Learning to Trust God with your Treasure
Life in the Spirit: Sermon #06 - Learning to Trust God with your Treasure
Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor • Nov 20, 2016 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, Senior Pastor
We are in the midst of our Life in the Spirit sermon series. This is a series that calls us the on-going process of learning to trust and obey Jesus, what we might call, “discipleship.” Here’s the basic idea: Jesus doesn’t invite us to trust and obey him just so that we can avoid a fiery end, instead, he invites us to trust and obey him so that we can start to live our best life now. This is a life that brings the reality of heaven into our present reality and frees us from fear because we follow a resurrected Messiah who conquered and destroyed death and calls us to follow him into life. The disciple’s life is learning to live in this reality free from fear, willing to love our neighbors as ourselves, learning to give generously because we know that all that we have comes from God, a life that is kind and compassionate and makes space for those who are at the margins offering them welcome and inclusion. This is the disciple’s path, a path of transformation that starts with our learning to lose ourselves that we might find ourselves.
24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26What good will it be for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? Or what can you give in exchange for your soul? (Matthew 16:24–27)
Introduction - Moving Past Scarcity
This morning, I want wrap up our six-part discipleship series by considering the role of money and giving have on our discipleship journey. I also want to talk with you about financially supporting our church. If you are new to the church let me just take a moment and explain how the finances of our church work. We operate the church from the tithes and offerings that we the congregation give weekly to the church.
Currently, there are about 120 families that currently give and support the church in some way financially–some tithe, some give generously, all participate in giving. We use these tithes and offerings to fund the ministries of the church both internal (children’s & youth) and external (homeless ministry and outreaches), to pay the mortgage of the building & the utilities, and to pay the salaries of the staff. In order to make it all work out, we need to receive about $11,000 a week or $570K a year.
My wife and I are givers, we tithe. We also try to live lives that are generous.
The first place in scripture we see the tithe is in Genesis 14:17-20, the tithe is the act of worship from Abram as winning a battle. It is a response to God. The interaction happens after Abram’s encounter with the High Priest of the Lord, Melchizedek, king of Salem. From here the tithe shows up as a response of Jacob in Genesis 28:20-22 vowing to give the Lord as an offering a tenth of everything he has, if the Lord will be with him and provide for him and his journey. Next, the tithe shows up as one of the last commandments in Leviticus 27:30-33 given by God to Moses for the people. The tithe will later be used to fund the Levites, the priest and the servants who serve the people and the temple of God.
In these three interactions in scripture, the tithe is an act of worship (and Leviticus says its a holy act) in response to the people learning to trust God with everything.
By the time we see the tithe show up in Malachi 3:8-12, the people seem to be holding back part of the tithe and the prophet has been sent to invite the people to stop robbing God, and instead, the prophet invites the people to test the Lord by trusting him with the first-fruits of their harvest. The whole tithe.
STORY: I’ve had such a rocky relationship with money, growing up poor in the inner-city of Washington DC, the son of a single-mom, it felt like we were always behind with my mom working sometimes two or three jobs in order to make ends meet. She worked really hard to try to make a life and world better for her children. I inherited my work ethnic from my mom, getting my first job at 13 and working everyday since, sometimes working two or three jobs at time. In spite of being more successful financially than both of my parents, I still find myself wrestling with my fear around money. Asking the question, “Will there be enough for me and for my family?” It’s this idea that no one will take care of me and that I’m only entitled to what I earn. I see this echoed in the behavior of the people that Malachi is sent to prophesy to, they seem to be holding back their best from God, maybe because they have believe the lie of the Empire that says there isn’t enough.
Leaning Towards Enough
Hear the words of Jesus,
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? (Matthew 6:25)
Immediately Jesus attacks our worry, fear, and anxiety. He invites us instead to consider that our lives are more than what we consume or have. He invites us instead to consider what life lived with him and the father with our hands open could be like.
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:26-27)
As Jesus unpacks his invitation, he really wants us to see the world and ourselves within it the way he does, cared for, loved, protected. This goes against what we have been told by the Empire. The Empire spends considerable resources convincing us that we are all alone because the Empire knows that when we believe the message, we will close our hands tightly around all that we have assuming it’s all that we have. As I sit with this image that Jesus invites, there is something internal that goes off in me. It harkens back to that work ethnic I mentioned because fueling my work ethnic is the idea that the only person who will look out for me is “me.” It’s like the 141st Psalm that David wrote when he was fleeing from King Saul hiding out in a cave:
4Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
no one cares for my life. (Psalm 141:9)
It’s the idea that I’m all alone in this world. Or maybe it’s the voices in our head trying to convince us that God only helps those who help themselves. Either way, it’s really real and this mindset and understanding can shape how we behave, which is why I think the discipline of giving is important here as it can help us put seeds in the ground as we learn to trust and obey God as he promises to provide for us.
Jesus doesn’t actually preach on tithing, he seems to imply that he wants us, his disciples to live generous lives fully dependent on God. Take for instance what he says in Luke 12:28-33:
28If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions and give to the poor. (Luke 12:28-33)
Or take for instance, the story of the widow who gives, not out of her wealth, but out of her poverty.
41Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. 43Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
She gives everything she has to the temple, which can feel like too much for many of us. Just pause and think about the level of trust she must have in God. How might you measure your level trust against her action?
What if you accepted the idea that everything about life helps teach us how temporary things in this life are and how impossible it is to hold on to or keep anything?
The things we buy wear out
The latest technology becomes yesterday’s relic
A dollar doesn’t buy what it used too
Employment can come and go
The economy can slow
What if giving away our money was our tutor to release us from the grip of fear, from the grip of the scarcity mentality of the Empire.
What if giving away our money was on the discipleship path to teach us how to experience life that was more abundant and full?
Our giving joins the other activity of our discipleship transformation and habit forming in the presence of Jesus just like our prayers, scripture reading, silence, worship, and belonging because it helps trust and obey Jesus. Think of it this way, giving is a spiritual discipline. Trusting God with our treasure is an act of faith, learning to trust that God will provide for us as we learn to share our treasure. More simply it’s a way of trusting God with ourselves.
Giving is also a way we tangibly respond to God. Our giving is an act of worship.
8So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. 9He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; 10and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” Place the basket before the Lord your God and bow down before him. 11Then you and the Levites and the foreigners residing among you shall rejoice in all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household. (Deuteronomy 26:8–11)
Giving generously to God helps up give up control, helping us learn to open our hands, and ultimately our wallets in the presence of God trusting that God will do what he promises, which is to take care of us.
Jesus invites us into his story of dependence on God and interdependence on each other. He invites us into his story of transformational living within the Kingdom of God–a kingdom where there is enough for everyone as we learn to trust and obey God as we open our hands to each other.
Stewarding our Future - Practical Tip
All of this brings me to the practical tip for today. We need our church in this city to do the work that God has called us to do. And God continues to day-by-day send people to us who are looking for a place to belong. A place where they aren’t just tolerated, but a place where they are wanted, loved, and care for. A place where they can grow in their connection and understanding of God with others on the journey. A place where they can be discipled. A place where the good news of the Gospel is actually good. A place where they can experience healing and transformation. A place where they are called to be the people of God in a place where God is surely needed. A place that is multi-generational, a place that is multi-ethnic. A place that cares for those at the margins and for the poor. They need our church and we need them. I want to see our city, county, and state impacted by the love and power of a father who sees them, and wants the very best for them.
Friends, we have a incredible task before us, the task of inviting people into the story of Jesus. Because as people join their already-in-progress story to Jesus’ story, they will see their story infused with new meaning and purpose, their story will be expanded, enhanced, and they story will transformed.
All of this requires all of us to task of helping steward this church with our treasure, our time, and our resources. We need you to help us disciple the over 300 new people that God has sent to the church in the past two years. We need you help us staff and support our ministries like teaching our children and youth how to follow God. We need you to help those at the margins through our homeless ministry, and we need you to help us launch new ministries which declare the goodness of God to those in need. We also need your money.
From Zero to 50:
Let me speak more frankly here, we need everyone here to give to the work that we are doing here at the church. I mentioned earlier that about 120 families were actively giving, but that only represents, about half of the active families. As realize our vision and mission as a church, we need everyone here to support the work of the church through your giving. I’m not asking you to give everything like the widow, instead, I want to make an appeal directly to those you who aren’t giving at all. Those who haven’t given anything in the month of November, if that’s you would you start giving today by committing to giving about $50/month or $12.50 a week. If 50 non-giving families started at this level of giving today, this would help us stop our current shortfall and allow us to start to restore health to our giving. That’s it, if you aren’t giving at all, give $12.50 today and commit to giving $12.50 a week for the next several months.
If you are already giving, but not regularly, would you consider creating a recurring giving scheduled.
Finally, If you are regularly giving, thanks! Keep it up, we need all levels of giving.