What If His People Actually Did Put God First In Their Finances?: Participating In the Ministry of The Gospel

Posted: April 4, 2015 in 42-Gospel of Luke

Luke 16:1-18 — Today, we take our final look at the Parable of the Shrewd Manager. In vv. 12-15, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him. Then he said to them, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.” Why is it that money is the last thing that we give up control over to God? We can give him control of our lives but not our money. Our money is our money. We can do with it what we want. Money is not a spiritual thing we think. I venture to say right here that if we don’t get our perspective right on money, everything else about our walk will eventually come unraveled. Early on in the Bible in the Ten Commandments, God tells us that we are to have no other gods before Him. It does not say, you are to have no other gods before me except of course your money. If we don’t get this right, we cannot get the rest of it right. What if we did get this right? What amazing things could happen!

As Christ followers, we are to put the Lord first over everything in our lives. As Jesus says, “we cannot serve two masters.” We cannot say God you can have the rest of my life but this one area is one that I am going to keep for myself. We have talked this week about the fact that our talent is a gift from God. It is our talent that allows us to earn money to provide for ourselves and our families. Therefore, if our talent allows us to earn money and our talents come from God then we should praise God with our talents and we should praise Him for the money that we make. Many of us probably can understand this and appreciate this. We praise God that He gave us the talents that we have. We even praise Him for the money that we make. However, trusting God with the money that we make is a whole other story. If we have to put action behind our praise then the situation becomes personal and real and many of us are not ready to do that. Giving money to the church is like laying a dollar on the street some think. We do not know what is going to happen to it. We certainly don’t believe that we personally get anything out of it. Many of us have bought so into the rat race of the American Dream that we think that we have to spend every dime we make on ourselves and the things that we want or things that give us the appearance of having it made. To spend money on God? I could find better uses of my money than to give it to this dark black hole that I don’t get anything back out of. We all have this return on investment mentality. I must get something back personally for every dime that I spend. I spend and then I get. That is the mentality that we have. I give you money and you give me a product or service or entertainment in return. We must change this attitude! God is the source of everything that we own. God gives us the talents that we have so that we can earn money and buy things, homes, cars, groceries, etc. God says we must put Him first in everything. That includes our finances. Oh to go back to my youth and have learned this sooner. Man, if I had known from my teens and twenties that I should honor God with my finances, my life would be so different now.

We must decide right now that we are going to trust God with our money. We must quit buying and buying and buying just to have things. We must decide that it will take this much to live on and live that way. We must attack our mountains of debt and take the attitude that it is better to head to debt freedom than it is to keep up with the Joneses. According to the footnote on v. 13 from my Chronological Life Application Study Bible, “money can easily take God’s place in our lives. It can become your master.” Seeking earthly wealth can make us its slave. Do I give up on God’s calling on my life in order to make more money? Do I spend a great deal of time maintaining my possessions? Is it hard for us to give our money away? Let us learn to live on less and work toward eliminating our debts for things that pass away. Let us be available to use our money in ways that glorify God and not ourselves! Let us be ready to help others with our finances. Let us give glory to Him who gave us our talents by the way we use our money.

When we finally allow God to be first in our finances, it changes our perspective on what our money is to be used for. True life change begins there. When we are able to quit the merry-go-round of debt, debt, and more debt, replacing one debt with another larger one, we can begin to see that our money really is from God and we begin to want use it for His glory. In Luke 8:1-3, as we have discussed previously, it says this:

“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.”

When Jesus was here on earth, his ministry had financial needs just as our churches do today. The disciples had to eat. So did Jesus. There were those such as Mary, Joanna and Susanna whom all had their sins forgiven by Jesus Christ and this fact changed their lives. Could Jesus have just miraculously fed and clothed everyone in this large party? Sure! He most certainly could do that today as well. Jesus would not make miracle meals, even though His followers were hungry. There are several reasons why Jesus did not miraculously provide for His followers, thus making the group dependent on the generosity of these faithful women followers.

The Lord humbled Himself when He came to earth. This gave men and women the opportunity and privilege of having a part in His ministry. He sparingly used miracles. This approach was intended to set an example for later apostles and missionaries – that God provides for the needs of His people through people. The Lord’s practice of allowing these women to support Him and His followers set the precedent that those who proclaim the gospel should be supported by those who benefit from that preaching. All these women contributed their resources to Jesus’ ministry. Their hearts were sensitive to God’s work, and they expressed this sensitivity through their generosity. Just as in the Old Testament the whole nation was to support the priests, so these women, as beneficiaries of God’s grace, gave to support Jesus’ ministry. Receiving should lead to giving.

When one gives to the ministry of the Lord through our local churches, one get to participate in the ministry of our Lord. Believers play a role in the ministry of the Lord. The women of Luke 8:1-3, each had benefitted personally from the ministry of Jesus Christ. All of them had been healed in some way by Jesus. He met their needs. In turn, their deliverance from Satan’s grip compelled them to support the ministry in the best way they could. They became part of Jesus’ entourage because, in Him, they found their new identity, an identity of greater value than they knew in their life prior to meeting Jesus. With any follower of Christ, it should be the same.

Our receipt of grace (the undeserved gift of salvation) should lead us to support Jesus’ ministry today. Receiving should lead to a generous heart. God’s grace given to each believer should reprioritize one’s life. The believer, then, has a choice: More house than one can need, or the ministry of eternity? A new boat, or assisting the church to reach others for Christ? Living beyond one’s means or being wise with our money so that one can invest in that which has the eternity of souls in view? The answer seems quite clear from Luke. Our giving is to meet needs of others so as to glorify Jesus Christ. Our giving is to meet needs so as to awaken souls. Our giving is to demonstrate love. When one cannot give because of improper priorities, one misses out on the mission. When we give, we participate. When we give are on mission with Jesus Christ. When we give to the church, we recognize that there are lost souls that need the same grace that we have been given through Jesus Christ. When we give with glad hearts, we want to give. When we give with cheerful souls, we want to give as much as we can so that the ministry can reach farther and wider and reach those souls that are in danger of going to hell because they have not heard the message of salvation. Do we really need a manicured lawn or do we need to reach souls that are like blades of grass blowing in the wind? Let us use our money to participate in the ministry of the Good News.

The final point that I would like to make in our study of this passage is to ask the question, “What if…?” There was a song not long ago by the Christian group, Casting Crowns, called “What if His People Prayed?” I only mention it here because I wanted to change the question to “what if His people tithed?” What would happen if his people all gave sacrificially? What would happen if people actually put it in their weekly or monthly budgets to give to the church? What if we did actually tithe on our income and not just give what loose cash we have in our pockets? What impact could we have on the world around us? What if the people of my church, LifeSong Church, in Lyman, South Carolina all tithed? Let’s think about this. Research has shown that the median income of a household in the ethnic groups penetrated by our church is approximately $50,000 annually. Ok. So we have that. Mulitiply that by the fact that there are approximately 350 households represented by our church. Thus, the annual median income generated by those who claim our church as their home would be somewhere around $17,500,000 gross income potential of our church families. If each household tithed (gave 10% of their gross), our church would operate on a budget of approximately $1.75 Million annually. Sadly, our church budget is somewhere in the 40-45% range of that max potential. Evidence is clear that most are not tithing. Evidence is clear that many are just like all Americans who typically give only close to 2% of their income to their church. Evidence is clear that many of us are caught up in the rat race that we joined from the time we started earning money. Many of us are caught up in the debt game. Many of us spend more than we make. Many of us when we get an increase in income, we increase our spending. Many of us, like many other churches and their members, are slaves to our possessions and the debts that go with them. What if we all had learned as teenagers when we got our first job to set aside 10% for giving back to God? What if we had learned as teenagers to learn to live off 90% or less of what we make from the first dollar we ever earned? What if…

Right now, even with our church budget not at its max potential, we reach many for Christ. We reach out into our community. We make an impact with the resources that we have available. But what if? What if all our people tithed? What then? We could make 2 to 2.5 times the impact that we are making now. It is my passion to see that happen. I have lived life the American Dream way and through a lot of sacrifice by me and my wife to get rid of debts and pay things off, we now live a tithing life. We now live to use our money to help others wherever we can. It gives us great joy to write that tithe check each time I get paid. It is the first check that we write. The blessing is not to get earthly wealth repaid to us but rather the blessing comes from simply obeying God and having a proper perspective on what we are to use our money for. That’s the blessing. Surely, God provides for those who trust Him. We have seen Him provide for our needs in ways that let us know that it is not some coincidence. It all begins with trust. It begins with obedience. What if all of us tithed at our church? What an impact we could make! Ministry costs money. Even Jesus’ earthly ministry had to be financed through the generosity of His followers. What if…? Imagine the lives we could touch? Imagine the people that we are not reaching right now? Our hearts should be breaking over those that we could be reaching but are not. All of this is not about whether you trust Pastor Jeff and his staff or not. It is not whether you like what he had to say in his sermon or not. It is not about whether the church has enough programs to meet your needs or not. It is about you and God, me and God. It is one on one. It is about trusting the God that gave you the talents that He gave you to earn a living. Do you trust Him? Do you obey Him? Make Him Lord over your checkbook. Make Him Lord over your money. Pray that He will guide you into ways to eliminate debt and get out of the American Dream rat race. Pray that He will give you the path to being able to participate with Him in ministry. Pray that we can honor Him with our money. Amen and Amen.

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