Thursday, April 24, 2008


Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 6:38
Origiinal date: February 17, 2008

Ralph Winter, the grand old man of the US Center for World Missions, points out that the Queen Mary, the ship in dock down at Long Beach, is a stunning example of the difference lifestyle choices can make. As a luxury ship, the Queen Mary took 3,000 passengers back and forth across the Atlantic. But during the Second World War, the Queen was refitted to transport 15,000 troops on a trip, stacked in bunks up to eight high. All the fine silver and china were replaced by tin trays. The fine linen was replaced by wore cotton towels. In a word, during war the ship was deployed for a purpose; that purpose was to transport fighting men to change the world. We also are at war with spiritual darkness. How are your resources deployed? To sail through life in luxury or to win that war?

That is part of why Jesus commands us to give generously. He wants us to have a lifestyle that uses our resources to advance His Kingdom. But I also want you to see how this connects up with worship. Worship and giving are joined at the hip. Let me explain.
Worship is as natural as breathing for the follower of Jesus. It’s so natural that’s it’s striking that there are few words of Jesus that can be taken as “commands to worship.” The seven basic commands of Jesus that we’ve been looking at these past several weeks don’t include a command to worship. Now, He does command things that are often part of worship, like prayer and the Lord’s Supper. But there’s no command to worship. That’s a given.
But it’s not as if Jesus doesn’t care about worship. He is! And He’s much more concerned that we catch the heart of worship more than any outward form of worship. It’s really amazing how little there is in the New Testament about “the right way to worship God.” It’s all the more striking when you compare that to the Old Testament where the right way to do worship was regulated by dozens, even hundreds of commands.
Instead, the New Testament shifts the focus of worship from the outward to the inward, and Jesus sets the tone when He tells us about loving God—that loving God is the heart of worship.
The heart of worship is treasuring God as more valuable than everything else. The heart of worship is loving Him intently and intentionally. The outer forms of worship (like the Lord’s Supper and prayer and giving) are the actions that show how much we trust, treasure and love God.
All of life is meant to be worship. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” That means that all of life is about showing how valuable the glory of God is to you. All of life is about worshipping God.
Jesus’ commands about money and giving have to be seen in this light. The way we handle possessions is a vital test of the reality or validity of our love of God. We will either worship God with our money and possessions, or we will not worship Him with our money and possessions. We will either love Him with our resources, or we won’t love Him with our resources.
A big part of life is money and possessions, so God intends them to be a big part of worship--since all of life is to be worship. It’s no surprise then that in Jesus’ teaching, He talks more about money and possessions that He does about heaven and hell combined! Imagine that—a large percentage of Jesus’ teach is directly or indirectly about money and possessions and giving—roughly one fifth of all of Jesus’ teachings. It’s accurate to say that Jesus intended us to worship (to love God) with our money.
Now there is a place for corporate worship – that’s what we do here on Sunday mornings. And the same definitions hold here as everywhere else: the heart of worship here is treasuring of God above all else. The things we do when we worship--hearing the word of God, praying, singing, giving, sharing the Lord's Supper, and so on—are all signs of the love in our hearts for God. And one of those things that happen when we worship is something we call "the offering." The offering isn’t some necessary evil we put up with; it’s part of worship.

I’ve told you before about seeing this in action in a way that just blew me away. I was in the Dominican Republic back in 1991 on a missions trip, and we attended many worship services. At one, when they took the offering, they didn’t pass the plate. They put the offering plate on the floor at the front of the room, and as we sang, we walked up (some actually kind of danced up) to the front, and one by one, people got on the knees and put in their offering. I remember thinking to myself—“Man, these people really understanding that giving is an act of worship!”
This business of worshipping God, of loving God through our giving is so prominent in Jesus’ teaching that there’s no way it wouldn’t make the “top seven” I’ve been talking about. Here’s that list of seven again:
1. Repent and believe: Mark 1:15
2. Be baptized (and continue in the new life it initiates): Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38;
Romans 6:1-11
3. Love God and neighbor in a practical way: Matthew 22:37-40
4. Celebrate the Lord’s Supper: Luke 22:17-20
5. Pray: Matthew 6:5-15
6. Give: Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 6:38
7. Disciple others: Matthew 28:18-20

Let’s look at those two passages that are listed with giving and see how this connects up with the God-oriented, God-loving lifestyle that He opened up for us.

The first is Matthew 6:19-21:
19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

You could call this passage, “What to do with your treasure.” There’s a DON’T: don’t store up your treasure on earth; there’s a DO: store up your treasure instead in heaven, in the presence of God. And there’s a reason: Where you put your treasure will determine where your heart is fixed.
There’s interesting research that shows that wealthy people are among the stingiest givers. While many give a lot in dollars, when you look at it as a percentage of income, it’s meager. Several years ago, Ted Turner made headlines when he pledged one billion dollars to the humanitarian work of the U.N. Digging deeper into the story, journalists uncovered that the gift was staggered over enough years that Turner would actually show a net gain through lower taxes, and that the gift was a mere 2% of his annual income. One billion dollars is less impressive now!

Middle class and even lower income people give the most. They are the most generous to causes that meet people’s needs than any other. I suspect that Christian influence, the teachings of Jesus, has a lot to do with that.

What’s clear about Jesus’ words is that the focus and the state of your heart is revealed by what you do with your money: “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, our hearts will naturally “aim” at wherever we put our treasure. If we sink it in an earthly pit, our hearts will aim down; if we put it in heaven, our hearts will aim upward.
Jesus warns us that there’s futility in putting it in an earthly pit: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” If we put this into today’s terms, He might say, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where stock markets rise and fall, where housing busts can wipe out your equity, where earthquakes and wildfires can ruin your real estate, and where business partners can embezzle and bad investments can wipe out your retirement.”
Instead, Jesus advocates a long term investment strategy in vs. 20: “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Jesus is saying that there’s a way of transferring what we have here to heaven itself.

You know that saying, “You can’t take it with you”? Well, Jesus is saying that there is a way to take it with you. He says there’s a way to “store our treasure” in heaven. How can that be?
What is the main thing he has in mind that we should do now, here on earth, to transfer earthly treasure into heavenly treasure? The context cries out that it means giving rather than accumulating. If laying up treasures in heaven is the opposite of laying up treasures on earth, then probably laying up treasures in heaven will be giving them away in ways that bring honor and glory to the name of Jesus.

There are several other teachings of Jesus that confirm this. For example, consider Luke 12:32-33, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys."
That’s the closest parallel to Matthew 6, and Jesus is clear: treasure in heaven is secured by giving away treasure on earth.
Here Jesus explains how you "provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old" and how you "provide yourselves with treasure in the heavens that does not fail," namely, "Sell your possessions and give to the needy." That’s how you do it.
In other words, possessions on earth are not for accumulating; they are for distributing in ways that Jesus is honored and our joy in heaven is increased. When we give – especially when we give so generously that we have to sell something to have anything to give – we show that Christ is our treasure and that we love others more than we love our own security and comfort.
You can see the same thing in Luke 14:13-14 where Jesus tells us to give to those who can’t pay us back. Why? Jesus answers, "You will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just." In other words, when you give freely and generously because you trust Jesus to take care of you, you are laying up treasures in heaven. You will be rewarded at the resurrection of the just.
Randy Alcorn, in that little book, The Treasure Principle, says, "I’m convinced that the greatest deterrent to giving is this: the illusion that earth is our home." It’s not; Christ is our home. And therefore to live is Christ and to die is gain. And it will be all the more gain as we learn to lay up treasures in heaven by giving.
This principle of return comes out clearly in the other key passage, Luke 6:37-38:
37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 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."

Jesus is here talking about a general attitude toward life, toward people and even toward God. He says don’t judge, don’t condemn, forgive instead. Have an open hand toward people, not a closed fist. That’s vs. 37. And this extends to giving in vs. 38. And Jesus is clear that there’s a dividend to giving, and he uses a pretty vivid illustration to make the point.
He uses something they’d all be familiar with: buying grain. Say you go to buy one bushel of grain. (They didn’t use bushels; they used things like ephahs and omers and cors, but you get the idea.) You’d bring your container, and of course, you want to get your money’s worth. You expect it to be “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together.” What you don’t expect and what God promises, is that when we give with that open hand/open heart attitude, God gives more: “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” God promises a return on your giving—a return that always exceeds what you’ve given. He won’t just give you a “fair shake”—it will spill over on to your life.

Jesus commands us to give. In Matthew 23:23, endorses the tithe. Tithing isn’t an archaic Old Testament command—it’s the Biblical standard. God takes what we give Him and uses it to bless three great initiatives which are near and dear to His heart and which move forward the purposes of His Kingdom. Those three are (1) support of local ministry, (2) relief of the poor and (3) support of missionary ministry, planting churches where He isn’t known.

This is all in the context of His love. He commands us to give because He loves us and doesn’t want us to be excessively attached to earthly treasures, which will rust anyway; He wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves in the way we give to relieve the poor and to make Jesus known where He’s not known now; and He wants us to love God, to worship God with our money and our possessions, because He’s worth it! By giving a part, we acknowledge that He’s the source of all.

Before we close, I want to show you a video that really illustrates this well, that He’s the source of all:

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