This sermon is the fourthin a 5-part stewardship series entitled “Enough.” This series is based on the short stewardship study by the same title authored by Adam Hamilton. The sermon series theme is Discovering joy through simplicity and generosity. The series Scripture verse is 1 Timothy 6:17 — “Command those who are rich in this present world not to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God.”
Sermon Scripture: Acts 4:32-37; Luke 19:1-10
Sermon Theme: Generosity
Sermon Main Point: We were made to be generous, and when we are generous we are filled with joy and blessings.
After you die, how would you like to be remembered? I bet a lot of us would like to be remembered as kind, friendly, and loving. I wonder how many of us want to be especially remembered as a generous person?
I believe that when God created human beings, he designed us to be generous. We’re made in God’s Image, and generosity is an attribute of God. From Genesis to Revelation, the generosity of God is lifted up. The gift of salvation is the ultimate sign of God’s generosity. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (romans 5:8) He didn’t wait until we finally straightened ourselves out. No, he took the guilt of our sin while we were still dead in our sins – when he didn’t have to. That’s generosity. That spiritual gene, if you will, was passed on to human beings.
The problem – which is something we’ve been talking about for the past 3 weeks – is that sin has impaired that attribute. In his short stewardship study, Adam Hamilton says the result of this is that we now have to contend with two “voices” which speak to us every day. The first voice is the voice of fear. This voice regularly tells us, If you give, there may not be enough left over for you. What are we afraid of? Not having enough for ourselves. What if I don’t have enough to pay my bills or put gas in the car? To a certain degree, those are fair questions. And the first step in answering it is to get serious about creating a working and realistic budget. If you’re financially winging it, then there’s a good chance you’re wasting money. And as a result, you probably do get to the end of the month with very little, if any, left over. This takes us back to the main point of the sermon from two weeks ago, which is that generous giving only happens on purpose, through thoughtful planning, goal-setting, and knowing your life purpose.
Now, don’t confuse the voice of fear – what if there’s not enough? – with the voice of wisdom. The voice of wisdom may say to someone, Giving that much is not a good idea. Such a warning isn’t said out of fear, but out of knowing reality. If you have to borrow money in order to give a full tithe—10%–I hope you hear that voice of wisdom. Going further in debt so that you can be financially generous to this church is not a wise or good thing.
The response to this voice of fear that we should be careful of is hoarding or keeping back for ourselves. It’s one thing to proactively setting aside a portion of your income for the inevitable “rainy day;” it’s another to simply withhold giving out of fear of that day. So the first voice to be aware of is the voice of fear.
The second voice Adam Hamilton identifies is the voice of self-gratification. This voice says, If you give, you have enough money to buy the stuff you need to make you happy. Let’s say you’ve got your heart set on a kitchen remodel, or a new car, or a dream vacation. And you do the math and discover that if cut back on your giving just a little, or if you don’t give what God has put on your heart, you could just about pay for that remodel, or car, or vacation. And before long you’ve convinced yourself that you really need those things in order to be satisfied. After all, who here wants to miss out on the good things of life, right?
So, how do you and I defeat the voices of FEAR and SELF-GRATIFICATION? The good news is that in a very real sense, they’re already defeated . They’re defeated the moment we put our faith in Jesus Christ. When we give our lives to Christ—when we invite him to be Lord of our life—and we allow the Holy Spirit to begin changing us from the inside out, we find that our fears begin to dissipate and our aim in life shifts from seeking personal pleasure to pleasing God and caring for others. So, the good news is that Jesus Christ in us has defeated those voice.
The bad news is that because we live in a broken world, those voices haven’t been fully silenced. On this side of Heaven we still have to contend and wrestle with them. But the good news is that the more we wrestle with them and act in ways that are consistent with God’s Word and the Truth out of obedience, the easier it gets to not heed those voices.
The best way to defeat those voices is to grow spiritually. Spiritual growth grows generosity. As we grow spiritually, we live into the reality that our entire lives belong to the Lord. Not just our hearts, but our minds as well. But not just our hearts and minds, but our wallets as well. The entirety of our lives belong the Jesus Christ.
Those voices get slowly silenced when we proactively grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Interestingly, this is actually one of the signs of a healthy, growing church. One of the characteristics of a growing congregation is that a majority of the people in the congregation are taking personal responsibility for their own spiritual formation. In addition to coming to worship each week, they might be a part of a Bible Study (at work, or at church, or even online). Or they might join a small group. Or when a short-term class or a Sunday school class is offered, they take it. Where it’s offered, maybe they align with a spiritual mentor, or when it’s appropriate, become a spiritual mentor. However one does it, it’s in our best interest that we take responsibility for our own faith development. We have an important part to play in our spiritual growth.
To that end, United Methodist have a wonderful prayer that can help us commit – and recommit – all of our lives to Christ. We call it the Covenant Prayer, because it’s a prayer in which we re-covenant ourselves to living for Jesus Christ above self. (This Covenant Prayer is found on the back side of today’s blue insert, and it’s also up on the wall.) It’s important to note that prayer is not a typical Lord, help me prayer. This truly is a prayer in which the pray-er is making a significant spiritual commitment. As I read it, let the words as well as the significance of what’s being said sink in.
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, place with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you,
Praised for you or criticized for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and fully surrender all things to your glory and service.
And now, O wonderful and holy God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
you are mine, and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it also be made in Heaven.
Making this prayer a part of your spiritual walk could be a big help to you, spiritually. Remember, spiritual growth is never a One-and-Done thing. It’s a daily endeavor of getting back on the horse, of getting back on the path. Salvation is a One-and-Done, but growing in our relationship with God in Jesus Christ is a daily endeavor. Please consider taking this prayer home and making it a part of your walk of faith.
So, as our faith deepens, so does our capacity to be generous. Wouldn’t’ it be nice to be like Barnabas? He’s the guy in todays’ story in the book of Acts sold some real estate he owned and gave the money to the church? Now, let me quickly say that the ‘moral to the story’ isn’t that everyone here should give this church all the money the next time you sell something, like a car or some real estate. The ‘moral to the story’ is if found in v. 34: “There were no needy persons among them.” When each person in the church does their part and gives what they can, it can have the effect of wiping out need. It can destroy poverty. Think about that for just a moment. Generosity on the part of the many could be the end of poverty. You know why? Because the money is there. It’s never a matter of not having the funds. I remember hearing someone who ran a homeless shelter lament the fact that communities can somehow raise $ millions from private donors for certain types of construction, but it’ll be like pulling teeth to raise $2-3 hundred thousand. That very thing could be said about our own community. So the truth is, the money is there.
And wouldn’t it be nice to be like Zacchaeus after his encounter with Jesus. Talk about spiritual growth! Zacchaeus, who grew rich cheating people out of their hard-earned money, has a face-to-face encounter with Jesus which cuts him right to heart. What did Jesus say to him? “Let’s do lunch!” And with that Zacchaeus recognizes his sin and proclaims that he’s going to give half of his possessions to the poor, and then he’s going to pay back 4 times the amount that he cheated anyone out of. Wow! Imagine a change of heart on our part that resulted in us giving away that much.
Listen to Proverbs 11:24-25 Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want. A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water. Proverbs 22.9 says, Happy are generous people, because they give some of their food to the poor.
Next week each of us is going to be asked to make a commitment of support of the ministries of this church for 2018. My hope is that throughout this week, you’ll be considering the things I’ve been talking about these past four Sunday’s, and that you’ll be laying it all before God in prayer, asking him to guide you to a decision about the amount you feel God is calling you to give.
To sum up the main points:
- Week 1: Pursuing good, God-honoring financial practices is a major factor in experiencing financial and spiritual freedom.
- Week 2: Generous giving only happens on purpose through thoughtful planning, goal-setting, and knowing your purpose.
- Week 3: Choosing contentment means we look to God as our Source, giving thanks for what we have.
- Week 4: We’re made to be generous, and when we’re generous we’re filled with joy and blessings.
And one last thought to leave you with. We ask you to give not because the church has the need, but because we ourselves have a need to give. It’s what brings the greatest joy in life. If there’s a need on the part of the church, it’s the need to be able to do life-changing ministry. Your support allows this church to continue to do ministry that changes lives. All of those ministries have a cost Some of the cost is financial, and some of the cost is personal involvement. Both are an important part of our mission to develop new and maturing followers of Jesus Christ. And it can only happen with the help of many.