What if I told you that we’ve been doing it all wrong? What if I told you that everything that we’ve been conditioned to believe is completely backwards? What if I told you that we need to flip everything upside down?
That’s exactly what I’m going to tell you today. But in reality, I’m not the one telling you. I’m joining with you in listening as Jesus tells us these things.
This is week #5 in our series called This Is How We Roll. It’s the longest, and possibly the most important series we’ve ever had here at Connect.
And God is going to use this message today to flip things upside down in our lives. So let’s ask Him to speak to us today
If you were here last week, you know it got flat tense in here. It was really uncomfortable last week because we were talking about money. Whenever a pastor talks about money, there’s a whole lot of squirming in the seats. And the reason is simple. Because, for a lot of us, when a pastor preaches about money, he is taking shots at our god.
Anytime you pick on somebody’s idol, it gets tense. They get uncomfortable and angry. It happens every time I preach about money.
So guess what we’re going to talk about today…money! We had so much fun last week, we’re coming back for more.
But here’s what we’re going to see today. A lot of us have been doing the money thing all wrong. And it’s completely understandable, because we’re just doing what our culture conditions us to do.
But let’s just think about that for a minute. How much is our culture actually right about? When you look at our culture, how often do you think, “Man, culture really has that one figured out. Our culture is spot on right there.”
Doesn’t happen very often, does it? So it shouldn’t be surprising that our culture has the money thing completely backwards, too.
Here’s what culture says is normal. “Get!” “Get” is normal. “Get” is what we’re conditioned to do. “Get” feels right to us.
And where does “get” get us? “Get” can lead us to all kinds of bad places.
For example, we talked about this last week. A mountain of credit card debt is normal. The average family in America has over $15,000 of debt racked up on credit cards. Why? Because we’ve gotta get!
“Get” can lead us down all kinds of really bad paths. Some of us are buried under car payments because we just had to get that car.
It will take us 6 years to pay it off, and by the time it is paid off, we will have paid thousands of dollars more than the original price and the car will have lost between 70-80% of its value! But “get” told us that we had to have a new car.
“Get” is a way of life for us. “Get” makes sense to us. But when you really think about it, “get” doesn’t exactly have the best track record. It’s what our culture preaches to us, but I think we can honestly admit that culture isn’t the best guide for wise decisions.
And here’s the other thing about “get.” It’s not something you can quantify. It’s not made up of numbers you can crunch, but it’s absolutely true.
“Get” never leads to joy.
We’ve all experienced this on some level. There is just something that we have to “get.” So we do whatever we can to get it. And when we do, it’s awesome…for about 5 minutes. And then we figure out that the euphoria is limited. It just doesn’t last.
We’re getting ready to get blitzed with the exact opposite message in our culture. It won’t be long until Christmas commercials start dominating on TV. In fact, Kmart has already started. We’re going to be inundated with commercials telling us about everything that we have to “get.”
And every parent has seen this happen. Your kid sees the commercial. They beg for that one thing. And you’re a good parent, so you buy it and wrap it up. It’s what they asked for. It’s what they’ve “always wanted.”
So on Christmas morning, they open the present and go nuts! They celebrate! They jump up and down! They scream and yell!
And then 5 minutes later, you look down and they’re playing with the box that it came in!
That’s because “get” never leads to joy. It can lead to temporary happiness, but it never leads to lasting joy.
Culture has it wrong. Culture has it 100% backwards. But thankfully, God loves us enough to tell us that there is a better way.
In Acts 20, we read these words. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35b, NIV)
You know who said these words? Jesus Himself.
And when you think about the stuff we just talked about, His words really start to ring true, don’t they? “Get” doesn’t lead to joy. We are told that it will. We may even believe that it will. But in the end, it just doesn’t work. “Get” never leads to joy.
But Jesus flips the whole thing upside down and tells us that “give” always leads to joy.
Last week, I preached hard about giving. And like I said, it was tense and uncomfortable. But in reality, what we were talking about is actually the pathway to joy. “Get” never leads to joy. But “give” always leads to joy.
But again, the reason it got tense in here for a lot of us is because I was picking on your god. I was dismantling your idol.
But the reason I’m willing to take on your idol is because that idol can never bring your joy. When you worship at the altar of “get,” it will never lead you joy. Ever.
But when you worship Jesus through the act of giving, joy is always the result.
I know it’s only September, but since I already mentioned Christmas, let’s go ahead and read a little bit of the Christmas story in Scripture. Because in case you didn’t know, Christmas is about Jesus. It’s not about taking somebody down at the store on Black Friday.
In Matthew 2, we read the story of the Magi, or some people call them the Wise Men. These guys came seeking Jesus after He was born in Bethlehem.
Here’s the way Matthew describes the scene to us, starting in verse 9. “After [the Magi] had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:9-11, NIV)
Think about the progression in the story of the Magi. First of all, they were seeking. They sought after Jesus.
And that’s where some of you are right now. You’re seeking. You’re not sure about all this Jesus stuff, but you’re seeking. And I want to tell you, that’s awesome! Keep coming. Keep seeking truth. Keep searching out the claims of Jesus. Keep seeking.
If you’re seeking, I want you to know this. You are exactly why our church exists in the first place. We are here for you. We are here to serve you. We are here to do whatever we can to help you as you seek Jesus. We are not here to judge or condemn or anything like that. We want to serve you while you seek.
And here’s the thing…we never stop seeking. Every single person in this room…every single person watching this video online…we’re all seeking something. And the thing that we’re seeking will either lead us toward or away from joy.
Last week we read some powerhouse words from Jesus in Matthew 6. Let’s go back to that same chapter, but skip on down a little further. This is still Jesus talking. This is a little long, but it is so good.
Starting in verse 25, Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? [Man, that’s a great question, isn’t it? Can you ever gain ANYTHING by worrying?]
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:25-33, NIV)
We’re all seeking something. And what we seek will either lead us toward or away from joy.
Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom of God. Seek God’s will first. Seek to follow Jesus first. Seek to fulfill your God-given mission first. Seek to see the work of God carried out first. Seek to see people reached for Jesus first. Seek to win this world for Christ first.
And you know where all of that happens? In the church. The church is God’s household. The church is God’s family. The church is where broken people are made whole. The church is where sinful people are made new. The church is where dead people are made alive. The church IS the kingdom of God on earth.
And Jesus said to seek FIRST his kingdom. He just talked about how we chase after things like clothes. He talked about how we worry about how we’re going to make it financially. And we can all relate to that, because we all do it. We all worry about money. We all get stressed out about money.
But Jesus told us not to worry, and then He told us why. Because if we see first God’s Kingdom, all these things will be given to you as well.
“Are you saying that God is going to take care of me if I give to His church?” Actually, I’m not the one that said it. Jesus is the one that said it.
“Well, that sounds like health-and-wealth preaching to me!”
No, that sounds like Jesus preaching to me. I’m not the one who said this. Jesus is. Jesus said that if we seek His kingdom first, God will provide for our needs.
And I heard about an amazing example of that this past week from right here in our own church. I got an email this week from Shannon. Shannon and her family have been worshipping with us at Connect for a little while now. In fact, I had the privilege of baptizing Shannon and her husband, Jeremy, a few weeks ago. It was awesome!
Shannon sent me an email this week, and I asked her if I could share it today. She told me to go for it.
Shannon told me that last Sunday when the offering baskets were passed, she accidentally put in the money she had set aside for the church AND the money she had set aside to make a weighted blanket for her young son, who needs it because of his sensory issues. These blankets are really expensive, so Shannon said and she and her mom were going to try to make one themselves. But then, she accidentally put that money in the offering basket.
Now, she wasn’t going to ask for it back or anything like that. She just decided to trust God with it.
That was on Sunday. On Tuesday, here’s the email that Shannon sent me.
She wrote, “I wanted to share something awesome after this week’s message!!!! I just got a call to tell us that Jonah is getting a weighted blanket custom-made for him, and it is 100% covered! We don’t have to pay a dime!!!!!
I couldn’t help but just sit back and think, “Wow! God really is going to make sure our needs are met!!!”
I’m just completely amazed and just wanted to share!!! So I’m glad you preach what Jesus says even if it may offend some, because it’s blessing our family in so many ways!!!”
Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. You can’t make stuff like this up. And there’s no way you can call that a coincidence. You knoiw what you call it? Jesus making good on His promise. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
So the question is, what are you seeking? Are seeking God’s kingdom, or are you seeking your “thingdom?”
Go back to the story of the Magi. Let’s read this again.
“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:10-11, NIV)
These men were seeking Jesus. And when they found Him, they worshipped Him. And how did they worship Him?
“They opened their treasures and presented him with gifts.”
They were seeking Jesus. And when the found Him, the first thing they did was worship Him through giving.
Now, keep in mind, these men were astrologers. They were all about looking to the stars to find meaning and purpose and hope. They were seeking something, but what they were seeking never brought them joy.
But when they started seeking Jesus, it all changed. Instead of looking to the stars, they found the One who made those stars. And once they found Jesus, they immediately opened their treasures.
Some of us claim to have found Jesus, but we’ve never opened our treasure for Him. And the reason we’ve never opened our treasure is because, even though we claim to have found Jesus, we’re using our treasure to seek joy somewhere else.
We don’t really believe that Jesus is enough for us if we’re not willing to open our treasure. We don’t really believe that Jesus is all we need if we’re not willing to open our treasure. We’re not really seeking His Kingdom first if we’re not willing to open our treasure. We don’t really trust that He is going to take care of our needs if we’re not willing to open our treasure.
We read this last week, but let’s go back to it again. In Matthew 6, Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21, NIV)
If you want to know what’s in our heart, if you want to know what we’re really seeking, just look at where we’re willing to open our treasure. Seriously, that is all you need to know.
A lot of us claim to love Jesus, but we don’t open our treasure for Him. A lot of us claim to love Jesus’ church, but we don’t open our treasure for it.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Your treasure reveals your heart. It reveals what you’re really seeking in your life. It reveals if your life is all about God’s Kingdom or your “thingdom.” Your treasure tells a heck of a story, one way or the other.
Here’s what I want for you. Because I told you last week, I don’t want something FROM you. I want something FOR you. Here’s what I want for you…I want your story to be a story of joy.
When the Magi found Jesus and went in to open their treasure for Him, Matthew says that “they were overjoyed.” (Matthew 2:10b, NIV)
But that’s actually not the best translation. The word “overjoyed” doesn’t quite capture it.
A better translation is, “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” (Matthew 2:10b, ESV)
This was a joy that could not be contained. One possible way to read the original language would be that they jumped for joy like little children.
When these men found Jesus, their joy was indescribable. They were jumping! They were dancing! And they were giving!
And it really lines up with what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9. Paul said, “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)
Paul said that our giving isn’t about compulsion or duty. It’s about joy. 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, Paul said that God loves a hilarious giver. Giving is supposed to be a fun, laugh-out-loud kind of experience. Giving is not a duty. It’s not done begrudgingly. It’s not done under compulsion. It’s a joy!
That’s why we embrace this truth at Connect. Partners are joyful givers. We are in the process of moving away from church membership and toward the more biblical idea of church partnership. At the end of this series on November 9, we’re all going to have a chance to say, “I’m in! I want to partner with Connect as we carry out our mission and our vision!”
This is part of it. Partners are generous, but not because of some religious compulsion or duty. Partners are joyfully generous! This isn’t a “gotta give” thing. This is a “get to give” thing!
Partners realize how good God us been to us and to our families and to our church, and we want to bring a joyful gift back to Him! Partners are joyful givers.
Giving is a privilege. Giving is a joy. So if you’re giving out of obligation or out of compulsion, just keep your money.
If you think, “the church only wants my money,” just keep it. That should prove to you that we’re not just out for your money. You go ahead and keep it.
But you need to know this…you’ll never find joy until you decide to stop being a getter and start becoming a giver.
And you need to think long and hard before you say, “Yes, I’m in!” as a partner here at Connect.
We have no problem talking about money here at Connect. We have no problem challenging our partners to step up and be generous toward God’s church by bringing a tithe, because God is worthy of it…and because of the promises of God that we see in Scripture.
A tithe means a tenth. It is bringing 10% of our income back to God. And the tithe is key to our joy.
Listen to what God Himself 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. 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 3:8-10, NIV)
God invites us to test Him. This is the only place I know of where God actually says it’s okay to test Him. He invites us to test Him by bringing the whole tithe, the whole tenth, the whole 10% to Him.
So many people see this as a negative, as a duty, as an obligation. But flip it around. What an incredible promise! God said He would throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out blessings on us if we commit to honoring Him with the tithe.
This is a truth that so many people miss. God can do more with 90% than I can do with 100%. I have seen it happen over and over again in my life. I have talked to some of you who have seen this truth in your own life.
Last week, I talked to Nancy after church. Nancy is 78 years old, and here’s what she told me. She said, quote, “I’ve been through so much crap in my life, but the Lord has never let me down. I always bring a tithe, and He always provides for me.”
You know what that is? That is Malachi 3 come to life. That is God’s promise come to life. That is a woman who is older than most of us in this room, and she has gained a lot of wisdom in her life. And she knows this is true. God can do more with 90% than I can do with 100%.
You simply can’t outgive God. And when you tithe, you position yourself for God’s blessing.
Think about it this way. If I’m not tithing, then the best I can do is the best I can do. “Well, I’m just doing the best I can.”
If you’re not tithing, then that’s true. The best I can do is the best I can do. That’s small. That’s boring. That’s sad.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
When I take a step of financial faith…when I decide to trust God and step out on faith to bring the whole tithe…God promises to pour out blessings on me. So many blessings that I won’t even have room for them all.
So here’s what happens. When I don’t tithe, the best I can do is the best I can do.
But when I tithe, everything changes. When I trust God with a tithe, all of a sudden, the best I can do is the best God can do!
Tithing positions me for God’s blessing. When we bring the whole tithe, we are telling God, “I trust you.” And that trust gets rewarded.
Now, just so I’m being absolutely clear, I’m not saying that’s why we give. We give because God gave His own Son for us. Jesus died on a cross to take away our sins fully, finally, and completely. He gave His life for us. And that’s the only reason we need to give back to Him.
We don’t give to get. We give because God is a giver. We give because God has given us more than we could ever dream of when He gave us His son.
But the cool thing is that God is a giver at His very core. He promised to bless us if we will honor Him with a tithe.
It doesn’t mean we’ll be filthy rich. It doesn’t mean if you start tithing, God will give you a Bentley. But it does mean that your finances are now in His hands.
I love the way Mark Batterson put it. He said, “In my personal experience, tithing makes finances fun. It infuses me with economic optimism because I’m walking in obedience. I live in holy anticipation to see the way God is going to provide!”
It really comes down to a financial choice. In your finances, you can operate under the construct of “The best I can do is the best I can do.” Or you can trust God to throw open the floodgates and live under the promise of, “The best I can do I the best God can do!”
I don’t know about you, but I know which one sounds better to me!
I will always choose God’s best over my best, because I’ve already experienced the best God can give. That gift had a Name. His Name is Jesus.
God didn’t have to give up His Son for me, but He did. Jesus didn’t have to die on the cross to pay for my sin, but He did.
In Romans 5, Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NIV)
God didn’t wait for us to clean ourselves up or to make ourselves right. Instead, He meets us in our sin. He meets us at our absolute worst.
Clayton King described it this way. “At the cross, our worst meets God’s best…and His best wins.”
God’s best trumps my worst. And I’ll never get over it. I’ll never be able to wrap my head around a love like that.
That’s why we give. That’s why we serve. That’s why we worship. Not because we can pay God back. We wouldn’t be able to pay God back in a thousand lifetimes. But we give and serve and worship out of gratitude for what He’s given to us.
He gave us His best when He gave us Jesus. And His best wins over our worst every single time.