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In Financial Uncertainty, Part 2

From the series I Choose Peace

Greed – it is a nasty, ugly habit that the enemy uses to poison our peace. If left unchecked, greed consumes us like a terrible infection. Join Chip to learn the antidote.

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Message Transcript

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.