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About this series
I Choose Peace
How to Quiet Your Heart in the Chaos of Life
Why is it that as soon as we get that house, that job, that car, that, "you-fill-in-the-blank," the shine wears off so quickly - the horizon just keeps moving, and we never really experience peace? In this series, Chip unmasks a vicious opponent that's constantly poised to steal our peace and create an all-consuming discontent. If you’re ready for a spiritual journey of adventure and an intimacy with God like you’ve never known before, this series, from Philippians, Chapter 4, is the road map you're looking for.More from this series
How many people know what I’m talking about if I say “a scouting report”? What’s a scouting report? You look at the film, you watch the other team, and what do you do? You figure out what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, so you come up with your game plan.
If you have small children, and someone says, “Can your little girl come over and stay overnight at our house?” and it’s someone from school and you don’t know them, what do you do? You make phone calls to find out about these people; you go on the Internet and find out if there are any sexual offender predators in that neighborhood. I mean, you check out what’s going on!
And students, you guys do scouting reports. You know, you see that girl, and she catches your eye – or that guy, and he catches your eye – and you think to yourself, that might be . . . One of those. And so, you ask so-and-so, who asks so-and-so, who asks so-and-so, and you find out all about her, to see whether that’s worth pursuing.
On a less light note, I had a very, very good friend, in my years in Dallas, who was a squad leader in Vietnam. And he would take 12 to 15 men out, and they would do a little circular – about three to four miles – and make a loop, and he said the most terrifying thing – because he was the leader, and he had about 10 to 12 men in his care – and he said, “We would go out, and we’d make this loop, not every day, but very frequently, we’d find ourselves where we’d be in jungle, jungle, jungle, and then we’d have to go across a space of about a hundred yards – maybe two hundred, max – and it would be wide open – just rice paddies. But you were completely exposed.
And so, he says, “I’d get a couple of my scouts, and they would literally, get down, belly with their rifles, go all the way.” And then he says, “When they made it, they had everything checked out, they’d get up on one knee and – and motion us.”
And he said, “You watch guys with packs: We would run across there as fast as we could, with our hearts pumping, because we know the exposure in that hundred yards.”
And he said, “If we had a good scouting report, it wasn’t a problem.” But he said, “There were times where I ran across there, and then I heard – Boom! Pow-pow-pow, pow-pow-pow, pow-pow-pow! – and I would watch as one of the men I was responsible for would be hit, and we would all hit the ground. And I had men with bullet holes and blood coming out of them that died in my arms because a scouting report was inaccurate.”
We’re going to talk about contentment’s greatest competitor, and we’re going to talk about how to beat it. And the apostle Paul, inspired by the Spirit of God, is going to give you a scouting report, and this scouting report is, in fact, more serious than my friend in Vietnam. If he got a bad scouting report, people could lose their physical life. The scouting report that you’re going to get, if you don’t understand it and heed it, you can lose your soul; you can lead your kids and your friends, for all eternity, off the wrong path. So, this is a serious message.
The apostle Paul gives us the scouting report in 1 Timothy chapter 6, verses 5 to 10. And a good scouting report does about four basic things. It says who’s the foe, how formidable is the foe, what are his tactics, and then where are we vulnerable? So, let’s follow along.
The context is, some false teachers are moving through the Church, and so, he says, in verse 5, false teachers produce men of corrupt minds – that’s the product of false teaching – “who have been robbed of the truth and think that godliness is a means to financial gain.” That’s the context.
Paul is writing to his son Timothy, and he writes this letter and he says, “Timothy, when you receive this, you’ve got to understand, these false teachers are going around, they’ve been robbed of the truth, and what they teach – they actually teach – Can you believe this, Timothy? – that walking with God, serving God, loving Christ, is a way to get rich! The reason you walk with God is, He’s going to make everything turn out great, and you’ll be wealthy.” Does that sound familiar?
And then he’ll give his thesis: By contrast, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” That’s our word. The fact of the matter is, walking with God and knowing God and loving God, when there is a sense of supernatural sufficiency in Christ, is a great gain.
And then he’ll give two facts: Why is this true? First, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” “Timothy, these guys are promising, and people are wasting their lives, but Timothy, you need to remember you come in as this little, naked baby, and you go through ups, downs, but you know what? They may put clothes on you, they may put you in a big, expensive casket or a wooden box or burn you up and put you in an urn, but you come in with nothing and you leave with nothing.” And it’s a hundred percent true for a hundred percent of the people. So, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to follow these false teachers.
The second fact you need to remember is that, “If we have food and [clothes], we will be” – and then circle the word, it’s our word – “content.” “If we have food and clothing” – put a line under the word clothing, because, literally, it means “covering.” The apostle Paul says their teaching doesn’t make sense, but if we have food and covering – and the idea is covering for your body, clothes to keep you warm – and a covering, a roof could be a tent, it could be a RV, it could be a house, it could be a condo – but if you have something over your head to protect you from the elements and you have food, with Christ, Paul says, you’ve got all you need. If He gives you more, great – be a wise steward of it, but that’s all you need, to be content with that.
And then verse 9, he’s going to give the scouting report. In contrast to that mentality, people “who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires.” And what do those harmful desires do? They “plunge [men] into ruin and destruction.” Well, why, and how does that happen? Verse 10: “For the love of money is” – not “the,” but, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, [eager to get rich or] eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Now, I said a good scouting report answers those four questions. Let’s take this text and let’s answer those four questions.
Question number one: Who is our foe? The technical name is philarguria. The little phrase there, “who want to get rich,” the phrase “love for money, eager for money” – the root word behind those, phila – to love, remember, like, Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love? – phila – philarguria – greed. The street name is just “materialism,” “greed,” the belief “more, more, more, got to have – that will satisfy” – the love of money. Age old. That’s who our foe is.
How formidable is our foe? If you have a pen, pull it out. I want you to circle a few words that tell you how formidable this foe is. Circle the word plunge. Circle the word ruin. Circle the word destruction. Circle the phrase a root of all kinds of evil. In other words, the love of money, it’s not just a financial problem. Sixty percent or more of most marriages that fail are rooted in some financial issues. It “is a root of all kinds of evil.” Circle the word wandered. Circle the word pierced, and circle the word griefs.
This foe is formidable. It is a deeply, deadly, powerful, ruthless enemy that wants to destroy your physical life, your emotional life, your family life, your spiritual life, and take your soul! That’s how formidable.
What are its tactics? Put a box around the word temptation. Put a box around the word trap. Put a box around the word foolish, and put a box around the word harmful desires, and you will see the tactics. The word temptation – what’s temptation? Temptation is simply, usually, offering a good thing in the bad way. Temptation is missing the mark. A temptation is a lure. The word for lure or trap, here, it’s that shiny thing that a fish sees, that gets its attention, but behind the shiny little lure is a hook.
And so, money promises power, position, popularity, self-image. Money will give you this. Money, you can live like this. People will love you; they will like you. You’ll be significant; you’ll be of value – until you chase money, and then – Ow! Arghh! That’s what the word is. And that hook will plunge you into destruction in relationships. It’ll alienate you from God. Like Jesus said, it’ll be like the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of riches, it’ll take the work of the Spirit of God and the Word of God in your life, and little by little, it will strangle you.
But notice the tactics. Did you notice some of the words? Trap, temptation, foolish, harmful, desires.
And then the product is, some, for their eager love of money, “have wandered.” It’s in the passive voice. You don’t wake up and make a willful decision, one day, to say, “You know, I love God, and I like being a student at this school, and I want Him to really use my life,” or “I’m married,” or, “I’m single, and, “I’m glad God’s given me these kids, and this is what really matters. You know what? I am just tired of living this way. I think I’ll just chase money and throw all that away, and I’ll go hog wild and try and get rich.” No one wakes up and does that.
Remember, what did Jesus say? It’s “the deceitfulness of riches.” Do you understand what deceit means? It means that when you are loving money, and when you are wandering away from Christ, the only person that doesn’t know it is you.
The “have wandered from the faith,” it’s a picture of, like, two people talking in a boat, and there’s a current in the stream. And they get talking – and they’re in a good conversation – and as they’re talking – the dock is right here . . . – and as they’re talking – “Oh, how’s that going, and how’s that going?” and they’re so engrossed in the talking, but the boat is being pushed down the stream. And when they stop talking, they look up, and they’re two miles away from where they thought they were.
That’s this word. You just wake up one day, and you’re far away from Christ. And your priorities are out of order, and there’s tension in your marriage, and your kids are seeing things in you, and you are driven, and work is totally out of proportion, and things and what’s new and what you’ve got to have. And your debt continues to rise and to grow. And pretty soon, you have rationalized your way and you have pierced yourself with many a grief. That’s his tactic.
And where are you vulnerable? First and foremost, in your heart. The heart is deceitful above all else.
Can I just let you in on something? The issue is not if you have a problem of philarguria; the issue is not if you’re being deceived. The issue is not if you are greedy. We’re just going to try and find out how greedy you are and how greedy I am. All right?
We are vulnerable, not only in our heart – but you are living in a culture, and I am living in a culture, with every commercial and every magazine and every advertisement and every new style and every new car. We are the people. The goal of an advertisement is to – what? Produce discontent.
Those old shoes aren’t good enough. That old car’s not good enough. You don’t want that house. Those kind of sinks aren’t in anymore. You know what? The skirts are too long; now they’re too short; now they go to the middle. The heels are high; now they’re flat; now they’re red; now they’re white. Pink is in this year; light blue’s going to be next year; lime green really coming in! Until we got closets full of stuff that we don’t wear that’s good, because we’ve been hooked and deceived.
So, the issue today is not, are you greedy; the only issue is, to what extent is the hook in your mouth, and what are you going to do about it, and what am I going to do about it? Because the implications . . . ruin, plunged, pierced, destruction. This is way heavier than my Vietnam story.
Because you might jot Luke 16, 13 through 15: When Jesus took the whole area of spirituality, He said, “You know what? There are basically two options: You can either worship Me, or you worship” – what He called mammon, or money, or greed, or materialism, or consumerism.
You are either in this camp or in that camp.” And so, what I want to help you – by God’s grace and His Spirit, through His Word – I want to help you, and I want to help me, break the grip of greed in my life and in yours.
This isn’t something you can just grow into someday, some way. It is possible to come to a point, spiritually, where you can say, “When times are terrible or where times are great, as I learn to be grateful, as I learn to be teachable, as I learn to be flexible, and as I learn to be confident, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” It is possible to be completely content in this life, by the power of the grace of God through your relationship with Christ. And that’s priceless, as the commercial says. I mean, that is really priceless.
I think it was Jean Paul Getty who, at the very end of his life, had amassed millions and millions and millions, and they asked him, “What’s it really take to be satisfied?” His answer? “Just a little bit more.”
And so, what we’re going to see from the Philippian church, they are going to be a model for us. We’re going to look at the Philippian church and how they related to Paul, and they will model how you can break the grip of greed from your heart and life, and how I can do it, as well.
So, after saying he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him, he’s going to say, “Here’s how to break the grip of greed: Develop personal compassion.” See, what greed does, it hardens your heart. What your focus on money does is, things, things, things, things become important, and God, God, God, and people don’t.
And so, the only way to combat that is, you’ve got to get your heart tenderized so it’s soft toward God and soft towards people, so you care.
How do you develop compassion? By putting others’ needs ahead of our wants. That’s how you do it. You take some of your wants, and you find someone who has a real need, and you say, “I’m going to let go of that want, and I’m going to take the time or energy or money for that want, and I’m going to give it to this need.”
Watch how the Philippians model this. Verse 14, after he says he “can do all things through [Christ] who gives me strength,” he says, “Yet it was good of you to share in my [trouble]. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days” – it was about 10 years ago, and best you can piece it together, the church was planted plus or minus around 10 years ago. And if you want to get the story, jot Acts 16. That’s where Lydia – the church started, there by the riverbank. And then the Philippian jailer comes to Christ and Paul gets in trouble, like usual, and . . .
But, they’ve built this bond, and this is a real connect. And he goes, “It was good of you” – literally, “it was beautiful, it was winsome, it was a – it was a thing of beauty, the way that you were to koinoneo with me. You shared with me. We became partners.” And he said, “When did we become partners? In my troubles.” And the word for “trouble,” there, is a technical word in the New Testament for the afflictions or the pain that would come on a person’s life for sharing Christ.
And he goes on to say, “You remember the old days, when you were first acquainted with the Gospel, and then I set out for Macedonia? Not one church shared,” or, literally, “partnered with me in the manner of giving and receiving, except you only.”
And Paul basically is saying, “This is a thank-you letter, and Epaphroditus brought the financial gift, and I’m in prison, and I just want you to know . . . thank you so much. I’ve learned to be content, so I didn’t really need it, yet it was good of you to help out.” And then he goes on to say here that, “Moreover, you were the only church to share. You were this poor, little church, and you saw my need, and you generously gave to supply my needs. You put my needs ahead of your want.”
And that’s how you do it. This idea of giving and receiving, it’s all through the New Testament, of those who supply spiritual food for us – giving – need to receive financial provision so the ministry can go forward. Paul will make that point in all the churches.
And I thought to myself, Where or how did this most profoundly get worked out in my life? And I was in Dallas Seminary – because when you see a principle like this, you think to yourself, Well, when I really get a lot of excess, then I can help some other people, but . . . What you know is that everybody is mentally middle class. You do know that. I don’t care what you make. You make a hundred million dollars –the – billionaires, they’re rich, not me. Right? You make 80,000, you make 30,000 – I don’t care what you make, whoever makes more, they’re rich and you’re in need. It’s life.
And so, I thought of a time when I learned this, when, in my mind, at least, I was very poor. And so, we’re in seminary, and I’m making just under a thousand dollars a month, and I have three kids and going to school full time, and a guy comes to chapel – I’d never heard of the group, called “World Vision.”
And he came – and there were about a thousand students in this chapel – and he showed a video where, I’m crying and thinking of these poor kids and saying, Boy, I wish I could help them. But, I can barely pay my rent!
And the guy gets up, and he said, “You know, you’re probably wondering why I would come to Dallas Seminary to show you this.” And I’m thinking, Yeah, I’m wondering. First of all, I’m glad I know now. But I thought, Boy, I sure would love to help them, but I can’t. And he said, “A lot of you are probably thinking that you’ve got two jobs; you’re barely making it. Your wives are putting you through; you don’t make any money. So, why would I come here?”
And he said, “Before I answer that question, can I just ask you a little quick question here in the group?” And I still remember this. He said, “How many of you – I know you don’t have hardly any money, but how many of you, just as a little treat, maybe at least once or twice a month, take your families out to McDonald’s?” And, like, 95 percent of the hands went up. Mine went up.
I mean, that was big time. Three kids, two and a half Happy Meals. We split the cheeseburger; everybody gets water. I can get out of here for 14, 16 bucks! And that’s, “Whoa! Hey, kids, here we go!” – right? – “Ronald. We’re going to have fun. Golden arches.” That was the moment.
And then I’ll never forget, he clicked a button and put a picture up of what I’d seen, and he said, “You know, if you go to McDonald’s twice a month… you know what I’m asking you? That’s a want. Would you be willing to give up going to McDonald’s once a month, and take that 16 dollars to feed and educate that child?”
And I’ll never forget walking home – that was 30-something years ago now, I think – and bringing a little picture of a little girl or a little boy – I can’t even remember now – and that started a 30-something-year journey that I thought, Yeah. Decision. Am I going to go to McDonald’s twice, or that kid get to eat once? You see, compassion – your heart gets soft when you take your wants and sacrifice your wants for someone else’s need.
What would it look like for you to develop a heart of compassion? Where could you take some of your wants and turn them into genuine needs? See, giving is the proof of our love. You can give without loving someone. You can pretend. But you can never love without giving, can you? So, the first step of breaking greed is, you develop personal compassion.
The second step is to develop a generous spirit. See, what money does, it not only hardens my heart, but it starts making me protective. And so, as I amass, and as I get, the only way I can get more is, I got to protect what I have. And so, when people or thoughts or even sermons start to mess around with my money, then all of a sudden, we put the walls up. You know, I’ll be back next week, but I’m not listening to too much more of this. This [footsteps] . . . You know.
And so, it’s like a muscle. What we need to do is, we need to get that muscle of our heart not only tender toward God, but we need to get it flowing. We need to develop a generous spirit. And the Philippians will teach us here, you develop a generous spirit by releasing the very thing that has power to consume you.
The very thing that has power to consume or choke out God’s life in you, you need to release. You need to become generous in your attitude. And so, notice what he says – verse 16: “For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.” There was systematic timing.
Paul says, “You know, the Thessalonian church, that’s a pretty ritzy area compared to you Philippians.” And he said, “Even though they could have supported me, but they didn’t have the spiritual maturity. They just didn’t get it. You, out of your need, you gave.” And the phrase is, “Again and again.” In other words, they systematically, regularly gave to help Paul fulfill what God called him to do.
And it’s going to be interesting what he tells them happened, not for him, but in them, because of that. But you develop a generous spirit by giving or releasing the very thing…
Now, turn to 1 Corinthians 16, 1 and 2, and I could ask everyone, “Are you setting aside the first portion to the Lord? Because you need to give and to get released.” – I’m not going to do that. I was thinking, How could we get this? I don’t know about you, I don’t need one more “ought,” one more “should,” one more artificial guilt reflex and, by the way, I got to tell you, if you’re waiting for, I bet they’re going to talk about a building campaign later, or . . . The second offering will be coming around, right? Just relax. You can take your hand off that wallet or purse. There’s nothing coming. God’s supplying. This is about you and your heart; this is not about any needs we have.
And so, I got home from a speaking engagement, and, for me, it was a little bit late. And so, I reviewed on the plane, but I got to this part and I thought, Lord, I need a picture to really help people see the reality, but see Your heart and Your grace in a way that it would really connect. And I don’t have it. And so, I drove in this morning, in the parking lot, and had about 45 minutes or an hour, I went over my notes one more time, and I just prayed, and I said, “God, would You give me a picture? Would You show me, how can I help people see this? Because I don’t know.”
And I sat there quietly – and this is how God speaks to me, and He brings ideas – and He said, “Ask them this question.” I said, “Okay.”
So, I’m going to ask you this question. Are you ready? And, by the way, relax. I mean, some of you are thinking, You’re kind of new, going, I don’t know if I’m going to raise my hand. So, you don’t have to.
But here’s just a question: How many people, when you go to a restaurant, leave a tip? Okay? Now, if it was really, really bad –but if the service was good, in general, you leave a tip.
Okay, how many people leave five percent? Okay? Not too many. How many people – it used to be 10 percent. How many people leave 10 percent? Not too many. Okay, how many people, you go to a restaurant, the service is good, leave 15 percent as a general rule, or maybe a little more? I’m not going to – go ahead, raise your hands if you do. If you don’t, it’s okay. Almost everybody.
And here’s the question God brought to my mind: What has occurred in American culture, what is the deception that has occurred, where the peer pressure and the sociological aspects of why you would never think of leaving less than 15 percent – that you don’t have to – on a table for a waitress or a waiter, and yet about 2.7 percent of American Christians give even 10 percent of their income to God systematically? Don’t know?
Now think this through. Think of how powerful our foe is. I’m not quite sure, but I don’t think my life, my breath – I wasn’t created by the waiter. They didn’t create the food; they just served it.
And yet over here, the Creator of the world, who sent His Son who died for me, who raised from the dead, who covered my sin, who implanted His Spirit within me, who has sealed me forever and ever, deposited spiritual gifts, and has commanded me to remember it all belongs to Him, who says, “A beginning point – this isn’t it – a beginning point would be a tithe,” and then learn proportionally, as He blesses, and the average American believer – about 97 percent of them are disobedient to this and yet obedient to that cultural norm.
If, in the illustration where I talked about our foe and the scouting report – if you had any sense in which this really doesn’t apply to you, if there was any sense, in your heart, where you said, “I’m not really greedy, but I bet there are some people that really need to hear this in this room,” then the only thing I would ask you is, today, at this moment, are you more faithful to give 15 percent to a waiter or a waitress who serves food that they didn’t create than you are to give a minimum amount of the first portion of – say 10 percent or more – to the God who created the food and you and purchased your salvation?
And if you look at your own life and say, “I’m very consistent here, and it’s a real hit and miss here,” can I tell you something? That philarguria has you by the neck. And the problem is not that this church or some church or ministry needs your money; the problem is, when I turn to the front page, it says that it is a lure. It says that it will plunge. It’ll say there’s destruction. It’ll say that you are in the process of wandering from the truth, because according to Jesus, wherever your treasure is, that’s where your heart really is. And the only way to address this is, first, to get your heart soft through becoming compassionate, and the second is by becoming generous. And of course it’s generosity in this way, but I think it’s down to little things. I think it’s a lifestyle.
I just tend to think about me – sorry, I’m working through it, I’m growing, but I think about me. I was in the airport, I had two hours, and I thought, Well, I’ll study a little bit. And I was kind of tired; I spoke about three or four times. And I was at this coffee shop, and this guy – it can’t take this long to make a mocha, whoever this lady was in front of me. It’s just like on and on, and I just want a regular coffee. I’m just standing there. And another guy came, and he waited and waited, and he got fed up and he just left. And I’m just thinking . . . And I’m tired. And so, my impatience and my focus on me is rising, and my lack of generosity, patience, and understanding is diminishing, and I’m thinking, Buddy, Buddy, Buddy . . . And I’m thinking, It’s not like where I’d normally order coffee, so it’s not going to be quite as good.
So, I finally get a cup, and then I go over, and – you know, sometimes, how they have the cream real loose? So, I just want to put a little in. It goes . . . You know, Ah, brother! Now, it’s not very strong and it looks like white milk, and I take a sip and I go, “Ahh!” So, I’m thinking to myself – I pour a little out, but I’m thinking, I can’t pour too much out; he may not fill it back up, ‘cause I don’t know him like I know the guy at the corner.
So, I go over, and I say, “Hey” – this is the phrase. I say, “Do you think I could get a little grace?” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “Buddy, I put too much cream in. If I just dump some out, could you pour some more coffee in so it will turn the right color?” And he said, “Yeah, I’ll do that for you.” And so, he goes over, and he pours it in and gets the right color. And as I got it, I just thought to myself, You know something? Attitude change. So, I reached in my pocket, and I said, “Hey, here’s a buck. I just want to tell you, it’s so great to be with people that have such a good attitude.” And he went from this stoic, pressure, everyone doing that – and from beam to beam, he grinned, and he goes, “Thanks, man!” I said, “No, thanks. I really appreciate that.”
Two things: For a dollar’s worth of generosity – for a dollar’s worth of generosity! – this guy’s attitude changed, and I got a cup of coffee. And instead of my critical spirit, it was transformed to, Well, you know, I feel pretty good about getting to bless that guy.
Do you understand? When we’re speaking of greed and generosity, it’s not just about money, and it’s not this little compartment called “the Church” and what you give or are not giving. It is about a complete mindset about how you live. And if you want contentment, you’re going to have to beat greed, and the only way you beat greed is, you got to develop personal compassion. You got to care about people. And then you have to develop a generous spirit.
And then third, you’ve got to develop an eternal perspective. You’ve got to begin to live in such a way, as though you actually believe there’s a heaven and there’s a hell, and there are certain good things that happen in heaven to people who live in a certain way, and that it’s really wise to live life God’s way. That’s exactly what Paul’s going to say.
Follow along now, in step three: He says develop an eternal perspective – how? By understanding the inseparable relationship between our money and authentic worship. Now, this – this is all throughout the Scripture, but here’s what you gotta get: Your money is here . . . Worship is here . . . We tend to have money in this category and worship in this category, and God says – Whew – you – you can never separate them. Every financial decision you make ends up being a worship decision of some kind.
And I gotta tell you, as pastors – I need to apologize to you on behalf of all my other pastors, and I probably spent the first 10 or 12 years failing churches, as well. Pastors don’t talk about money. Jesus talked more about money than heaven and hell, combined. Pastors don’t talk about money, and so, the average believer doesn’t know the relationship between money and worship.
All they’ve heard is, now and then, “We need some,” and, “We’d like to visit your house and find out how much you can give us.” And so, money has been a bad word in the Church.
Money is about worship. There’s a link between the two. And once you see that – I mean, those are from the words of Jesus. And we’ve done a terrible, terrible job. The only time you hear “money” in church is about what you ought to give and some big need, instead of, “This is what it means. Here’s how to be grateful. Here’s how to use it. Here’s how to align your family. Here’s how to protect your marriage. Here’s how to use money as a tool to develop your kids.”
But how does this happen? Watch in this passage – this is an amazing thing. The apostle Paul is going to talk through, and he’s going to use financial and business terms to describe the gift that he gave them. And then watch how he’ll put a twist on it at the end, and he’ll say, “Business, business, business, business, money, money, money,” and then it’s like, “worship, God” – spiritual terms.
Notice what he says. He says, “Okay, I can do all things through Christ. It was good of you; I appreciate it. Even when I was in Thessalonica, in that wealthy place, you gave systematically. But I want you to know my motives, not that I’m looking for the gift” – in other words, this thank-you note is not, like the thing that you tear off on the bottom of a gift statement, so you can give your next gift – “not that I’m looking for the gift, I’m looking for what may be credited to your account.” The phrase “credited to your account” is an accounting term of debit and credits.
He’s saying, “I’m looking at the spiritual P&L statement, in heaven, so that debits/credits – I want you to know that this gift isn’t about the gift that I got. I’m happy because, in heaven, it’s getting accredited to your account.”
Notice what he says: “I have received full payment.” The phrase means – literally, it’s like, “I’ve got the receipt in my hand. I’ve received in full payment, and even more. I’m amply supplied.” In other words, “Epaphroditus, when he gave, I’ve got plenty of money. That’s not the issue. Now that I’ve received it from Epaphroditus, the gifts you send me, they are” – now, notice the shift. What happened to the financial gift? How does he describe the financial gift? “They are” – underline “a fragrant offering,” underline “an acceptable sacrifice,” underline “pleasing to God.” “You gave. The gift is accredited spiritually to your account.”
And the literal phrase, “When you did that, it was like a burnt offering, a fragrant, sweet smell that went up into the nostrils of God. He looked at it, not as money but as a sacrifice unto Him, and it brought joy, or pleasure, to His heart.”
You see, the apostle Paul is teaching them and teaching us that an eternal perspective requires that you gotta see this relationship between your finances and your money, and that when we give, it’s an act of worship. And what we do with our money is an act of worship. And God wants you to know that every financial decision you make becomes a spiritual decision, that sacrifice is the heart.
Don’t you remember David and the threshing floor? Do you remember that? Remember that time, where he had sinned and he realized, Hey, I’ve really blown it, and he learned, This is what I need to do, and he was at the place – the guy’s name was Araunah, and God says, “Offer an offering.” And so, Araunah says to David, “Hey, man, you’re the king. You can take my oxen, and I’ve got some wood, and I’ll pay for the whole deal.” And remember what David said? “Far be it from me, that I would offer a sacrifice unto the Lord that cost me nothing.”
See, the Bible says that when I give – my time, my energy, my talent – that a spiritual transaction occurs that accredits to me in heaven. And I’ve gotta come to believe that accumulating and getting and impressing and having now is not the end of the line. As long as I believe that lie, I will never, ever become a generous person, and therefore, I will never, ever beat greed, and therefore, I’ll never be content. The horizon will just keep moving.
Well, a scouting report has two things, right? A scouting report tells you about the other team, or the foe – their strengths, their weaknesses – but what does a good scouting report do? It gives you recommendations: “Hey, they run this kind of defense; you need to run this kind of offense.” Or, “Hey, I tell you what, that girl, she dropped the last seven guys, and this is the way she did it.” You say, “Hey, I’m not going to ask her out.”
And so, Paul is now going to give some scouting recommendations. He’s going to give four specific commands. Okay, you know how formidable the foe is. Out of the same chapter, he’s going to give four specific commands to start you on a journey, so that you can beat the greed monster. And I think this is going to be a lifelong process for you and for me.
And by the way, if you’re sitting here thinking, If giving is the antidote to greed, and if this is going to release my heart, I got to have eternal perspective. And if your heart’s sinking, and you’re going, Man, if this guy even had any idea how much debt I’ve got in credit cards alone, plus, I got a car on time, Ahhhh! You could show pictures of kids with their bellies out to here ‘til Jesus come – I can’t give! Am I destined, forever and ever, to be out of God’s will? I think the hook is not in my mouth; I think it’s somewhere down into my internal intestines, you know? And it’s got me, so how do I get out of this? You get out of it through a process that begins today.
And by the way, you know what? I didn’t grow up in the Church. I’m a skeptic, and I ran into all kind of what I call “religious jerks.” And you may have had that, and you’re sitting in here, thinking, Yeah, right. I think this guy’s conning me. Give it to World Vision. But start being generous. But if you think our motives are wrong, it’s okay. Just give it somewhere.
Here are the four commands: they’re very clean, very clear, very quick. Command number one: “Command those who are rich in this present world” – that’s us – “not to be arrogant [or] . . . put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain” – see, it’s to protect you – “but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything [to enjoy].”
Yes, we’re to be sacrificial, but we’re to enjoy what He has given us. You can’t enjoy it if you’re always worried about the payments and – arghh! So, he says, first of all, it’s a focus. Put your hope on God for contentment and fulfillment, not on stuff.
Second – verse 18: “Command them to do good” – is the second command – “to be rich in good deeds” – third command – “and to be generous and willing to share.” So, he says, “Look, you need to get your focus on God, then you need to have a lifestyle of doing good, instead of getting, and then you need good deeds” – give away your time – and then he says, “Be willing to share” – give away your money and your possessions.
So, it’s very – general command – not hope on stuff, hope on God – do good – be a giver instead of a getter – then begin to share your time – good deeds – and then begin to share your stuff – be willing to share.
And then what I love is that he says, “If you do this, you’re going to win the game. You’ll beat the competitor. Look at the very last line: “In this way they will lay up treasure” – will you circle the phrase “for themselves”? We get this idea that, Oh, we’re doing this for someday, some way, somehow . . . God wants us to learn to be generous, because in eternity, He says, there’s a forever and ever and ever and ever and ever, and you can increase the quality of that experience. He says, “In this way [they’ll] lay up [for themselves] treasure as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that” – in this present life – here it is –“they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” What does life that’s truly life sound like?
Does that sound like a life where relationships work, a life where you have it, and God could tap you on the shoulder, and you could give it or keep it? You have it, and instead of telling everyone how you got it on sale and feeling guilty about it, you could say, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I can’t believe I get to live in a house like this! You’ve let me be generous. I don’t have debt. I’ve done this. Lord, who am I that You be so good to me?”
Life that is really life – a life without creditors calling, a life not believing the next thing or the biggest thing or the next style will fulfill, but a life that knows, In plenty or in want, I can do all things through Christ.
I’d like you to ask the Lord a question as we close, and the question I want you to ask Him is this: “Father, will You show me the extent to which greed has infiltrated my heart and my life?” And just sit quietly. Ask Him to help you be honest. The goal here is to help you. And then as you think about that, as you listen to His voice, and then ask Him, “Lord, will You show me just the fist step?” Don’t try and solve all your problems, and all your debt. Say, “Lord, will You show me the first step to move toward developing a heart of compassion, a generous spirit, and an eternal perspective? He will speak. Just ask Him.