our way the Florida. It was very heavy all day long. Travel was far more dangerous in Paul’s day than today. Paul for example was in three ship wrecks. Fortunately, he survived all three but in most ship wrecks, there were no survivors. The fact that this unnamed committee member was willing to risk his life was an indication of his sincerety.

III. THEY MOTIVE SHOULD BE TO HONOR CHRIST [V.19]

19 He was appointed by the churches to accompany us as we take the offering to Jerusalem —a service that glorifies the Lord and shows our eagerness to help.

Paul had previously said to the Corinthians, So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. When it comes to handling the church’s money, we should do it in such a way that God would get glory.

IV. THEY MUST HAVE A GOOD REPUTATION AS BEING HONEST [V.20-22]

20 We are traveling together to guard against any criticism for the way we are handling this generous gift.
21 We are careful to be honorable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to see that we are honorable.
22 We are also sending with them another of our brothers who has proven himself many times and has shown on many occasions how eager he is. He is now even more enthusiastic because of his great confidence in you.


A church can make a lot of mistakes but it had better not be with the money. People aren’t going to give to an organization they don’t trust.
  1. We have to be causious. We must be proactive when it comes to criticism. What can we do to prevent criticism. We cannot go to the extreme of letting the tail wag the dog; we are not to give in to the critics but at the same time, why give them fodder. Critism can be very hurtful whether it is justified or not. It is to be avoided if possible
  2. We have to be careful. We know the LORD is watching but we must assume that people are watching as well. There has to be accountability. It is foolish for any church not to have an accountability system in play. My home church got burned when I was just a boy. The treasurer was a likable man whom everyone respected but he did not manage his own resources well and I don’t think they knew it. He got behind on his bills and he borrowed money from the church. Since he was the only one who saw the offering, he was able to do this for some years. The technical term for this is embezzlement. Full disclosure was never given but it got into the thousands and this was in the 1950’s. Mercy and grace were extended because he was related to several in the church and he was not a villian, he just had the wrong weakness to be handling money. The same thing has happened right here in Morgan County at least three times since I have been at Danville. I was a personal friend to the pastor in one such case and many of you know that man who embezzled. He is a respected man in the community but he stole thousands of dollars from a church. He was shrewd and there was no hard evidence, just missing information and missing money. He resigned his position and moved to another church. Treasuers are not the only ones guilty, in some cases, pastors have been given too much liberty and they have embezzled and some were forced to pay the money back. My rule is simple: I don’t handle the church’s money. I don’t count it, don’t deposit it and I don’t keep it. I also insist that no member of my family be responsible for church money.
  3. We must make ourselves accountable by involving more than one or even two people. Paul believed the more, the merrier so he was bringing it this unnamed person to accompany them when there was already a half-d0zen on the team. Some people love the old days and the old ways because of the secrecy but you should not be ashamed of what you give and neither should I. I could very easily see a person questioning my stewardship: “He is always talking about tithing, I wonder if he tithes.” Well, you don’t have to wonder. It is all a matter of public record and although we do not publish giving records publically, they are available if needed. I don’t want to be a legalist but if my pastor was not tithing, I’d want to know it. There is nothing wrong with accountability.

V. THEY MUST HAVE A WILLING SPIRIT TO WORK WITH OTHERS [V. 23-24]

23 If anyone asks about Titus, say that he is my partner who works with me to help you. And the brothers with him have been sent by the churches, and they bring honor to Christ.
24 So show them your love, and prove to all the churches that our boasting about you is justified.


The last thing you want is a disgruntaled, unhappy church member as the chairman of your finance committee. He or she will not cooperate with others in achieving the church goals. They will use their office as a power to hinder everything that you are trying to accomplish. If a person is ambitious for an office like Treasurer or deacon [in the old days] I would be leary. I have seen this in play time and again, thank God not recently. You cannot put unhappy people in charge of the money because they will not cooperate with anyone on anything.

Are You Ready?

Scripture: Luke 12:35-40

35 “Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning,
36 as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks.
37 The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat!
38 He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.
39 “Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would not permit his house to be broken into.
40 You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

INTRODUCTION

Did you hear the one about the woman who married four times: first to banker, then to a circus ring master, then to a preacher and her final husband was an undertaker. Some one ask her why she married men of such diverse careers and this was her answer. “I married one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four to go.”


Today we focus on three and four: getting ready to go.

If you will look at verse 40, you will see these six very important words…The Son of Man will come. Jesus said in John 14, “I go to prepare a place for you and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and recieve you unto myself, there where I am, there you may be also.” Jesus has promised to return to this earth and He keeps His promises. Jesus had just finished teaching on the subject of worry or anxiety about worldly things and now He is teaching us to be ready, to be vigilant about His return. In other words, our focus is not to be on this world but Christ return and the Kingdom to come.


In so doing, Jesus uses two analogies: [1] That of a bridegroom and master and [2] that of a thief. From these two analogies, I have extracted three points…

I. FIRST OF ALL: JESUS IS TELLING US TO BE READY

As a matter of fact, note the times you see the word ‘ready’ in today’s brief text:

  • Be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. [v.36]
  • Servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. [v.37]
  • He will reward the servants who are ready. [v.38]
  • You also must be ready all the time. [v. 40]

If you look closely, you will note that the other two verses where the word ready is not used, it is suggested:.”

  • “Be dressed [ready] for service and keep your lamps burning” [v.35]
  • “If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would [have been ready] not permit his house to be broken into.” [v.39]

So Jesus is stresses the fact that servants must stay in a state of readiness.


In the ancient East, the Jewish wedding were held at night and it was the Bridegroom’s prerogative when or what time to come for the bride. He was a waiting game. The exhortation here, is for the servants [you and I] to be ready. The old translations read…Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning. The men wore tunics, not pants [thank God for pants] and when they got ready to work, they tucked the bottom, the skirt of the tunic into their belt. This created a mini-skirt which enabled them to move about freely and do their work. Since the wedding was at night, they would need light so Jesus says, have your lamps trimmed and ready. The emphasis is on BEING READY.


The BRIDEGROOM analogy also teaches us two other very important truths.


II. WE WILL BE MORE THAN READY IF WE PASSIONATELY LOVE JESUS

There is no love on this earth that compares with the love of a man for a woman and vice versa. Agape is heavenly love or love from above but I am speaking of an earthly love. Most of you have been in love at one time or the other, some of you may be in love today. If so, you have a passion for the person you are in love with, you might even call it an obsession.

Daddy always referred to romantic or erotic love as being “Moon struck.” The older generations believed the moon had an effect on a persons mentality or state of mind, hence the word “Lunatic” which means madness. Luna is Latin for the moon. Many ancient astrologers believed the moon could cast a spell on a person. When daddy referred to a couple as being moon struck, he meant they were not thinking straight, they were under a spell of irrationality. 

When a woman is madly in love with a man, she longs to see him. Recently I watch a saga on Netflix about a man who married a Morman girl [young woman] because he got her pregnant and he wanted to do the right thing. At first she loved him more than he loved her but in time, the situation was reversed. When things got really difficult due to his long hours and their living conditions, she decided to return to her parents who lived in a very nice home. When he saw that she was leaving, he carried her himself back to her folks but he told her that when he got established, got a better place for her and the baby to live, he would return for her. He kept his word. He got a promotion and was able to afford nice accommodations and so he came back for her but she was gone. He searched for her for months and finally found her just as her life was being threatened by a mad man. He saved her from the serial killer [the madman] but unfortunately for him, she had taken up with another man, lesser in statue and character and in spite of his heroics, she asked him to leave and never come back. When this happened, I told June to cut the TV off, I was not watching anymore. She finished watching the entire thing but I was done because I am an incurable romantic and this story did not end right. Who ever wrote this script was sadistic.

This is how it should have ended: She thinks about her tall handsome husband all the time. She finds herself looking out the window several times a day as she longed for him to return. When he returns, she is waiting and watching and runs out the door and toward her true love as he puts his horse into a fast gallop. They meet head on and he sweeps her off her feet and onto the horse. In full embrace they ride to the house. Both are elated as she shows him how much his son has grown.

You see, I know and you know that had she been madly in love with her brave husband, a man of principle, she would have been watching and waiting anxiously for his return and excited beyond description when he did show up. Do you see the point?


If we are madly in love with Jesus, we will wait anxiously with keen anticipation of His return. Nothing will be more important than His return.


How many us must confess that we love this world more than we love our Savior?


III. THE TIME OF HIS RETURN IS HIS PREROGATIVE

The unique thing about the ancient Jewish wedding was that the Father of the groom told his son when to go claim his bride. In was a patriarchal society and the Father had the final word. The bride and the servants did not know exactly when the Groom would come, they simply knew to be ready.

Could Jesus come today?

Sure, He can come anytime the Father says, “Go get my children and your bride.”

What about unfulfilled prophecies?

My answer to that question would be: we humans are bad to misinterpret prophecy. All the bible scholars in Jerusalem missed the first advent because they misinterpreted the prophecies and we could make the same mistake. So, if I were you, I would listen to Jesus and not some TV preacher trying to sell books. I would be ready today.

There is no doubt about it, God holds the future in His hands and we have absolutely no control and no say in when Jesus returns. He will come like a thief in the night when He is unexpected. His coming will be a shock and a surprise to this world but we His servants should be in a state of readiness, we should be watching, waiting, longing for His return.

Conclusion

I don’t have the perfect story to conclude this message but I have a story. I can’t recall being in the waiting mode at home but I can tell you that I have been in the waiting mode to return home. This has happened to me more than once.

In 1986, I went with a team of Alabama pastors and laymen to Lagos, Nigeria; a place that is restricted today but was open in 86. I was gone a total of 11 days and spent 8 in Africa. Not one time did I ever feel at home in Africa. The people were gracious and kind but my mind was on Danville. I doubt seriously that an hour passed that I did not think of home and being reunited with my family. I can recall that day and moment when we were bused to the airport, making our way home. I was excited beyond belief. We had a layover in Amsterdam and I had the priviledge of visiting the Rijks museum where many of Rembrants master pieces are kept but I was still thinking about home. We had good food, running water and all the modern conviences of western Europe but it was not home and I was ready to come home. I longed for home and when we touched down in Huntsville, I was the happiest person on the planet.

We need this kind of passion, enthusiasm, and excitement about the return of Christ and our going home, to our real home.

Are you excited about HOME today or are you preoccupied with this world?

I encourage you today to fall in love with JESUS. Some of you loved him passionately at one time but your love has grown cold: you no longer have the devotion you once had. Your love for Christ is being choked by the cares of this world. Remember from where you have fallen and repent today. If you have never given your heart to Christ, do it for the first time today. If you need to repent and to return to your first love, do it today.

Generous Grace

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:9, NLT

You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich.

INTRODUCTION

When we think of condescending; we generally conjure up negative images like a rich person looking down on a poor person because he has less or an educated person looking down on the uneducated, think he or she to be ignorant. As a general rule, human are very condescending in a negative sense; we are bad about looking down on others. I knew a man who thought he was morally superior to his father but when this man became older, he realized that he was morally inferior to his father. We all know people who assume that they are the sharpness knife in the drawer. They feel confident that they are the smartest person in the room and without their being aware of what they are doing, they have a condescending attitude that is not admired by anyone. I would not be shocked if the greatest sin of the church is not “Self-righteousness” which iminates from our feelings of moral superoriety. 

BUT when we speak of the Divine Condescension, it is not a negative thing at all because the true definition of condenscion is “To descend to the level of one considered inferior; to lower oneself.” The key passage in the bible on this subject is probably Philippians 2:6-8, Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.  Instead, He gave up his divine privileges ; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human formHe humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

The ‘He’ is in reference to Jesus: NOTE what “He did for us.”

  • He did not cling to His divine rights or priviledges
  • He became a human being [God became flesh]
  • He took the form of a servant or slave [lowered Himself]
  • He humbled Himself and allowed Himself to be humiliated
  • He died a criminals death

In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul is using Christ as our example in the matter of giving. Jesus Christ was a giver, a generous giver; more generous than we can imagine. Paul said, You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich.

Again, note what “He did for us.”

  • He was generous
  • He was infinitely rich
  • He became poor for our sakes
  • He makes us rich by His poverty

Transition: I had planned to go to the next passage and keep moving but in reading one of the commentaries this week, I felt convicted about passing over verse 9 so lightly. So tonight, we go back and review this verse again.

I’ve organized my comments around three headings:

I. OUR APPRECIATION FOR THE GENEROUS GIFT THAT CHRIST HAS GIVEN

Robert Tasker said, It is not so much the lowly circumstances of His birth and life as it is the fact that He was willing to become human which was the greatest condescension of them all.

I agree with Tasker. We have no means, no cognitive way to measure the gift of the incarnation: Christ becoming human to save humans.


Probably 25 years or so ago, I heard Paul Harvey tell the story of the birds. It was near Christmas and it was the best illustration that I had heard on the incarnation. 

There was a certain man who had no interest in Christ, church or any type of religious devotion. It just so happened that he was blessed with a very good Christian wife who carried their children to church on a regular basis. It was Christmas time and the family was preparing to attend the Christmas service at church and the wife invited the unbelieving husband and the kids also begged dad to go but he refused. He opted to stay home and watch TV. There was a snow on the ground and an overcast sky. As the man reclined to watch some TV, he heard a thug against the slidding glass door that separated the warm den from the cold patio. He didn’t pay any attention and went right back to his program but in a few minutes, he heard the thumping sound again. He knew something was hitting the glass door so he got up to investigate and that is when he discovered two dying birds laying on the snow. They had seed the light beaming from the den but did not see the glass.

He sat back down to enjoy his program but he just couldn’t get the birds off of his mind. He decided that if it happened again, he would intervene somehow and sure enough a third bird crashed into the glass and broke it’s neck. So he got up, put on his coat and went outside. He had an out building so he went in, cut the light on and lay some bird seed on the floor for the birds to eat. Then he went inside and observed. To his dismay, the birds did not trust him and they would not go inside the building for food and shelter. He went back out a made a trail leading into the building with the bird seed. But when the birds got to the door they flew away. He did it a second time and when the birds got near the door he rushed out to drive them into the shelter but as soon as they heard him exit the den, they flew away. 

Now he is really frustrated: he wants to help the ignorant birds but they will not let him. They don’t trust him, they don’t understand him and his presence terrifies them. What can he do to save them? That’s when he heard an inner voice say, “You would have to become a bird yourself if you are to help them. Then you could speak their language and be on their level. They would not fear you as a bird.” Suddenly it dawned upon him…That’s why Jesus came. He had to become a human to save humans.”

It’s a good story and makes a great point but someone came along and said, “It’s not strong enough, birds have some value; it is more like becomeing a rat to save the rats.”

The truth is: the condescension is an infinite jump that no one can measure. The sacrifice Jesus made in becoming human is beyond description. No illustration we use is adequate. Have you stopped lately to thank God for this indescrible gift?

II. WE ARE NEVER MORE LIKE CHRIST THAN WHEN WE GIVE SACRIFICALLY

Christian love best expresses itself in sacrifical giving.

William Sydney Porter {O. Henry} tell the short story we call “The Gift of the Magi”. It is about a young couple and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money. 

Mr. James Dillingham Young (“Jim”) and his wife, Della, are a couple living in a modest apartment. They have only two possessions between them in which they take pride: Della’s beautiful long, flowing hair, almost touching to her knees, and Jim’s shiny gold watch, which had belonged to his father and grandfather.

On Christmas Eve, with only $1.87 in hand, and desperate to find a gift for Jim, Della sells her hair for $20 to a nearby hairdresser named Madame Sofronie, and eventually finds a platinum pocket watch chain for Jim’s watch for $21. Satisfied with the perfect gift for Jim, Della runs home and begins to prepare dinner.

At 7 o’clock, Della sits at a table near the door, waiting for Jim to come home. Unusually late, Jim walks in and immediately stops short at the sight of Della, who had previously prayed that she reamain beautiful in Jim’s eyes without her long hair. Jim is so stunned by Della’s short hair that she admits to Jim that she sold her hair to buy him his present. Jim gives Della her present – an assortment of expensive hair accessories (referred to as “The Combs”), useless now that her hair is short. Della then shows Jim the chain she bought for him, to which Jim says he sold his watch to get the money to buy her combs. Although Jim and Della are now left with gifts that neither one can use, they realize how far they are willing to go to show their love for each other, and how priceless their love really is.

Nothing conveys love like a sacrifical gift.

I cannot remember my father ever getting a Christmas present while we were growing up. He did later when his children were grown but in the 40’s and 50’s there was not much money in the Bailey household. I was a grown man, 22 years old, before it dawned on me that my parents had made huge sacrifices for me. You still see it today, parents driving an old jalopy while their kids drive new sports car.

When you truly love someone, no sacrifice is too great.

III. THE LAST THING I WANT YOU TO THINK ABOUT IS: THE HIGHEST MOTIVE FOR GIVING

Paul is proding the Corinthians to give the way Christ gave but he is also pointing them to the highest motive in giving.

  • Sometimes we give to get
  • Sometimes we give to be a part of a cause or group
  • Sometimes we give to recieve recognition
  • Sometimes we give under compulsion
  • Sometimes we give begrudgling
  • Sometimes we give because their is a need
  • Sometimes we give because we love

BUT the highest motive is to give because Jesus loves. You see, it is one thing for me to give because I love Jesus but it is another for me to give because Jesus loves me. There is an infinite gap between my love for Him and His love working through me. We are to be driven, compelled by the love of Christ, not our love for Him but His greater love which He imputes to us by grace.

In light of what Christ has done for us: who’s love is greater? I think we overwhelmingly agree that His love for us is greater than our love for Him. 

We must learn as did Peter that it is not our love for HIM but His love for us that drives us, motivates us, satisfies us, encourages us and gives us boldness.

Today, August 24th, is the birth date of one of my old friends. He actually departed this world some ten years ago. I worked along side him when he was a flaming evangelist but he got scared by an ugly divorce and he got out of church completely. He moved away from the place of his birth and in the community that he lived in, a church decided to evanglize him. They had good intentions but made a fatal mistake. They told him they “Loved him” and he called them on it. He said, “You don’t love me because you don’t know me.” He was right. I think he politely asked them to leave. Their mistake was professing to love him when he knew they didn’t. He is right, you can’t love someone you don’t know and if you really love someone, you do all you can to get to know them. If they had said, “JESUS LOVES YOU,” there wouldn’t have been any problem.

I have not had the exact same experience as these visitors but I’ve been close and I learned years ago not to say things you don’t mean or can’t back up. First of all, I seldom visit because I love people, I am not motivated by my love. I visit because Jesus loves people and in the perfect sense. They can question my love and sincerety but most do not question His. There are exception: some people get angry if you tell them Jesus loves you. If gives me greater confidence and boldness to go when I am motivated by His love for me and others, not my love for HIM nor my love for others.

 

 

Giving

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:6-9

6 So we have urged Titus, who encouraged your giving in the first place, to return to you and encourage you to finish this ministry of giving.
7 Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us —I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.
8 I am not commanding you to do this. But I am testing how genuine your love is by comparing it with the eagerness of the other churches.
9 You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty He could make you rich.

INTRODUCTION

There is no question, Paul is still on the subject of giving as indicated in verses 6-7. Giving is a ministry and is actually mentioned as a spiritual gift. Paul said is Romans 12…If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.


Not only is giving a ministry and a gift, it is to be encouraged. Titus encouraged the Corinthians to give. Paul is encouraging them to give. I encourage you to give. Not every one needs to be encouraged in this matter but some do. I make no appology for encouraging people to give because I know the truth about stewardship. No one will come to me in heaven and say, “I wish you had not encouraged me to give.” The greatest gift I could give would be to teach you to give.

With this is mind, I think we see three very discernable points in verses 7-9.

I. FIRST OF ALL THERE IS THE GOAL: TO EXCEL IN THE GRACIOUS ACT OF GIVING [v.7]

Giving is a ministry, a practice, the exercise of a gift and like all other disciplines, it can be improved with practice and work. Our goal should be to excel in the gracious act of giving but to excel at anything, there must be a commitment to excellence. Do you want to become a generous person? Would you like to excel in the matter of giving?

Have you heard of the man who moved men and mountains? Chances are, I have mentioned him before: his name is Robert Gilmore LeTourneau. He is perhaps the most inspiring Christian inventor, businessman and entrepreneur the world has ever seen. A sixth grade dropout, Robert Gilmore “RG” LeTourneau went on to become the leading earth moving machinery manufacturer of his day with plants on 4 continents, more than 300 patents to his name and major contributions to road construction and heavy equipment that forever changed the world.  Most importantly, his contribution to the advancement of the Gospel ranks him among the greatest of Christian Businessmen of all time. Famous for living on 10% of his income and giving 90% to the spread of the Gospel, LeTourneau exemplified what a Christian businessman should be.

I want to ask you an honest and simple question: Do you think RG LeTourneau had a goal in his giving? Do you think he aimed at excellence? Or do you think his giving 90% of his income just happened without any forethought or planning?

Several years ago, I challenged you to set a goal for your annual giving and June and I set a goal for our giving. I don’t remember what our goal was but it was impossible or at least very challenging. I was shocked as the year progressed and the LORD Himself made it possbile for us to reach our goal. The sad thing is: I don’t think we have done it since.

Would you make generous giving a goal in your life?

II. THEN NOTICE THE TEST: TESTING THE GENUINESS OF YOUR LOVE [v.8]

I wouldn’t say that Paul is using pressure but he is putting the Corinthians on the spot. Paul understand the age old truth that you can give without loving but you can’t love without giving. It is utterly impossible. No one geniunely loves who is not willing to give or even sacrifice. I don’t know what it is about people that makes them believe that people can be decieved about their sincerety when they are miserly in their giving.

I use the illustration of a husband/father. No matter how much a man insist that he loves his family, we know that he is lying when he fails to provide. How can a man, a father drive a new truck, wear new clothes, buy a new house when he is not paying his child support? What about a father who goes to court to get child support reduced and lies about his income to get it done? What about a father who refused to pay child support at all and is then has his wages garnished. The support comes but against his will. When his children get grown, and they will, they will find out eventually what he did and didn’t do. It doesn’t matter how many times he says “I love you,” his children know better. Love gives, it does not make excuses.

At least 20 years ago, I went to the East side of the county to preach a revival. The pastor and I were sitting on the first pew. It was a small church and they had a general assembly before breaking into small groups for Sunday School. A laymen dressed in a fine suit stood before us and brought an arousing devotion. When he finished and left the room the pastor said to me, “That is a fine young man. He can do anything. He has only one problem and you would never guess what it is.” I said without hesitation, “He doesn’t tithe.” He said, “How did you know?” “It’s a gift,” I said. But it is really not a gift, it was a calculated guess. I discovered early on that big talkers are often shallow givers. I suppose they talk big to draw the attention away from their spiritual immaturity.

Then some years later, a new family moves into our community and they began coming to our church. Right off the bat, the man ask me, “Am I to tithe the gross or the net?” I told him, “You tithe whatever God puts into your hand.” When he walked off, I assumed he gave. I figured he was a legalistic tither but that he gave.  He did tell me that the previous church had refused to ordain him as a deacon but he never mentioned why. Three years later, I found out that he gave nothing. As a matter of fact, he had contributed $25 in three years. Do I believe this man is sincere? Not on your life! He is as phony as a three dollar bill. I’m not being judgmental, I am stating facts: you prove the sincerety of your love by giving.

I had a man get violently upset with me some years ago because I said, “If you are a giver and a supporter of DBC, I want you to vote on this issue.” He got fighting mad. He said, “You have violated the by-laws.” I tried to reason with him but it made everything worse. I said, “Think of it as a survey, not a vote. To do what we are proposing, we need financial support and we have some none members who are contributors.” He said, “That is all your concerned about isn’t it, you are just like all the other preachers I know, all you care about is catered to those who give.” He left in a rage and has never been back.

He was right about the by-laws but he was wrong about me. I do not cater to money but I have great respect for those who give and none for those who don’t. My lack of respect for those who want to chime in at a business meeting but never give a dime comes from this and other scriptures. Giving is a proof of your love. Not giving is proof that you don’t love. You can bet your last dollar that I will never seek advice from a man who robs God.

III. LAST, LOOK AT THE EXAMPLE: THE GENEROUS GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST [v.9]

When you get on the subject of giving; you always have those who mention tithing as an old testment law. I don’t actually think of it as a law, more of a system of supporting God’s work and an avenue of worship. In Judaism, it was impossible to worship without giving. Their worship was centered around the sacrifical system. You could not worship without an offering. For the poor, it could be turtle doves instead of a lamb but you brought something as an expression of faith and devotion. However, these people who point to tithing as an OT law are full of crock.

Tithing is just a place to start: Jesus taught us to go beyond the law. Jesus was not a tither, Jesus gave it all. I tell them, “Look, you can either tithe or give like Jesus who gave it all.” Quiet literally, JESUS IS OUR EXAMPLE WHEN IT COMES TO GIVING.

Jesus gave sacrifically, “Although He was rich, yet for our sakes, He became poor.” He gave up the glory of heaven for a cross of shame. Someone compared the condescension to a man being willing to become a rat to save all the rats but it was a bigger gap than that. It is an infinite gap, one that we can imagine.

A Secure Investment

Scripture: Luke 12:31-34, NLT

31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.
32 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.
33 “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it.
34 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

INTRODUCTION

Have you ever played Dirty Santa at a Christmas Party? It is certainly not a game for children. I wouldn’t want to play Dirty Santa with Chloe. Anyway, in Dirty Santa, you don’t necessarily get to keep the gift that you have in your hand or possession, it can be taken from you. It is not secure unless you have owed it two times previously.

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Life is like Dirty Santa, people get things and horde them thinking they are going to get to keep them but this is not reality. In Dirty Santa, the only way to make a gift secure is to give it up and it is the same way in life. Those who horde and hang on will lose everything. Nothing is yours, nothing is secure until you give it away.

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I think you will agree, most people are living for the little kingdom. Jesus challenge to us all is to give up the little kingdom and embrace God’s Kingdom. As you look at this world in terms of creation, are you not impressed with what God has made. This world you see with your eyes is nothing compared to the next. There are several major differences in the little kingdom and God’s Kingdom. This kingdom here is temporal, it is not going to last and the Kingdom of God is eternal. This kingdom is flawed and cursed by sin. The Kingdom of God is a perfect place. Better than Eden.
A treasure [noun] is something valuable, very special, important, that is hidden or kept in a safe place. It can also be used as a verb, “I treasure my grandchildren.” This means they are very special, important to me. It means I value them highly.

I. EVERYONE HAS A TREASURE {Something the heart is set on}

There is something that is more important to you than anything else. Something that you value more highly than anything else. Think about it! What is it that you cherish most? I hope it is not ALABAMA FOOTBALL, that would be a bad answer. I hope it is not your home, your farm, your property or your savings, this too is a bad answer. If you have a relationship in mind, you are getting warmer but of all your relationships, which do you value most?

My greatest TREASURE is Jesus. Paul said is Colossians 2:3, In Him {Jesus} lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

There is a story of a Roman slave who inherited all of his master’s wealth. When the will was read, the rich Roman nobleman’s son was present and the lawyer read the terms of the will. The son was unmoved because his father left him one thing. He could have any one thing on his father’s estate and so he immediately choose the slave that had inherited all his fathers’s wealth.

II. NOT EVERYONE HAS A TREASURE THEY CAN KEEP

“Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it.”  [Luke 12:33]

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.” [Matthew 6:19]

Thieves, moths, rust, holes in your purse or pocket: these are words that Jesus used to teach us that earthly treasures cannot be maintained.

You can have a treasure here on earth but you can’t keep it.

Your gold and silver have become worthless. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh like fire. This treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the day of judgment. {James 5:3}

Advantages to a heavenly treasure

  1. It is secure–can’t lose it

  2. It will pay eternal dividends

  3. It allows you to help others while helping yourself

  4. It brings lasting joy

Jesus to the rich young ruler…“Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home. [Luke 16:9]

The Rich Fool

SCRIPTURE: Luke 12:13-21, NASB

13 Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.”
14 But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?”
15 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
16 And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive.
17 “And he began reasonsing to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.
19 ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”‘
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’
21 “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”‘
[NLT: “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”]

INTRODUCTION

Jesus is teaching on principles of the Kingdom: integrity, overcoming fear, public confession of faith and blaspheming against the Holy Spirit and right in the middle of His teaching session, a man rudely interupts with this request…“Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” Wow! What a self-centered jerk! It would be like someone interupting this sermon with some trivial complaint; very rude and very selfish.

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Jesus knew immediately what this man’s problem was, why even we would know: he was suffering from greed. Jesus knowing that he and many others had the same malady, told a story about a greedy fool. This is an amazing story.

 WHY DID GOD CALL THIS MAN A FOOL?

I. REASON ONE: HE HAD THE PHILOSOPHY OF A FOOL

Verse 15 in NLT reads, “Life is not measured by how much you own.” NKJV,  “For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

Unfortunately, most folks have the same philosophy as this fool, they are convinced that life consist in the abundance of things one posessess. We really do measure people by how much they own. When we talk about a mans worth, we talk in terms of dollars and sent; he is worth 36 million. We pay special attention to the rich.  Mother Teresa, a missionary who had given her entire life to serving others died the same day as Princess Diana. What do you think captured the front page and the evening news. Nothing was said of Mother Teresa. {Sept. 5, 1997] C.S. Lewis died on November 22, 1963 but you didn’t hear anything about it because that is the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

I’m telling you folks, the world is under the illusion that wealth produces happiness and success. The world believes that life does consist in the abundance of things one possesses. The world is playing the fool.

II. REASON TWO: HE HAD THE ‘THOUGHTS’ OF A FOOL

Jesus enables us to get into his mind, look at what this fool was thinking to himself. 

‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my {ego} crops?’  “Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my {ego} barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my {ego} grain and my {ego} goods.
‘And I will say to my {ego} soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”‘
The Greek word for “My” is ego. so you can see by reading the text, this man was an ego-maniac. In today’s culture, it is known as NPD, Narcississtic Personality Disorder. Simply stated, it is a person who is in love with themself. According to the Mayo Clinic, the four primary symptoms are: [1] An inflated sense of their own importance, [2] A deep need for admiration, [3] A lack of empathy for others and [4] Overly sensitive to the slightest criticism. Notice all the I’s and My’s in his thinking.

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A school teacher was teaching her students about Possessive Pronouns: she wrote some on the board…My…Our…Your…Their…and said, “What kind of pronouns are these? A little boy said, “Agressive.” He was close. The fool used a lot of agressive pronouns. I wonder….
  • Was this fool married?
  • Did he have children? Parents?
  • Surely, he did not have grandkids!

I am bad to talk about my grand children. They just have a way of getting into the conversation. This fool thinks of no one other than himself. Not to think of others is one thing but notice: He never thinks about God. He does not recognize God at all. He does not even thank Him for the abundant harvest.

This makes him a practical atheist which makes him a fool for the fool says to himself, “There is no God.” {Psalms 14:1}

So he is a fool because he thinks like a fool

III. REASON THREE: HE MADE THE PLANS OF A FOOL

Note the Problem: Just study this fools plans and I think you will be in full agreement with Jesus. He is going to harvest a bumper crop. His problem is that he does not have enough storage for the harvest. It is more than he has ever made and he does not have the space to store all the grain.

His Plan: He is going to hire a construction firm to tear down the old barns and built new ones in their place so he can keep all his grain to himself. What’s wrong with his plan? It is stupid. He is going to spend money tearing down old barns and spend money building new barns to horde his grain. Think about it for a moment. What if he keeps his own barns and gives the extra grain to the church or to the poor. Wouldn’t that actually save him money?

Building one additional barn would be better than tearing down the old and building all new barns but the best plan, and the most profitable is to give the excess away and fill your existing barns. But this fool is consumed by GREED and he cannot consider giving anything away. He cannot process the thought. Greedy people don’t see giving as an option.

Not only was his plan to keep all his wealth for himself foolish. What really made him a fool was he planned to live but he made no plans to die.

The Grace of Giving

SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 8:1-5

1 Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia.
2 They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.
3 For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will.
4 They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem.
5 They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.

INTRODUCTION

Unfortunately, not all church members understand what I am about to say, but ‘Giving’ financially to the support of your church and Christ kingdom is a ministry. Our word minister is translated from the Greek word for ‘serve.’ It is related to agency or instrumentality and in the Christians sense, it is God working through you to serve or help others {8:1}. You have the distinct privilege of helping countless numbers of people by giving.

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Let me give you an example, one that is very fresh. June’s nephew Jason gave Joe David $2,000 for the Guatemala Trip but Joe David already had all the bases covered so they used the money to feed hungry people. The money Jason gave will feed 30 families for three months. God used Jason through the agency of GRACE MINISTRIES to serve, to help 30 Guatemalan families. Jason got involved in the MINISTRY OF GIVING and through the ministry of Joe David’s team and Teddy’s organization thirty families were helped.

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One more example: You can give a dollar to the Gideon’s in memory of Tom and they will purchase and place a N.T. in the hand of a child, soldier, nurse, etc. You can donate $5 and they will place a bible in a hospital room or motel. The Gideon’s are an international agency, in more than 200 countries. They have distributed over 2 billion bibles in 95 languages. My friend Rodney Lamar Browning was saved by one of those bibles in a motel room in NYC back in 1970. My daughter Hannah was saved when a Gideon speaker came to DBC 34 years ago. Here is the thing: if you give a dollar of five, you must give it by faith. You will never know if someone came to know Christ due to your gift, not in this life, but by placing that small gift into the hands of such an effective agency the odds are in your favor. Isn’t this exciting! Not to some Baptist.

So I want to talk to you tonight about the MINISTRY OF GIVING and we will use the Philippians as an example….Note how they gave…

I. THEY GAVE SACRIFICALLY

[v.2-3] They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosityFor I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more.

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The Macedonian churches {Philippi, Thessalonica and Beroea} were being persecuted and suffering financially from the persecution. The churches were having a hard time financially. I don’t think Paul wanted them to take part because he says himself that they were very poor. I guess someone forgot to tell them their were poor because they not only gave, they gave more than they could afford and far more than Paul expected.

I think you would agree that most people give what they can afford and very few give more. William Barclay says, “It is not always those who are wealthy who are most generous.” Our problem is that we confuse Generosity with the amount. Jesus doesn’t get these confused. In Luke 21 we have an example of what I am talking about….

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.
2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.
3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.
4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Our generosity is determined by what we have left after we give. We are not to give with the motive of getting back. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t. For our gift to be a sacrifice, we have to give up something.

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Several weeks ago, I got a call from the precious lady who took care of June and I in Seminary. She will be 90 her birthday. She can’t drive and her grandkids have put her in an assisted living in Metorie Louisana which is a suberb of New Orleans. She had talked her son in to bringing her home for two or three days {Ashville, Ala} and wanted to know if I could come and see her and so June and I went down. Her late husband was a truck driver and made good money but he didn’t save it so all she has is a SS check which isn’t much. When June and I were in Seminary, we thought they were rich because her husband was making $600 a week, a lot of money in 1971. Knowing that she has a hard time and feeling a debt to her for all she did for us, I gave her half of my allowance for gas money. I thought about it before I gave and I felt I should give it without expecting any return so I gave it and I was broke by Thursday of the week. I was at Huntsville Hospital on Friday of that week and all I had was the change in the ask tray of the car. Fifty dollars would be no sacrifice to most folks but it was to me because it meant I had to give up some things in order to give it. I have a friend, a good friend who give $500 per week to his church building fund. This is not his tithe, it is an offering on top of what he already gives. This means he gives $26,000 per year to the building fund, which is a lot more than I give entirely. I’ve been told that he is worth 8-10 million dollars.

II. THEY GAVE FREELY

[v.3] For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will.

They exercised their free will

The Philippians were poor people because they were being persecuted. Not only did the Jews hate and mistreat Christians, the Roman world was not fond of them either. It had cost the Philippians to follow Christ but they were not complaining. As a matter of fact, Paul was shocked at their generous gift. 

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How did the Philippians come to be so generous? {ANSWER} They choose to of their own free will. Why was Tom Bennich generous? At some point in his life, he made a decision, “I want to be remembered as a generous man.” No one forced Tom to be generous and no one is going to force you. I told Edith last week that Tom had a disciple that he didn’t know anything about. Tom’s generosity so impressed a certain young man that he said, “I want to be like Tom.” Actually two men made a huge impression on this young man, Tom’s impression was on the positive side but the other man was a miser. The young man looked at the contrast and he said, “I want to be like Tom.”

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If you are saying “Its too late,” you could be right or you could be wrong, that too is up to you. Ebeneezer Scrooge was an old man before he learned to give and so was John D. Rockefeller. The doctor told Rockefeller to prepare for his death because he could not digest food. Once Rockefeller realized that the doctor was serious and that he was going to die, he made a change and began giving money away. Without him being aware of what was going on or what made the difference, he began to digest his food and get better physically. Greed was literally killing him and he lived for many more years.

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So who makes the call, who determines whether or not you are going to get into the MINISTRY OF GIVING?  [ANSWER: You do! By exercising your free will] Look at 2 Corinthians 2:9, You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a cheerful giver.”

III. THEY GAVE THANKFULLY

{v.4} They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. 

They understood the privilege of Giving

I gave $500 to the Mission Offering last Sunday and I enjoyed every minute of it. The check I put into the plate came from Edith Bennich. It was as easy as falling off a log. I was never tempted to keep the money. I was simply giving for someone else. Edith used me as an instrument, an agent to give in her behalf. I was having so much fun in the process that I had a thought: giving someone else’s money is easier than giving your own. Then I had another thought: every dime I have given belonged to someone else.

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The only reason I can give, the only reason you can give is because God has given to us first. He is allowing you the privilege of being His agent in the ministry of giving but it is HIS MONEY that you and I are giving. God could very easily take away your privilege to give by taking away your ability to give. The Philippians did not want to miss the privilege of giving to the Christians in Jerusalem. They wanted a part in this ministry. Evidently, Paul didn’t ask them to participate because their condition was as bad or worse than that in Jerusalem. They wouldn’t take no for an answer.

IV.  THEY GAVE SPIRITUALLY 

{v.5} They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.

How do we give spiritually?

  1. Pray about what you are to give. Let God direct you in your giving. You will give what you can afford but sometimes God will challenge you to give more than you can afford.
  2. Commit your life to him before you give money. God does not want your money or necessarily need it, He wants YOU. Money is easier to give than “self.” Those who pretend to be committed yet do not give are only fooling themselves. Giving is a test of your love, to see if it is genuine. You cannot stop love from giving. You can give without loving but you can’t love without giving.