Giving Our Time Talent and Treasure As An Act of Worship Proverbs 3:5-12

Giving Our Time Talent and Treasure As An Act of Worship Proverbs 3:5-12, Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor Michael Gunn on December 14th, 2008

“God shall bless thee with an increase of that which is for use, not for show or ornament; for spending and laying out, not for hoarding and laying up. That they do good with what they have shall have more to do good with.”
Matthew Henry

“The righteous are willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community; the wicked are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.”
Bruce Waltke
(Commenting on the contrast of the righteous and the wicked in Proverbs)

We are interrupting our Psalms series for one week to discuss an in house “Family” issue; that of giving. It is one of those issues that churches are notorious for, but Harambee has been anything but that. In six years we have done 3 sermons on giving, and for that I am sorry, because it totally robes you of an opportunity to learn about stewardship, which the bible has a lot to speak about. Our time usage, and our money expenditures are in direct proportion to our heart’s desires. Giving does matter, and our desire not to ruffle your feathers on this issue is our sin, and we will own it.

The fact is in six years, Harambee has not hired anyone new, and still does not pay anyone here a full time salary. There are three paid staff here at Harambee that share $7000 total between us, and two of us have outside jobs to supplement our incomes. The issue isn’t that we want full time pay, but we would like to have the freedom to hire others to do some very much needed work in our Harambee community.

Another danger of doing this type of service, is it appears to fall on to two types of ears, those that are doing all of the work, and giving all of their time and money to the mission, and on those that are new, and feel that “Here we go again; it’s all these churches is do is talk about giving!” For the former, please relax; giving should never be your motivation, as we shall see, so relax in your identity in Christ. To the latter, I pray that you hear us out, and realize that any significant mission takes individuals that are so sold out to the vision and mission at hand that their time and their possessions are just a means to the greater end.

To those in the third category (Consumers), please be convicted to grow in a deeper love for your savior, and do not capitulate to a moralistic call to “suck it up, and give more!”

A last thing about this sermon is that it comes in an interesting time in our country’s financial history. We are in a recession and many of you have lost your jobs, and/or have been reduced in pay. I pray that this sermon is for you, because it’s not about giving, it’s about trusting, and there is hardly a greater window to our faithless hearts than financial stress.

So sit back, and let’s take a look at the word, and let God in and see what He has to say to you today!

From the Head…
The big idea this morning is that Inner piety (Proverbs 3:5-8) leads to outward manifestations of worship (Proverbs 3:9-10).

When the gospel begins to restructure our hearts, it restructures the way we think, and the ways that we define ourselves. Zaccheus (Luke 19) was a tax gatherer who defined himself with power, authority and riches. When he met Christ, and his heart was “Restructured” he decided to give most of his money back to those he had ripped off through “Legal” means. Christ didn’t order it, but it was a result of a changed heart. His paradigm of who he was changed, and all of a sudden a spontaneous act of worship was the result.

When Paul wanted to motivate the Corinthians to become cheerful and sacrificial givers, he didn’t tell them how much he needed, and that there were many people that needed money; he simply reminded them of the reality of the cross in their lives (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Let’s take a look at Proverbs 3, and see what giving and joy have in common, and how easy it is to misunderstand this clear principle in the word.

Trusting God is Foundational to Giving (Proverbs 3:5-8)
Proverbs 1:7 begins this great book by reminding us that “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” According to Proverbs 2:5 we see a similar idea in that this godly “Fear” leads to us being able to “Discover the knowledge of the Lord.” Verse five is an extension of this thinking. Trusting God, and not leaning on our own understanding is an acknowledgement that our limited knowledge is not good enough to lead us to wise living. Our security cannot be placed in people and their devices (Proverbs 11:28; Psalm 52:7; Jeremiah 9:23-24). Our wisdom comes from “Knowing” God. Our trust /security in no way should be in ourselves (Proverbs 21:22; 28:26; Psalm 62:10; Isaiah 30:12; Ezekiel 16:15; 33:12). The reason as some of these verses have shown is that our reason ends in oppression. Man’s ideologies (Religious and anti-religious) end in oppressing those that don’t think like us. Our ways may appear to be reasonable, but it’s that reason that created systems of oppression, and self-centered decisions that lead to someone else’s misery.

What we find in verses 7-8 is that when we align ourselves with God and His word, we will begin to flourish in a holistic way. Our lives will be aligned with the way that God intended them to be.

Giving is The Means To Joy (Proverbs 3:9-10)
Here we have the paradox of the Christian faith. In order to find your life, you must lose it; if you want to gain, you must lose. The world requires that until we can heal ourselves, we cannot heal anyone else. We are told we must “Love ourselves before we can love anyone else.” That may be Oprah, but it’s not the bible. The bible assumes that you love yourselves, and even when we “Hate” ourselves, it’s just another form of self-love. If you truly hated yourself, you would love when bad things happen to you, but you don’t.

God created us with a purpose (see Genesis 1:26-27; 2:15) and that purpose is totally marred by the fall that put the focus on ourselves as our own gods. In Christ, we are “Re-Created” in Him as a “New Humanity” that is once again made to serve God by serving others. Our identity is changed when we “Trust in the Lord,” giving us the motivation and the desire to love and serve others. It is no mistake that the author of Proverbs links trusting and the giving of our “First-Fruits (see Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 26:1-3). Our ability to give demonstrates our trust in Him. Now Christian giving does not mean “Tithing,” which is an Old Testament idea that added up to close to %33 of their earnings. We are told to give sacrificially and cheerfully what God has “Purposed” in our hearts (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

The promise in verse 10 is one of plenty, because as Matthew Henry reminds us, “God shall bless thee with an increase of that which is for use, not for show or ornament; for spending and laying out, not for hoarding and laying up. That they do good with what they have shall have more to do good with.” Simply put; We are blessed to be a blessing! It’s a strange and counter-intuitive idea that for us to experience joy, we are called to God’s mission. So often I am accused of putting the “Mission” before the needs of the people, but it is the mission that will meet the needs of the people. It is through giving, and serving one another that we will be forced to trust God even more, and it is in those moments that we will be revived in Christ. This is the idea of the “New Wine.” Wine is often a metaphor in scripture for joy. After all it “Gladdens the heart (Ecclesiastes 10:19; Psalm 104:15). It is giving that your joy will burst.

… to the Heart
As I said from the start, the goal isn’t guilt, so we can get a “Guilt Offering” before the end of the year. Our goal is to be faithful to the word and help all of us become the “Servants” we are proclaiming that we are in our Identities. God’s word reminds us that by giving and serving of our “First-fruits” (Our best efforts) we will find the joy that seems to allude us as we hold on to our time and our money. The motivation to give is the cross (See 2 Corinthians 8:9).

Many of us want to see a fully functioning service, but we don’t want to sacrifice any time, money or effort to see it happen. This is consumerism at its worse. The church is a family of Christ followers that are banding together on a mission for His glory. When we say that we don’t have time, or we can’t give of our money, and ourselves what we are saying, is we really don’t have much trust in Christ for our sufficiency. Our lives are based then on our efforts, and not on His promise.

If we are a family, we need to see our gathering time as a holiday feast where everyone comes and chips in to see our children’s program, music experience, and overall gathering experience to be done well, and not just burn a very few people out to make it happen for you.

Secondly some of us need to re-evaluate their giving to the kingdom work that we are doing at Harambee. Lights, heat, air conditioning, etc. is costly, and adds to our comfort on Sundays and our programs throughout the week. We are in dire need to hire 1-2 positions, and we simply can’t. I am not worried about my salary, I will continue to work with Acts 29 and raise support, but we are in need of bringing other on, and getting some needed work done on/in the building. I am personally going to work in the kids program once a month, because I believe our kids are important. Please join me in our mission to you and to this community! The following are quotes from 1st century writers, and one from a 21st century historian:

The Epistle to Diognetus, c. AD 130
“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.
“They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others and yet suffer all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all others; they beget children; but they do not destroy their babies. They share their table with all, but not their bed with all. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their exemplary lives. They love all men and yet are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and restored to life. They are poor yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things and yet abound in all; they are dishonored and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of and yet are justified; they are reviled and bless; they are insulted and repay the insult with honor; they do good yet are punished as evildoers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred. To sum it all up in one word—what the soul is to the body, that are Christians in the world.”

From the Apology of Tertullian, AD 197
“We are a body knit together as such by a common religious profession, by unity of discipline, and by the bond of a common hope. We meet together as an assembly and congregation, that, offering up prayer to God as with united force, we may wrestle with Him in our supplications. This strong exertion God delights in. We pray, too, for the emperors, for their ministers and for all in authority, for the welfare of the world, for the prevalence of peace, for the delay of the final consummation. We assemble to read our sacred writings… and with the sacred words we nourish our faith, we animate our hope, we make our confidence more steadfast; and no less by inculcations of God’s precepts we confirm good habits. In the same place also exhortations are made, rebukes and sacred censures are administered. For with a great gravity is the work of judging carried on among us, as befits those who feel assured that they are in the sight of God; and you have the most notable example of judgment to come when anyone has sinned so grievously as to require his severance from us in prayer, in the congregation and in all sacred intercourse. The tried men of our elders preside over us, obtaining that honour not by purchase but by established character. There is no buying and selling of any sort in the things of God. Though we have our treasure-chest, it is not made up of purchase-money, as of a religion that has its price. These gifts are…not spent on feasts, and drinking-bouts, and eating-houses, but to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of boys and girls destitute of means and parents, and of old persons confined now to the house; such, too, as have suffered shipwreck; and if there happen to be any in the mines or banished to the islands or shut up in the prisons, for nothing but their fidelity to the cause of God’s Church, they become the nurslings of their confession. But it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See, they say, how they love one another, for they themselves are animated by mutual hatred. See, they say about us, how they are ready even to die for one another, for they themselves would sooner kill.”

Again, this is a view of radical generosity that could not be matched by the worldview or practices of pagan thought.

Sociologist Rodney Stark analyzed the survival and growth of the Early Church in the first few centuries. Here is his fascinating summary of the Early Church.
“. . . Christianity served as a revitalization movement that arose in response to the misery, chaos, fear, and brutality of life in the urban Greco-Roman world… Christianity revitalized life in Greco-Roman cities by providing new norms and new kinds of social relationships able to cope with many urgent problems. To cities filled with the homeless and impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachment. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities faced with epidemics, fire, and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services… For what they brought was not simply an urban movement, but a new culture capable of making life in Greco-Roman cities more tolerable.” Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, Princeton University Press, 1996, page 161

2 comments so far

  1. wendy jacobsen on

    Amen. I really liked the Tertullian quote–it is such a beautiful picture of the heart and heritage of Christianity…and as you said challenges us to a radical generosity…”see how they love one another…how they are ready even to die for one another.”

  2. sermonrant on

    I agree Wendy, thanks for the post!!

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