The whole point of money to Jesus and a generous spirit is that it creates this habit and this view of caring for others, because left to ourselves, we start to protect and secure. And, unconsciously, we think these other things are going to make us happy.
And a lot of the stuff you have, do you realize that twenty years ago there was hardly any of these storage places? And what is everyone’s garage – most garages are filled, not with cars, right? What are they filled with? The stuff you don’t need anymore!
So our garages and all these storage units all over the place, now they’ve got to be climatized, because we’re not sure if we are ever going to use it, but we don’t want it to be ruined. All I’m saying is, I think this is true.
I think the glitter and the hook, that, Arrgg! But here is why: Sixty-some percent of all marriages fail because of financial pressure. When Jesus tells us to be compassionate and generous, to give first, to limit debt to only appreciable items, to be wise with our money; if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. Save up until you can.
Some of those really old, traditional things are just biblical. What they do is they free you, and they allow you to express your love to people. And, by the way, I think this is more than just our, first, giving to the church, although that is important. I think this is a journey.
And for me, it started with just five dollars over here. And, yes, I learned to give the first ten percent. And then the third step, I learned something from a very wise man who really challenged me.
The third step is to develop an eternal perspective, by understanding the inseparable relationship between our money and authentic worship.
See, I want to develop a heart of compassion, I want to develop a spirit of generosity, I want to go places and look at people. I actually do something, I would encourage you to try this, because this is a baby step. And maybe if you’re in high school or college, you don’t have much money, maybe a wad of eight or ten ones. If you’re a little bit older and have a little bit more money, a wad of six or seven or eight five-dollar bills, or tens.
And this is, you keep it with you just to give. But you just keep it with you all the time. For some of you, it’s a wad of maybe eight or ten twenty-dollar bills. And you just keep it with you, and you are looking for…
I was in the Chicago airport, and there was a guy who I could tell, whose life was hard, and he was cleaning the bathrooms. And he was from another country. And his countenance was down.
And God just prompted me. And so I do that and I went over and I said, “I just want you to know that God knows your life and he cares about you.” And I gave him a twenty-dollar bill. And he just lit up. I don’t know what it did for him; I know what it did for me.
I found myself at a carwash recently with a bunch of Vietnamese guys and you could tell they were pretty new here and two of them didn’t speak the language. And the one guy was leading everything. And I just watched all these cars coming through and all of this work. And I thought, What would it be like to live here, not speak the language, be new?
And you know what? They washed my car and then I gave them a tip that was more than the price of the carwash. And then I asked them about, “So, have you guys found a church?” And, “Well, I’m Catholic, and these two guys are Buddhist.”
But do you understand what I am saying? For some of you, I did this when someone gave me some money I didn’t expect, some of you should have eight or ten one hundred-dollar bills that you carry with you in your briefcase or in the back of your purse so if you see a need, that you can just…
What it does, it triggers you to be prepared to be a generous person. I will tell you, your eyes will change, your joy will change, your happiness will change.
See, what happens is your focus, instead of, What am I going to do, where am I going to go, what about this, do I want this, do I have that? It changes to, God, everything that I am and everything that I have is from You. And I am going to give, first and foremost, to Your work. And then I don’t want generosity to be like, I don’t want to write a check to the church like a bill. I want to make it an offering to my God and then I want Him to know that all the rest of my money, it’s His as well, and, God, if You want to whisper in my ear and You want to love people in ways that I don’t know about, I just want You to know I am prepared and ready.
All I can tell you, it’s one of the greatest joys of my life. And we can all do it at different levels, and it’s not the amount of the money. It’s that it creates that mindset. It’s understanding this relationship between money and authentic worship.
Notice what Paul says. He wants to make sure they get the motives right. He goes, “Not that I’m looking for a gift.” He says, I am writing this “thank you” letter, but this isn’t like, “Thank you for the last gift and, by the way, I need another big one.”
He said, “No, no, no, no! But I am looking for what may be credited to your account.” That’s very interesting, it’s a financial phrase or term. And it’s really the interest that is being accrued on your account in heaven. Paul actually believed in eternal rewards.
He says, “I am not thanking you just for me. I am looking for what is credited to your account. I received full payment.” Literally, it’s, “I’ve got a receipt.” “And even more, I am amply supplied. You have given generously through the gift from Epaphroditus.” And then notice, “Giving, giving, giving.” And then here’s, you might jot this down, “Every financial decision is a spiritual decision.”
Every financial decision is a spiritual decision. Their gift accrued in heaven, but notice the language changes from the gift, the interest, and the receipt. Now notice how he describes it. “They are a fragrant offering,” literally, the phrase is, “It’s a sweet smell in the nostrils of God.”
“It’s an acceptable,” notice, “sacrifice.” It’s not what we have left over. It’s our best; it’s our first. “It is pleasing to God.”
God does more for the giver, eternally and spiritually, than the receiver of the gift. That’s what he is saying.
The last words of Jesus are not in Matthew, they are not in Mark, they are not in Luke, and they are not in John. Did you know that? The last words of Jesus are Him being quoted in the book of Acts, where the apostle would say to others, “Now remember the words of our Lord, that it is more blessed,” the word means, happy. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
All I want to tell you is, we don’t believe that. Philargyria robs us of that. Philargyria begins to harden your heart. Philargyria begins to suffocate your spirit. It’s like breathing in CO2, and right where the oxygen should go and then go and give life to the organs, the CO2 locks in, the carbon monoxide, and what it does is it doesn’t deliver anything. It smells the same, it looks the same, it goes into your cells, but it brings death.
That’s what materialism does. That’s what greed does. That’s what consumerism does. It’s lethal. It plunges men and women into ruin and destruction.
I had an experience with an older gentleman. His name was Paul. And Paul grew up in the Midwest. Paul was a business guy, was an architect early on and then became an architect for some commercial buildings. And he learned from that that he really liked that better.
And Paul got married when he was young, and came from a traditional home where giving ten percent to the Lord, that’s what the Bible says, you give the first ten percent. And he said it was like a bill. You just write it out and it honors God and positions you to be blessed, etcetera, etcetera.
And he said, “I went to a conference on generosity, and they talked about proportional giving. They said that’s a good start and you give the first ten percent to recognize it all comes from God.”
And, by the way, how we use the other ninety percent, if you tithe, is just as important. But he said, “They were talking about when God blesses you more, you should learn to be more generous.”
And so he said, “I was married for a year and I went to my young bride and I said, ‘Why don’t we do an experiment? Why don’t we give eleven percent this year?’ And she said, ‘Well, okay, let’s test the Lord.’”
So he gave eleven percent. And he got to the end of the year and he thought, Well, nothing broke. In fact, we made a little bit more money this year than last year. And so, “Well, what do you think, dear? Should we? Let’s do twelve percent the next year.”
And you can probably wonder where this story is going. I met Paul when he had been married fifty-eight years. For fifty-eight years, Paul added a percentage. And he said, “Please do not hear – this is no give to get. And this is not, I am not saying God does this. I have just never had a year where I made less the next year than I did the past year.”
When I met Paul, he was giving, I don’t know, seventy-two, seventy-three percent of his income away. And he lived a great life.
But it was very interesting. He was a very old man as I got to know him, and some guys, when they get really old, they sort of get that, Arrrrggg, when they talk. Arrrggg!
And Paul would get up and go, “Let me tell you young people something! Um, I believe that the Word of God is true! And I send mine to the Royal Bank of Heaven!” He said, “I can spend money on all kinds of things here,” and Paul had a nice house and he had a lake house and he drove a nice car. Paul enjoyed life.
But he said, “I believe heaven is real. Why would I invest money here where it’s not going to go anywhere, instead of the Royal Bank of Heaven where I get thirty, sixty, one hundred fold interest?” He was a business guy. He goes, “That’s a good investment.”
You know what I learned from Paul? Paul actually believed in heaven. Most Christians do, intellectually, but not practically. He actually believed there is a place that will be forever. He actually believed that in this place that will be forever, that we can store up treasure for ourselves, and that it is totally by grace that we will go to heaven. But the qualitative experience of heaven and what you do is directly proportional to the stewardship of your time, your gifts, and your money on earth.
And so when you begin to develop a heart of compassion, and it gets soft, and then you get a generous spirit where God can just say, Hey, I’d like you to do this. And, by the way, I think He tests us sometimes. And I think sometimes, especially if He blesses you a lot, sometimes He taps you on the shoulder to do something really big, and it’s a little scary.
In my former job, we were in the middle of a big campaign and I just, I heard God so clearly, and we were to give a six-figure gift. I had never given anything like that before.
Well, and the only way for us to do it was take it out of our retirement. And that’s not really great business sense. But I heard God specifically, and I talked to Theresa and she looked at me like, I really trust you, but I hope you really heard really well.
And I said, “Well,” I said, “Honey, it’s easy…and I’m teaching on this, it’s really easy to start talking about stuff in ways and our life is more comfortable now and our kids are through school and this and that. So are we trusting our retirement? Do we have these formulas and here’s the finish line? And here are our percentages and our financial planner has got this all figured out, or do we trust God? Have we just gotten into, Oh, yeah, practically we do this but really what we are really trusting is unless we have these numbers…”
And everybody has a number, by the way. Your security number. I have literally been in a personal conversation with a guy who told me, “When it gets under five hundred million, I just have to really slow down.” You laugh. What’s your number? What’s your number? It’s as ridiculous, your number is as ridiculous as his, because what it says is, If I have a number then…
I was a little fearful, but I was fearful when I gave five dollars, but it was pretty easy to give five dollars. A six-figure gift, it was a little scary. Can God not replenish that? Well, He is taking care of us.
Here’s what I want you to understand. The enemy is not playing around. There is a world system that is feeding you lies, and me lies, and telling you that the real way to happiness is stuff and status and position and power and what you have and what you drive and how much security you have.
And I am telling you, it’s a lie. You need to be wise with your money, you need to be as wise about what you save and how you invest as what you give. But if you develop a compassionate heart and a generous spirit, and then if you make this link that giving is a spiritual issue. Giving is telling God, I actually believe it’s Yours and I am going to demonstrate that by giving You the first portion. And I actually believe whatever is left over is Yours, that You can do with whatever at any time, because I am made for eternity, and You promise You will take care of me.
Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Later, he is going to say, “My God will supply all your needs.” At the very end, the apostle, after talking about this silent assailant, he gives them some very practical ways to kill the greed or the carbon monoxide in their soul.
Notice in 1 Timothy 6, verses 17 through 19, there are two very vivid commands. He says, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant, or put their hope in wealth” – why? “which is so uncertain.” He said, “Don’t be arrogant. Don’t put your hope in wealth.”
We ought to know this, right? Dot com busts, right? Millionaire today, broke tomorrow. Don’t put your hope in wealth. It’s uncertain. “…but on God,” and notice this, “who richly supplies us with everything for our enjoyment.”
Please don’t hear it’s wrong to have nice stuff. Your priorities need to be in order, and then God blesses. He is a Father. Just like you want to give great birthday gifts and you want to love your kids and it’s a graduation and you want to give them something really special, that’s how God feels about you!
And when He gives you something nice, don’t tell everyone, “Well, I got it on sale.” How about this? “He gave it to me! I’m generous, He’s generous, I have a pool because I like to swim. It’s not for baptisms for the youth group. I have a really big house, because we use it for ministry.” I’m glad you use it for ministry. How about you have just a really nice house, or you drive a really nice car and God has really blessed you, and your priorities are in order?
If all that stuff is in debt, then get a life. He wants us to be radically sacrificial, but He wants us to radically enjoy. To drink deeply of life and joy and a great meal and a great vacation and whatever God provides.
So he says, “Command those who are rich,” by the way, that’s all of us. And then he says, Well, how do you do that? “Command them to do good.” Doing good isn’t, that’s not money. What is that? That’s time. “Be rich in good deeds.” What’s that? Those are actions. “And be generous.” That’s with everything. “And willing to share.” That’s money and stuff.
“In this way,” here’s the promise. You want to be happy? Really happy? “In this way, they will lay up for themselves,” circle, “for themselves.” This isn’t for someone else. “They will lay up for themselves” – God wants us to be generous and compassionate for our good, “a firm foundation for the coming age, but,” notice this, “and so they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” Wow. The life that is truly life. Do you know what that is? That is called being happy, content.
On the very back page, it says, here is the process, and we’ll just take a couple of minutes and close our time. I’d like you to, this week, look around and respond, and that will develop compassion. Okay?
Whatever, just look around, see some needs, and just respond. Help some people. And then look within and release. That’s generosity. That means some money is going to go from you to help some other people. You can do the little exercise I talked about.
And then look up and rejoice. And that’s worship. And that’s where you say, God, I am going to start giving the very first and best of my paycheck before I know anything else, as an act of worship to You.
Now, some of you are going, Chip, are you on drugs? Do you understand how much debt I have? Do you understand what would have to happen? Do you understand our budget? Do you understand the pressure? You know what? I don’t.
But I will say, we will talk specifically, about how to do some of this. But if you can take a baby step and begin trusting God, then ask yourself, What are some “needs” that are really wants? And ask yourself, Do we really live on a budget? Do we really have clear priorities? And God will show you what to do.