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There's More to It Than Being Rich
05/04/2003
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Track 1 of 52 in the Sermons from 2003 series
Running time: 30 minutes, 09 seconds.


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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


Sermon for Sunday, May 4, 2003
"There's More to It Than Being Rich"
(2Corinthians 9:6-15)
C. Sackett

In that classic old western, starring Jimmy Stewart, Shenandoah, which does not exist in Lincoln, Illinois, so far as I can tell, in any video store, is this scene, where the family is gathered around the dinner table and the father, Jimmy Stewart is offering thanks. "Lord, we cleared this land. Lord, we plowed this land. Lord, we planted this crop. Lord we harvested this crop. Lord, in fact, we've done it all, but we give you thanks anyway." And that is so typical, ya know? That's the attitude with which I was raised. Pick yourself up by your own boot straps and make your own way. Be a good citizen. Jump in there. Go for it! Ah, not all bad--unless of course, you fail to understand the place that God has in all of that. And that is the struggle isn't it?--to try to figure out where in the world God fits in this great big world of ours. Or is it the other way around? Where do we fit in this great big world of HIS?

Why in the world would we spend four weeks talking about money?--give you books, ask you to read them-- which I hope you've done this week. And if you didn't get one last week, there are more available and we'd be glad to have you take a look at those. Why would we talk about money? Because the Bible does! It says an awful lot about it. In fact, if you are really interested and want to pursue more about it, here's a little book by Craig Blomberg, out of Denver Seminary, called Heart, Soul and Money - A Christian View of Possessions. This is the abbreviated version. This is the Sunday school lesson book, 110 pages. If you really want to read what he has to say, you can get his book, Poverty and Riches.

It's about 350 pages long--it's the expanded version of this.

Why would we talk about money? Well, because Jesus says a lot about it. Because Brian is correct, we talk a lot about money--we just don't like to do it in here--but we talk about it all the time out there. We spend an awful lot of time talking about how we make it, what we do with it, how we're going to spend it, how we're going to get more of it. Why would we talk about it? --because quite frankly, the world is in a financial mess--all you have to do is just listen to the news to understand that we live in a world that doesn't have a very good handle on what it means to understand money and wealth. Why talk about it? Because in this next few years, more money is going to change hands from one generation to the next than ever in the history of mankind.

Those of you who are in the WWII generation are going to be giving all of your wealth to people like me. Not to me! To people like me, your children--and frankly, we didn't grow up knowing what to do with it. So we're going to spend it! Unfortunately, for those of you who are in the next generation down--tough luck, sorry, you missed out on it - we got it and you didn't - cause we're probably not going to save any of it for you.

Why talk about it? Because one day, God is going to ask us about it. Huh-huh. He's going to want to know, what did you do with what I gave you. Why talk about it? Because it's the Biblical thing to do - is to talk about it. Ah, this isn't a sermon about money, by the way. If this was a sermon about money, it would mean that the church was in crisis and we're not in crisis. This is a sermon about stewardship issues - about being responsible for what God has blessed us with.

It all starts clear back in Genesis Chapter 12. You remember when God initiates his covenant relationship with the people, he says, I will bless you in order that you can be a blessing. That's the fundamental Biblical principle which this whole series of sermons exists. We are blessed to be a blessing. That's the bottom line. You and I have what we have so that we can turn around and use it to be a blessing to other people and that just doesn't mean our finances, that means everything there is about us -- our time, our energy, our gifts, our talents, our abilities--all of that has been given to us for one simple reason, so that we can turn around and give it to somebody else. We are grace receivers so that we can become grace givers. Now the context of our text, 2Corinthians, Chapters 8 and 9, the most lengthy passage in all of the New Testament about finances, about giving, about what we're talking about is a famine in Jerusalem, the Jewish Church, the origin of the church, is in financial difficulty and here these gentiles are taking up an offering to send it back to their Jewish brothers and sisters to bring relief in the midst of that particular situation. Corinth had made an agreement that they would give a part of their offering to send to Jerusalem and they had lagged behind - they hadn't kept up their end. The Macedonian churches, on the other hand, had done very well and now Paul writes to Corinth and says. These churches in Macedonia have done remarkable well. It's time for us now to come and finish what we started with you Corinthians. And he lays this in front of us with just some very clear ways that you and I can be a blessing to other people. We're going to read a portion of these two chapters. We start with Verse 1 of Chapter 8. If you have your Bibles there - 2Corinthians, Chapter 8 - a great set of verses for you to simply have marked in your Bible as a place to reflect. He says,

And now , brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.

By the way, that word urgently pleaded, you would discover that in the gospels as those beggars on the side of the road begging, when Jesus comes by and they beg him for healing - that's this terminology - that's the kind of language that's being used here. He says in Verse 5 - And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us - see that you also excel in this grace of giving. Here's principle number one, our giving is an act of grace and we grow in it. The grace language in this text is absolutely remarkable. Our giving is an act of grace. It's something that we've been given and we turn around and give it out of our own free will - but we learn to grow in that grace of giving he says. Note Verse 7 particularly where he says that you should come to excel in the grace of giving. You should become excellent at giving. You should grow in that ability to give. I don't know about you, but I have yet to meet anybody who excelled at anything without discipline and practice. Now, he says you're already good at other stuff. You excel in love, you excel in good will, you excel in various things, now he says - let this become a part of your excellence, this grace of giving.

Ah, I was walking down the hallway at school Friday and I ran into a young (I don't mean I ran into her) I mean, I met this young lady, who's a friend from several years ago, who is now a student at Lincoln. She's going to spend the summer again at discovering ministries over in Missouri. She's one of these mountain climbers, repellers, kayakers, canoers, she leads these discovery ministry groups out through the wilderness. I mean, she is a slave driver. She's about this big (). She's also a classical pianist. And I'm thinking, there's an incongruity here you know. You just don't mountain climb and repel and then turn around and sit down and play Beethoven. It's got to be a shock to the system of those poor guys that are out there being lead on these discovery trips. But you know what? You don't learn how to do any of that without a little practice. It's the same way in your stewardship, by the way. You learn to excel. It doesn't come naturally to you to become generous. You learn generosity - just a little at a time.

My neighbor, Ronald, decided he was going to take up running. I hope I'm not his excuse. He held up two fingers as he was going out the door the other day, so when I saw him yesterday I said, what did that mean, did that mean you've run twice?--you've been running for two weeks?--you're running two miles? --what did this mean? He said, this is my second day. I'm thinking - well okay - we got a ways to go before we excel at this thing don't we? I made it a mile and a quarter before I died. Which puts him right in front of the hospital, so I said great place, ya know! If you're going to crash, that's the place.

Giving falls in this context of excelling. It comes in different levels. There are various ways to give. For example, you can give at the guilt level, because you have to. You feel obligated. That's not a Biblical reason, by the way. I would just dismiss it as legitimate reason. If the only reason you're giving is cause you feel like you have to, put your money back in your pocket cause God doesn't want it. It comes out of the heart. But you can move up that proverbial ladder to the place that you are giving out of responsibility. You sense this "I ought to". You know, maybe it comes because you realize when you walk through the door of a church, they're taking care of your children, they're providing you a place to go to church, they're paying a staff to teach your classes and they're providing you services so somehow you feel obligated. It's not a very good reason to give. It's better than nothing, but it doesn't have much heart.

You could give at the level of needs, that's what's in this text. These Jerusalem Christians are in trouble. We need to help them, and so, we ought to do something to help because we have, they don't have, therefore we ought to. That's a legitimate reason to give. In fact, sometimes, in churches, we will take up offerings on that basis alone. We've heard about somebody's need, now we're gonna try to meet that need. I've seen that happen at school where very poor college students, both financially and academically, will come up with a great deal of money in order to help somebody because there's a need. So, a legitimate reason.

In this text you get giving at the level of thanksgiving. Another level up--you give cause you are just so grateful that you can't help but give. You just feel like I have to give because, because quite honestly, God has been so good to me, I just want to give. That's a great reason to give.

But you know, there's one higher than that. It's the one that Brian talked about. It's when my nature is so in tune with worship that I give because I can't do anything else. I have to lay this before the feet of Jesus. I have to do it because I worship that way and it's just my very nature to pour out every part of me to the Lord, whether it be my gifts or my money.

Well, Paul says that giving is an act of grace and we grow in it. In fact, that's part of our discipleship. Ah, you know, that little motto we have floating around here that says, This is "A place for you to come to know Jesus. . .better" That word better implies that we're getting BETTER at knowing Jesus--that we're excelling, even in this sense of grace of our giving.

The text goes on - let's pick it up at Verse 8. He says, I'm not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, (look at this verse, this is just such a classic verse)For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little."

That came right out of the Exodus experience of going out every day and gathering up the manna and everybody had what they needed. That's all he's saying --that is, in the community of faith, like in the book of Acts, there ought not be places of poverty while other places have wealth. If we have and somebody else doesn't and they need it, then we give it. And if the shoe is ever on the other foot, then we would expect the same thing to happen in reverse. That if we ever came to a time of need, other Christians would come to our help. Here's the principle; our giving is an act of imitation in which we emulate Christ.

Verse 9, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor

If you could allow me to use this analogy, kinda runs in the family, doesn't it? You remember that famous verse in John Chapter 3? For God so loved the world that he gave and then you look at Philippians Chapter 2 and you discover this. Though he was equal with God, he did not think it robbery to be equal with him and he poured himself out and took upon himself the form of a man. Then he turns around and says that follows suit in us because just as Jesus gave, we gave. As opportunity arises, as needs arise, there is this opportunity, this privilege of giving which the Corinthians recognized. It's just simply following the model of Jesus.

There were four thousand people who needed lunch so Jesus fed them. He accepted a little boy's lunch and he turned it into enough to feed five thousand. He allowed a woman to give just two last coins that she had and then he honored her for her gift, not because of the size of it. It wasn't the size of the boy's lunch. It wasn't the size of the two mites, it was the size of the heart that was brought. So Paul says, this isn't a matter of how much you give, it's a matter of the heart behind the gift. Are you simply imitating Jesus? You know what he says?

Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

You ever had an expensive something in your car and you had to leave it in the parking lot while you spent your day doing things? It happens to me every year. When I used to go out to New England, I'd go to the heart of the inner city where nobody had a job, everybody was in trouble and I would be packing sometimes as much as $1,500.00 or $2,000.00 for our expenses, and I have to be honest with you--every time I either put it in my pocket or my suitcase--it didn't matter where I put it, guess what I worried about? Where was it? Because where my treasure was, there my heart was. Now that's a temporary setting, but I've discovered it in my own life. What you treasure--you tend to worry about--you tend to think about because your heart goes there. Jesus understood that. You put your treasure in the right place, your heart will follow wherever that treasure goes. You place your treasure in the worship of God and that's where your heart will follow.

So he says, our giving is an act of imitation. We emulate Christ.

Well, the next section, fairly lengthy section here, from Verse 16 in 2Corinthians 8 all the way to Verse 5 of Chapter 9 is really a kind of transitional statement where he talks about the actual "HOW TO." How do we do this--the particular details? I'm not going to cover that because it's really immaterial on how they took up their offering. What it does talk about is accountability and responsibility and what we want you to know is that this church is, in fact, accountable and responsible for what you give. If, at any point, you want to know where your money goes, just ask because the financial statements are there for your perusal. We would not hide anything from you. We do everything we can to be accountable and to be fair, make sure that nobody is tempted to be dishonest and that's what Paul gets at.

Then he starts in Verse 6 of Chapter 9.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."

Verse 9 is a quotation out of the Psalms and it's a fascinating quote. It's not about God. It's about the righteous man. So when you read that, make sure you understand the context out of which that comes. He's not talking about God scattering his gifts to the poor--he's talking about the righteous man scattering his gifts to the poor.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Here's that third principle of this text. Our giving is an act of joy and we produce thanksgiving through it. Do you notice all the emphasis on thanksgiving in this text? The joy of giving--God loving a cheerful giver - People responding with joy--

It is, by the way, why we do something different around here that you may notice. If you visit many congregations, one of the things that you'll discover is that there are a lot of churches that will come to the offering time and you'll hear a statement something like this: If you're a guest among us, please do not feel obligated to give. This is for the church people. You will not hear us say that because we don't want to rob you the opportunity of giving. No, we don't expect you to give if you're a guest. We want you to have the opportunity, however, to express your appreciation for God in the same way that the rest of us do and to experience the joy of thanksgiving and giving. So feel free, if you so choose.

See. We ought to find some kind of pleasure in giving. I don't know if you ever have this privilege. I don't mean to embarrass Loretta when I say this, but the staff, when we gather every other Monday for staff meeting, we pull the chairs up right around this piano--if you ever have a free Monday morning when we're here and you want to sneak in and act like a mouse in a corner--you ought to watch somebody who enjoys giving her ability. She's so fun to watch play the piano. I mean, I sit next to it, cause it just kinda oozes into me.

If you want to watch people who just find the pleasure in what they do. Doesn't it just stimulate you? You look at em and you think "Man they like that." Now, you may not like what they're doing but you can see written all over them, they love it.

When we give, we stir up that kind of, WOW am I glad they like to do that and it produces thanksgiving. I am so deeply grateful for the people, who for example, love to do things like build floats and give a church an opportunity to be a witness for the gospel of Christ and for 3,000 invitations to vacation Bible school to be given out in one day. I'm grateful for that, because people give and it produces in us this thanksgiving.

Now, I just need to make a bit of a correction here. I'll just take a second, but on page 14 of your book, which I trust you are reading. And if you haven't gotten one there are . . . . . . . there are extras of these. Page 14 he says, when was the last time you read Luke 6:38?-- and then I just started marking in my book. In my opinion. . . .it's my opinion. I state it as an opinion. He's wrong! Other than that, it's okay. This verse, 6:38 is not about money. There's no money in the entire text of Luke 6. It's about mercy--it's about grace--it's about encouragement--it's about forgiveness, but it's not about money. Now what does that mean? I think he's missed the point in Luke 6:38. I don't think he's missed the point of the law of the harvest. You reap what you sow. Now, Luke 6 does say if you sow, if you sow a forgiving spirit you will reap a forgiving spirit. That it does say.

2Corinthians does say however, in the context of financial giving, if you sow generosity, you will reap generously from God. You might even be benefitted physically, but I need to stand here and give you testimony. I do not always get back some equivalent amount of what I give. I've been doing this now for 35 years and I'll be honest with you, I have never had to miss a meal. I have never had anything terribly wrong, in the sense of financial strapping. I've never been bankrupt. God has always taken care of my needs--but I have to be honest with you, sometimes when I put money in that plate, it meant we didn't do something else instead. Because God didn't just automatically say, well, you put in one and I'll give you five. That isn't what this is about. He says you will be blessed in every way so that you can be generous on every opportunity. But my generous spirit may not be financial. My generous spirit may have to do with some other way of giving. It may be time. It may be energy. God may pour out his rich blessing on you. The law of the harvest is true. There are some people that God blesses financially when they give. But you should understand, there is a poverty-stricken world out there and an awful lot of them are Christians. God does not necessarily bless us financially because we are generous. What he does is he blesses us spiritually so that we see things differently--our perspective about things changes.

I wish there were a way for us to really get our hands around this principle so that we give knowing that God is going to bless in return and yes, sometimes he will bless us financially. But I would never want you to be disappointed that God was somehow in a box and he failed to come through like the savings and loan. That isn't his promise, but his promise is to bless you--to make you rich in every way--to increase (did you read it in the text) your righteousness. That you can be assured of. It's an amazing thing that he makes us rich in every way so that we can be generous on every occasion. It's another way of saying this; We don't give to get! We get to give! And there is a huge difference, because if the only reason you put money in this offering tray is because you think it's a better investment than the local bank--FORGET IT! But if you look at what you receive from God, whether it is finances or any other thing, as an opportunity to turn around and give back to God out of the abundant blessing that he has placed in your life, you have discovered the secret of this basic fundamental Bible principle. We are blessed to be a blessing, and that blessing will come in a variety of ways.

Why would we talk about money? Well, because it's such a part of who we are. You can't even live in this world without it. Although--any more--what I've discovered is that they don't like this kind -- --they like the plastic kind. That's a dangerous direction isn't it? We're inviting you over the next month to simply take a look at your relationship with "STUFF" and to ask - have you in fact, possessed things or have things possessed you and to figure out where God is in the mix of all of that.

Lord, we give you thanks for it anyway, or, Lord we bow ourselves at your feet

And this is just one area that we give to you like we give everything else. I've always been intrigued why it is that such poverty stricken people are so able to give. I don't know how many of you have had the opportunity to be around real poverty. I've been thrust into the middle of it on a number of occasions because of having traveled internationally, among eastern Europeans, for example. And realize when I sit down to a meal at somebody's home, I may be eating what they have saved up for weeks to serve me. And they may well skip the next several meals or eat very meagerly simply because the guest was in their home. And I look at that, and there's not a way to say "No Thank You"--I mean, it's just impolite to say no, so you just--frankly you just sit there with guilt and you eat anyway because there's no other way to do it. And then you ask yourself--where does that come from? It comes from 2Corinthians 8, Verse 5. Did you see it in the text? How did these people who were overwhelmingly poor give abundantly beyond their ability? Paul says. They first gave themselves to the Lord. And when the offering tray comes by every Sunday and you reach into your Bible, or your pocket, or whatever you do--you lay your gift in that offering tray, I hope what you see happening is that you are laying yourself there--cause if you're not there, whatever is written on that piece of paper doesn't matter. But if you are there, whatever is written on that piece of paper matters, no matter what it is. Because that's the key--the heart. Has your heart given to the Lord today? Have you first given yourself? That is the key issue you know. And that's what we invite you to, is to first give yourself.

Let's stand . . . . .