Want to Impress God
Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on Giving Everything to God! – Everything! Check out Jody Sinkway and the choir following the sermon.
Let’s talk money. The Bible certainly does. In fact it speaks of money in roughly 2,350 verses. It’s a common theme of the law and the prophets. It’s a trademark of God’s people to care for the poor and needy. One of every seven verses in Matthew, Mark and Luke is dedicated to the subject of money. One- third of Jesus’ parables are about money. In fact, Jesus talks about money more than he does about prayer and faith combined.
So why does the Bible speak so much about money? And the answer is that there is a fundamental connection between a person’s spiritual life and their attitudes and actions concerning money and possessions.
So we can hardly blame the disciples for being impressed by all the sophisticated and glamorous people, in their beautiful clothes, those wrapped in celebrity and public acclaim, coming to present their tithes to God. With their wealth they declare their allegiance to God, their support of the temple and what it means to the city.
Why wouldn’t the disciples be impressed? Here are the worshipers who are people of means, who are coming into the temple to do the right thing. They are tithers. They are a Stewardship Committee’s dream come true. They bring a tenth off the top, before taxes, as the law prescribes. They bring to God their first fruits.
The first tenth, the first fruits, the very best for God, that is something, because most churches settle for what they can get. We’ll gladly take any percentage of anything anyone feels they can spare.
It’s kind of the Goodwill Industries philosophy of giving: whatever somebody doesn’t want, doesn’t need, or has worn out, we’ll take it. Now I’m not suggesting that our old stuff isn’t helpful for those in need, but it certainly doesn’t match the standards of those who were bringing their first fruits to the temple. So while the disciples are impressed by this great display of wealth coming into the temple it doesn’t impress Jesus.
Until suddenly, unnoticed by most everyone at the temple, a poor widow emerges walking toward the treasury, pulling from her garment two small coins, two cooper coins which, together total no more than a penny. And she drops them into the offering plate.
Now that is something that impresses Jesus. Two coins of such insignificance that it takes both of them to make up one penny. Think spare change bowls at convenience store cash registers. If you need pennies, take them; if you don’t want them drop them in the bowl. Pennies have become a nuisance. They take up space in our pockets and pocketbooks. They get in the way when we’re looking for “real” change. They are an inconvenience at best. Yet this impresses Jesus.
Today we don’t even stress tithing. Most churches are happy just having pledgers. We’d like 10 percent but we will be happy with any amount and these people coming to the temple are giving the best they have out of their abundance. So why doesn’t Jesus hold them up? Why isn’t he impressed?
But Jesus is impressed. He says, “Those two copper coins impress me very much. “Truly I say to you this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
All her living, everything she had. What was it that Jesus said to the scribe earlier in the temple? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” With All. With All.
All. Not 10 percent. All. Not just the first fruits, but also the second fruits and third fruits and the last fruits. All. Not just the best; but also the second best and the just fair, and even, God help us, our very worst. All.
All. To give a tenth observes the law. But to give “all her living” exceeds any law. It recognizes and celebrates the true depth of our existence. As the psalmist says, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it” (Psalm 24:1) and, “we are God’s people the sheep of God’s pasture” (Psalm 100:3).
The problem with laws is that they tend to degenerate into legalistic thinking. Especially when it comes to the spiritual laws. We calculate carefully to the very last penny our pledge or tithe and say, “There, that’s what I owe God. We total up our income, divide out our expenses and multiple what percentage we’ll give to God.
We want to know what the figure is. How much do I have to give to pay my due? How much before I can say, “Now, I’ve done my part, go talk to someone else. How much must I give to live in peace with God and myself? Can you see why Jesus is not impressed?
God does not want 5 percent or 7 percent. God wants 100 percent. All. All our living, all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength. All.
We are to think of God not only when we write the check to the church, but when we write the check at the grocery. We are to hear the call of Christ not only when we make offerings in the temple, but also when we pull out the charge card at the restaurant. We are to consider the kingdom of God not only when we look at this church budget, but also when we survey our family budgets. All.
Now some are probably asking: Is Steve saying that we can’t have anything? No, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that we need to look at our lives and all that we have as a gift from God.
The real question for Christian stewardship is not, “How much should I commit to the church?” but, “What will I keep for myself, and why, and what am I going to do with what I’ve been blessed with to glorify God? As long as we ask the question: “How much should I give”, we will feel guilty and inadequate, because the underlying assumption is that we can buy God’s favor and peace.
God did not put us on this earth to live tight, severe constricted lives. God has given all things into our hands and wants us to use them, enjoy them and to glorify Him, through there use. We are not to neglect the needs of our families; God has given us families, for heaven’s sake and for our sake. God does not want us to neglect our needs. God has put us here to enjoy the goodness of creation and its many blessings.
But all of our living and all of our giving is to be a witness to the gift of God, who so loved the world that he gave his only son in order to reconcile the world unto Himself. All of it. Not 10 percent. Not the best part of it – all of it.
What God wants – is you and me – all of us. Stewardship is ultimately about giving all of our heart, all of our soul, mind and strength our lives over to God and trusting that in all aspects of life God will watch over us and provide for us.
Our commitment to mission, our giving of our time, talent and dollars are spiritual disciplines that we undertake to remind ourselves from whom all blessings flow. They remind us that our mission, purpose and faith grow in direct proportion to what we give. They remind us that we cannot serve God and mammon.
I invite you to join us this coming Sunday, November 5th when we will dedicate our time, talent and dollars and let us see what God will bless us with in 2018. Amen