Giving 101

Bible Book: Matthew  6 : 19-21
Subject: Stewardship; Christian Living; Money; Giving; Tithing


Matthew 6:19-21:

19 – “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.20 – But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 – For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

In 1960, these two men made a bet. The first man was Bennett Cerf, the founder of Random House. That’s him on the left. Does anyone recognize the second man - the one on the right? Correct! That’s Theo Geisel - AKA, Dr. Seuss. Cerf bet Dr. Seuss $50 that he could not write an entertaining children’s book using only 50 different words. Dr. Seuss took the bet and won. The result was a little obscure book - I doubt many of you have heard of it. Its title is - anyone want to guess? Right - Green Eggs and Ham. Since publication, it has sold more than 200 million copies - making it the most popular of Seuss’ works and one of the best-selling children’s books of all time.

I share this Dr. Seuss anecdote because it illustrates an important principle - the principle of constraints - as in NOT BEING LIMITED BY THEM. You see, this principle is key to understanding our next spiritual discipline - the discipline of giving - because when we really understand this discipline we learn that our ability to give to God’s purposes is not limited by the constraints of basic math.

We realize that when we give to God’s church - it’s not a constraining thing to our finances. Before we go any further let me just underscore the fact that GIVING is indeed a spiritual discipline. Randy Alcorn says, “[The way we handle our] money is a litmus test of our true character. It’s an index of our spiritual life.” Alcorn is saying that the way we deal with our money indicates what our true priorities are - that more than anything else it shows who or what is truly first in our lives. Our giving also shows how well we know our Lord - how much we trust Him. Plus, the more we give - the more we are like Jesus, Who GAVE His life to save us from our sin. It also shows how much we love Jesus. I mean, in 2nd Corinthians 9:7 Paul says, “God loves a cheerful giver” - but I would say that the opposite is also true, “A cheerful giver is someone who loves God.” I’m trying to make the point that the way we handle our money - and our growth toward becoming more like Jesus - and therefore better neighbors - are tied in together.

Giving is indeed a spiritual discipline. Okay back to the principle of constraints. Many people think that money management is just BASIC MATH. They say finances are just a matter of the constraints of numbers - stone cold numbers. And, no matter how fancy they make it appear, most financial planners’ strategy is based on this belief that the way you handle your money is all about the math. They all teach that the secret to sound money management is getting the math right - that you are limited to what you can do by how much money you have.

In fact, today’s money experts base their plans on FIVE BASIC LAWS of sound money management. Let’s review them quickly. (I am indebted to Bill Hybels for my outline today)

First, there is the law of EARNING.

This law is very basic indeed because it says you have to EARN money in order to have any money to manage.

Second, there is the law of SPENDING

It’s not rocket science either. Planners use fancy graphs and bar charts to help you see that if you keep your spending below your income, you’re going to have a MARGIN. And MARGIN - MARGIN is the key to the REST of their money management laws.

Third, there is the law of SAVING

You see, if you have some margin, you can have SAVINGS, which leads to the third basic law of financial management - the law of SAVINGS, which says you have to put some money aside for emergencies. You need a contingency fund. You need a little CUSHION in case you lose your job or something unexpected happens. And then, after you’ve got THAT achieved, the financial planners - who as I said are all about the math - they will tell you about INVESTMENT opportunities.

Fourth, the law of INVESTMENT

That leads to the fourth law, the law of INVESTMENT. Investments are cool because instead of you working for money, money starts to work for you. And this really pumps up these “numbers” guys, because they’ll start talking to you about the magic of COMPOUNDING INTEREST, stock portfolios and impressive things like that.

Fifth is the law of GIVING

The fifth and final basic law of money management has to do with GIVING. Now here’s where the “numbers only people” get a little reserved with their advice - because they realize that when you give money away, it’s counterproductive to your goal. Financial planners might not come right out and say it, but they think those of us who give money away are kind of stupid - especially as the tax donation for charitable giving begins to go away. And - sadly, there are a lot of “smart people” these days who buy into this way of thinking because the average American only gives away 2.5% of his or her annual income. By the way my research this week revealed that studies show the more money the average person makes - the lower their percentage of giving tends to be. You’d think it would be the other way around.

Anyway, the “average American gives away 2.5% of his or her income. And - if you’re wondering about the “above-average Americans” - the Christians - well these people who have received amazing grace and walk in relationship with almighty God Himself - on average, they give away the exact same - 2.5%. My point is there are a lot of people in our nation - Christians and non-Christians alike - who think, “If it’s by the numbers it’s dumb to give. So, we’re going to be smart and not give much. Our giving is limited by the constraints of our bank account.” Okay - that’s the MATH ONLY perspective on money management.

This morning as we look at this fifth installment in our series on the spiritual disciplines, I want to us look at giving that is not limited by constraint. My point is - just as Dr. Seuss could do more with 50 words than you would imagine - God can do more with our fifty DOLLARS than you could imagine. Now, please understand - this is not a way of thinking that says we should throw our calculators away, or delete our Quickbook files. It’s just a suggestion that we learn to apply a foundational Biblical teaching to the way we use our funds - so that our trust relationship with our Lord grows such that we become more like Him.

The principle I’m referring to is found in texts like 2 Corinthians 5:7 where it says, “We walk by faith and not just by sight.” This verse and others like it are a challenge for us to learn to trust God even when we can’t clearly SEE how that would work out - even when it doesn’t seem to add up. We plan, we decide - based not just on the math but on our faith in God. I think if we apply the principle to our personal money management it would sound like this: “Those of us who have come into a relationship with God through Christ His Son, we have a loyalty higher than mere allegiance to the constraints of mathematical charts and bar graphs.” We have a full and final allegiance to the supernatural One - the Being Who architected and oversees the entire economic universe. In fact, we follow the CFO of the universe - God Himself. So, when He gives financial guidance, when He issues financial warnings, when He lays out His plan for His followers - when He makes His financial promises, we - of all people on planet earth - should say: “Yes, God. Whatever You say, I’ll do. I will go Your way. I’ll trust You even when it doesn’t add up mathematically. I will believe that my giving is not constrained in the way the world says it is.”

Now - let’s be honest. Some of us have a hard time with this. I mean, we’ve trusted God’s Son with the forgiveness and the redemption of our sin. We are planning on going to Heaven when we die, on the basis of our faith in what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross - but unfortunately sometimes we don’t trust Him with our money. We think, “The constraints of Math will do just nicely.” We leave faith in God out of the equation all together. Well, in the hopes of helping all of us mature in this area, I want us to spend our time this morning cycling through these five basic laws of money management - so we can see the difference between a “math-only mind set” and a “faith-in-God-beyond-the-math mind set.”

(1) Let’s begin with that first law – The Law of EARNING.

According to the “math-only mind set” the highest value is COMPENSATION. This way of thinking says we should find out which job pays the most money and get ourselves hired for that job. It doesn’t matter if this job requires us to travel, relocate, work late into the night, stress our family out, ruin our health - it doesn’t matter. “Math only” says it’s all about the numbers - it’s all about COMPENSATION. But God’s Word says something different. The Bible teaches that the highest value related to earning is not all about COMPENSATION. The higher value is finding our CALLING. Of course, you have to earn money, but you do so by fulfilling your CALLING. That comes first. And if your calling does not compensate as high as some other job would, you don’t quit. You don’t give up on your calling - because you know that the Bible says calling is always worth more in the long run than compensation.

Well, let me ask, do you believe that? Do you live that way? Do you spend more time trying to figure out how to get a job that will pay you more - or do you find yourself saying, “God, am I working according to Your calling on my life? Am I where You want me to be, by gift, by talent, by passion, by Your guidance? Am I doing the good work You prepared in advance for me to do?”

I’m saying that this Book on financial management - God’s Word - teaches that in the area of EARNINGS the greatest wisdom is BEYOND THE CONSTRAINTS OF MATH. The Bible says if you will trust God and focus not on accumulating wealth - but on carrying out your calling, you might not get rich, but God will supernaturally bless your life. The joy and fulfillment of your life will go beyond the constraints of salary. You see, when we focus on our calling, God provides gifts and surprises and supplies and protection in ways you’d never get from Him - if you were just out on your own going for the bucks, no matter what the cost.

So, to review - “Math only” says it’s all about COMPENSATION. “Beyond math constraints,”says it’s all about CALLING. You do the job God calls you to and trust Him to take care of you.

When WWII ended and my dad was discharged from the navy, he used his GI Bill to go to the Robinsons’ al ma mater - Old Miss - where he earned a degree in business. Like many GI’s back then, Dad’s main desire - his goal - was to make money - to earn as much as he could. So, he left the family farm in Tomnolen, got a great degree, landed a great job with the Standard Oil Company and moved to California. But dad told me that just did not “ring his bell.” Sure - he was EARNING a lot of money. His COMPENSATION was great - but he wasn’t happy because it wasn’t in line with his CALLING. God had another plan for His life. There was another work God had prepared in advance for him to do. One day while walking down the streets of San Francisco a woman - someone he had never seen before - walked up to him and said, “God has called you to pastor a church.” Dad prayed and God confirmed that fact so he quit his job, moved to Louisville and entered Southern Seminary - where he met my mom - and began nearly 50 years of ministry pastoring local churches in Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware.

Today, my dad is enjoying his Heavenly reward and from that perspective I know he would tell us that whereas he didn’t enjoy much FINANCIAL COMPENSATION as a pastor - he DID enjoy something worth so much more - something that is literally still paying Heavenly dividends. Dad followed God’s call and spent His life serving God’s people and God took care of him and his family in the way only God can.

Now - I hesitated to use my dad as an example - because I don’t want you to jump to the conclusion that God’s call always revolves around serving in a church or on the mission field because it doesn’t. The fact is the VAST MAJORITY of Christians are not CALLED in that way - but they are still called by God to full-time ministry - FRONT-LINES ministry. That ministry could be at Lockheed Martin or in a plumbing business or a law office or raising children in a home in Flower Hill or in medicine or whatever. But that CALL is what is most important - FAR more important than compensation. Listen! It doesn’t matter how much money you make - if you’re not doing the good work that God prepared in advance for you to do, you will feel worthless. As Virginia Ely puts it, “Every [person] who is born into this world represents a fresh thought of God and has a work that is born within them.”

Please hear me on this. All believers are set apart for - called to - special full-time ministry. Some serve God behind the pulpit but MOST on the other side of it, but all serve God. All follow His call to a mission field. 2nd Corinthians 5:18 says that God, “...was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them - and He has committed to [all of] us the message of reconciliation. We are [all] therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.” You see, in the home, in the marketplace, in the schools, in government - everywhere - God needs and calls people who will share His love and, in so doing, work to change the world. Anything short of God’s call in life is devoid of meaning. But doing that thing God leads us to do career-wise is always the best thing you can do with your life. It may be beyond the constraints of math - but it still adds up. When we fulfill our calling - work will be a joy! Instead of TGIF it will be TGIM! Thank God it’s MONDAY!

So, find your calling for, as Calvin Miller says, “The man who is ‘job-centered’ has more anxieties about his work than the man who is ‘God-centered.’” Listen friend - the people who will turn this world upside down aren’t those God calls to serve Him behind pulpits like this one - but rather it is those who serve Him out there in front of pulpits - people who follow God’s call to what we wrongly refer to as “secular” fields - because anything God calls His child to do is “SACRED” not secular.

As Bill taught us last week - worship - giving back to God - happens MORE outside these walls than within them. Doing your job - fulfilling your calling Monday through Friday is your PRIMARY offering of worship. Well, what about you? How have you applied this first law in your own life? When it comes to YOUR job - do you look at it as a way to make money - or as a way to fulfill your calling as a Christian. Is it a mission field - or a paycheck?

(2) Okay, let’s move on to Law # 2 – The Law of SPENDING.

Now - most financial planners don’t care much what their clients spend their money on.

All they want is for us to spend LESS than we earn so that there’s some margin they can work with for savings and investing. But our “beyond the constraints of math God” DOES care how we spend our money. You see, as our Creator, God knows that spending can feed what many refer to as “the monster of more.” We’ve talked about this monster before because we all fight with him all the time. And it’s getting harder and harder to win that fight. Thanks to computer tech - when we browse on Amazon Prime - and spend a few minutes considering a purchase - that item pops up on all our social media saying, “Go ahead - BUY ME - it can be delivered to your door in 48 hours or less!” And size doesn’t matter. Amazon and Wayfair and all those online shopping sites will deliver everything from socks to furniture and even cars right to your doorstep.

Do you know what I mean? Have you succumbed to this temptation so much that you find yourself having MORE than you really need? More shirts - more pants - more food - more STUFF? Don’t answer. Let me just ask you a question. How many of you have garages? How many keep your cars in them? Yes - We all know what it’s like to succumb to consumerism. Our garages are full of stuff we got because of the monster of more. Well, because of this, unlike most financial planners, God DOES care how we spend our money. He doesn’t want us to give in to the temptings of the monster of more. No - God wants our spending to be reined in by CONTENTMENT. He sends His Spirit to show us that life can be full and satisfying without having more and more and more temporary things. He wants us to trust Him and be content with His provision. He wants us to see that what we have is enough - that the car we’re driving is enough - the house we are living in is enough - the clothes in our closet are enough. And - when we LEARN this lesson - when we embrace Godly CONTENTMENT - well, when we see the ads Amazon makes pop up on our phones and laptops we think,

“You know what? I don’t need that;

I don’t have to have that;

I don’t have to put that on my credit card and swallow more debt;

I don’t have to buy and buy more and more things.”

And once that “enough thing” happens in your life - once you learn to be content - it drives down this need to overspend, which is wrecking so many lives. Here’s some stats that show how much damage overspending is doing:

Today over 80 percent of all Americans owe more than they own.
The average credit card debt per household is $15,355.
56% of marriages that end in divorce do so largely because of debt.
If you struggle in this area, then you know the kind of damage the monster of more can inflict.

You know that debt causes constant FEAR. You know it can keep us from BUYING A HOME or from sending our kids to COLLEGE. People who have overspent their way into debt know that as Proverbs 22:7 says, “The borrower is a servant to the lender.” And those plastic lenders we all carry around can be cruel masters indeed. J. Rubin Clark puts it this way, “Once you’re in debt, interest will be your companion every minute of the day or night, and it’s working against you. It has no love, no sympathy. It is as hard and soul-less as a granite cliff, and you cannot dismiss it. Whenever you get in its way or you cross its course or fail to meet its demand, it crushes you.”

And he’s right. So, follow God’s financial advice when it comes to this second law. Go beyond the math. Ask God to help you reign in your spending. Sign up for that new Sunday School Class Jaqui is teaching. As Hebrew 13:5 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be CONTENT with what you have.”

3) Let’s move on to Law #3 – The Law of SAVING.

Now - with regard to our savings, most financial planners will put the fear in you that some terrible thing is likely to befall you someday. In their minds you need savings because you’re not going to make it through this life without a catastrophe of some sort. They say when your catastrophe strikes, no one’s going to bail you out. You’re in it ALONE so you need a big financial safety net. It’s all up to you.

Now - contrast that with the “beyond the constraints of math mind set.” It’s found in Proverbs 6:6–8, the classic verse on savings where it says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be WISE.” Now, does it say: “Be filled with anxiety, be so worried, so you will store some up?” No, it doesn’t. It just says be wise. The verse goes on to say, “The ant doesn’t have a commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest” (Proverbs 6:8). So, the ant’s motivation for savings is not worry and paranoia; it’s WISDOM. As Proverbs 21 puts it, “The WISE man saves for the future but the foolish man spends whatever he gets.”

Don’t get me wrong. You may have a time of calamity. We all probably will. But the Bible says over and over again that you will not be alone in it. God will walk through that thing with you. And if you don’t have the right number in your savings when calamity hits God is capable of doing something beyond the math to bail you out. So, yes, put some savings aside, but don’t do it with this neurotic, frenzied spirit. Do it with a spirit of WISDOM - a wisdom based in the sure knowledge that God loves us - that as Jesus said in Matthew 6:8, “God knows what you need before you ask Him.” Remember His teaching in Matthew 7:11: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”

(4) Let’s move on to Law #4 – The Law of INVESTING

A math only person will say, “When it comes to investing, here’s what you need to do. You need to invest X amount of money. Get it growing at X rate - so that you can cross that finish line someday and have enough to retire and live on a beach in Florida.” Unfortunately, I’ve heard about people who embraced this mind set. They hit the finish line and retired - but it wasn’t too long before their brains went to seed - and they started talking about where they’re going out to dinner at ten o’clock in the morning. The Scripture has a much better mind set about this. Jesus talked about it in our text. He said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”

Now - I want you to pay attention here. Don’t let the familiarity with these words cause you to miss the message. Jesus is saying that there are two investment portfolios we better be paying attention to. First, we better be laying up some treasures. I mean, this passage does not categorically prohibit the building of an investment fund for your later years. It simply says you better not have all of your affection wrapped up in it - because there’s a second investment fund that’s far more important from the eternal perspective - and that’s the investment fund you’re laying up in Heaven. Jesus is saying we should invest our money and time in things of ETERNAL significance. You see, the things of this world don’t last any longer than that decaying body you’re walking around in will.

I’ve been blessed enough to know and be challenged by several people who live by this philosophy. For example, I know a couple who sent money to build an entire wing on an orphanage in Africa - one custom-designed for infants. They felt this was a better investment than some condo in Boca Raton. I know a family who saw that another family in our church was having serious financial problems. This first family gave me an envelope full of cash to pass on to the needy family. And they told me to keep their gift anonymous. They didn’t want recognition. They just wanted to help. I know an attorney who has taken time from his very busy practice to lead - and help finance - mission trips all over the world. I know families who offered to bankroll the failing business of the contractor who built the ROC. They offered to work with him - so that not only could our ROC be built - but his business would continue. I know several families who sponsor an Amani Wa Toto Child in Kenya - sending money every month to cover the cost of his education. This is a picture of me sitting with one of those children when we were in Kenya a couple years back. I was sure to take it so I could send it to his sponsoring family.

Listen - these people know that the RIGHT investment is beyond the constraints of math. It’s putting money into God’s kingdom. They know the market down here can fluctuate daily but Heavenly investments are a sure thing. They know that someday this world and all its stuff will end, but eternity will begin NEVER to end. They know that when we cross those pearly gates the only investment that will still be paying off are kingdom ones and they live every day based on that principle. I’m reminded of something Matthew Henry once said, “It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for the last day.” Is that the business of your days? Where are you INVESTING your time, your talents, your money?

(5) One last law and we’re done - Law #5 – The Law of GIVING.

As I said earlier, mere math people - normal financial planner types - they say it’s not smart to give. In their minds, giving is hurting your case. But the Bible says something different. It literally goes beyond the math because it teaches that if we obey God’s commands - and give to His purposes He will bless us right back. This kind of thing never makes sense to the “math only” folks. But to the “beyond the constraints of math” folks, this is cool - because you start seeing the blessing of God, the re-supply, the surprises, the provisions, the protections, and you start saying, “This is amazing! It is so far beyond the constraints of math.” And it becomes one of the greatest adventures in your Christian life.

Listen friends, I can tell you by experience that it is just as Jesus says: If you give sparingly you will receive sparingly and if you give generously you will receive generously. Our faith-filled giving of our tithes and offerings is the key to our receiving God’s blessings.

You know, in the “olden days” people had pumps that had to be primed in order to get water. There was an abundance of water in the well below and there was a pump. But after the pump sat for a while, the leather gasket on the plunger would get dry and hard. It wouldn’t form a suction to draw the water. So, you had to pour some water down in the pump to get that leather washer wet. Then it would swell and form a suction and you could draw the water up. This is where the phrase, “prime the pump” originated.

Well, that’s the way it is with giving. In a sense it primes the pump for God to take care of us - and I know it’s BEYOND THE CONSTRAINTS OF MATH - but God does a MUCH better job of taking care of us than we do. I mean, math only people think that giving - especially to the church - only reduces your financial margin but the “beyond math” people know better. They know that giving to further God’s kingdom is actually a margin-building principle. In the balance column of life, it’s a plus instead of a minus.

In Malachi 3:10 God says, “If you tithe I will open up the windows of Heaven for you and pour out a blessing so great you won’t have room enough for it all. Try it. Let Me prove it to you.”

God is says if you give to Him He will become supernaturally involved in your finances. Think about that! The Being Who holds the cosmos together with a mere thought will get involved in your checkbook. Listen - the best advice I could ever give you when it comes to finances is this.


Think BEYOND THE CONSTRAINTS OF MATH...BEYOND THE STATE OF THE ECONOMY - and obey God by tithing. Trust me - God pays a higher return than any mutual fund out there. I know this flies in the face of conventional wisdom but it’s true. In fact, I challenge you to take God up on His challenge. Try tithing. And if you have to start gradually do. Start by writing God a check that equals 2 or 3 percent of your paycheck with a firm commitment to increase that over time. There’s an old saying, “By the yard it’s hard. By the inch it’s a cinch.” So, start small - but as you see God take care of you - increase that percentage until you get to a tenth or more. I promise, if you do this, you’ll see that God is faithful. He has been with Sue and me. We have tithed for 40 years now and God has MORE than provided for us - physically - and spiritually. I could preach an entire sermon on all the ways that God has taken care of our needs. The point is - my Heavenly Father has been true to His Word. We give - and He has given back. Over and over and over and over again He has opened the windows of Heaven and poured His blessings on us and He waits to do the same to you.