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Financial Instructions from the Master – Chap Bettis

On this episode of The Disciple-Making Parent Podcast, we share a sermon on Financial Instructions from The Master, where I share biblical teaching and practical suggestions on personal finance and generosity.

At the end of the sermon, we’ll reflecting on the importance of understanding that everything we have is a blessing from God, and our role is to be good stewards of these resources. So, join us as we navigate the complex world of finance through a biblical lens.

 

Topics Covered In This Week’s Podcast

08:55 God owns everything. You and I are just managers.
14:04 God expects you to invest and grow his resources.
19:13 There will be a day of review.
28:53 Wealth has positive uses.
32:30 Wealth is deceptive.
39:27 Generosity breaks the deceptiveness of wealth.

Episode Transcript

I’m Chap Bettis and you’re listening to The Disciple-Making Parent, where we seek to equip parents and churches to pass the gospel to their children. What are the messages that you hear about money? Here are some famous and contradictory quotations. One is, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Another with a twist on the Bible says, “Lack of money is the root of all evil.” Or “Someone who says anyone who lives within his means suffers from a lack of imagination.” And finally, a well-known one from Benjamin Franklin, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” But what does God have to say about money?

Hi, my name is Chap Bettis, and I’m the author of The Disciple-Making Parent. And yes, it has been a while since I uploaded a podcast. Life got very busy there for a season. I was finishing up our first-ever quick-read book. It’s entitled Launch, and I can’t wait to tell you about it in future episodes. In addition, I took some time to head up to northern Vermont with some friends to see the eclipse in totality. It was amazing. Words can’t describe it. So mark your calendar now for August 23rd, 2044. Yes, that is 20 years away. August 23rd, 2044. You will not want to miss it.

But one other thing made this season busy. I was asked to preach on Sunday morning to my home church, Grace Harbor. And as you’ll hear in the introduction, I was definitely led to speak on a subject that can step on toes. It’s the subject of money. I think it’s vital for us as Christians and as parents and grandparents to have a biblical perspective on money and seek to pass it on to our children. You know, the human heart has always loved and worshiped wealth. Does the Bible have anything to say about money? And the answer is yes, absolutely yes. And our kids are watching our attitude towards money.

Well, in this podcast, I want to share the sermon with you. We looked at some biblical teaching about money. And at the end, I got very practical with some suggestions for us personally, and also on training our children in generosity. So first they need to see it modeled in us. But we also need to train them in this area. For example, our own children had a bank with three compartments marked giving, saving, and spending.

Well, before we start, I want to remind you that we have a second podcast, my audio blog, and this is a short form podcast where I read my blog posts in audio format so that you can listen on the go. So think about it. You can consume good content while you’re doing chores or running errands. Simply search for and subscribe to The Disciple-Making Parent Audio Blog. That’s The Disciple-Making Parent Audio Blog. Or, you can go to our website and find it there. But for now, let’s think about what God has to say about money.

Well, good morning, Grace Harbor Church and others. It’s a joy to address the saints again this morning. Let me start us off in prayer. Father of all, you are a prayer-hearing God, and so open our minds this morning to the abundance that’s in your Word. Lord, flood our hearts with your peace, your grace, and feed us on your Word this morning, we pray, in Christ’s name. Amen.

Well, if I haven’t had the privilege of meeting you I’d love to. My name is Chap Bettis, and I’ve been a lead pastor for 25 years, and then served as a pastor, as an elder here for six years. I’m not an elder right now, but Kevin asked if I would preach this morning and left open the text and the subject. And after praying about it, I definitely felt led to speak on maybe an uncomfortable subject, and that’s the subject of money. This topic in this sermon comes from my own heart. I have no hidden agenda, but as I prayed over it, I thought, perhaps I am the person to teach on this because I have no skin in the game. I don’t receive a salary from Grace Harbor. And so I’ll also be preaching to myself. I’ve been preaching to myself all week as I prepared.

Let me just say, if you’ve started attending here or a visitor here this morning, this may confirm your suspicion that all churches do is talk about money. Well, let me tell you, I’ve been attending this church for 12 years and I don’t remember one sermon on money. Jesus taught often about money. Actually, 16 of the 38 parables were concerned about how to handle money and possessions. In the Gospels, 1 out of 10 verses deal in some way with money. So the Bible has 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2, 000 verses on money and possessions.

This book is a book from my library. All it is is Bible verses on money. This is how much the Bible has to say and addresses this issue. So, evidently, Jesus thinks it’s important. And this morning, we want to think about financial instructions from the Master. And so, if you’ll join me, turn to Matthew 25, and we’ll be looking at verses 14 to 30. Let me read God’s holy and inspired word.

“For it is just like a man about to go on a journey. He called his own servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two talents, and to another one talent, depending on each one’s ability. Then he went on a journey. Immediately the man who had received five talents went, put them to work, and earned five more. In the same way the man with two earned two more. But the man who had received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.

 “After a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five talents approached, presented five more talents, and said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. See, I’ve earned five more talents.’

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy.’

“The man with two talents also approached. He said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. See, I’ve earned two more talents.’

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy.’

“The man who had received one talent also approached and said, ‘Master, I know you. You’re a harsh man, reaping where you haven’t sown and gathering where you haven’t scattered seed. So I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’

“His master replied to him, ‘You evil, lazy servant! If you knew that I reap where I haven’t sown and gather where I haven’t scattered, then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and I would have received my money back with interest when I returned

“‘So take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. And throw this good-for-nothing servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

Really the main idea of this morning is very simple. We need to understand what God teaches about money. We need to, we need to hear financial instructions from the owner, from the Master. First, let’s think about this. You need to realize God owns everything and you and I are just managers. God owns everything. You and I are just managers. Let’s think a little bit about the context of this parable. It’s presented in the last week of Jesus life, probably Tuesday of the Passion Week. And it’s in a series, and he’s preparing his disciples for his departure and eventual return.

And in the previous parable, the point was this: I’m going away, but be ready. Stay ready. That’s the previous parable. But what’s the point here? What does it mean to be ready? To do nothing? No, actually waiting in readiness means responsible activity to grow what the Master has given us. Waiting means responsible activity to grow what He’s given us. And we start by realizing God owns everything. We’re just the managers. Look in verse 14:

“For it is just like a man about to go on a journey. He called his own servants and entrusted his possessions to them.” Scripture is very clear. God owns it all. As the creator, he is the rightful and legal owner. You and I are merely managers. Here’s some scripture, Psalm 24. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it, for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” The earth is the Lord’s. He’s the creator. Haggai 2:8. “The silver is mine. The gold is mine, declares the Lord Almighty.”

 We see in that passage, God sovereignly entrusts different amounts to different people, but all are significant. The word “talent” doesn’t mean what the English word talent means, an ability. Instead, it’s a unit of money, but a large amount, about 600 denarii. A denarius is a day’s wage. So maybe we’re talking about 20 years’ wages. Maybe a talent is $600,000. So each one is entrusted with a significant amount of the master’s resources and all this- although this morning I want to talk primarily about money. Really? There’s a lot that the master has entrusted with you. We might think of it as your time and your talents, thinking about your abilities, your talents, and your treasures. All of us, we need to steward well our time and our talents and our treasures or money.

So think about how you invest your time. Do you see God as owning your time? How do you invest your talents, your abilities that God has entrusted with you? And how will you invest your treasure, the money that God has entrusted you with? Let me just give you one quick application. Can you release your money to the Lord? Can you look at your bank app and say, “That’s God’s money.” Can you get into your car after the sermon and say, “Lord, this is your car. Help me steward it well.”

I knew this in theory, but I came to realize it in a really heartfelt way three and a half years ago when we sold our first house of 27 years. You can imagine as a young father and husband, I was excited. Yes, I finally own my own house! Of course the after it closed I went and said, I’ve just made the biggest mistake of my life.But that that was not true. My emotions were riding up and down. But during all this time, these 27 years, I thought I owned the house, but no, actually I merely occupied it because. . . I remember standing with some of my adult children, tearfully walking through the empty house one last time. And I realized I never really owned the house. I leased it for 27 years and now someone else is going to own that. That informed my thinking as we went to our new house. And I was like, Oh, this is great, but you know what? I may lease this house for 20 or 30 years. Someone else will have it when I’m gone. Do you and I see all the things that we possess as belonging to God and we are managers?

That’s really very clear from this passage.

The second truth is you need to realize that God expects you to invest and grow his resources. That’s what it means to wait for his second coming. Look at verse 16: “Immediately the man who had received five talents went and put them to work and earned five more. In the same way, the man with two earned two more, but the man who had received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.” So not only does God own it all, he expects us to invest and grow it. God is the one who is the source of our ability to create wealth. Deuteronomy eight 18 says it this way. “You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who is giving you the power to make wealth, that he may confirm his covenant, which he swore to your fathers as it is this day.”

How does God provide for us? How does he give us the ability to make wealth? Well, normally we create financial wealth through hard, effective, efficient work. In fact, you can just see that in verse 16: “The man who had received the five talents went and put them to work.” Verse 20, “Master, you gave me five talents. See, I have earned five more.” My intention this morning is not to have an economics lesson. That’s outside of my lane, believe me. But there is an economic principle here. The Master, God, gives us the ability to create wealth.

One of the assumptions of some politicians that is that the economic pie is only a certain size. So to help some people, we have to take some of the pie from others. But actually, wealth can be created. For example, the same steel that makes a paper clip can also make a medical instrument, which is more valuable. The same sand can be used to make a window pane. But it also can be made to make a semiconductor, which is more valuable. See, in the process, wealth is being created. How do we become more productive? We become more productive when we have the proper tools and we can purchase those tools when we have capital and there’s capital, there’s a profit

Profit is not a dirty word. It’s actually right there in the text. See, the difference between the farmer in South America and the United States is not that the American farmer is a harder worker. It’s that the American farmer has better tools. So God’s normal provision for you and me is hard, effective, efficient work.

So if you’re struggling in financial straits right now, it is not right to pray, Lord, help me win the lottery. It is right to pray, Lord, show me how to be a more productive servant of yours. How should I develop myself to serve others? But actually, Scripture records a number of exceptions to that fact that we should also need to keep in mind as we go through the ups and downs of life. One is God can bless us without working. God miraculously provided for the Israelites in the desert. Sorry, that’s the next point. But God led Israel out of the Egypt. He Israel was asked to take possessions, and they plundered the Egyptians. When they came into the promised land, they found fields they had not plowed and houses they had not built.

Just a modern example: in World War II, Hitler built a large tower to send out radio waves with his propaganda. Well, guess what? After World War II, a Christian organization took that over and used that same radio to send the gospel to all around the world. You see, nothing is impossible with God. And so, if we, there are times that we need to remember that.

God can also preserve things. So he fed 2 million people in the desert for 40 years. He said, your clothes will not wear out. And so, even if we’re facing financial straits, we know that God can work that way. But also, on the flip side, God can discipline us in the midst of hard work. He says that to the people in the book of Haggai, where he called for the people to build the temple. And God says, give careful thought to your ways. You’ve planted much, but you’ve harvested little. You eat, but it’s never enough. You drink, but you 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. So God can discipline us this way.

So, just by application, we need to ask the Spirit, Are you withholding spiritual or financial blessings from me because I’m disobeying you? So, we need to realize God owns everything. We’re the managers. God expects me and you to grow and invest His resource. And then, we need to realize there’s going to be a day of review for how we invested our resources. There’ll be a day of review between the first coming and the second coming. At the second coming, there’ll be a day of review. Verse 19. “After a long time, the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five talents approached, presented five more talents and said, Master, you gave me five talents. See, I’ve earned five more. And his master said, Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful over a few things. I’ll put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy.” Same with verse 22. “The man with two talents also approached and said, Master, you gave me two talents. See, I’ve earned two more. And his Master said, well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful over a few things. I’ll put you in charge. of many things. Share your master’s joy.” Those who’ve invested resources wisely are called good and faithful. The master is happy and they’re happy and they are given further responsibility.

This subject of money overlaps with rewards. I can go back and look on a sermon I preached last May in a similar passage in Luke 19. As we’re faithful, we receive the master’s commendation and joy and praise and are rewarded with heavenly rewards. God gives you and me money to determine future rewards. Look in verse 21. “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things.” I’ll put you in charge of many things now. “Come and share your master’s happiness.”

In Luke 16:9-11, a really interesting verse that I encourage you to look that later, Jesus says this: “Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves so that when it is gone, you’ll be welcomed. into eternal dwellings. Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much. Whoever is dishonest with very little will be dishonest with much.” And then here’s a key verse: “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” That last verse is important. Jesus is saying, your money is not true riches. And he’s watching to see, how are we going to handle it?

You know, we need to think of this green stuff is like monopoly money. I mean, you need it to play the game and it’s kind of fun to have more monopoly money than have not have less, you know? But at the end of the game, it all goes back in the box. The Monopoly money is for playing Monopoly. When it’s over, maybe a little kid, he has to go to bed and he distributes his money to other people. See, that is not real money. Monopoly money is not real money, except Jesus is watching how we play the game of Monopoly and starting to store up real money.

Well, we can’t leave this without observing the last servant here. He has not been faithful, but has buried what he was given. Verse 24: “The man who had received one talent also approached and said, Master, I know you are a harsh man reaping where you haven’t sown, and gathering where you haven’t scattered seed. So I was afraid. I went off and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours. And his master replied to him,” verse 26, “you evil and lazy servant. If you knew that I reap where I haven’t sown and gather where I haven’t scattered, then you should have deposited my money with the bankers and I would have received it back with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. From the one who does not have even what he has will be taken away from him. And throw this good for nothing servant into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

We need to remember that this is this is a parable. There’s not a direct connection one-for-one. Jesus is not teaching works salvation, that we are we’re saved by how we handle money. There’s no doubt that the last servant here stands for the Scribes and the Pharisees and their attitude towards the truth and the law. They saw God as harsh, and religion concerned with not doing anything wrong. Jesus condemns them and he instead commends the faithful service that produces spiritual results. And then Jesus ends with verse 29. It’s kind of strange, but it’s probably a proverbial expression. “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

Seems like what he’s saying there is if you rightly improve what you’re given, you’re going to be given more. Or if you don’t use it, it’ll be taken away. My parents had a similar saying growing up. Use it or lose it. Use it or lose it.

So what we see here is there’s a final accounting or a review. But let me ask you this. Is the point of the story to grow your financial portfolio, grow your monopoly money? Is that the point? No. It’s to wait for the Lord’s return by investing his resources that he’s entrusted to you. The way we wait for the Lord’s return is to invest the resources he’s entrusted to you.

So the question is, how can I be trustworthy in handling that worldly wealth so that I get true riches? How can I invest those resources according to the master? And so for the last two points of this message, I’d like us just to think just a little bit about what the master has to say about money. So this will be a little more, a little more topical here on the one hand. So if you’re taking notes, we want to understand what the master has to say about money. And on the one hand, the Bible has positive things to say about money. It’s often a natural byproduct of godliness. Sin is not only destructive, it’s expensive. “He who loves pleasure will become poor”, Proverbs 21:17. “Money is wasted in wild living.” So it’s often as God sanctifies us, and we have more self control, often we find our financial situation is improving. Money is a means of shelter from the sinful world, Ecclesiastes 7 says. But money is also fuel for advancing the kingdom. Jesus was supported financially so he could be free to minister to the crowds.

You may have heard the Gideon’s ministry, they distribute Bibles so that God’s word is out among people. 903of the Bibles are distributed overseas. 90% of the funds come from the United States. Christian businessmen using their funds for the kingdom.

Church historians credit a set of books, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it before, entitled The Fundamentalsas stemming the tide of church liberalism. It was funded in 1909 by a California businessman, Lyman Stewart, the founder of Union Oil and a devout Presbyterian. He anonymously provided funds for composing, printing, and distributing the series of books called The Fundamentals. And it was mailed free of charge to ministers, missionaries, and all sorts of religious workers. In total, over 250,000 sets were mailed to Christian ministers, and it’s credited with stemming the tide of liberalism in the United States. So money is the fuel for advancing the kingdom.

Not only that, money can relieve suffering. In I Corinthians 16, Paul is raising money for the Gentile church to support the Jewish widows. It’s going to bind their hearts together because often Jewish widows would buy a one-way ticket to Jerusalem for the last years of their life. So this is a way the Gentile churches could partner together and support them. Many in the world endure physical suffering that just a few dollars would change, or spiritual suffering because they have no way to hear about Jesus. So money is a way, is a fuel to relieve suffering. But also, money can grow our faith. It can show you God’s provision in a tangible way. God often uses our financial needs and his financial provision in a very practical way.

When I was a young ex college student, I had come back to Rhode Island to help plant a church. I couldn’t find a job. And eventually, though, I started working as a temp worker. I’m like, “I’ve got to do something.” But what I didn’t realize is they would actually hold the paycheck for the first week. And so literally I had no money in the bank and no food in the house. And I remember praying, Lord, help, help. That Sunday night, I came out of church. There was an envelope on the car with my name on it, with $100 inside. That anonymous gift built a young man’s faith. I walked into the grocery store for the first time, praising God. But even more, I knew that God’s eye was upon me.

Over and over again, God has used my financial needs to draw me close to him, whether it’s the house we’re in now, or the growth of the nonprofit I lead. God wants to grow our faith. He’s going to give you some monopoly money, or maybe withhold it to grow your faith. Peter says it this way in I Peter 1, which talked about how “These various trials have come to test the genuineness of your faith, which is more precious than gold.” Your faith, my faith, is more valuable than money.

See, there’s a difference I want to suggest. There a difference between saying this, “God is watching over me.”  But there’s another level. God is watching over me. God cares for me. God provides for me. Listen, if our Father knows how many hairs are on your head, don’t you think he knows how many dollars are in your bank account?  And Jesus says, come to me. How did he teach us to pray? It’s part of the Lord’s Prayer. “Give us this day our daily bread.” We are to go to him and talk to him about our finances and our needs. So there lots of positive things that scripture teaches about money. But overwhelmingly the teaching of Jesus is that money is not inherently evil, but it is deceptive. Money is deceptive. How?

Well, one way is we equate it with the good life. Luke 12:15- “Watch out, be on your guard against all kinds of greed. Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.  What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” I mean, some of you may have seen the interview with Shaq O’Neill where he was being interviewed and he said, “I have a hundred thousand square foot house all by myself.” Here’s a rich fool that I pray will come to Christ

We equate it with the good life. Maybe you can relate this story in your own heart. When she was about three or four, I heard my daughter singing upstairs and she was singing the hymn, Holy, Holy, Holy. And I thought, “I’ got this family discipleship thing down. This is a piece of cake.”  And I quietly tiptoed up the stairs to take a look. And, yeah, she was pretending to be on stage. She’s got her mother’s high heels on. She’s singing at the top of her lungs. And the tune was Holy, Holy, Holy. But not the words. In her fists, she had clumps of play money. And she was singing, “Money, Money, Money” to the tune of Holy, Holy, Holy.  What’s hilarious in a three year old is damnable in a 33 year old. But that’s us, right? Money. I got it.

Those with money, it seems, have the power to live the good life now, but the good life is not the abundant life. I remember Kevin saying probably a year ago, “Don’t envy those who are happy without Christ. Pity them.” Money is deceptive because it can be equated with the good life. It’s deceptive because it can keep you from coming to Christ.

Matthew 19:23. “It’s hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Christianity has always flourished among those who don’t have money. I Corinthians 1:26. “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many were wise by human standards, not many influential, not many were of noble birth.” Money is deceptive because it keeps us from coming to Christ. It’s deceptive for the Christian because it can choke out our spiritual fruitfulness. Jesus, speaking in the parable of the soils, tells us in Matthew 13:22, “What was sown among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of life, the deceitfulness of wealth, choke it, making it unfruitful. “

So money is deceptive because it can choke my fruitfulness and maturity. It becomes our master. “No one,”Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “no one can serve two masters.” He’s just saying, this is life. This is a principle just like the law of gravity. “You can’t serve two masters. Either you’re going to hate one and love the other, or you’re going to be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Full stop. Jesus says.

Maybe that’s why also Scripture talks about it’s deceptive. It can cause us to wander from the faith. I Timothy 6:10- “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” I remember just as I was getting into writing and I was following a young guy who was sort of telling people how to write. I’m pretty sure he was a writer for a missions organization. And the more he got into the get-rich-quick coaching, that whole bit, I watched and I thought, man, I’m really worried about your life. Sure enough, he walked away as far as. . . I don’t know whether he has with the Lord, but he divorced his young family.  Didn’t happen all at once. Little by little. It causes us to wander from the faith. It’s also usually controls our heart. Money is deceptive because it controls our heart.

Here’s a biblical tension. On the one hand, it shows our heart. If I want to know what you really value, not what you say you value, but what you really value, I can look if you’ll show me your bank account, show me your credit card. That’s what you really value. But counterintuitively, our actions actually affect our heart and our heart follows our money. Listen to the words of Jesus. These are Jesus’s words. “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, where thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, where thieves do not break in and steal.” Here’s the reason: “for where your treasure is, so there your heart will be.” The first you say, well, my when I give, I show my heart and Jesus said, well, actually where you put your treasure, your heart is going to be connected.  There’s lots of good ministries out there, but I find the people I give to, I’m constantly like, Hey, how are these? I should pray for them. Where your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be.

So the teaching of scripture is that money can be de deceptive. We equate it with the look-good life. How many of you are following someone on Instagram who’s an influencer? And are they influencing you towards godliness or they influencing you to our how to have more money, how to live the beautiful life? We should look at maybe the elders as influencers. Not saying you guys should get an Instagram account, but.

So money can be deceptive. We can equate it with a good life. We can keep us from coming to Christ. It can choke out spiritual maturity. It can become our master. It can cause people to walk away from their faith. If that’s true, what are we to do? And then I want to finish up with this fifth principle here.

What are we to do? Well, I want to suggest two applications, two ways we fight the deceptiveness of money. Two quick applications. One is by talking to the Lord about our finances by bringing our finances. . . I’ve got my faith over here. I’ve got my finances over here. Connect those two, asking him to help you be like the faithful servant.  He cares. If you’re struggling financially, that’s a good place to start: Lord, you know the situation I’m in. What should I do? Who should I talk to? Guide me, please. To use Travis’s images from last week. If you’re a Christian, God has roped himself to you. You can pull on that rope! Lord, show me.

I’ll just get very personal with you. I don’t struggle very much with anxiety, but I had a period in my life where I realized I had made a big financial mistake. And I was gripped with anxiety. In fact, I would wake up in the middle of the night and for a period, all I could pray even as I woke up was, Lord, help, Lord, help, please help, Lord, help. I’m coming to you for help, Lord, help. Over and over. Eventually the Lord gave me a promise to hang on to and then some very specific plans to calm my heart. But if you’re in financial need, a good place to start is to go to the Lord. Realize you’re actually in a good place. Scripture says, has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom, that he’s promised to those who love him?  So, going to him will build your faith. And if you’ve been blessed, and don’t feel that way, then you need to go to him too. Because Scripture says, to whom much is given, much is required.  We need to go to him. You need to make him CEO of your business, if you’re a business owner.

But the second, and I think this is the primary way of fighting the deceptiveness of sin, is by generosity. It’s by giving. God is looking and saying, Can you be trusted with monopoly money? Will you hold it in your fist, singing about how great it is, or will you be generous? God is a generous God.  When he tells his followers to love his enemies, Jesus said, we’re doing just what God does. Scripture says, God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good. God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Everyone on earth is a beneficiary of God’s goodness and generosity, whether they know it or not, or whether they acknowledge him or not.  So, when we are good, we are generous. When we are generous, we’re imitating God. But chiefly, God has shown us his generosity in Christ.

In a passage where Paul is encouraging the Corinthian church to be generous, he says this, For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich for your sake, he became poor so that by his poverty, you might become rich. How did Jesus become poor? He left the glories of heaven, the worship of angels. He came to fallen earth and to what? Become a king? No, a servant, a humble servant, a servant who was humbled and became obedient to death, not just any death, death on a cross. Would you do anything like that? Would you leave the wealth of the U. S. and go to serve the lowest caste in India in the ghettos? And oh yeah, they’re not going to welcome you, they’re actually going to kill you. Are you going to go? This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice. This is the poverty of Christ, stripped of everything, owning nothing, not even his own shroud, his final night in a borrowed room, his body buried in a borrowed tomb to give you and me spiritual riches.

If you’re here and you’re checking things out, that’s great. I encourage you keep coming back. I hope you will perceive of Grace Harbor as a generous place. But our generosity is driven by something crazy. We actually believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that he sent him. He lived a life just like us. He got hungry and tired. He taught the truth. He performed miracles of healing. He never sinned, yet he was opposed. And then his life culminated in the death on an instrument of torture, the Roman cross. But that was part of the plan. God’s plan to satisfy the wrath of God for sinners like you and me. And after three days he rose from the dead and then for 40 days he appeared to his disciples before going back to heaven where he rules right now.

That is the kind of generous God we serve. But let me ask you this, if God really did love the world so much that he would give his only Son, that whoever believed in him would have eternal life, would not perish, then can there be any greater insult than to spurn this generosity? Come to Christ today while there’s still time. Come to Christ today. God is being generous. He’s given his own Son. Come if you feel any sense of the Spirit working in you. So if God’s been generous to us as believers, then what, what’s the proper response?

It’s for us to be generous. He said, generosity shows a new heart. When my late father-in-law, a businessman, came to Christ as an adult, he started generous giving right away. So much so that he was actually audited by the IRS. They didn’t believe he went from giving so little to so much. Jesus changed his life and changed his pocketbook.  You see, we’re called, Scripture calls us to be generous towards God with our money. Proverbs 3:10, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your produce.” We saw this in today’s Old Testament scripture reading. Jesus said, it’s a good verse for April 15th, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, give to God the things that are God’s.” David said, “I will not offer burnt offering to the Lord my God that costs me nothing.”

If you’re a member of this church, are you giving to the Lord by giving to the church? Forget whether or not the church needs it. This is your and my act of worship. Are you offering worship that actually costs you nothing? One of the few things I write checks for is the offering. I was always taught, you write the first check to the church.  I know there’s automatic giving. Honestly, I’m not a big fan. And I’m old, so that’s okay. But it’s an act of worship. It’s saying, Lord, you have provided financially for me this week as an act of thanksgiving and honor and out of faith, I want to give a portion back. And at the same time, I’m praying, Lord, establish the work of my hand.  It is a time where my faith and my money connect. This applies to those of you who are college students, or you may not be earning a salary. Or maybe those who are in debt and say, well, when I get out of debt, I’ll give to the Lord. You won’t. You won’t. Start giving something. Don’t scramble to see what’s in the wallet, but out of settled determination, when I come to worship, Lord, I want to honor you, and part of honoring you is with the money he’s given.

On a related note, if you’re a child, I encourage you to give. When we were raising our kids, we had banks for them that had compartments: giving, savings, and spending. They would give their money in the offering. I think the change in the offering box sort of messed with the person’s head who counted it, but hey, who cares? They’re giving to the Lord. I’m sure tonight we’re going to be asked to consider some special sacrificial giving as well. So we’re to be generous towards God.

We’re to be generous towards others. In the next parable in Matthew, we won’t look at it this morning. Jesus speaks of how the saints were meeting the needs of their brothers and sisters who were suffering. So whether it’s in advancing our monopoly money and advancing the gospel or to relieve their suffering, generosity breaks the deceptiveness of sin. And God actually prospers us so that we can be generous. In II Corinthians 9:11, Paul says this to the Corinthians, You’re going to be made rich in every way- so that you can have the good life? No. So that you can be generous on every occasion. And through us, your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

I have a non-profit and I’m supported by people who give to me and there are times I receive letters of thanksgiving from ministry and I think, that goes to the givers. I can’t do this on my own. And Paul is saying that when there’s thanksgiving to God, it comes through the generosity of others.

How are we to give? We’re to be cheerful. Actually, the word is hilarious. The idea is hilarious. Like, we’re so cheerful, we are delighted to give. II Corinthians 9 says, “God will make sure you have what you need. God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that at all things, at all times, having all you need, you’ll abound in every good work. Now he who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, will also supply and increase your store of seed, and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.”

Isn’t fear what hinders our generosity? What happens? What if? What if? That was how my faith was built, by that hundred-dollar gift, because I was gripped with fear. What if I have an accident? I don’t have collision on my car, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. God’s like, I got this. I see you. You’re on my screen. God will make sure you have what you need. There’s a lot more that could be said. You might even just go through as you’re reading through your scripture, and just every so often when you see something related to money, star it or underline it. But I pray that as you begin, you will have your value shaped more and more by the word, and not influencers.

God has entrusted you with some money. Monopoly money. It’s not real money. But it can be turned into real money. It can be turned into true riches. Some of us have been given a little monopoly money, others a lot. But, like the little girl with her fingers clutched around paper money, it’s easy to worship, isn’t it? It’s easy to use it to calm our anxiety, indulge the flesh, or project how successful we are. How do we get away from the deceptiveness of money? We open our fists. We’re generous. Jesus says, take what I’ve entrusted to you, multiply it with great returns so that I can entrust you with real riches when I come back.

Let’s pray.

Lord, your cause, not our own engages and should engage our heart. In light of how much we value you, may the world and its enjoyments seem poor. So grant us a heart that beats like yours. Lord, may those who are struggling financially know that you see them. You care for them. They’re on your heart. And may those who are well off, as you command, take hold of the life that is truly the life. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

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