I saw that commercial a couple of weeks ago. I couldn’t sleep, so I was up at around 4:00 am. And this commercial came on. When it was over, I thought, “There is no way that just happened. There is no way that we have reached THIS level of insanity. I’m so tired, I must be imagining things.”
Until guess what? The commercial came on again. And I realized that sleep deprivation wasn’t the problem. The problem is that we really have reached this level of insanity!
But I decided to do a little experiment. I got one. And you know what I figured out? There were a whole lot of lies in that commercial.
This commercial showed a kid who was completely fooled into thinking that this bird was a real pet. I have two boys…and neither of them was fooled.
The commercial said that Perfect Polly mimics the movements of a real bird in the wild. When is the last time you ever saw a bird do this?
This commercial said, “Her cheerful and lilting song can keep you company all day long.” Umm…no.
This commercial said, “Everyone loves Perfect Polly.” Again, no. I have one, and I can tell you definitively that that’s not true.
The commercial promised that Perfect Polly would bring “all the joy” of a real pet. My boys want a pet. Bad. REALLY bad. And you know what? This thing didn’t do for them. You know why? They know it’s not a real pet!
The commercial said Perfect Polly “is so lifelike, you won’t believe your eyes.” I’m looking right at it, and I actually do believe my eyes. It looks like a plastic toy that was made in China.
This commercial told me lie after lie after lie, all in an attempt to get my money. Instead of the perfect pet, I got a piece of cheap plastic. Instead of, “only you will know it’s not real,” EVERYBODY knows it’s not real. Lie after lie after lie, all so they could get their hands on my money.
But that’s pretty much the world we live in, isn’t it? We live in a world of overpromise and under-deliver. We live in a world where we’re bombarded with lies about this or that, all in an attempt to separate us from our money. And it’s easy to become jaded and skeptical about anything anybody tells you about money.
So when a church talks about money…when a pastor preaches on money…it’s really easy to believe it’s just another Perfect Polly sales pitch. It’s all an attempt to separate you from your money. It’s all lies.
If that’s where you are, I get it. I understand the skepticism. I understand the cynicism. And I agree that there have been times when churches have abused the subject of money. There have been times when pastors have preached lies about money.
But my prayer is that you can give this whole thing a fresh look today. That you can hear what God really says in His Word about money. Because it doesn’t matter what I say. What matters is what God says. And that’s what we want to hear today.
In Psalm 37, David gives us this simple truth. “…the righteous give generously.” (Psalm 37:21b, NIV)
Righteous people are generous people. It’s simple. It’s straightforward. It’s true. And it’s who we want to be.
That’s what we’re after in this series. Let me pray for us and we’ll get after it.
In this series, we’re cutting through some of the lies that we have been told about how our money and our faith fit together.
Last week, we talked about the lie that says the church only wants my money. We are not all about the money here at Connect. We are all about Jesus. And we want to see Jesus do something beautiful in your life.
Today, we’re going to tackle a second lie that a lot of people believe. A lot of people believe, “The church only wants my money, but God doesn’t care about my money.”
That is a lie. If anyone has ever told you that God doesn’t care about your money, they were lying to you.
Jesus talked about money in 25% of his teachings. He talked about money more than he talked about heaven and hell combined.
I think we’d all agree that heaven and hell are a big deal. But if Jesus talked about money MORE than He talked about heaven and hell COMBINED, then I think we have to realize that this is a really big deal.
Your money matters to God. A lot. He cares about your money, but maybe not for the reasons that you might think.
God cares about your money, but don’t think for one minute that God needs your money. In Psalm 50, God said, “I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Psalm 50:9-10, NIV)
When this Psalm was written, agriculture was the way that the vast majority of people survived. Wealth was measured in livestock. And God said, “Don’t think for a minute that I need a bull or a goat from you. I don’t need anything. Every animal on earth is mine. I own the cattle on a thousand hills.”
In other words, God is reminding us, “I am rich beyond your ability to comprehend. I don’t need anything from you. There is nothing that you can give me that I don’t already possess.”
God doesn’t need your money, but He cares very deeply about your money. Here’s why.
God cares about your heart.
Money is one of the only tangible pictures that Jesus gave us to figure out the condition of someone’s heart. It’s one of the few practical ways we have to gauge what someone values in their heart.
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)
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. To find out what is important to me…to find out what I really value in my heart…you don’t have to look any further than my budget. I can say that something is important to me. But if it’s really important, it’ll go beyond saying. It’ll be expressed through spending.
Last week I shared some uncomfortable statistics about the number of Christ-followers who regularly bring a tithe to God. Remember that a tithe means bringing a tenth of your income back to God. On average, less than 3% of Christians in our country tithe. Less than 3% bring a tithe to their church.
Now if you were to ask the average Joe or Jane Christian, “Is your church important to you?” I bet most of them would say, “Of course! My church is very important to me.”
Not according to the formula that Jesus gave. Jesus said that your treasure follows your heart. And when a Christ-follower isn’t willing to be generous and bring the tithe, that is a not-so-subtle message of just how important the church actually is to them.
But then the opposite is true as well. When a Christ-follower is an extravagant giver like we talked about last week, when they bring the tithe or even beyond, their generosity communicates exactly what is important to them. Because their treasure is indicative of the state of their heart. The church is highly valued to them.
But it goes beyond what you think of the church. Remember last week we said that ultimately when you give, you’re giving to Jesus, not the church. Ultimately, your money indicates where God ranks in your heart. It’s an indicator of how important Jesus is to you.
Last week we explored some really direct stuff Malachi 3. Today we’re going to rewind back to Malachi 1, and just like last week, it hits pretty hard.
Starting in verse 8: “When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty” (Malachi 1:8, NIV)
God’s people in the Old Testament were commanded to bring animals to sacrifice. This is how they were to seek forgiveness from God and to offer worship to Him. So it stands to reason that they were commanded to bring the best of the best from their flock or herd.
In fact, in the book of Deuteronomy, God says, “If an animal has a defect, is lame or blind, or has any serious flaw, you must not sacrifice it to the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 15:21, NIV)
Again, remember that in this culture, livestock meant wealth. And when people tried to pass off a diseased or flawed animal off as a sacrifice to God, it angered Him. And it hurt Him. Not because He needed their animal. Remember, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
The reason it angered Him….the reason it wounded Him…is because it revealed the condition of their heart. If they were willing to give God a lame or diseased animal while they kept the best animals for themselves, it clearly demonstrated their heart’s condition. It revealed hearts of selfishness and greed instead of love and generosity. And God simply would not accept that.
God pointed out that the governor wouldn’t accept these flawed animals as tax payment. Why should He accept them in worship?
The principle here is simple: when we don’t offer God the best portion of our resources, He takes that very personally. Offering God less than our best reveals our heart’s condition. It reveals where God ranks in the priorities of our heart.
Skip on down to verse 13. “When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD.
“Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.” (Malachi 1:13b-14, NIV)
The word “cheat” really jumped out at me. Notice who it’s directed to. Anyone who has an acceptable animal to give but instead gives God something less…God calls him a cheat. Anyone who has been blessed by God but refuses to bless God by giving generously…they’re a cheat.
And the reason they’re a cheat is because they are cheating God out of the glory that is rightfully His. They aren’t treating God as a great king. They haven’t set Him apart as Lord in their heart.
One thing that God will never do…He will never compete for the throne of your heart.
That’s why Jesus said, “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.” (Luke 16:13, NIV)
God won’t compete for the throne of your heart. He lets you decide. But that decision will be revealed by how you live with money.
God cares about your money because it’s directly linked to your heart. What he wants is your heart. And when we don’t give generously, when we withhold the tithe, when we don’t give God our best, it’s a sign that our heart isn’t fully his.
On the other hand, when we live a life of generosity, when we bring the tithe or even beyond, it’s an indicator that our heart is beating with the same rhythm as God’s heart. Now we can’t be legalistic about this. Giving your money doesn’t guarantee that your heart is fully God’s. But it is an indicator. It’s an indicator that your heart belongs to the Lord because, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The reason God cares so much about our money is because it reveals our heart’s condition. And when our heart is calloused and hard…it short-circuits the work that God wants to do in our lives.
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 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.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7, NIV)
If we sow sparingly when we give, we shouldn’t be surprised that our life will be blessed sparingly. The condition of our heart stops the work that God wants to do in our lives.
But if we give generously, we can expect to be blessed generously. Our hearts are wide open and God is free to work. He is set free to unleash His blessings on us.
That doesn’t mean that we give to get rich. We don’t give to get anything. We give because we love God. We give out of gratitude for everything He has given us. But at the same time, God has promised that His blessings are released in our lives when we give generously.
But it all comes back to the condition of our heart. That’s why Paul talks about our attitude when we give. God loves a cheerful giver. If we whine and gripe and complain about giving, then God would rather we wouldn’t give at all. Just keep your money, because money isn’t what God truly wants. He wants your heart…and if giving is a burden instead of a joy…if it’s something you complain about instead of celebrate…then it’s very clear that He doesn’t have your heart. God loves a cheerful giver.
The Greek word for cheerful in this verse is the word hilaros. This is where we get our English word “hilarious.” This is the only place in the New Testament where you’ll find this word. Literally, the Bible says that God loves a hilarious giver.
There are a couple of different ways to look at that. One, hilarious giving is joyful giving. The opportunity to give should make us downright giddy. It’s a hilarious, joyous, laugh-out-loud kind of thing. How would that change the way that our offering collection looked here at Connect? People are dropping their tithe in the basket and they’re just flat out giddy about it. Laughing hysterically.
Or maybe you give online. You click your mouse and just start laughing uncontrollably.
That might sound weird, but it’s Biblical. There is something joyful…even hilarious…about giving.
There is another way to look at this. Hilarious giving is risky giving.
Like we talked about last week, the benchmark for generous giving is the tithe…giving 10% of your gross income back to God. The tithe has been God’s benchmark for generous giving throughout history, Old and New Testament.
For some of you, bringing a tithe will be a stretch. For others of you, it’s simply a ridiculous proposition. It’s laughable. The thought of you tithing is hilarious. Exactly.
That’s the kind of givers that God is looking for. Risky givers. People who give to the point of hilarity.
And we’ve got those givers here at Connect. Last week, I talked with an older lady who was in tears after church. She said, “You know, a long time ago, I looked at my kids and then I looked at our lack of money and I thought, “There is no way.” But then, she prayed and said, “God, I know that you’ll take care of us if we obey you.” And she said that this is when she committed to the tithe. And last week, she was in tears as she told me how faithful God has been to her and her family. How He never let them down. He always took care of them.
Tithing didn’t make logical sense, but she took God at His Word. She believed He would take care of her and her family, and He did. That’s a hilarious giver.
We’ve got all kinds of hilarious givers here at Connect. I’ve got all kinds of stories I could tell you.
But right now, I want you to think about your own story. Is it a story of generosity? Is it a story of faith? Is it a story of trusting that God will take care of you if you obey Him?
A lot of us aren’t living that kind of story. But I’ve been praying that today will be the day when that changes.
Everyone received a dime when they came in today. I want you to pull out that dime and hold it in your hand. That dime represents the tithe, the 10%.
I’ve asked Kaitlin to come up here on stage and help me today. She received a dime just like you did.
Take that dime and hold it in your hand. And clench your fist around that time. Clench it as tight as you can. No matter what I do, you keep your fist clenched as tight as you can around that dime.
God says, “The problem is that I want to pour into your life. But when you harden your heart…when you hold onto the tithe…when you hold onto what is Mine…I can’t.”
Now you can hold onto that dime. You’ve still got your dime, don’t you?
But the problem is, you have no idea how many dimes I brought to church today. And it would be a shame for you to miss out on everything I can give you.
Now open your hand. Now give it (drop the dime), and I’ll fill it. Give it, and I’ll fill it. Give it, and I’ll fill it.
That’s what God is saying to us today. Give it, and I’ll fill it. Give it, and I’ll fill it. Not just with money. I’ll fill it with peace! I’ll fill it with purpose! I’ll fill it with joy! I’ll fill it with hope! I’ll use your life! You won’t believe how I’ll bless you! You be a hilarious giver, and see if I don’t do something hilarious in your life!
Just open your hands to Me and see what I can do!
That’s the kind of people that we want to be. Open-handed. Hilarious givers. And if that’s who we are, then we’ll get to fully see who God is. If that’s what we do, then we’ll get to fully see what God can do.
We read this last week, but look again at 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)
Tithing is trusting. It is trusting God’s promise that you simply can’t outgive Him.
Did you catch the phrase in the middle of the verse? “Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty. The LORD Almighty. That’s not there by accident.
It could have just said, “Test me in this,” says the Lord. But no, it says, “Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty.
This forces the question: do you believe that God is almighty? Do you believe that he is omnipotent, all-powerful? If you do, doesn’t that make it easier to trust him? If He really is the Lord Almighty, don’t you think He is big enough and strong enough and wise enough and caring enough to take care of you if you obey Him and bring the tithe?
If you’re faithful to bring to the tithe, the LORD Almighty promises to bless your life.
So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to become a church of jar-breakers. Remember last week when we talked about how Mary brought her jar?
In his gospel, Mark wrote, Mary “came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on [Jesus’] head.” (Mark 14:3b, NIV)
She broke the jar, and poured every drop of that perfume on Jesus’ head. This perfume would have cost a year’s wages, but she gave it all. She didn’t hold anything back. She broke the jar and gave her gift.
And after she did that, Jesus said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.” (Mark 14:6b, NIV)
So here’s what we’re going to do here at Connect. We’re going to do something beautiful to Jesus. We’re going to break our jars, and we’re going to bring the tithe.
For the next 90 days, we’re challenging every person at Connect to bring the tithe. If you haven’t started tithing yet, we’re challenging every family to take God at His Word, believing that God can do more with 90% than you can do with 100%.
You will never be able to outgive God. That’s God’s promise. So we’re going to bring the whole tithe to God. And we’re going to do exactly what God told us to do. We’re going to test Him.
Tithing is about training our heart, and remember that our heart is what God really wants. Tithing trains our heart to trust God that he will do what he says. So, for the next 90 days, we’re challenging everyone who calls Connect their church home to bring the whole tithe to God. We’re challenging every person at Connect to open their hands to a God who will not be outgiven.
This challenge is live on our website. We’re asking everyone to go to connect.cc and fill out a very simple online form. This isn’t so we can hound you or anything like that. Not at all. It’s so we can send you encouragement throughout your 90 day journey. We want to walk through this with you, when it’s easy and when it gets tough.
It really comes down to this…do you want to hang onto to what you think is yours…or do you want to open your hands to receive what God wants to pour into them?
For the next 90 days, we’re going to test God. We’re going to see if He will make good on His promise that we can’t outgive Him.
The reason we can’t outgive God is because He is wealthy beyond our wildest imagination, and He is a generous, extravagant giver.
Our God is a giver. We know that because He gave us His very best gift when He gave us His Son.
The most famous verse in the Bible tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV)
For God so loved the world that He GAVE. He gave His Son for us.
Jesus gave His life on a cross for us. He exchanged His life for ours. He took the punishment for our sin so we would never have to. He took God’s wrath so we could receive God’s grace.
That’s why our church is all about Jesus, because Jesus is God’s very best gift to us. And that’s why we offer you a chance to respond to Him every week.