This is from Sunday’s sermon.
So, how do we respond? Don’t we all want to have a simple answer for that? Like, how much do I have to give in order to do the right thing?
Now, James says, we’re living in the last days (v.3). This is just a phrase used throughout the New Testament that talks about the time between Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and his return. Living in a world where someone came back from the dead changes everything. It certainly changes our relationship to the 3 major false gods of our culture: money, sex, and power.
I’m not going to tell you how much you have to give. I’m not going to talk about the “tithe.” I just have these 9 application points that I’m gonna go through real quickly. This is not a “to do” list. It is a way to establish a vision to live a life that invests its treasure in heaven. It’s a vision for leaving a legacy.
- If you are feeling guilty, please don’t give anything to us today. Guilt has motivated a lot of people to give a lot of money (so has blackmail and kidnapping), but guilt has never changed a person’s heart.
Listen, God doesn’t need your money and I don’t need your money. I don’t get paid for this, and for some reason, the guys who work here who do need your money let me get up here today. Is this the wisdom that comes from above? Who knows?
Here’s what I want you to do instead: first, get the gospel. Understand that Jesus gave up everything in order to win you. Unless you understand that kind of love, you’ll never be able to give from a pure heart, so get the gospel first. Receive the fullness of God before you give back to him.
- Once you understand the gospel, treasure it. Think about it until you see the supreme value of Jesus Christ, crucified for you and raised from the dead. Remember, Jesus said “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When you treasure him above all else this will break the addiction of money in your life. Treasuring Jesus is the essence of faith that works.
- Join a Life Group.
Years ago, there was someone in my Life Group who had a large bill from a university that was really putting the pressure on her to get it paid, and she simply couldn’t. We prayed about it for a few weeks, and then one day, I got together with the other leaders of that group and we decided to take up an offering for her. We did it without her knowledge, and I don’t even think we knew how much she needed. People contributed however they felt led, and we just put the money in an envelope and handed it to her without even counting it.
By God’s grace, the amount in that envelope was just $2-3 off for what she needed to pay off that debt. Don’t you want to be a part of more stories like that?
- Talk about it.
Instead of giving a big chunk of change today, get together with one of the pastors with someone you trust (someone in your Life Group, or someone in your journey grouop), and talk to them about finances.
As Americans, we are terrible at talking about money. Now, I’m not saying anything bad about Americans, I love Americans. I’m married to an American. I’ll raise my child to be an American. But we’ll need to learn to be counter-cultural in almost every regard when it comes to wealth in this country. The values of the “American Dream” are at oftentimes at odds to the values of the Kingdom of God, and we need to be able to talk to each other about these things.
- Do business justly.
The Protestant reformer Martin Luther had a man who made shoes come to faith in Jesus in his congregation, and after he came to faith he came up to Martin Luther and asked, “How can I live for God?” Martin Luther asked him, “What do you do?” He said, “I’m a cobbler, I make shoes.” Martin Luther replied, “Then make a good shoe, and sell it at a fair price.”
Approach your work with the intent of blessing other people with it. If you have a job that you think is detrimental to society (for example, if you’re in the financial world and you see shady deals going around), then leave that job and find something that will bless others.
- Bless other Christians with your business.
I’ve been warned by so many people not to do business with people in the church because it just always gets so messy. What an indictment against us! If there’s anywhere where people should be honest and fair when it comes to financial transactions, it should be in the church.
Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, you should both be seeking the benefit of the other person. It’s like marriage. If either of you are self-seeking, it’s gonna be a bad deal. If you both put the needs of another before yourself, it’s a good thing.
- Get rid of debt.
Paul charges us in Romans 13:8 “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” So many of us feel like we can’t invest in the treasures of heaven because we got a mountain of debt on our backs.
We offer Financial Peace University at least once a year, and those classes helped my wife and I get out of debt. We actually just made our last payment to our last loan this last week. Super ironic to have that happen the same week that I’m getting ready for this sermon. Because of that, I’m now thinking a lot about Point 8.
- Re-evaluate your standard of living.
Are you maxed out on your standard of living? If you had to take a pay cut, would you have to move out of your house because you are living in the size house you feel like someone making your money should be living in?
My wife and I will have a lot more money freed up every month now that we’re out of debt, and let me tell you, the temptation to update our housing situation, to update our car situation, to update our wardrobe situation, that temptation is immense.
Thankfully, Lord willing we’ll have a baby soon, so that should take care of most of our discretionary spending. But still, we’re looking at our budget right now and praying to see how much of the Lord’s money he wants us to keep for ourselves, and then how else he wants us to use it.
- Give your treasure to something that won’t rot.
Illustration with businessman who set out to start a company that employed 50 Christians making $50,000/year. Now has 100 employees making that.
Phil. Missionary to Muslim people group who don’t have a Bible in their language.
When you start investing your earthly treasure on the things of heaven, you’re heart will follow. World missions, mercy to the poor, anti-sex-trafficking, the rights of the unborn, university outreach, the mission of the Crossing. Invest in these things, and your heart will soon follow. Then you will not just leave an inheritance, but a legacy.