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In his book Money, Possessions and Eternity, Randy Alcorn uses the term affluenza to describe the disease of materialism that has taken hold of American life. He says, “Affluenza is a strange malady that affects the children of well-to-do parents. Though having everything money can buy, the children show all the symptoms of abject poverty – depression, anxiety, loss of meaning, and despair for the future. Affluenza accounts for an escape into alcohol, drugs, shoplifting and suicide.”
How many of you watch 20/20? How many of you have heard of Ethan Couch? Ethan Couch is the teenager who’s become the face of affluenza in our culture. I first saw his story on 20/20. When he was 16 years-old he drove his father’s pickup truck, with seven teenagers, 70 mph down a rural Texas highway while under the influence of pot, alcohol, and valium. He lost control of the truck, hit and killed four people standing by the roadside and severely injured 2 others. It was horrific!
At his trial, his defense attorney hired a psychologist to testify that Ethan shouldn’t be held accountable because he was a product of “affluenza” and was unable to connect his actions with their consequences because his parents had taught him that wealth buys privileges.
And so initially he received ten-year’s probation and no prison time which incensed the relatives of his victims and his prosecutors who were hoping for 20 years behind bars. So just this past month he was sentenced to 720 days in jail, 180 days for each person killed in the crash.
Affluenza. Materialism out of control can cause us to do crazy things, criminal things, horrific things. Affluenza can even be used as a reasonable defense that it’s okay, but it’s not okay.
This morning we continue our series called Spent: In _____ We Trust with a teaching on the tool God uses to break the power of affluenza, the madness of materialism, the seduction of Mammon in our lives. And that tool is called giving it away.
We’ve been talking a lot about financial freedom in this series, not financial independence. Wealth is not the goal. Freedom is. The freedom to love God and love others with all our heart, soul, mind, strength and wallet. And giving is an essential part of that. We’ve already heard that from Kimberly.
So in the next few minutes, Matt and I want to look at what the Bible says about giving, the reasons to give, obstacles to giving, and the rewards for giving.
Giving in Scripture (Bruce)
Giving in the Bible begins on page 3. In Genesis 4 God receives the offerings of Cain and Abel. Abel’s offering was accepted by God, but Cain’s wasn’t. The text says that Abel brought the firstborn of his flock while Cain brought the leftovers of his produce. That made all the difference. Abel was saying, “God you’re number one in my life,” but not so for Cain.
Fast forward to Genesis 14 where we see Abraham offering a priest named Melchizedek 10% of the spoils of war which later evolved into a principle called the tithe. The Hebrew word “tithe” means 1/10th. God’s people were commanded to give 1/10th of their income to support the Levites and priests who served in the Temple.
But they didn’t always do it. In Malachi 3:8-10 God is upset with his people because they were robbing him of the tithe.
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. 9You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”
God is saying, “I want to bless you beyond your wildest dreams, but you need to put me first with your finances.”
The word tithe doesn’t appear in the New Testament. Instead, God’s people are encouraged to give regularly, proportionately, generously and joyfully. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 16:2, On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.
In other words, plan your giving ahead of time and give regularly in proportion to your income. And then in
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 he writes, Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
In other words, give generously and joyfully, not out of guilt or
duty. If you want to reap a big harvest you need to plant a lot of seeds. Someone said, “You can’t grow what you don’t sow.”
In the Old Testament giving went to the Temple. In the New Testament, our giving is directed to the local church, to the needs of the community that we’re apart of and the mission that it’s on. That would be Valley View for those of us who call this our church home, our church family, our church community. We are not customers here. We are a community that worships God together with our giving. So we give because God commands it. But that’s not the only reason.
Reasons for Giving (Matt)
So God Commands us to give. Why? What’s in it for us? Why couldn’t God just have like a cosmic piggy bank to fund the mission of the church? That would be pretty cool right, but fortunately he didn’t work it that way. Let me give you a few thoughts.
First, let’s get one thing straight. God does not need your money whatsoever. He has an infinite amount of resources at his fingertips. God commands that we give because he knows that it loosens our grip on the greenbacks. When you choose to give you are breaking the power that Mammon has on your life. You are letting go of ownership like we talked about last week, that white knuckled grip on money, and you are choosing stewardship. Each time you give you are stepping into God’s identity for you when it comes to finances. God owns it all and we get to manage it for him.
Jesus recognizes that money and how you give is a spiritual indicator of what’s going on in your heart. “Money is a litmus test of where your heart is, who you are serving, and what you really believe about God.” Jim Baker
I don’t like to think of my faith in this way and I don’t like tests at all, but man was this quote convicting for me because it made me wrestle with what I was giving power to in my life.
Who was I serving? Money or God? You see when we choose to give it’s a declaration to God that “I choose to serve you Lord and not money. And I believe and trust in you, not money … for tomorrow.” And we need to make that a mantra because the power and idol of money are like dandelions in the spring. You mow over them and bam the next day they're back again!
I want to challenge you on this. If you're not giving, try it out. Test God on this like he says. And let me know if you don’t feel a paradigm shift in your relationship with money and with God. I can speak personally of feeling a shift from money owning me, always being nervous and anxious about it, to allowing God to step into my finances.
Another thing that is critical when we talk about giving is that giving breaks the cycle of self-sufficiency in our lives. We live as if we’re in control of everything and everything depends on what we bring to the table. At the end of the day we are the sole provider and God is just on the backburner. He’s a secondary option when it comes to our financial matters, right.
We often hit our knees in financial crises as a last resort. We try everything physically possible before coming to the realization that we’re not in control.
Let me tell you something about this view. This self-provision, self- sufficiency, I got it covered take on money. It removes you from the need for savior. You become your own savior. Why do you need God when you have it covered right?
Randy Alcorn put it this way, “Wealth insulates us from our need. More accurately, it insulates us from discerning the true depth of our need.”
Giving is a constant reminder that it’s not about me. It’s all His and I am giving what is rightfully His to further the Kingdom. I am stewarding for the King of Kings. And church it’s a privilege. Each time you give it’s a re-centering a check of your spiritual barometer. I know each month as I do my finances it’s a time to let go and let God. And I am not afraid to tell you it hurts sometimes. The sinner in me wants to keep and hoard and say I worked hard for this, it’s mine. But after experiencing the blessings in giving, there is just no comparison.
So giving breaks the power of Mammon. And it breaks the idea of self-sufficiency. But what holds us back from giving?
Obstacles to Giving (Matt)
Ignorance is the first obstacle. I can tell you this was one that I stood behind for a while. Growing up I was never educated on what it looked like to give. What the Scriptures said, all the things Bruce talked about earlier. I love my parents and they taught me a ton about life, but money was not something we discussed much. I also went to church and youth group throughout high school, but never did I hear a lesson on finances or giving. So as a young adult I had no clue about the significance of giving, but as I began to spend more time in the Scriptures God began to impress upon me His view on money.
And I have to tell you it was like two worlds colliding. The learning curve was titanic, but over time I learned more and more about God’s will for my finances.
And I have to tell you that as we’ve discussed this as a staff we want to be clear that this is a significant theme in Scripture that we will revisit more often in order to keep us all accountable to God’s calling for financial freedom in our lives.
The reality is that giving specifically when it comes to the Church is down and among Christians the discipline of giving is becoming a lost art. And the crazy thing is that giving to causes is up and to a slew of other things as well.
Crowdfunding, for example, has sparked a new stream of giving opportunities. Kickstarter, a website that allows you to raise money for just about anything via the world-wide web, (which is very big crowd) has raised over $385 million for over 80,000 projects since its inception in 2009. And this is just one website that allows you to raise money. It’s not that people are not giving.
The church needs to do better job with helping disciples of Christ understand the importance of giving as part of their lives. Ignorance is not an option when it comes to this. God is too clear on this topic for us to avoid it or worse yet, ignore it.
Now don’t get upset at me, the offering plate is not coming around any time soon, but the culture at VV will shift here a bit, but only because we value what the Scriptures say and God’s vision for his church here and now. And please, please, please, know that I only say these things with love and humility. This is not about my pay check. This about seeing God’s dream fulfilled in this community, VVCC and our mission and vision as church, but also this town, this city and beyond. God wants to redeem this world back to him and we get to be part of that as his children and one of the ways we make a difference for Christ is our giving.
The second obstacle is fear. We just spent an entire series exploring this. We will make up all kinds of excuses not to give. I have to pay off my debt. I can’t afford it. My kids need a college fund. I need to save for retirement, etc. Here’s the thing about all of these excuses. They all fall back to the world's view of how finances should work. And there is tremendous amount of fear tied up in things not being “normal” by the world standards in your life.
I have some crazy news for you this morning church. Jesus has a radically different system laid out when it comes to your wallet. You cannot keep up with the world's standards and values and be obedient to Christ’s calling in your life at the same time. You cannot serve two masters. It’s impossible, yet we try to make it happen every day. We are so, so, so guilty of this. And we do it with the best intentions, but we fall flat on our faces time and time again.
And as I see it, it all goes back to fear. If I give, then I won’t have. I will be poor. I won’t be comfortable. My kids won’t go to college. I will never be able to retire. I will never be able to get out of debt.
Isn't it ironic that we struggle trusting God with all these things, yet we have no problem trusting God for eternity. The truth is we cannot afford not to give. We owe everything to Christ. Without Jesus we have no life, yet we hold our wallets out of the baptism pool. And the when it comes to finances our reasons not to fear are like the ocean, limitless. And Bruce is going to close by telling us a bit about why.
Rewards for Giving (Bruce)
We are blessed to be a blessing. It’s always fascinated me that every command to give in the Bible is followed by a promise of reward. God knows how difficult it can be to let go of our stuff. He doesn’t promise to make us rich if we give, but he does promise to bless us and to take care of our needs.
Proverbs 3:9-10 says, Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; 10then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
Luke 6:38, 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.”
2 Corinthians 9:8, And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
We’re not talking about the prosperity gospel here, this false idea that God will make us all rich if we give. No. But he does promise that we’ll have all that we need and that we will be blessed if we give. Let him determine how. So that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
That’s what happens when we love God with our wallet. Someone has said that God prospers us not just to raise our standard of living, but to raise our standard of giving. And that’s true. And in return God will give us what money can’t buy and that’s contentment with our stuff.
Let me close with this passage in Philippians 4:11-13, I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
God wants us to give for these reasons and more. But we also have other responsibilities with our money. We have a responsibility to pay taxes, to provide for our family, to save, to pay our bills on time which are all part of what we’ll talk about next week as we conclude the series with a biblical budget.