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This is post 3 of 3 in the series “LIVING GENEROUSLY"

Living Generously: All My Begs In One Asking

I Timothy 6:3-12

I wish to read for you these words from Paul’s first letter to Timothy. This is the Word of God.

“If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and arguments that result in envy, quarreling, malicious talk, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of corrupt mind who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

May God bless to us the reading and the hearing of this portion of His holy Word.

Pray with me please. Give me Jesus, Lord. Give me Jesus. You can have all the rest, just give me Jesus. Amen.

I heard about a panhandler in New York City who one day approached a man on the street and asked him for 50 bucks. The man, rather startled by the size of the request, said to the panhandler, “How in the world do you expect to obtain gifts of such size?” Whereupon the panhandler said, “I am putting all my begs in one asking.”

Well, that’s just exactly what I want to do today. I’m putting all my begs in one asking. Let me be quick to say that I want to do my begging in the right way. I do not wish to be coercive or manipulative. Perhaps you heard about the preacher who, one Sunday morning it was financial commitment Sunday at his church and before the service he was talking to the church organist and he said, “Now, listen. After my sermon today, I’m going to ask everyone who wants to make a financial pledge to this church to stand up and I want you to play appropriate music.” The organist said, “And what do you consider appropriate music?” And the preacher said, “Play The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Well, I am not interested in tricking you into pledging. Nor forcing you into giving. Nor plunging you into guilt about sharing that which God has given you. However, I do wish for you to know some of what the Bible has to say about money. And we see it very clearly here in this letter that Paul wrote to his young son in the faith, Timothy. In the first place, Paul makes the point that money in and of itself has not value in determining our worth as human beings. Listen to his words. “For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

Now, Paul wants us to catch what he’s saying here. Money does not determine our worth as human beings. He says we brought nothing into this world except the breath of life and we’re going to leave without even that. We brought nothing in and we’re going to leave with nothing. Money has no value when it comes to determining how much you and I are worth as individuals.

Now, I do think it’s important to note that Paul does imply here that money is useful. We need to have money. He says that we need money in order to provide food and clothing and then he says we’ll be content with that. In other words, we need to have some money in order to provide the basic necessities of life and then he goes on to promise, in a way, that we need some money to actually experience some of the contentments in life.

And so it’s very important for us to understand that money, for as Christians, is useful.

Mark this down. Poverty is not a Christian ideal. You cannot find anywhere on the pages of the New Testament where poverty is exalted. I know that occasionally encounter some people who say with well-meaning intent that we as Christians ought to live in sackcloth and sandals and give away all of our money and live a monastic lifestyle. Well, while I am certain of their sincerity, I am not quite as certain of their theology. The New Testament nowhere makes that call. Instead, the New Testament clearly calls us to work. Yes. To work hard, to earn money, and then to keep enough of that money to provide for our basic needs and to experience some of the comforts and contentments of life. And then to use the rest of it to bring glory to Jesus Christ.

And so you see, Paul is saying to us that while money is useful, yes, it is not the most important thing in the world. We come into the world without it. We are going to leave the world without it. Therefore, the only thing that is important is what we do with the money we have while we are here. Paul then goes on to say that money in itself is not evil but the love of money is. Once more, listen. “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

In other words, Paul is saying that money matters, yes, but sometimes it matters too much.

There are people who, when they become successful at making money in their lives, then have a tendency to put their trust in their money rather than their trust in God. And when we trust our money rather than trusting our God, sooner or later, Paul wants us to understand, sooner or later that leads to trouble. We know for example that alcoholism and drug abuse and suicide are much more prevalent among the affluent than among the poor. Tuck this away in your heart. Loving money is a losing proposition.

Leo Tolstoy has a very pointed story about a man who inherited from his father a small farm. The day after he buried his father and claimed his inheritance, this man encountered a mysterious stranger on the farm. And the stranger said to him, “I will give you to add to this small farm as much land as you can walk around before the sun sets tonight.” Well, this man thought that this was a wonderful opportunity to build his fortune and so he decided that he would work in 6 miles segments on each of the four sides of the journey and that would give him a 6 square mile piece of property and would certainly add to his holdings.

And so he started at his father’s grave and headed north for 6 miles, as he approached the end of the six miles, he was feeling very fresh and very strong and so he thought to himself, “Well, I’ll just extend this to 15 miles. I’ll continue on and then after 15 miles I’ll turn and each segment will be 15 miles and oh my, I will have an enormous piece of property then.” And so he headed east for 15 miles and he turned south on the 15 mile journey. And he was hurrying because he had extended the length and he was not stopping for food or water or rest. And then when he reached the end of that journey to the south, he turned west and started toward that 15 mile segment and he realized that the sun was growing lower in the western sky and so he started running.

And he was running for all he was worth, as hard as he could. Faster and faster and faster. He was pushing himself and his breath was getting shorter and his chest was constricting and heaving. But he still kept struggling and he could see the finish line ahead and the mysterious stranger standing there. And so, with one last burst, he threw himself ahead and crossed the finish line. And just at that moment, he suffered a heart attack and fell dead right beside his father’s grave. At that point, Leo Tolstoy has the mysterious stranger say to the dead man on the ground, “I promised as much ground as you could cover in one day. Six feet long and two feet wide.”

The man destroyed himself in a relentless pursuit of the things of this world. That’s what Paul means when he says money in and of itself is not evil but the love of money is. Ah, but then Paul goes on to something else.

He says that it is love for God that makes money good.

Yes. Here’s what he says. “But you people of God, flee from all this and pursue righteousness and godliness and faith and love and endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Put simply, if we give of our money as an expression of our love for God, then Paul is promising we are going to experience the joy of a life that shall never end. That’s what he says. He says it is love for God that makes money good.

Now, if you think to yourself right now that I am begging you today. You’re absolutely right. I’m begging you, unashamedly, unapologetically. I am begging you. You see we have such wonderful dreams for this magnificent church of ours. There’s so many helpful transforming ministries that we need to continue to encourage and support. There are great opportunities out there ahead of us, waiting to be seized. So yes, I’m begging you because you see, all of us are needed. We need the help and the support of everyone who is a part of the MDPC family. Do you realize that if everyone in this magnificent church, if everyone made a commitment and gave in proportion to the way God has blessed us, oh, we could do some miraculous things for the sake of Jesus Christ in our world.

But let me put it in terms that might be easy to understand. If every giving unit in this church—that’s the term we use here. I don’t know why but that’s what we use here, giving units. If every giving unit in this church increased their giving in 2015 by $5 a week, the price of a hamburger, if they increased their giving by $% a week, that would give us $633,000 more to use for the cause of Christ in our world. Or if everyone in this congregation increased their giving by $1 a day, that would give us $889,000 additional dollars to apply to our mission effort.

The point is simply this, all of us are needed.

And Paul is reminding us that all of us are called to live generously. That’s what he’s saying here. All of us need to give. Because he says giving is the spiritual expression of our love for God and our gratitude to God for the gift of Jesus Christ. All of us are called to give. Because—he says it here—that is the way, it is through our giving, it is through our giving that we stake our claim upon eternity. Yes. It is love for God that makes money good.

Let me finish with this. One Sunday morning, a second grade Sunday school teacher was welcoming her class to the classroom. Suddenly she noticed that there was a newcomer on that Sunday morning, a little seven-year-old boy named Davey. And she then noticed the empty sleeve on his shirt. She recognized that Davey had lost his left arm. She hadn’t had time to prepare the class, she didn’t know this was happening and she was so afraid that the children might say or do something that might embarrass the little boy. And so she proceeded with extra care. For example, she always, at the beginning of the class, would have the children come up and hold hands for the opening prayer. She omitted that this Sunday. She was very careful as she then worked her way through the Sunday school lesson for that week. Well as class time came to the end, she really had done very well. Everything had gone well. And so she kind of relaxed a little bit.

And then she said to the children, “Let’s gather here for our closing ceremony. Okay, boys and girls, let’s make our church. Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors and—” It hit her with a sickening thud. She had done the one thing she didn’t want to do. And standing there absolutely speechless, suddenly a little girl named Karen reached over with her left hand and folded her hand into Davey’s right hand. And Karen said, “It’s okay, teacher. Davey and I will make the church together.”

My beloved people, when in love for God and in gratitude to God for His gift to us of Jesus Christ, we then give our time, our talent, and yes, our treasure. Then we, you and I, we are making this church together.

Soli Deo gloria.
To God alone be the glory.
Amen and amen.

 

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