The Motivation in Stewardship

Bible Book: Matthew  6 : 1-16
Subject: Stewardship; Servants; Giving; Lordship; Tithing
Series: The Happy Giver
Introduction

We have arrived, at last, at the fifth and final message in the five part series of sermons on stewardship entitled, "The Happy Giver." This series has taught us how important this subject is to God and how critical it should be to us. It is interesting to note that our giving has increased in these past weeks, which means many of us are responding more faithfully to God in the matter of giving and servanthood.

Understanding the idea of giving can be difficult. In this last message on stewardship I want to address the concept of the motivation in giving and serving. Are we motivated by obligation, fear, habit or is it because we fully appreciate and understand what stewardship is?

A little boy attended church for the first time. As the offering plate was passed, he said, very brightly, "Daddy, you don't have to pay for me. I'm under six." The little fellow didn’t understand the concept of giving or the motivation behind giving. This reminds me of another occasion when a little boy misunderstood the offering. A certain church received their offering each week after the sermon rather than before. That particular church had a pastor who delivered long sermons. One Sunday a young boy got restless as the pastor preached on and on, and turned to his father and whispered, "Daddy, if we give him the money now, will he let us go?"

Let's think today about being truly and correctly motivated to give our best gifts to the Lord. There may be some here today who do not think that motivation in giving really matters, but I assure you that it does. Remember Cain, he gave a gift to God but it was not accepted. Why? His gift was worthless because his motivation was incorrect. It is not what we do, but why we do it that often counts the most in the eyes of God..

I. We Give because of the Scripture

Every true believer desires to be true to the Word of God. There are a thousand voices trying to give us directions in our daily lives. The psychologists, sociologists, humanists, politicians, media, advertisers, educators, et al,  all have something to say, and not all of it is bad. But there is only one true voice which can give accurate direction in life, and that is the Word of God.

I love the Bible. I love its promises. I love its story concerning the love of God. I love its message of grace and forgiveness. I love its people presented to us so openly and plainly. I love the Savior revealed in this Book. I love the Bible. But I do not have the right to love all the points of grace, love and forgiveness without loving the responsibilities presented to me within its pages. I must love and accept God’s commands just as much as I love and accept His compassion.

It is interesting that maturity usually contains the idea and acceptance of responsibility. A tiny child will accept a warm bed, a good meal, a sense of parental protection and all the love bestowed without any sense of responsibility. As the child grows, the parents must teach the child to pick up his toys, to clean his room and to help with chores. As he grows even older, he will be taught the cost of things and to appreciate all that has been made available through the love and gifts of the parents. If a child refuses to learn these lessons, he is a great disappointed to his parents and to all adults.

Now think about that in terms of being a child of God. A Christian who is mature will learn to appreciate all that salvation cost the Savior. He and she will take seriously the call of God to be obedient and to take part in building the kingdom of God. Those who refuse to do that, or those who ignore it, are a disappointment to God and to fellow believers.

Within the pages of the Bible, I learn that God has a plan for giving. I read about tithing and giving offerings. I read that Jesus taught us that it is better to give than to receive. I read that I am to bring His tithe and my offerings into the storehouse. I read that I should give cheerfully. The same book that promises me Heaven, tells me about the joy of practicing the grace of giving.

I am motivated to give because of this Book. We sing"

"Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so!"

Would it not be wonderful if we could sing,

"Jesus deserves my best I know, for the Bible tells me so!"

The same Bible that tells of His love, tells me of my duty and privilege to give my money, time, talent, energy and life to Him.

The late W. A. Criswell, in his book, "The Bible for Today's World", wrote, "Washington, D. C. is the home of The Bureau of Standards. Every weight and every measure that is used in the United States is a copy of the standard that is kept inviolate by the Bureau in Washington. In that Bureau there is a perfect inch, a perfect foot, a perfect yard, a perfect gallon, a perfect pint, a perfect millimeter, a perfect milligram. Every weight and measure that we have finds its standard in that Bureau in Washington, and all are judged by that standard."

What the Bureau of Standards is to weights and measures, God's Word is to duty and conscience. It shows us His perfect will. So, listen to His Word and obey His voice telling you what His standards are in your life. Be sure your conscience is being guided by the Bible. Forever settled in heaven, God's Word is our perfect standard!

Paul Lee Tan wrote:

"The pony express was a thrilling part of American history. It ran from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California - a distance of 1,900 miles. The trip was made in ten days. Forty men, each riding 50 miles a day, dashed along the trail on 500 of the best horses in the West. To conserve weight, clothing was very light, saddles were extremely small and thin, and no weapons were carried. The horses themselves wore small shoes or none at all. The mail pouches were flat and very conservative in size. Letters had to be written on thin paper, and postage was $5.00 an ounce (a tremendous sum in those days). Yet each rider carried a full-sized Bible, presented to him when he joined the pony express." [Resource Sampler, by Paul Lee Tan, ed. Page 8.

Oh, that the Bible that the Bible were that important to us today. The nation made not see the need for the Word of God, but you as a Christian ought to honor and seek to obey.

Helping his wife wash the dishes, a minister protested, "This isn't a man's job."

"Oh, yes it is," his wife retorted, quoting 2 Kings 21:13: "I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down."

Women, you like that, don’t you? Yes, I thought you would. I figured that would bring some applause! Well, what about the passage that says you should submit to your husbands, do you like that? What, no applause this time? Funny, isn’t it? We like the verses which are favorable to our cause and don’t like the others. This is especially true when it comes to money. Let every child of God accept the Biblical mandate to give and to do so cheerfully.

II. We Give Because of Souls

I am motivated to be a steward because of the preciousness of souls. Jesus said in Mark 8:36-37, "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" Jesus taught us that nothing in all the world is most precious, more valuable, more costly than a soul. A soul lost in eternity is the greatest loss, the greatest tragedy ever known. When I give to God’s work, I am helping to bring souls to Christ through the world-wide work of missions.

Someone has written:

"If you want to enrich days, plant flowers;

If you want to enrich years, plant trees;

f you want to enrich Eternity, plant the Gospel in the hearts of people."

A hardened criminal, Charlie Peace had no respect for the law of man or the law of God. Eventually, he was imprisoned in the Armley Jail in Leeds, England, and sentenced to die. The morning he was scheduled to die, the guards took him from his cell. As they walked toward the place of execution, the prison chaplain was walking in front of Charlie, sleepily going through the routine of reading some passages of Scripture.

After a few minutes of this, Charlie reached out and tapped the chaplain on the shoulder. He asked what he was reading and received the answer, "The Consolations of Religion." The prisoner was shocked at how casually and professionally the preacher had been reading the verses about hell. If he truly believed the words about the eternal fire and the bottomless pit, how was it possible for him to lead a fellow human being to his death and yet remain dry-eyed and unmoved? Charlie could not fathom it.

He said to the chaplain, "Sir, if I believed what you and the church of God say you believe, even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be, on hands and knees, and think it a worthwhile living, just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that!" [Why Revival Tarries by Leonard Ravenhill. Bethany House, 1959. Page 19.]

My dear friends, for the sake of souls we ought to be motivated to be faithful stewards. After all, God gave the best He had. Jesus gave His all for your dear soul. Someone once asked, "If salvation is free, why is the church always asking for money?" A wise preacher replied, "Carrying charges!" Yes, God has placed on us the "carrying charges" of carrying the Gospel of our precious Lord to the entire world. We ought to be faithful in giving for the sake of souls.

III. We Give Because of Sharing

I am motivated to be a steward because of the privilege to share, and I mean this in two ways.

First, I get to share with God’s people in the work we are given to do. There are many labor unions in the United States. Union members are often required to pay dues. Some unions, however, offer membership to those who wish to join and do not require that you pay dues if you do not wish to be a member. Some people do not pay dues, but they get the raises, vacations, and benefits that the members get through the collective barging process. People who expect the benefits without the dues are called free loaders. It is a shame, but there are some people who are free loaders in the kingdom.

The Christian can lay up treasures in heaven by what he gives to the Lord. But he can also lay up pleasures in heaven by helping to bring others to the Lord. With that in mind, C. H. Spurgeon related the following story:

"As King Cyrus took one of his guests around his garden, the visitor admired it greatly and said that he had much pleasure in it. 'Ah,' said Cyrus, 'but you have not so much pleasure in this garden as I have, for I have planted every tree in it myself.'"

Commenting on that incident, Spurgeon made this application:

"One reason Christ has so much pleasure in His church is that He did so much for it. And one reason some saints will have a greater fullness of heaven than others will be that they did more for heaven than others. By God's grace they were enabled to bring more souls there."

The more we give and do for Christ, the more we will be partakers in the joy of the Lord in heaven. I give because I love to share.

But, also, I give because I am motivated to share God’s love through giving. There is no way to estimate the effect of our combined giving upon the needs of the world. I think this morning of one incident which just occurred. Southern Baptist recently sent 7.2 million pounds of food to North Korea. I cannot tell you how poor, how hungry, how desperate are the people of North Korea. Perhaps not another place on earth has as many starving people today as North Korea. A ship arrived at the port there laden down with food. It took five days in Louisiana to load the food in that ship. Some child, some family, someone in Korea this very day is staying alive because of people like those in this room who give your tithes and offerings. For you see, we forward on through our Southern Baptist Cooperative Program a percentage of all budget gifts to our convention. Our convention then uses that money to honor Christ. One thing that is done with your gifts is to purchase food that is given in Jesus name. I am so glad that I am a part of that effort. I am glad some little boy and girl in North Korea are eating a meal today because I had the privilege to give and share and that they are hearing about Jesus.

When I was in college, I went to chapel one day and sat beside a young student I didn’t know. I introduced myself and he did the same. I asked where he was from and he proceeded to tell me how he grew up in a Baptist Children’s Home. He told how they cared for him there. They fed him, clothed him, loved him, corrected him, educated him, all at the expense of Southern Baptist dollars. I thought about gifts that I had given, my family had given, my wife’s family had given to God’s work through Southern Baptist churches for many years. Our gifts had helped that handsome young man to grow up healthy and strong. He had faith in Jesus. He had a love for the church. He told me that he was committed to doing something with his life for others and for Christ. I am so glad to share in this great work of loving people in Jesus name.

A lighthouse along a bleak coast was tended by a keeper who was given enough oil for one month and told to keep the light burning every night. One day a woman asked for oil so that her children could stay warm. Then a farmer came. His son needed oil for a lamp so he could read. Still another needed some for an engine. The keeper saw each as a worthy request and measured out just enough oil to satisfy all. Near the end of the month, the tank in the lighthouse ran dry. That night the beacon was dark and three ships crashed on the rocks. More than 100 lives were lost. When a government official investigated, the man explained what he had done and why. "You were given one task alone," insisted the official. "It was to keep the light burning. Everything else was secondary. There is no defense."

When  you and I dribble out God's money for this and that, and have nothing left for God, we leave the light of God's message bleak and dark. Let's keep the light burning for a lost world by sharing our very best gifts and our very best effort for the cause of Christ. Share with all the others who are giving and be part of a great effort of all Christians world-wide to reach the world with the message of salvation and grace.

IV. We Give Because of the Savior

But there is one supreme reason I am motivated to be a steward. It is because of my Savior. After all, it is Jesus who gave His very best for us. Think of it, Jesus died in the very prime of life. He was 33 years old. Many would consider that the best time in life. At 33 you are too young to feel your age and old enough to have gained some wisdom. Yet, at the prime of life, Jesus laid down His life for us. He did not give something, He gave all. I am motivated to give because of Jesus.

Look back at the cross standing on that lonely hill outside Jerusalem. See there the dear Savior in dying agony. But, look closer! Do you see it? There! It is your sin resting on His lovely person. He is bearing it all for each of us. "It is finished," He cried. He paid it all.

How can we look at that and not give the best we have? I am motivated over and over to be faithful in my stewardship by the crucified and risen Christ.

Now, look again. There, beyond the cross. Drift up beyond this worship center. Go with me on a journey. See, we are rising up through the roof, and now we are above the clouds. We are passing the stars. What a journey. Keep going - upward, upward! How, there they are - the gates of heaven. See, they are opening for us. Now we are wafting down the streets of gold. Now, we have arrived. We are at the throne of God. What glory. What beauty. What love. That is our home. This is where we will live one day. It is all paid for by the blood of Christ. How can we not be faithful to a Savior who did and is doing so much for us?

Conclusion

You remember the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000? Well, there is an interesting point in that incident I don’t want you to miss. Look in your Bible at Matthew 14:20. Note that twelve baskets of leftovers were collected. How many disciples were there? Twelve! A basket for each one, but not a basket for Jesus. He gave to the 5,000. He gave to His disciples. But, Jesus took nothing for Himself. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

The Bible clearly states that God so loved the world that He gave - He gave His only begotten Son! Love motivated Jesus to give to us, and nothing but love will motivate us to give as we should to Him! I am asking you today to make a fresh and new commitment to give faithfully to our Lord.

There is one thing Jesus wants from every person. He wants you to give your life to Him. You see, without Him your eternal soul is worthless and will be cast out forever. But, Jesus died to save you. If there is a person in this room today who has never given your heart and soul to Jesus, come to Him today. The people who gave to build this beautiful building, did it for one reason - to help you come to Jesus. The people who gave to turn on these lights and keep them shinning, did it so that you might come to Jesus. The people who keep the air-conditioning nice and cool for worship, did it so you could hear the gospel and come to Jesus. The amplification, the staff, the material, the parking lot, and all hat is here exists at First Baptist Church today and was provided so that you might come to Jesus. But, most of all, the blood shed at Calvary by the Son of God, who paid the supreme price to provide you with forgiveness, did it because He knew you would be here and He is calling you to be saved today. Now come. I or one of my staff will meet you right here at the front. Come and tell us you want to receive Christ and we will pray with you and help you know Him today.

Christian, let us also make new commitments in stewardship. Come now. Come as God calls!