We often struggle to move forward into all that God has for us because we’re held back by things we’ve allowed too strong a grip on our souls. Join us as we look at Jesus’ answers to three critical questions we all need to be asking ourselves: Where’s my treasure? Who’s my master? What’s my worry?
You’re never too poor to experience the freedom that comes from following God’s financial principles and never too rich to experience more of that freedom. This week we look at how we should view our earthly treasure in the interest of advancing heavenly purposes, including steps to grow a generous heart; because God loves a cheerful giver, and that giving may not always come naturally at first.
Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills, so glad to have you with us this weekend. We are starting a new series, really excited about this series, it’s called “Travel Light.” It’s all about getting free of some of the weight that we’re carrying through life that we probably shouldn’t be. As I was getting ready for this series, I saw a great quote. It’s an unknown author, but I thought it was such a powerful question.
Basically, he says, “I wonder how much of what weighs me down isn’t mine to carry.” Anybody feel like maybe you’re going through life with a little extra weight? That was pride. That came out bad. Let’s see. Anybody think they may be going through life and you could travel a little lighter? How about that? We’re gonna be taking a look for the next few weeks at some things that Jesus says about how to get free of some of the weight that honestly we don’t need to be carrying, some of the burdens that really aren’t ours to bear, or maybe the burden that comes because we’re carrying something in the wrong way. And we’re gonna kind of jump into the deep end today, and we’re gonna talk about the burden of money. And all God’s people went, “Oh, yeah, great.”
You know, here’s the thing. When I was a young preacher, actually, for most of my career as a preacher, I have avoided talking on money like the plague, and I think it’s probably because I grew up in the era of the TV evangelists. You guys remember those with the slicked-back hair. And it seems like every time that I came across someone, I was flipping through channels, it seemed like every time I heard anything out of their mouth, it was about money. And it was always, “Send me your money.” In fact, I vividly remember this. I don’t remember who it was, but he was a pretty famous TV preacher. And he basically…his pitch for money was, “Well, God told me that if you don’t send me this amount of money, He’s gonna take me home.” And I remember thinking, “Well, bon voyage,” right?
And I just hated that. I hated it, and I hated that association of the church and getting people’s money. And so for a long, long time, honestly, I avoided talking on money like the plague. But several years ago, God began to stir in my heart, and he brought me to this realization, which is that I actually can’t really love. I’m not loving the people that I’m called to lead unless I talk about the things that have the most potential to do you harm, the most potential to weigh you down and to keep you free from really following Jesus and experiencing everything that God has for you. And the reality is that money is at the top of that list.
If you just do a Google search, what you’re gonna find is that, you know, when people are surveyed on why their marriage ended in a terrible divorce or why they’re going through life with tremendous amount of anxiety, money is near the top or at the top of the list every single time they do the survey. Money has tremendous potential to weigh us down. And interestingly enough, that’s true, whether you have a little bit of it or a lot of it. It’s true whether you think you have an excess of money, and some of you do, or whether you have an absence of money, and some of you do. Money has that potential no matter how much.
In fact, here’s a truth that I’ve come to understand. The influence money has on us doesn’t depend on how much money we have. Do you hear me, Church? The influence money has on us doesn’t depend on the amount of money that we have. You can be in that side of the spectrum where you go, “I have an absence of money,” and money can weigh you down. Concerns about money can absolutely do damage to your life. Or you can be on the side of the spectrum, you’ve got an excess of it, and you recognize that, and yet it still finds its way into your worry place, right? It still finds itself one of those things that constantly you’re struggling with.
And so, I didn’t always realize that. I didn’t realize that at all. In fact, I’m just gonna be really honest with you. There was a time in my life that I was not living according to God’s principles when it came to money. And I had a reason for it, and the reason was I was too poor to follow his principles. I was in a place in my life I’ve shared with you, maybe you’ve heard me say that, you know, there was a time in my life, not all that long ago, where I was working three part-time jobs, and all those part-time incomes together didn’t add up to a full-time income. And I really felt like I didn’t have enough money to pay attention to God’s principles for money.
Here’s the way I rationalize like, “Well, I’m in full-time vocational ministry, so, you know, we could talk about time, talent, and treasure.” And I was like, “Well, my time is all God’s, 100% of my time. I’m being super, super generous with my time and I’m being super generous with all my talent. All my talents have been given to God. So, I don’t have any treasure. So surely, God won’t mind if I don’t give him any of it because I don’t have it to give.” And that made sense to me.
But it was actually in that phase of my life that God began to speak to me, and he kind of told me, “You don’t understand. I don’t need your money. But you need to be careful about how you handle money because, otherwise, it’s gonna have an influence on you that you don’t want it to have.” And so it’s actually in that season of my life, where I didn’t have much money, I was definitely in that absence side of the spectrum, that God began to speak. And I began to make some small changes in my life. And I’m so, so glad that I did.
And I really wish somebody had taught me these principles when I was a whole lot younger because what I’ve discovered is this. What I’ve discovered is that you’re never too poor, you’re never too poor to experience the freedom that comes from following God’s financial principles. Some of you are here today, and you feel like you’ve got all kinds of extra money. I’m not gonna ask for a raise, a show of hands. Some of you are here today going, “I don’t have any,” and I’ve been there. But you’re never too poor to experience the freedom that comes from following God’s financial principles. And I would say you’re never too rich, you’re never too generous even, to experience more of that freedom.
And so I’m gonna speak today on the subject of money, and I want you to understand that I’m doing it for your good. This is not to benefit the church. This is for you. Now, maybe you got some baggage when it comes to the church and money, and I recognize that. And I’m not gonna spend a lot of time defending my desire to talk on this subject, but I will say with absolute sincerity, you have to choose whether you trust me or not. But I will say with absolute sincerity that what I’m gonna tell you today, what Jesus is gonna tell you today is for your good. It’s for your good.
I want you to go ahead and grab a Bible. We’re gonna be in the Gospel of Matthew for the next few weeks, the Gospel of Matthew chapter 6. We’re gonna be starting in verse 12. I’m sorry, verse 19. And Jesus is speaking. It’s interesting. This is what we call the Sermon on the Mount. And what happens at this time was that Jesus kind of pulled away from some of the crowds. He took his closest followers to him and he began to teach them some things. And what’s interesting to me is the people he’s talking to are not rich people. They’re not people that have a lot of financial resources. Actually, they’re on the poor side of the spectrum, and yet what Jesus says to them has a lot to do with money. And so, again, I say you’re never too poor to pay attention to God’s financial principles.
Jesus said this. He said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But instead store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart is also.” Let’s break this down. He says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Now, what he’s saying here’s really pretty simple, right? What he’s saying is, “Don’t store up treasure that can be taken,” right? It’s all he’s saying. Don’t store up treasure that can be taken because earthly stuff can be taken. It can be destroyed, or it can be stolen.
Now, in the ancient world, the ways they normally stored up wealth was in the form of either, you know, fine fabrics or precious metals. And he says the problem with fine fabrics is, you know, moths get a hold of them, and they lose their value when the moths eat them, or rats get hold of them, and rats chew them up and gnaw them up, and they lose their value. I lost a backpack recently. Some mice came in, and I don’t know what was in the bottom of that backpack that they wanted. But there is no bottom to that backpack anymore. Anything I try to put in there is just gonna fall right out. Okay. So that still happens, right? And that would happen in the ancient world, or precious metals, right?
You know, people could break in and steal those things. And so this point is just, you know, don’t store up treasure that can be taken. And that’s true in the modern world as well, isn’t it? How we store up treasure and the kind of treasure we store up may have changed, but the reality is they can still all be taken from us, right? Maybe we store up equity in a house, right? But that house can burn down or the neighborhood can kind of go south, and we can lose the value that’s in that house. Maybe we put money in stocks, and those stocks can go down, right? Or maybe you’re like, “Well, that’s why I don’t do any of that stuff. I go with cash.” That’s my father-in-law. He didn’t trust any of that stuff, and so it’s all about cash.
Do you remember cash? Remember that. I was talking to somebody the other day, and I was wearing a pair of pants that I hadn’t worn in a while and had my hand in the pocket. And while I’m talking, I was like I found this piece of paper in my pocket, and I was trying to figure out like what could that be because it was weird. I was like, “I know it’s paper, but it’s like kind of soft. It’s a little bit fuzzy.” And when the conversation was over, I pulled it out. I was like, “Oh, it’s a dollar bill. I remember these vaguely.” Like, I don’t even carry a wallet anymore. I don’t do that. But my father-in-law, that’s where he’s like, “That’s the only thing you can really trust.” And I’m like, “You can’t trust that.” That can go away too, it can go actually in the exact same ways that it could go away in the ancient world. In fact, it can be eaten.
I got a picture for you. Can you throw that picture up here? Yeah. So this is the remains of about $18,000 worth of Indian rupees that was destroyed when a rat got into the ATM. It’s an expensive snack, right? But it can be eaten. It can also be devalued. Like we like to think that’s never gonna happen in America, but it’s happened in other countries, no reason why it couldn’t happen here. Your cash can suddenly become worthless. I was in Zimbabwe a few years ago, and they were telling me about a time that their economy just absolutely tanked. And they showed me, I kid you not, I got another picture. A $100 trillion bill, which at the time was worth about $40. You can actually buy it on Amazon for $28 right now. It just lost all of its value. So it can be devoured. It can be devalued. And people can steal it. And even if it’s not cash, they can steal it, right? They can hack your bank account. They can get your credit card numbers, and they can use your credit cards. They can get a hold of your social security number and open credit cards and route up bills in your name. I mean, all that stuff can be taken, right? And so Jesus says, “Hey, don’t store up treasure that can be taken.”
Now, I need to say this because this is important. Jesus is not saying it’s wrong to save. Jesus is not saying it’s wrong to save. In fact, the Bible throughout the Bible talks a lot about saving in very positive turns. We could look at dozens of places. I just give you one example. This is Proverbs 13:22. God says this. He says, “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children.” Pay attention to that. He didn’t say a wise person. He didn’t say a smart person. He didn’t say a financially shrewd person. No, He says a good person. That’s two thumbs up from God, right? A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children. That’s their grandchildren. The only way to do that is to save your treasure, right? So clearly, the Bible is okay with saving.
The key though is who you’re saving for. What does Proverbs say? Proverbs says, “A good person saves their treasure for their children’s children, for others.” And notice, if you go back to Matthew 6:19, Jesus said, “Do not store up treasure for yourselves.” That’s the key. Jesus is not opposed to saving, but he is concerned about saving only for ourselves. And why? Why is he worried about that? Well, he says it in verse 21. He says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That’s Jesus’s primary concern.
He says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” In other words, where you’re investing the most, what’s gonna happen is your heart follows after. In fact, he’s giving us a really important principle here. And this is the principle. It’s that our hearts follow our investments. Our hearts follow our investments. Wherever we’re investing the most, our hearts inevitably find themselves, and with our hearts comes our trust, right? And so what happens is wherever we’re investing, ultimately, we find ourselves loving those things the most and trusting them the most. And that’s Jesus’s concern.
His concern isn’t with so much with saving treasure. His concern is with the inevitable process by which we come to trust earthly treasure, which is a dangerous thing because earthly treasure can be taken. So he says, “I don’t want you trusting it.” The problem is our hearts follow our investments. Now, that’s not an instantaneous thing. It’s a process. It happens over time. In fact, notice what he says. He says, “Where your treasure is.” That’s at the present. Where you’re investing right now, your heart will be also. That’ll happen in the future. He says, “Where you’re investing now over time will become the place where your heart is.” But it’s a process. It takes place over a period of time. It’s not an instantaneous thing. Our hearts don’t jump to those places.
In fact, we might even say…at this point, we might say that where we’re investing, our hearts are drifting. And the reality is we’re all investing in a lot of different things. Our time and our talent and our treasure, we’re investing all of our stuff in different kinds of things. But if you look at all the different things that we invest in, what you’re gonna find is that all of them fit into one of two categories, earthly treasure or heavenly treasure. And Jesus says we have to pay attention to that because where we’re investing, our hearts are drifting. Now, it’s both good news and bad news that it happens over time. But the good news is this. Maybe you’re here and you’re thinking, “Hey, if I’m honest, the reality is I’m investing pretty heavily in earthly stuff. I am.” Does that mean that my heart’s locked up there, that my trust has come to be in that? No, not necessarily.
And the better news is like you can do something about it because it’s not an instantaneous thing. You can always course correct. In fact, here’s the good news. It’s never too late to start transferring your trust. It’s never too late to make the steps necessary to make sure that your trust doesn’t end up in something that can be taken. It’s never too late to start transferring your trust. That’s the good news.
It’s also bad news though. It’s also bad news that it happens over time. And the reason I say it’s bad news is because it sometimes happens so gradually with it that we don’t even know that it’s happening. And that’s the bad news. We can transfer our trust without being aware of it. And so maybe you’re here today and you’re going, “Yeah. I’ll be honest. I’m investing pretty heavily in earthly things. But I don’t think that I have my heart in those things. I don’t think that I love those things. I don’t think that my trust is in those things.” And you’re probably right. That’s probably not what’s happened, but it might be happening without you understanding that it’s happening. It might be happening without you being aware that it’s happening.
In fact, for some of you, I promise you, you are on that path. Your heart is drifting in that direction. And I think you’re probably listening to this message because God wants to wake you up to that reality. But it’s a gradual thing. It happens over time. So sometimes it happens, and we’re not even aware of it. And the drift can be very dangerous.
There was a time in Jesus’s ministry where a man came to Jesus to ask the burning question on everybody’s heart, which was, “How do I earn a spot in heaven? How do I earn eternal life?” And the thing is Jesus was really clear throughout his ministry. He always gave the same answer to that, and the answer was, “You follow me.” Jesus is the only one who died to pay a sacrifice for our sins so that we could be forgiven, and it’s by faith in Jesus that we find our place in heaven. It’s the only way that it happens, right? For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that’s Jesus, so that whoever believes in him, trust in him, follows him will not perish but have eternal life. That was the only answer he ever gave.
But this man came and he says, “So what do I have to do?” And we kind of already know, well, the answer is you gotta follow Jesus. But Jesus looked at this man and he knew that he had tremendous wealth, and he knew that that wealth had become the place that his trust, his heart had drifted. And so Jesus said, “You’re gonna have to get free from that.” What Jesus said to him was this. He said, “Here’s what you need to do, you need to sell everything, give it to the poor, and then,” and this is the real answer, “come follow me.” He told this man he had to sell everything because he knew that his heart had gotten locked up in his stuff, in his treasure. So he said, “You gotta get free from that so that you can follow me because that’s the only way to secure a place in heaven, by following Jesus.”
And as Mark tells the story, he says this, “At this, the man’s face fell, and he went away sad because he had great wealth.” And understand that the problem wasn’t that he had great wealth. The problem was that his great wealth had him. His heart had drifted there and had gotten locked up in his stuff, and so he wasn’t free to follow. And so Jesus looked around and said to his disciples how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. Not because money is bad, but because it has a tremendous ability to draw our trust to itself. He says how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.
It’s not about money per se. It’s about the freedom to follow. It’s about the freedom to follow the only one who can give you eternal life. It’s about the freedom to follow the only one who can give you life even here and now that is worth living as God dreamed it up. And some people never follow Jesus because they’re too invested in earthly treasure. But it’s not just people who haven’t followed Jesus yet, who haven’t put their faith in Jesus. Even followers of Jesus can get off track because of money. This is something the Apostle Paul said to a young pastor that he was mentoring, a man named Timothy. He said, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, eager for money, they have wandered from the faith.” They stopped following Jesus, and they pierced themselves with many griefs.” That’s not just non-believers, people who haven’t yet said yes to following Jesus. Even followers of Jesus can find themselves drifting away from following Jesus.
I was with a good friend a couple of weeks ago, and he was just telling me a heartbreaking story. I could tell he was sad. And as he began to unpack it for us…he’s the leader of a very large and influential church, and he’s been there for decades. And he said a group of guys kind of with him from the very beginning, and he said, “My number three guy, he’s been with me over 20 years. I found out last night that he’s been embezzling from the church.” He said, “I would never believe that could happen for that guy.” Like, this guy’s rock-solid. He’s a rockstar when it comes to following Jesus. He’s helped all kinds of churches and he’s advanced the kingdom in so many ways. But what happened was he wanted something, he wanted a thing, and he didn’t have the money to buy it. And so he’s like, “Well, I’ll just put on the church credit card, and then I’ll pay it off after I get the money.” And so he did that, and then he did it again. And then he began to realize because he was kind of running the financial systems, “Nobody has to even find out about this, and so I don’t really actually have to pay it back.” And little by little over the next several years, he ended up embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from the church.
And if you’d looked at that guy at the beginning of that and said, “Hey, do you think you’ll ever be the guy who’s stolen money from the church?” He would have gone, “You’re insane. I’d never do that. I love Jesus way too much.” But that’s the power of earthly treasure. Our hearts follow our investments, and little by little, even followers of Jesus can stop following because their hearts have drifted towards treasure. So what’s the remedy? What’s the alternative? Well, Jesus gives it to us, right? He says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, but instead store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” He says, “This is the remedy. This is the safeguard. It’s a trust transfer.” You transfer your trust from earthly treasure into heavenly treasure. Okay. How do we do that? Well, from the beginning to the ending, there’s one consistent teaching in the Bible. There’s one very clear and consistent principle that God gives us for avoiding this drift. And this is the principle. We use our earthly treasure for heaven’s purposes. That’s it. We use our earthly treasure for heaven’s purposes. That’s how we keep our hearts from drifting. That’s how we keep from putting our trust, our heart in earthly treasure. We use it for heaven’s purposes.
Paul, again, writing to this pastor he was mentoring said this. He said, “Command those who are rich in the present world not to be arrogant, or to put their hope in wealth.” Sound familiar? “Which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” Okay. But how do we do that? He says, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous and willing to share. And in this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” I love that. He says, “This is how you live life to the fullest. This is how you live the life that God intended.” He says, “Here’s how you do it. Here’s how you lay up treasure for heaven. Here’s how you lay up life, not only for all of eternity, but even now in the way that God intended you experience it.” We use our earthly treasure for heaven’s purposes. We do good with it. We help others with it. We are a blessing to those that we have the opportunity to be a blessing with. We alleviate poverty. We set people free from bondage. We do all those kinds of things that we’re able to do because of the earthly treasure that God has entrusted to us.
And honestly, you know, we have one word in English that summarizes that whole idea, one word, and that word is generosity. Generosity. Listen to me. Generosity keeps our trust in God and our hope in heaven. That’s it, generosity. We practice generosity. That’s how we avoid the drift. That’s how we stay free to follow. We practice generosity. Well, let me just say a couple quick things about generosity. The first one is this. Generosity cannot save us. I wanna be very clear on this. Generosity doesn’t get you a place in heaven. There’s only one thing that gets you a place in heaven. That’s faith in Jesus Christ. He’s the one perfect sacrifice for our sins. He voluntarily went to the cross to pay for our sins. Three days later, he rose from the dead. And he offers us forgiveness and salvation and eternal life by trusting in him. There are a lot of very generous people out there who don’t have a place in heaven because they haven’t trusted in Jesus to forgive their sins. That might be you.
You might be here going, “I’m a really generous person. Isn’t that enough?” And the answer is no. Because what separates us from God is our sin, and we’ve all sinned. And there’s a penalty to that, “And the wages of sin is death.” But Jesus died that death for us, and so he offers that to us. But we get our place in heaven by faith in him and his sacrifice. We get our place in heaven by following Jesus. Generosity doesn’t do it. Nobody’s gonna get to heaven and God go, “Hey, why should I let you in?” And you’re like, “Well, have you seen my bankbook? Because I gave away a lot of money.” And He’s gonna go, “Yeah, that’s great. That’s awesome. I’m so glad. What about your sin?” Generosity doesn’t balance the scales. So generosity doesn’t save us. It’s really important that we understand that. What generosity does is it keeps us free to follow. It keeps us free to stay on Jesus’s heels, to stick with him.
Secondly, I want to understand about generosity is that generosity has to come from the heart. Okay. It has to come from the heart. You can’t command generosity, and it counts. In fact, this is what God said. He said, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion.” Generosity has to come from the heart to work. I had a friend who visited a church, and when they took the offering, everybody was encouraged to do what they called a wave offering, which was they’re supposed to take their check or whatever money they were gonna put in the offering plate and they were supposed to wave it around, and then they put it in the plate. And my friend said, “I watched a guy in front of me wave a couple $100 bills and then slip those in and pulled out of 20.” That’s compulsion, right? That’s people being made to feel guilty. Okay. That doesn’t work. Okay.
In terms of generosity having the power to keep us free to follow, it’s got to come from the heart, or it just doesn’t do that good work in our lives. We’re not taking another offering today by the way. Because I don’t want you giving out of guilt, I don’t want you giving out of some sense of compulsion because I’m teaching you this not for the sake of the church. Honestly, I’m teaching this for your good. Generosity keeps your trust in God and your hope in heaven, but it’s gotta come from the heart.
And having said that, one other thing I want to tell you is this. The best way to grow a heart of generosity is actually to practice taking the next step of generosity. The only way to really grow a heart of generosity is to practice generosity by taking our next step. And this is something I didn’t really understand early in my life. It’s something I so wish somebody had taught me when I was a really young person. Honestly, I wish somebody had told me this when I was a kid because I didn’t realize that the way that you become more generous is you take a small step of generosity, and you keep taking another small step of generosity. And what that does is it makes you a generous person in which you’re able to act in such a way that money no longer has the ability to trap you. It no longer has the ability to keep you from being free to follow. It’s about taking the next step.
I wanna walk you through what I mean by that. Okay. I wanna walk you through what it might look like to take the next step. Before I do that, let me say this. I’m gonna use giving to Mission Hills as an example, and the reason I’m gonna use giving to Mission Hills as an example is because I believe that Mission Hills is a good place, a safe place, a trustworthy place to practice steps of generosity. That’s why I give to Mission Hills. It’s why my wife gives to Mission Hills. It’s why both of my daughters independently have decided that they give to Mission Hills. We didn’t command that, we didn’t even encourage it, but that’s what they’ve chosen to do. So I’m gonna give you that as an example.
But I wanna say this because it’s so important. This is not for our sake. This is for your good. And if you are not a regular attender at Mission Hills, then I’m gonna say, don’t give here. If you have another church home, you should be giving in that church home. And if you maybe you come to Mission Hills but for some reason, you don’t trust Mission Hills, then don’t give here. Don’t give here. If you’re not a follower of Jesus, don’t give here but give somewhere. Give somewhere because what I’m saying is for your good. The practice of generosity is for your good. And if for whatever reason you don’t feel comfortable giving here, then don’t give here but give somewhere. But I’m gonna use Mission Hills as an example.
So here’s what it looks like to take the next step. If you’re not giving anything, this is really complicated. If you’re not giving anything, start giving something the next time the offering goes around, which, again, not gonna be today. But the next time we take an offering, put something in. If you’ve never put something in, put something in. The next time you have an opportunity to give, give some small amount. And what I believe is gonna happen, because I’ve experienced it in my own life, is that even that small amount does a big thing in your heart. It begins to loosen the boundaries or the bindings that money can have on us. And let’s say if you’ve never given anything, just give something and see what God begins to do in you.
Now, if you’re already giving something occasionally, I wanna encourage you that your next step is to start giving something regularly. So if you’re giving something occasionally, kind of randomly, then start giving something on a regular basis. And you gotta figure out what that is. Maybe it’s every week. Maybe it’s every other week. Maybe it’s once a month. I know some people give once a year. And that’s okay. But I’m gonna suggest that if you’re giving once a year, you might think seriously about breaking that up into smaller pieces. And here’s why.
If you wanna get in physical shape, going to the gym one time a year ain’t gonna do it. And I don’t care how hard you work out. I don’t care if you can’t move for a month. You’re not gonna get in physical shape by working out one time a year. And the same thing happens in this sort of spiritual realm that giving on a regular basis actually does something in us. It begins to set us free from the negative power of money. And so I wanna encourage maybe even if you give once a year that maybe you think about breaking that up. It’s not gonna make any difference to the church. This is for your good. Okay.
You can always give a little extra at the end of the year if you have extra that you wanna give and you’re saying, “I give once here because I don’t know what it’s gonna be.” That’s fine. I give extra at the end of the year often, but that regular practice has been really good for me to keep me free to follow, keep my trust in God and my hope in heaven. So if you’re giving something occasionally, start giving something regularly. Now, if you’re giving something regularly, start giving systematically. That’s your next step. If you’re giving something regularly, start giving systematically. What I mean is have a system so that basically, when money comes in, a percentage of that money is given to good causes. A percentage of that money is given to do good things, to do heaven’s purposes.
Now, it might be 1%. It might be 2, it might be 4 or 5. I don’t know. I’m gonna say something a little controversial here. Some of you are gonna disagree with me. That’s okay. You can send me an email and tell me why I’m wrong. I’ll send you an email back telling you why I’m not. But if you’ve been around the church world any length of time, you’ve probably heard that the ideal systematic giving is 10%. Maybe you’ve even heard that it’s not just ideal. It’s the bare minimum. And I wanna tell you because I’ve been there, there are people who cannot afford to give 10%. That was where I was. I literally could not afford to give 10%. And if that’s where you are, that’s okay.
But even when I was in that place, God began to speak to me and told me, “It’s better that you start giving something regular and then ultimately something systematically because it’s gonna be good for you.” And so I began to give. And honestly, at first, it was about like one and a half percent, but God began to use that in my life. And over time, it’s grown as my income has grown. It’s grown but I started taking that step when I didn’t really have the ability to give 10%. And so if that’s you, and you can’t give 10%, that’s totally fine. For your good, it might be your next step is to start giving some percentage, whatever that is, one or two or three or four, whatever. It’s for your good.
Now, if you’re giving something systematically, if you’re already doing that, your next step is to start giving a tithe. Remember that 10% we just talked about? That’s literally what a tithe is. A tithe means a tenth. If you’re already giving something systematic, maybe your next step is to start giving a tithe, 10%. By the way, that’s the easiest way to do systematic giving because the math is so much simpler. Like 2% is hard. 10% is really simple. It’s not even math. You don’t have to do math. You have to do geography. Anybody? You just gotta take a decimal point and move it a place. That’s geography. That’s not math, right? That’s how I do it. I know what my paycheck is gonna be every two weeks, and so, you know, I know what it’s gonna be. At the beginning of the year, I know what’s it’s gonna be. And I take the decimal point, I move it one place, and I go, “That’s 10%,” and then I have recurring giving set up through Mission Hills through our website so every time the check comes in, that immediately goes back out. It’s easy. Maybe that’s your next step.
Now, if you’re already giving a tithe, if you’re already giving 10%, good news, you’re done, right? You can’t possibly be any more generous. You can’t possibly do anything to be more free to follow Jesus. This is not possible. You seem skeptical for a good reason because I’m kidding. If you’re already giving a tithe, maybe your next step is to start practicing what I call spirit-led sacrificial giving, spirit-led sacrificial giving. What that means is 10% to your local church, wherever that is, and then above and beyond that, you ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to other ways to use the resources he’s given you for heaven’s purposes because remember that’s what we’re looking to do. We use our earthly treasure for heaven’s purposes to do good.
So what my family does, we give 10% to Mission Hills, but above and beyond that, we go, “God, how would you like us to use what we have?” And there are other things that we do. We support several missionaries directly. We have three Compassion children, probably gonna take a fourth one on. I mentioned earlier this year…actually, it’s last year actually, that because of your generosity, we were able to fund the launch of a church through Compassion International in Peru, and we didn’t have to take an offering for it. We already had it, and so they’re building that right now. And we’ll come back in a couple weeks. As part of this series, I’m gonna show some pictures, and it’s gonna be really cool. But they’re gonna open that church probably late this summer, and we’re gonna have the opportunity to sponsor the 200 kids they’re gonna be taken care of. That’s not true. You’re gonna have the opportunity to sponsor 199 of them because I’m taking one of them like pastor privilege. I don’t play that card very often, but I’m gonna use it. That’s how we’re gonna use some of our additional resources for that.
And honestly, what we do throughout the year is we pray over opportunities that come, and sometimes we give to special projects of the church, and sometimes it’s other things outside the church. Most years, it’s between 4 and 7 additional percent beyond the 10% that we give to our church. Now, I didn’t use to be able to do that. And I’m not saying that you’re in the place to be able to do that, but that might be your next step. If you’re already giving a tithe, you might need to start practicing spirit-led sacrificial giving. Why? For your good. Because generosity keeps our trust in God and our hope in heaven. It’s the power of it. Generosity breaks the negative power of money to trap our trust. Generosity gets our trust in God and our hope in heaven. So I just have one question for you today. What’s my next step of generosity? I encourage you to wrestle with it. What’s your next step of generosity? Would you pray with me?
God, on behalf of all of your people, we wanna thank you for the money you’ve entrusted to us. Some of us feel like we could use a lot more of it and some of us know that we have more than we really need. But, Lord, we thank you for this teaching from your Word today that whether we have an absence or an excess, money can be a dangerous blessing. And so we ask for insight from your Holy Spirit about the next step of generosity, which will keep us free to follow, the next step of generosity that will keep our trust in you and our hope in heaven and not on any earthly thing. If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you do something for me? Would you just take a moment right now to begin praying for people around you, for all the people watching online because I believe there are people watching this that the issue today really isn’t about you taking a step of generosity? The issue is about you receiving generosity.
If you’re not a follower of Jesus, a lot of this message isn’t really for you, although the principles are true. And if money is what’s keeping you from coming to Jesus, then, by all means, you need to deal with that. But maybe you’re listening to this, and you’re just not a follower of Jesus because you’ve never understood how much God loves you. You’ve never understood how generous God is with his love. He loves you so much he sent his own Son who willingly died on a cross to pay for every wrong you’ve ever done. And then God because of his love for you, he raised Jesus from the dead, and because of his love for you, because of his generosity to you, he offers you salvation, he offers you a place in heaven, forgiveness of sins. And all you have to do is say yes to following Jesus. All you have to do is say yes to putting your faith and your trust in Jesus. That’s how generous God is.
And if you’ve never said yes to a relationship with Jesus, you can do that right now. What’s stopping you? Wherever you are, here’s what you do. You’re just gonna have a conversation with God in your heart. And here’s what you’re gonna say. I encourage you to say it after me. God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned, and I’m so sorry. Thank you for loving me in spite of my sin. Jesus, thank you for coming and dying for me. I believe that you rose from the dead. I understand that in your generosity, you’re offering me salvation simply by faith. So I’m giving you my faith. I’m putting my trust in you. Jesus, I’m saying yes to a relationship with you. Come into my life. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen. Can we just welcome those who made that decision to accept God’s generous love today? It’s so great.
This second week of our Travel Light series we’re digging into a teaching from Jesus about how not to be weighed down by burdens that God never intended us to carry. Today we’re going to talk about the burden of bad bosses, the burden of being loyal to someone or something that can’t lighten your load but only add to it.
Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you here. Hey, before I get into the message for this week, I just wanna do a little bit of an unsolicited shout-out. One of the greatest privileges that I have as a lead pastor is I work with incredible staff team, and several of the people in our staff team are producing resources that are benefiting the kingdom outside of our walls. And one of those is Danny Oertli, our boy Danny. That song you just heard, he wrote that song, and it’s part of a new album that he’s releasing. And I got a sneak preview of it. It’s awesome. And it was a blessing in my life. And so, I’m really excited to see how God’s gonna use that. We’re celebrating the release of that album tonight with a free concert here at Mission Hills in the Littleton Campus, 6:30. Love to have you come out and join us. I guarantee you’re gonna be really encouraged. Danny’s one of the best singer/songwriter/storytellers that I’ve ever met, and his album is just a really powerful encouragement. So, love to have you join us today.
Well, hey, so good to have you with us. We are in week number two of our “Travel Light” series. And what we’re doing in this series is we are looking at a teaching from Jesus about how to get free from some of the extra weight that a lot of us are carrying in life because we got burdens that really were never ours to bear. Last week, we talked about the burden of money or earthly treasure, not because money’s bad, but because it’s a dangerous blessing. It’s temporary, and yet it tends to draw our trust to itself, leaving us really exposed when it ultimately fails. And we saw that God’s plan for dealing with that potentially dangerous power of money is generosity, that we use earthly treasure for heaven’s purposes, and so we stay free from that particular burden.
Today, we’re gonna talk about the burden of bad bosses. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a bad boss, but let me tell you, if you’ve ever had a bad boss, then you know that there’s very little that can add weight to your life faster than trying to be loyal to a bad boss. How many of you have had a bad boss? I’m looking around to make sure none of the staff have their hands up right now. I think we’re okay. I think there’s probably three kinds of bad bosses, in my experience.
So, there’s the Michael Scott bad boss, all right? This is the guy, he thinks he’s everybody’s best friend, but he’s no good at his job, right? And so, he’s always adding on to his employees’ burdens because they have to either do the work he didn’t do or fix the messes that he made. Some of you may have had that kind of bad boss. Then, there’s the Gordon Ramsay bad boss. He’s really good at his job, but he’s really hard on his people, right? Maybe you’ve had one of those bad bosses. Or then, probably, though, the worst of them would be the Bill Lumbergh bad boss. This is the guy from the movie “Office Space.” This is the worst of the bad bosses. He’s a micromanaging sort of, you know, passive-aggressive, insincere soul-crusher of a boss. The guy when you see him come and you’re just like, “I wanna die. How do I get out of this?” right?
And so, if you’ve had any of those kinds of bosses or another kind, then you know that having a bad boss and trying to be loyal to a bad boss can really weigh you down and wear you out. Now, the bad news is, unfortunately, none of us have the luxury of being bossless. In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.” Well, we all serve somebody. The question is do we serve somebody who will lessen our load, who will lighten the load or somebody who’s just gonna add to it? And the good news is that by our choices, we can actually ultimately choose to give our loyalty to someone who can, in fact, take our loyalty, and with our loyalty, start to lighten our load.
Let me show you what I’m talking about. I’d love to have you join me. We’re gonna be in the Gospel of Matthew 6 today. If you’re new to the Bible, let me just say that Matthew is one of the four gospels in the Bible. The word gospel means good news. These are the four books that tell the story of the life of Jesus. And the life of Jesus himself is good news because he’s the only boss that we can serve who takes our loyalty, and with our loyalty, he begins to take away a lot of the burden that we’re carrying. He begins to lighten our load. And so, it’s really important that we be looking to Jesus. And this looking business is really important.
In Matthew 6:22, Jesus says this, he says, “The eye is the lamp of the body.” “The eye is the lamp of the body,” meaning couple things. Number one, he simply means that, you know, without the eye, the body goes blundering around in the darkness, right? The eye’s what allows us to make our way in the world. But the eye also sort of sets our direction in the world, right? The lamp, you know, you carry a lamp out in front of you, it’s lighting your way as you’re moving forward in where you’re heading. And so, really what happens is the eye kind of sets the direction that we’re going. In fact, we might even say it this way, that where we’re headed has a lot to do with what we’re looking at. Does that make sense? Where we’re headed has a lot to do with what we’re looking at. That’s true in a very literal way, by the way, not just in a spiritual. It’s true very literally.
I was in Columbus, Ohio a couple of weeks ago, I was visiting my parents. And as I was headed back to the airport, I was on the highway, guys, like, I was being the best driver. Like, I was being so good, you all, I had exactly the right amount of space in my lane on both sides of me, right amount of space in front of me, between me and the next car and behind me, probably because I had declined all the additional coverage on the rental car, right? Like, I cannot afford for anything to go wrong here. So, I was doing really well. And then, I passed a billboard that I had never seen before. And the billboard said something like, “Without Jesus, you’re going burn in hell.” And I’d never seen a billboard…I was like, “That is a bold choice for an evangelistic method. I don’t know how effective that’s gonna be.” But it was covered in flames.
And so, I found my gaze kind of drawn to the billboard for just a few seconds. But when I looked away and I looked back into my lane, I realize I had started to drift. And maybe you’ve had a similar kind of experience, right? Maybe you’d been driving down the highway, you’re doing just fine, and then you see something like, “Is that another Chick-fil-A” Right? You know, something grabbed your attention and you started to drift.
And here’s the interesting thing about drifting, you always drift in the direction you’re looking. You’ve never seen something and accidentally drifted the other direction. It doesn’t work that way because where we’re headed has a lot to do with where we’re looking at. It’s true in highway situations, but it’s also true in life. And so, Jesus is the eye, is the lamp of the body. It’s setting the tone. What we’re looking at matters a lot, in part because it’s setting where we’re going, but also because what we’re looking at determines a lot of what’s going into us.
And so, Jesus says this, he says, “If your eyes,” or we could even say focus, “If your focus is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes, or if your focus, is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.” And what Jesus is just basically saying is what we look at kind of determines what’s going into us, and what goes into us determines on some level what kind of a load we’re gonna carry in life, are we letting light into our lives or are we letting darkness into our lives. And darkness can be really heavy, right? We even say that all the times, we say, “I was in a really dark period of my life. My heart was really heavy” as a strong association.
So, we could even say this, at the risk of making a really, really bad pastor pun, “The less light into your life, the heavier your load,” right? The less light that we let into our lives, the heavier our hearts, the heavier our load. And a lot of what determines what goes into our hearts and what kind of load we’re carrying is what we’re looking at and how healthy our focus is.
By the way, this is another one of those things that’s literally true as well as spiritually true. Couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a young man. He did a student ministries internship with me. He’s just a great kid. He loved Jesus, he loved people, people loved him. He had a great career in vocational ministry in front of him. But the internship ended. He went back east to his hometown. And about a year later, I heard through the grapevine that he dropped out of ministry, he dropped out of the church, he’d broken off all his relationships with other Christians. And I called him, and I said, “Hey, what’s going on?”
And he told me just the saddest story. I mean, the upshot of it is basically he got addicted to pornography. What he was looking at began to crush him. And he told me the saddest part of it, I think was, he said, “It got to the point where I realized that because of what I’ve been looking at,” he says, “It crushed me. It crushed my ability to give and receive love.” He said, “It’s like it burned it out on me. It crushed it to dust.” That’s the power of the eye, it’s the power of what we’re looking at to either lighten our load or, in some cases, weigh us down.
And, by the way, in a room this size and with all the people watching online, I just need to say, some of you are in exactly that place. You might be in that place where what you’re looking at, whether it’s pornography or something else like that, is dark, and what it’s doing is it is adding weight to your life and it is crushing you, and you gotta do something about that, you gotta change your focus. We have a great counseling ministry here at Mission Hills. Call, make an appointment. They’d love to talk to you about how to get free from that burden that you’re bearing because of what you’re looking at. But the crazy thing is that it doesn’t even have to be something really bad that we’re looking at that has this ability to add to our load.
The truth of the matter is that we can get weighed down by focusing on too many good things. If we’re looking at a lot of different good things, we can find the same kind of thing happening. And the reason for that is actually something Jesus says here. It doesn’t come across real well in English. As some of you may know, the Bible wasn’t originally written in English, it was originally written in Greek, which was the main language in the Middle East in this time period that it was written. And in Greek, what Jesus says is a little interesting. So, in English, it says, “If your eyes are healthy, your whole body would be full of light, but if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Healthy and unhealthy, that’s what those words mean, but they mean it figuratively.
The literal words he uses probably are more like this, “If your eye is single, your whole body would be full of light, and if your eye is divided, your whole body would be full of darkness.” And what he’s saying is basically that the more we divide something, then, well, we diminish it, right? So, I mean, if you’ve ever had one of those experiences where you’re in the shower and then somebody else got in another shower in your house, what happened to the pressure? It gets diminished. When we divide the pressure, it diminishes. Or maybe you’ve been on the Wi-Fi, right? And everything is going along great, and then all of a sudden, like, your speed just tanked, and it turns out somebody else was on the Wi-Fi, right? When we divide the Wi-Fi, this speed diminishes.
And he’s kind of saying the same thing is true in life. He says that when the light coming in is divided, it’s diminished, and when you have less light, you have more what? More darkness. That’s the way it works. Now, the question is, “Yeah, but how does our eye get divided?” And the answer is because we’re focusing on too many things. We’re focusing on too many things. And some of them may even be good things. They don’t have to all be bad things. But the more divided our focus, the less light is getting in. And that begins to have an impact on us.
And so, Jesus says this, he says, “If then the light within you is darkness,” or, “If the light coming into you is so divided, so diminished that it’s darkened, how great is that darkness in you?” And understand that that’s not a judgment. Jesus isn’t saying, “Hey, I’m looking at you guys, and I’m seeing you’re divided in your focus, right? You wanna serve God, but you’re also thinking, “But maybe I could also work on getting a little bit more money, and I’d really like to buy that car, and I’d like to get that new iPhone, and I’d like to get a few more Instagram followers, I’d like a little more popularity. And maybe I could get that girl to notice me.”
If your focus is divided, he’s not looking at that going, “Oh, I’m so disappointed in you. What he does is he looks at it and he says, “My heart breaks for you.” Because what you’re doing by dividing your focus is you’re diminishing the light coming in and you’re increasing the load that you’re bearing in life. Because what’s happening, is an incredibly important truth, is that our loyalty follows our focus. Our loyalty follows our focus. What we’re focusing on, ultimately, our hearts go after, they move towards it, and we begin to give loyalty. So, it’s not just a question of dividing our time, it’s really about our hearts. And the problem is you really can’t divide your heart. It just doesn’t work that way. Our hearts always seek wholeness. And so, when by our divided focus, our loyalty is trying to be divided.
Ultimately, what’s gonna happen is it’s always just gonna find the one thing. It’s gonna find the thing that we focus the most on, and that’s where our heart’s gonna go. And that’s why Jesus says this, he says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you’ll hate the one and love the other or you’ll be devoted to the one and despise the other.” And notice that that’s all heart language, right? It’s love and hate, it’s devoted and despised. That’s all heart stuff. It’s loyalty stuff. He’s not saying you can’t divide your time, he’s saying you can’t divide your heart. Our hearts always seek wholeness. And because our loyalty and our heart follow our focus, whatever we’re focusing the most on will ultimately be the thing that we’re most loyal too.
And he gives an example. he says this, he says, “You cannot serve both God and money.” And I think he talks about money for a couple of reasons. One, because he just taught a little bit on money, so that’s sort of fresh in everybody’s mind. But also, because money is a great example of something that really isn’t…it’s not worthy of our trust. It can’t hold us up. It can only actually add to our load. And yet, it has this tremendous capacity to draw our attention to it.
And so, he says, “Let me give you an example. You can’t serve, you can’t be loyal to both God and money.” But it’s true for a lot of things, honestly. You cannot serve both God and achievements. You cannot serve both God and popularity. You can’t serve both God and that relationship. You can’t serve both God and whatever it is. He says, “You can’t do it. Our hearts seek wholeness, but our loyalty follows our focus.”
So, he says, “You gotta be really careful or you’re gonna find yourself in a place that you’ve become loyal to something that, honestly, it’s gonna crush you.” This is such an important question we have to ask ourselves. And we actually have to ask ourselves on a regular basis, “Am I focusing on something that will lighten my load or add to it?” Such an important question. What are you focusing on right now, and is what you’re focusing on right now something that will lighten your load or is it something that will ultimately, inevitably add to it?
I love what Paul, who wrote so much of the New Testament, said to Timothy, a man he was mentoring as a pastor. We talked about this briefly last week but listen to this again. This is 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. For loyalty to money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money, focusing on money, have wandered away from the faith,” and check this out, “and pierced themselves with many griefs.” It’s such a powerful statement. He says, “That’s not just they’ve wandered away from the faith, they have pierced themselves with many griefs. They’ve added to their burden because money can’t lighten the load, it can only add to it.”
I love what’s Proverbs 15:16 says, “Better a little with fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.” It’s better to have nothing and have a fear where we could say, “A loyalty to the Lord. Our focus is on him. Our hearts are with him.” It’s better to have nothing in the world’s eyes but have that loyalty with God than it is to have all of this worldly wealth and yet live in constant turmoil where we might say crossed under the weight. And what’s interesting is that this kind of a play on words is going on I think because, you know, having money, not only does it not reduce the burden that we bear, but it actually adds to it. Do you know that? As soon as we have this idea, “If I just had a little bit more money, all my problems would go away.” You’ve ever thought that? On the words of the prophet Notorious B.I.G., “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.”
See, it adds weight to our lives. It’s not only incapable of holding us up and bearing our weight in our trust, but it actually adds to our load rather than lightening it. But Jesus, Jesus says this, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened,” and maybe that’s some of you today. Maybe you feel the weight of a divided focus and trying to keep that master happy and that boss okay. He says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Give your loyalty to me,” he says, “and learn from me for I am gentle and humble at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke, it’s easy, and my burden is light.”
See, Jesus says, “You give me your loyalty, and I’ll lighten your load.” And, understand, he didn’t just say it, right? He did it. He lightened the load in a way that only he could. He came, he lived a perfect life, but he died on the cross for our sins. The greatest burden we’ll ever bear is the sin that we have committed, the wrongs that we’ve done, the guilt and the shame. And, ultimately, because of our sin, we’re separated from God for all eternity. “That’s the wages of sin,” the Bible says, it’s just the way that it works.
But Jesus came, he lived a perfect life, he didn’t have any sin to pay for, so he said, “I’ll pay for yours.” He paid for mine. He went to the cross. He died on the cross to pay for our sin. Three days later, he rose from the dead to prove he had defeated sin, he had defeated guilt, he had defeated shame, and he offers us freedom from all of that by faith. He offers us freedom from all of that by giving our loyalty to him. Listen to me, our loyalty determines our load. Do you hear me, church? Our loyalty determines our load. Who or what we are loyal to determines what kind of a load that we’re going to carry in life. We give it to anything other than Jesus, and they’re gonna add to it. Give it to Jesus, and he’ll take from us not only our loyalty, but so much of that load that we find ourselves going through life trying to bear. Our loyalty determines our load.
But let me tell you something about loyalty. This is so important. Loyalty is all about our daily choices. Loyalty is all about our daily choice. Remember we said loyalty follows our focus? Focus, it’s an everyday thing, it’s an every moment of every day thing. And then, we forget this. Because sometimes we have this idea that loyalty is something we swear in pivotal moments of our lives, right? Today, we’re gonna get to celebrate some people that are swearing in public, their loyalty to Jesus, through baptism. And that’s awesome. That’s such a powerful moment. But it’s a monument. Its significance comes to the fact that we have these pivotal moments where we swear loyalty to Jesus or whatever, and we can look back on those throughout the course of our lives and go, “Am I continuing to travel true? Am I still staying in line with that thing that I swore loyalty to?” And that’s powerful.
But it’s actually our daily choices that really determine where our loyalty lies. You know, 27 years ago, I stood in front of a congregation, and in front of a pasture, and before God. And I looked at Coletta, and I said, “I swear loyalty to you and you only.” I even use the old-fashioned line, I said, “Forsaking all others,” meaning you get my only loyalty outside of Jesus. And that was a powerful moment, it was an important moment. But you need to understand that loyalty is all about our daily choices.
The real question of whether or not my wife has my loyalty isn’t in that moment where I swore it, it’s in every single choice that I make. It’s in that moment when I see another woman and I have the opportunity, in my mind, nobody else would know, in my mind alone, I could entertain attraction to that woman. I could play that out in my mind. But when I choose to refuse to do that, when I refuse to entertain loyalty to anybody but my wife, that’s where my loyalty really comes out. It’s when I choose to refuse to take a second look or to let a look linger on another woman. That’s really what determines my loyalty.
Listen, the big decisions might determine our direction, but it is the everyday choices that determine our destination, where we’re actually gonna end up. They’re gonna determine where our loyalty really lies. It’s all about our daily choices. So, if God’s the only one who can lighten our load by our loyalty, here’s what we have to do, right? We need to have a single-minded focus on honoring God with every choice we make because every choice we make ultimately determine something about what we’re trying to do with our loyalty. So, if we’re gonna keep our eyes on God, if we wanna keep our focus on Jesus, who can lighten our load when we give him our loyalty, we have to make a single-minded focus on every choice we make. We’re gonna honor God with every choice.
Can I just ask us to be honest? Does anybody find that a little overwhelming? It’s okay if you do because the reality is that we make 100 choices every day, and every one of them is important. But a lot of them, we make without even being aware of them. A lot of them we make without having any idea whether or not this is moving our loyalty towards Jesus or towards something else. So, how on earth can we have that single-minded focus? Remember, that’s what he said, right? He said, “If your eye is single, it’s gonna be healthy, but if it’s divided, if it’s split up in its focus, it’s not gonna be healthy, and you’re not gonna be healthy. You’re gonna be bearing a load you were never meant to carry.” But how on earth can we have that kind of single-minded focus on every choice?
Fortunately, there’s a life hack. Okay, can I share a life hack with you? This is such a ridiculously powerful life hack, it almost feels like cheating. But check this out. I call it the Law of First. Here’s the Law of First. Our first choice directs those that follow. The first choice that we make in any situation actually has a huge, a disproportionately large impact on the rest of the choices that we’ll make in that situation. It’s crazy. I mean, it’s a little bit like imagine, you know, there’s the line of dominoes set up, instead of starting here or here, you go to the middle, and you get to make a decision, “Do I topple the first domino that way, in which case all of the dominoes fall in that direction or do I go that way and all of them fall that way?” That’s kinda like our choices. The first choice you make actually determines, directs, sets the stage for every other choice, even a lot of the ones that we make unconsciously. The world recognizes the truth of this.
Justin Adams, our worship pastor was telling me this week that at his gym, they have a big banner and they pound the table constantly, “The most important workout of the week is Monday,” because if you work out on Monday, you’re so much more likely to work out the rest of the days of the week. But if you don’t work out on Monday, I can tell you from experience… Like, I wish this weren’t true, but I’ve seen the power of this on the other direction. I’ve tried to get in four workouts a week. That’s kinda my goal. Three would be, like, bare minimum for me.
But what I’ve discovered is that whether or not I work out on Monday has a gigantic impact on whether or not I make that goal. Like, if I work out on Monday, there’s a pretty good chance I’m gonna hit my four. When I don’t work out on Monday, probably not gonna hit four, might not hit three. Sometimes I don’t even make it to two. And, occasionally, last week, I didn’t even get the first one in. What we do on the first day of the week actually has a tremendous influence on the rest of the days of the week. It’s crazy. I’m not sure exactly why this works, but I have a suspicion that it’s something to do with the way God has built our brains. Because this isn’t a self-help technique, this is actually a deeply biblical principle.
Throughout the Bible, God speaks to his people, and he says, “If you wanna honor me…and it’s a really good idea to honor me, because when you honor me, what happens is I lighten your load rather than adding to it. So, if you wanna honor me, what you need to do is you need to give to me your firsts.” And so, people gave him the first fruits of their harvests. They set aside the firstborn of their flocks to God in a special way. They set aside their firstborn children to serve God in a unique way. They gave God the first portion of all of their income. We call it a tithe. But it was always a call for the firsts.
And I think there’s a couple of things going on there. One of them is it’s much more honoring to God to give him the first rather than it is to give him some other portion. Because the reality is, think about this, when you invite somebody in your home and you wanna honor them, do you serve them leftovers? Of course not. You serve them the first time that meal has been come out of the oven, right? There’s something honoring about that. In the same way, why would we think that we’re truly honoring God if we give him time, talent, and treasure that’s left over after something else has had its first say? So, God says, “No, if you wanna honor me and be lighter for it, honor me with your firsts.”
But also honoring God with our firsts sets the stage for all the other things that happens. There’s this crazy story back at the very beginning of the Bible, Genesis 4. Adam and Eve, the first man and woman God makes, and Adam and Eve sin, they fall, but they begin to have kids. And they have two kids, Cain and Abel. And Cain and Abel both came to God with an offering. They both independently decided they were gonna give God some of their stuff. Now, Cain came with some, the Bible says, some of the fruits of his harvest. He brought God some of it. Abel brought him the firstborn of his flocks. And it says that God looked on Abel and his firstborn offering with favor. But on Cain and his some offering, He did not look with favor.
Why? It’s not because God’s a carnivore, okay? It’s because the honoring of God with your firsts said something about his heart and it set the stage for everything’s gonna come. But for Cain, just giving God some, maybe even some leftovers, it said a lot about his heart, and it set the stage. And so, maybe you know the story when Cain saw that God didn’t look on his offering with favor, he murdered his brother, which gets dark really quick, right? Like, that’s crazy. But it says a lot about what the first choice says about who we are and where our loyalty lies, but it also sets the course for all those other things.
So, let’s review. The more divided our focus, the more divided our loyalty. The more divided our focus, the more we’re trying to give our hearts to lots of different things, and our loyalty ultimately determines our load. What we’re loyal to determines whether or not we’re gonna travel light or travel heavy-burdened. Our loyalty is all about our daily choices, not just the big pivotal decisions, but the daily choice of what to focus on, the daily choice. But because there’s so many daily choices, we pay attention to the first. Our first choice directs those that follow, the Law of First. Listen, if you want a travel light, here’s the key. You keep your loyalty on God. You give your loyalty to Jesus, and Jesus alone, because he’s the only one that will take your loyalty and lighten your load with it. So, the key is we keep our loyalty with God by having a single focus of honoring him with as many firsts as possible.
Let me just ask you a couple of questions. Let’s push into this practically. First question is what are the main things that threaten to divide my focus? I think it’s important we identify those. Forewarned is forearmed. Recognize that, “Hey, yeah, I wanna honor God, I wanna keep my focus on God, but there’s this other thing that draws my attention. There’s this other thing over here that I find myself kind of drawing and divided between.” Identify those upfront because then you can begin to recognize when that temptation is happening. So, what are the main things that divide my focus or at least threaten to?
And then, the second question is just this, how can I honor God with my time, talent, and treasure, and how can I do it first? How can I honor God first with my time, talent, and treasure? Your time, talent, and treasure, that’s all you’re ever gonna have. So, how can you honor God first with each of those things? And, by the way, when I say first, there’s a whole lot of first that we can pay attention to.
We can talk about the first part of the day. We can talk about the first time that we’re making a decision with what something that comes in. But we can also talk about, you know, the first day of the week. We can talk about the first day of the month. We can talk about the first day of the year. We can talk about the first day that you are parents. We can talk about the first day that you’re married. We can talk about the first time that you go out on a date with somebody new, the first time that you’re new on campus, or the first day of a new semester at school. There’s a whole lot of firsts, and every one of them provides an opportunity to determine or to direct all the ones that will follow, all the choices that will follow.
So, how can we honor God first with our time, talent, and treasure? In terms of time, one of the things that I find so powerful in my own life is I try to give God a little bit of my time at the very first part of every single day. So much so, I actually have realized the power of this. Recently, I made a change because I realized I wasn’t actually giving him the first. I would just get into the office and go, “First thing I’m gonna do, I’m gonna spend some time in the Word and spend some time in prayer.” But I realized, like, I’m an hour into my day at that point. I’ve actually already made a bunch of choices.
So, I needed to change that, so I started making this little decision that every time I wake up, first thing I do, like everybody else, is I reach for my phone. Come on, we do. And then, you know, what I use is I’ll check the weather, which usually put me in a bad mood, honestly, right? So, it’s like, “I gotta stop doing this.” So, now, I reach for my phone. First thing I do is I pull up a Bible app and I just read a Psalm. It may only be 60 seconds of time, but I’m giving God that first moment of my day, literally the first time that my eyes are open, I’m putting them on his word.
And I found that it makes a difference. And then, I get into work. And I do, I sit down, and I read a chapter from the Book of Proverbs, I spend some time praying. And I’m asking God, “Hey God, what would a win look like today? What are the two or three things that you want me to make sure get accomplished today?” And I’ll write those down. At the end of the day, I’ll look back and go, “Hey, did I focus on those?” And when I do that at the beginning of the day, I almost always find that I get a whole lot further down the path of honoring God with a whole bunch of decisions along the way that I wasn’t even really kinda conscious of. That’s the power of those first moments of the day.
Same thing’s true of our talent. A lot of times, we end up honoring God with kind of the talent after we’ve given our best talent to, you know, our work or whatever. What would it look like to honor God first with your talent or your treasure? We have a phrase at Mission Hills that follows the Law of First. We say this, we say, “Giving first honors God.” Because you don’t honor God as much when you’re giving him out of the leftovers. Giving first honors God, but it also sets the stage and everything else begins to fall into line. So, giving first honors God, saving second practices wisdom, and living on the rest builds contentment. Very powerful biblical model of thinking about how to deal with our finances.
But it’s time, talent, and treasure, how we honor God first with your time, talent, and treasure. And just to make it super practical, let’s ask this question. What’s the first thing that I will do tomorrow morning to honor God in a new way? Do you wanna travel lighter? Jesus is the only one who can take our loyalty and lighten our load. Everything else is gonna add to it. In fact, the more loyalty we give to anything else, the heavier the burden that we will go through life bearing. If you wanna travel light, you have a single-minded focus on honoring God with as many firsts as possible. So, tomorrow morning is a great opportunity.
So, what are you gonna do? Maybe you heard earlier, we’ve got a new 30-day challenge. If you text the word 30days to 888111, you’ll get back a…well, you won’t get anything right then other than just a welcome. But for the next 30 days leading up to Easter, you’re gonna get a challenge first thing every day, a practical thing you can do that day to be on mission with Jesus as we move towards the Easter celebration. So, maybe that’s something. We’ve already had over 600 people sign up by text. There’s a few calendars. If you’re rocking a flip phone and texting is not part of your world, there’s some, like, old-fashioned paper calendars on the way out. Grab one of those. But maybe that’s a way to begin taking a step. But if it’s not that something, what are you gonna do tomorrow morning to honor God in a new way? Because that’s the only way to travel light, to give your loyalty to the only one who will take your loyalty and your burdens with it. Will you pray with me?
God, thank you so much for your kindness and your goodness, your mercy, and your grace. We confess to you as followers of Jesus that we often find our eye divided, we find our focus divided, we find our loyalty divided. It’s so easy for our eye to be drawn to other things that cannot sustain us, that cannot lighten our load. And so, we ask for your forgiveness for the way that happens. When we ask that, by the power of your Spirit, you’d give us a new single-minded focus on being loyal to you and you alone so that everything else falls into line after that and that we can travel free of burdens we were never meant to bear.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just spend a few moments right now? Would you just pray with me for the people that are seated around you, all the people that are watching online that are joining us at our campuses this weekend? Because I believe that there’s some people, and maybe this is you, that, like, you’re traveling through life still under the burden of your sin, and you probably even feel it. You feel the guilt, you feel the shame of the wrong that you’ve done. Nobody needs to make you feel guilty because you feel plenty of that yourself. You feel the weight of it, you’re worn down by it. You’re weighed down by it. And maybe today, for the first time, when I was talking about the fact that Jesus, he didn’t just talk a good game about taking your burdens, he did something about it. He died in your place to pay for your sin, and he offers to set you free. Maybe the light came on. I hope it did.
Because if you’re here today and you don’t have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus and what he did for you, then you’re heavy-laden, you are bearing a burden that is too great for any of us to carry. But you don’t have to carry it. Jesus came, he died, he rose again, and he offers you freedom from all that. And if you’ve never experienced that freedom that comes from giving him your loyalty, you can do it right here, right now. And if you’re ready, let me just tell you what to do. You’re just gonna have a conversation with God in your heart. I’ll tell you what to say, and you just say this and mean it to him.
Right now, just say this to him in your heart, “So, God, I’ve done wrong. I’m guilty. I know it, I feel it. I feel the weight. Jesus, thank you for dying in my place. I believe that you rose from the dead to prove that you really have forgiveness to offer. Jesus, I’m ready to give you my loyalty. I’m ready to put my faith in you, to give my trust to you, and you alone because of what you did for me. Jesus, come into my life. Take away my sin. Set me free for this relationship with you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.”
I’ve had a number of people make that decision. Can we just welcome them into the family of God this weekend? So fantastic. And, hey, if you made that decision for the first time, that’s awesome. We would love to know about it. We’d love to be able to celebrate, get some resources to you. And so, one of the things we ask people to do, it’s just a simple step, but it’s an important step, it’s a first step. And those first steps matter, right? You just text the word Jesus to 888-111. You’re gonna get back a link. You’re not going on a list. You’ll get back a link. It’s gonna tell you some things that you need to know about a relationship with Jesus. We wanna put those resources in your hands.
Today we’re going to tackle the weight of worry. And if you’ve ever been really worried about something, you know how much worry can weigh us down, right? That’s the bad news: the good news is that worry doesn’t have to weigh us down. We can get free of its weight. And Jesus wants to teach us some important things that will allow us to experience that freedom.
Craig: Well, hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you with us today. If it’s your first time joining us, let me catch up real quick. We are in the midst of a series called “Travel Light” where we’ve been taking a look at a teaching from Jesus about how to get free from some of the unnecessary weight that a lot of us are carrying in life. So far we’ve looked at the weight of money, not that money’s a bad thing, but it’s a dangerous blessing because it’s temporary, and yet, it tends to draw trust to itself, and then, right when we most need something that we can depend on, the money is gone and we find ourselves just kind of in a free fall. And Jesus teaches us that generosity is really the key to having money without putting our trust in it.
We’ve also looked at the weight of bad bosses, the weight of things that we give our loyalty to that can’t lighten our load, they just add to it. And again, Jesus said that generosity, with our time and our talent and our treasure, is ultimately the way that we stay free from the weight of bad bosses.
Today, we’re gonna talk about the weight of worry. And it’s just slightly ironic that we’re talking about worry on a day when some of you are probably dealing with a fair amount of worry. I mean not you guys because you’re here but…hey, I’m not a prophet, I don’t have the gift of prophecy, but I’m gonna make a crazy out-on-a-limb prediction, I’m gonna predict that our online attendance numbers this weekend might just be a touch higher. This coronavirus thing has got a lot of people worried. And by the way, that’s okay. If you’re joining us online, I’m so glad that you’re with us, the important thing is that you’re with us, we’re glad that you can be with us online.
But a lot of us are dealing with worry, right? And then, the reality is that worry adds a lot of weight to our lives. It doesn’t really matter what we’re worried about, worry adds a lot of weight to our lives. Maybe you’re worried about the coronavirus, maybe you’re worried about the impact the coronavirus is having on the stock market and your retirement accounts. Maybe you’re worried about the impact the coronavirus is having on your business. I talked to a guy this week that said that his business had lost over a million dollars because of canceled trade shows and conventions because of the coronavirus. And maybe that’s a place that you’re in. Or maybe it’s a health thing related to the coronavirus. Maybe you’re worried about a health diagnosis or you got a follow up with a doctor coming and you’re a little bit worried about what he’s gonna say. Or maybe you’re worried about the health of somebody in your life, or maybe you’re worried about who your kids are dating, or maybe you’re worried about whether or not you’re gonna find the job or keep a job. Maybe you’re worried about the future or whether your past is gonna catch up. We have all kinds of things that we worry about. And the reality is that worry adds a lot of weight to our lives.
Let me give you a little piece of advice. If you are the kind of person who’s prone to worry, if anybody’s ever called you a worrywart in your life, if you’re prone to worry, let me give you a piece of advice. Do not, under any circumstances, google how bad worry is for you. Okay? If you’re prone to worry, you do not want to do that because what’s gonna happen is you’re gonna get a whole new set of things to worry about. Because worry is actually really, really hard on us. Because reality is that, when we start to worry about things, what happens is we’re actually putting our bodies into a kind of a mild version of the fight-or-flight mode. Okay? And the problem is that’s exhausting. That draws resources out of us and our bodies simply can’t produce, they can’t manufacture resources, so they end up having to divert resources to stay in that mode and they divert them from our brains actually. And then, what happens is, when we’re worried, our analytical ability goes down. We miss details and therefore we make bad decisions, which leads to more problems, which leads to more worry, and it’s a vicious cycle.
And, this is so, so, so unfair, but it’s just the way that it is, the more we worry, actually, the more our body diverts energy and resources away from our immune system. So, the more we worry, the more likely we are to actually get health problems and diseases, which, this is crazy, right? Like if you’re someone who’s really, really, really crazy worried about getting the coronavirus, you’re actually depressing your immune system, which makes you more likely to get the coronavirus, if you happen to be exposed to it, which… And now everybody’s like, “Yeah, I’m not going out in public ever again.” Right? Right? But it has a huge impact on our ability to fight off diseases. Actually, worry increases our blood pressure, which has an impact on our heart and all kinds of other… I mean worry is just…it’s crazy, crazy bad for us.
The good news is you don’t have to live under the weight of worry. The good news is that how we live today actually determines how much worry about tomorrow will weigh us down. That’s the good news for today, that how we live today actually determines how much worry about tomorrow will weigh us down. And Jesus wants to teach us how to begin to live free from that worry.
Why don’t you go and grab a Bible and join me in the Gospel of Matthew. We’re gonna be on Matthew chapter 6 today. And if you’re kind of new to the Bible, Matthew is one of the four Gospels, the four books of good news about the life of Jesus. And today we’re gonna see that the good news of Jesus is that Jesus can and will show us how to live free from the weight of worry about tomorrow. Jesus says this. We’re in chapter 6, starting verse 25. He says, “Therefore, I tell you do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.” A couple things here, first off, he says, “Therefore,” that’s how he starts off. And I had a seminary professor who loved to say, you know, “Whenever you see the word therefore, you should ask the question, ‘What is the therefor there for?'” I thought it was funny too the first time. Like the 500th time, I was like, “Okay, we get it,” but it’s actually a pretty good piece of advice. What’s therefore there for? What Jesus is really saying here is that, “What I’m about to tell you is actually very, very closely connected to what I’ve already been talking about.” And what has he been talking about? Well, he’s been talking about the weight of earthly treasure. He’s been talking about the weight of bad bosses. And what he’s saying now is that, “What I’m about to talk to you about is actually really closely connected,” and he’s gonna talk to us about worry.
And what he’s really saying is that, “Hey, if you get this worry business right, you’re actually gonna begin to experience a bunch of freedom in other areas of your life. And if you get this worry business right, that’s gonna have a huge impact on whether or not you’re weighed down by earthly treasure or whether or not you’re weighed down by giving your loyalty to something that’s only adding to your load.” If we get this worry business right, it’s gonna have a huge, huge impact on us. Now why is that? Because worry is all about focus. Worry is all about focus. And focus, as we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, focus really determines where our loyalties lie and where our trust is invested.
That’s why worry is such a big deal. Because worry’s about focus, and focus determines where our loyalties lie and whether or not we’re serving a boss who adds to a load or lightens it. And our focus ultimately dictates where our trust is invested. So, worry is kind of a big deal.
And Jesus is concerned about it, it’s interesting, worry basically boils down to paying attention to something. Do you know that? So, say, it’s all about focus. Because worry really literally means paying attention. In fact, as a lot of you may know, the Gospel of Matthew wasn’t originally written in English, it was written in Greek. That was the common language of the day. And in Greek, the word for worry literally means paying too much attention. That’s literally what it means. And what happens is we pay too much attention, and then, we begin to feel anxious. Okay? So, here’s the definition of worry that were gonna be working with today. Worry is the anxious feeling that comes from paying too much attention to the wrong things. Are you with me, Church? That’s what Jesus is talking about. It’s this anxious feeling, it’s this clenched up, it’s the unsettled feeling that comes because we’re paying too much attention to the wrong things. And Jesus is very concerned about it.
In fact, it’s interesting, the word worry is not a common word in the Bible. It actually only occurs a handful of times and, interesting enough, almost 50% of the times that the word for worry shows up in the Bible, they’re right in this teaching from Jesus. He’s gonna say it over and over and over again, which tells me, again, an interesting thing. It tells me that Jesus is pretty worried about what we worry about. Jesus is pretty worried about what we worry about because, again, worry is all about focus, and that ultimately drives so many other things.
Now, what are the wrong things to worry about? Well, he says in this passage, right, he says that it’s, you know, about your life, what you will eat and drink, about your body, what you wear. And then, he goes on and he says this. He says, “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes?” And he’s gonna actually ask a bunch of questions today and the obvious answer is gonna be really clear to us, and so, let’s just ask ourselves, “Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes?” The answer would be, say it with me, “Yes, it absolutely is.”
He says, “Look at the birds of the air. They do not sow, or reap, or store away in barns. And yet, your Heavenly Father feeds them.” And he says, “Are not you much more valuable than they?” Are you not much more valuable than birds, and the obvious answer, say it with me, is, “Yes, of course, we’re so much more valuable than the birds.” How do we know that? Jesus didn’t die for the birds. Right? God didn’t send his only Son for the birds. “For God so loved the world,” not meaning the planet, not meaning all the animals, but meaning you and me, the people of the world. “For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son.” He lived a perfect life, he died on the cross to pay for our sin. And his blood, God raised him from the dead and he offers us salvation by faith, simply by trusting in what Jesus did for us. Why? Because he loves you. He did that for you because of his deep, deep love for you. So yes, you are much more valuable than birds. The death and the resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate proof of how much more valuable you are than the birds.
Now, what Jesus is telling us here isn’t just a good feel-good kind of a thing. He’s actually giving us a strategy for dealing with worry, I don’t know if you caught it. But here’s the interesting thing about worry, see, it’s funny, He said, “Don’t worry.” And then, we all went, “Oh, okay. I’m good, like I really don’t need the rest of the message,” right? I mean, “Oh, I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to worry, so, oh, now you said, ‘Don’t worry,’ I’m good.” Right? Probably nobody feels that way because not worrying is a whole lot harder than simply telling somebody, “Just don’t do it,” Right? So, you might remember like when you’ve been worried about something and somebody says, “Hey, don’t worry about that,” you’re like, “Oh. Well, thanks, I’m good now.”
Now, here’s the thing about worry. It’s actually very hard to reject worry, it’s very hard to just go, “I just won’t do it. Don’t come into my life.” It’s very hard to reject worry but it’s much easier to replace it. It’s very hard to reject worry but it’s much easier to replace it with something else. We can’t just not worry but we can choose to pay attention, because that’s what worry is, really, we can choose to pay attention to something else, something more positive. And what Jesus is doing here is he’s giving us that much more positive thing to pay attention to. So, instead of paying so much attention to what you’re gonna do about tomorrow and how are you gonna get these clothes and those kinds of things, well, instead what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna focus on how much God loves you. So when you find yourself inclined to be worrying about things, he says, “Replace it. Put your attention on something else,” and this is what you put your attention on, how deeply you’re loved, how profoundly God loves you, how beyond our ability to really comprehend, God pays attention, cares for, and longs for the good of those of us he called according to his purpose, that are his people. He says, “That’s what you replace worry with.” He says, “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” and the obvious answer is no. No, you can’t. Worry never adds, it only subtracts. Worry never adds, it only subtracts. It subtracts peace from our lives, it subtracts energy from our lives, it subtracts health from our lives, it subtracts joy from our lives. It subtracts a whole lot of stuff, it doesn’t add anything. Well, maybe one exception, it adds weight. That’s the only thing that worry adds. Everything else, everything good it subtracts from our lives.
He says, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow? They don’t labor or spin. And yet I tell you, that not even Solomon, in all of his splendor, was dressed like one of these, one of these flowers.” That’s such an interesting thing. Solomon, if you don’t know him, Solomon was one of the greatest kings of the Nation of Israel and he was widely recognized as one of the richest men that have ever lived. In fact, in the Bible, there’s a description of all the things that he owned. And there’s a website that I found, it’s called lovemoney.com, which I do not recommend, okay, it’s all kind of messed up, but I found this article there where they took the description of everything that Solomon owned and then they added up the modern-day value of all those things and they found that he has a net worth of $2 trillion. $2 trillion, I mean, put that in perspective. The richest man in the world today is Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon. You might be going, “Wait a minute, I thought Bill Gates was the richest man,” he was, but interestingly enough, he’s been practicing generosity. I don’t know that he’s necessarily a follower of Jesus but he’s recognized that the wealth that he has should be a blessing to others. And honestly, I think he’s experiencing that, when we are generous, we find ourselves set free from the burden of those possessions. And so, he’s actually given away over $35 billion already, so he’s no longer the richest man in the world. But I guarantee, he’s a whole lot lighter, in a good way.
Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, $145 billion, which sounds like a lot. But Solomon was 2 trillion. And if you want to put that in perspective, that means that Solomon was 14 times richer than the richest man in the world today, which is a really powerful way of saying that basically Solomon could buy any clothes he wanted. Right? Like I don’t even know who the big designers were back then. I mean they were all robes, right, I mean I don’t know if there was like a Gucci equivalent of a designer robe. But it didn’t matter what the price tag was, Solomon could afford it. Right? And he wouldn’t even feel the cost of it, he wouldn’t even know that he’d paid it, honestly. And yet, it says that Solomon, in all of his splendor, with all of his resources, he wasn’t dressed as finely, as beautifully as the flowers of the field. God takes care of them. Not even Solomon could hold a candle the way your Father dresses the flowers of the field. He says, “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, you of little faith?”
See, that’s how God clothes the flowers of the field that they’re here today and gone. In other words, they’re very short-lived, they’re very temporary. But that’s not true of us. You understand the you and I…well, maybe we do have physical bodies that will die but the essence of who we are is an immortal soul. Who you are will last for all of eternity. You’re never gonna fully go away. You might pass from this life into the next one waiting for Jesus to restore all things, but the reality is, you and I are going to live forever. We’re not like the flowers that get thrown into the fire and they’re gone and done, we will live forever. And so, obviously God cares so much more about us because we’re not temporary in the way that flowers are.
He says, “And if God takes care of those temporary things in this way, how much more will he take care of those of us whose worth is so much higher and whose lifespan is ultimately unending?” I mean he says an interesting thing. He says that, and then, he looks at his disciples and he’s got a group of his followers right around them at his feet and he says, “You of little faith.” Such an interesting thing. Like, if I would been sitting there, I’d been like, “Dude, like we’re here.” I mean obviously we have faith or we wouldn’t be here at your feet, we wouldn’t be listening to this. But it’s interesting, the word that he uses literally in the original Greek is just one word, “you of little faith,” literally, it’s, “you little faith ones.” It’s a single word and it only shows up a handful of times in the Bible, and every time it’s used to describe people who have faith but they’re letting fear crowd it out. They have faith but they run the danger of allowing fear and worry to crowd it out. In fact, there was a time in Jesus’ life that he and his disciples were crossing a lake in a boat and Jesus fell asleep, he was taking a nap. And a storm came up and it says, “The disciples, they went and they woke him saying, ‘Lord, save us. We’re going to drown.'” And he replied, “You of little faith,” same word, “why are you so afraid?” And then, he got up and he rebuked the winds and the waves and it was completely calm.
See, they had faith, right, because they went to Jesus and they said, “Save us,” that’s clearly faith, but Jesus recognized in that moment their fear, their worry was battling their faith, replacing their hearts. So yeah, had faith but they were allowing fear and worry to crowd it out. Or another time, also in a boat, the disciples at least were in a boat and Jesus actually came out walking on the water to meet them. And when they saw and they were terrified and they thought maybe it was a ghost, but Jesus assured them that it wasn’t. And Peter, I love Peter, Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” I gotta tell you, if I were Peter, first off, I would never have asked that. And second, like what are you gonna do if he says yes? Right? Because I’m thinking Peter’s like, “Hey, if it’s really you, tell me to walk out.” He’s like, “Okay, come,” and he’s like, “Oh, no. I did not expect that.”
But Jesus had come, and it says, “Then Peter got down out of the boat. He walked on the water and he came toward Jesus.” Right? That’s clearly faith, right? But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me.” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. I’m sorry, immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” So again, he had faith, but in that moment, his fear, his worry was crowding it out. Listen to me, we don’t lack faith. If you’re a follower of Jesus, it’s not that you lack faith. We don’t lack faith but what we do is we let fear and worry crowd it out. We don’t lack faith but we let fear, we let worry crowd it out.
And so, Jesus is saying, “Hey, don’t let that happen. Don’t let fear and worry crowd it out.” And so, he says, “So, do not worry.” Or literally, don’t focus too much on these things that generate fear and then begin to fight for space in your heart with faith. He says, “Do not worry saying, ‘What shall we eat or what shall we drink or what shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” He says, “Don’t think about those things so much, don’t focus on them, don’t run after them.” He says, “The pagans run after them,” the word pagans just means people who have not experienced God, they don’t know God and they have not experienced God as a loving and providing father.
But he says, “You have. So don’t be like them, don’t run after,” and literally the word that he uses there means, “Don’t be fixated on, don’t be consumed by, don’t be overly focused on these things.” So that’s what the pagans do, who don’t have an experience of a good, good Father who cares for their needs. They don’t have an experience of the Father who is the author and the giver of every good and perfect gift. He says, “You have that, so don’t be focused on those things.” Because here’s the thing, our focus determines how much our worry will weigh us down. Okay? Our focus determines how much our worry will weigh us down. What we’re focused on ultimately determines whether or not we are allowing fear and worry to crowd out our faith. Focus determines how much worry will weigh us down.
And so, he offers an alternative. He says…again, you can’t just reject worry but you can replace it. You can focus on something else, so here’s what you focus on, he says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. Seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” He says, “That’s where you focus.” Focus on seeking the kingdom of God, focus on living, on mission with Jesus, focus on living in the faith, that you have a loving Father who will protect you. Seek first his kingdom, his righteousness, and all this other stuff, he says, “It’ll take care of itself.” Actually, it won’t take care of itself but, “Your Father will take care of you.”
And my guess is that a lot of you have had the same experience that I have had, which is that, time after time after time, when I found myself in a situation where I didn’t know how I was gonna get out of it, when I didn’t know how I was gonna deal with the needs that I had, God moved. And he provided it in a way that I’d never have anticipated, I would never have expected, and yet he did. And what Jesus is basically saying is, “Hey, maybe you should stop being surprised.” If you’ve seen God provide over and over and over again, maybe you should start living in the trust that he loves to provide for those who seek him first. That’s what he’s saying.
Now, I think I should probably point out though that Jesus isn’t promising that, if you have faith, you’ll never have a need. Okay? That’s not what this is saying. I have heard people twist what Jesus says here to say something he never intended. I’ve heard people say in churches, “Hey, what Jesus is saying is, ‘As long as you have enough faith, you’ll never have any need in life.'” That’s not true. The Bible is filled with stories of people who had faith and they had need. And yes, the Bible is filled with heartwarming stories of how God ultimately met those needs, but sometimes there was a gap between recognizing the need and seeing God provide, partly so that you could recognize that it was God, in fact, who was providing. But it is possible to have faith and need. In fact, check this out, this is what Jesus says. He says, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I love that. Well, I don’t love it but I’m glad he said it.
I mean clearly, Jesus isn’t saying, “If you have enough faith, you’ll never have any trouble,” He just said, “Every day has some trouble.” Jesus isn’t promising, “If you have enough faith, you’ll never have a need,” but what he’s promising is that, “If you have a faith in a God who provides, you’ll never need to be weighed down by worry.” This is all about worry. Okay? This is all about living free from the weight of worry, about things that we have no control over but our Father does. This is all about being free of the weight of those things that we find ourselves fixated on, and then, that lead to fear pushing our faith out. And they lead to that anxiety and that unsettled, clenched up feeling. He says, “I don’t want you to live that way, I never intended you to live that way and you don’t have to live that way.”
What he says is basically…he says, “Focus on God today and you won’t be weighed down by worry about tomorrow.” That’s what Jesus is promising. Focus on God today and you will not be weighed down by worry about tomorrow. But how do we do that? How do we focus on God? And the answer is the same way that we deal with all these other things that he’s been talking about throughout this whole teaching. The way we focus on God is the same thing that we’ve seen as talking about dealing with money or with bad bosses and now with worry. It’s all about generosity. Generosity is the one thing that ties this whole thing together. I mean generosity sets us free from the weight of money, right? Generosity is what allows us to have treasure but not to trust in it.
Apostle Paul writing to a pastor he was mentoring said…he said, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant or to put their hope in wealth which is so uncertain but to put their hope in God.” Just putting your hope in God sound a little bit like seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness. Yeah, because it’s the same thing. He says, “But to put their hope in God who richly provides, who richly cares for all of us, who gives us everything for our enjoyment.” He says, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” He says, “In this way, they’ll lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age.” Does that sound a little bit like seeking first the kingdom? Yeah, it’s generosity. Generosity keeps us free from the weight of money. But generosity, he also taught us, generosity sets us free from the weight of bad bosses, the weight of giving our loyalty to things that only add to our load. What did Jesus say? He said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you’ll hate the one and love the other or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. But you cannot serve two masters,” he says.
And the reality is that we end up giving our loyalty to whatever it is that we’re focused the most on. Right? Whatever we’re focused the most on, whatever we’re fixated on, that’s where our loyalty ultimately goes. And what is worry but a focus? So he said, “Generosity is what keeps us free from bad bosses,” and now he says, “Generosity also sets us free from the weight of worry.” Generosity sets us free from the weight of worry.
Why? Why is generosity so important to Jesus? Why does it sit underneath this entire teaching of how to travel light? Because here’s the thing about generosity. The more generously we give what we have, the less what we have has a hold on us. Does that make sense, church? It’s what Jesus says throughout this teaching. He says, “You gotta get free from these things that have a hold of you,” and the best way to do that is generosity. He says, “Generosity, the more generously we give what we have, the less what we have has a hold on us.”
So, let me ask you a couple questions as we wrap up this series. Question number one, where is there an abundance in my life? Where do you have the resources to be generous? You can think in terms of time, talent, treasure. But where do you have an abundance in your life? Where do you have more than you need? Because what we need to ask ourselves is, “What’s the more for?” What’s the purpose of having more? And, the answer, according to the Bible, is, so that we can be a blessing to others. Time, talent, treasure, God gives us more for the purpose of being a blessing to others. So, where do you have an abundance in your life?
And by the way, I think this is really important, when you think about abundance, you need to think about abundance from a biblical perspective. And what the Word of God tells us that abundance is, is that, “Abundance is having more than we needed today.” Not more than we worry we might need tomorrow. You with me? See, a lot times we define abundance only by our sense of, “Well, I think tomorrow I might need this much and I’m worried that I might need a little bit more than that so I’m just gonna…” And then, honestly, when we think that way, we will never recognize the abundance we have. We’ll never recognize the excess that we have with which to be generous.
Like, I’m gonna be honest with you, last week was a terrible week for me financially. Can I just tell you that? I would never have anticipated last week. My youngest daughter was in just a very, very minor fender-bender but the insurance company decided, “Yeah, the car’s totaled.” So we had to go car shopping. Found out I have a plumbing issue. I knew I had a plumbing issue, I’ve done a little kind of fixes along the way, but we finally went, “You know, there’s something really wrong going on here,” and we brought some guys in. They did a bunch of stuff, I really trusted them, and I really think they were giving us a straight scoop, but the straight scoop was basically $10,000 worth of plumbing repair. I know. Same week that I’m shopping for a car.
And my oldest daughter, so proud of her, she’s adulting and she’s actually buying a condo. And she actually asked us a while ago, “Hey, do you wanna like go in a little bit on? I’m gonna buy something that I can sort of fix and, ultimately, flip and raise the value, and so, it could be a little bit of an investment? So, do you want to…?” I mean she’s got almost all of it but she thought, you know, a few thousand here or there. And we’re really, “That’d be awesome.” See, as we committed to that, she’s closing on it soon. So like she needs that, and our plumbing needs that, and the car needs that. I’m like, “holy cow.” Listen, if I had known what last week was gonna look like and you back up a few more weeks when I was thinking about practicing generosity, I might very well have gone, “I don’t think I’m gonna have enough to be generous right now.”
See, listen, we cannot define abundance by what we worry we might need tomorrow. We have to talk more about what we have today. And the reality is, the last time that I got paid, I recognized, “Yeah, I have an abundance.” Yeah, I didn’t know about all that coming up, but it’s okay, and I’m glad I didn’t because I wouldn’t have practiced generosity, at least that would’ve been more of a struggle. And therefore, that stuff would’ve had more of a hold on me and I don’t wanna live that way. So where do you have an abundance in your life defined by having more than you need today, not more than you worry you might need tomorrow?
Second question is this, where am I allowing a fear of scarcity tomorrow to crowd out an opportunity for generosity today. See, where am I allowing a fear that, “Hey, I might not have enough of time or talent or treasure in some situation that might be coming up. Where am I allowing that for your scarcity tomorrow keep me from seizing an opportunity to live generously today?” Because today is what matters. How we live today determines how much we’ll be weighed down by worry about tomorrow.
This is why we say this at Mission Hills, we say, “Giving first honors God. Saving second practices wisdom, living on the rest builds contentment.” Giving first honors God, we don’t honor God, we don’t live generously by honoring God out of the leftovers, and certainly not by out of what we think might be left over once we’ve accounted for all the things we can anticipate could possibly happen tomorrow. I know there’s a bunch of stuff we didn’t know was gonna happen and we probably wouldn’t know, so maybe we would just hold on to this. No, you don’t do that way. And if you do, what happens is you’re gonna live a whole lot more weighed down than God ever intended you to. So giving first honors God, saving second then practices wisdom, and living on the rest builds contentment. I’m really glad in our family that we’ve followed that principle for a long time. I’m glad that we’ve given first but I’m also glad that we’ve saved second. Because last week was a bad week but I don’t have to go into debt. It hurt, I’m not happy about it, but I’m also not destroyed by it because we’ve been giving first, saving second, and living on the rest.
So, where is there an opportunity for generosity today that would allow you to practice that? And that just leads me to the third question, “What’s my next step of generosity?” What’s your next step of generosity? Why so much talk about generosity? Because the only way to travel light is to live generously. That’s what Jesus is teaching us. This whole section boils down to that truth. The only way to travel light is to live generously, with our time, or talent, I treasure, all of it. The only way to travel light is to live generously.
In a moment, I’m gonna pray, and then, we’re gonna take an offering. You’re supposed to laugh. You’re like, “Oh no, I knew it was coming,” I mean, it’s not. No, we’re not taking another offering because, as I’ve said throughout this, this is not about getting more out of you for the church, this is about what’s gonna be good for you. Jesus teaches this because it’s good for us.
I mean, think about this, this is crazy. Right? You cannot outgenerous God, right? God loves you so much, he sent his own Son to die for you. He paid for your sin, every wrong you’ve ever done, he did it in his blood. And then, God raised Jesus from the dead, those are facts of history. The grave’s empty. And then, he offers you salvation simply by faith, just by saying yes to a relationship with Jesus, by just trusting in Jesus you get saved and you spend eternity with God in joy and peace. Like you cannot possibly outgenerous God. And this incredibly generous God calls us to be generous, and it’s ultimately for our good. It’s so that we can travel light so we can not be weighed down by the burdens that he never meant us to bear. Like how crazy is that? You can’t even begin to match God’s generosity and his call for us to be generous is ultimately for our good. So no, we’re not taking an offering. This is for your good. The only way to travel light is to live generously. Let’s pray.
God, thank you. It’s humbling to recognize your generosity to us. And then, on top of that, you add this truth that, when you call us to be generous, it’s also for our good. Like how good can you get, God? Lord, we ask for your forgiveness for the ways that we sometimes hoard and hold on to, and especially when that’s driven by a fear that you can’t be trusted or a fear that, you know, if we don’t hold on that we’ll find ourselves hurting and lost.
This is not true. You’re too good a Father. And so, we ask you’re your forgiveness as your people and we ask that you would help us to replace our worry with faith, with the focus on your goodness, or teach us to travel light by living generously.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just do something for me? It’s so important. Would you just start praying for the people around you? Would you start praying for all the people who are watching online, joining us from around the world this weekend? Because I believe, I believe there’s some people that are hearing this. And you’ve heard something for the first time today, you’ve heard about God being generous. Maybe you had a picture of God before today that, you know, God was a demanding God. Maybe for the first time the light bulb went on and you’re seeing God in a new light, that he’s generous. So generous he sent his own Son to pay for your sin, to remove your guilt and shame, and that you can receive that gift simply by trusting what Jesus did, by saying yes to a relationship with him. Maybe for the first time you’re seeing God for who he really is, as is the ultimate example of generosity. And if you’ve never experienced that generosity, if you’ve never experienced the freedom that comes from forgiveness for your sins, an adoption of the family of God and a new life with God that begins now and goes on forever, if you’ve never experienced that, you can have it right here right now. You don’t need to worry about any of this talk about being generous today if you’ve never experienced that. All you need to worry about is receiving God’s generosity because that’s what he wants for you today.
And if you’ve never said yes to a relationship with Jesus and experienced his generous love, here’s how you do it, you’re just gonna say this in your heart. You’re gonna have this conversation with God, you’re gonna say, “God, thank you for loving me so generously. I know I’ve done wrong and I don’t deserve your love, but thank you for loving me so generously. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to pay for all the wrong I’ve done. I believe you rose from the dead. I do, I believe that. And I understand for the first time that you’re offering me everything simply by faith, by choosing to put my trust in you, by saying yes to a relationship with you I’m ready to do that. Jesus, I’m saying yes. I’m putting my trust in you, I’m gonna follow you. Come into my life, I’m yours, for now and forever. Amen.
I’ve heard a lot of people make that decision this weekend already, can we just welcome them into the family of God? So fantastic. Wherever you are, whether you’re on the Littleton campus or one of other campuses or online, if you made the decision, we would love to celebrate that with you, and the ways we do that at Mission Hills, we just ask everybody who’s made that decision, text the word Jesus to 888111. You’re not going on a mailing list, you’re gonna actually get back truth, you’re gonna get back five things that are true about you because you’ve said yes to a relationship with Jesus, five things that’ll help you begin living in this relationship with our incredibly generous God.