In a season where fear and uncertainty push us to hold tightly to what we have – because who knows what tomorrow will bring – God offers a surprising path to peace: generosity.

THE POWER OF SMALL STEPS

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

MARCH

13/14

Mark 12:41-44

Money can be an obstacle or an opportunity for spiritual growth. Join us as we begin a new sermon series this week.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Craig: Well, hey, Mission Hills, this is crazy, is it not? If I’m right about this, I think it was exactly one year ago this weekend, that we started going to online-only because of the global pandemic, right? And one year to the date, we’re back, and we’re open for in-person services. And we’ve been seeing more and more people. It’s been awesome. And then one year to the date later, Snowmageddon hits, and we’re supposed to be getting two to four feet of snow here in Colorado. And so we made the decision that we’re going to go online-only for this weekend. Of course, as we made that decision, it stopped snowing. We think it’s just a brief stop, we think we’re not going to look like idiots when this thing is all said and done because they’ve promised it’s going to be a lot of snow. So, we’re online-only this weekend. And I can’t believe that that’s the same thing that we were doing this time, a year ago. But you know what? I’m going to go and make a prediction now that I think is going to be true.

Last year, I made this prediction, and I was just completely wrong. A lot of us made this prediction. Last year, we closed down this weekend, and we said, “Yeah, but we’ll be open by Easter. No question. We’ll be open for in-person by Easter. No question.” I’m gonna go ahead and say in faith, that’s true this year, okay? We’re going to be open for in-person service this season. We’re actually should be back again, hopefully, God willing, in-person for services next week, as well. We’d love to have you join us. But please, please, please make sure if you’re at all able to join us in person, for an Easter service, go online RSVP because it’s gonna be an amazing time and you do not want to miss it. You cannot wait for it. For next few weeks though, as we’re kind of leading up to Easter, we’re going to be leaning into a series, a short series, on one of our core values as a church, one of the things that kind of makes us who we are as a church, one of those things that we say, “That’s who we are, that’s what we’re all about, that defines us as a church.”

And the one I’m talking about, and one of our core values is that we are crazy generous. And here’s how we say it here. We say, we are crazy generous, we mirror God’s outrageous grace, with outrageous giving. It’s what it means to be crazy generous here at Mission Hills. We mirror, we show to the world what God’s outrageous grace has done for us by our outrageous giving for others. And it’s so important that we think about generosity and being generous in that context. Because the reality is, Christianity is a thing. It exists because God is generous. God is a generous God, He’s a giving God. I mean, think about this, one of the most famous verses, even if you’re brand new to church, maybe if this is your first time joining us, and maybe you’ve never been in a church before in your life. But you’ve probably heard somebody say something like this, one of the most famous verses from the Bible, “For God so loved the world,” that he, what’s that word? He gave, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.” See, God’s a giver, he gives. He gave his own Son to pay the price for our sin in his blood so that we could be forgiven. We could be set free and have a relationship with God that begins now and goes on forever. God gave that because God is generous.

If you think about it, Jesus isn’t just God in the flesh, Jesus is generosity in the flesh. Jesus is the generosity of God made living and breathing and dying and rising again to demonstrate that this is who God is. And so, as followers of Jesus, this is something we want to grow in. We want to grow in our generosity, we want to… Well, here’s the thing. What I’d like to try to do is I’d like to try to out-generous God. Now, we’re not gonna be able to do it, we’re never going to pull it, you can never out-generous God. But here’s the thing, it is so much fun trying, okay? Well, we’re never going to out-generous God, but it’s so much fun trying.

And so for the next few weeks, we’re going to kind of be leaning into what it looks like to grow in generosity. Now, at Mission Hills, we often talk about generosity as having three facets. And if you’ve been here for a while, you may have heard us say that we’re called to be generous with three things, with our time, with our talent, our ability, and also with our treasure, our money. For these few weeks, we’re going to be leaning into the treasurer side of that, the money side of it.

And I must be honest with you, I used to hate teaching about money. I used to avoid preaching on the money as much as possible. And I think the reason, honestly, is, first off, I didn’t want anybody to think that it was self-serving. I was afraid that if I taught on money and God’s principles for money, people would go, “Oh, you’re just trying to raise money for the church, or worse yet, that you’re trying to raise money for yourself.” And I never wanted anybody to think that. By the way, just so you know, you may not know this, a lot of people don’t. My salary isn’t tied to your giving. If people give very generously one week versus another doesn’t make any difference in my income. Same thing true for a year, I don’t get a bump because the church has been more generous that year, okay? So, there’s no way that I personally benefit from this, okay? But I didn’t ever want anybody to think that that was the case. And maybe even worse than thinking that it was self-serving is I didn’t want anybody associating me with a group of people that I grew up kind of seeing on the TV. They’re called televangelists.

And the thing is like they had slick suits, and they had even slicker hair. And I didn’t want to be associated with these guys. Which, by the way, you’re thinking slick hair, you’re safe Craig, right? Yeah, I am. No chance I’m going to be associated with guys with slick hair. But the thing is, they would often say things like, you know, if you just send us a bigger check, God will give you a bigger blessing. And I didn’t ever want to get tied up in that kind of thing. I didn’t want to get compared to that. And so, I tended to avoid talking about money, honestly, as much as possible.

But several years ago, God began to do work in my heart as a pastor. And it began to lead me to a couple of things in my own life, and in my own dealing with my own finances, that I realized, if I’m not sharing this, I’m actually not leading my people very well. Two things that I began to learn. The first was just this, it’s that money can be an obstacle or an opportunity for spiritual growth. Money can be an obstacle or it can be an opportunity for spiritual growth.

This is the reason I think that the Bible talks about money more than 800 times. That’s a lot of times, right? This is the reason why Jesus himself taught on money more than on heaven and hell combined. This is the reason why most divorces cite money problems, financial struggles, as one of the greatest contributors to the dissolution of that marriage. Money is powerful. And money can be a very powerful obstacle to growing as a follower of Jesus. In fact, here’s how Jesus said it, pretty blunt, he said, “You cannot serve both God and money.” You cannot serve both God and money, Matthew 6:24. But the reality is that money can get ahold of us. And it’s interesting, it’s not how much money we have. Because this principle about money getting ahold of us, it doesn’t apply if you have a lot of money only or it doesn’t apply, if you have a little bit, it doesn’t really matter how much money you have. The issue is how much money has a hold of you. And the reality is, money can get ahold of us, money can be a common master that we’re serving, whether we have a lot or a little, okay? And so Jesus said, you can’t do both. You can’t serve both God and money, cannot be done. But the good news is, the money can also be an opportunity. Handling money, according to God’s principle, can actually further our spiritual growth. It can help us become more like Jesus and join him on mission. It’s a powerful thing. We’ll talk about that a little bit today.

Second thing that I came to understand about money, that I don’t think I’d fully understood before. I’d heard it, but I’d never really understood it is this, is that giving is better than getting. Giving is better than getting. Maybe you’ve heard these words from Jesus. In the Book of Acts, Jesus is recorded having said this, he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

It’s more of a blessing, it’s more life-giving, it’s more soul-satisfying, it’s more peace-producing. Becoming a person of generosity is really good for you. It’s a powerful thing. And that’s really kind of the bottom line, why I’m willing to engage in this kind of a series, in a way now that I didn’t used to be. I used to avoid this teaching. But actually, now I look forward to it. I’ve actually found that preaching on God’s principles for dealing with money is one of my favorite things to do as a pastor, which is crazy, given where I used to be, but it’s what I’ve come to understand. It’s just basically this, bottom line, it’s that following God’s principles for our finances is good for us.

Following God’s principles for our finances is good for us. It’s good for you. And I’m going to teach some things over the next few weeks that are going to be good for you. They’re going to make your life better, they’re going to give you more peace, they’re going to give you more satisfaction, and they’re going to help you grow in your relationship with Jesus in your spiritual life. It’s good for you. It’s not just good for God, God doesn’t need your money. It’s not just good for the church. It’s good for you. It’s good for us. And so we’re gonna lean into that over the next few weeks. And I think you’re gonna find this a very powerful and encouraging study in God’s Word. So, why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible, we’re going to be today in the Gospel of Mark, Mark chapter 12 starting in verse 41.

Mark Chapter 12:41, says this, says… By the way, if you are just joining us, maybe for the first time, or maybe you’ve been coming for a while, but you haven’t downloaded the Mission Hills app, I encourage you to do that right now. Download the Mission Hills app from wherever you get your apps, and you can follow along with the message. You can see the message notes, you can read the Scriptures along with us as well.

But Matthew, sorry, Mark 12:41, “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put, and he watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury.” So, it’s an interesting thing for Jesus to do. So, Jesus is at the temple in Jerusalem, the holiest of the places that you could go in Israel, in ancient Israel, and there’s all kinds of stuff going on, and there’s all kinds of things Jesus could have been watching here in the temple. He could have been watching people make sacrifices, sacrificing animals to ask for forgiveness for sins. He certainly could have been watching that. He could have been watching the praise team get ready or lead people in worship on the steps, as they moved up the steps towards the temple singing praises to God. He certainly could have been watching that. He could have been watched people praying, He could have been watching, whether they were kneeling or standing with their arms up or out wide or out. Were they praying out loud or in quiet. He could have been watching the ways that people were praying, lots of interesting things to watch there. But he wasn’t watching any of that. He went to the temple, and he sat down across from the place where people were giving, where people were practicing generosity. And he watched that.

That’s such an interesting thing. Why would he do that? Because he understood this. He understood that our finances say a lot about our faith. He understood our finances say a lot about our faith. Our finances, how we handle money, how we think about money, and what we do with it, says a lot about where our trust is. Is it in God or is it in something else? Sometimes faith is a little bit behind the scenes, right? Somebody can say, I have lots of faith, but you go, I don’t know that. What does that look like? How does that play out? And one of the things we see consistently in the Bible is that the way we handle finances is an outward demonstration of where our trust lies. It’s an outward demonstration of whether or not we trust in God. And so our finances say a lot about our faith. And that’s why Jesus is watching people giving.

This is the way Jesus said it. He said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Again, our treasure, our finances, show us a lot about the state of our hearts, state of our faith. That’s interesting, too, that he says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be,” not just is, like that’s… You know, if I see how you handle finances, I know where your heart is. That’s true. But he goes a step beyond that, and he says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be,” meaning, this is where you’re moving towards. This is what you’re drifting towards.

Because here’s the reality is that the way we handle finances doesn’t just flat determine where we are at any given moment, it determines where we’ll be in the next moment, okay? Which is kind of good news, because it means that if we’ve made a bad decision with finances up to this point, it’s not over, okay? We can begin to change that, and we can begin to move not only the way we’re thinking about finances, but also the way that we’re moving towards God, and where our heart is, where our trust is, okay?

The bad news, of course, is that even if you’ve done really well with your finances, you still have the potential to begin slipping into a pattern that leads you somewhere else. And that’s the thing, okay? Financial patterns lead to faith destinations. Financial patterns lead to faith destinations. The typical ways, the patterns of the ways that we handle money lead to different levels of faith, different levels of engagement with God, different levels of trust in God. Our financial patterns lead to faith destinations.

So, here’s the thing. If you want to get closer to God, one of the practical ways you can do, that you don’t have to just feel your way to it, I’m just going to feel closer to God because that doesn’t work. One of the practical things you can do to actually get closer to God, to feel closer to God, is actually to begin using your finances in the way that he calls us to. Conversely, if you want to make sure that you don’t get far away from God, paying attention to your financial patterns can keep you from drifting into a place that you don’t want to be. Maybe you’re close to Jesus right now, and you’re loving that, and you want to make sure you stay there, well, paying attention to your finances can lead you to stay close to him, okay? Because our financial patterns lead to faith destinations.

And all that’s why Jesus was watching the giving. And this is what he saw. He said, many rich people threw in large amounts, many rich people threw in large amounts, which is a good thing, okay? They had a lot, they’re rich, and they gave a lot, they threw in large amounts. It’s a good thing. But we want to be careful because it’s easy when we see somebody give a large amount to think, almost by definition, they must be very generous, right? That’s how we do it. If they gave a large amount, they must be very generous. But that’s not necessarily the case.

And it’s not a helpful way to think about generosity, because the reality is this, generosity is relative. Generosity is relative. It’s not absolute. It’s not generous just because you gave a large amount, it all depends on what you are giving from, what your financial situation was. And then, you know, what your gift, how it relates to what your financial situation… It’s relative. We sort of get this, but I think we forget it a lot. Let me try to illustrate it in very practical terms, okay? Let’s talk about two different groups of people or let’s take two specific people, okay? Let’s talk about specific people who make a charitable contribution. Let’s talk about your grandma and Jeff Bezos, okay? Let’s talk about your grandma, let’s talk about Jeff Bezos. Let’s say they both make a contribution to, let’s say the Red Cross, okay? Charitable organization. Let’s say your grandma gives $10, okay? And Jeff Bezos gives $1 million. Do you see how easy it is to go, that’s the more generous gift, right? I mean, the one who gave a $1 million, that’s clearly a more generous gift. But that’s absolute terms. And that may not be the best way to think about generosity.

Let’s break this down. Okay, your grandma gave 10 bucks. Let’s say your grandma is living off of Social Security, that’s about $1,500 a month, okay? She makes about $1,500 a month. Let’s divide $1,500 a month by, say 30 days in a month. Now, she’s making $50 per day, okay? 24 hours in a day so she’s making about $2 per hour, okay? $2 an hour. Which means that her $10 gift was five hours of income, okay? She gave five hours worth of her income. Now, let’s talk about Jeff Bezos for a second. Insider Magazine did a study and they found that during one 12-month period that they studied him, he made $6,500,000,000 per month. It’s a big number, right? $6.5 billion per month. That is about $217 million per day, 24 hours in a day. He’s making $9 million per hour. So, his $1 million gift is basically equivalent to seven minutes of income. So, grandma gave five hours worth of income, Jeff Bezos gave seven minutes worth of income, who’s the more generous person? And it’s easy, right? When you see it like that, you go, “Oh, obviously, generosity is relative.”

Here’s the thing though, that’s easy to understand, but it’s also really easy to forget. And I think we do it all the time. I do it all the time. I do it when I look at other people’s giving. If somebody gives a large amount of money to something and I find out about it, I look at the number, I’m like, “Wow, that’s a big number. They’re really generous.” I think that way. I do it. And I think about my own giving as well. If I gave a certain amount, I look at that straight amount, and I’m like, “I’m being really generous.” Or maybe I do it this way, I look back at what I used to give, and I go, “Oh I’m giving a lot more than I used to, therefore, I’ve become a lot more generous.” But all those are absolute terms.

It’s really easy to understand that generosity is relative, but it’s actually really easy to forget. We do it all the time. My guess is you probably do the same thing, I do. So, here’s a pretty important question to ask ourselves. What standard of generosity am I using? What standard am I using to assess my own generosity? Are you using a relative standard, relative to your own resource or your own income? Or are you using a standard that’s essentially absolute? Maybe you’re looking at just the straight number you gave. Or maybe you’re looking at the number you give compared to somebody else that you know gives a lot less. Or maybe you’re using a number based on what you were versus what you are now. And all those things can sort of fool us into thinking we’re being a lot more generous than we are because we’re using absolute rather than relative measurements and standards.

So, what’s your standard? It’s worth wrestling with a little bit. These rich people came and they threw in large amounts, but they had large amounts so we don’t really know how generous they were. However, on the other hand, but a poor widow came, and she put in two very small copper coins worth only a few cents. A poor widow came, she put in two small copper coins worth only a few cents. Now, that’s actually not a really good translation, that’s sort of an interpretation. It’s a good interpretation. But literally, what the original Greek here says is that she put in two lepta, two lepta, two very small coins. I think we may have some pictures of them. Yeah, those are two very small coins. They were almost worthless, to be perfectly honest.

In the Roman world, two lepta, those two coins, were equivalent to essentially 1/64 of a day’s wage, 1/64 of a day’s wage. It was enough, to put it in context, it was enough to buy one ounce of wheat flour, okay? Not worth much of anything, because you couldn’t do much with it. In fact, I can’t help but wonder if maybe the priest who came along and cleaned out the offerings, and collected them out of the bins and then took them in and counted them, I can’t wonder if they weren’t maybe a little bit annoyed at the lepta that they found? The same way that you might be if somebody paid you in a couple of coins, but the coins were pennies, right? You might… It’s not significant, it’s almost worthless, okay? Her gift was incredibly small, incredibly small.

And the temptation is to think, therefore, it must not have been very significant. But here’s the thing about small gifts, okay? Two things. Number one, small gifts can make a big difference if enough people give them. Small gifts can make a big difference if enough people give them. You may be in a position where giving large amounts is just not an option because you don’t have large amounts, and the temptation can be…and I know it because I’ve been there. I’ve had times in my life where I didn’t know where the next mortgage payment was going to come from or the apartment rent, I didn’t know how I was going to put food on the table. I know what it’s like to be in that position.

And sometimes, in that position, feeling like what I had to be able to give to my church or to other kingdom work was so small that it didn’t really matter. But it does. Because we don’t give alone and the reality is that small gifts can make a big difference if enough people give them, okay?

Second thing you want to understand about small gifts is just this, it’s that small gifts can demonstrate or can represent big trust. Small gifts can represent big trust. Because remember, that’s the key issue here, right? It’s what our finances say about our faith, it’s what our financial decisions are directing us to, in terms of our faith. And small gifts, they can demonstrate big trust, big trust in God.

Which I think is why Jesus responds this way. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth, but she out of her poverty, put in everything all that she had to live on.” He said she gave more than all the rest of them. And obviously, he doesn’t mean that in absolute terms, right? He means it in relative terms. They gave out of their wealth, she gave out for poverty. She didn’t have much, her gift was very small, but it represented a big trust. It represented a woman who didn’t have much, but she wasn’t trusting in that much. She wasn’t trusting in any of the stuff that she had. She was trusting in God. And I think that’s why God gets excited about even small gifts because they demonstrate big trust.

One of the coolest things that’s happened over the last year, about a year ago, we did a series on biblical finances, and we had a person start giving, and they’re giving $5 a week, and they have given $5 a week consistently every week since then, and our team loves that person. If that’s you, by the way, you are a giving rockstar, we’re so proud of you. Because the reality is that what you’re doing there is you’re demonstrating a willingness to put your trust in God rather than in your finances. And that’s a powerful thing. It’s an incredibly, it’s… I’m just proud of you. I’m just so proud of you. Because it’s such a powerful thing that you’re doing. And that’s the reality about small gifts. Small gifts God looks at and goes, “Oh, you’re giving out of not having much and you’re giving that, that’s faith. That’s generosity. That’s trust in me and that’s a powerful thing.”

And God gets really excited about it. The reality is, check this out. Jesus, right, he’s watching the people give but he watches the big people give their big money, the rich people give their big gifts, and he’s like, “Yeah, okay, that’s great.” He’s not mad at them, obviously. But then this poor woman comes in and she drops in these two coins, that are almost worthless, right? What does Jesus do? He’s like, “Guys, get over here. Guys. Peter, come here, come here, come here, come on John, John, John, get over here, check this out. Do you see her? She gave more than all of them.” And they’re looking at her and they’re watching her kind of walk away and she’s got, you know, tattered robes and threadbare sandals. And probably, you know, they’re hardly holding to her feet and she’s probably hasn’t been washed in a while, and she’s not in a good place. And they’re looking at her going, “Are you looking past her to somebody else that I can’t see?” He’s like, “No, no, her she gave more.” And they’re like, “How’s that even possible?” But Jesus is incredibly excited about her gift. Why? Because Jesus gets excited about generosity.

For the simple reason that Jesus gets excited about faith. Jesus gets excited about generosity because Jesus gets excited about faith. Throughout his ministry, whenever Jesus saw faith that was next level above what all the other people have, he got excited. He called it out, he called attention. He said things like, I’ve never found such faith in all of Israel, that I see in this person right here. Jesus gets excited about faith. And that’s why he gets excited about generosity because faith and generosity, they just go hand-in-hand. They’re just so closely lined.

And what we need to understand about generosity and why Jesus gets so excited about it is just this, is that Jesus is more excited about what our generosity reveals than what it accomplishes. You hear me church? Jesus is more excited about what our generosity reveals than about what it accomplishes. Jesus’ interest is not if you give this amount these things can happen. That’s true, it does. And that’s cool. And it’s fun to celebrate that. But that’s not why Jesus gets excited, not because of what your generosity accomplishes, he gets excited about what’s your generosity reveals because it reveals your trust in him, it reveals an intentional decision that I’m going to start moving my trust, I’m gonna transfer my trust from earthly things to God. That’s faith and Jesus gets excited about that.

So, pretty simple principle, right? Jesus gets more excited about our generosity, not because of what it accomplishes, but because of what it reveals, okay? So, what do we do? Here’s what we need to understand, what we’re basically saying is that generosity is, in some ways, it’s a thermostat, okay? It’s a thermostat. Do you know what a thermostat does? It moves things towards something you want. It moves things towards the temperature that you want, right? We fight over the thermostat in my house all the time. Because I feel like about 67 is perfect, I think the women in my family feel like about 78 is perfect. And so we’re constantly battling over that. We’re always adjusting the dial because we’re trying to move the temperature to what we think it should be, right?

And generosity is a thermostat. It’s also a thermometer, okay? I understand that. That’s why Jesus gets excited about generosity because it reveals where our faith is. And so Jesus gets excited about generosity because it is a thermometer, it shows us where our faith is right now. But he gets even more excited about the fact that it’s a thermostat. Because it directs rather than just shows. It moves us forward in having more and more faith in God rather than other things.

And the reality is, this is why this is so good for you, the more your faith is in God, the better you’re set up to survive anything that life throws at you. The more your faith is in God, the better able you are to thrive in the midst of whatever life throws at you because you’re on a secure foundation because your foundation is in God, and not anything of the world that can be taken away from you. That’s the thermostat principle. So, if generosity is a thermostat, if it can move us forward, putting more and more faith in God, how do we do that? How do we use our generosity as a thermostat? Let me give you two things today, two very simple things.

First thing we do is this, we just ask ourselves the question, what’s my next step? Because that’s what we’re gonna want to do. We want to take our next step of generosity. It’s first thing we do, we just take our next step of generosity. Generosity is not something that we come to overnight, okay? If you’re in a place right now where you’re going really honestly, you’re like, I don’t know that I am a very generous person, you’re probably not going to flip the switch on that and suddenly become one of the most generous people in the world overnight. I promise you, this woman, who went into that temple and dropped in those two small coins, that was not her first act of generosity, okay? Jesus said she gave out of, in fact, that she had almost nothing. That’s something you got to build to.

And so the question we want to ask is, how do I take my next step of generosity? What is that? And we talk about it this way, here at Mission Hills all the time, here’s how I can do it. If you’re not giving anything, start giving something. That’s first thing. If you’re not giving anything, start giving something. And by the way, let me say this. I’m going to talk because I’m pastor of a church, and because I believe that Mission Hills is a good place to practice generosity. I think we have a proven track record of using giving for the purposes for which it was intended, to give glory to God and to give help to people. We’ve been doing that for almost 80 years. And we do it around the world. And so, I think Mission Hills is a great place to practice generosity.

But here’s the thing. If you don’t trust us with your money, don’t give to us. I know a pastor is not supposed to say that, right? But I want you to practice generosity because I believe it’s going to be good for you. And so if you, for whatever reason, don’t feel comfortable giving to Mission Hills, don’t give to Mission Hills, it’s okay. But give somewhere, give somewhere. Practice generosity somewhere because it’s going to be good for you. And so if you’re not giving anything, start giving something, okay? Whatever it is, $5 a week, $20 a month, $20 a week, maybe it’s less than that.

We have kids in our kid’s ministry who consistently bring in 50 cents a week or something like that. And they’re rockstars of generosity as far as I’m concerned, okay? They’re moving to giving something. So, if you’re not giving anything, start giving something. That’s your first step. Now, maybe you’re already giving something, maybe you do give something, so your next step is to start giving a percentage. Start giving a percentage, okay? And here’s the thing. If you grew up in church, you’ve probably heard that 10% is the target, okay, 10% is what’s called a tithe. Ten percent of our income is supposed to be given to God. And listen, that’s great. We’ll talk about that in a moment. That’s great. But if that’s not where you are, I don’t expect you to start there. I’m okay with the fact that you don’t start at 10%, but if you’ve already been giving something, the next step of generosity is to begin giving a percentage. Maybe it’s 2%, maybe it’s 3%, maybe it’s 5%, maybe it is 10%. But start giving a percentage.

And by the way, the easiest way to do that, I’m just gonna get really practical for a second, the easiest way to do that is actually to set up for recurring giving. And I’m just gonna go out and plug this, this is how I give. I set up recurring giving to Mission Hills, and so I know what my paycheck is, I took the decimal point and moved it one place to the left. That’s what my 10% is. And I’ve set it up so that comes out every two weeks. And the reason that I do that is I know that personally, and I’ve just done this for years, that’s always my intention is to give, but sometimes I forget.

Sometimes I miss church for a weekend, for whatever, and like, oh, I need to make that up. But then don’t usually make it up, and the next time I’m in church, the idea of like, giving double the amount that time seems really big because I’m thinking in absolute terms instead of relative, I just fall that way, I do. So I end up not giving and so I skipped giving sometimes because actually I’m not giving the percentage I wanted to. And so I would love to see you start giving with a recurring donation. It’s actually easier for you, and it’s better for the church because when we have weekends where nobody shows up because of Snowmageddon, you know, the giving still happens, and we’re able to continue doing all the ministry around the world that we’re doing. And so I encourage you to think about that.

If you’re giving something, start giving a percentage and think about doing a recurring giving. By the way, I would love to double the number of recurring givers we have over the next three weeks. Would you be part of that? If you’re not a recurring giver, would you become a recurring giver at whatever percentage the Lord leads you to? I’d like to double that number. We’ll celebrate, over the next couple of weeks the progress we see towards that, okay? But maybe that’s your next step. If you’re giving a percentage, maybe your next step is to start giving a tithe, which is that 10%, okay? If you’re giving a percentage, maybe your next step is to start giving 10%. And if you’re giving a tithe, if you’re already giving 10% of your income, you’re done, right? You’re off the hook. What else could you possibly do, right? I’m just kidding.

I used to think that. I used to think that was like the highest level, but I don’t believe that now. Here’s what I believe now, if you’re giving a tithe, the next level is what I call spirit-led sacrificial giving. And that’s where you give 10% to your local church…by the way, if your local church is not Mission Hills, don’t give to Mission Hills, give your local church. We want you to be a blessing to that church and the work that’s going on there, okay? Give 10% to your local church and then beyond that, ask the Holy Spirit for opportunities to give above and beyond that. So, maybe it’s missionaries or mission trips or other opportunities you have to give, charitable giving in a variety of different ways. This is what we’ve been moving towards as a family. And every year, again, we give our 10% to Mission Hills. And then beyond that, we begin to, okay, what else would God want us to do with the resources we have?

And so that percentage has actually climbed each year, as we’ve practiced this, and God has blessed us and allowed us to continue to growing in that. So, that’s the question for you, what’s your next step of generosity? If you’re not giving anything, start giving something. If you’re giving something, start giving a percentage. If you’re giving a percentage, start giving a tithe of 10%. If you’re giving a tithe, start practicing spirit-lead sacrificial giving, 10% to your local church and beyond that to other places where you know that there’s an opportunity for you to do good with the resources God has given to you.

Second thing I think we do is this, we practice generosity first. We practice generosity first. I’m gonna be honest with you, I didn’t always do this. In fact, I didn’t do this for way longer than I’m comfortable admitting to you. I’ve always tried to practice generosity my entire adult life, but for a long period of my life, especially when I didn’t really have a lot of money, I tended to pay my bills first and do those things and then, from what I had leftover, if there was anything left over, I would give. I was afraid that if I did it any other way, I wouldn’t have what I needed to pay the bills. But I became convicted of that because I really believed, in my head but what not with my hands, so I guess, I believe that giving first honors God and so I realized I needed to put that into practice. If I really believe that I need to put in practice. So, I started giving first.

And the reality is, I never came up short. I’m not sure exactly how that plays out. I mean, the Bible speaks a number of different times to the fact that, you know, one person gives away a great deal and they get more in return, and another person is never generous, they never give anything away and they find themselves coming up short. We find that sentiment in the Proverbs, we find it throughout the Bible. I can tell you from my own experience, I’ve experienced it. When I started giving first, I found that I was never in need. But more importantly, that was how I wanted to honor God. And so we have a way of talking about this, we say giving first honors God. Saving second practices wisdom. Living on the rest builds contentment.

The power of a principle I learned from a friend of mine several years ago, giving first honors God, saving second practices wisdom, putting money aside for needs that we can’t anticipate yet, that’s wisdom, and then third, living on the rest builds contentment. So, maybe that’s one of your next steps is to begin practicing generosity first. Jesus gets excited about generosity, not because of what it accomplishes, but because of what it reveals and because of where it’s directing us. The faith destination it’s taking us towards.

So, three quick questions for you to wrestle with today. Number one, what am I doing right? Because I’m willing to bet that you’re doing some level of generosity right. Maybe it’s with time, maybe it’s with talent, maybe with treasure. But I bet even with treasure, there’s some places where you are doing it right. And I think you should celebrate those, celebrate the ways that God has led you to that and the ways that God has used that.

Second thing I want you to wrestle with is this. What do my finances say about my faith? What do your finances say about faith? Take a good hard look at your finances and ask if somebody was looking at that from the perspective of what it says about your faith, what would it tell that person? Okay?

Third question is this, what’s my next step of responding to God’s generosity? What’s your next step? What’s God calling you to? For some of you, it’s a response of being more generous. Something enough or nothing to something, something to a percentage, percentage to a tithe, tithe to spirit-lead sacrifice. For some of you, it’s that. But for some of you listening to this, the way you need to respond to God’s generosity has nothing to do with your giving, it actually has to do with your getting. Because some of you’re listening to this message, and you’re not followers of Jesus, and maybe for the first time, you heard what I said back to the beginning of this message, that Christianity is essentially an expression of God’s generosity, that that’s who Jesus is.

And if that’s you, you’re listening to this, and for the first time, you’re realizing that you’re not a follower of Jesus, but that is a gift that God has given for you. He’s given forgiveness, He’s given freedom, He’s given a new relationship with him that comes from faith in what Jesus did for you, from faith and God’s generosity and giving his Son. And if you’ve never received that gift, today’s the day for you to receive it. That’s how you respond to God’s generosity, you receive God’s gift. I want to give you the opportunity to do that right now. Would everybody just close their eyes, bow their heads. If you’re listening to this, and you’re not a follower of Jesus yet, understand God loves you so much, he sent his own Son, he gave his only Son, who died on the cross to pay for your sins. Three days later, he rose from the dead, to prove that he paid it off, and he’s offering you forgiveness, a relationship with God and eternal life in heaven.

And if you’ve never received that gift, that’s how you respond to God’s generosity today, you’re just gonna have a conversation with him in your heart right now, you’re gonna say this. Say something like this to him, say, God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for your generosity. Thank you for dying in my place. I believe you rose from the dead, and I understand that you’re generously offering forgiveness and a relationship with God and eternal life. I’m accepting your gift. Jesus, I’m putting my trust in you and saying yes to following you forever. Amen.

If you made that decision for the first time today, I’m so excited for you. I’m so excited that that’s how you’ve responded to God’s generosity. Would you let us know you made that decision? Because we want to celebrate, we want to get you some resources to help you begin experiencing everything God has for you. So, if you said yes to following Jesus today, would you just click the button right below me, or if you don’t see that button, just text the word Jesus to 888111. Either way, you do it, same thing’s gonna happen, it’s gonna let us know you made the decision, so we can celebrate with you. We’re going to send you a link to five things that are true about you now that we want you to have and grab ahold of, so you can begin experiencing everything that comes in this relationship with God with a generous God. So, please let us know that you made that decision today.

Now, I’m going to do something today that I’ve never done before when I’ve preached on money. Typically, what I’ve always done when I preach on money is, I decide, we’re going to take the offering before I preach because I don’t want anybody to think that I’m preaching so we’ll get a bigger offering. And that’s not what we’re looking to do today, but I am going to take the offering now. We are going to give you an opportunity to practice generosity now. Because, again, God convicted me that every message that I preach, I try to give people something practical to walk away with, to do this, this is your next step in following Jesus.

And he said, but you never do that with giving. Why? If you really believe this is good for people, then you should give them an opportunity to put it into practice right now. So, that’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna take an offering right now. But here’s the thing, we’ve been talking today about the power of small steps, right? Small gifts. And I want to try to put some of those small gifts in perspective because some of you, you’re not in a position to give large gifts, and that’s fine. I don’t want you ever to stop or pullback from giving because you feel like your gift isn’t significant. Remember what we said, small gifts can make a big difference when they’re taken together. Let me show you a couple of things. Can we throw something up here? Check this out.

Last year, 2020, we had 4,219 people who gave less than $100 a month, less than $100 a month, that may not seem like a large number, but that average gift of $55.54 each. That was the average gift. Across that whole group of people who gave, check out what this added up to, $273,000. God used that money in incredibly powerful ways around the world last year. We saw people say yes to Jesus, we saw people given clothing and food and shelter around the world. We made a huge difference in the lives of other churches, even in this community because of that generosity, okay? But you know what? Even that may seem like a lot, even $100 or less than a month, $55 may seem like a lot. So, let’s step back a little bit more and let me show you this statistic.

Last year, we had 506 gifts, one-time gifts of $20 each. So, five out of six people only gave $20 last year. I say only but the bottom line is that number added up to $7,913. And that’s a lot of money. I mean, let me tell you what God used that to do last year. It costs $8,000, almost exactly that amount, it cost $8,000 to run the Let’s Do Christmas event, that we did, okay? That included the advertising for the event, included adding gifts to the age group where they were lacking gifts, included feeding the crew that was running the event. And with that, we were able to give gifts to 868 kids in the Littleton area, 868 kids got Christmas gifts, and they get to hear about the love of Jesus that we celebrate in Christmas because of that amount right there.

To put a face on that, because it’s not just numbers, it’s a face. We were able to come alongside a man who’d been homeless and he had been estranged from his kids. And he was able to, through our help, through your generosity, give a gift to his kids, and to begin to feel what it was like as a father to provide for his family and to see the joy on their faces. That was incredibly power in this man’s life, and that was possible because of your giving. We were able to invite 20 families to come and visit for the Christmas services that are in Espanol service. We were able to help a number of families in our congregation who weren’t in a position to give gifts to their families. It’s an incredible thing. All that’s made possible by very small gifts. These are the kinds of things that your giving makes possible.

And so we’re going to take an offering right now. There’s several different ways that you can give, you can certainly go to the Mission Hills app, you can go to missionhills.org/give, or you can text MHC28950 for your giving options. But I wanna encourage you to take a step of generosity right now, not because it’s good for us, but because it’s good for you. And Jesus is gonna get excited. He gets excited about our generosity, not because of what it accomplishes, although, I get pretty excited for what it accomplishes. But he gets excited about what it reveals about your faith and he gets excited about where it’s taking you.

Would you pray with me? God, thank you for the generosity of the families that call Mission Hills home throughout the last year. We’re so grateful for that, and we’re so grateful for what you’ve done in our community and in our world through those gifts. But Lord, beyond that, we’re thankful for what those gifts say about their faith in you and their trust in you. And so we ask that you would bless them powerfully. Lord, as we give now, would you take these gifts and would you use them for your glory and would you use them for people’s good, and would you bless those who give. Would you give them just a very tangible feeling, very tangible experience of that truth that it is better to give than to receive? And thank you for your generosity to us. We’re so grateful. In Jesus name. Amen.

THE GIFT OF GENEROSITY

REZA ZADEH

MARCH

20/21

Exodus 36:1-7

Managing our money is about our posture before God. We are stewards of what we have. Our giving isn’t about supporting the church or God; we gain freedom through living with a generous heart by getting out from under something that cannot give back to us.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Reza: Well, good morning, Mission Hills. It’s good to see you all. Thanks for coming and being here. And it’s so great to be together and to be in this place alongside one another. It’s always great to be together, whether you’re here in the auditorium with us, if you’re consuming online, if you’re connecting with us through any of the platforms that we have, I am thrilled that we get to gather not just here, but virtually through literally all parts of this world. And it’s pretty, pretty amazing.

Obviously last week, we could not be together and it was because of that snow storm. But if you haven’t yet checked out last week’s message, Pastor Craig launched, we started a new series called Crazy Generosity. And so we’re gonna be talking during this series, we’re gonna be talking primarily about what does it mean for us to be generous? What does giving look like? What does God have to say about our lives, our money, our stuff, and our resources?

And so here’s the reason we’re talking about this. There is a specific reason why we are gonna be diving in and talking about finances and money and giving and generosity. And the reason is this, because we need it. We need to talk about this because there is nothing more in this world that we mismanage more than our money, our finances, our stuff, and our resources.

You know, last year in 2020, Amazon, amazon.com increased their profits by 84%. That’s a $1 billion increase in 12 months. And I know a lot of it was because when we couldn’t go anywhere, so it was really convenient to order some of our essentials. But let’s be honest, you know, if you’re anything like me maybe bought 1, 2, 3, 34 things that maybe were not essential that we purchased on Amazon.

You see, we tend to mismanage the stuff that we have, and we let our emotions really dictate how we spend. Here’s the crazy thing about money. And again, maybe I’m just talking to myself here. Maybe you all are much more spiritual, are much better at this than I am. But typically, what I find with money is we find ourselves buying things that we don’t need, with money that we don’t have to impress people, honestly, we don’t really like that much. And some of you might be saying, “Reza, you’re crazy. Like I do not mismanage my money. Like I’ve got spreadsheet after spreadsheet. I know where every dime goes. I’m a financial planner.” And you might be right. But here’s the truth, when it comes to our money and living generously, it’s not about managing our portfolio. It’s about managing our posture before God.

And so that’s where we’re gonna dive into. We’re gonna take a look of what does Jesus have to say about finances? What does God have to say about the reality of the stuff that we have in this world? And what does it truly mean to be generous? And what does giving look like? And today, I’m gonna speak directly to Christians, those of us that call ourselves Christians, followers of Jesus. And if you’re not a Christian yet, you’re exploring, or maybe you have no desire, never wanna be one, that’s totally fine. And that’s great. I’m glad you’re engaging here with us because the things that we’re gonna talk about, I do encourage us to all lean in because the principles that we’re gonna be talking about are important for us because it helps us understand what does it mean for us to manage our money rather than the reality for a lot of us is our money ends up managing us.

And so as Christians, we do believe that God has given us resources and funds and stuff to manage, to steward. Stewardship is gonna be a big conversation we’re gonna have today. And so we believe as Christians, God has given that to us, even though we work hard and we go to work and we have a vocation, and we collect these resources, we work hard for it. God is still the one who entrusts us with it. And so we, the way that we respond with what we’ve been given in obedience is a way of responding back to God, our act of thankfulness for what he’s done on our behalf. So that’s why I say, we’re gonna talk directly to those of us who are Christians. But again, if we’re not Christians, we have to take a look at this thing called money so that our heart can view money in a certain way, so our money doesn’t continue to manage us.

There was a man named Paul who went around the region of the Mediterranean in the first century. And he went around, and he started churches and he planted churches. And his specific focus in his church planting, in his ministry was to go reach people that did not have a Jewish context. And so he went and reached the Gentile nations, the non-Jewish nations, people, groups that had different customs, that viewed things a lot differently than this group of people called the Jews that God had been pouring into for, for generation after generation. And so, as Paul went and planted these churches, he knew that because of the customs and the ways that they grew up, because of their culture, he had to start helping them develop some spiritual habits.

And so he wrote letters to some of these churches, making sure they were engaging in some of these spiritual habits. One of the churches that he sent multiple letters to was a church in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians chapter 16, this is what the Apostle Paul writes to this church as he’s helping them develop these habits. “On the first day of every week, each of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income.” So very plainly just helping them develop these basic foundations of managing the stuff that they have. And in 2 Corinthians chapter 9, he says, “Each man or woman should give what he has decided in his heart to give not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver.”

And so being cheerful talks about giving wholeheartedly. It talks about this reality of God wants believers to give willingly, give excitedly and being eager about that. But let’s be honest for a moment. It’s kind of weird, or maybe even more than that, it’s awkward to talk about money. It’s a hard subject. And if we were even a little bit more real, it’s really suspicious when churches start talking about money and giving, especially churches like Mission Hills.

And there’s this tendency to think, well, there they go again, talking about money, just trying to get money from us. But let me just be real for a moment, that our giving it’s not that it’s good for Mission Hills. That’s not the point. Our giving and our joy, it’s not good for Mission Hills. It’s not even good for God. Like God doesn’t need our money. Like it’s not like God’s sitting there broke saying, man, I hope my people give some money because I got nothing.

Our giving is not good for Mission Hills. It is not good for God. Our giving ultimately is good for us because what we’re gonna see is as we live with a generous heart, we are actually unhitching our lives from this dead weight of finding our wealth and our worth and our identity in something that is incapable of giving us what we want from it. How we handle our money, says a lot about it. And so some really very basic foundational principles when it comes to money, and these aren’t even spiritual principles. These are just good basic principles.

I’m gonna re-emphasize some things that Craig talked about last week. Giving first honors God, saving second, that’s just wise, like that practice is wisdom. And living on the rest, it builds contentment in our lives. So like these are just three basic foundational principles, giving first honors God, saving second is just wise, living on the rest builds contentment.

You see, there’s a phrase that is used specifically in the Old Testament, and it’s a spiritual practice called tithing. It’s kind of this Christian term that we know. Here’s what tithing is, tithing is literally…the word tithe means 10%. But in the Old Testament, there were some standards that God had given to Moses and Moses was to communicate to the people, and God gave Moses some standards or the Law and what he was doing, he was showing the people, hey, this is what it’s gonna take to be able to be in relationship with me because God is Holy and we are not. God was saying, if you wanna be in relationship with the Holy God, here’s the standards that you’ve got to live up to.

Oh yeah, and by the way, I wanna show you it’s impossible for anyone to do it. And so there is this way called the Day of Atonement where an animal would be sacrificed and a life would be given, and ultimately that was a precursor to Jesus. In the Law was this thing called tithing where people were to set aside 10% of their income and give it to the store house of God so that the work of God, through the priest, so that the priest could serve the people and the community. So the tithe was a part of the Law for them set aside to be able to give to the store house. It was a requirement. We’ve adopted that in our spiritual disciplines.

And so this thing called tithing is something that started in the Old Testament Law. But when Jesus stepped onto the scene, there was people that started approaching Jesus saying, “Well, now that the Messiah has come, does that mean we can do away with the Old Testament Law? Like, can we just abolish that stuff? And like, is it all now found in you? Like, how do we view the Law and you, and the words that you’re saying?” And Jesus very plainly, his first recorded kind of public sermon is this passage called the Sermon on the Mount. You can find it sprinkled throughout all the Gospel accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

But in Matthew chapter 5, is where it starts. Matthew chapter 5, Jesus answers people saying, “Should we just do away with the Law?” Matthew 5:17, Jesus actually says something pretty profound. We’ve got to take a look at this because it impacts how we spend. Jesus said in Matthew chapter 5, verse 17, “Don’t think that I’ve come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I’ve not come to abolish them, but I actually came to fulfill them.” Well, what does that have to do with our money?

Well, here’s what Jesus was saying. He then said things like, “You have heard it said in the Law, in the 10 Commandments and the other laws, you’ve heard it said, ‘do not murder.'” Well, that seems like, okay, that’s okay, fine. Like I’m not gonna take someone else’s life. That’s pretty elementary. But Jesus says actually, if you have anger towards somebody, you’ve already committed murder in your heart. And then in the Law and the 10 Commandments also says, do not commit adultery. And Jesus said, actually, if you have looked at somebody lustfully, you’ve already committed adultery in your hearts.

You see, Jesus took the baseline of what the Law said and he took it deeper. It’s almost like he put clothes on it and he said it. And so the baseline was the Law of the tithe is the 10%. But in the rest of his teachings, starting with the Sermon on the Mount, what Jesus was saying is that how you handle your money says a lot about you because now it’s not about God owning just 10%. It’s God actually owns 100% of who we are.

And Jesus demonstrated this generosity and this giving ultimately by giving of his life. So Jesus came to take things deeper. See, this is the same principle that came through in all of his teachings when he talked about money and the resources that we have. Do you know that Jesus talked about money and resources and being a steward of what God has given us? He talked about that more than anything else in all of Scripture. Like all of his teachings, more than heaven, hell, eternal life, he talked about our stuff because Jesus knew that sinful humanity, we would have an issue how to manage and trust God with our stuff because our heart and our money gets so intertwined.

And it’s kind of like ironic, isn’t it? That the very thing that says in God we trust on it, is the hardest thing that we find to trust God with. This is what the Lord knew of us, precisely why the Lord addresses money. It’s crucial to how we live and honor him in our lives. Here’s the main point. If you don’t get any other point out of today, here is our main point. Our money, how we view our money, how we handle our money can be an obstacle or an opportunity for our spiritual growth.

And can I tell you like, this is the point of why we are talking about this because our hope and our desire is not to grow the bottom line of Mission Hills. The hope and desire isn’t to get you to give here more. The hope and desire is that we would grow spiritually into the men and women that God calls us to be. And if our heart and our money seems to get so intertwined, that we need to take a look and see, what does the Lord have to say about this thing called generosity? And how does generosity help unhitch us from the things of this world?

We’re gonna take a look at a little bizarre passage here in the Old Testament, it’s found in Exodus chapter 36. If you have a Bible, I encourage you to turn to Exodus chapter 36, or if you have a device, turn to it. It’s a kind of peculiar little passage that many of us may have just kind of glossed over. Let me give us a little bit of context for what’s happening here. So God has already given Moses the Commandments, the Law. Moses has come down from Mount Sinai, he has the Law, and God had told Moses it’s time for us to develop a place where I can dwell with my people. It’s time for me and my people to be able to hang out together, to Tabernacle, to dwell with one another. And so God commands Moses and he instructs him to build a tent, literally a tent called the Tabernacle so that he can dwell, so God can dwell with his people and the priest can do the acts of worship, and there could be this intermingling of God and humanity through this place called the Tabernacle.

So God gave Moses some very specific instructions on how this tent would be constructed. And when they would travel through the wilderness, they would pack this tent up and they would unpack it. And that’s where they would worship God. And so when God tells Moses, gives them instructions for building the Tabernacle, he also tells him, “Hey, have the people bring offerings, bring their stuff, bring their resources, bring their money because we’re gonna need some resources to build this thing called the Tabernacle.” And so that’s where we find ourselves. That’s the context for where we’re at. So Moses has told the people, bring all your stuff, bring your things because it’s time for us to build a place to hang out with God. So Exodus chapter 36, verse 1.

“So Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord had commanded.” So Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab, and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given ability and who was willing to come and do the work. Do you catch that? Like God very specifically knew that there was gonna be certain workers that were going to have the know-how, the knowledge and the skill and the resources necessary to do his work.

Like very clearly God knows exactly who is in a group of people, a church that is able to do the work that is necessary, that God wants to get done. And these men were specific. They were willing to come and do the work. In verse 3, “They received from Moses, all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring free will offerings morning after morning.”

And so Moses had already done a collection. They had already given things, so Moses takes all those resources, hands it over to the builders. Oh yeah and by the way, people morning after morning, after morning kept coming and giving things. Like they didn’t need a building campaign to give to. Like they didn’t need prayer updates. They didn’t get GoFundMe like updates in their email saying, hey, this is what we need, this is what we need, that there was something about what God was doing and the people almost intuitively were like, I wanna be a part of that. Like I wanna be a part of that. I don’t wanna miss out. Like I wanna be able to give, because there is something important that’s bigger than me happening, and I don’t wanna miss out on it.

The result of this verse 4, so all the skilled workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left what they were doing. And they said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work, the Lord commanded to be done.” Like there’s just too much offering. There’s too much stuff. Will you please tell the people to stop giving because we can’t get our stuff done because they’re giving us too much? Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp. “No man or woman has to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” You ever heard a pastor say that before? And so the people were restrained from bringing more because what they had already was more than enough to do all of the work.

Like, how does this happen? How do like people in a church and a group of people get so crazy generous that they literally have to make a statement saying, “Hey, stop giving. We have way too much. We have an excess of resources.” Like what happens? What moves people to a place of outrageous generosity? How do we individually and collectively become a generous church that mimics what Jesus says about generosity and joins God on mission?

You see friends, this isn’t necessarily a message or a series on tithing. This isn’t a series twisting our arm because, you know, we just need a little bit more resources because, you know, 2020, this isn’t a giving series. This is a worship series. This is a series talking about what does it mean for us to be disciples of Jesus? And that’s just a Christian term that means to be a follower, dedicated, doing the things that Jesus asks us to do. The hope is that we grow in our generosity.

The reality truthfully is God could have provided everything that was necessary for the Tabernacle. He could have one day snapped his fingers and everything could have just appeared. Like he’d already modeled that. When they were in the wilderness during this period, and they were going from region to region, God provided quail, manna, water coming from rocks, cloud that covered them over that day, that night there was fire to warm them and help them see. Like God could have provided all the resources himself, but God chose to include his people in the work that he was doing. And that’s a key point that God doesn’t need our money, but God chooses to engage us in our hearts, in the work that he is doing. He chooses to include us. And that’s the key point.

And him choosing us and us responding and how we handle our money has a lot to do with how we are shaped and how we are formed spiritually. As my wife and I are raising our kids and as we disciple the athletes, and work with the athletes that we work with, there’s been a lot. I’ve given a lot of thought about what forms me, what shapes me, what shapes my kids, what forms my kids. And I’ve learned there’s choices I make with what I eat and how I exercise has a direct correlation to my physical health. I’ve also learned that what I choose to read or look at online actually informs my emotional and my mental, and it shapes my emotional and mental health.

And what we’re gonna see is how we spend, how we choose to spend and how we choose to view the money and the stuff that we have actually informs and shapes us spiritually in our spiritual health. Like money is one of those things that we can’t live without, like it’s necessary. But the truth is when we get so fixated on money, we’re actually missing out on something in Jesus, and his Sermon on the Mount, as he begins to teach, as he talks about this thing called money, he gives us a very dire warning because he knows that we’re gonna very quickly try to make money into a God that we worship.

Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 6, verse 19 “Do not store up for yourselves, treasures on earth, where moth and vermin destroy and where thieves break in and steal but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and vermin do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Look, let me just say, he is not saying, do not contribute to your retirement account. He’s not saying don’t be wise stewards of the stuff you made. He’s not saying don’t invest in the future. But what he is saying is be very, very, very careful to find your worth in things that are temporary in this world. And he’s encouraging us to put our worth and our treasure into something that is eternal.

In verse 21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” See, there’s that intertwining of our heart and our money because unfortunately for many of us, our treasure is where our money is. And then in verse 24 he said, “Let me just make it as plain as possible. No one can serve two masters. Either you’re gonna hate one and love the other, or you’ll be devoted to the one and despise the other.” You cannot serve both God and money at the exact same time. No one can serve two masters.

Look, the core of how God created us. We were created in his image, the core of the image of God, the triune Godhead is relational… Like God is relational to his very core and his very being. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit always been a relational. So when we were created, we were created to crave relationship. And yet when we find ourselves focusing on our wealth and we think that having a relationship with our wealth is gonna give us value, we miss out on the reality of how we were intended to live in relationship with one another. I’ve seen nothing destroy relationships more than this thing called money. You know, I’ve heard it said, in life, we accumulate two things. There’s two things we always accumulate, money and relationships, but only one of those will truly make you rich. You know, how we view our money and how we spend our money can be a stumbling block to people inheriting the kingdom of God.

There was a rich young ruler that came to Jesus. I mean, this guy had it going on. I mean, he could have been on the bachelor. Like he was influential, he had wealth, devoted to God, and he comes to Jesus and he says, “What must I do to gain eternal life? Like, what do I need to do, Jesus, like tell me?” And Jesus says, “Well, what does the Commandments say? Have you murdered anybody?” “Nope. I haven’t done that.” “Committed adultery?” “Nope. I haven’t lied, haven’t like stolen from other people. I honor my mother and father. I’ve done it all, Jesus. I’ve done all the things the Commandments say. But what else? Like, what do I need to do?” And Jesus says, okay, “Well, why don’t you go sell all your stuff and give it away to the poor. And then you’ll inherit eternal life.”

This is how the rich young ruler responds in verse 22 of Matthew 19. “When the young man heard this, he went away sad because he had great wealth. Then Jesus turned to his disciples. Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.'” Like, what is Jesus saying there? Like really? Like he says it’s harder for a camel, the big, old animal camel with the humps to go through the eye of a needle? That little hole in the top of a needle that like thread goes through? It’s easier for a camel to go through that than for a rich man to get into heaven. Like really, is heaven only for poor people?

He told the rich young ruler, sell all your stuff and then you’ll get eternal life. Like do my bank account needs to be zero to be able to go to heav

en? Like get rich people eliminated. That’s not what Jesus was saying at all. He was actually getting to a principle. He was getting down to the core. He was taking things a little bit deeper. And to explain this, I wanna go back to the verse in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapter 6, verse 24, when Jesus says, “You cannot serve both God and money.”

You see, that word money in the original language is this phrase that was used in the ancient world in the first century, this Greek phrase, the spirit of mammon. The spirit of mammon is literally, it’s almost like the spirit of the world, the spirit of worldly ways, the spirit of finding your worth in things of this world. So what Jesus is saying, this verse is saying, “Hey, you cannot both serve God and this world at the same time.” You can’t be controlled by the spirit of God and the spirit of mammon, the spirit of this world at the same time. You’ve got to choose one or the other. There’s a line in the sand.

And if you wanna choose to serve money in the ways of this world, you’re free to do so. But when you do this, you’re no longer able to serve God at the same time. See, that’s what he was exposing to the rich young ruler. He was sharing with the rich young ruler. He was telling him, look, there’s this reality that you can’t be self-sufficient. That the rich young ruler, what Jesus was saying when he said, well, are you following all the Commandments? Do you see what he was doing? He was literally showing the rich young ruler he thought that his eternal life was based on all of his efforts and how well he did things. And Jesus was saying, “Look, you’re finding so much value on how well you do things you’re missing the point of what it means to be reliant on something that is eternal.”

When Jesus says it’s harder for a rich man to get into heaven than a camel to go through the eye of a needle, he’s not saying it because rich people and wealthy people and people that have means can’t get into heaven. He’s saying there is a tendency that when people are wealthy to find their worth and their identity in their stuff. And do you know that doesn’t matter if we have a lot or a little? Like how much we have does not dictate whether or not we find our worth in things.

So this isn’t just for rich… This is basically when we find ourselves as people, our identity in things that are not eternal, we miss out on this thing called eternal life. And so we find ourselves in this place where we are self-sufficient. And Jesus is exposing this. You see, self-sufficiency always, always suffocates God’s sufficiency. And God’s sufficiency will always suffocate self-sufficiency. Like you can’t be God sufficient and self-sufficient at the same time.

Jesus is saying, look, we need to unhook. You need to unhook from this world, from you being self-sufficient and start learning what it means to be God sufficient in our lives. See, money in itself is not a bad thing. Paul, to his letter to Timothy, his disciple said very plainly, that the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil, not money itself. Money is just a thing, but it’s the love of it. It’s finding our worth in it that is the breeding ground, that is the soil that evil things start to grow in our hearts. And so there is a way out. And the way that we unhook ourselves from the spirit of self-sufficiency is on a road called generosity.

And driving on this road called generosity, we’re fueled by this thing called gratitude. Like, it is impossible to be grateful and have gratitude and greedy at the exact same time. You’re either greedy or you’re grateful. You can’t be both. And obedience and generosity or worship or natural outcomes of this spirit of gratitude. And so this is what it looks like. It’s not what we have that matters, but it’s realizing who it belongs to. And when I realize that everything I have, it’s almost like I’m a turtle on a fence post. Like I didn’t get there on my own. Like God is the one who helped engage me to be able to get to this place. It’s not what I have that manifests, who it belongs to and how I respond in thankfulness to who it belongs to, this is this thing called gratitude. And as we engage gratitude, we can’t help but be generous.

And so we realize we’re not owners. We’re stewards. Stewardship is the goal. You see, stewardship is literally determining what we’re gonna do with what we’re given. Stewardship is realizing I’m not the owner of this. Like, I don’t own this, when you’re a steward, the pressure is gone. I’m just stewarding and I’m managing this. Stewardship is the goal. Stewardship is resolving what story we’re gonna write with the resources that we have been given.

So do you guys actually see how we can unhook ourselves from the pressures and the worries of this world when it comes to our finances and our money? That our giving and the statement that we give with our giving and our generosity, our giving isn’t literally, it’s not a gift for others. It’s not a gift from God. He doesn’t need our money. It’s a gift for us. Like we need to give.

And I’ve heard people say like, man, I just don’t think like, man, I’m not sure I can afford to give. Well, can I challenge that and say, I don’t think we can afford not to give because of what it does in our hearts knowing because we are so tied to the things that we have in this world. You know, about seven years ago, my wife and I, we were pastoring a church and we sensed the Lord calling us to resign. And I was like, I wish I could tell you. I was like really a faithful man of God, like pastoring, like, “Oh, God’s gonna provide all that.” I’m just not that spiritual. Like I was like white knuckle holding on like, no way, I like doing this. And I really liked that paycheck coming in the first and third weeks of the month. But ultimately, we resigned. And again, I was terrified. I was fearful, all this. And then we stepped into this role as missionaries with Campus Crusade up in Northern Colorado. And so we’re missionaries. We literally live on the generosity and the giving of other people towards our ministry.

And let me tell you, like that was a step of faith. And I can also tell you, I can testify to this, like I’ve never missed a meal. I know you can’t tell, but like I’ve never like missed a meal. I have always slept in a bed under a roof unless, you know, those disastrous camping trips we took as a family, but God has provided every step of the way for us.

You know, I have friend of mine who, him and his wife, you know, a few times a year, will write a nice check towards our ministry account. Towards the end of last year, he comes to me, He said, “Hey Reza, I just want you to know that, you know, I lost my job this year with COVID and all this.” And we had a conversation. I was like, “Man, I’m so sorry. Man, that’s a horrible thing.” And trying to really care for him and listen to his heart and attune to kind of what he’s going through and the trust issues with God and money. And I’m thinking in my mind, I was like, oh, this probably means he can’t give to our ministry accounts, so I wanna let him off the hook.

I was like, “Hey bro, I know, man, you guys have been so generous to us throughout the years. I just wanna know, man, we have no expectation in 2021 to give. Like just want you to know, man, we release you from that.” And he goes, “Are you kidding me? Like I wanted to meet with you to tell you, we actually made a decision to set up a reoccurring gift online.” And it’s not a lot of money, but he said, “We can’t give a lot, but we’ve sat together and we made this decision that we’re going to give monthly because this is a statement that we’re making that we realize that everything we have, whether we have a lot or a little, it all belongs to God anyway.” Like that was humbling to hear from my buddy who had just lost his job.

And I wish I can come up here and tell you, well, ever since he made that decision, he’s wealthy and all this prosperity has come to him. That hasn’t happened. In some ways, it’s actually got worse for him, but he made a statement. And I wonder if maybe a step for us would be to set up something reoccurring. Maybe just simply just taken that step of saying, I’m going to set this up online with Mission Hills or an organization or something to say, there’s an organization that tugs on my heart, that I’m gonna set up something reoccurring because it’s good for me to make that decision to say, I’m going to release myself from being an owner of the stuff that I have and release it to God.

You see, generosity is not about being wealthy. It’s about being available. And it’s not about how much or how little. Like we can be available with whatever we have. We can all be available. We can choose to whether be want to be entrusted or we wanna be entitled. What are we gonna do with the things that we’ve been entrusted with?

You know, there’s this famous pastor theologian that I just absolutely love from the 50s and 60s, 70s named A. W. Tozer. He’s got this quote written on my desk, and this quote is written and it says, “What you believe about God is the most important thing about you.” Because what you believe to be true about God, what you believe to be true about eternity is the most important thing because what we believe influences our actions. And so what we believe to be true about God will live out in the ways that we spend, in the ways that we view and handle and the money and the stuff that God has given us to steward.

You know, missions is a huge part of what God does around the world, sharing his Gospel. Some of you may remember, first time I stepped on the stage about two years ago, I shared my story. I grew up Muslim. I was a Muslim kid playing football at Colorado State. And there was some missionaries with this group called Athletes in Action and they shared the Gospel with me. And I became a believer. Do you know those missionaries? He grew up at Mission Hills Church. 24 years ago when he shared the Gospel with me, he was a missionary of Mission Hills Church.

And it blows me away. Every time I come and stand on the stage, thinking to myself, I’m standing here literally because of these people that gave 24 years ago to missions and they were generous. I’m standing here because of that. It’s incredible when you think about some of this stuff. So let me just give us a few next steps. If you’re not giving anything, I would encourage you to start giving just something. I don’t care what it is. Just start giving something. And if you’re already giving something, can I encourage you to make that a reoccurring percentage, 2%, 3%, 4%, whatever percent you want, just set something that you’re gonna do to give, to again make the statement that I realized that my stuff isn’t mine.

And if you’re giving a percentage, great. Maybe step with the tithe and just start making that 10%. Or if you’re already doing that, maybe your next step is like a spirit-led sacrificial giving, asking God, hey, what organizations are out there that tug on my heartstrings that I wanna give to? That I wanna be generous towards? And I’ll also say this, and the leadership of the church has released us to say this as leaders and to say, if you don’t feel comfortable giving to Mission Hills, for whatever reason, totally fine. Find an organization that connects with your values and start giving somewhere. Again, this isn’t about it being good for us here. This is about us understanding that we are taking the next step in our discipleship, in our apprenticeship of what it looks like to be a follower of Jesus. It’s best for us in the way that we release the grip that we have on our lives.

Let’s pray, Lord, thank you so much for your incredible grace and mercy in our lives. Thank you that we recognize what we have is not ours. That Lord, we try to white knuckle and hold on to things so tightly, but we recognize God that you are the one who owns all things and you’ve given us this great opportunity to steward and to live this out. So Lord, thank you for this time together. May you prompt us and lead us in your name we pray. Amen.

AMAZING JESUS

CRAIG SMITH | read his bio

MARCH

27/28

Luke 7:1-10

We finish our series on generosity with a story of a man who amazed Jesus. Barriers that otherwise exist can be broken down by sharing through acts of humble generosity that are not designed to benefit the giver in any way. God was the original giver when he gave us Jesus; you can become more generous too, which makes you more like Jesus and has you joining him on mission.

SERMON TRANSCRIPT

Craig: Well, hey, we’re finishing up a series today called Crazy Generous. We’ve been in it for the last few weeks. And if you’re just joining us, let me get you caught up real quick. Being crazy generous is actually one of our core values as a church. It is something we strive to be. And here’s the way we say it. We say we are crazy generous, meaning we mirror God’s outrageous grace with outrageous giving because we believe that Christianity is rooted in generosity. That Christianity itself is rooted in the generosity of God. One of the most famous verses in the Bible, you don’t even have to have been in church before. There’s a good chance you’ve seen this verse or heard somebody quoted or seen somebody hold it up on a sign at a ball game. One of the most famous verses in the Bible is John 3:16. It’s this, “For God so loved the world that he…” anybody, he gave this generosity, right? “He gave his only Son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.” That’s generosity.

And so we believe that when we give and when we grow in generosity, all we’re really doing is we’re imitating the generosity that God himself has modeled for us. And that’s one of the reasons we’re so passionate about being generous as a church. Another reason we’re really passionate about generosity as a church is because we believe this, we really believe this to be true. It’s that being generous is good for us. Being generous as good for us. We often say, actually, is when we’re talking about generosity, “Hey, if for whatever reason, you’re not comfortable giving to Mission Hills, that’s fine. Don’t give here but give somewhere.” Give somewhere because we believe that growing in generosity and being generous is good for us.

And I think it plays out in a couple different ways. One of the ways it plays out is that the more we use resources to serve others, the less we serve our resources. The more we use our resources to serve others, the less we serve our resources. This is why Jesus said you cannot serve both God and money. That there was always a tension between these two things. Now, nobody sets out to serve money, of course, but the more that we hoard our resources, what we hold tight to them, the more our resources have a tight hold on us. And so the issue is never really how much money we have, it’s how much our money has us. But when we use our resources to serve others, that’s the antidote to that potential temptation to really kind of come under the control of our resources. And so that’s one of the ways that being generous is good for us. Another way that being generous is good for us as simply this fact, God blesses generosity. God blesses generosity. That’s why Jesus himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Now, God blesses the generosity in a variety of ways. Sometimes when we use our resources to be generous, God blesses us with more resources to be generous with. I’ve seen that in my own life. It seems sometimes that the tighter I hold to my resources, the tighter my resources are, the fewer I have of them. And then the looser that I hold them, the more I have. That’s one of the ways that God often blesses. That’s not always the case. Okay? It’s not a formula that always leads to that, but it is often the case. But God always blesses generosity. If not in that way, there are other ways that God blesses generosity, but he always blesses generosity.

And today we’re gonna lean into a couple of unexpected blessings that come from generosity. So why don’t you go ahead and grab a Bible and join me in Luke chapter 7. I’m gonna be starting in verse 1 today, Luke chapter 7, verse 1. While you’re turning there, let me just say this. If you haven’t downloaded the Mission Hills app, encourage you to do that. You can follow along with the message notes and the Scripture, you can take your own notes. And we’re gonna do something kind of fun today that’s made a little bit easier by the app. You don’t have to have the app to be part of this, but it’s an easier way to do it. So, encourage you to maybe just take a moment right now, download the Mission Hills app. But Luke chapter 7, verse 1 says this, “Now, when Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum.” Now, Capernaum is a region in the nation of Israel. So it’s a place where a bunch of Jewish people live. It’s a Jewish region. Okay? Now, they’re in Capernaum, there’s a centurion’s servant whom his master valued highly was sick and about to die.

So he’s in a province, but in the Jewish province, there’s a centurion. Now, it’s a Roman centurion, it’s a Roman soldier in command of other Roman soldiers. And what we need to understand is that this man was the enemy from the Jewish perspective. From the Jewish perspective, a Roman centurion was the enemy of God’s people. About 100 years before this, Rome had conquered Israel and as they often did, they put soldiers all throughout the land to keep the people in check, remind them who’s they were. They were Romans. Okay? Now, from a Jewish perspective that made the centurion the enemy. And I think if you try to put it in modern terms, try to imagine that that ISIS or the Taliban conquered the United States of America and then they put soldiers all around the country to keep us in line. How would you feel every time you saw one of those soldiers? Probably not great, right? If you can begin to feel even just a little bit of that, then you understand how it is the Jewish people would have thought about this centurion. He was the enemy of God’s people. Okay? And he had a servant, a servant that was valued high. Actually, the original Greek says that he was precious to him, meaning he loved this man.

And the centurion heard of Jesus and he sent some elders of the Jews to ask him to come and to heal his servant. So he’s got a sick servant that he values highly, he’s precious to him, and he sends some elders of the Jews to go to Jesus to heal his servant. Now, what’s interesting about that is it’s strange. It’s strange that the Jewish elders went. Now, the Jewish elders, they were the older people in the society. They were incredibly highly respected, very valuable members of society, everybody looked up to them. And what’s interesting is that as a centurion, this Roman soldier did not have the authority to get Jewish elders to serve as his messengers. Do you hear me, church? That was not under, sort of, the umbrella of his authority. He had all kinds of authority to do certain things, but he did not have the authority to command the Jewish elders, highly respected members of that society, to do personal errands for him. They were under no obligation to do this. But they did it.

And what we need to understand, this is so important to understand in the story, what we need to understand is they did it because they wanted to, the elders wanted to do this for the centurion. They did it voluntarily, did a favor for him. He said, “Hey, would you go find out if he’s able to help?” And they said, “Yes, we will.” And they went. They chose to do that. They wanted to do that. And the question we wanna ask is, why would they wanna do that? Why would the elders of the Jewish people want to do a favor for the enemy of the Jewish people?

Let’s read on. “Now, when they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him.” And that’s interesting too. They pleaded earnestly with him. And the Greek word that’s translated there as earnestly can also be translated as eagerly. They’re quick to do this. Or it can also be translated as hard. They pleaded hard with him. In other words, they didn’t go to Jesus and go, “Hi. So, there’s this guy, he’s one of the Romans, he’s got a servant who’s sick. Like, who cares, right? But, well, but he wanted us to know…he wanted us to come and ask if you’d be willing to help him.” That’s not what happened. They went, they were happy to go, and when they got to Jesus, they got right in his face and they’re like, “Hey, you need to do this.” They worked hard to convince him. They were excited about this. They worked hard to convince Jesus to do that. Okay. So not only are they willing to do a favor for an enemy of God’s people, but they’re working hard to convince Jesus that he needs to do it. Why would that be? Why would they be willing to do that?

Here’s what they said. They said, “This man deserves to have you do this.” Literally, in the Greek, it’s, “This man is worthy to have you do this because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” Two things explain their willingness to go and their willingness to lean into it, to really try to convince Jesus to do that. They say, “He loves our nation. He loves the nation of Israel. He loves God’s people and he’s built our synagogue.” Now, those two things together, that he loves God’s people, and he built a synagogue for them, those two things coming together, tells us something that we probably know about this man, and that is that we think he was probably a God-fearer. The centurion was probably a God-fearer. And in the word God-fearer, it was a phrase that the first-century Jewish people used to talk about a Gentile, a non-Jewish person who worshiped the Jewish God. Okay? So even though he’s not Jewish, he apparently worshiped the Jewish God. And we see that because he loved God’s people and he was willing to build them a synagogue. Okay? We know that.

Now, if you don’t know what a synagogue is, a synagogue was essentially like a local church, okay, for the Jewish people. It was a place they could come to learn from the Bible, it was a place they could come to worship God together. And so he loved God’s people and he built them a church. Probably did that because he was a God-fearer, that he worshiped God himself. That’s probable here. We don’t know for sure, right? The centurion was definitely generous. Like, we know that for sure, right? No question about it. He was definitely generous. Probably a God-fearer, but definitely generous. And why we say that? Well, he built them a church. He built them a synagogue, right? I mean, in and of itself, that’s a pretty clear sign of his generosity, but it’s actually more generous than we tend to realize on the surface, because here’s the thing. As a Gentile, even though he might’ve worshiped the Jewish God, as a Gentile, he was not welcome in a Jewish synagogue. You with me, church? He would not have been allowed to come into that place.

So think about this. He paid for it, but he couldn’t pray in it. But he built it anyway. That’s generosity, isn’t it? Like, I’m not sure that there’s a clearer picture of generosity to be found anywhere, because here’s the thing. Generosity is the art of blessing others with no expectation of benefiting ourselves, right? That’s what it is. It’s the art. And I call it the art, by the way, because this isn’t easy. It’s amazing how often our motives are actually not really about others. Even when we think we’re being generous, there’s a part of us that’s actually doing something for ourselves. So it’s not an easy thing. That’s why I call it the art. It’s the art of learning how to bless others with no expectation of benefiting ourselves. But that’s what this man is doing. He’s built a church, a synagogue that he really has no opportunity probably ever to go into.

So why did he do that? Well, I think we have to understand that he saw this as an act of worship. Even though he couldn’t go into that place to worship, the building of that place himself was an act of worship. And that’s true of all generosity, honestly. The practice of generosity is an expression of worship. Practice of generosity is an expression of worship. We sometimes have this very limited idea about what constitutes worship. We tend to think, well, worship is singing songs or it’s praying prayers, things like that. But the reality is that biblically, worship is about submitting to God. Okay? It’s about submitting to God and his purposes in our lives. And when we do that, we’re worshiping. And one of the ways we do that is beginning to realize that all of our resources come from God and when we begin to use them for God’s purposes, even when we don’t benefit from it, maybe even especially when we don’t benefit from it, we’re actually using our resources as God intends, and that’s submission, that’s worship.

So the practice of generosity is an act of worship. And I believe for this man, even though he couldn’t worship in the synagogue, building the synagogue was an act of worship. But if you think about it for a moment, it’s an especially powerful act of worship, right? Because it’s not just a single act of worship, it’s an act of worship that led to more worship, didn’t it? He built their church and then there was more worship. They were able to come and worship, and so really, his acts of worship multiplied additional acts of worship. His act led to more worship. That’s a pretty powerful thing, isn’t it?

And it’s interesting how often we see that same principle work its way out through Scripture. When Paul was the City of Corinth and he was talking to the Corinthians there, he took up an offering to use to further the work of God, to take the Gospel into the rest of the world. And check this out. This is what he said to them in thanking them for generosity. He said, “You 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.” In other words, your generosity results in more worship, right? He said, “The service that you perform by giving is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people, but it’s also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” That’s more worship. “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, your generosity, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the Gospel. Others will praise God,” he says. That’s more worship, right? This is a powerful thing to realize about contributing to God’s work is that when we give to the work of God, we multiply the worship of God. You hear me, church?

When we give to the work of God, it’s not only an act of worship, but it’s an act of multiplying worship. 00:13:06]. When we give to the work of God, we actually multiply the worship of God. That’s what this man is doing. And that’s what we did as a church in that church plant in Peru. We gave, and that was an act of worship for us, but it’s not an act that stops. It’s an act that continues to go on in multiples. There are more people worshiping God, there’ll be more people in heaven worshiping God because of your generosity. That’s what generosity often does and that’s what this man is doing. He’s multiplying the work of God. He’s multiplying the worship of God by his generosity.

And for this reason, I think, that the next verses this, “And so Jesus went with them.” Once he’s heard about this man and his generosity, Jesus went with them. Now, he was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to him to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself because I did not deserve to have you come under my roof,” which is an interesting thing because isn’t that exactly what he sent the Jewish elders to find out if Jesus would do? Apparently not. Here’s what I actually think was happening. This Roman centurion heard about Jesus. He thought, well, maybe he could help. But then, of course, he would have naturally thought, but as far as Jesus, as a Jewish person is concerned, I’m his enemy. So I’m not sure if he’d be willing to help. And so he called some Jewish elders, said, “Hey, would you go and find out if Jesus would be willing to help?” My guess is the plan was that if Jesus said he would be willing to help, then the centurion would’ve gotten some other servants, they would have gotten together a stretcher, and they would have taken the sick servant to Jesus.

But the Jewish elders got overzealous. The Jewish elders not only went to ask, “Would you be willing to help,” they went, “So you really need to help, and you need to come with us right now. Come on.” And Jesus is like, “Okay.” And so they’re going. And then the man in his house looks and he sees they’re coming, he’s like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s not what I expected. That’s not what I asked you to do. You’ve gone above and beyond.” But think about that for a moment. They’ve gone above and beyond for their enemy, right? Roman soldier, Roman centurion, he’s the enemy of their people. Not only have they been willing to do a favor for him, but they’ve gone above and beyond and tried to convince Jesus to go beyond what this man was even asking for.

Why would they do that? And I think the answer is because he won them over with his generosity. I mean, this is an incredibly powerful thing. It’s one of these unexpected blessings that comes from generosity. Listen to me, generosity breaks down barriers and opens doors. Generosity breaks down barriers and it opens doors. That’s what’s happening here. His generosity has destroyed the barrier of antagonism. It’s destroyed the barrier of anger. It’s destroyed the barrier of bitterness. There’s a relationship happening because of his generosity. Generosity breaks down barriers and it opens doors.

If you think about it, the church in Peru, that’s exactly why Compassion has, 100% success rate with church plants, which is unheard of, but they’ve got it. They got 100% track record and the reason is because when a church is planted through Compassion, an American church partnership, the church goes in, and even before the building is built, they enroll hundreds of kids in that community in the Compassion program, people get a chance to sponsor them. They start taking care of those kids. They get food, and clothing, and clean water, and medical care, and education, and the Gospel. And they do that before the church opens and then eventually when the church opens, people flood the church every time and the reason they come is to go, “Hey, I don’t know about this whole Jesus thing, but his people are incredible.”

So, we probably need to find out about Jesus then. That’s why they’re successful, because the generosity that God’s people show in those villages, in those communities, it’s breaking down barriers and it’s opening doors. It’s a powerful thing. I was thinking about it this week. You know, this is a difficult week here in America, right? We’ve gotten more gun violence; we have more mass violence. We’ve also got more racial violence. I mean, for the last couple of weeks, it seems like more of the same and you wonder, what’s gonna fix it? Right? What do we have to do? And here’s what I can’t help but wonder. As I look at this and as I look at the way that these Jewish elders responded to somebody who should have been their enemy and I find myself wondering this, I wonder if maybe the answer is generosity. Maybe the answer is that we somehow figure out what it looks like to be generous to the people that we disagree with because here’s the reality. I’ve seen it myself. Maybe you have. It’s really hard to stay against someone whose generosity keeps saying they’re for you.

You hear me, church? It’s hard to maintain animosity against somebody. It’s hard to keep being against somebody whose generosity keeps saying, “I’m for you.” We don’t necessarily agree. We may be all over the map and things, but I’m for you and I express that through generosity, it breaks down barriers and opens doors. And I wonder if maybe that’s something that God might be challenging us to. Maybe that’s some of the long-term solutions to the problems that we face as a culture, it’s actually becoming more generous. Kind of a bonus thought for the day. But it clearly worked here, right? They should have been enemies, but they weren’t because this man’s generosity. They convinced Jesus to come, and as soon as he saw Jesus coming, he sent servants to go, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s not what I expected. I just wanted to know if you’d be willing to help. I don’t think I’m worthy to have you under my roof.” He said this, he said, “That is why I didn’t even consider myself worthy to come to you. Just say the word, my servant will be healed.” He said, “I didn’t think that I was worthy to have you under my roof. I didn’t even think I was worthy to come to you myself, that’s why I sent them.”

And here we find another thing about this man that’s really important, which is that we find out that he’s humble, right? He’s humble. He doesn’t think he’s all that and a bag of chips. His generosity clearly wasn’t intended to create influence and create opportunities, he was generous just because it was the right thing to do. This is a humble man, which shouldn’t be surprising because here’s the reality, is that generosity and humility go hand in hand. Generosity, in fact, generosity without humility is self-serving. If the two don’t come together, it’s not really generosity. It’s actually self-service. And it’s remarkable to me how easy it is to convince ourselves that we’re being generous, we’re blessing others with no expected benefit to ourselves when in reality, we’re actually being generous for the sake of what it will do for us.

It’s amazing how often sneaks in. I’ll be honest, it snuck into my life and it took me several years to realize what’s happening. My first vocational ministry position, I was a youth pastor at a church, and it was a pretty liberal church. I’m not liberal theologically. I’m pretty conservative. And so you might go, “Why were you at a liberal church?” And the answer is I was young and stupid. I didn’t ask the right questions. I didn’t figure out how liberal they were until I got there. But my wife and I went, “It doesn’t matter. We’re gonna pour into this.” And so we poured ourselves into that, into those kids, into their families, into that church. And, honestly, I think we were pretty generous. I thought of myself as being pretty generous with our time, we were generous with our talent, and we were generous with their treasure because they didn’t have a very big budget, and so we had to pay for an awful lot of stuff in ministry out of our own pockets. And so we were being pretty generous, I thought.

A couple years in, found out there was a group of people who kind of came together and they wanted to get rid of me. They tried to get rid of me. And I’m gonna be honest, that just really hurt. It hurt then and it hurt for years later. We stayed there for another year after we worked through the issues and God blessed us through that, and I was glad that we did. And eventually, God called us on. But even after God called us on, the wound of that continued to sting. And here’s what I found myself saying. And I’m embarrassed to admit this to you as your pastor, but I’m gonna be honest with you. Here’s what I found myself thinking for years after. I remember thinking this. I remember thinking, “We were so generous to them and that’s how they repaid us, stabbing us in the back. We were so generous to them and that’s how they repaid us.” And I thought that for years, and then one day I was in the midst of, kind of, that pity party, “We were so generous and that’s how they repaid us,” and God spoke to me. By the way, everyone always wants God to talk to them. I can tell you, it’s not that great.

God spoke to me and he said, “Hey, Craig. The fact that you can say, ‘I was so generous and that’s how they repaid me,’ means that you were actually expecting to get something pretty good back from it. And that’s not generosity. The reality is, if you can be upset that you didn’t get something back in return for your generosity, you weren’t being generous. You weren’t doing it for them. You weren’t doing it for me, you were doing it for you, at least a little bit.” He was right. He usually is. But I could just tell you from experience, I know how easy it is to get into that place. I think I’m being generous, but without humility, this says, “I’m not important. The giver is not what’s important here and it doesn’t matter if anything ever comes back to me.” Without humility, it’s not really generosity. It’s actually self-service. And that’s not what this man is doing. He’s clearly a humble man. And I think it’s through the lens of humility that we have to read what he says next. He says, “For I myself am a man under authority with soldiers under me and I tell this one go and he goes, and that one come and he comes, and I say to my servant do this and he does it.”

Now, that almost sounds like he’s bragging about how much authority he has, right? But he’s not. What’s the first thing he said? He said, “For I myself am a man under authority.” He’s not bragging about how much authority he has. He’s acknowledging where his authority comes from. He says, “I myself, a man under authority.” In other words, “No authority that I have is actually mine. Yeah, I can say to my servant and my soldiers and they’ll do it, but that’s only because I’ve been loaned some authority from somebody that I’m underneath.” Right? So he says, “My authority really is just on loan to me and I’m only using it for the purpose that it was given to me for.” That’s a powerful recognition and I believe that he carried that recognition into his relationship with God too. He carried that same recognition into thinking about his other resources like his finances. The reality is this, he understood what we have to understand, which is that all of our resources are on loan to us from God for a purpose. All of our resources are on loan to us from God for a purpose and they have to be used for that purpose.

Now, one of the purposes for which God gives us resources is so that we will have our needs met. I don’t want you to think for a moment that that’s not part of it. Absolutely, it is. God loves you as his children and God supplies our needs. But the moment, the very moment that we have even the tiniest bit more than what we actually need, not necessarily than what we want, but the moment we have the tiniest bit more than we actually need, we have to begin asking a really important question, which is this, “What’s the more for? What’s the more for?” We have to ask that question. And here’s the problem. It’s not that it’s a difficult question to answer, the problem is that we never ask ourselves the question because we never think we have more. And the reason we often don’t think that we have more than we need is because we’re probably looking to people who have more than we have and so we’re like, “Well, compared to them, I don’t have very much, so if I don’t have very much, there’s no way it can be more than I need.” Right?

I mean, personally, just to be honest with you, I prefer to look at Bill Gates, right? Well, compared to him, I got nothing, so there’s no way that I can have more and need to ask what the more is for, but that’s not who I should be comparing myself to. If we flip it around, if we compare ourselves, honestly, to the rest of the world, we begin to realize, “Oh, actually, we have a lot more than we thought we did.” In fact, let’s talk about some very sobering statistics, can we? Here’s the thing. If you have more than $500,000 in assets, you’re among the wealthiest 1% of the world’s population. And you’re like, “That’s a whole lot of money.” Yeah. But that includes your house. So if your house, and your car, and your IRAs, and your checking accounts, and all that adds up to more than $500,000, you’re in the top 1% of the world’s wealthiest people. Maybe even that feels like a lot, so how about this? If you earn than $50,000 annually, you’re in the top 1to 2% of the world.

Still feel like a lot? Okay. Let’s bring it down. Let’s bring our sights down. If you have any money saved, a variety of clothes in your closet, two cars in any condition, people are like, “Well, yeah, but you can’t count that car.” Yeah, we can. Four years ago I was driving an Isuzu Rodeo that overheated so often that every time I stopped at a stoplight I had to turn it off. I had a pair of pliers stuck in the window well in the back because if they weren’t there, the window would fall into the door and it would never come back out. Okay? I have to count that car, right? In any condition, and you live in your own home, top 5% of the world. Maybe even that seems like much, so how about this, $25,000 annual. If you earn more than $25,000 annually, top 10% of the world’s richest people. Getting uncomfortable yet? A little bit? How about this. Sufficient food, decent clothes, live in house or apartment, have a reasonably reliable means of transportation, including access to a bus, top 15%. Still feel high? How about this? If you earned more than $1,500 last year, you’re in the top 20% of the wealthiest people in the world. Eighty percent of the world is poorer than you are if you made $1,500 last year.

See what I’m saying? We got to be very careful because if we compare ourselves to those who have more than we do, we’ll never think that we have more than we need and so we’ll never ask this question. We have to ask this question. The moment we have the tiniest bit more than we absolutely need, we have to ask the question, “What’s the more for?” And the answer is it’s to bless others. It’s to accomplish God’s purposes. That’s what the more is for. And that’s what this man understood, and check this out, verse 9, “And when Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him. And turning into the crowd, following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’ And then the man who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.” I love that. Jesus stopped going, he just…servant’s healed. It’s done.

But my favorite part of this whole passage is that verse 9. I love it. He says, “When Jesus heard this, when he heard about this man’s faith, expressed in his generosity, when he heard about this man’s generosity,” what was he? He was…what’s the word, church? He was amazed. I didn’t even know that was an option. I didn’t know amazing Jesus was a possibility. I mean, this is the guy who walked on water, and he calmed storms, and he called dead people out of graves, and he healed the lame and the lepers and made the blind see. I didn’t know amazing Jesus was an option, but this is now my new life goal.

How do you amaze Jesus? Well, this man’s generosity did it. And if you were with us few weeks ago, you may remember we talked about the time that Jesus was watching people as they gave their gifts at the treasury in the temple and one woman came and she put two small coins worth one-sixty-fourth of a day’s wages and he got so excited. He jumped up and he called his disciples and said, “She’s given more than everybody else.” This is not just a one-time thing. We see a pattern here and it says, Jesus gets excited about true generosity. Jesus gets excited about true generosity. If you want to amaze Jesus, and I think as followers of Jesus we should always wanna please Jesus. But what if you could go a step farther? What if you could kick it up a notch? What if you could amaze Jesus? How much fun would that be?

And it’s not surprising that Jesus gets excited about true generosity because Jesus is generosity incarnate, right? He’s the generosity of God made flesh. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life.” That’s generosity. Paul tells us that while we were yet sinners, not deserving of forgiveness, not deserving of a relationship with God, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He generously offered his own life as a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus is generosity incarnate. So, of course, he gets excited about generosity because becoming more generous means that we’re becoming more like Jesus and we’re joining him on mission in the world, which is what we’re all about at Mission Hills, helping people become like Jesus and joining him on mission in the world. And generosity is a very concrete way of moving forward in that. Becoming more generous means we’re becoming more like Jesus and we’re joining him on mission. So, of course, Jesus gets excited about true generosity.

So as we wrap up the series, I just have one question I wanna challenge you to wrestle with. And the question is this, how will I respond to God’s generosity? God doesn’t call us to do anything he hasn’t already done for us so many times over that it’s not even a meaningful comparison. How will we respond to God’s generosity? Now, some of you are listening to this message and you’re not followers of Jesus. In which case, the way you’re gonna respond to God’s generosity is simply to accept it. Maybe for the first time you’re hearing this message and you’re realizing, the light bulb’s coming on, that Christianity is about the generosity of God. Maybe the first time you’ve connected the dots and understood that God loves you so much that he gave his only Son to pay the price for the wrong you’ve done. Jesus died on the cross because he was generous towards you and three days later, he rose from the dead so that he could offer you forgiveness simply by putting your faith in him, by putting your trust in him. That just saying yes to following Jesus from here on out means that you are forgiven of every wrong you’ve ever done. You’re brought into a relationship with God and you get eternal life.

And so if you have not received that gift, that’s how you respond to God’s generosity, you accept it. In fact, let’s give you an opportunity to do that right now. Everybody just close their eyes. Wherever you are, if you’re not a follower of Jesus yet, if you’ve never accepted his gift of forgiveness and a relationship with him, that’s how you respond, by accepting it. And you’re just gonna have a conversation with God. You’re gonna say something like this, just say this after me in your own heart, “God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’m sorry. Thank you for giving your own Son to pay for my sin. Jesus, thank you for generously dying to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead and I understand that you are generously offering me forgiveness. You’re generously offering me a relationship with God. You’re generously offering me eternal life in heaven. I’m ready to receive your gift. Jesus, I’m putting my faith in you. I’m choosing to trust you. Jesus, I’m gonna follow you from here on out. Amen.”

Had several people this weekend make that decision to receive God’s generosity into their own lives. Can we just celebrate those who’ve made that decision? It’s awesome. So excited about that. And if you did make that decision for the first time today, we would love to celebrate it with you. So I’m gonna ask you to do one small thing for me, just to let us know you made the decision. If you’re watching online, you can click the button right below me that says, “I committed my life to Jesus.” If you don’t see that, you can do this. Just text the word Jesus to 888111. Whichever way you do it, same thing is gonna happen. We’re gonna send you a link. We’re gonna take you to some truth. We just want you to have some truth, some information about what it means to have this new relationship with God by faith and we want you to have that so you can begin experiencing this relationship that starts now and goes on forever. So please let us know you’ve made that decision.

So if you weren’t a follower of Jesus until a few moments ago, that that’s how you respond to God’s generosity, you accept it. But what if you already accepted it? Maybe you said yes to following Jesus last week, or last month, or a year ago, or 10 years ago, or 50 years ago. How do you respond to God’s generosity? And the answer is you take your next step of generosity. So we’re gonna do something. I think this is really fun. It’s not something we do very often. In fact, I think we’ve only done it one time in the last four years since I’ve been here. We’re gonna take a special offering. I’m gonna give you an opportunity right now to take a step of generosity and it’s gonna go towards something very, very specific, something I’m excited about this. This man demonstrated his generosity by building a synagogue, but basically building a church that he couldn’t go into. We’re gonna do exactly the same thing.

So excited about what God has done already through the church plant in Peru that we’ve been working with Compassion for the last few months. And we have come to the place that we are committing ourselves to starting a new church plant in Ecuador. Same kind of a deal. One of the poorest of the poor communities. It’s in the Charentza community, in the province of Pastaza in Ecuador. It’s a community in the jungle area. Seventy percent of this community, 70% of this community are young children and living in some of the worst poverty in the world because it’s the only places that Compassion works. We’re partnering with Compassion and also a church in that area. This will be their ninth church plant. They’ve trained up the pastor. He’s ready to go. We’re gonna build that building and get them set up to go and start ministering in this community and it’s gonna be incredible thing. Pastor’s name is Marconi Wambanti. Incredible man of God and we cannot wait to bless him by building his church building, getting this thing going.

And so here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna sing a song and during the song, I wanna encourage you to spend a little bit time praying about what God would have you contribute to this project. If you’re with your wife or your family, I encourage you to put your heads together and talk about what God might be leading you to. One of the families came up to me between the service and they said, “Yeah. Our daughter gave us the number that we decided, yeah, that’s the right one.” So, kids, feel free to join in. Your parents are probably not being generous enough. Just saying. 100% of the offering will go directly to this church plant. See what God would have you give. When the song’s over, we’ll talk about how you can go about being part of this incredible thing.

So we’re gonna worship God with more than words. And we’re gonna worship him with an act of generosity. We’re gonna build a church for some people that desperately need the hope of the Gospel. Maybe we’ll get a chance to set foot in that church someday. Maybe not. But we’re gonna multiply the worship of God by investing in the work of God. So to build that building for them, to launch that church, we need to raise $75,000. And I know some of you are thinking, “Oh, no. That’s the exact amount that I felt like God was calling me to give. And if I give $75,000, then nobody else gets a chance.” That’s okay. It’s okay. Yeah. And I know I’m kind of making a joke about that, but the reality is, that there are people as part of our congregation who have those kinds of means. And if that’s what God’s leading you to do, I want you to do that. If we go above and beyond, we’ll just build some extra churches. Okay? That’s what we’ll do that. All the money is gonna be committed to church planting. Okay? So don’t worry about going above and beyond. You give whatever God has laid on your heart. Okay?

And, by the way, too, you know, listen, we can make a joke about those kinds of numbers, but the reality is that a lot of us not in a position to be able to do that, that’s okay. Maybe all you can give is $5 or $10 or $20. Remember what we said a few weeks ago? Don’t underestimate the power of small gifts when enough people give them. In any given weekend here at Mission Hills, we engage more than 4,000 or 5,000 people. If everybody just gave $20 a person, we’d go over the goal. So whatever God’s led in your heart, just encourage you to give him. A couple of ways you can give…And by the way, you may not be ready to give today. That’s okay. Maybe you need to think about this more. Go home and talk about it with your family. Spend some more time praying about it and just do it later this week. But whether it’s right now, and some of you, I’d encourage you to go ahead and give right now because you’ve got that number and you don’t wanna forget it. You don’t wanna miss out on this opportunity.

So you can give right now or you can do it this week, but here’s a couple of ways you can do it. Number one, you can go to missionhills.org/ecuador. Okay? missionhills.org/ecuador. And you can give that way. You can give by texting. You can go to 28950. I’m actually gonna do that right now. If anybody wants to do it with me, I’m gonna go ahead and text 28950 and I’m gonna put in the body of the message, MHCGlobal. Don’t put a space. MHCGlobal and then a number. Coletta and I decided on a number. I had to divide it by four, just so you know, because I had to do this four times this weekend. Send. Bam. I just got a confirmation thanking me for that contribution. You can drop a check off in the boxes in the way out of here at one of our campuses. On the campuses also, you’ll see some signs with a QR code. You can scan that QR code and it’ll take you directly to that thing.

But this week, just encourage you to pray about this and see what God would have you give and then give. Vest in the work of God and multiply the worship of God and do good for people. And in that way, become a little bit more like Jesus and join him on mission. Can’t wait until next week, be able to announce that we’re ready to get that church plant going. Gonna be awesome. And, of course, next week’s Easter. It’s gonna be really fun to be able to make that announcement about a new church is gonna be opening its doors on the day that we celebrate the open tomb. We didn’t have a body because our Savior was risen. Can’t wait to see you Easter. Make sure you grab a flyer on your way out. Invite somebody to come with you. Gonna have a great time celebrating the resurrection next week and celebrating God’s generosity. God bless. See you next week.