We continue this morning in our series based on James 2:14-20. James reminds us that faith must be evidenced by life change and action. Faith without works is not limp, not lame, not slow but DEAD.
We defined an active faith as: “living our lives in obedience to God, believing that He is right and trusting that His way is best”.
Last week we looked a SERVING. Can I brag about you guys a little?
Just because the message is over does not mean that you missed your chance to start serving or that the necessity of the body being 100% functioning so keep praying and looking for opportunities.
Now let’s move on to our second sign of an active faith:
To be a Jesus-follower means that you and I are to imitate Jesus with our heart, soul, mind and strength. It means to live out WWJD. So let’s see what Jesus said about our resources:
“You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”” (Acts 20:34–35, NLT)
So, I have some candy to give away. Because by giving it to you, I know I will be blessed. [give it] How many of you think that I am more bless than the one who just received the candy?
How many of you believe that it is better to give than to receive? GREAT! So now I would like to give YOU the bigger blessings; I am looking for volunteers to give ME some candy so you can feel blessed ? JK!
Why is it better to give than receive?
It is better to give than to receive because the more I receive the harder it is to remember that life is not about stuff and that all I have needs to be used for God.
Just because we “know” that is it better to give than to receive, doesn’t mean it is easy for us to prioritize giving or part with our possessions. This morning, I want us to get past that.
I am actually very excited about the opportunity to teach this topic because I believe that many Christians have become enslaved to their money and overburdened by the weight of trying to control it, and God wants to free us from that slavery.
“Christian financial expert Howard Dayton has said that the Bible references money and possessions 2,350 times. That’s a lot. It’s more than Jesus talked about love, and more than He talked about heaven and hell combined.” [https://www.stewardship.com/articles/3-things-the-bible-says-about-money]
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges about putting this message together was deciding what NOT to put in the notes because there are so many verses about money.
To understand the proper way to use or invest our resources, we really must break away from the American mindset. We must step back and view our stuff through the lens of our faith. What does the Bible say about money?
Go back to Genesis 1 & 2. In the beginning, God created. Everything that you see was made by Him and belongs to him. When he made man, he made him a “steward” of creation. We were never meant to be owners, just caretakers of God’s creation. All of creation belongs to him. You belong to him!
The Jews knew this.
“Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength. “O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name! But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!” (1 Chronicles 29:12–14, NLT)
Say that with me, “Everything I have comes from God”. Do you believe that? If so, then the second part is also true.
“We give you only what you first gave us”. When we look at our resources through the eyes of FAITH, we see that giving to God is not really costing us anything – it is just acknowledging that our stuff comes from God and that we trust Him.
ILLUSTRATE: I have $25. I am going to give this to someone. All I ask is that you give me $5/back. Anyone interested? SURE!
When I make an offer like this, of COURSE you would do it, right? Well, how is this different from the rest of our income? [perhaps we feel we have earned it or deserve it? Re-read Acts 20:34-35]
If I TRULY believe that all I have is a gift from God and belongs to Him, then there should be absolutely no difference.
““Well then,” [Jesus] said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”” (Luke 20:25, NLT)
Everything belongs to God and we need to be willing to give him everything. The standard here is not just 10%, it is EVERYTHING because it ALL belongs to God.
Now, if you would be willing to take my $25 and give me $5 back, why would you NOT be willing to accept every good thing God has given you, including your job and your money, and give him at least 10% back? It is because of one of a few reasons:
Let me share with you another upside-down teaching that Jesus had about giving:
“Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”” (Mark 12:41–44, NLT)
This poor widow understood this theology. If everything I have comes from God, I can give everything I have back to him, and not worry about tomorrow. Wow.
There have been quite a few times in our lives when we struggled to pay the bills and buy groceries. I cannot think of a time when we stopped giving to God his portion. I remember on one occasion we had a missionary speaking at church, and there was a collection. Laura and I both felt compelled to give, but the only money we had left was our gas money for the week. We gave, and the next day in the mail was a check from someone who felt a burden to bless us. It was the same amount as what we gave away.
In God’s economy there is nothing ever lost, just repurposed and redistributed ? Give in faith, because God has promised to take care of you.
For those that fear, let me give you a passage to study this week: Luke 12:22-34
Here is what I don’t want you to do; I don’t want you to go away from here feeling pressured that you need to give your resources to God because Pastor Mike pressured you!
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7, ESV)
What I DO want is for the truth of God’s Word to penetrate your heart and for God to show you how much you should give back to him, in faith, so that you can give with a joyful spirit knowing that you are bringing joy to your Heavenly Father.
WARNING: When you decide in your heart to give a certain amount, STICK WITH IT! Let me tell you what might very well happen: circumstances will arise that will tempt you to break your commitment. Trust me, it happens! It is a test… and to pass it you must seek God and have faith (see James 1:2-4)
It seems like a tall order so far, but the really good news, is that there is even MORE giving required!
No matter how much or how little you have, what you have was never intended to be used just on you.
“Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.” (1 Timothy 6:17–19, NLT)
PHEW! For a moment there I thought it was talking to me… but it specifically says, “those who are rich” and that is CERTAINLY NOT me!
According to the 2016 Census, the AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD income in Jefferson County NY is $49,505, which puts you in the top .32% of richest people in the world. In Lewis County it is $36,505 per household which puts you in the top .72% of richest people in the world. The average person in our 2 closest counties is well inside the top 1%. 99% of the world makes less than $32,500 USD per year. [http://www.globalrichlist.com]
So, I guess that verse does talk about me after all. Don’t trust your money, trust God. That is what it means to have FAITH. An active faith Invests resources in the Kingdom of God.
Statistically, it is the poorest in our nation that give the most! Perhaps that is because we can understand and empathize with others in need.
But God gets a little more direct than just saying it is a good idea:
“If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.” (1 John 3:17–19, NLT)
FAITH is believing and acting. Can you truly say that you love God and not use your earthly resources to help others? Not accounting to John. Not according to God.
It’s time for us to head into the Faith Lab. We are going to take these concepts, put them under a microscope and apply them to our lives to see what it looks like.
The first recorded sin in the Bible is when Eve & Adam ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. After which they are kicked out of the Garden in Genesis 3.
The second recorded sin in the Bible takes place in Genesis 4.
“When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected. “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”” (Genesis 4:3–7, NLT)
Cain “presented some of his crops as a gift”. Abel also brought a gift, “ the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock”. The second recorded sin was NOT when Cain killed Abel (that is the 3rd). The second was when Cain refused to give God’s his best gifts.
When we move the NT, we read about Abel’s gift and why it was accepted.
“It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.” (Hebrews 11:4, NLT)
An active faith gives its best gifts to God, not the leftovers or scraps.
[Numbers 18, Exodus 22:29-30]
Laura and I have a budget. How many of you have a budget? One of the principles of stewardship is that you have to know where you spend your money and you need to control it. A budget is a great tool.
If I take a CAIN approach
So, you tell me, what is wrong with this? Where is the priority? Where is the faith?
If I take an ABEL approach, what might be different?
Where is the priority of this kind of budget? How does this reflect a life of faith?
If you don’t have a budget (and you should), you might use a different barometer. Do you come to church and give what you have left in your wallet, or do you write out a check each payday before you spend anything else?
“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce.” (Proverbs 3:9, NLT)
The things I value I invest in.
Lately I have been convicted that I keep saving for vacations, but I have not been good at saving for mission trips. God has been convicting me that I have begun to value my entertainment and leisure more than His mission.
I want to help a few of you really see the joy in giving to others and blessing others so I need a few adult volunteers. Now, before you volunteer, this is a project that will require work outside of church and you WILL be asked to report back to the church on the project.
GIVE each of 3 volunteers an envelope with cash in it. It can be different amounts. Put instructions in the envelope tat read along these lines, “You have just been entrusted with a sum of money. It is there for you to spend. However, it is expected that you will use this money in some way to be a blessing to others in the name of Jesus. Be creative, involve others if you want, but try to accomplish as much as you can with this money before Christmas and keep notes to share with the church.”
I think the Apostle Paul has said what is on my heart so clearly, that I want to end with a quote:
“Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving.” (2 Corinthians 8:7, NLT)
God’s design is for us to be a generous people that trust God and not their stuff. If you are unwilling to give God his share, why should he give you more? But, if you are willing to trust him, to give the way he wants you to and use your resources for his Kingdom, you can be free from the chains of wealth and find that it is truly much more blessed to give than receive.