Now we are embarking on our fourth study on 'The Grace of Giving', and this should be our final study of a four-week series looking at this very important subject of the Biblical basis, the Biblical principles, and this morning the Biblical challenge of the grace of giving. So please do note that this morning's message is a Biblical or practical challenge with regards to the grace of giving. Now as such there is no text for our reading this morning, because we're going to be looking at a number of Scriptures - but if you want, some people are very traditional and they like to have a portion of Scripture open before them before we even start, so I'm going to pander to your traditionalism! Turn with me to Mark chapter 10, we're not going to look at it straight away, but we will be looking at it and various other Scriptures right throughout our message this morning.
After you turn to that we'll just bow in a quiet word of prayer and ask the Lord's blessing, and ask the Lord that our hearts should be opened because we've been looking at a great deal of Biblical theory and principles with regards to this subject, but if we learn it all in our heads and it doesn't affect our lives or even change our stewardship before the Lord it really has been a waste of time. That's the bottom line: if we're hearers only of the word and not doers of the same, it will profit of us and profit the work of the Lord nothing. So let us come before the Lord with open hearts and just ask that even this morning, if not hitherto, that He will touch our hearts today and we will be different.
Let us pray: Our Father, we come before Thee now, and we seek Thy face. Lord, we want to hear Thy word, we don't want to hear just the voice of a man, we want to hear the voice of Almighty God; we want to know that the Lord, the God of all heaven, is speaking to us individually, into our experiences and into our lives. Lord, we thank Thee that we have a personal Saviour in the Lord Jesus, and we thank Thee for the many stories that we have about Him, and the teachings that He has left with us by His Spirit in the Gospels. Lord, we just pray that as we look at what He has had to say with regards to our stewardship before Thee that, Lord, we will be moved in obedience to follow the example that He has taught us. Help us, Lord, change us, move us, mould us, if necessary melt us, break us; but we pray that we will be different from our meeting with Thee through Thy word today. For Christ's sake we pray, Amen.
One of the most important ingredients to true spirituality is seldom ever preached on or indeed written about in many of the writings, periodicals and paperbacks that you find on Christian bookshelves in Christian shops today. We are prone to paint the image of spirituality in colours of deep Bible knowledge, how much of the Scriptures you read, how much of it you've memorised, or how much doctrine you know; or perhaps in the colours of lengthy prayers whether in private or public, and perhaps in public the opposite is the truth! Or maybe it's prominence in the Lord's work, depending on what a high status you've reached or how much blessing you've experienced in your career, as it were, for the work of the Lord - we tend to think that that is the measure of a man or a woman's spirituality. The fact of the matter is: one of the most prominent and important ingredients is often ignored, and we will see today - if we haven't already in our studies - that our love for God may be proved by something as common and as every day as our use of money.
Yes, you heard me right, how we use our finances is a tremendous way of demonstrating the reality of our love for God. In some ways, I think, it proves our love for God more conclusively than anything else, because it is such a personal subject, it is such a thing that we prize and even hold closely to our breasts. If I was to ask the question: if your love for God was measured by your love for money, or your stewardship of money before the Lord, how much would we all discern, and how much would God discern that you love Him?
An artist was once asked to paint a picture representing a decaying church. To the astonishment of many, instead of putting on the canvas an old tottering ruin of a building, the artist painted the exact opposite - a great stately edifice of modern grandeur. Through the portals could be seen richly carved pulpit and pews, magnificent organ and beautiful stained-glass windows, but it was at one point that the artist's conception left with what most understood as to be a decaying church. He made his heart known, when suspended from a nail at the back wall of the church there was a square, wooden, ordinary box - and on that box was painted the label: 'Collection for Foreign Missions'. But here was the punchline: over the little slot where the money should be contributed there was a huge cobweb that had been there for weeks. That was his impression of a decaying church, a church perhaps that through materials and resources has everything going for it, the church perhaps that has more people on the pews than others, yet this item of sacrificial stewardship and giving of grace before the Lord and to the Lord's work is relegated to almost unimportance.
Now let me show you this morning that John the apostle links money and the love of God. If you turn with me to 1 John, I know you've got your finger in Mark 10 - keep it there - but first of all to 1 John chapter 3 till I show you this, because you may be doubtful at me making this marriage, if you like, between money and the love of God. First John 3 verse 17, John says: 'But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of mercy or compassion', or we could translate it heart, 'who shutteth up his heart from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him'. How dwelleth - not stewardship, not even the grace of giving, but how dwelleth the love of God in him? If he doesn't practically give to those who are in need, John is saying that that there's an absence of giving in his life, there's an absence of the love of God!
In fact the verse that is preceded by one of this verse says that 'we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren', and as we do such that is the ultimate proof of our love for God in our love for them. Now of course, most Christians will never have the opportunity of doing this today - laying down their lives in an act of martyrdom, probably we in the West may never see it, who knows, we might in days that are to come - but most of us will never be asked to sacrifice our very lives. So we need to ask ourselves today: how does the believer in our context, in ordinary everyday life circumstances, show that he loves his brother and therefore loves God? The answer is absolutely plain: by giving. That is how the word of God is telling us we show our love for others, and ultimately we display and demonstrate our love for God.
Now what we're going to see today is, very simply, that there are two factors that will regulate our giving to God and to the work of God. They're simply these: one, how much we love money; two, how much we love God. I know they cancel one another out, but they're so important, they will undercut everything that I say from the word of God today - please note it: what will regulate your giving before the Lord is: one, how much you love your money and everything that money buys for you, your possessions, your materials, your luxuries, your affluence; and two, how much you love, really love, God.
So let me ask you the first question: how much do you love money? I mean, it's an honest question, in fact as we look at the New Testament it's a question that is right throughout it. In fact the Scriptures are full of repeated warnings, I would have to say many were from the lips of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. I was, I would have to say, shocked a little when I realised that in a calculation of everything that the Lord said about money within the Gospels, He said more about money than He said about heaven! He said more about money than He said about hell, He said more about money than He said about sexual immorality, than He said about violence - in fact, He speaks on finance perhaps more than any other subject, because He realised the dangers of the love of money in the life.
You remember after the rich young ruler turned away sorrowing from the Lord Jesus because he loved his money and possessions too much, do you remember that the Lord Jesus told His disciples - we're in Mark 10 now and verse 25 - 'It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God'. You have to beware of money, because money can be dangerous; love of money, in fact, can be fatal. Now thankfully, praise God, in verse 27 the Lord Jesus adds a final line: 'And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible'. Even God can deliver a man from the love of money to bring him into the kingdom of God, but when you are well endowed financially and materially it can actually be an obstacle or a handicap not only in getting to God in salvation, but also to becoming truly a spiritual person.
Now added to that is the opposite view which I adhere to, and that means that because of that: if you are spiritual and have money, you're extremely spiritual, because it's a hard thing to carry a full cup. It's hard to have these materials, to use them for God, to be spiritual - it's hard not to allow them to corrupt you, your love for your brother and your love for God. So we're not castigating money, what we're talking about here is the love of money and how it can be dangerous and become a spiritual handicap if we depend on our wellbeing financially, rather than depending on God by faith.
Now you remember in the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus spoke on the subject of money. Turn with me to Matthew chapter 6 and verses 19 and 20, I'll read these well-known words to you: 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal'. Now a little later in verse 24 He warned them: 'No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and money' - 'mammon' is just a personification of money. The Lord Jesus is very clear: be very careful that you do not lay up treasures on the earth, now that does not mean you do not have treasures on the earth; but what He is saying is: 'Be careful what you invest those treasures that you have on earth in. Invest them in heaven's inheritance rather than earthly possessions'.
Do you remember that to the man grabbing for an inheritance the Lord Jesus said very clearly: 'Take heed and beware of covetousness, for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth'. Our life is about more than money, our life is about more than our car, or our house, or our pension, or our holidays, or our clothes, or our technological gadgets. Then you remember that the Saviour related the story of the rich farmer, the man who built bigger barns because his business was going so well, only to find tragically that that very night his soul was required of him and he died. He ended that story in this solemn pronouncement: 'So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God'.
The Lord Jesus is saying beware of money because at times it can be prohibitive to you being rich toward God. Being rich toward God is not - mark - someone who does not have money, it's easy to have faith when there's nothing coming in; but being rich toward God especially is someone who uses their earthly goods for the kingdom of heaven. Do you see it? Not just someone who has given themselves, but someone who has given their riches, laying up treasures in heaven - but the key to liberation from the great power of materialism and affluence that we have in the West today is not what many have done in going into exodus, and going to some commune and living off the fruit of the ground, just putting the bare minimum of clothes on your back, not dealing in money and commerce - nothing like that. It's not taking some kind of vow of poverty, and going into a life of monasticism, but what the word of God is telling us - the Lord Jesus, Paul the apostle, all of the testimony of all the writers of Scripture is: the way to be liberated from the power of materialism, money and affluence is through the grace of giving - that's the way!
The great apostle said in 1 Timothy 1:4-7: 'Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness', and if godliness is intrinsic to the grace of giving my question to all of us this morning is: how have you disciplined yourself unto godliness in the grace of giving? What are you doing at this moment in time to analyse and recognise some of the fundamentals of how you love money, or how you love God?
Now let me bring before you today some of the things we must recognise if we are not to love money, and rather to love God, and in loving God give of our money. Here's the first point: God owns everything that you own. It's very simple, but how many of us really understand this: that God owns everything that you own? In 1 Corinthians 10 verse 26, where Paul was talking about the subject of stewardship, he quoted Psalm 24 and verse 1 which says: 'The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof', or everything in it. He's establishing the fundamental principle that God owns everything, that means He owns your possessions as well as nature's possessions. 'The whole earth is mine', the Lord said in Exodus 19; He says again in Job 41: 'Everything under heaven belongs to me'.
Do we recognise this? This means that we are not owners of what we have, but rather we are managers - or if you want to use the biblical word, we are stewards of what God has lent us. We are stewards of the things that God has given to us. Now let me use a biblical illustration to make this clear to you. You remember the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph was a slave, Joseph became a steward when he entered into Potiphar's house. Potiphar placed him over his household in charge - now as a slave in charge, and as a steward, he didn't own anything in Potiphar's household, he was still a slave. He couldn't say: 'That's mine, that belongs to me', but the fact of the matter is: as a steward he managed everything that Potiphar owned on his behalf. He used his own volition, he used his wisdom and his commonsense as if that money was his own money, but it wasn't his own money.
Now let me go a step further, because the management and stewardship of Potiphar's goods meant that Joseph could use those things for his own means - to an extent he could enjoy Potiphar's wealth, but Joseph's main responsibility was to use those riches for Potiphar's interests. Have you got it? That is exactly what we are to do with God. God wants us to enjoy, even use as necessary the things that He has allowed us to have, but as stewards we are to remember that those things belong to God, and primarily we ought to be using them for God's kingdom.
Let's think about this practically: that means that the house that you live in is not your house, it is God's house. Do you think like that? The car that you drove to church in - maybe you walked, but most likely you came in the car - that is God's car, not your car. The grass that you mow once a month - if you're like me, in fact once in a blue moon if you're like me! - it's God's grass. The trees in your garden are God's trees, the clothes that you're wearing this morning and you maybe take great pride in, and those hanging up at home in your wardrobe, they are God's! It's all God's - the food in your cupboard belongs to God, the books on your shelf belong to God, the furniture in your home belongs to God - in fact, everything that you have and use and enjoy belongs to God, we don't own anything, God owns everything and we are only His managers.
Now it's very easy in our Western materialistic, affluent society to lose sight of this biblical principle: that it's all God's! If you think about it for moment, for most of us the house that you call 'my house' was called 'my house' by somebody else 20 years ago. One day it'll be called 'my house' maybe 20 years from now when somebody else is living in it. Or a piece of land that you think is your land, someone else called it 'my land' on one occasion - because we are only temporary stewards, we own nothing on this earth, one day we will pass away and we will take nothing with us just as we brought nothing into this world when we were born.
Now I know that the good people of the Iron Hall probably believe in theory this principle that God owns everything, but here's the crux of the matter: your giving to the work of the Lord would reflect if you genuinely believe this. So the question is not: 'How much of my money should I give to God?', rather the real question is: 'How much of God's money should I keep for myself?'. There's the first thing to remember: God owns everything.
Here's the second thing, and this is really soul-shaking: your stewardship reflects your spiritual trustworthiness. Have you got that? Your stewardship financially before God reflects your spiritual trustworthiness. Turn with me to Luke chapter 16 because I want to ground everything fundamentally in the Scriptures to show that I'm not making any of this up, in fact the Lord Jesus is telling us this. I think that this is one of the most startling insights into the way that God's kingdom works, and the Lord Jesus Himself reveals it to us in verses 10 to 13 of Luke 16. He says: 'He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?'.
Now if you note again verse 11: 'If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon', or riches, 'who will commit to your trust the true riches?'. In other words, if I can paraphrase it into our context: 'If your giving does not reflect that you are loving God, and loving your brethren, and loving a lost world, do you think God is going to give you spiritual trustworthiness?'. Now let me just pause for a moment, because perhaps there are some believers in our gathering today thinking: 'Why is God not working through me any more?', or 'Why won't God use me the way I long to be used? I feel that God is perhaps finished with me'. Well, could it be that in this seemingly minor area of stewardship before God you have not been faithful, and God is not going to trust you with spiritual riches if you can't be faithful in something as small as this.
Here is the idea: think of the owner of an engineering company, and he has no sons to take on the business, and there's an employee that he's had his eye on for some time who he wants to take over. Of course, he wants to find out if that employee is trustworthy, if he can handle the business and make a profit, so he gives him part of the business to manage for a season. He wants to see if he can secure business and oversee new projects and ventures, to see if this man can make it profitable in a day that is yet to be. So he puts him in the position and he watches very closely how the employee runs that part of the business for many months, and he's not really concerned about how much money he's making, but he wants to determine has trustworthiness, his abilities with regards to running the thing. Because if he doesn't prove that he's trustworthy in the small part of the company, the owner is not going to trust him with the whole thing! But if he can prove that he's faithful with that, the owner will entrust him with true riches one day: the ownership of the whole sham-bang.
Now please see this, the Lord is saying - and what a challenge this is to all of our hearts - if we're not faithful with the use of our own personal finances, and certainly that includes our money to the giving of Christ's kingdom, the Bible says that God will determine that we are untrustworthy to handle true spiritual riches. I just wonder is that why some of us are not experiencing the real abundant blessing of God in our lives? Is that why you're stuck in a rut? Is that why God seems to bless everybody else but you? It's not the amount of money that God is concerned with, it's the amount of His money that you're keeping for your own pleasure! Yet you're forfeiting spiritual pleasure for things that will not endure!
I hope you can see now that our use of money is one of the best ways of evaluating our relationship with Christ, and our spiritual trustworthiness. You see, if you love Christ with all your heart, he is saying, your giving will reflect that. If you love Christ and the work of His kingdom more than anything else, your giving will show it! If you're truly submitted to the Lordship of Christ it will affect your pocket. That's why someone has said that your cheque book tells more about you than almost anything else - is that too mercenary for some of you? It's not too mercenary for the Lord Jesus: that is the thermometer and the spiritual standard that He used on many an occasion. Let me ask you: if, after you're dead, you were so famous that there was a biographer given the exercise and project of writing your life story, and he was given your cheque book with all the stubs of what you spent money on, and he was given your bank statements, and he went through it all - what would he conclude about what kind of Christian you were? What conclusion would he come to? What would it reveal about your walk with Christ? Would there be tangible evidence in your giving, in the use of your finances - not just what you give, what you keep, what you spend, what you enjoy - that you were a trustworthy Christian who was spiritually blessed?
Now do not misunderstand what David Legge is saying. He is not saying that if you give it makes you spiritual. It does not. It doesn't save your soul. It doesn't commend you to God in any extent, because it is by grace we are saved through faith, that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God; not of works - even the work of giving. Giving does not make you spiritual, but here's the point: if you are spiritual you will give.
So where are we? These two practical challenges that we've had this morning, that everything that we own belongs to God, and the question is not how much of our money we give to God, but how much of God's money we give back to Him - where are we? What about our spiritual trustworthiness? How faithful are we in this elementary basic childlike principle that should be learned by every Christian just after conversion? Where do we stand with regards to this? Could it be that our lack of blessing in our lives could be pinpointed to this problem? How is our grace giving, as we summarise everything that we've learnt over these weeks? How is our grace giving in comparison to the Old Testament saints, some of which gave an extent of a calculation of about 34 or 35 percent?
Where does our grace giving measure up in New Testament giving principles laid down: regularly upon the first day of the week, systematically that they laid by them in store, proportionately that they looked at their earnings whether positively increasing or negatively decreasing, and gave as the Lord had prospered them in His sovereignty - for the Lord is the Giver. How does our giving measure when we see that the Lord tells us to give bountifully, pressed down, shaken, and as we give it will be given in more abundance to us spiritually, and even at times materially? How does our giving figure privately? Do we give not just for the gratification that others might see and praise us, but our own pat on the back - where is it when it comes to our giving? Do we commend ourselves before God? What about that hilarious principle: 'God loveth a cheerful, a hilarious giver', not a grudging person, not a person who gives out of duty - but like the honey that just oozes that sweetness without even being able to help it.
Can I just say as I conclude this series: no one, when they stand at the judgment seat of Christ before the Lord Jesus who hasn't money in His hands but nail prints, the one who was rich yet for our sake became poor that we through His poverty might be made rich - no Christian will there regret that they had been abundantly exercised with the grace of giving on that day, because at that moment their eternal recompense will be received! The big issue, you see, is whether you as a Christian are living for down here or up there.
Some years ago there was a celebrated artist in Paris called Ari Schaeffer, and on one occasion he wished to introduce a beggar into a certain picture that he was painting. On that same day Baron Rothschild, the famous banker and one of the richest men in the world, who was a particular friend of the artist, happened to call in. He came to the studio on that day, the very time that the artist needed a beggar to model for his portrait. So Baron Rothschild said: 'Well, can you wait till tomorrow?', he said: 'Well, I suppose so'. Rothschild said: 'Tomorrow I will address myself up as a beggar, I'll make an excellent model'. So Schaeffer said: 'Very well', and the next day, even though it was a strange proposal, the rich banker appeared dressed up as a beggar, and a very sorry-looking beggar at that. While the artist was engaged in painting him, another friend came into the studio, and he was a kind and generous-hearted man. As he looked at the model beggar he was touched by the wretchedness of his appearance, and as he passed by him he slipped a Louis D'or (sp?) - which was a French coin - into his hand. The pretended beggar took the coin and put it into his pocket.
Now if you can come into the future with me ten years, this gentleman who had given that piece of money, in the post received an order from the bank of Rothschild for 10,000 francs. Enclosed was a letter that read as follows: 'Sir, you one day gave a Louis D'or to Baron Rothschild in the studio of Ari Scheaffer, and he has invested and made good use of it. Today he sends the capital you entrusted to him, together with the interest it gained'. What does that tell us? No one, no one will regret investing in heaven. The question is: where do you invest? Jesus said: 'Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also'.
Our Father, we acknowledge today that as our Creator we are Thy creatures, and the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof - and that includes us and our families, and our homes, our possessions, our resources, our careers, everything that we are and have. Lord, we would just give thanks to Thee today for what we have. As we compare it relatively speaking to those in the world that have so little, we do give thanks. But Lord, as we look to Thee as our Redeemer God through the Lord Jesus Christ, we're told that we are not our own, that we are bought with a price, we are a purchased people, and we can't just live the way we want to live. Lord, we would have to say that that means we can't just spend the way we want to spend. Even as we come up to a season which is supposedly to remember the birth of Thy Son, there will be an obscene amount of spending - and our Father, we pray that as the children of God, that we will stand different, that we will not invest in our livelihoods down here on earth, but spiritually that we will invest in heaven even with our finances - that on that day, and even on this day, we would be trusted with spiritual things and spiritual blessings. Lord, may You write on our hearts all that we have learned in these weeks, and may it make our walk and our stewardship before Thee different from this day forward, through the name of the One who was rich, but became poor for us we pray, the Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourth tape in his "The Grace Of Giving" study series, titled "The Biblical Challenge Of Giving" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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