We are kicking off a brand new series today called LIE$. We’re going to spend the next three weeks talking about money.
We just wrapped up a long series on marriage. The entire series is on our website, so you can go back and catch any of the messages that you missed. Or you can just watch them again. I loved what God did throughout that series as we talked about some of the challenges that are present in most every marriage.
You know what married couples fight about the most? Money and sex. Those are the top two areas of conflict. When people file for divorce, those are the top two reasons they list. Money and sex are powderkegs in a ton of marriages.
Now, we talked about sex in our marriage series. We talked about it a lot. But we didn’t talk about money. And the reason is because we’ve had this finance series planned for months.
This entire series is based on a very simple verse from Psalm 37. David makes it so simple and straightforward. He simply said, “the righteous give generously.” (Psalm 37:21b, NIV)
Generosity is a hallmark of someone who is righteous. People who love Jesus, follow Jesus, and have been changed by Jesus are generous.
To put it simply, you can be generous without being righteous. But you can’t be righteous without being generous. That’s what we’re going to discover in this series.
Over the next three weeks, we’ll talk about three different lies that people believe about how money and faith relate to each other.
Let me pray for us and then we’ll listen to what God has to say about some of the lies we have believed about money.
You’d be hard pressed to find anything that people lie about more than money. Michael Jackson wrote a song called Money. In that song, he sings, “Money, lie for it, spy for it, kill for it, die for it.” It’s true, isn’t it? People will do all of those things for money. They’ll especially lie about money.
In this series, we’re going to cut through some of the lies about money and get at the heart of what God’s Word says about our finances. Specifically, we’re going to talk about some of the lies that people buy into about faith and finances.
And the first lie that we’re going to cut through is this one: The church only wants my money.
How many times have you heard that one? “I’m not going to church. The only thing they care about is taking up an offering. The preacher just wants a raise. They just want to pad their bank account. They don’t care about anything except money, so I’m not going.”
In that same song, Michael Jackson went on to sing, “So you go to church, read the Holy Word, In the scheme of life, it’s all absurd, They don’t care, They’d kill for the money.”
Have you heard this in your life before? Man, I have.
And unfortunately, there have been times when this lie wasn’t a lie. There have been instances where this has become truth.
Some churches have abused the subject of money. Some preachers have twisted the Bible, using it as a tool in their hands to pad their pockets.
Some preachers have taken the guilt angle. “Give or else.” They’ll use any form of guilt they can to get people to give their money.
Some preachers have used the greed angle. “God wants to bless ya, and for every dollar you give to my ministry, he’ll give you $1,000 back!” Those preachers who do this have made it really tough for the rest of us who want to preach God’s truth about finances.
And then some preachers will resort to one more angle: groveling. “Please give! Please give! Please, please, please give! We’re going to pass the offering plate for the seventh time today because we need more money. Please give!”
I want to tell you as we begin this series that you won’t hear any of these angles from me. I’m not going to guilt you into giving. If you’re convicted, then credit the Holy Spirit with that. But I’m not going to manipulate you or guilt you into giving.
I’m not going to preach out of greed. That health-and-wealth gospel that you hear a lot on TV makes me sick. You won’t hear it here.
And I’m not going to grovel in front of you to get your money. I’m not going to beg.
No guilt. No greed. No groveling.
But I am going to talk to you about giving.
And someone is thinking, “I knew it! You’re a liar. You do just care about my money.”
If that was true, then I’d talk about money all the time. Those of you who have been here for a while, how often do I talk about money? Not very often, right? In fact, I probably don’t talk about it enough. Jesus talked about money in 25% of his teachings. He taught about money more than He taught about heaven and hell COMBINED. I don’t do that. There’s no way I teach on it 25% of the time.
I realize that a lot of preachers and a lot of churches have abused the subject of money. They’ve sold people a pack of lies in order to bring the cash into their coffers. But that can’t stop us from pursuing a godly view of money and generosity.
There have been preachers who have preached on money and then embezzled church funds. There have also been preachers who preached against adultery and then had an affair. We’re not going to stop teaching on sexual purity, are we? Nope. And we’re going to teach on the freedom of following God in your finances, too. So let’s get after it.
I want to look at a story from the life of Jesus. The story is in Mark 14. We’re going to start in verse 3. Check out this beautiful, incredible story.
“While [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could.
She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mark 14:3-9, NIV)
I love this story. It is so multilayered. There is so much here, so let’s take some time to really unpack it.
The first thing we need to understand is that the gift was extravagant.
We know from John’s account of this story in his gospel that the woman in this story was Mary, the sister of Martha. Mary brought an alabaster jar of perfume made from pure nard. This would have come out of the mountains of what is modern-day India, and the cost for this perfume was outrageous. A pint of it would cost roughly a year’s wages. This wasn’t some Wal-Mart knockoff perfume. This was lavish. This was excessive. This was as extravagant as it gets.
And she gave this extravagant gift without holding anything back. Mary came to Jesus, “with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.” (Mark 14:3b, NIV)
Mary didn’t just pop the top on a perfume bottle and dab a little bit on Jesus. She didn’t give out a couple of sprays. Mary went all in. She took this expensive alabaster jar and broke off the long neck of the jar, and then she poured it out, every last drop of it, on Jesus’ head. It was a lavish, unbelievably extravagant gift.
And what did that earn her? Criticism.
Mark tells us that, “Some of those present [and in John’s account, we learn that the ringleader here was Judas. Maybe you’ve heard of him. He would go on to betray Jesus.] were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.” (Mark 14:4-5, NIV)
Generosity will always be criticized. Always. When you are generous, you will always run into critics and detractors. Some of you have experienced that. You’re giving to the church regularly and generously, and somebody has made fun of you for that. They’ve criticized you for that. “That’s stupid. Why are you giving all that money to the church? You sure could drive a better car if you didn’t give that money away. You could definitely have a better house, better clothes, etc.”
People will always criticize generosity. People will always question motives. I’ll get criticized for this sermon series. “It’s too strong. You can’t talk about money like that. You’ve got to tiptoe when you talk about money. Better yet, just don’t talk about money at all. But what you’re doing now…you’ll offend people. You’ll drive people away.”
The whole idea of giving generously, giving extravagantly is a magnet for criticism. Look at Mary. She gave this amazingly extravagant gift to the Lord and Jesus’ own disciples criticized her for it.
So Mary has given this amazing gift, and she’s getting bombarded with criticism, but then Jesus steps in.
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” (Mark 14:6, NIV)
Mary was criticized by others, but she was commended by Jesus. It didn’t matter what other people thought. What mattered was what Jesus thought. And He came to her defense, telling the people there exactly what he thought of her gift.
We don’t have to defend ourselves when we give generously. Will we be criticized? Possibly. But Jesus is the only one we have to please. And in this story, we see that Jesus is pleased by generosity. He is honored when we give extravagantly. In fact, he says that generosity is a beautiful thing to him.
When Mary poured out a whole bottle of insanely expensive perfume on Jesus’ head, His disciples said that it was wasteful. Excessive. Over the top. Ridiculous.
But Jesus said that it was beautiful. And when we get the point of extravagant giving, he says that’s beautiful, too.
So let’s put this in the context of the lie that so many of us have heard and believed. The church only wants my money.
Giving to Jesus is a beautiful thing. Church fund-raising is not a beautiful thing. Preachers who preach out of guilt, greed, or groveling…not a beautiful thing. But giving to Jesus IS a beautiful thing. Going above and beyond, giving generously, being extravagant in your giving to God…that is a beautiful thing. And that’s what we’re called to do as Christ-followers.
In Matthew 6, Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21, NIV 1984)
Now, Jesus was not saying that you can’t have stuff. He didn’t say that you have to be poor. He didn’t say that you shouldn’t invest and save and plan for the future. Actually if you read the book of Proverbs, you’ll see that God thinks those are wise things to do.
What Jesus said was simple. He said, “Don’t STORE UP treasures for yourself on earth. Don’t place all your attention and energy and hope on accumulating stuff here, because moth and rust destroy things here.”
In other words, everything you have accumulated is going to be in a junk pile someday. Everything.
I was reminded of that earlier this year. Nicki and I have only bought one new car in our entire marriage. And we’ll probably never buy another one again because I don’t feel like losing thousands of dollars in depreciation the second I drive it off the lot. Doesn’t make a lot of financial sense to me.
But anyway, we did buy one new car back in 1999. We bought a brand new Ford Escort. Heck yeah. We partied like it was 1999! This car was our baby. We washed it every week. We took immaculate care of this car.
And to be fair, this car lasted for a long time. But it finally died earlier this year. I’ve sold cars before, but I’ve never had one that wouldn’t run. We ended up selling it to a scrap yard.
This car that we bought brand new…this car that we loved and cared for…we sold it for just over $200. And I watched as a forklift lifted the car, busting out this windows. It threw the car onto the scale. They weighed it, gave me $200 cash, and then hauled that car away to the crusher.
This car that we put so much value in a few years ago was now total junk. Nobody wanted it. It was just thrown onto the scrap heap.
Everything you own is headed for the scrap heap. Everything. That’s why Jesus said, “There is a better way. Instead of storing up treasures on earth…instead of focusing on accumulating stuff that is going to be scrapped one day…focus on storing up treasures in heaven. There are no scrap yards in heaven. Heaven doesn’t have junk heaps. Store up treasures that have eternal value. Treasures that will outlast your life, and will even outlast this world.”
One of the best ways to invest in the eternal is to invest in the local church. The church is the only thing that is guaranteed to be around until Jesus comes back. Jesus died for the church. The church is the only people that Jesus said He is taking to heaven. Investing in the mission of the local church is one of the best ways to store up treasures in heaven.
The Bible calls it a tithe. A tithe literally means “a tenth.” Tithing has been God’s benchmark of giving for His people throughout history. He has always called His people to give extravagantly, to give a tenth of their income back to God.
“But wait a minute…tithing, that was Old Testament. That’s part of the Old Testament Law. We’re not under Law, we’re under grace…so I don’t have to tithe.”
I’m so glad you brought that up!
There are a couple of problems with the “I don’t have to tithe because I don’t live under the Old Testament Law” argument.
First of all, tithing predates the Law. The Law in the Old Testament was given to Moses. Way before Moses came along, Abraham tithed. If you don’t believe me, you can look it up in Genesis 14 and see for yourself. When Abraham tithed in Genesis 14, that was 400 years before the Law. Tithing predates the law, so it wasn’t abolished when the law was abolished.
Secondly, and more importantly, we’re not under law to tithe. We’re under grace, so we can give more. I should never give God less under grace than I would have under law.
Once in a while, my wife will cook me up a batch of Granny’s Stew. This is one of my favorite things that my wife cooks. It is awesome! But for some reason, I’m the only one in our house that likes it. Our boys don’t like it. Nicki doesn’t like it either.
It’s a lot of extra work for her because when she makes Granny’s Stew for me, she makes something else for herself…and it’s usually something simple like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I always tell her that she doesn’t have to cook this stew for me. I know she doesn’t like it. But you know what? She cooks it anyway, because she loves me. She’ll make this awesome stew for me and eat a PB&J sandwich herself because she loves me.
Love will take you further than the law ever could. Nicki is legally married to me, but making Granny’s Stew is not part of her legal responsibility in our marriage. It’s not an act of law…it’s an act of love.
For those of us who follow Jesus, tithing, giving God a tenth of our income, it isn’t an act of law. It’s an act of love…and it’s a beautiful thing.
But here’s the sad part of all this. It’s about to get very real in here. This is hard stuff.
Less than 3% of American Christians believe this. In America, the number of Christians who regularly tithe is somewhere between 2.2%-2.4%. Less than two and a half percent of Christ-followers in this country tithe.
Did you realize that the average church in America is financially supported by between 4-11 people who are actually bringing the tithe? On average, somewhere between 4-11 people in every church in our nation are giving a beautiful, generous gift to the Lord in the form of a tithe or beyond.
Think about it this way. The average non-Christian in our country gives 2% of their income to charity each year. The average Christian gives 2% of their income as well. As people who claim to know Jesus…who say that our lives and eternities belong to Him…we’re not doing any better in generosity than our unbelieving neighbors. It seems like God has redeemed our souls, but a lot of times we haven’t allowed Him to redeem our checkbooks.
Later on in Matthew 6, Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33, NIV)
That verse gets put on bumper stickers and Christian t-shirts, but when you read it in context, you see that Jesus was talking about money and accumulating possessions.
This isn’t just a cutesy Christian catchphrase. This is a strong statement about money and generosity. Jesus said that if we put God first in our finances, then all these things will be given to you as well.
What things? Clothes. Food. All the stuff that you need. He promised that if you put God first in your finances…if you do money His way…He will take care of the rest.
But if the statistics are true…if less than 3% of Christians are bringing the tithe…that means that over 97% of Christians think Jesus was lying.
Jesus said that if we put God first, God won’t abandon us. He’ll take care of us. But it starts with us. It starts with a decision that you and I make. A decision that God will be first in our finances.
The truth is that if God is not first in your finances, then He isn’t first period. We put God first when we decide to live generously. When we decide to invest in something that’s eternal. When we decide to bring the tithe. If God is not first in your finances, then He isn’t first period.
Listen to what God said in Malachi 3. You think I’m coming on strong this morning? Listen to what God said through the prophet Malachi.
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.” (Malachi 3:8-10a, NIV)
When we don’t give generously but instead withhold the tithe, God views that as robbery. And by the way, that word “robbery,” that’s God’s word. That’s not my word. That’s God’s word. The tithe…10% of our gross income…belongs to God. That is a biblical principle that is reinforced over and over again, Old & New Testament.
The question that each of us has to ask ourselves is really simple…am I a God-robber? Am I robbing God of what is rightfully His by withholding the tithe?
Am I keeping my gift in the jar? Remember what Mary did? Mary “came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.” (Mark 14:3b, NIV)
Mary broke the jar so she could give an extravagant gift to Jesus. And Jesus said that it was a beautiful thing.
Are you keeping your gift in your jar? Are you bringing the tithe, or are you keeping it bottled up in your jar? If you’re keeping it bottled up, just think about the beautiful things that aren’t going to happen. On the flip side, think of the beautiful gifts that will come if you break the jar and bring the tithe. Think of the beautiful things that will happen in and through our church here at Connect if we break our jars and bring the tithe.
Beautiful things happen when we break our jars.
In 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote, “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.” (2 Corinthians 8:7, NIV 1984)
Here at Connect, we excel in a lot of the things that Paul talks about in this verse. God’s dream for us is to excel in giving, too. To be excellent givers. To be extravagant givers.
That’s what we’re teaching on for three straight weeks here at Connect. And at the end of these three weeks, we’re going to throw down an audacious challenge. We’ll talk more about that next week.
Now, there is probably somebody who is thinking, “Man, I don’t know about all this. I think I’m going to go find a church where they won’t talk about money.”
Go ahead. You have my full permission to do that. Go find a church that doesn’t talk about money. Go find a church that doesn’t preach the full Word of God and let me know how that blesses your life.
Too strong? Just telling you the truth. That’s all.
God has a challenge for us. And it’s big. It’s audacious. It’s a God-sized challenge. It’s a challenge to break our jars so something beautiful can happen.
Now, some of you are already freaked out. But let’s go back and listen to what God said in Malachi 3.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.
Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Malachi 3:10, NIV)
Most of the Bible is filled with commands not to put God to the test, but when it comes to the tithe, God makes an exception to his own rule. He says, “Test me! Bring the tithe and watch what I do in your life!”
God knows how hard this is for us, so He allows us to test Him. He allows us to break our jar and bring the tithe, and then evaluate what happens after that.
We’ve got a challenge coming that is going to help us all do just that. It’s going to be amazing.
But it’s not going to be amazing because of what we will do. It’s going to be amazing because of what God will do. It’s going to be amazing because when you break your jar, God brings the beauty. When you break your jar, God brings the blessing.
That’s why I’m preaching this series. Not because I want your money. Our church isn’t all about the money. Here at Connect, it’s all about Jesus. That’s one of our core values. It’s all about Jesus.
And the reason that I’m not ashamed or afraid to preach this kind of straight-up money series is because I want to see Jesus work in your life. I want to see Him do beautiful things in you and through you.
But He can only do that if you’re willing to break your jar.
Psalm 37: “the righteous give generously.” (Psalm 37:21b, NIV)
That’s who we want to be. Generous people. Jar-breaking people. People who are willing to be extravagant, to bring the whole tithe to God. People who test and see that God really does make good on His promises. That’s the people we want to be.
And when a bunch of people like that come together, beautiful things will happen in our lives. In our families. In our church. In our city. In our world. All because the people of Connect decided to break their jars so God could do something beautiful.
Beautiful things happen when we give, because when we give, we are imitating God. God is a giver. An extravagant giver. And something really beautiful happens when we receive His best gift…the gift of His own Son.
Like I said, here at Connect, it’s all about Jesus…because Jesus is the very best gift that God has given us. In Him, we find forgiveness. Freedom. Life.
It all happens because God GAVE us Jesus. It all happens because Jesus GAVE His life for ours. If our God wasn’t a giver, we would have no hope. No chance. No life.
But God is a giver. A generous giver. An extravagant giver. And we’d love to talk with you about that gift today.