Generous Hearts and Hands
What I want to do is take a moment up front and pull back a little bit and remind us of where we are in the narrative, where we are in the story.
At this point, what we’re looking at is that God has saved Israel out of slavery.
He has pulled his people out of slavery, and he hasn’t just saved them out of slavery for nothing, but he says he’s going to make them a distinct people that the nations might know.
God is going to not only pull his people out of slavery, oppression, sin, and death, but then he’s going to form them in such a way that the nations will look upon them and know that he is God.
What God is up to is shaping, forming, making a people for himself.
Presence and Power of God
Presence and Power of God
Really, all spring this is what we’ve been talking about, that the presence and power of God in our lives marks us distinctly among people who are far from God.
I love the way Jesus talks about those who aren’t Christians.
He uses the word lost.
That word lost is really a beautiful thing.
It’s like they lost their way, and Christ has come to save them from that lostness.
What God is doing in the household of faith, in a covenant community of faith, is he’s distinctively marking a people that reveal to the world his goodness, his grace, his compassion, his mercy, and that’s what we’ve been looking at through the winter into the spring:
God doing this among us.
We’re going to look again at another distinctive mark around what it means to be the people of God in our gathering today.
We’re going to talk about the motive of generosity.
That’s one of the things that makes us distinct among worldly generosity.
It’s not just Christians who are generous. You know that.
You don’t have to be a Christian to be generous.
There are some full-on pagan fools who are really generous with their money, with their resources.
What makes us a distinct people is the motive of our generosity and then the metric of our generosity and then, ultimately, the method of our generosity.
Let’s look at this.
Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the Lord has commanded. Take from among you a contribution to the Lord. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord’s contribution: gold, silver, and bronze; blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen; goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, and goatskins; acacia wood, oil for the light, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, and onyx stones and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. “Let every skillful craftsman among you come and make all that the Lord has commanded: the tabernacle, its tent and its covering, its hooks and its frames, its bars, its pillars, and its bases; the ark with its poles, the mercy seat, and the veil of the screen; the table with its poles and all its utensils, and the bread of the Presence; the lampstand also for the light, with its utensils and its lamps, and the oil for the light; and the altar of incense, with its poles, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, and the screen for the door, at the door of the tabernacle; the altar of burnt offering, with its grating of bronze, its poles, and all its utensils, the basin and its stand; the hangings of the court, its pillars and its bases, and the screen for the gate of the court; the pegs of the tabernacle and the pegs of the court, and their cords; the finely worked garments for ministering in the Holy Place, the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests.” Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the Lord. And every one who possessed blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats’ hair or tanned rams’ skins or goatskins brought them. Everyone who could make a contribution of silver or bronze brought it as the Lord’s contribution. And every one who possessed acacia wood of any use in the work brought it. And every skillful woman spun with her hands, and they all brought what they had spun in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. All the women whose hearts stirred them to use their skill spun the goats’ hair. And the leaders brought onyx stones and stones to be set, for the ephod and for the breastpiece, and spices and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the fragrant incense. All the men and women, the people of Israel, whose heart moved them to bring anything for the work that the Lord had commanded by Moses to be done brought it as a freewill offering to the Lord.
You get this epic giving campaign that just breaks out around the mountain.
Here’s what I want to point out to you.
This is happening at an interesting moment in the narrative.
What have we just finished studying?
The rebellion of God’s people against God and God responding to that with grace, with mercy, with kindness.
They have broken their pledge against God.
In the last few weeks, what we pointed out is that God’s people’s rebellion against him was the equivalent (and in our lives is the equivalent) of entering into the marriage vows and then immediately cheating on your spouse on the honeymoon.
It was this blatant disregard for God’s holiness, his might, how he had delivered them up.
How does God respond to that?
He responds to that with grace. He responds with mercy. He moves toward them, not from them.
There’s discipline, but there’s a lot of kindness, mercy, grace, and forgiveness, and then there’s this contribution.
“All that we’ve talked about… It’s time to start building. Bring what we need to build.”
We’ll see here they bring it and they bring it and they bring it.
Day after day after day, for an extended period of time, they keep bringing it.
We begin to see that one of the things that makes the people of God distinct is their generosity.
Let’s dive into these three Ms.
The first is the motive of generosity.
As we’ve already established, you don’t have to love Jesus, you don’t have to be a Christian to be generous.
In fact, you can be far from God and be generous.
I know people who want nothing to do with Jesus Christ, have no plan to submit, and, in fact, their lives are marked with outright rebellion against him, who are extremely generous people.
In fact, I find them sometimes more generous than some stingy Christians I know.
What, then, makes us distinct as a generous people?
Well, the motive of our generosity.
The motive of the generosity of the people of God finds its root in the generosity of God toward his people.
What motivates us is not a guilty conscience.
It’s not that we’re trying to validate ourselves as good people by being generous.
Rather we have received generosity in such lavish ways that we become overwhelmed by God’s generosity to us, so then it flows out of us.
We talked last week about the fact that God is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, but the Bible also tells us in …
Here’s what says. “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…”
You can’t out-sin the cross of Christ.
Do you know where I get that?
Exodus and .
You have never in your life committed the type of sin that the people of Israel have just committed against God Almighty, and God’s response is grace.
“Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” You’ll never out-sin the grace of God.
That’s not the only motive.
The other motive of our generosity is the Christian who knows the Bible understands not only are we recipients of the generosity of God but, on top of that, everything we own is his already.
We’re simply stewards of what God has entrusted to us. I love this in the book of Exodus.
They’ve come out of slavery.
Where did they get all this stuff?
God delivered it over to them.
Nobody is like, “I worked really hard.” No, no, no. You plundered Egypt because of the power of God.
Now let’s talk about the metrics of generosity.
If you’re church folk, you’ll appreciate this. If you’re a guest with us and don’t have a background in church, you might be like, “Okay, what?”
The conversation that starts happening around generosity is, “Now, Pastor, are you talking about the tithe or are you talking about the offering?
Are you talking about 10 percent?
And is that 10 percent gross?
Is that before tax or is that after tax?”
You start playing these games.
“Are you saying that I have to give 10 percent to the church and then anything else is an offering above that?”
We start to muddy up the waters, but that is not God’s metric.
That is not how God measures generosity in his people.
In fact, here’s how God measures it.
Here’s how God measures generosity.
: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
If you have a little app or something that plays with the Greek, that word cheerful in the Greek is the root that we get the word hilarious from.
God loves a hilarious giver.
So do you want to know God’s metric on generosity?
If you want to dive in and study the difference between tithes and offerings, and whether the Old Testament tithe holds over into the New Testament, that’s a worthwhile study.
But I’m telling you what God looks at around the metrics of generosity is your heart.
That’s what he’s after.
Over and over again, what God is after is your heart.
Oftentimes, people who aren’t really church people say, “All the church wants is my money.”
No, no. The church wants so much more than your money.
They want your life, your vision, your future, your gifts, your talents, and your cash.
God wants it all, because he wants your heart.
All of that has a way of distorting and disfiguring you if he doesn’t have your heart. Don’t give reluctantly.
Think about that as you grow older and start to move into that space where you can give to the church.
Lastly, I want to talk about the methods of generosity.
I have four categories here.
They’re not categories I came up with.
They’re categories that a pastor I know in New York named Jon Tyson came up with, so I’m going to steal from him.
Thank you, Jon for doing work for me.
Here would be the first method. How are we to be generous?
In , the apostle Paul writes this to the churches in Galatia: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
In one sense, one of the buckets… We’re going to talk about the method of generosity, where we’re to be generous.
We have a clear mark in the Scriptures that one of the places we’re to be generous is to the church we worship in.
Simply it is giving to the church.
Wether it be for a building expansion, Pastoral salaries, or even just basic supplies.
. This is called spontaneous giving. “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”
I love this idea that you have some wealthy landowners, and they just hear of a need, and they’re like, “Oh gosh, sell it.
Here, make sure nobody has a need.” That’s spontaneous.
Then there’s secret generosity.
This is my favorite. : “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
I love this, because here’s what happens. When you give in secret, the only one who’s getting praise is God.
I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, where you get an anonymous gift.
You’re kind of jammed up, and you’re like, “Okay, Lord, I’m going to do whatever I can do.
I don’t know what we’re going to do here.” Then something just shows up.
Someone blesses you, and you have no idea who it is. What are you forced to do?
You’re like, “Thank you, God.” You have to thank something, but there’s no one to thank but the Lord who provided for you through secret generosity.
It’s my favorite kind.
God should never beg for what’s already his. That’s not this kind of sermon. That’s not what it is. We give to the church that disciples us, that visits us in the hospital, that cares for us, that edifies us in the Lord when we gather, that works for our good. We want to be generous on this front.
says, “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.”
Most of us don’t even have categories for what we just read.
In a time of extreme poverty, they were overwhelmed with joy.
Severe poverty, filled with joy.
This is the reason I want to encourage you to get on a short-term trip.
Go somewhere where they don’t have any of the things we’re pursuing, and check out their joy and grow in an understanding that he is not just enough but he is abundant.
Dave, how did your trip to china shape and mold your life when it comes to looking at God now?
Let me keep reading, because it gets more beautiful, if that was possible.
“For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints…”
I have never met a pastor who told me, “My people are begging to give more to the church. What do you do?”
But that’s what’s happening. They’re begging to be a part of what God… “How can we give? What can we do? I know we have next to nothing, but what can we do to be a part of what God is up to in our day?” This is sacrificial giving.
“…and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace.”
Listen to this in verse 7. “But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.”
What’s the act of grace?
Sacrificial giving. You excel in everything. Let’s not ever be satisfied as a community of faith to read about our church and go, “We excel in everything.
We excel in faith, we excel in speech, we excel in knowledge, and we excel in earnestness and love,” and not have that rounded out with sacrificial generosity.
Excel in this also: sacrificial generosity.
Evangelism & Generosity
Evangelism & Generosity
Evangelism and generosity are so tightly interwoven.
Maybe you’re like, “I don’t know what to do.”
Just be generous.
How do you be generous?
You’re paying attention to the souls around you.
You’ve been at school and seen that someone is struggling.
You’ve been at school and seen that someone has hit a rough spot.
Generous people start to engage.
“Are you okay? Is everything all right? I’m not trying to be nosy. Why don’t we go grab a cup of coffee? Let me buy you lunch. Let’s go sit down and have lunch. How can I pray for you? Is there any way I can serve you?”
This makes us distinct. We genuinely care, not to get praise but because we’ve received such grace.
It is the Spirit of God that came to us.
“Are you all right? I know you’re not all right. Let me help you.”
So we extend that. What would it be like in all of our Friend Groups if this was our reality, that we were generous people? “Oh man. Let’s meet this need. Guys, how can we meet this need?”
What if there were no needs? I told you we were going to read a little bit of chapter 36. Look over at chapter 36, picking up in verse 3.
“And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, and said to Moses, ’The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.’
So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, ’Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.’ So the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more.”
Remember that list where they were like, “Okay, we need to build the tabernacle.
We have the screen.
We have to have the base.
We have the bronze work.
We have the rings.
We need the linens.”
All of the workers came and were like, “Man, too much. Tell them to stop.”
Caesar Hadrian became Caesar of Rome in around 117, and he was a religious man.
Not a Christian, a religious man.
In fact, he built the temple of Venus.
So here a religious man, and he was so weirded out by this small but very rapidly growing cult called the Way (we call it Christianity) that he sent a man to get to the bottom of what made us, as the people of God, distinct.
So you have a caesar of Rome who built a temple to Venus, who starts to get anxious about Christianity’s growing global influence, so he sends a spy in to check us out. His name was Aristides.
In a letter back to Caesar, here’s basically what he wrote:
“They love one another, and he who has gives to him who has not without boasting.
And when they see a stranger, they take him into their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother.
And if there is among them any that are poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food.
Such, O king, is their manner of life, and, verily, this is a new people, and there is something divine in the midst of them.”
That isn’t a fairy tale.
The people of God, marked by generosity, motivated by the grace and mercy of God, with the metric being a heart that is cheerful in the Lord, with the method of empowering churches to do the work of raising up individuals for ministry while sacrificially giving, secretly giving, all the while with a cheerful disposition, rejoicing in the moving of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
I’ll just end with this.
How far have we fallen?
Does American evangelicalism look anything like that?
More than I am bagging on the current state of the church, I am laying before you a hope I have for us.
What might happen all over Sanger if we lived generous lives like this?
Every need we saw we stepped into.
In the church there were no needs, because if we were aware of the need we would be happy to meet it.
What if you felt comfortable letting your needs be known because you had experienced the grace of God in your life and knew that there are no perfect people?
Sometimes generosity is stifled by the pride of the needy.
“I can’t let anybody know we’re struggling here. I can’t let anybody know this is a legitimate need.”
No, you can and you should.
The generosity of God’s people toward you is a tangible expression of God’s kindness to you.
My dream isn’t American evangelicalism.
My dream is our community of faith to the ends of the world.
Why can’t it happen again?
It just takes the Spirit of God to reorient our hearts.