Joyful Generosity Is Gospel Driven – 1 Chronicles 29:10-20


 

 

Text: 1 Chronicles 29:10-20

Theme: Joyful and Generous

10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, O Lord, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. 11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 12 Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. 13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. 14 But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. 15 We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. 16 O Lord our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. 18 O Lord, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. 19 And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, requirements and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.” 20 Then David said to the whole assembly, “Praise the Lord your God.” So they all praised the Lord, the God of their fathers; they bowed low and fell prostrate before the Lord and the king.

When David and his people had the opportunity to raise the money needed for building the temple, they didn’t run away from that opportunity. They welcomed it with joyful generosity. In 2 Samuel 24, we have a glimpse into David’s attitude about giving to the Lord. God had sent a plague among his people because of a foolish thing David had done. To stop the plague, God ordered David to build an altar and make a sacrifice on the threshing floor of Araunah, the Jebusite. That piece of ground later becomes the site of the temple. When David asked to buy the piece of ground, Araunah offers to give it to him for free. But David says, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
In other words, how would it be a sacrifice if it cost him nothing? Where would be the joy in that?

It’s easy to be generous when it costs us nothing. Have you ever dreamed about winning the lottery and thinking what you would do with all that money? I must confess that I have, even though I don’t buy tickets. In those fantasies, I dream about what fun it would be to start a new mission or give an endowment fund to my church or to West Lutheran high school or to Martin Luther College. I must confess those daydreams kind of make me feel good about myself. But is it joyful generosity if it isn’t real, or if it costs us nothing?

When David made his gift for the building of God’s temple, a temple he would never see but which his son would build, he gave three thousand talents of gold and ten thousand talents of silver. That was 110 tons of gold and 260 tons of silver. That was about five billion dollars. Some scholars say that David gave his entire personal treasury for the future building of the temple. What motivated David and his people to be so generous? Our text shows us that joyful generosity is gospel driven.

  1. A heart that responds to the generosity of God

You see what is in David’s heart in his beautiful prayer. First, David acknowledges that he isn’t really giving something to the Lord. He is only giving something back. Everything he had belonged to the Lord. God made him king. God made him wealthy. God gave him 110 tons of gold and 260 tons of silver. God gave him all this wealth and said to David, “Here, go out and have some fun.” So, that’s what David did. Giving all this to build God’s house was more fun than building another palace, or a seaside resort, or a palace on top of a mountain.

Why was this so much fun for David? Because David’s heart was responding to God’s grace in is life. “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. O Lord our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you.”
“Who am I?” David asks. Where would David be without the grace of God? He would still be a shepherd tending the flocks, because the youngest son in the family never really got to be his own boss. He just tended the sheep. Where would David be without the grace of God? He would still be the adulterer who stole Bathsheba from his faithful soldier and the murderer who put him on the front lines to be killed. Where would David be without the grace of God? Where would David be if God had not sent the prophet, Nathan, to bring him to repentance? Well, let David say it in his own words. Psalm 32:3-4: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.” David would have lived his life in dark despair and with no hope of heaven. He would have had nothing and he would have been nothing but for the grace of God in his life. He would have come to the end of his life and had no future in sight.

Ask yourself this question. Where would you be without the grace of God in your life? The answer is that you would be in the same place that millions of people around you are in right now. You would be living your life without any real purpose in life at all. You would be trying to be somebody by making a name for yourself. You would be checking your Facebook page every ten minutes to see if someone likes you. You would be looking back on all the mistakes in your life, all the sins you’ve committed, and have no relief for a guilty conscience. You would come to the end of your life, terrified in your soul, because you wouldn’t know what was coming next. And if you did know, you would be even more terrified. Where would you be without God’s grace in your life?

Instead God has called you to faith in Jesus and given you a hope you never deserved. David had it all, didn’t he? Don’t you have it all as well? Jesus once said to his disciples, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). He has made you to be kings and priests in his kingdom. He has taken away your guilt and your despair. He gives you the joy of being God’s children. He has redeemed you and made you his own. There is nothing that he withholds from you. He has even filled your purses with gold and silver and says, “Here, go out and have some fun.”

Do you know what Jesus says after he tells you not to be afraid because he has given you the kingdom? He says, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” For people like David and people like you, giving to help others is more fun than spending money on yourself. It’s more fun to donate to the food pantry than it is to buy a new dress. It’s more fun to provide a scholarship to a student than to drive a new car. It’s more fun to make sure that missionaries can go to China than it is to take a cruise in the Caribbean. Why? Because the generosity of God’s grace opens a well of joyful generosity in our hearts that will never run dry. Joyful generosity responds to the generosity of God’s grace. “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”

Joyful generosity is a response to God’s generosity of grace, and it prioritizes the kingdom of God.

  1. A heart that prioritizes the kingdom of God

When it comes to Christian giving, motivation is the most important thing. It’s even more important than how much we give. In David’s prayer, he says, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. O Lord, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.”
Notice that David doesn’t talk about how much the people gave, but why they gave. They gave with integrity, with a single-minded devotion for the gospel. He thanks God for that and prays that God would always keep this desire in their hearts.

Many years later, Jesus would worship in the temple that King Herod built. This was the same Herod who wanted to kill the baby Jesus right after he was born, and who killed all the infants in Bethlehem to try to kill Jesus, too. He built a magnificent temple that was one of the wonders of the world at the time. Why would he do this? King Herod was a selfish man who only thought about himself and HIS kingdom (not God’s kingdom). Why would he build a temple to the Lord? Because he was an Edomite, a distant cousin of the Jews, and he wanted to gain the favor of the Jewish people. There was not an ounce of integrity in his heart and his “generosity” was not pleasing to God at all.

David’s gifts for the temple along with the gifts of God’s people were given willingly and with honest intent. They were given with joy and not for personal gain. In fact, David would never reap the benefits of his generosity in his lifetime. He would never walk into this wonderful new temple, this house of God, and gaze upon its beauty. Yet he wrote a psalm for its dedication (Psalm 33). He even must have imagined what it would be like just to see this wonderful temple when he wrote these words in Psalm 27: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

If David was not going to get anything out of the gift that he gave to the Lord, then what was he giving it for? David was providing for the future of his church. David knew that God’s house was going to be a place where the truth of the gospel would be proclaimed for future generations. He wanted this for his son, Solomon, and prayed that God would keep him devoted fully in his heart to God’s purposes and God’s mission. He wanted a place where people would come from distant lands to learn of the only true and living God. He wanted future generations to come to this temple and to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to find comfort in the promise of a Savior.

Isn’t this why you give to the Lord’s work as well? You see a purpose for your life and the wealth that God has given you that far surpasses self-gratification. Your gifts to our congregation have a kingdom focus. Your gifts support the pastors that visit people when they are dying and comfort them with the gospel. Your gifts support the outreach to our community. Your gifts support our [Sunday] school, where children are learning about Jesus and studying his Word so they can be strong in their faith. You support the mission efforts of our synod. Did you know that there are over 300 people in different countries around the world who are asking our synod to train them to be pastors?

What could we accomplish together for God’s kingdom if this spirit of joyful generosity saturated our hearts, the way it did for David and his people? I must tell you a story about an elderly woman who lived in the nursing home for many years. Her name was Carol. The sale of her family farm had supported her, but eventually even that money ran out. Then one day her church received a check for $500 from her lawyer on her behalf. He explained in the letter that this was the last gift the church would receive from her. He also said, “If you talk to her about this, she may not know that I have done this, but I know how important her church is to her and that she would want her church to receive the last of her estate.” Even her lawyer knew her priorities and how much fun Carol found in giving to the Lord!

Joyful generosity is gospel driven. It responds to the generosity of God’s grace and it prioritizes God’s kingdom. Pray that God would give you such a heart! Amen.

Where Your Treasure Is — Luke 12:27-34


 

 

Text: Luke 12:27-34

Theme: Where Your Treasure Is

27 Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 32 Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be.” That’s a very well-known phrase. “Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be.” It doesn’t seem hard at all to understand. Put your heart in the right place, and then your treasure will follow. If your heart is with God, naturally your treasure will follow. Simple.

Except, I want you to say that phrase with me again. “Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be.” What follows what? According to Jesus, your treasure doesn’t follow your heart. Your heart follows your treasure. Listen again: “Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be.” I’ve misunderstood that verse for years. Jesus is not telling us, “Put your heart in the right place, then everything else will follow.” Jesus is telling us to look at where we put our money, because that’s how you tell what’s really in your heart. We can say what we want about what we believe and value, but what you spend your money on is a clear indication of where your heart really is.

There’s a simple way to say that. “Follow the money!” Have you heard that expression? It makes me think of corruption in politics. People can say or pretend whatever they want, but money shows you the truth. “Follow the money!” I once heard that put in a powerful way by a different pastor. He was talking about how you can determine if a married man is having an inappropriate relationship with another woman. He said, “Ask him, ‘Have you given her any gifts?'” Why? Because your heart follows the money. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

That contradicts the way we talk today. We like to think that we have control over our hearts. When we mess up, we say things like, “Well, at least my heart is in the right place.” Of course, every single person in the whole world thinks they have their heart in the right place! The problem is, if you really think about it, you can’t control your heart. You can’t always choose what or whom you love. You can’t put your heart exactly where you want it to be. God knows that! But you can control your treasure, and controlling your treasure is one way to control your heart. Regardless of where you think your heart is, it will be wherever your treasure is.

So where is your treasure? You don’t want me to ask you that question. I don’t want me to ask me that question. Why? That’s proof right there of how closely tied our treasure is to our hearts! We love money and we love things and we love the things we do with money. And we like to think that my money is separate from my relationship with God. “Don’t talk about money at church!” Except Jesus tells us that the opposite is true. My use of God’s money tells a lot about my relationship with God. “Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be.” Jesus is right!

So where is your treasure? Of course, there are some things that everyone must buy. If you picked up toilet paper at Walmart yesterday, I’m not going to accuse you of making toilet paper your heart’s home. You know that’s not what God is talking about. It’s not wrong to spend money. I want you to imagine, though, that if someone from the outside would look at your life and your finances, what would they think that you care most about? Would they guess sports? Or alcohol? Or your house? Or your cars? Or the cabin? If what Jesus says really is true—”Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be”—then where is your heart?

This is hard to think about, isn’t it? But Jesus wants us to know that the way we use our earthly treasures has a direct impact on our hearts—on our faith! It’s not a good sign if we don’t bat an eye at spending money on sports tickets, vacations, or restaurants, but our faces cringe when it comes to giving back to God. To Jesus this is one area that is very black and white. “Where your treasure is, there your heart shall be.” If your treasure is with Jesus, then your heart is going to be there too. If your treasure isn’t with Jesus, then don’t fool yourself. Because your heart isn’t with Jesus either.

Here’s what’s amazing: God is very clear about where his treasure is. It’s with you! To our worried hearts torn in too many different directions, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” That’s really shocking to hear: “Your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Imagine if the president would call you up on the phone and say, “Pastor, don’t be afraid, I’m going to give you the country!” What? That’s exactly what God has done! God has this enormous chest of treasures—love, grace, forgiveness, the kingdom of heaven . . . What has he done with them? He has given them to us through Jesus our Savior. God has given you his treasure, and where God’s treasure is, there his heart is also—with you! Isn’t that cool? What more could God do? What more could God give?

Daniel got it. His treasure was in heaven. Daniel was a believer in God who rose to power in Persia, just below the king. But then the king decreed that anyone who prayed to anyone other than the king himself would be thrown to the lions. Daniel had a lot to lose: his position, his life . . . Did he worry? No! His treasure wasn’t his position or his life. It was in heaven. So, he kept praying, even when he got thrown to the lions. That night we’re told that the king with all his power and might was tossing and turning in bed, while Daniel was at peace. “Do not fear, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Daniel’s treasure was in heaven.

The apostle Paul got it. His treasure was in heaven. Paul didn’t just have a lot to lose. He actually lost everything. When he believed in Jesus, he went from being one of the most highly respected Pharisees to being an outlaw. He lost everything, but with no regrets. He said, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” Do you think he was cringing or smiling as he said that? “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things” (Philippians 2:7-8). Do you know where Paul was when he wrote those words? In jail! Paul’s treasure was in heaven.

Martin Luther got it. His treasure was in heaven. It was quite a long struggle for him. His dad wanted him to be a lawyer, so that he could have a secure life financially. So, Luther looked for his treasure in money. He never found what he was looking for. Then, after almost being killed in a thunderstorm, he decided to be a monk. His dad was irate. Luther looked for his treasure in the Catholic Church and its rules. He never found it. Then, by God’s grace, something amazing happened. He looked for his treasure in God and his Word, and he found God’s grace. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

It all comes down to one word: “Give.” “Your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” God’s love and forgiveness—his kingdom—is free. That’s what “give” means, right? There’s no fighting. No earning. No worrying. It doesn’t depend on you. Grace is God’s gift! That’s what makes Christianity different from every religion in the world. Every other religion points you to you. “Do this.” “Wear this.” “Don’t eat this.” “Pull your share.” Even Christian churches have bought in. “If you don’t drink, smoke, or dance, you’re in!” Except, “your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Martin Luther found peace in the fact that all of God’s gifts are free.

I hope you have too. Here are five phrases that define what it means to be a Lutheran. I want you to remember them. Grace alone. Faith alone. Scripture alone. Christ alone. To God alone be the glory. That doesn’t sound hard, does it? You can remember that. This is important!

  • Grace alone. “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8-9). God loves you, no matter what you have done. Grace alone.
  • Faith alone. “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22). Faith in Jesus is what saves. Faith alone.
  • Scripture alone. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). God’s Word is true and powerful. Scripture alone.
  • Christ alone. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus is the only Way. Christ alone.
  • To God alone be the glory. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). To God alone be the glory!

Got it? Grace alone. Faith alone. Scripture alone. Christ alone. To God alone be the glory.

There is a difference between religions, even between churches that call themselves Christian. That difference does matter. That difference is as big as the difference between you and God. You are only as strong as the one on whom you depend. So, trusting in you and your works or trusting in Jesus and his grace is as big a difference as you and God. Grace alone. Faith alone. Scripture alone. Christ alone. To God alone be the glory. God our dear Father has given us his kingdom by grace through faith in Christ, and our treasure is in heaven with Jesus. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

If you believe that, here’s what it means for you: “Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” Do you know what the key is to a worry-free life? Trusting the phrase, “Your Father knows.” Your treasure is in heaven! Whatever it is that you need on earth, your Father knows! If God is willing to take you to heaven, how much more won’t he certainly care for you here! Jesus doesn’t want you to live worried and anxious! Focus on God. God will focus on you.

In fact, Jesus says, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Here’s a truth about life: The more your focus is on earth and its stuff, the more worry and anxiety you will have. You know that’s true! So why not give away what you’re going to leave behind anyway? Joyful generosity lives in people whose treasure is in heaven. Because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Even Martin Luther needed to be reminded of that. His wife’s name was Katie. Luther went through a particularly difficult time in life. The pope kept threatening him. People didn’t want to hear God’s Word. Worries tormented him. And his wife noticed. So, one day when Martin Luther came home, Katie met him at the door dressed in black. “What are you doing?” Luther asked. Katie solemnly said, “God died.” “That’s foolish!” Luther said. “No, it’s true,” Katie said. “God must have died, or Dr. Luther would not be so sad!” God hadn’t died. Luther had just been putting his treasure in the wrong place! In fact, every worry and every doubt and every disappointment is a sign that our treasure is in the wrong place. Because here’s the truth. God is not dead. Jesus lives. And “your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Grace alone. Faith alone. Scripture alone. Christ alone. To God alone be the glory.

Abundance vs. Scarcity – 2 Corinthians 9:6-11


Text: 2 Corinthians 9:6-11

Theme: Abundance vs. Scarcity

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.


Can you name the richest American ever? You’re probably thinking of Bill Gates. It’s not him! Without a doubt, the richest American ever was a man named J.D. Rockefeller. Ever heard of him? He lived around the turn of the century and founded the Standard Oil Company right as cars and gasoline and the need for oil was beginning. He amassed a personal fortune that in today’s dollars is estimated at between 300 and 400 billion dollars. That’s at least four times the amount that Bill Gates has today! One day, J.D. Rockefeller was asked, “How much money is enough?” With his hundreds of billions in the bank, do you know what he said? “Just a little bit more.”

 

“Just a little bit more.” Does that describe your life? Whether you have hundreds of billions of dollars or a little less, doesn’t it always feel like we just need a little bit more? There aren’t enough hours in a day. There’s not enough time to finish projects at work. There’s not enough energy to finish projects at home. Not enough money to get what we really want. Not enough friendships to feel like we’re truly loved. We’re close, right? But we’re always just a little bit short. I think this is our default human condition. Never quite satisfied. “Just a little bit more!”

I’ll admit that I feel that way a lot. There just isn’t quite enough of just about anything to stretch as far as you’d like it to go. The perfect word for it is “scarcity.” We go through life with a scarcity mentality. If I just had a little more time . . . If I just had a little more energy . . . If I just had a little more money . . . If I just had a few more friends . . . But I’m always a little short. Scarcity.

There’s just one problem: That’s not true! In fact, it’s an absolute lie that comes straight from the devil. Because if I don’t have enough, that can only mean one thing: God hasn’t given me enough. What a lie! If you want to see where that started, just go back to the Garden of Eden. Remember how that all went down? Adam and Eve were in the perfect Garden of Eden surrounded by everything they could have possibly desired, yet the devil somehow convinced Eve and Adam that they didn’t have enough. “I need that one more fruit . . . God hasn’t given me quite enough . . .” Scarcity entered the world with devastating results.

Just think of the result of that mentality. We’re never content. In fact, contentment can even seem like a bad thing. Can you imagine a presidential candidate standing on the debate stage and saying, “I am content”? What would the reaction be? “What! He’s crazy! How can you be content? We’re short on . . .” We’re never content. And we’re always frazzled. Always running. Always struggling. Always searching for that one more thing. For just a little bit more. And here’s the worst part: God begins to seem like he demands more than he gives. Ever feel that way?

Here’s one more clear result of this scarcity lie: It hurts to give. Generosity has become painful. Giving has lost its joy. In fact, you could use that as a test for how hard you have fallen to the scarcity lie. How hard it is for you to give your money away? If it’s hard and painful to give your money away—to anyone—you are living with an attitude of scarcity! How did talking about money become a forbidden subject—especially in church? Because I think I always need just a little bit more. The devil has convinced me that I’m always just a little bit short. Scarcity.

I’m so glad you’re here today, because God wants to completely change your mindset! He shares something amazing with us that will free you from this attitude of always being short. He’s starts by taking us out to a farm. “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Think of a farmer: If you don’t sow, you won’t reap. A farmer must give to receive. In fact, the more seed he gives up and plants in the ground, the greater his harvest will be. That takes tremendous trust, but it works! God says that it works the same with him. He who gives, receives. He who sows generously, reaps generously.

So, what it all comes down to is trust, right? Is God good for it? Can I count on him? Check out this promise: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” The devil wants to fill you with this “just a little bit more” disease. In contrast, I want you to count how many times God says “all” or “every.” “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” We don’t have a God of “just a little bit more.” We have a God of “all.” God is not a God of scarcity. He is a God of abundance.

It starts with this: “God is able to make all grace abound to you.” Whenever you hear the word “grace,” I want you to think of Jesus. God’s grace is his undeserved love for us in Jesus. How much of that love is there? God describes it like a flood—it’s abounding and overflowing. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Earlier, we sang, “What grace is this! My Lord and King has set his face to suffering. My God eternal dies to bring eternal life to me. What grace is this—that very God would stoop to lift a cross of wood and walk a road of rock and blood, a sinner’s road, for me.” How do we get past the “I need a little more” thinking? Grace!

You don’t need a little bit more. You have it all! “You will be made rich in every way.” In the previous chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Everyone who goes through life thinking they don’t have enough is missing the big picture. Jesus died for you. Jesus has forgiven you. Jesus saved you. Jesus loves you. You are rich—rich right now! Later, we’re going to sing, “Jesus, your boundless love to me no thought can reach, no tongue declare.” We have a God of abundance!

Because being rich isn’t about a number. You could have all the money in the world, but still be poor. Being rich is an attitude. It is the gift of God’s grace. You have something that even Bill Gates with all of his money doesn’t have. You have God’s peace in your heart. Your worth isn’t determined by your bank account. It’s determined by Jesus’ blood. Your freedom isn’t a result of your constant struggling. It’s the result of Jesus’ forgiveness. You are rich! You will leave church today without a single dollar more in your pocket. You’ll leave without a single hour more in your day. But you are not one bit short, because you have what you need most. You are rich with the overflowing love of God!

Sometimes people talk about different perspectives in life. Are you a glass half-empty or glass half-full kind of person? I hope you’re neither. Because neither is right. The glass is full! “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” The glass is full! Whenever this scarcity nonsense creeps back into your mind, tell yourself, “God is able . . . God is able . . . God is able . . . All . . . All . . . All . . . I am rich! I am rich! I am rich!” We don’t have a God of scarcity. We have a God of abundance. He has blessed you!

But God’s abundance isn’t meant to stop with you. Here’s how he puts it: “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.” God has blessed you with all that you need for a purpose. God wants to make you the greatest possible blessing to others. You are not an end in yourself. God’s blessings are not meant to come to you and stop. He’s got a much bigger purpose for you than that! Isn’t that what we want to hear? We want a purpose in our lives. God gives you one: You exist to be a blessing for others. God wants his abundance to flow through you.

Have you ever heard of “seed money”? It’s money that used to start something bigger. You might put some “seed money” into your child’s college account—and hope it grows. You might invest “seed money” in a business and hope it pays dividends. God’s blessings to us aren’t ends in themselves. They are like “seed money.” The money and time and possessions and talents that God has given you are seed money to sow generously. He doesn’t want us to keep our blessings to ourselves any more than a farmer keeps his seeds to himself. He gives us blessings to plant them so that they grow and flourish and bless even more people with God’s abundance.

We’re going to spend some time in future sermons talking about all the practical advice God gives us for giving to him and others. But here’s a start today: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Giving is connected to your heart. It’s a decision that reflects your faith in Jesus. This is why we can’t ever tell you how much to give! But as you decide, ask yourself: Do I have a God of abundance or scarcity? Do I have a God who leaves me a little short or gives me all?

If you still need encouragement, I’ve got to share with you one more passage. Jesus once said, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38). Isn’t that awesome? God gives like brown sugar. At least how I measured out brown sugar as a kid. I would fill the cup full, and then pack it down. Then fill it back to the top and pack it down again. Then fill it up and pack it right to the top. And then, for good measure, heap some on top and dump it all into the cookies. That’s how God gives. “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” Trust in him—our God of abundance!

I can’t end without sharing something else amazing about Jesus. He accomplished more than anyone in the history of the world. But out of all the things Jesus did, do you know something that you don’t ever hear Jesus doing? Running! Jesus never ran. In fact, Jesus had 24-hour days, and he only lived 33 years. But he had enough time. Let’s be honest, there is not a hint of scarcity in our lives. God has given you exactly the right amount of time to serve him. God has given you exactly the right amount of money to serve him. God has given you exactly the right talents to serve him. Don’t wish you had a little bit more. Rejoice in what he’s given you.

This Rockefeller guy I told you about—he was actually a very generous man. He gave away hundreds of millions of dollars in his lifetime. His desire to give led him to develop a habit: He gave a dime to every single person he met—from a tiny baby to the president of the United States. Everywhere he went, he gave out dimes. It’s estimated that he gave away $35,000 in dimes. If you do the math, that’s 350,000 people he gave a dime to. That’s a lot of seed money. And he smiled all the way! Joyful generosity is our response to a God of abundance. Amen.

The Earth is the Lord’s – Psalm 24:1-6

 

 

 

Text: Psalm 24:1-6

Theme: The Earth is the Lord’s

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; 2 for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters. 3 Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. 5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior. 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

Paul Wendland, the president of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, spent his vicar year in Zambia, Africa, where his father was a missionary. In a letter to a friend and fellow pastor, he told how three students in their seminary had to be dismissed because they were involved in a witchcraft scandal. One of the student’s children had died unexpectedly, so he and his friend accused a third student of putting a spell on this child. The two students who made the accusation were dismissed as well as the one who was accused, because his reputation had been damaged beyond repair. The friend wrote back to Pastor Wendland and asked how students who were already at the seminary could still believe in witchcraft. Wendland replied that witchcraft was so much part of the African culture that it was hard to get it out of their heads and hearts.

On another occasion Wendland shared, “If students from the seminary here in Africa were to visit our seminary in Mequon, and if they would see all the new cars in the parking lot and then hear the students complaining about the food in the cafeteria, they would think that we are the most godless and thankless Christians they had ever met.”

Materialism is the idolatry of worshipping material things, created things, rather than the Creator. It is the lie that filling our lives with lots of stuff will somehow bring us joy and happiness. It’s the deception that these earthly treasures and pleasures will somehow last and not disappoint us. It is failing to put everything we have and everything we are into thankful service to God. It’s thinking that we never have enough when we have more than we need. And the worst part about it is—like witchcraft in Africa—it is so much part of our American experience that we don’t even know we are doing it!

This morning we are beginning a stewardship series in which we want to explore the reasons we give to the Lord and how we do that. Together we will examine the motives of our hearts, because joyful generosity begins with a heart that worships God.

Joyful generosity begins with a heart that worships God.

  1. We worship the Creator and not created stuff.

Psalm 24 begins with a bold statement. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.”
This is a simple truth. Everything in the world belongs to God, because he made it. We belong to God, because he made us. This church belongs to God, because he made it. Our houses, our cars, and our priceless collections of things we treasure belong to God, because the earth and everything in it belong to the Lord.

We don’t like to accept this simple truth in our culture or in our sinful nature. We like to think that we own ourselves. Think of how many terms we have in our culture which contain the word “self.” We have the right to SELF-DETERMINATION. That means we say we can choose whatever we want to do with our bodies. We take SELFIES, because we like looking at ourselves. We talk about SELF-ASSURANCE and SELF-AWARENESS and SELF-CONFIDENCE. We say that SELF-ESTEEM is important and we read SELF-HELP books and articles. The list is too long to consider this morning! But when we focus our attention on ourselves, isn’t that just another way of worshipping what is created instead of the Creator?

Our psalm continues. “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.”
There is phrase in these verses that I would like to focus on today. It says we should not lift up our souls, or our hearts, to an idol. I think there is a better translation. A better translation would be not to lift up our hearts to something that is inconsequential. It’s putting our heart on something that is not the most important thing. Idolatry isn’t so much that you love some evil thing or person. The really sneaky version of idolatry happens when we love good things too much.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon describes these inconsequential things as “meaningless” and applies the word to lots of good things that people do. The book of Ecclesiastes is a really depressing book unless you read the last verses in the book first. There Solomon says that there is really only one important thing in this life: “Fear God and keep his commandments.” If you keep everything in context of your relationship with God, you can keep your heart focused on the Creator and not the created.

What kind of things was Solomon talking about? Solomon was a builder. He was a great architect. He built the temple. He also built a palace for himself. He built a palace for his wife, the daughter of the Pharaoh. He built storehouses. He built treasure cities. He built stables for all his fine horses and chariots. Solomon loved to build things. So do we, right? We like to make things, whether it is a house, or a garden, or a business, or a career. But Solomon said this was a “meaningless” thing—an inconsequential thing.

Solomon was known as the wisest man on earth. He studied things. He was a master of economics and biology and architecture and earth sciences. He read every book he could get his hands on. But in the end, he said these were meaningless and inconsequential. Pursuing knowledge and wisdom is not a bad thing. It’s just not the most important thing.

He was a rich man. He had an annual income of 666 talents of gold, or 42 billion dollars. He had everything money could buy, and he spared himself no delight or pleasure. He had success above all other kings in the world at the time. But what does he say? It is inconsequential—meaningless.

If you lift up your hearts to the inconsequential things—good things that you put too much value on, you are committing idolatry. It is idolatry because God comes is a distant second. It’s idolatry because you can’t find time for your prayers or your worship. It’s idolatry because you are missing out on the one thing in life that can give you real joy or happiness.

What are the inconsequential things in your life that you have lifted up your hearts to and worshipped instead of the God who created you? Is it your work? Americans are working themselves to death. Employers expect it and employees strive to meet those expectations so they can buy bigger homes and drive better cars. In the end, will you confess with Solomon that all this is meaningless?

Or are you lifting your hearts up to that endless pursuit of pleasure? On a ride around the neighborhood the other day, I notice that most new homes have three car garages. There was a time we got by with a one-car garage. If you look inside most of those garages, one bay is used for all the toys. Sometimes you will see both cars on the street and all the space in the garage used for toys. There was a bumper sticker that said that the man who died with the most toys wins. Really? You want to bet your eternity on meaningless things?

What are you lifting up your heart to? None of these things is bad in itself. Work is not bad. In fact, it is good. Recreation is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. Comfortable housing is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. But if we let the inconsequential things of this life become bigger than life, bigger than God in our life, we are missing out on the one thing that can bring real joy and meaning in our life.

And what’s that? The only joy that will never disappoint us is the joy what we find in worshipping the God who not only made us and owns us, but who redeemed us for himself.

  1. We worship a God who has redeemed us for himself.

Sometimes people compare finding success in this life to be like climbing a hill. The problem is that most people don’t know how to measure success, so they just keep on climbing. I heard a story about a reporter who interviewed three of the top stars in Hollywood whose lives ended in despair and disaster. They had all climbed that hill of success. They made millions at the box office. They interviewed on all the late-night talk shows. Paparazzi followed them around and took their pictures. Yet they lived in fear and despair. Why? Because they knew that if they did not have another hit movie or another hit song, they would be forgotten. They were happier when they were nobodies than when they became somebodies.

What was wrong with their lives? They were ambitious. They were successful. And yet they believed their life meant nothing if they were not successful one more time. What was their problem? They were climbing the wrong hill. “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob.”

There is only one hill worth climbing, and that is the hill that brings us close to God. But isn’t that also an act of despair? Who CAN climb that hill and stand before a holy God? Can you? Do you have clean hands, hands that have never done violence? Do you have a pure heart? I know that I don’t. If you are honest with yourself, you will admit that you struggle with hatred or desire or jealousy or bitterness all the time. Have you never lifted up your heart to something that is inconsequential? Have you never sworn by what if false? If these thoughts plague your mind, you are climbing the wrong hill, because you think that God will judge you on your success in keeping his commandments.

The hill you want to climb to come into the presence of God is the hill that Jesus climbed. The words of the psalm might be better translated, “He will receive blessing from the Lord and RIGHTEOUSNESS from God his Savior.”
Through faith in Jesus, your Savior, you have everything you will ever need or want to make your life full and complete. You can stand before God because Jesus has dressed you in his righteousness. He became poor for your sake so that you might become rich in a way that billionaires will never experience. You are promised that you can have life and have it to the full. You can count yourself as a child of God. You have an inheritance that will never spoil or fade.

All the rest of the inconsequential stuff will fade away eventually. The movie star’s beauty fades. The billionaire can’t buy his way out of a hospitable bed. The athlete’s strong body becomes weak and frail. The scholar who thought he knew everything cannot remember his children’s names. But our faith in Jesus sustains us to the grave and beyond, to an inheritance that will never disappoint us.

There was a story on the radio about a man who was vacationing in the Caribbean. He met a fisherman who was sitting on a chair watching the sun go down. He asked him what he did for a living. He said he went fishing every morning and caught fish for his family. He was a good fisherman and his family loved to eat fish. He loved to play with his children in the afternoon and go down to the sea and watch the sun set. The visitor had an idea. “If you are a good fisherman, I could loan you some money. You could put a fish stand here on the beach. People would buy your fish. If you caught more fish, you could open a market in town. You could buy a nice house for you family in the city. Wouldn’t that be great? What would you do if you were successful?” And the man thought for a moment and said, “I would buy a house on the beach. I would fish in the morning and play with my children in the afternoon. Then I could come down to the sea and watch the sun set.”

When I heard that story, I first thought it made a lot of sense. Don’t let your ambition get in the way of enjoying life. And then, I thought that story missed the point altogether. Both men were missing the point, weren’t they? Life doesn’t have meaning because I can make myself rich. Life doesn’t have meaning because I can sit on the beach and watch the sun set. Life has meaning when I know God as my Creator and Savior and when I find joy in serving him with all that I have and am. That’s where joyful generosity begins! Amen.