Redeeming our Treasures

November 19, 2017 Speaker: Stuart Strachan Jr Series: Redeeming the Gifts

Topic: Stewardship Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:1–8:9

Redeeming our Treasures

Rev. Stuart Strachan Jr.

11/19/17

 

 

Well we are finishing our series called “Redeeming the Talents”. So far we’ve covered a number of topics. We started by recognizing that there is always a competition for our resources. There is always competition for our time, for our talents, and for most certainly for our treasures. And so in all of those things, we must ask God to keep us pursuing the one thing: the Kingdom of God and everything else will follow if we get the one thing right.

 

We’ve also talked about the gift of time, about how all time is a gift from God, and that we ought to steward our time according to God’s kingdom values. Last week, we talked about our talents, our gifts that God gives us. We talked about how these gifts, these talents, were given to us to live a life in harmony with God. To use them for His glory regardless of whether or not they fall into categories we traditionally consider “holy” or “sacred”.

 

Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant Reformation, made this point when he said: “The idea that the service to God should have only to do with a church altar, singing, reading, sacrifice, and the like is without doubt but the worst trick of the devil.

 

How could the devil have led us more effectively astray than by the narrow conception that service to God takes place only in a church and by the works done therein…The whole world could abound with the services to the Lord. Not only in churches but also in the home, kitchen, workshop, field.”

In other words, everything we do can be a service to God. Every gift or talent God gives us should be used not simply for ourselves or for others, but for God Himself. It’s as we serve in this way that we will experience the greatest joy that life offers us.

 

Today, we have the joy of talking about the final “t” our treasures. And I know what you are thinking, Great! I’ve been looking forward to this all year! Actually, to his credit, I’m going to put someone on the sport, Ray Cornelius has been looking forward to a sermon on financial stewardship for a long time, so there is at least one of you excited to hear this sermon.

 

For most of us, talking about money is awkward. And when it comes to the church, it’s doubly awkward because many people have used their place of influence to connive and convince people to give. Televangelists are of course the most notorious, and we don’t want to be like them.

 

And most people, if they are honest, like their money. I’ll never forget this Irish bus driver, I was on a tour in Ireland with a church I worked with, and somehow the topic of money came up.

 

He said I like to see my coins stacked up. And whether or not it’s coins on a table or dollars in our bank or investment companies, we like to see those dollars go up and not down.

 

But there is a downside to this as well…that perhaps we end up losing sight of what’s most important in life anyway. It’s very easy to see our bank accounts as the most important thing and not our relationships.

 

It reminds me of a story about a famous miser.

 

This man was called on by the chairman of the community charity. "Sir," said the fund-raiser, "our records show that despite your wealth, you've never once given to our drive." 

 

The man replied, "Do your records show that I have an elderly mother who was left penniless when my father died?

"Do your records show that I have a disabled brother who is unable to work? Do your records show I have a widowed sister with small children who can barely make ends meet?" 

"No, sir," replied the embarrassed volunteer. "Our records don't show those things." 

"Well, I don't give to any of them, so why should I give anything to you?"

 

With conversations like that, it’s understandable why we often shy away from conversations about giving.

 

But it raises an important question, why do we talk about financial stewardship?

 

Is it simply a ploy to get more money for the church? I guess that’s possible. Is it to make you feel guilty; I don’t think I’m that kind of person, but that’s up to you to decide.

 

I’ll tell you why I think we need to talk about it. It’s because Jesus talked about it.

 

And if we are to claim to be the church of Jesus Christ, than we need to talk about the things that Jesus himself valued. He seemed to think that money was connected deeply to the heart.

 

Let’s look at some statistics about money and the Bible, and if you received a letter in the mail this week related to commitment Sunday, you would have already seen this…if you read the whole letter…

 

This is according to a Christianity Today article,

 

“Jesus talked much about money. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions. In the Gospels, an amazing one out of ten verses (288 in all) deals directly with the subject of money. The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions.[1]

 

And “In Matthew, Mark, and Luke 1 out of every 6 verses deals with money.

 

So that’s why we need to talk about money. It’s as much if not more about your relationship with Jesus as it is about the needs of the church.

 

The Setting of the Text

 

But before we do read our scripture passage, I want to take just a moment to set the context our reading.

 

The situation is this: Paul is reminding the Corinthians, and I would say “reminding” is a gentle word for it, but Paul is reminding the Corinthians that they had promised to take a collection for the church in Jerusalem, which has become quite poor.

 

We do not know exactly why it has become poor, but a famine in that part of the country is the most likely reason. And so the Corinthians had agreed earlier to support the Jerusalem church financially. But, as some of you may know, talk is one thing, and actions are another. And so Paul is trying to gently nudge them towards the generosity that they had already agreed to provide.

 

The situation reminds me of the story of the 67 year old Russell Herman, who died in 1994.

 

“His will included a staggering set of bequests. Included in his plan for distribution was more than two billion dollars for the City of East St. Louis, another billion and a half for the State of Illinois, two and a half billion for the national forest system, and to top off the list, Herman left six trillion dollars to the government to help pay off the national debt.

 

That sounds amazingly generous, but there was a small problem—Herman’s only asset when he died was a 1983 Oldsmobile. He made grand pronouncements, but there was no real generosity involved. His promises were meaningless because there was nothing to back them up.”[2]

 

 

So with that said, let’s dive into our sermon text this morning from 2 Corinthians:

 

 

2 Corinthians 8:1-9

 

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 

 

And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

 

I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

 

Giving Starts with Grace

 

I want to spend the remainder of our time talking about two aspects of giving, the first is this, that giving always ought to come out of a sense of grace rather than from a place of works-righteousness. And the second is that we give as part of our loving obedience to God.

 

But back to our motives for giving.

 

We do not give so that we appease God, or gain favor from God, we give because God gave everything to us, He created us, he sustains us each day, and he redeemed us by sending His son to die for us.

 

We give generously when we realize how amazing it is that God loves us and calls us and gifts us, the outflow ought to be: how can I give back?

 

Paul makes it very clear from the outset of his discussion of giving that it is grace that ought to prompt our giving:

 

This is what he says in verse 1:

 

“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 

 

Paul wants the Corinthians to follow through on their pledge, but he also wants to make sure that their motivation ought not to be anything other than the love and gratitude that they experienced when they experienced the grace of Jesus.

 

Paul makes this clear again in verse 8: I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

 

It’s safe to say that Paul wants the Corinthians to follow through on their offering because of the great need of the Jerusalem church, but that’s not the only reason.

 

Giving is an opportunity for Obedience

 

Giving itself provides an opportunity for these young Christians to put their faith in action, to recognize that it is God above all that provides for us, and that while we need money, that we don’t become so dependent upon it that we are unwilling to part with some of it.

 

But the truth is, it’s difficult. We struggle with obedience, especially when it relates to money.

 

Have you ever heard the story of the mother who wanted to teach her daughter a moral lesson? She gave the little girl a quarter and a dollar for church "Put whichever one you want in the collection plate and keep the other for yourself," she told the girl.

 

When they were coming out of church, the mother asked her daughter which amount she had given. "Well," said the little girl, "I was going to give the dollar, but just before the collection the man in the pulpit said that we should all be cheerful givers. I knew I'd be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter, so I did.”

 

So giving isn’t always easy, but have you ever considered that giving away some of your money can be freeing?

 

Jesus makes this clear in Matthew 6:

 

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

 

The word used here for money is not exactly accurate. The word is “mammon”, which some people assume is just an old-timey word for money or wealth.

 

Interestingly enough, the word itself actually derives from Chaldea, the very same Chaldea that Abraham hailed from. Now why did Matthew use this strange word from a far-off country?

 

Perhaps because Matthew was not trying to describe simply money, or possessions, but rather the spiritual nature that those things can have in our lives.

 

Mammon, as a notable Christian scholar once stated, “is a spiritual force,” a force to be reckoned with, that can draw us away from God and into the darkness Jesus so aptly describes.

 

Giving is not only obedience; it is a safeguard against the spiritual powers that wealth can inflict on our lives. And I think the natural thing to do for most of us is to think, well, that’s not a problem for me. I mean, I don’t have enough money to be too fond of it. But the truth is, no matter how much you have, money can take a hold of us.

 

So as we close our time this morning, I want to remind you that we give not because we have to, not because it is the right thing to do, but we do so as a response to the grace of Jesus Christ, and out of the love we have for Him.

 

We also give because it is an opportunity for us to be obedient to Him, and we trust that God knows what we need and even as we give, we trust that He is the giver of every good and perfect gift.

 

So what is God calling you to when it comes to giving? Do you give sacrificially, or is it something you put off for a different season in life?

 

May we look to the Macedonians as a model, who, as Paul tells us, “though they were in the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.

 

May we also be a people whose overflowing joy leads to giving to our God.

 

Let us pray.

 

 

 

 

Questions to New Members

Do you turn to Jesus Christ
and accept him as your Lord and Savior

If so, say “I do”

I do.

Do you trust him? If so, say “I do”.

Will you be Christ’s faithful disciple, obeying his Word and showing his love? If so, say “I will, with God’s help.

I will, with God’s help.

Will you be a faithful covenant partner of this congregation, giving of yourself in every way, and will you seek the fellowship of the church wherever you may be? If so, say “I will, with God’s help.

“I will, with God’s help.

Will you be Christ’s faithful disciple, obeying his Word and showing his love, to your life’s end?

I will, with God’s help.

Let us Pray

Holy God,
we praise you for calling us to be a servant people, and for gathering us into the body of Christ.
We thank you for choosing to add to our number brothers and sisters in faith.
Together, may we live in your Spirit,
and so love one another,
that we may have the mind of Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom we give honor and glory forever.

Amen.

 

 

 

[1] Howard L. Dayton, Jr., Leadership, Vol. 2, no. 2.

[2] http://ministry127.com/resources/illustration/giving-away-what-wasn-t-his

More in Redeeming the Gifts

November 12, 2017

Redeeming our Talents

November 5, 2017

Redeeming our Time

October 29, 2017

The Competition