It’s important that we understand how the gospel addresses money. So it’s important that we know what the gospel is.
The gospel is good news. Jesus, the Son of God, was born. For 33 years, He lived a perfect life, fulfilling every righteous requirement of the law that you and I fail to keep. He lived a perfect and sinless life. Then at just the right time, while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly. He died on the cross, to be the once and for all, perfect sacrifice for the sins of His people. Then on the third day, the Spirit of God raised Jesus from the dead. Death couldn’t hold Him anymore.
What we see in the gospel is the life that Jesus lived, the death He died and His resurrection.
These are the major factual and historic components of the gospel. Most of us would say that we believe these truths of the gospel. We believe they are important to us and we try to live in light of these truths.
But is there anything in this world that can cause you to give up the gospel? Is there anything in this world that you desire so much that you would be willing to take the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and trade it in, exchange Him for your desire?
Story of Judas
Judas was one of the 12 disciples. He lived and experienced the life of Jesus. He was there when Jesus preached with authority, when He healed the lame and the blind. He was there when Jesus raised people from the dead.
But when it came down to it, Judas was wiling to take the life of Jesus and exchange it for money. He traded Jesus’ life away for 30 pieces of silver.
Let’s not quickly discount this story, fooling ourselves into thinking that we’re better than that. There are many who walk the path of Judas.
I was visiting a church in Israel. They had portrait paintings of the 12 disciples. Each one had a distinguished, noble look about them. Except for Judas. He looked like the wicked witch of the West.
When Jesus got His disciples around the table, He said one of them was going to betray him. Did the disciples immediately point to Judas, knowing it was him, saying he always had that look on his face? No. They looked around at each other and asked Jesus whom He was speaking about. By all external evidence, Judas looked like, acted like and spoke like all the rest of them. But when it came down to it, he was willing to take the life of Jesus and trade it away.
Some argue that it was because the disciples really weren’t changed until they experienced both the life and death of Jesus. However, Scripture says differently.
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. —Matthew 28:1-8 (ESV)
These guards are stationed at Jesus’ tomb at the request of the chief priests and Pharisees. They were afraid that His disciples would come, steal Jesus’ body and tell everyone that He had risen from the dead. Then the Marys come and the earth shakes. The Angel of God appears in great light and speaks.
“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.”
If anybody saw Jesus rise from the dead and walk through the stone, it would have been those guards. They would be the only ones to see Him physically rise from the dead. But even if they didn’t, they did see the Angel of God appear in great light as the earth was shaking. They saw him with their eyes and heard his testimony that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Who is the person in your life that seems to have the hardest heart, who seems most against believing in Jesus? What if the Angel of God appeared and told them that Jesus was real, that He died and rose again, what would happen?
The very next section of Scripture tells us these guards went to the chief priests and told them all that they had seen and heard.
While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day. —Matthew 28:11-15 (ESV, emphasis added)
Even though they knew Jesus had actually risen from the dead, they were still willing to trade it all away and exchange it … for a sufficient sum of money.
The scary thing is that many of us are chasing that sufficient sum of money. What if it was promised to you? What would you be willing to give up, in order to get it?
We have the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, all the major workings of the gospel. As weighty and critical as these truths are, God is showing us the inclination of the human heart. The willingness to throw it all out the window, to exchange it for money.
Jesus Spoke Often of Money
You should now be getting a sense of why Jesus spoke about money so much. He discussed it more than he did faith, prayer, and heaven and hell combined.
What is it about money that makes it so dangerous? Money promises to give us everything that our hearts desire.
Anything and everything, money promises to give it to us. Money promises security, power, comfort and approval. We love money because we love the idols it promises us it will give us.
Jesus doesn’t treat money as a harmless benign thing, because it has a mastering and consuming effect on us. We have an insatiable desire for it in our hearts. It’s a master that desires exclusive worship and servanthood.
When God commands us to give, it’s not because He wants your money. He wants your heart. When He commands us to be generous, it’s not because He wants to take things from you. He wants to give you Himself.
God doesn’t want the money out of your pockets. He wants the idols out of your heart.
Giving money should be the hardest and the easiest thing in the world. The hardest because you have to get rid of the idols in your heart. The easiest thing because you’re giving to the One who has given you everything.
How Much to Give
Well how much exactly does God want you to give? Where does tithing 10 percent of your income come from? If this is the line of questioning, we’re missing the point.
Tithing was a command God gave His people in the Old Testament, to offer a tenth of all that God would give them back to Himself.
Everything comes from Him in the first place, so why would He ask for it back? So that we would know that it all came from Him.
When we give a tenth back, we’re saying that we know this. The tithing command asks you if you believe God gave you all that you have.
Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. —Malachi 3:8-10 (ESV)
God tells His people they’re robbing Him. They’re refusing to give Him what belongs to Him. They’re refusing to believe that He gave all they have to them.
So He asks them to put Him to the test. He is not a stingy father who wants to take from them. He’s a father who wants to give. So he tells them to test Him, to bring their tithe so that He will open up the floodgates of blessings upon their heads. But he gives a condition that they bring the whole tithe. He’s not a father that will give in negligence.
As a father, my heart is to give as much as I can to my kids. I’m not trying to withhold from them. My heart is to give them anything and everything they would ever want. Malachi, my son, is into Lego Hero Factory. My heart is to give him every one that has been produced. But, after I buy him a few, I see him refusing to share them with his little brother or hitting his sister because she messed up the pieces.
If I see his heart growing greedy and loving things more than people, it would be negligent for me to keep buying him more of these toys. On the other hand, if I hear him playing with his little brother and sister and giving away his toys to friends who don’t have any, it makes me want to buy him more.
That’s the heart of the father.
However, the Old Testament doesn’t apply to us today. The principle of Malachi 3:8-10 is to obey God, give and then you will be blessed.
This is not the principle of the New Testament.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. —Ephesians 1:3 (ESV)
We received such a blessing in Christ, because of the gospel. We received the gospel, not because we obeyed and gave the right amount commanded of us, but rather …
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. —Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
The Old Testament says give, and then you will be blessed.
The New Testament says you have been blessed, therefore give.
God is not withholding anything from you. He didn’t even withhold His own Son, but gave Him up for us all. How would He not, along with Him, graciously give us all things. How should we respond to a truth like that? What should our giving look like in light of that truth?
Should our giving remain the same as the Old Testament? Should we just keep on tithing at 10 percent, because that’s what He commanded back then? That would communicate that nothing has changed, nothing new has happened. Should we argue about tithing and how it’s just an Old Testament thing? If our questioning still remains to how much, we’re still missing the point.
The gospel ought to change our question from how much should we give into how much should we keep.
Have you ever asked yourself why God has blessed you so much? What does He want us to do with all of it?
Just like we talked about last week, sex is a physical reminder that points us to the gospel; so is giving. Giving is a physical pointer, a demonstration, to the gospel. We give to missions because the gospel says when Jesus died on the cross, He had people in mind from every tongue, tribe and nation. The Bible tells us that we are blessed so that we may be a blessing. To the nations.
We give to the church, because Jesus gave to the church. We give up our first fruits and tithe, because God gave His first fruits, His Son, to the church. We give to orphan care, because we’re reminding ourselves that while we were orphans, Jesus came to take us to the Father. We give to the poor and needy, because we’re pointing to the truth that says when we were poor, Jesus came to meet our needs.
When we give to the point that it hurts, not just out of our excess, we’re pointing to the truth that Jesus, though He was rich, gave it all up, so that we would become rich. By giving, we’re pointing to the reality and the truths of the gospel.
The question is, what kind of gospel are we pointing to through our giving?
I’m afraid that the American church is pointing to a sad gospel. The average American church member gives away 2.58 percent of their income. Twenty-five percent of the average church members give nothing at all.
What kind of gospel is that pointing to? We have to preach a better gospel.
Our giving starts not when we get jobs. It starts when we get saved.
There’s beauty in giving when you feel like you have nothing.
And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” —Mark 12:41-44 (ESV)
God doesn’t need your money. If he did, he would be much happier with large sums of money. But because His desire is not your money, but your heart, He sees the widow and is more pleased with that.
We look at the widow and see her being foolish and reckless, to give all that she has to live on. Jesus looked at her and thought it was amazing. She gave out of her poverty, because she knew that her treasure was found in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy.
There was once a small band of believers, 2,000 years ago. History would say they flipped the world upside down. Unbelievers would write about them calling them crazy, not caring about their money, selling their possessions to care for the poor. Why were they able to do that? Because they knew they had been blessed in Christ, because of the gospel, with every spiritual blessing. They were full and able to give.
So with their giving, they pointed to an awesome gospel.
What if we did it again? Let’s flip the world upside down.