Turn Your Cash Into Thanks And Praise

We have a store in town that advertises “Turn Your Gold into Cash”. Bring in your old gold jewelry and trinkets and we’ll give you cold hard cash for it. But God has an even better deal. He says turn your cash into worship.

I love the topic of giving. I love encouraging believers to give generously to God. When we give to him cheerfully and in faith he always blesses us in return, not because he has to but because he loves to and has promised to. When we sow, we reap. When we sow abundantly we reap abundantly.

But there’s another reason to give that I don’t hear mentioned often. I’ve never heard a health and wealth preacher hit this one. In fact I’ve rarely heard anyone preach on this. When we give money, God gets worship. Paul told the Corinthians that their giving to the poor would result in thanksgiving overflowing to God:

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. (2 Corinthians 9:10-12)

Here’s how it worked. The saints in Jerusalem were suffering through a famine. The Corinthians sent financial gifts.  In this way God provided for the Jerusalem believers. When the desperate saints in Jerusalem received God’s provision, they fell on their knees and worshiped. They praised him for his mercy, faithfulness and steadfast love. They poured out thanks to God for his goodness.

We tend to think of the blessings WE will get through our generosity. How WE will reap.  Or we think of the joy we will give OTHERS. But don’t forget what GOD will get when we give – thanksgiving and praise.

When we give to our local church, we make it possible for our church to preach the gospel. When we preach the gospel, God saves people. When God saves people they give him praise and thanks. When we give to our church, we can offer a wonderful Children’s Ministry and sow gospel seeds in children’s hearts. When many of those seeds eventually bear fruit and God saves, they will give God thanks and praise.

When we give to Compassion or Covenant Mercies or World Vision, suffering saints see God’s kindness and faithfulness. When they see God’s kindness and faithfulness they worship him.

Yes, when we give, God blesses US. But it would be reason enough to give if the only result were thanks and praise ascending to Jesus.

Someday in heaven God will show us the results of our sowing. How blessed we’ll be to see the video replays of people on the other side of the world breaking into praise when a Compassion worker brings them some bread. When we see the replay of that elderly lady worshiping Jesus because God saved her those many years ago when she heard the gospel in Children’s Church. Ok, I know the Bible doesn’t say anything about video replays in heaven. But I know this – Jesus will remind us of generosity we have completely forgotten about:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40)

There might not be video replays in heaven. But Jesus won’t forget our giving. And he won’t forget the praise and thanks our generosity brought him.

Hey, turn your gold into cash if you want. But even better – turn your cash into worship.

You Don’t Have To Twist My Arm

“Please bow your heads and close your eyes. God has shown me there are 10 people in this room who will each give $1000 this morning. God is speaking to you even now. Raise your hand if you will give $1000. Yes, I see that hand. Thank you. Yes I see your hand too. God bless you. Ok, that’s $2000. Where are the other 8? You know who you are. Come on, let’s obey God people! Hmmm. Well….. let’s put it this way. If we don’t get 10,000 in the next 10 minutes then I’m going to have to start laying people off. Do you want to have a worship leader next Sunday? Then we’d better start seeing some hands….”

Sadly, I have a friend who experienced this kind of arm-twisting by a preacher. God wants us to give generously to the kingdom and the needy but not out of pressure or guilt or desire to be seen. Our prime motivation for generosity should be love for God and others.

When we love someone we’re motivated to sacrifice for them: Most parents want to bless their children and make many sacrifices for them because they love them.

It was God’s love for the world that moved him to give his only Son. And 2 CO 8:9 says of Jesus, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” “For YOUR sake” – because Jesus loved us, he emptied himself to make us rich. When our giving is motivated by love, we imitate God the Father and Jesus.

In 1 Co 13:3 God says love must be our motive: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” If I give away all my money, all my possessions, but have not love for God, and love for people – I gain nothing.

And when we give to others we are loving Jesus, who said that on Judgment day he will say,

For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:34-39)

When we bless others, we do it to Jesus. We give because we love Jesus. Nobody needs to put the squeeze on us. Love is our motivation for generosity.

God’s Shovel Is Bigger Than Mine

The story is told of a farmer who was known for his generous giving and whose friends could not understand how he could give so much and yet remain so prosperous. One day a spokesman for his friends said. “We can’t understand you. You give far more than any of the rest of us and yet you always seem to have more to give.” “Oh that is easy to explain,” the farmer said. “I keep shovelling into God’s bin and God keeps shovelling back into mine and God has the bigger shovel.” –Herbert Lockyer

God calls us to be generous givers. Generous giving is pleasing to him and advances the gospel. As we shovel into God’s bin, he will shovel back into ours. And God has the bigger shovel.

When we give generously, we reflect God’s own lavish nature. God so loved the world he GAVE – his only begotten SON for our salvation. And Jesus emptied himself and became poor to make us rich.

But first of all, WHOSE MONEY IS IT ANYWAY?

We tend to think of our money as our own. We say, “I’m going to deposit MY paycheck.” “MY finances are really tight.” “I don’t think that’s how we should spend OUR money.” But in reality, our money isn’t ours. It’s God’s. And we are just stewards of it.

Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it.”

And in Ps 50:10-12 God tells us “Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills … and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.”

Everything on earth, including you and me, belongs to God because he created it. And if you have repented of your sins and turned to Jesus Christ in faith for salvation, then God owns you twice. Not only did he create you, but he bought you with Jesus’ blood. There’s a church in nearby Murraysville, PA named “Blood Bought Church”. It’s an unusual name and one non-Christians might think strange, but it’s a good reminder that Jesus owns us because he bought us with his blood. We are not our own.

All we have is a gift from God:

What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

What do you have that you did not receive? You may say, “I have wealth because I worked hard for it. I took my gifts and talents and was diligent and applied myself.” Who gave you your gifts and talents? Who gave you the ability to think? Who gave you the health and strength to be diligent? Who gave you opportunities? Who allowed you to live in this country where there are jobs?

In Deuteronomy 8:17-18 God says, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

It’s not OUR money. God has LOANED it to us and we are stewards. God is watching to see what we will do with HIS money. And he wants us to be GENEROUS with it.

It’s easy to be generous with other people’s money. If you gave me $5000 and said give this to people who really need it, it would be easy for me. I’d have no problems giving away your money. If we think of our money as ours, we’ll be tempted to be tight. If we think of it as God’s, it’s much easier to give it away.

So what will you do today with God’s money? I suggest you shovel it out to your church or missions or the poor. But get ready to keep shovelling because God is going to shovel back into your bin, and God has the bigger shovel.

The Surprising Blessings That Overtake The Generous

One thing the “faith preachers” get right is this – if we bless others God will heap blessings on us.

Not because he has to, but because he has graciously promised to. It may not be in the way we expect; we might not always reap cash for cash. But we will definitely reap. The God who promised we won’t lose our reward for giving a cup of cold water to a disciple won’t fail to bless us when we bless others, especially to the poor.  Sooner or later, his blessings will overtake us like a tidal wave.

Here are a few reasons to give generously:

God promises you’ll be blessed for generosity to the needy.

Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor. (Proverbs 14:21)

God may bless you financially or he may simply fill you with joy. Hey, I’ll take joy any day of the week.

Light will break in your darkness

Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. (Psalm 112:4-5)

After crying out to God in prayer and seeking God in his word, the best thing to do when in a dark situation is to give to others. God promises it will be well with a generous person.

God will bless your children.

He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing. (Psalm 37:26)

Note this says our children “become” a blessing. It may not happen overnight. But in addition to continuing to pray for our children, give and keep giving, and pray for God to fulfill this promise.

God will protect, deliver and restore you

Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him; the LORD protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies. The LORD sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health. (Psalm 41:1-3)

God will be honored

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. (Proverbs 14:31)

When we honor God, he honors us. He does this because generosity to those less fortunate reflects his gracious, generous character.

God considers your giving to the poor as a personal gift to him, which he will be faithful to repay.

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed. (Proverbs 19:17 ESV)

The poor won’t usually be able to pay us back, but God will make sure he does.

Others will water you

Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. (Proverbs 11:25)

You will reap in the same way you give.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (2 Corinthians 9:6)

God will increase your capacity for every kind of good work.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” (2 CO 9:8-9)

God will enrich you to be increasingly generous.

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:11)

Not only will we increase in generosity, but our blessing others will result in them giving thanks and praise to God.

Don’t Let The Manipulators Make You Stingy

Some TV evangelists solicit money like they’re selling Slice-O-Dice-O-Matics or Incredible Dirt-Be-Gone-Ice-Cream-Maker-Diaper-Changers.

“Send your faith seed of $19.95 today and we’ll send you The Amazing Prayer Cloth!  Yes, the Amazing Prayer Cloth, embroidered with “footprints in the sand,” is a handy 6” by 6” and fits perfectly inside your Bible.  The Amazing Prayer Cloth not only will heal you, but is great for cleaning filthy conscience guilt buildup, as well as charcoal grills and computer screens.  Call now, and we’ll send you a second Amazing Prayer Cloth absolutely FREE (just pay shipping and handling of $499)!  But wait, there’s more…”

Because of all the manipulation on Christian TV, I’m hesitant at times to encourage people to give to God.  But God unashamedly tells us to be generous and to expect him to bless us lavishly.  We shouldn’t let the manipulators make us stingy.

God wants us to be generous like he is, the one who gave his only Son for us.  Like Christ, who emptied himself to make us rich. Jesus says, “Give to everyone who asks of you.”

Obviously, we need to use discernment, but we should reflect our heavenly Father’s generosity.  Here are three reasons:

Generosity honors God.

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
but he who is generous to the needy honors him.  (Proverbs 14:31)

Generosity brings thanks to God.

You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.  For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.  (2 Corinthians 9:11-12)

Generosity focuses our hope on God.

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share…(1 Tim 6.17-18).

Generosity helps us set our hope on God, not money or things, which are here today and gone tomorrow.  When we give generously we say, “Lord, I give my money away, because I believe you are generous and lavish and will richly provide anything that is good for me.”

God doesn’t owe us, but promises to bless us when we give. If we sow we’ll reap.  And God gives us a measure of determination in how much we reap. Sow generously, reap generously.  Not that we always reap exactly what we sow.  Give a dollar, you might not get ten back.  But Jesus will give you joy. And that’s better than money any day.  And it’s way better than The Amazing Prayer Cloth.

The Only Safe Rule

Have you ever thought that if you didn’t give to the church you could have a nicer home? Or do more or have more?  Have you ever envied the lifestyles or possessions of unbelievers who give nothing to God?

C.S. Lewis says,

“I do not believe one can settle on how much we ought to give.  I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.  In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little.  If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small.  There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.” — Mere Christianity

What does it cost me to follow Jesus?  What has my giving prohibited me from doing or buying?

The greater question, which is far more important, is how much do I treasure Jesus?  And what does my life and my giving reveal about how much I treasure Jesus?  How is my life different because I’m a Christian?  What sacrifices in time or energy do I make because of my love for Christ?

Perhaps you decided to stay in a particular place because of your church, rather than take a lucrative job that would require you to move, not that it would be wrong to do so.  Maybe your gifts to the poor make it impossible for you to get a new TV or go on vacation.

There are folks in our church who drive an hour to come on Sundays, be involved in Care Groups and our Parent/Teen ministry.  What they spend on gas alone each month must rule out other purchases they’d like to make.

I wonder, would Jesus ever point me out like he did a certain widow?

And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (MK 12.43-44).

photo by stuartpilbrow

What The Prosperity Teachers Get Right

I don’t think that prosperity teachers are helpful at all. In fact, I think that they’re downright dangerous and misleading. The gospel is not about health, wealth, vigor, and prosperity.

But…

I recently read Proverbs 11:24-25, which reads:

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

God doesn’t promise prosperity and blessing. He doesn’t promise sunshine and rainbows and Skittles. But on the flip side, God does reward those who give generously. He blesses those who delight to bless others. He pours out kindness on those who pour themselves out for others.

Those who are stingy will find that God is stingy toward them, and those who are generous will be on the receiving end of God’s generosity.

I don’t think this passage is referring strictly to spiritual blessings, although I’m sure that’s included. It seems to be saying that, generally speaking, God delights to give bless, in many different ways, those who are generous. Sometimes the blessings will be spiritual, like a deeper, richer communion with Christ. Other times the blessings will be material, like money to pay off your bills at the end of the month or take a getaway with your wife.

Growing up, my dad always said to me, “You can’t out-give God.” I love that. You can’t be more generous than God. God rewards those who give generously and without reservation. Sometimes God pours out spiritual blessings. Other times God pours out material blessings.

God is generous with those who are generous, and he withholds from those who withhold. When God sees a generous heart, he sees a reflection of himself, which brings him joy. God delights in blessing those who reflect his generosity.

I want a generous heart. Don’t you?

Hoarders

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Have you seen “Hoarders?”  Only in America.  A show about people buried under mountains of possessions.

I guess one man’s misery is another man’s entertainment. It’s a sad program. What begins as a collection of say, Pez dispensers, becomes a life-sucking bondage to mountains of knickknacks and knitting needles. One good thing about watching the show is that it makes me want to get rid of stuff. Even good stuff. Like our furniture. Or my David Bowie tee shirt. Or our dogs. No, wait. I always want to get rid of our dogs.

The real problem with hoarding isn’t that we amass stuff; it’s where we amass it – here. Jesus actually commanded us to hoard – but in heaven.

MT 6.19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Jesus says to send our treasures ahead – as many and often as we can.  They’ll be waiting – all brand new and shiny. In heaven there are no moths, rust, or tarnishing.

So start hoarding to your heart’s content. Give to the poor. Share the gospel.  Help the weak. Your heavenly mansion has lots of room.

photo by elgin.jessica

The Only Safe Rule For Giving

neptune-pool

In his commentary on Luke,  R. Kent Hughes quotes C.S. Lewis in reference to the widow’s sacrificial gift of 2 copper coins, which was all she had to live on (LK 21).  Unfortunately, I read the quote before I realized how convicting it would be.  By then it was too late to escape.  But you still have time to turn back…

“I do not believe one can settle on how much we ought to give.  I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.  In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little.  If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small.  There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.” – C.S. Lewis

Great quote, huh?  Convicted?  I tried to warn you.

When we read this quote we should be able to think of things we’ve denied ourselves because of our giving.  If we can’t think of a single purchase or pleasure we’ve forgone for the sake of the church or the poor, the Lord wants to convict and inspire us.

I know I’ve never given as sacrificially as I should.  That’s why I’m grateful for Jesus’ blood and obedience.  His blood to cover my sins, and his obedience to count as my obedience before the Father.  Jesus’ all-out sacrifice is mine.  His total self-emptying counts for me as if I had poured out all I had.  I’ve failed to sacrifice as I should, but Jesus’ sacrifice is totally sufficient for me and all his children combined.

Not only do I need mercy for my giving failures, I need grace to change.  I need the power of the Holy Spirit to make me willing to give more than I can spare, to change my heart so I give till it pinches.  To make me content to deny myself things I’d like to do or have for the sake of the kingdom.  I’m glad he gives this grace.

Come Holy Spirit, and make us like Jesus!

If you’d like a great charity to give to, consider Covenant Mercies.

photo by emmyboop

Give to Give?

Lots of celebrities and television shows are into giving away money to the less fortunate these days. I’m grateful for God’s common grace that moves both Christians and non-Christians to pity and help the poor. One celebrity recently encouraged their viewers, “Remember, never give to receive; give to give.” I appreciate the thought and agree that we shouldn’t do things with selfish motives. But God never says we should simply “give to give.”

God’s word says that whatever we do, we should do for the glory of God (1 CO 10.31). So don’t “Give to give,” but “Give for the glory of God.” Give to display God’s compassion for those in need. Give in gratitude for the love of Christ who emptied himself to make us rich. Give to display the power of the gospel to change self-centered sinners to those who care for others.

Not only does God say we should give for his glory, but we should give expecting reward and blessing. He stirs us to generosity by promising an abundant return. God doesn’t say “give to give.” That would be like saying to a farmer, “Plow to plow. Sow for the sake of sowing. But don’t have any expectation of a harvest.” I don’t know about you, but I’m not into plowing for plowing’s sake.

God motivates us to give generously by promising we’ll reap bountifully:

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully (2 CO 9.6).

God encourages us to bless the poor by promising to pay us back:

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,and he will repay him for his deed (PR 19.17)

Imagine us lending to God – and the King of the universe paying us back – with interest!

And here is the key – Give here, get treasure in heaven:

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (MT 19.21).

But isn’t giving with an expectation of reward selfish? Not if God tells us to give this way. Isn’t this the prosperity gospel? No. God doesn’t promise he’ll prosper us financially in this world, but will give us treasure in the next. Our reaping will be in heaven, when Jesus returns and says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.” Jesus promises us that in this life he’ll meet all our needs. In other words, he’ll give us all the grace we need to glorify him each day.

So don’t just give to give. Give to glorify God. And give with hope of eternal rewards.