Welcome to week #4 of This Is How We Roll. This has been an amazing series so far. In this series, we’re talking about how we roll as followers of Jesus. We’re talking about how we roll as a church that belongs to Jesus. We’re talking about who He has called us to be and what He has called us to do.
And today is going to be huge. So I just want to pray and then jump right into this message today.
I told this story a couple of years ago when we were still meeting in the old Amelia building, but I know a lot of you weren’t part of our church then, so I thought I’d tell the story again. Because it’s a story you definitely need to hear.
And if you’ve never been here before, maybe you’re new to Connect, first of all, welcome. We’re so excited that you’re here. And secondly, you may not believe that a pastor would tell this story at church. But here at Connect, we are all about authenticity. We’re all about being real. And this story is about as real as it gets. So welcome to Connect.
A couple of years ago, I was struggling with a leaky toilet at our house. I worked on it. It leaked. I worked on it some more. It leaked. It took me 2 weeks, and several trips to Lowes to finally get it fixed. But one of those trips to Lowes is something that I’ll never forget, even though I really wish I could.
I pulled my car into the parking space, put it in park, and shut off the engine. The car in the next space was kind of close to me and I saw that the guy who owned that car was walking my way. So, nice guy that I am, I decided to sit in my car while he got into his car and drove away.
So I checked my cell phone while I was waiting. I saw the guy walk up out of the corner my eye. But then he didn’t move. He didn’t get in his car. He didn’t drive away. But whatever. I’m busy sending a text.
Another few seconds go by, and in my peripheral vision I notice that the guy still hadn’t left. So I put my phone down and turn my head to see what was going on.
The dude was standing there, right between our two cars, and he was peeing! Right there in the Lowes parking lot! Right beside my car!
You ever have one of those moments where you have a million thoughts all at once, and you can’t act on any of them? That was me! I was stunned, shocked, disgusted, all at the same time.
One thing was obvious…I don’t know if it was because of the glare of the sun on the windows or what, but for whatever reason, this guy had no idea that I was sitting in the car right beside him. No idea at all. He had no clue that I was there.
So, what do you do in that situation? I’ve never been taught how to handle a situation like that. I had no idea what the protocol was here.
After thinking for a few more seconds about what to do, I made my decision. I put the key in the ignition and started my car. Well, needless to say, that got his attention! He whipped his head around and looked at me. And for just a few seconds, our eyes locked in an indescribable stare. I think we communicated plenty to one another through that stare.
Then I shifted my car into drive and drove to the other side of the parking lot. Because first of all, there was no way I was stepping out of my car in that spot! And secondly, because I really didn’t want to say a word to this guy. Because honestly, I was kind of worried about what I would say to this guy.
And by the way…think of the irony of this story. Do you remember why I was at Lowes in the first place? Because I was trying to fix a broken toilet. As I was walking into the store, I thought, “Why bother fixing a broken toilet if you can just go wherever you want?”
But the whole situation made me so unbelievably uncomfortable. It was one of the most awkward, uncomfortable situations I’ve ever experienced. And the only thing I could do was leave. I started my car and drove away because the whole situation was so incredibly uncomfortable.
Can I tell you something? Some of you are going to be tempted to do just that after this message. This message is going to make you feel awkward and really, really uncomfortable. And you’re going to be tempted to leave. You are going to think, “Maybe I need to leave. Maybe I need to go find another church, because this made me angry. It made me feel really awkward and uncomfortable.”
You can do that. You can leave. It’s definitely easier. But finding another church won’t fix what is broken in your life. And if you go to a church that is committed to preaching the Word of God, you will eventually run into the same problem there. Because churches that preach the Word of God will preach this message.
So, what is going to make today so uncomfortable? What is going to make people feel awkward and angry?
We’re going to talk about money today. And anytime a pastor preaches on money, it’s going to be tense and awkward and uncomfortable. I promise you that there are going to moments today when you could cut the tension in this room with a knife.
But every single word that I say today is backed up by Scripture. And like we said last week, we are laser-focused on preaching the Word of God here at Connect. And the Word of God has a lot to say about money. In fact, the Scripture that we’re using today comes straight from Jesus Himself.
So you can get angry with me if you want, but I’m just the messenger. I didn’t say this stuff. Jesus did. So if you are uncomfortable and angry, just be honest enough to admit who you’re angry with. You’re not angry with me, because I didn’t say this stuff.
So, are we ready? Here we go. We’re going to be in Matthew 6 today.
Starting in verse 1, here’s what Jesus said. “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1, NIV)
Jesus warns us not to practice our righteousness to impress others. In other words, we don’t do good deeds to score points with people.
It’s about our heart. We don’t do good to impress people. We do good to honor God. To worship God. To give thanks and praise to God. It’s about our heart. And that’s something that Jesus is going to drive home throughout this message. It’s about our heart.
Jesus is saying, “You need to make sure that your heart is right. You need to make sure that I have first place in your heart. Your heart isn’t about impressing people. It isn’t about making yourself look good. Your heart needs to be devoted to Me.”
Now, with that in mind, go to next verses. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” (Matthew 6:2-4a, NIV)
Now, think about this. In the first verse, Jesus told us that we have to give Him our heart. We’re not about scoring points with people. We’re about giving Jesus glory. Our hearts are devoted to honoring and worship Jesus.
And then, the very next words out of Jesus’ mouth are, “So when you give…”
Jesus just said that He has to rule in our hearts. Our hearts have to be devoted to giving Him honor and worship. And then the first issue He brings up right after that is money. The first thing He said is, “So when you give.”
He didn’t say, “When you pray.” He did later in verse 5, but it was second. It wasn’t the first issue He brought up.
He didn’t say, “When you sing,” because any fool can sing. Anybody can raise their hands. Anybody can get caught up in a worship service.
He said, “When you give.” Not IF. WHEN you give. He made no apologies and He offered no exceptions.
The very first issue that Jesus addressed after talking about our heart is our money.
Perry Noble points out that there are over 2,000 verses in Scripture on money and possessions. By contrast, there are about 500 verses on prayer, and less than 500 verses on faith.
Jesus talked about money in 25% of His teachings. He talked about money more than He talked about heaven and hell combined.
Jesus said, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. [Again, it’s a heart issue. It’s not done to be seen by others. It’s done to honor Jesus.] Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
“But when you give…” [Stop right there. Jesus just repeated Himself. Anytime we see something in Scripture that is repeated…and especially if Jesus is the one that repeats it…we’d better stop and pray really close attention.]
“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” (Matthew 6:2-4a, NIV)
Jesus is repeating Himself because He is saying, “I expect My people to give.”
Jesus expects His people to give, and He never gives any qualifiers or exceptions. Jesus is saying that if our hearts really belong to Him, we are going to be givers.
Generosity is not optional for people who follow Jesus. It’s just not. Jesus didn’t say, “IF you give.” Jesus said, “WHEN you give.” In His mind, generosity is not optional for people who follow Him.
We wouldn’t say that forgiveness is optional for Christ-followers. We wouldn’t say that things like love, and serving, and worship are optional for believers. We know that those things are expected from people who follow Jesus. Jesus is telling us that generosity is no different. Jesus is made this very clear. He expects His people to be generous people.
Now, we’re going to stay in Matthew 6. Just skip on down to verse 19. This is still Jesus talking. Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19, NIV 1984)
Now, Jesus didn’t say that you can’t have things. He just said that we can’t be focused on storing up our treasure here. Because everything you have here is temporary.
You know those clothes that you love so much? They’re going to be moth food one day. You know that car that you just bought? It’s going to be a rusty bucket of bolts one day.
You know that huge TV that you have to watch NFL Sunday Ticket? Somebody could break in your house and steal it while you’re sitting in this room today.
You know that house that you live in? It’s going to be a pile on the ground one day.
Everything that we invest in here in this world is temporary. And yet we live in a nation where the average family has a credit card debt of $15,480. Think about that. The average family in America has over $15,000 of debt on their credit cards.
We are obsessed, we are absolutely addicted, to investing in stuff in this world, so much so that we’ll spend money we don’t even have to acquire more of it….and none of it is going to last. It’s all temporary.
But then, Jesus tells us that there is a better way. Look at the next verse.
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20, NIV 1984)
Jesus said that we can invest in things that do last. Things that won’t become moth-eaten or rusty. Things that cannot be stolen or taken from us. Things that will outlast us. Things that will outlive us. Things that will be eternal. We can invest in things like that.
You know what’s eternal? You know what Jesus promised would last forever? You know what Jesus said will never be defeated? Even the forces of hell itself can’t overcome it?
The church is permanent. The church will last forever. The church will last for all eternity.
How do you store up treasure in heaven? How do you invest in things that are eternal? You invest in the work of God. You invest in the family of God. You invest in the church of God.
Now, watch this. If Jesus hasn’t gotten in your kitchen yet, He will now. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NIV 1984)
Jesus said that our money always reveals our heart. If you want to know what someone values in their heart, just look at where their money goes and you will know. Money always reveals our heart. Always.
Which means that it’s a lie to say, “Jesus, you have my heart,” when He doesn’t have my treasure.
Remember when I promised it would be tense and uncomfortable today? Here it is.
It’s a lie to say, “Jesus, you have my heart,” when He doesn’t have my treasure.
Is this making some of us uncomfortable? It better be. If you claim to love Jesus but you don’t live with generosity, you need to be uncomfortable right now. If you claim to love the church of Jesus but you aren’t generous toward the church, you need to be uncomfortable right now.
Jesus said it’s all about our heart. That’s what Jesus wants. He wants our heart. But He can’t have our heart if He doesn’t have our treasure.
That’s why we aren’t afraid to teach about money here at Connect. Because the truth is that it’s really not about money. It’s about your heart. Money just reveals what is already in your heart. And that’s why we will never be afraid to teach about money here at Connect.
Have you ever been to a church where the preacher talked about money, and then apologized for it?
Several years ago, I visited a church that was in the middle of a money series. And every time the pastor would make a point about giving, he would turn around and apologize for it. Every time he would read a Scripture that talked about generosity, he would apologize for it. It drove me out of my freakin’ mind! I wanted to stand up and scream, “Stop apologizing for what Jesus Himself said!”
That will never happen here at Connect. You will never, ever, EVER hear me stand on this stage and apologize for something that Jesus said. EVER.
Jesus said that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. And here’s what that means…don’t say Jesus has your heart if you’re not willing to give to Him. Don’t say Jesus’ church is valuable to you if you’re not willing to be generous toward it. Don’t say that you love our church here at Connect if you’re not willing to generously support the work that God is doing here.
Throughout this series, we are transitioning from membership to partnership. In a lot of churches, you can become a member of that church. Here at Connect, we are going to do away with membership and instead, we are going to embrace the Biblical idea of partnership. Because like we’ve said, members have rights. Partners have responsibilities.
And here’s a core truth about partnership. Partners are generous givers.
Think back to when you were in high school. Some of you are in high school now. Some of you aren’t that far removed from high school. And others of you…you went to high school back in the day when you had to walk 9 miles to school, uphill both ways, in a driving snowstorm.
Anyway, at one point or another in high school, all of us had to work on a project with a partner. I hated that. Did anyone else hate that? I hated that!
And the reason I hated it is because it seemed like I always got stuck with the laziest person in the entire class. I remember Biology class. Our class was arranged with two people per table. And that person was your lab partner. And they would be your lab partner for the entire year.
I sat next to a guy that we’ll call Fred. And, let’s just say, Fred really didn’t care about biology. At all. Fred cared about partying. Fred cared about getting smashed on the weekend. And when we were working together, that’s all Fred wanted to talk about.
I did all the work. And I mean, I did ALL of it. Fred didn’t do jack squat. It ticked me off, but there was nothing I could do about it. My grade hung in the balance, so I had to do all the work myself.
That’s not a partner. That’s a slacker. Or, another way to say it…that’s a member. Fred was a member of our team. But he certainly wasn’t a partner on our team because he didn’t contribute anything.
Partners are contributors. Partners are generous givers. We won’t apologize for saying that. We won’t back off or water it down. We will say it loudly because it just echoes the words of Jesus. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
If someone claims to love our church, to be all-in with our church, to partner with our church, then that person will be generous toward our church. If someone isn’t generous toward our church, then their heart isn’t really here. Jesus said that it’s really that simple.
So what does it mean to be generous toward our church? The Bible uses the benchmark of a tithe. A tithe means a tenth. 10%. That has been the benchmark of generosity for God’s people since the time of Abraham.
Next week, we’re going to talk about tithing. But it’s not going to be like tithing messages that you might have heard before. We’re going to see how bringing a tithe is the key to our JOY. We’re going to see that it’s not a deal where we’ve gotta give. It’s a deal where we get to give! Next week is going to be awesome.
But for now, when we say that partners are generous givers, we’re using the benchmark that God has used for thousands of years. The tithe. Bringing 10% of our money back to God.
That’s the benchmark of generosity toward the church for people who follow Jesus. And I want to tell you this. I don’t say stuff like this often because it’s so easy for this to be misconstrued and misunderstood, but I want you to know this. This isn’t something that I’m telling you to do, but I don’t do myself. In fact, every staff member and every elder here at Connect tithes, or even gives beyond a tithe. And that’s not going to change, because we believe this simple truth: leaders lead. As leaders, we are never going to ask you to do something that we’re not willing to do ourselves. You need to know that the leadership of our church is all-in with our church. We’re in with all our heart. And using the words of Jesus, if we’re in with our heart, that means that we’re in with our money.
Now, for some of you, this whole tithe thing sounds impossible. And listen, we’re not crazy legalists about this. For example, if you’re out of work. We understand that 10% of nothing is nothing. We get it.
We also understand that life happens. Things can happen where finances get ripped to shreds by stuff that is out of our control. It can happen.
But let’s also be honest…for the vast majority of us, that’s not the problem. The reason a lot of us don’t tithe is because our tithe is sitting out in the parking lot. We drove our tithe to church this morning.
Or our tithe is given to our favorite sports team. Or we give our tithe across the parking lot at the mall.
Let’s just be honest. A lot us don’t tithe because it already goes all of these other places. Bringing a tithe would mean a sacrifice on our part…and we don’t want to do that.
Let’s get real about this…honestly, your car isn’t why you don’t tithe. Your house or your clothes or your whatever isn’t the real reason you don’t tithe. The reason you don’t tithe is because you have idol that you worship…and the idol is you.
And here’s the reason that I’m preaching so hard on this. C.S. Lewis said, “Idols always break the hearts of their worshippers.”
Idols always break the hearts of their worshippers…even when the idol I’m worshipping is me. I’m going to let me down. I’m going to disappoint me. I will never be able to save me.
But when I tithe, it reorients my entire life around something other than me. My tithe takes me off of the throne of my life and it puts Jesus there instead.
Again, it’s all about our hearts. And that’s why I’m preaching this message. If you’ve been listening to this message and you’re thinking, “I knew it. The church only wants my money,” you couldn’t be more wrong. I don’t want something FROM you. I want something FOR you.
I want you to be set free from the prison of idolatry. I want you to know the freedom of worshipping Jesus. I want Jesus to be first in your heart.
I don’t want something FROM you. I want something FOR you.
Skip on down to verse 24 in Matthew 6. 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.” (Matthew 6:24, NIV)
Now, notice this. Jesus didn’t say you can’t serve both God and the devil. That’s how I would have said it. That makes sense to me.
But Jesus said you cannot serve both God and money, because He knew that money is the primary competitor for your heart. That’s why He said you cannot serve both God and money. You have to make a choice.
Think about it this way, now that it’s football season. We’ve got some people here at Connect who are diehard Ohio State fans. Our student director, Dan Robinson, for example.
Now, in November, Ohio State is going to play Michigan. How do you think Dan is going to react to you if you say, “Well, you know, I really don’t care who wins. I’m on both sides. I’m pulling for both teams.”
Dan is going to lose his mind! Dan is going to tell you, “You can’t do that! You have to choose! You can’t be on both sides! Either you love Jesus and you cheer for Ohio State or you love Satan and you cheer for Michigan! You’ve got to choose!”
Jesus said that we have to choose. He said we can’t serve both God and money. We have to make a choice. We have to decide who is going to be first.
Because here’s the thing…if Jesus is not first in my finances, then He isn’t first period.
If you have no problem writing your car payment check but you have a problem writing your tithe check, then He isn’t first. If you have no problem sending your money to Apple for all your little devices but you have a problem supporting the local church, then He isn’t first.
Somebody just got offended by that. Somebody just got angry at that. But you know what? I learned this a long time ago. You know the only people that get offended when you preach about adultery? Adulterous people.
You know the only people who have a problem when you preach about money? Selfish people.
And I love you enough to offend you. I love you enough to make you angry. I love you enough to risk having you never come back to Connect ever again. I love you so much that I want you to live a life of freedom where Jesus is first. But if Jesus is not first in your finances, then He isn’t first period.
What step do you need to take to put God first in your finances? Not top 10. Not even top 5. What step do you need to take to put God first in your finances? Because if He’s not first in your finances, then He’s not first period.
The average churchgoer in the United States gives 2 ½% of their income to their church. That’s pretty far from off the Biblical benchmark of 10%. And using Jesus’ formula, that means that most Christians in our country have not made Jesus first in their finances. And if He’s not first in your finances, then He’s not first period.
So what do you do? If you gave 2% this week, it’s not realistic that you’re going to bring 10% next week. You’ve got to give yourself a little grace to grow into this. But you also have to have an aggressive plan to get there.
Some of us need to go home this week and really pray over out budget. Ask God to lead the process. Talk with your spouse about it. Pray together about how you can grow toward a tithe. Make a realistic, but aggressive plan. Make some sacrifices and start putting Jesus first in your finances. If He’s not first in your finances, then He’s not first period.
We want you to know the joy and the freedom that comes when Jesus really is first. So this money message hasn’t really been about money at all. It’s about your heart.
And here’s why this matters so much…because Jesus loves you with all His heart.
In fact, John 3:16, one of the most well-known verses in the entire Bible says, “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. God loves you with all His heart. He loves you so much that He gave His own Son for you. Jesus died on a cross to pay the price for all your sin so you could live in absolute freedom. Jesus loves you with all His heart, and He backed it up when He gave His life for you.
That’s why we preach on money and giving and tithing and all that stuff. We want you to be set free to live a life where Jesus is first in your heart. Because you are absolutely first in His.