Money and Worship – Matthew 6.19-21

Is one of the pieces of evidence from a Jesus centred community radical generosity? Or is that simply a phrase that slightly over the top church leaders use? Are we being called as a Jesus centred community to be generous in our wider community, our nation and our world? The demands of this world seem great and overwhelming and we may well wonder if our little contribution can make a dent. This weekend we may discover some of the truth behind what a ‘cheerful giver’ really is.

2 Corinthians 9:6-11

Matthew 6:19-21

Speaking Notes – Caveat

These notes are my speaking notes and are provided as an accompaniment to the recording. Please accept that they are not intended to be a published grammatically correct essay. I do hope and pray however they help you move towards Jesus.

Now onto the content…

Money is my god!

They were not the words of a young man in 1992 as he settled into the home with his new bride, but they may just as well have been. We shall call that young man Wayne. Raised on a council estate as one of four boys, with a father who had been ill much of his childhood Wayne swore to himself that we would no longer live a life of free school meals, charity shops and jumble sales once he was an adult. At the age of 24, he was on the first step towards getting out of that cycle. A three bedroom home, a good job, company car and a beautiful wife. Over the next few years, a bigger house and a family would appear.

But it was a family that He would spend little time with, if he continued to live the life that said Money is my god. Leaving home at 6 am and returning in the early evening only to continue working from home was the pattern that his god, money, demanded of him. But it was a lifestyle, and a god that the people around Wayne applauded him for, after all, he seemed successful. Money was Wayne’s god, and he, of course, was not alone in that being the case.

Well many you will know, and the rest of you may have guessed Wayne is me, that was my attitude, and as I alluded to last week I worshipped money, and as we know I was not alone with that. Indeed in society today it does seem that the number one religion is money. But for Wayne, for me that was all about to change.

More on that later, but for now let me call the Elephant in the room out.  Why are we talking about giving and Money?

I detest talking about money in services, I would much rather talk about God’s Vision and Identity and Purpose for us in Bedhampton. But you see I think I must have secretly bought into the lie that we as a church talk too much about is money. The issue is of course that God’s Vision Identity and Purpose needs resources and gifts. It will need money and talents to implement God’s Vision Identity and Purpose in Bedhampton. And it may have been historically true that church talked too much about money, I honestly could not tell you, or it may even be true in certain parts of the church today, but the truth is we don’t talk enough about money in most churches.

Jesus talked about money a great deal.

  • Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions.
  • In the Gospels, an amazing one out of ten verses (288 in all) deal directly with the subject of money, that’s ten percent. Going by that ratio, we should be hearing a sermon on money and possessions every couple of months.
  • The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions. If we were to follow that example two in very three points I made in any sermon I preached would be about money and possessions.

And yet when the subject of money comes up in Church, we all cringe a little. I wonder why that is?

I believe it links in a great deal with what we worship.

‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’ Matthew 4:9

It was one of the tactics used by The Satan to test Jesus in the wilderness. I covered last week the fact that we are often called away from worshipping what we were made to worship, God. In order that we might worship stuff. So it is as important that we talk about money as it is that we talk about the fact that we are forgiven. It is as important that we talk about what we give, as it is that we talk about what gifts and skills we have been given by God.

It is all part of our walk towards Jesus, and if we neglect one part then we are less who Jesus would have us be as a community that walk towards him.

Before we continue, let me be real with you. I will have Mike give us an update on where we are with our finances as a church next week. It will show that we are running behind in what we need, to break even this week. And even if it didn’t. If Mike was to stand up here next week and say that we were running with a healthy surplus I would still want to speak to us today about our giving and how we use our money. Why?  Because what we worship is key to our walk towards Jesus as individuals and as a community. Because Jesus spent ten percent of his teaching, teaching us how to walk as disciples of Him with all our money and possessions.

Are we called to give?

So with that in mind the question I want to ask is are we called to give?

Way before I was a leader in the church I never understood why people had a problem with giving to the mission of the church. After all, it’s not funded by the government. Each local church has to stand alone it’s not funded by the central church. So it made sense to me that the local church funded itself by the generous giving of those who are part of the community that walked towards Jesus together. It just made logical sense to me.

Not that I did it of course, not that I gave, that was for others. But it made sense.

But the day I understood that not only was it logical but also being generous was a core indicator of my walk towards Jesus was the day that generous giving moved from the head to my heart and my wallet.

So the question I guess we need to ask ourselves is what does Jesus have to say about generosity, money and the impact it has on those of us who want to follow Him? On our worship.

Todays Gospel passage is an interesting one, isn’t it?

19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

It is a passage that church leaders around the world use as their go-to text when calling for their congregation to open their wallets and plug a gap in the church budget. And you can see why.

But look at what Jesus has been speaking about beforehand in this chapter. Jesus has been speaking about how we worship and pray. How we don’t make a big show of worshipping and praying but how it is simply part of who we are as His disciples. He has been talking about and continues to go on talking about how God provides for all our needs. He says you can’t chase God and Money choose God.

 24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

And he continues to remind us not to be worried about how we look and or how we will live. And in the midst of all this, he teaches us to pray in the Lord’s prayer.

“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread.

Jesus didn’t preach for fifty-one weeks a year on how to follow him and worship God, and then one week a year on money because the church needed to top up its budget. No, for Jesus money and worship were intertwined. Who we worship, the world or God was all one. Our walk with Him and worship of God includes the use of our time, the relationships we have with others. It includes how we use the skills we have, the homes we have and yes our worship includes how we use the money God has allowed us to earn.

So for Jesus, it is not if we give, it is simply a matter of the heart and our worship.

And that is where Paul picks up when he speaks to the Corinthian church. Corinth was a rich place. A place of business. And Paul speaks into this.

6 Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

He is not saying if you give money you will get even more money. No, he is saying the Kingdom will come if we give.

7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Give with joy Paul says and lest we think we are not rich we might wish to look around the world. Of course, how rich we are might differ but if we have a roof over our head, food on our plate then we are rich. We are all in the top ten percent of wealthy people in the world, and if we work in a similar job to an accountant, nurse, school teacher or even a rector we fall well within the top one percent worldwide. The reality is whatever our background we have been given a much better start in life, by simply being born into the west.

So we are Corinth.

We are called to give with Joy.

Application?

OK if our worship includes giving joyfully then what do we do about it then?

Well, the good news you can do nothing if you want. I like most church leaders in the UK make a point of not knowing what people give to the church. I do that because my desire is to walk with you towards Jesus and I don’t want the knowledge of how much you give to impact that as we walk together. So you can rest assured it doesn’t matter how little or how much you give our relationship is not going to be impacted one way or the other by that.

And the good news is that the fact you are loved by God is not going to change. You can rest assured it doesn’t matter how little or how much you God will still love you.

But what I have found is the day I stopped worshipping other things. The day I stopped saying money is my God. The day money was included in my worship of Jesus something in ‘my’ heart changed.

Beforehand I kept asking questions like.

I know the Jewish people use to tithe ten per cent, is that a minimum or a maximum. But then I was reminded:

Each of [us] should give what [we] have decided in [our] heart to give.

I asked questions like where should it go to church or charity? And I was reminded that:

Each of [us] should give what [we] have decided in [our] heart to give.

I asked what about my debt, do I clear that first? And I was reminded that:

Each of [us] should give what [we] have decided in [our] heart to give.

I asked what if my wife/husband/partner is not on the same page as me. And I was reminded that:

Each of [us] should give what [we] have decided in [our] heart to give.

It’s not a money thing it’s a heart thing.

Yes we each have different circumstances that impact our ability to give.

Yes, of course, we need money to implement the mission of God in Bedhampton.

But that is not what I am interested in.

Yes I want you to review your giving, but that is not what I am interested in.

What I am truly interested in is our heart as a community to worship Jesus.

What I am truly interested in is our heart as a individuals to worship Jesus.

If we can get that right, everything else will follow.

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