1 Timothy 6:17-18 (The Message)
Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous.
This morning we are continuing the journey we began last month.
We have decided to follow the fork in the road that Jesus is leading us on.
It's not an easy path --- but we know that is the way that leads to life that really is life!
We are using as our guide for this journey the promises that we make as members of the United Methodist Church.
If we practice the disciplines necessary to fulfill these promises --- we will be well on our way on the path of Discipleship
We began by talking about our prayer life --- our relationship with God
Last week we continued by focusing on our need to participate in worship and in a small group
Today we will look at the third promise we make --- which is to support our church through our gifts.
A while back some friends and I were sharing ideas about sermons when we talk about giving.
One of the pastors said that as he began preaching on the topic of giving a husband turned to his wife and said loud enough for most people to hear:
"Please, Make the bad man stop!"
I kind of doubt that it is a historical story
But I know that it is true!
We don't like talking about our money.
Monday at the Bible Study, the group tried to remind me that when we talk about gifts it is more than just our money.
And they are right --- but it is too easy to focus on the use of our time and talents (which Matt will talk about next week) and ignore the elephant in the room --- which is our money.
Even at the Y this week I saw that their focus this month is on generosity.
And their flyer made this significant comment: "Generosity is one of those words that are meaningless unless activated by action."
We must GIVE to be generous.
Do you remember what I said about the offering last week?
The purpose of the offering is not to raise money for the church.
The giving of our gifts is symbolic of giving ourselves.
Each week, as we have talked about these disciplines, I have been referring back to John Wesley and the early Methodist movement.
Wesley's goal was to make every waking moment of our lives centered in the love of God.
By following the roadmap that Wesley set out for us ---- we are able to live our lives in a way in which everything that we say and do is organized around loving God and loving others.
And that includes what we do with our resources.
One of the surprising results of the methodical way of life that Wesley taught was that through cleaner living, being better educated and living more disciplined lives ---- the early Methodists grew in wealth.
Wesley preached a number of sermons to try and head off potential problems that might develop with this new found wealth.
He preached sermons titled:
· "The Use of Money"
· "On the Danger of Riches"
· "On the Danger of Increasing Riches"
The purpose of these sermons was not to raise money for the Methodist Movement
His motivation was his desire to lead the Methodist people into more Christ-Centered lives.
It wasn't their money he was after --- it was their hearts and souls.
When Wesley preached on money his sermons were rooted in the conviction that we cannot be faithful disciples of Jesus unless we learn to manage --- what Wesley called the "excellent gift" of money and to use it wisely "to the greatest advantage."
In Wesley's sermon --- "The Use of Money" --- he laid out three rather simple rules
· Gain all you can
· Save all you can
· Give all you can
I obviously don't have a lot of time to dig into this (but we will spend more time on it in our study groups)
Let's look at each of these concepts:
GAIN ALL YOU CAN
Pretty self explanatory, but Wesley suggested some guidelines to make sure we didn't pay too high a price for our wealth.
· Gain all you can without hurting your health
Don't work yourself to death
· Gain all you can without hurting your mind
Don't cheat, lie or engage in behavior that is not consistent with a good conscience
· Gain all you can without hurting your neighbor
Loving other as we love ourselves requires that we consider the way our economic practices will impact others
This is the exact opposite advice that Daddy Warbucks offered to Annie
He told her that you don't have to be nice to the people that you pass on the way up --- as long as you don't intend to go back down!
SAVE ALL YOU CAN
This is not about building huge bank accounts.
Wesley was calling the people called Methodist to live a frugal lifestyle.
Wesley called on his people not to waste their money on silly, overly expensive or needless items.
He called them to a simple lifestyle.
He was challenging us to discover the contentment that Paul described to the Philippians
Philippians 4:11-13 (NRSV)
Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
GIVE ALL YOU CAN
Wesley wanted us to gain all that we could and save all that we could so that we might give it away!
But this is more than just writing a check to a charity. For Wesley, the purpose of the discipline of generosity is for our lives to be shaped into the likeness of the extravagant generosity of God.
A life of Loving God and Loving Others
Jesus describes for us what a life of loving God and loving others looks like in Matthew's Gospel.
Matthew 6:25-33 (NRSV)
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
If we were to live that way --- How would our lives be different?
James Harnish offers six rules when it comes to the spiritual discipline of Generosity.
· Generosity begins with God
This is kind of a no brainer
Our generosity can never compete with God's
God is the absolute expression of extravagant, self-giving generosity
We are generous to others ---- because God has been extravagantly generous to us
· Generosity is essential
We cannot be a disciple of Jesus and not be generous --- it just isn’t possible
Our use of money will undergo a fundamental transformation when we stop asking how much of our wealth we will give to God and instead start asking how much of God's wealth we will keep for ourselves.
Generosity is the only antidote to greed
· Generosity is intentional
Generosity doesn't just happen
We don't just wake up one morning and become generous --- it is something we have to work at
· Generosity grows with practice
It is a learned behavior that runs counter to everything that our culture teaches.
We live in a world that says grab for all you can
God says share all you can
· Generosity is joyful
One of the things I have observed is that generous people are some of the most joyful people I have ever met.
When we give all that we can --- we experience the joy of knowing that our generosity is blessing not only our lives --- but also the lives of others
When I am generous --- I am making an active contribution to the building of God's kingdom.
· Generosity results in blessing.
I wish that I could promise you that if you tithe you will get wealthy. (I will leave that to other churches)
What I can promise you is that if you develop the spiritual gift of generosity --- YOU WILL BE BLESSED and your life will be a blessing to others.
Proverbs 11:24-25 (The Message)
The world of the generous gets larger and larger;
the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.
the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.
The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed;
those who help others are helped.
those who help others are helped.
A well lived life is one that is filled with generosity as our scripture passage today reminds us.
1 Timothy 6:17-19 (The Message)
Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.
May we all learn to get our wealth and possessions in line with loving God and loving others.