Putting Your Money to Work | 05.28.23 | Master Your Money Pt.3
Pastor Erik Anderson
Acts chapter 20. I believe it is page 108, 103. Someone there, someone holler it out when you have it. 108, we’re gonna be on page 108, Acts chapter 20, verse 32. And this is what the scripture reads. And And now I commend you to God and to the message of His grace, a message that is able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothing. You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions. In all this, I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak. Remembering the words of our Lord Jesus, for for He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. This morning we are jumping into the middle of a teaching series called Master Your Money. And as Pastor Drew and I, when he came here about eight months ago, we began praying about some of the things we wanted to focus on in in this first year as this transition and of His leadership and some of the things going on in our church. There were a handful of things that we really wanted to nail down on. And one of them earlier this year was on spiritual habits. I don’t know if you guys remember that sermon series if you were here with us at the beginning, but January and February of this year, we focused on these things that we do to shape our hearts and our lives, to be more like Jesus. We’ve explored different passages of scripture that way. We’ve We’ve explored the work of confessing our sins and hearing of God’s forgiveness. We’ve looked at a lot of things. And a few months ago, Pastor Drew said, “Hey, Eric, what do you think about doing a really practical sermon on money?” And I thought, that’s a good idea. And it’s a good idea because money is something that every single one of us stresses out about. It’s something that every single one of us has a little bit of tension and sensitivity about. And And even the very fact that there’s a pastor right now talking to you about money has made some of you uncomfortable because either in your experience, you’ve had religious leaders misuse and abuse their position for personal gain, or you just don’t want the pastor to get into your wallet and ask for money. And I understand all of that. And that’s actually part of the reason why we’re teaching on it is is to open it up, to air out all the tension, to talk through all the awkwardness and discomfort, and look at what Scripture has to say about how we manage our money. Because the reality is that if we are not careful to manage and master our money, it is going to master us. It will consume us. And everything that we do will be thinking about money and worrying about money. And we actually want to be free from that so that we can follow Jesus and be a good use to our neighbor. So that’s why we’re talking about it. And we’re actually looking at five super simple, very basic biblical principles of how to manage and be responsible with our money. And this is what we’ve seen. We’ve seen to spend less than you earn, to avoid the use of debt, to build a margin, to set long-term goals, and to give generously. These are five principles that we can see in Scripture that are guaranteed whether you make very little or very much to give you freedom from being mastered by your money. Now certainly this doesn’t alleviate all of the problems that money causes and that the cost of living causes, but these are five basic principles that as a general rule, if you do these things, you will be able to manage your money in a responsible way. And today we’re talking about this fifth one, give generously. We’re talking about the act of giving, what it does to our hearts, and how we can actually see it transform our lives as we focus on giving rather than receiving. And we are looking at this through Acts chapter 20, which we begin this way in verse 32, “And now I commend you to God and to the message of His grace.” Acts chapter 20 comes towards the end of the book of Acts. The book of Acts is the book right after the four Gospels. And it’s a historical book that outlines the early church and how the Holy Spirit was leading the early church to proclaim the gospel and to spread the gospel all throughout the known world. And Paul is the one who is speaking these words, and he is one of the primary missionaries of the early church. He had a missionary team that he led and kind of went around and he would go from city to city. He would proclaim the gospel. He would start a church. He would go on to the next city. And he just kind of did that for his whole career. And Acts chapter 20 comes toward the end of his career, the end of his life, where he’s finished up his journeys. He’s heading back to Jerusalem, which is kind of the home base for the church at that time. And he knows that the Lord, the Lord has told him that he, when he gets to Jerusalem, is going to be imprisoned and will die. And in fact, this is what happens. He gets to Jerusalem. He gets in prison. They ship him off to Rome. He sits in prison in Rome for a while, and he dies in prison. And he knows this is the case. And so he’s kind of making a last tour. He’s hitting up some of these cities that he started the church in and some other cities that they have, sizable churches that other missionaries had started. And he’s kind of giving them his last words. And that’s what he’s doing here. He has the church in Ephesus, the city called Ephesus. He has the leaders. He calls them elders. He has them gathered together. And the elders of Ephesus are kind of like our leadership team. They’re charged with the care and responsibility of leading and serving the church. And so in Scripture, that’s just called being an elder. And so he has all these leaders together, and he’s telling them, giving him his last words. And this is the very last section of his kind of speech, of his sermon to the elders. And here in a moment, we’re going to see, he actually gets to talking about work and money. But But this is how he introduces this closing thought, this closing thought about money and about work. He begins this way. I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified. For Paul, before even talking about money, before even talking about work, he he first talks about this message of grace. We would also call this the gospel, which means good news. He tells the elders, he commends them to the message, to stay true to that message. And later he’ll actually tell them to follow his example in this, that they need to focus first on this gospel, this message of grace. And that word grace simply means gift. It’s a gift, this message of the gift that God has given you. So for Paul, before we can talk about money, we need to talk about the gift that God has given us. And you see the gospel, many of us think, is a deal or a bargain that’s to be made. God says, okay, if you give me your life and you pay your tithe and you be part of the church and you go to church, you know, three times a month and you do this and do that, then you get to heaven. We think it’s a bargain. If you do this, then I’ll give you this. We kind of treat God like he’s a used car salesman. See this baby, heaven, pretty good. What do you give me for it? But the gospel proclamation, the pronouncement of the gospel is actually this. There is nothing you have that God needs. There is nothing you can do that God needs. The The gospel is not a bargain. It’s not a deal. The gospel is a pronouncement of something that has happened to you, whether you know it or not, whether you want it or not, whether you like it or not. The gospel is the pronouncement that Jesus Christ was born. He became flesh, became human. He died on the cross and was resurrected and has paved the way for you despite the things you do wrong to live in God’s family and to live with God forever. It’s a pronouncement, full stop. That’s a gift that’s been given to you. There’s nothing you can do to earn it. There’s nothing you can do to lose it. There’s nothing you can do to change God’s mind about you. He has saved you. He has rescued you, full stop. Faith, Faith, then, is trusting in this gift that God has given. Faith is saying, “Yes, Lord, I believe that, and I trust in it despite what I feel, despite what’s happened to me, despite the things I continue to do wrong. I trust that you, in fact, have given me this inheritance. You have brought me into your family, and no matter what I do or think or say, I can’t be kicked out of your family, I just trust in you, that you are good and that you have rescued me.” That’s the gospel, and Paul says first and foremost, that’s what you have to understand. That’s what you have to focus on. That’s what you have to commend yourself to, is that our God is a loving and generous and gracious gift-giver, and the gift that he has given us is loving us despite the things we do wrong, bringing us into his family and giving us eternal life with him. I commend you to the message of grace, which is a message that builds you up, gives you confidence. And just like we celebrated here in the baptism, we talked about that it gives a clear conscience, because now those of us who are baptized can say, “No matter what happens, I know God has claimed me.” It gives me security. It gives me confidence in what God has done, and empowers me then to live according to that. That’s the message of grace, and that’s what we have to understand before we can talk about anything else. Before money can make any sense to us, we have to understand everything we have is a gift. God owns it all, and he has given it to us, including including salvation and the forgiveness of sins. Paul continues on, he says this, “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothing.” Like I said here in the next verse, he actually says, “Follow my example. I have not coveted. I have not been greedy for what you have done, for what you have. I have not been greedy for the clothes that you have, for the money that you have.” Instead, we know that Paul worked with his own hands. As he traveled around and proclaimed the gospel and started churches, he actually built tents. He worked a manual labor job, was kind of a small business owner, if you will, and he made his own money so that he wasn’t going to be greedy and try to covet what other people had. And obviously, this was a concern for Paul, for these leaders in Ephesus. Because in a position of leadership, if your heart is turned toward greed, then you can actually get rich on the backs of the congregation. And what Paul is saying here is that that is not the way to do it. That no religious leader, no pastor, ought to get rich off the backs of the congregation. We’re told to support and love those who proclaim the gospel around us. I’m a beneficiary of the generosity of so many people to be able to proclaim the gospel, to lead the church as a pastor, but this is not for me to get rich. No leader ought to get rich off the backs of their congregation. Instead, the leaders ought to be an example of how to manage their money and be responsible with the things that they have in order to do good to others, as we’ll see here in a little bit. Earlier this year, I think I mentioned that we talked about spiritual habits and and we talked about how there are things that we can do to shape our hearts and our lives to look more like Jesus and what He did, to think more like Jesus and feel more like Jesus and do what Jesus did. And the opposite is also true. There are things that we can do that turn us away from God and actually pervert us and distort us so that we look less like Jesus. And greed is one of these things. Greed is something that if we continue to feed into it, it actually turns us away from God and it makes us less and less like Jesus. And so it’s a little bit like this. You can tell by the way that I look that I have lived a life that has been well fed, right? I enjoy food. I’ve always enjoyed food. And And when somebody is overweight, they do not become overweight overnight. It’s something that happens over time. That over time, small decisions about meals and caloric intake transform your body to be overweight or underweight or in a healthy range. Same thing with losing weight. You don’t lose weight overnight. You have to make small incremental decisions, habits, that that actually change the way your body functions so that it’s more healthy. The spiritual life is just like that. There are decisions that we make, habits that we build that make us more like Jesus or less like Jesus. And giving is one of these habits that makes us more like Jesus, but we’re going to get to that here in a second. Paul continues on this way. “You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to to support myself and my companions.” There you go. He worked with his own hands. He made his own money to support himself and his companions. Verse 35, “And all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak.” Remembering the words of the Lord Jesus. “For he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” So Paul now challenges both the Ephesian elders and us to reflect on this question, “Why are we working? Why do we work?” For Paul, the work of his hands was to support himself and his companions and to support the weak. So why are you working? Why do you work? Why do you do what you do? For many of us, it’s probably to have security, which is important. I mean, Paul himself said to support himself, right? To support himself. And maybe it’s for a lifestyle. Maybe we work for the weekend. We work so we can afford whatever it might be. Fill in the blank. Four-wheeler boat, jet ski, fishing habit, whatever it is that we do, that we spend our money on, maybe we work for those things. Maybe we work because of the way that we feel like we’re impressive or important by our money or our job. Or, as Paul offers here, do we work for the good of others? Do we work for the good of our neighbor? Paul here sets an example for us to work for the weak. And what we find here in this principle of giving generously is it’s actually the whole point of the rest of the principles. It’s actually for the good of our neighbors that God has given us resources. Because here’s the deal, is that your neighbors could use you being more responsible with your money. The more responsible you are with the resources God has given you, the better the community is. The more tax dollars you pay, the more money you’re able to give to charity, the more time as you grow old and are able to retire that you can devote to charitable organizations in the church. Your neighbors could use you being more responsible with your money. That actually, when we spend less than we earn, our neighbors benefit from that. Avoiding the use of debt, our neighbors benefit from that by spending less than, I think I already said spending less than we earn, by having long-term goals in our finances, our neighbors benefit from that. The whole point of all of this is so that we can be useful and good to our neighbors. Our neighbors could use you being more loving, more more peaceful, more kind, more generous. You see, the whole point of this whole conversation, this whole series, is not that we are responsible with our money for some reason, like, impressed through it, like, impressed God. Like, “Hey, God, look at how well I’ve done with the $40,000, the $100,000, the $200,000. Look how well I’ve done with this money that you’ve given me.” God’s God’s not impressed by that. The psalmist says that God has cattle on a thousand hills, which is essentially saying God has limitless resources. Everything that is in our world is God’s. He’s just lending it to us. Everything in our world God already owns. He doesn’t care about how responsible you are with your little drop in the bucket that you have every year. He’s not impressed. He’s not impressed by them. It’s kind of like this. My daughter, who is perfect and beautiful and is the best little girl that has ever existed, she is seven months old, and she has begun crawling, right? Which is pretty typical for a child about that age, that is about the right developmental stage that she is in, that she begins crawling. And when she began crawling, you know what happened? Like, tears of joy, right? Like, elation, I was so proud of her, and every time she like, pulls herself up to standing, I’m like, “Wow, look at you, big girl. Look how amazing you’re doing.” But she’s doing exactly what a seven-month-old is supposed to do. It’s not actually that impressive. But because I’m her father, I am amazed and in love, and I celebrate her doing the most mundane, normal kinds of things. It’s exactly the same way with God. There is nothing we can do that can impress God. God is not impressed with your bank account. He’s not impressed with your salary. He’s not impressed with Elon Musk. He’s not impressed with the richest people in the world. He’s not impressed. It’s all his anyway. But because we’re his children, when we do the things he has called us to do that are good for us, he celebrates and he lifts us up, and he enjoys us doing well in the mundane, normal things. Our money is not for us. God is not impressed with you. But he loves you. He He adores you, and he wants to give you resources so that you can be of use to your neighbor. Our neighbors could use us being more financially responsible because it unlocks all kinds of ways that we can be charitable, all kinds of ways that we can be giving, all kinds of ways that we get to participate in God’s life of being a good gift-giver. That’s That’s what he wants for us, and that’s what he invites us to do. Not because he needs us to, but because it’s for us. So the end of us mastering our money is love. It’s all about love. It’s about us increasing in love for our neighbor. It’s about us increasing in love for our spouses and our kids and our family. It’s about us increasing in love so that we can better serve our communities and those around us. The end, the whole point, is love. To love those around us, especially those who are weak, especially those who do not have. So then the question is, how do we follow Jesus in this Scripture? How can we participate in this? I referenced it earlier, and maybe some of you have thought about it, but one principle that many people point to is the tithe. And just as a little side note about that, the tithe is a 10% gift or tax that in the Old Testament, followers of Yahweh, of God, would give for the priests to be able to survive. So they had the Levites, the priests, who would attend to the temple and would lead the people in the worship of God, and that 10% was so the Levites could live and wouldn’t have to work outside of the temple. Many people now say that the tithe is still something that we need to do and ought to do, but in the New Testament, we were actually given a new command. We know that we are no longer in the Old Covenant. We are now in the New Covenant, and Paul commends us in 1 Corinthians to give as the Lord leads us to, to give as we joyously can give. And in fact, if we look back at the Old Testament, that tithe, that 10%, was actually only the beginning. Did you know that? That that was the first 10%, but there was actually a second 10% that every believer of Yahweh gave for the temple. And then there was a few extra percentages on on top of that for various things. So it was normal for a Jewish person to essentially be taxed 25% given to the temple for the worship of God. That tithe was always only just the beginning. Now, the nice thing is that we are released from that as a rule, and now we are given that as an opportunity for us to reflect on our own life. What would it look like if we took the top 10%, the first 10% of every paycheck, goes to God? It can go to a charitable organization. It can go to the church. It can go to a special bank account that you are able to buy groceries for single moms as you run into them in the grocery store. You’re able to give to your neighbors who have need. That’s just that first 10%. What would that look like for you to give that top 10%? Here’s another way to think about it. Maybe a way for you to give generously is to practice hospitality. Maybe it’s not so much writing a check to a charitable organization, but inviting a family that you know that is down on their luck over for meals once a week. Maybe it’s helping them buy groceries for the kids that they have. Maybe it’s during the summer inviting the kids over while mom and dad are at work to have lunch with you so you know that they’re getting a good lunch in the middle of the day. Maybe hospitality could be a way that you can practice this. You can also do short-term giving practices. Again, we’re talking about moving our hearts toward Jesus. Maybe you don’t give at all right now to any organization or to the church. So maybe you say, “Okay, for the next three months, I’m just going to do 5%. I’m just going to start there. I’m just going to see what happens. What happens when I tighten the belt of my budget and use more of my income for the good of others instead of for me? I’m just going to do it for three months and I’m going to see what the Lord does. See what the Lord teaches me in that.” And I’m guessing that that’d be a pretty enriching process, especially if you can use some of that money for the people who actually live next to you that need it. You can actually help those who are in need of the community. That’d probably be a pretty powerful thing. And Ron Blue, who is the gentleman who wrote, “Master Your Money,” he talks about that 10% tithe being just the beginning. And depending on your income level, depending on what the Lord has given you, you need to adjust that. So if you have a low income level, that number is going to be smaller. Maybe Maybe it’s just 2%. Maybe after your rent and your healthcare and your phone bill, maybe all you can do is 2%. And that is manageable for you. And that’s what the Lord’s asking you to do. But Ron Blue talks about as your income increases, so should your giving. So as you make more and more money, more more and more percentage of your money ought to be set aside for charitable giving. And I, as your pastor, am telling you, of course I would love for you to give to the church, to partner with each other, to invest in this kingdom movement, but I’m not asking you to only do that here. Maybe that looks like only doing 5% here and 5% to another church or to another organization in the area. Maybe that tie looks like that. Or maybe you’re in a position where you are giving more and you can say, “Hey, we can give 20 to 25% of our income to charity. We can give that generously because the Lord has blessed us with that much. We have that much margin in our work. If we trade in our car and get a cheaper one, if we do this and downsize that, we can give 25 or 30%. And maybe you give 10 to the church and 20% to a church plant, maybe 20% to a missionary somewhere in the world.” That’s the kind of generosity that we’re talking about here. We’re talking about adjusting as God has given us and giving for the good of others. But the primary thing we can do, the number one thing that we can do to follow Jesus in this text, is we can let Jesus change our hearts about how we view people. Because we live in a society that looks down on people who are low income. And we think that it must have some sort of moral failing attached to it. Well, you must have been foolish with your money or foolish with your life and you didn’t get that education and you could have done this and then that and done this other thing. We kind of look down on people who make less. And And I think the Scripture is actually challenging us not to see it that way. That people don’t have less resources because of some moral failing. They’re not failures, but they’re actually opportunities for God to provide for them through you, through me. That maybe we’re the one that God is calling to provide for someone who has less. Maybe Maybe we’re the way that God has made for someone to be lifted out of poverty. Not because they’re a failure, but because God is a good gift giver and he wants to give gifts through us. He wants to use us, his children, to lift others out of poverty, to give good gifts to those who need it. Not Not because it’s impressive, but because we are loved and we are called to love. Our neighbors can benefit from us being more responsible. Our neighbors can benefit from us mastering our lives. And by doing so, we are able to show and reveal more and more of God’s great love for us.