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I Timothy 6:6-19
After worship one Sunday a little boy told the pastor, “When I grow up, I’m going to give you some money.”
“Well, thank you,” the pastor replied, “but why?”
“Because my dad says you’re one of the poorest preachers we’ve ever had.”
This morning I am preaching my 820th sermon since I have been the Pastor of CrossPointe Community Church. Of those 820 messages, a scant 28 have addressed the subject of how our wealth and possession affect our walk with Christ. That’s 1 and ¾’s of a sermon per year on this important to Jesus subject.
How do we know it was important to Jesus? Because one-third of all the parables He taught have to do with the wise use of money and possessions. Because someone took the time to discover that 1 out of 6 verses spoken by Jesus directly bears on how His followers would handle money. By that reckoning, should have given 140 by now. So that means I owe you 111 or a little over two year’s worth to catch up.
Why is this so? I’ll give you two or three reasons next Sunday. But for today let me say that in CrossPointe’s history, there haven’t been too many times when we as a church needed to address this for practical reasons.
But now we need to.
Last Sunday after worship Annie Dean presented CrossPointe’s Investment Plan for 2018.
The figure of $133,326.69 represents the amount of money we will need to raise to meet our ministry goals for 2018. It covers things like staff salaries, utility needs and other operating expenses and ministry and outreach goals. When you divide the total by 52 Sundays in a year we need to average $2564 per week. So far this year our average is 2395 per week. So in order for us to meet our ministry goals, we will need to raise an average of $169 more per Sunday.
But I’m not worried . . . for there is good news here. We have a lot of people who wholeheartedly believe in and therefore support this church. We have people in this church who have already wholeheartedly embraced the Biblical principles of faithful stewardship. And I am confident that we are ready to hear and respond to the word of God.
With that in mind, may I have the privilege of reading today’s scriptures?
Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost. (Luke 19:1-10).
Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.
But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. And I charge you before God, who gives life to all, and before Christ Jesus, who gave a good testimony before Pontius Pilate, that you obey this command without wavering. Then no one can find fault with you from now until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. For, at just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords. He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! Amen.
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. (I Timothy 6:6-19)
Today’s gospel reading is unique; for in it, we have a man who had two conversions at the same time.
We are not privy to the conversation that took place between Jesus and Zacchaeus. Perhaps He told Zacchaeus one of the several parables that teach that in the end, God will hold His people accountable for the way they used their money. Or rather than a parable, perhaps Jesus repeated what He earlier told His disciples:
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 God and be enslaved to money” (Luke 16:13).
We don’t know how Jesus approached stewardship with Zacchaeus, but we do know the results. First and foremost, Zacchaeus became a believer in Jesus. Jesus says, ‘salvation has come to this house today.’ II Corinthians 5:17 occurred in his life: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passing away, behold all things are becoming new.” You better believe it!
Secondly, his transformed heart immediately results in a decision to get right with God as it concerned his finances. He doesn’t wait 6 months or 10 years, right then and there he brings himself into alignment with God’s values concerning money.
Alignment is a useful concept. If you have ever driven a car that was out of alignment you know it pulls to one side or the other. You and I are like that car: when we are out of alignment with God’s purposes we are in danger of veering off course. But when we are in alignment with God, we track straight and true along the path God has laid out for us.
How do we, like Zacchaeus, align ourselves with God concerning His perspective on wealth and possession?
Agree with God when He says He owns the whole ball of wax, including everything we have accumulated.
I’m sure that the name on the title of his chariot was Zacchaeus, but after getting right with Jesus he was ready to change it.
The name on the title of my car is John K’Meyer. I wonder what they would do if I went to the courthouse and asked that the title be changed and put in the name of God? But that would reflect what the Bible says in such passages as Psalm 24:1: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to Him.”
If God is the rightful owner of everything we have; He’s just letting us use it for a time; in other words, we are stewards. Even if you’ve never flown, we all know what a stewardess is. In the same way, we are familiar with a ship’s steward. Neither person owns the plane or the ship, right? The company owns it all. The steward has been entrusted with the care of the ship or plane on behalf of, and in lieu of, the owner. In other words, a steward is one who manages the property of another.
This theological duality that states God is the rightful owner of everything we have and that we, therefore, have the responsibility of managing what He has blessed us with is the foundation upon which Christian stewardship is built. For unless and until we accept this fundamental truth we will not be ready to accept the other principles of Christian stewardship.
God asks us to give a certain percentage of what He has blessed us with toward His Kingdom work through His Church.
Old Testament Hebrew word for tenth which first shows up in Genesis 14 where Abraham is the first to offer 10% of his wealth. From there the OT is consistent in requiring the people of God to give 10% of all their wealth to the Lord as a thank offering for blessings bestowed.
In the New Testament, Jesus affirms the tithe as still in effect. For many, if Jesus affirmed it, so be it and that’s the end of the matter.
Some Christians rightly point out that we are no longer under the law but under grace and therefore are relieved of the responsibility of tithing. However; like many expressions of our faith, what was required under the law should be exceeded under grace.
I’ll give just 3 examples. The law said we should forgive those who sin against us three times but when Peter asked Jesus about it He said we should forgive infinitely. Why? Because our Father in heaven has forgiven us.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You have heard the law says, ‘thou shall not murder’ but I tell do not even be angry with your brother.” Why? Because our Father has let His anger against us go.
Jesus, “You have heard the law says, ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Why? Because God loves you who were once His enemies.
In fact, I challenge anyone here today to show me in the New Testament where it says that less is expected of a Christian under grace than of a Jew under the law.
This is why most denominational churches have a statement of faith that says we believe that tithing is the minimum standard of giving in the church. Why? Because God has blessed us with much and is willing to allow us to keep and use 90% of what is His.
A man came to his pastor for counseling because he felt convicted that he had not been faithful in giving God a portion of the generous thousand dollar weekly salary that he was making, and it was driving him crazy. The man said, “I don’t understand, I didn’t have a problem giving $25 per week when I was making $250. But now that I’m making a $1,000 a week, I just can’t give a $100. And it’s driving me nuts. Would you please pray for me, pastor?”
Wasn’t this man surprised when the pastor prayed, “Gracious God, please bring this man back to a $250 per week salary so that he will be at peace again.”
How can we be at peace about this? As a practical way to Biblically help us be at peace, I want to offer you the famous 10-10-80 Plan. The 10-10-80 plan involves taking our paycheck and before we do anything else we do what Bible has said all along and we give God the first 10% as a worship offering to God. Then we put the second 10% into our own interest-bearing savings account. By the way, did you know that’s Biblical too?
Solomon, who wrote the Book of Proverbs, encourages us to learn a lesson from the ant which saves and stores for the future. And then we are free to use 80% of everything God has blessed us with to pay for housing, transportation, food, clothing, etc.
I know that all of you wish you could be on the 10-10-80 plan. For some, it might take some time to work up to it. You might need to start out 5-5-90; 5% to the Lord, 5% to savings and live on 90%. Perhaps some of you may have to start with a 2-2-96 plan.
Any Christian who is interested in coming into alignment with God in this regard simply must adopt this or a similar plan. “If we fail to plan, then we plan to fail.”
But please note that all this begins with the heart!
In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul spends the entire 15th chapter talking about the resurrection of Jesus. And at the conclusion writes, “Now concerning the collection” (16:1). And we think there must be some kind of mistake here, Paul. One moment you’re talking so sublimely about the resurrection from the dead and in the next the collection of an offering. The nerve of the guy. How dare he talk about salvation and money in the same breath!
But no, Paul places the matter ‘concerning the collection’ right in the heart of the gospel message because that is precisely where it belongs! Because this invitation to give to the Lord’s work as a heartfelt response to all that Christ Jesus has done for us IS THE HEART OF THE MATTER!
In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul reminds that fledgling church that the church in Macedonia gave so generously because “They first gave themselves to the Lord” (II Corinthians 8:6). Makes me wonder if Paul also knew the story of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus first surrendered to the Lord and that resulted in his change of heart that yielded generosity.
“For where your treasure is there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
What all this boils down to is the Lord wants our hearts! He knows that when we surrender our hearts to Him as Savior and Lord out of love for who He is and what He has done for us on the cross that we will surrender the appropriate amount of His treasure back to Him.
Bruce Larson, in Believe and Belong, tells how he helped people struggling to surrender their lives to Christ:
For many years I worked in NYC and counseled at my office any number of people who were wrestling with surrendering to Christ. I would take them on a walk down to the RCA Building on Fifth Avenue. In the entrance of that building is a gigantic statue of Atlas, a beautifully proportioned man who, with all his muscles straining, is holding the world upon his shoulders. ‘There he is, the most powerfully built man in the world, and he can barely stand up under this burden. Now that’s one way to live. But now come across the street with me.’
On the other side of Fifth Avenue is Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and there behind the high altar is a little shrine of the boy Jesus, perhaps eight or nine years old, and with no effort, he is holding the world in one hand.
My point was illustrated graphically. We have a choice. We can trust solely in our own ability carrying the world on our shoulders, or we can say, ‘I surrender Lord; here’s my life. I give you my world, the whole world.’”
Which side of the street do you walk on?