March 17, 2019 | Taylor Rutland
Passage: Matthew 6:19-24
The Gospel Coalition is a nonprofit organization that puts together resources, hosts conferences, and has a podcast all for the purpose of helping Christians to grow in Christ. It is probably one of the most frequented websites that I go to. Many of the articles and podcasts stimulate my thinking, and also help me know what to read if I want to go deeper on a particular issue. A few years ago the website featured two different stories released within a few days of each other. Focusing on this question, Are Christians required to tithe today? One article was entitled, The Bible commands Christians to Tithe laying out a solid biblical argument for continuing the practice of tithing for Christians today. Many of you here are affirming this article and cheering inside right now. But then a few days later another article was released by a very prominent NT scholar which was titled, 7 Reasons Christians are not Required to Tithe. This particular scholar also laid out a very compelling and biblical case for why the tithe is no longer a requirement for Christians today. Another percentage of the audience today is probably cheering on the inside after reading the title of that article. I know this man to be someone who loves the church, and wants the name of Jesus to be spread around the world. So as a student of the bible and a pastor in the church what am I supposed to do about this? Should I just tell people to adhere to the article that seems to fit with the presuppositions that already have on this issue? Because the reality is for those of you who do adhere to a tithe of your income you will probably agree with everything in the first article. And if you don’t tithe of your income, then you will probably adhere to everything in the second article and anytime someone tries to tell you to tithe you will just post that article to your Facebook page or send them the link to it. You see, three kinds of people are here today. The first group are those who believe strongly in the 10% of your gross income. The second group who believe strongly that the New Testament is not crystal clear on the concept of tithing and therefore you don’t give 10% of your money. It doesn’t mean you don’t give, but you don’t give a tithe of your gross income. And then there are those who just don’t know anything about what the Bible teaches about money. And the reality is that all 3 groups of people have something to learn from Jesus today. Generally speaking, pastors can speak on many issues. If this were a message on adultery, we would all be agreeing that this is a bad thing, if it were a message on anger or pornography or lust we would all be in agreement that yes we should preach against these things. But when we get to the topic of our money everyone begins to feel very uncomfortable. And the reason there is so much discomfort over this topic in the church today is because it is the one area of many of our lives where we don’t want to relinquish control. And yet, being a follower of Jesus we know that means giving home control of every area of our life.
Identify Your Treasure:
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." — Matthew 6:19-20
This particular passage occurs in the context of Jesus’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. He has spent the majority of this chapter addressing hypocrisy in all of its various forms. He tells the people don’t practice your piety in front of people so that everyone can see you. When you pray don’t pray fancy prayers in front of a larger group of people so that you can be se seen. Hypocrites act in that way.
In the same way though, when we store up for ourselves treasures on earth we are also hypocrites. Because we tell people that Jesus is in charge of every area of our life including our money, but functionally this isn’t true. We teach and preach that Jesus is all a person needs in order to have peace in this world, when in our own life we really get peace from our retirement account, or our vacation home, or our career, or our families, and if those material things were stripped from us we wouldn’t have peace.
In Jesus’s culture, banks were hardly used and rarely trusted. So treasures were kept in goods or hard currency in the home or some other safe place. These items quite literally if stored away were subject to rust, moths, and ultimate destruction.
- I come from a long line of thriftiness, which is really just a nicer way of saying I’m cheap. Just a few weeks ago I woke up one morning and stumbled into the bathroom and I dropped my phone into the toilet. I am not a big phone person so this wasn’t really a big deal to me to lose the phone, but rest assured I was furious that I would have to purchase a new one. I strongly considered going back to a flip phone that was made popular 15 years ago during the Bush administration, but I didn’t want to disgrace my wife and family so I went to AT&T to get another iPhone. My words to the AT&T worker were please give me the cheapest iPhone that you still sell. He said he thought they had some iPhone 7’s stuck in the back alley in a dungeon, and I said I’ll take it. Ashley was with me and asked what would be the difference in price between an iPhone 7 and iPhone that came with portrait mode and he said basically it would be an extra $6/month. And I unequivocally said no thanks. Because as a cheap person $72/year is a lot of money right. For those of you who are cheap give me an amen! I have thought about that $6/month a lot over the last week. The reality is I have no intention of using that $6/month or $72/year to be generous towards others. I’m not going to include it in my tithe, or give it away to some other noble cause. I’m going to most likely use that money to store up for myself treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.
Search Your Heart:
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." — Matthew 6:21
The reason that we must first identify our treasure is because most of the time our money follows our treasure. If your treasure is your children, you will exhaust every resource possible to ensure that your children get into the best schools, are part of the elite sports teams, and have the best paying jobs. And more than likely, your money will follow your children. If your treasure is your career, you will do whatever it takes to ensure that you are the best dressed, the most knowledgeable, the most connected to others in your field. And more than likely your money will help you ensure that you do those things. As one pastor put it, it’s not that money is an idol, but our money follows our idols.
So what treasures do you have in your life that are have no eternal significance? Please hear me, I’m not telling you to sell everything you have and go live on the streets. But what treasures do you have today that are preventing you from being radically generous today? Identify those, pray through those, and ask God to change your heart to focus on treasures that will last for eternity.
- I ran a simple search on the International Mission Board website the other day. This is our international mission board which is the primary way that we take the Gospel to unreached people groups as Southern Baptists. I filtered my search to include any projects that were currently happening that had to do with evangelism or outreach. I then added it up what it would cost if every single one of those projects were completed, and the cost would be 46 million dollars. These are projects where moth and rust do not destroy. Taking the Gospel to the 3.14 billion people who have never heard the gospel, the 7,078 unreached people groups who need to hear the message of Jesus. There are ways to reallocate your money away from earthly possessions that will rot when you leave this world, and focus your money on ways to reach people who you can one day meet in eternity.
I would caution you, however, to understand that simply donating your money to eternal causes will not make you any closer to God than the next person. In the midst of searching our hearts we must also search our motives. Giving to eternal causes with the wrong motive might satisfy the needs of the people, but it will not satisfy the needs of your heart.
Generosity Effects Spiritual Health:
"The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness." — Matthew 6:22
Scholars disagree over the function of the eye metaphor in relation to the body here. I believe that the use of the eye metaphor is meant to continue the theme of generosity that Jesus is talking about.
While the word often translated is “healthy” one of the other uses of “healthy” is generous. In Proverbs 22 we actually see generous being translated as “good eyed” while in Proverbs 23 and 28 stingy people are called “bad-eyed.”
What Jesus is actually saying here is that if you are not generous with your money, time, or other resources then you are full of darkness. But if your eye is healthy or if you are generous than you will be full of light.
The metaphor of light and darkness is found throughout scripture, and particularly in John’s Gospel where he regularly uses the metaphor of light and darkness to describe our spiritual condition.
So let’s connect this metaphor to the previous verses. If your eye is healthy or if you are being generous than your spiritual life is more likely to be vibrant, but if your eye is no good than your spiritual life most likely is not where it should be as well.
Just like the body is a system where one area is effected by another so our spiritual health is effected by sin. A lack of generosity in our hearts and with our possessions is a sign that we don’t adequately trust what God says when he tells us that he will provide for ALL of our needs. Do we actually believe this? Does the way we steward our resources reflect this?
You cannot talk about the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, fasting, church attendance, and neglect giving. They are all important, and they all effect your relationship with God.
We All Serve A Master:
"No one can serve to masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." — Matthew 6:24
Jesus makes it very clear. You cannot serve God and money. But you can serve God through your money. If God has blessed with material possessions, then your job is to figure out how God can use the resources he has given you for his glory. If you have a private plane, who can you provide transportation for so that we can get the gospel out to more people groups. If you have a vacation home, what couple or family can you lend it to so that they can have a vacation that they otherwise could not afford. Maybe you realize that you have way too much stuff. What if you sold some of that extra stuff, and used it to advance the Gospel whether it be in New Orleans or around the world.
This verse tells us that it is not possible to serve two masters, but we do this all the time. Perhaps you have multiple jobs, but in Jesus’s context a slave was not employed under contract but was normally wholly owned by the person who had bought them. In other words, the slave gave total commitment to his master. So in this regard, it is impossible to serve both God and money. You cannot serve both with complete dedication and commitment. Only one can get your all.
Everyone is serving something today. Even those that are doubting whether or not God is real, you are serving something today. Everyone is looking for purpose and fulfillment. Perhaps your money gives you purpose and fulfillment, and it absolutely can as long as you are on this earth, but it will not go with you.
The most important reason that we are generous with our money is because Jesus was more than generous with us. He is the only one who truly gave up everything for us. He was rich beyond his wildest dreams seated at the right hand of God in Heaven with everything that he would ever need, and he left it all because of his love for us. And he served us unconditionally dying the death that we all deserve. We aren’t ultimately generous just because a preacher stands up here and tells you to be generous, we are generous because Jesus sacrificed everything for us.
If you are here today and you are thinking I give my 10% to the church and that is all I am going to give even though you can clearly give more than you have missed Jesus’s teaching here. Or if you say I am not going to give anything to the church because Jesus doesn’t specifically tell me to than you have missed it as well. Both beliefs are wrong.
- The #1 reason why people give to a cause is belief in the mission. It’s not the persuasiveness of the leader or the cool factor of the cause. People give to organizations because they believe in the mission. Let me explain to you the mission because it’s crystal clear: God’s mission and his design is to use the church of Jesus Christ to make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the father and the son and the Holy Spirit. That’s the mission. Now it fleshes itself out differently in different contexts, but that is the mission. So do you believe in that mission? Do you believe that we as First Baptist New Orleans exist as a church to make disciples both here in New Orleans and around the world. If you believe that, does your generosity towards this church reflect that? So I challenge you 1) Pray. 2) Examine Your Budget. 3) Move towards a tithe of your income. Start with 1% and keep moving to that baseline of 10%, but then once you get there continue to examine if that means you are truly being generous.