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GETting YOUR WALLET WET
2 Corinthians 8-9
January 28, 2018
Well today is the last Sunday in January. Some of us are happy about that, right? For some January is the worst month of the year. Are you in that camp? Any January haters here? January can be such a letdown after all the holiday hype. Christmas is over and now it’s time to pay off the credit cards. It’s easy to feel broke, depressed, out of shape, and overweight in January. And there’s still two more months of winter to endure. Ugh.
But for some January is the best month of the year. Any takers here? Yay! Let’s hear it for January! I read an article this week called “January is the Greatest Month of the Year” by Sam Parker and it cracked me up.
In it he said, “January is the best month of all. Think about it. You’ve just completed all the mandatory annual family time, meaning all that guilt about not calling your grand mom enough, about your nephew not knowing exactly who you are, about being unsure if your mad Uncle Ian is even still alive! Now your free for another year to pursue your life without the nagging guilt of feeling like a complete jerk … And all those things you wanted to buy for yourself in December, but couldn’t because you were buying them for others? They’re still there and they’re all cheaper … January is not punishment. It’s point zero. It’s chapter one. It’s when all your best ideas occur and your motivation to try them is at its peak.”
I like January. My birthday’s in January. Anyone else’s? The Eagles won the NFC Championship in January, on my birthday. That was a nice gift. And if the trend continues, the next time they win I’ll probably be with Jesus and it won’t really matter!
January is also a great month to go back to the basics. It’s the beginning of a new year and a good time to be reminded of what’s really important. And so we’ve take the last few weeks to revisit our mission and vision as a church because that’s really important to us.
Our mission is Jesus. Valley View is all about Jesus and Jesus is all about loving others. That’s what he said is most important. That’s the greatest commandment. And that’s how the world knows we’re his disciples.
And our vision is to make disciples of Jesus. That’s the great commission. And last week, Matt did an excellent job clarifying that vision in four simple words: Grow. Equip. Go. Invite.
And today we want to go back to the basics of finances and how we handle our resources because we can’t become disciples of Jesus without surrendering our wallet to him. And giving our wallet to Jesus is the best thing we can do for our financial health. Did you hear that? Giving our wallet to Jesus is the best thing we can do for our financial health.
But that’s not always easy, especially if we don’t understand why. Certainly, our culture doesn’t encourage us to give our wallets to Jesus or to anybody else.
I told this story before, but it’s worth repeating. One of the darkest periods of church history was the crusades that began in the 11th century. The crusades were the church’s attempt to take back the Holy Land from the infidels. It was a bloody series of battles that lasted almost 400 years. It’s not pretty and nothing to be proud of as a Christ follower. Remember, Jesus never told us to kill for him. Although, he did say we might have to die for him, but not kill.
But during the crusades, knights were enlisted to fight for the church. And before they could join a crusade a knight was required to be baptized. Baptism was a sign of surrender, commitment, and loyalty to the church.
However, when knights were baptized they’d hold their swords above the water. Their body would go under, but their sword wouldn’t. It would stay dry. And by that they were saying, “Jesus, you can have me. You can have all of me. But you can’t have my sword. I need my sword. My faith and trust are in my sword.”
Today we’re still tempted to hold our swords above the water. The sword may be our family, our kids, our career, our house, our cars, our dreams, or our wallets. Whatever we’re holding above the water is what we’re trusting in most and is keeping us from becoming full-fledged disciples of Jesus. That’s what Jesus means when he says that you can’t serve two masters.
(Blank Slide) So what does it look like to get our wallets wet? What does it mean to give our wallets to Jesus? Well, today I want to suggest that it means three things. Actually, it means more than three things, but certainly not less. And all of them are found in my favorite passage on finances, 2 Corinthians 8-9. If you have a Bible in your lap or on your device turn to 2 Corinthians 8 (p. 806).
Let me give you some background on this passage. The book we call 2 Corinthians is actually the second letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the church he helped start in Corinth, Greece. Paul was there for a year and a half teaching them the Word of God. He returned a second time to check up on the church and now he’s getting ready to visit a third time.
But before he comes he wants the Corinthians to collect an offering to give to the church in Jerusalem which was suffering through a famine, people were starving. This would be a wonderful way for these Gentile believers to express their love towards their Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ. And at this point in time, unity between Jews and Gentiles in the body of Christ was still in its infancy. There was a lot of distrust and tension there. So giving would be an act of pure grace.
As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:9, For you know the GRACE of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Grace. Grace is at the foundation for handling our finances well. We’ll never give our wallets to Jesus until we understand his grace in our lives. The one who was rich became poor so we through his poverty might become rich.
A proper understanding of grace recognizes how rich we really are. Everything we are and everything we have comes to us by God’s grace. The gifts. The abilities. The talents. The education. The opportunities. The relationships. The freedom. The health. The strength. Every breath we take is a gift of God’s grace to us. Nothing would be possible apart from God’s grace in our lives whether we recognize it or not.
It’s easy to think that everything we have we’ve earned which is why God says in Deuteronomy 8:17-18, You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.
Grace. It’s all of grace. Grace is the opposite of greed. Greed says, “I have a right to this. I deserve this. This belongs to me. This is mine to keep. Get your hands off it.”
Grace says, “No. This is not mine to keep. This is mine to manage. I don’t deserve this. This belongs to God. This is his. And I need his wisdom and grace to steward it well.” Grace is the foundation for handling our resources well. It’s point zero in getting our wallets wet. It’s all God’s doing. And God’s grace is meant to produce generosity in our lives. His grace to us is meant to be shared with others.
Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians 9:6-11, 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. 8And 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. 9As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” 10Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be enriched in every way so that you can be GENEROUS on every occasion, and through us your GENEROSITY will result in thanksgiving to God.
Paul says giving is like planting seeds. If you want a small harvest, plant a few seeds. If you want a big harvest, plant lots of seeds. Giving our wallets to Jesus means giving generously. And that’s a decision we make in our hearts, a decision couples make together, not reluctantly or guilt driven, but willingly and cheerfully. They’re the givers God loves and blesses.
It’s always astounded me that every passage on giving in the Bible is followed by a promise of God’s blessing. And here it can’t be any stronger.
Look again at verses 8-11, 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. 9As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures FOREVER.” 10Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and INCREASE your store of seed and will ENLARGE the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be ENRICHED in EVERY way so that you can be GENEROUS on EVERY occasion, and through us your GENEROSITY will result in thanksgiving to God.
Church, I’m convinced by the Word of God and by life experience that God is looking for people who live in his grace to be conduits of his blessing to others through generous giving. The principle of sowing and reaping is not so we can build our own kingdom here on earth, but so we can invest generously in God’s kingdom and the things that are close to his heart. That’s the only kingdom that will last.
Back in the fall I heard a speaker by the name of Jim Baker, not the infamous Jim Bakker of Heritage USA, but another Jim Baker who pastors a church in Ohio, say that God’s view of prosperity is to live debt free with enough resources to do everything God calls us to do, and enough to help others do what God has called them to do.
Unfortunately, the word “prosperity” has gotten a bad rap. It’s not about being selfish and spending everything on ourselves. It’s about being good stewards of what God has entrusted us.
Over and over again the Scriptures warn against debt and how debt can enslave us and limit our ability to serve God. The priority of Financial Peace University is to get out of debt. Again and again we read that God wants us to become all that he created us to be and it takes resources to do that. And we also read that God wants us to be generous towards others who are seeking to be all that God’s called them to be as well.
So when it comes to finances, true prosperity is to live debt free with enough resources to do everything God calls us to do, and enough to help others do what God has called them to do.
That’s exciting! That view of prosperity creates “wow” experiences in our lives and in the lives of others. Over the years we’ve had a lot of “wow” experiences at Valley View. Generosity adds value to other’s lives. We’re never encouraged to chase money. We’re encouraged to chase God and use money to fulfill God’s call in our lives and in the lives of others. And it all starts with grace and generosity and finally gratitude.
Look at verses 12-15, This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of THANKS to God. 13Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, people will PRAISE God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15THANKS be to God for his indescribable gift!
Getting our wallet wet for Jesus comes with a great deal of gratitude for what we do have, not grumbling for all that we don’t have. Gratitude for all that God has given us, starting with Jesus, his indescribable gift, and all that we’re able to give to others.
We’re grateful for what God has given us and others are grateful for what we’ve given them. It’s a “Praise Fest,” Paul says, an overflowing expression of thanks to God. Grace. Generosity. Gratitude. That’s what it means to get our wallet’s wet.
I love what Tom Wright says about this passage, “In the normal and healthy Christian life, everything proceeds from God’s grace and generosity, and everything returns to God in thanksgiving. Grace. Generosity. Gratitude. These are not optional extras of Christian living. They are at the very heart of it all.”
Church as we end January, the best month or worst month, and begin the new year let’s all take a fresh look at God’s grace in our lives and the resources he’s given us to steward. Let’s be generous and grateful and pursue Christ together. Let’s get our wallets wet so that we can be full-fledged disciples of Jesus. Giving our wallet to Jesus is the best thing we can do for our financial health in 2018. Let’s stand for closing prayer.