For His Eyes Only: Giving to the Glory of God (Part 2)

Matthew 6:2-4

Tom Pennington  •  December 9, 2012
Audio
  • Share:

For over a year, we've been studying the Sermon on the Mount. And last week, we came to Matthew 6 on the issue of giving. Now when this topic of giving comes up from time to time, many Christians respond to it something like this. They say, look, you know, I would love to be able to give, but I just can't, because I can't afford to. Well, let me just say, as we learned last week, our Lord doesn't really give any of us an option of whether or not we give. He does allow us to determine how much we give, but the issue of giving is required.

But the question I want us to consider as we begin this morning is, why is it that so many Christians think they can't afford to give? As I thought about that, I think it's because we tend to compare ourselves to the rich and famous, to celebrities, and to stars, and to athletes, or to the people in our communities–and we're all prone to do this–we compare ourselves to the people in our communities who own larger homes and drive nicer cars. And, compared to them, we really just don't have that much.

The reality is – I want you to think about this with me–the reality is, you are rich. You are wealthy. Branko Milanovic, a World Bank economist, points out that the median annual income of the 7.6 billion people who live on this planet, the median income in U.S. dollars, is $1,225 a year. That's the median income. Now let's drill down into that a little more. Let me just share a few helpful statistics that sort of put ourselves in perspective. Ten percent of the 6.7 billion people on earth, (10%, one in ten) make less than $365 a year. If you make more than $1,200 a year, you make more than 50% of the people on the earth. If you make more than $25,000 a year, you are in the top 10% of the wealthiest people on the planet. If you make more than $47,000 a year, you are in the top 1% of the wage-earners on earth today. Here's my point. If you live in America, and if you currently have a full-time job, you are, by every standard, wealthy. And if you don't think you're in a financial position to give something on a regular consistent basis, the problem is not your income. The problem is your heart, or perhaps your stewardship of the resources that God has given you. But each one of us, in terms of the people on this planet today, are wealthy.

Now we're studying the first section of Matthew 6, verses 1 through 18. And in verse 1, Jesus gives us the general principle. We must beware of the deadly danger of hypocrisy. Verse 1, Jesus says: "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven." Jesus then follows that general warning with three specific examples in verses 2 through 18. Verse 2: be careful of hypocrisy when you give to the poor. Verse 5: be careful of hypocrisy when you pray. And verse 15: be careful of hypocrisy when you fast. So that's the context that we're studying together.

Let me read for you again the section about giving. Matthew 6:2.

"So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."

Jesus warns us in this specific example of the danger of hypocrisy, that as we seek to obey the Scripture's clear command to give, we must be careful to avoid the deadly but ever-present danger of hypocrisy.

Now last week, just to remind you, we looked at the required activity of biblical giving. We looked at the Old Testament believer's giving. There were three Old Testament tithes that, put together, amounted to an annual income tax, really, of about 25% that the typical Israelite gave to support the government of Israel. That's what the tithe was about. In addition to those tithe taxes, Old Testament believers were also commanded to offer freewill offerings, and that really is the closest equivalent to New Testament giving. We talked about that at length last week.

Then we moved from the Old Testament believer's giving, his combination of the tithe taxes to support the government, and freewill offerings – we moved to the New Testament believer and his giving. We saw that we're not commanded to tithe. We're commanded to pay our taxes; that's the equivalent. But we are still responsible to give offerings to the Lord from our hearts. And I'm not going to develop this, but let me just remind you, and for those of you who weren't here last week, just sort of expose you, to what we discovered about New Testament giving in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4. First of all, we discovered that our Lord commands every Christian to give. It's not optional whether or not we give. We're commanded to. It's an issue of obedience. Secondly, our giving is to be consistent and systematic. Paul says on the first day of every week, let the believer come prepared to give. Thirdly, we discovered that our giving should primarily flow through the church – not exclusively–but primarily, and you see this pattern in a number of passages that we looked at in the New Testament last week. Number four: our giving is to be a reflection of our financial ability and a free decision. We're not commanded to tithe. Instead, the two expressions that govern how much we give in the New Testament are: as God prospers him, so according to God's prospering in our lives, and as he determines in his heart, as we make the free decision of how much we're going to give to the Lord. Fifthly, we determined that we should direct our giving to accomplish God's established priorities. And we looked at those priorities. They are essentially supporting the evangelistic work of missionaries, supporting the ministry of the local church, and helping those in need. That's what the New Testament teaches about giving. So that helps us then round out and understand the normal activity of biblical giving.

Now today I want us to move from that first point that we examined together to consider secondly the hypocrite's approach to biblical giving. And that brings us to this text. Now notice first of all that our Lord describes the wrong way to give. Verse 2: "So when you give to the poor, (and it's understood that you will) do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets…" The hypocrites here are those who put on a mask, those who make pretense to be doing something that's spiritually motivated, when in reality it's not. They're actors acting out the part of a truly spiritual person. And, in context, it becomes very clear that our Lord's referring to the ones He often calls hypocrites, and that is the Pharisees.

Now there is no evidence that the Pharisees literally blew trumpets before them to broadcast their giving. It's far more likely that Jesus is using this expression figuratively, in the same way that we use expressions like blowing one's own trumpet or tooting one's own horn. That's the idea.

Now notice Jesus says they advertised their giving (which is the idea behind that expression.)

They advertised their giving in two locations. They did it in the synagogues. Now as we've discovered, much of Jewish giving was through the local synagogue. There was the tithe tax for the poor that was required of everyone so that didn't really earn you any reputation. But that tithe tax for the poor was supplemented by giving freewill offerings in your local synagogue to help the poor. And the Pharisees, they loved to give their voluntary gifts in the synagogue, in a way that they were noticed by men. One Jewish writer describes that when significant donations for the poor were made in the synagogue, there would be a public announcement. Another writer describes that, if the gift were large enough, then you didn't sit with the congregation. You were moved that week and you sat with the rabbis up on the platform. And the Pharisees, the hypocrites, loved that kind of public recognition.

Notice Jesus says they also sounded a trumpet before them in the streets. This Greek word for streets is different than the one that's going to come a little later when we get to their praying. This word describes small, alley-like streets, or little narrow lanes. These would've been the tiny little streets where the poor lived and worked. So when the Pharisees were giving in the streets, they were giving directly, in this case, to the poor where they lived and worked and where they were. In one case in the synagogues, in another case directly to the poor. But Jesus' point here is that even when the Pharisees were privately giving their gifts directly to the poor, they were still doing everything in their power to draw attention to themselves – to be seen, to be noticed, to be admired. They made every conceivable effort to advertise their giving. Jesus says you're not to give like that. You're not to take that approach. We're not to give like the hen who cackles every time it lays an egg.

When you give to the church, when you give directly to help individuals, let me ask you –are you tempted to imitate the Pharisees, the hypocrites? Are you tempted to give in such a way that others notice and admire you? Do you either try blatantly or subtly to draw attention to yourself in your giving? You know, we have these slots provided in the back wall of this room to give. Even though we have those slots, you can still in your own heart look around and make sure somebody's watching. Do you want the elders, or the person you're helping, or others to see, or do you really in your heart want God to see? Jesus says don't follow the practice of the hypocrites. Don't sound a trumpet. Don't blow your own horn. Don't advertise when you give to the church or when you give directly to those in need. That's the wrong way to give.

Now Jesus goes on to describe the wrong reason to give, which they also were guilty of. Verse 1 tells us that they wanted to be noticed. Verse 2 tells us why they wanted to be noticed. Notice what Jesus says: "…so that they may be honored by men." There's a great deal of irony in this statement because they pretended to give but they really wanted to receive. They wanted to receive honor from men.

Now as I pointed out to you last week, the Greek word translated honored here is really the Greek word for glorify. It's used back in 5:16 where Jesus says: "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father…" And here in 6:2, Jesus says there are people who give in such a way so that they may be glorified by men. They pulled a fast switch. They pretended to be promoting the glory of God, but really they were promoting their own glory. As I pointed out last time, hypocrites are idolaters. They want the glory for themselves that God alone deserves. This is a devastating insight into the motives of the Pharisees. Jesus says, He who knows all men's hearts says, they give so that they'll be glorified by men. Oh and by the way, and this is disconcerting. Jesus knows your heart and mine just like He knew theirs. Each one of us must ask ourselves this question. When we give, whose glory are we really after?

Now that brings us to the wrong reward to seek. Not only do the hypocrites teach us the wrong way to give, and the wrong reason to give, but they also teach us the wrong reward to pursue, to follow after. Jesus says: "Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full." They wanted to be noticed, they wanted to be honored by men and that's what they got. You know, in the first century, because of their fastidious keeping of the law and because of their relentless zeal in every spiritual activity, the Pharisees were profoundly admired. They were considered to be the very definition of spiritual. It's only because of the New Testament we have the perspective of them that we do. But if we lived then, we'd have said, "Now there's somebody who's really spiritual." If you had looked up Noah Webster's first century dictionary, you would've found a picture of a Pharisee next to the word spiritual.

So they were glorified by men, which is exactly what they wanted. But Jesus says, "Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full." That expression, by the way, comes from the first century world of commerce. It's a word that was used if you paid someone, or someone paid you what they owed you in full, and then you gave them a receipt for it. Jesus says, listen, they have been fully paid and they've got their receipt. It's done. It's settled. All accounts are settled. You see, the hypocrites, and those who give, all of us who are tempted to give for the wrong reason. When we do that, we're not giving; we're really buying and we get what we paid for.

And by the way, this isn't just a first century problem. I was struck by a quote from Kent Hughes who writes: "I wonder what would happen to our great national charities if there were no celebrity benefits, no published subscriber lists, no bronze plaques, no rooms to be named for major donors, or pictures to be taken with crippled children."

When you give, Jesus says, don't follow the practice of the hypocrites who give in a way that they will be noticed by the people around them and seek to be glorified by those people. Because if that's what we do, then that's all the reward we'll get. Don't expect anything at all from God. In fact, as far as God is concerned, however big that gift might have been, it's just like it never happened at all. That's the hypocrite's approach to biblical giving. He gives in the wrong way. He gives for the wrong reason. And ultimately, he pursues and gets the wrong reward.

Now in verse 3, Jesus leaves the hypocrites, and He goes on to explain His disciple's approach to biblical giving. If you're a follower of Christ, here's what it ought to be like. He explains first the right way to give. Verse 3: "But when you give (this is in contrast to the hypocrites – but when you, My true disciples, when you give) to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…" Now understand that Jesus' specific example, and as we looked at last time, the Greek word that He uses is about giving to the poor. But His teaching here is about the larger issue of hypocrisy. And so giving, here, applies to all kinds of giving, whether it's for missions, or the local church, or for the poor, whether it's given privately to an individual, or whether it's given to the church. This is a comprehensive statement about how you and I are to give.

Now, let me, before we look at what our Lord means here, make sure we understand what He does not mean. Jesus is not saying that we cannot plan our giving. That's clear from the gospels. In fact, Jesus and His disciples did. This does not mean that we can't keep records of our giving for stewardship purposes. There's no prohibition of that. This also does not mean that our giving always has to be anonymous. Giving in and through a church as the saints' collection was done on the Lord's Day in Corinth and in Philippi, you couldn't exactly cloak yourself in a way that it wasn't obvious that you were giving. In fact, the New Testament even records the women who supported Jesus. So it's not saying that your giving always has to be anonymous, that no one anywhere can ever know.

But what is Jesus saying? Let's look again at the right way for us to give. Verse 3: "But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…" Now you should be surprised by that statement because notice what Jesus doesn't say, what we would've expected Him to say, which is 'when you give, don't let other people know that you're giving.' That isn't what He says. Of course, it's implied in this comment, but Jesus actually goes a step farther than simply not giving to be noticed by others. He says don't let one hand know what the other hand is doing.

Now most of the time when we're in our right minds, our two hands are working together, right? One knows what the other one's doing right now. You know, as I discovered recently when Seth handed me a mike and I had to hold a mike with one hand, I couldn't talk because I needed both of my hands to talk. Our hands work together. They function together. They know what each other is doing. So when Jesus says we're not to let the left hand know what the right hand is doing, He's not talking about keeping our giving secret from others. He's telling us to keep our giving secret from ourselves. What does that mean? I think William Hendriksen, the Presbyterian commentator, captured it well when he writes: "As much as possible, a person must keep his voluntary contribution a secret not only to others but even to himself; that is, he should forget about it." You see, not only does Jesus forbid us from giving to be exalted in the eyes of others. He also forbids us from giving to be exalted in our own eyes.

You know, this is a remarkable insight by our Lord, because, can we just speak honestly with each other here? Our flesh is so evil that we can give secretly, and then congratulate ourselves that we gave secretly and nobody knows that we gave or how much we gave, and feel pretty good about ourselves. One author puts it this way: "As soon as the giving of the gift is decided and done, forget it. We are not to keep recalling it in order to gloat over it or to preen ourselves on how generous, disciplined, or more conscientious our giving may have been. Christian giving is to be marked by self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness, not by self-congratulation." Jesus says we must give, not only without external self-promotion to others, but we must even give without internal self-promotion to ourselves.

By the way, by the work of God's grace, this is how Christians tend to approach what they do. They are unaware and just don't keep records naturally of the good that they do. You see this in Matthew 25. Look over there with me. I love this passage. It's at the judgment, specifically the judgment that follows the second coming before the millennial period, called the judgment of the sheep and the goats. It's a judgment of individuals. Verse 34. (go back to verse 31)

". . .when the Son of Man comes into His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations are gathered. . . (and He's going to separate not nations, but individuals)… He'll put the sheep on His right, the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'"

There's a lot of theology in that comment, but that's for another time. And then He says you evidenced the reality of a changed life, the reality of forgiveness and a heart that had been radically transformed in this way. Verse 35:

"I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick, you visited Me; I was in prison, you came to Me. (and I love this, verse 37). Then the righteous will answer Him, ('When? When did we do that?' They're blissfully unaware of their own past righteous actions.) . . . did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison and come to You?' (They're not just rehearsing the greatness of their actions. They're surprised at the Lord's words in verse 40). The King will say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'"

The point is that when we do what we do, including when we give, we are not to let our left hand know what our right hand is doing; that is, we are not to dwell on it and gloat on it ourselves. We're not to congratulate ourselves. Do what you do, give what you give for the Lord, and then move on. That's the right way to give.

Jesus then explains the right motive for giving. Look at verse 4: "so that your giving will be in secret…" Now remember what we've just learned, and that is, it's not just that our giving needs to be in secret, because you can give in secret and still be giving for the wrong motive. You can still be giving to puff yourself up, to, you know, have this sort of internal pride and self-congratulatory ideas. So it's not just the secret that's the issue. The point of giving in secret, and this is key, is so that only God sees you. And that's the way you want it because, and here's the key, what you want most of all is His approval and His glory. That's the issue.

John Stott was right when he said there really are only three possible motives for giving. Here's what he wrote: "Either we are (#1) seeking the praise of men, (#2) we preserve our anonymity but are quietly congratulating ourselves, or (#3) we are desirous of the approval of our divine Father alone." Let me put it a different way for you. When we give, we give either to exalt ourselves in the eyes of others, we give to exalt ourselves in our own eyes, or we give to exalt our God.

Now how exactly does giving in secret (that is, giving without promoting our giving before others, and without being self-congratulatory and having this sense of self-satisfaction internally) – how does giving like that give glory to God? Think about that for a moment. It gives glory to God because it draws attention to God as the only true provider of all things, and because it makes it clear to others that God is the One truly providing for that person in need. He just happens to be doing it through us. In other words, we are merely the channel through which God's goodness flows to others. That's the idea. In other words, God ends up being the hero rather than you or me.

Let me ask you. When you give, do you truly give solely for God's approval and for God's glory? Let me ask it a different way. Would you still give if absolutely no one but God knew? Would you still give even if it didn't make you feel good about yourself? Would you still give even if you stopped getting a tax deduction? You see, the right motive behind legitimate Christian giving, is seeking our Father's glory and seeking our Father's approval. We give so that God would be pleased.

You see this very clearly over in Philippians 4. Turn over there with me. I mentioned this is one of the several passages in the New Testament that develop the idea of Christian giving, as Paul thanks the Philippians for their generous gift to him to support him in his hardship and in his work. Verse 15:

You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the (the spiritual) profit which increases to your account. (Now watch verse 18 – here are the results of proper Christian, biblical giving. Needs are met). I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus (their messenger) what you have sent, (but it's not just that that happens when we give. It's not just that needs are met. That's important, but something else happens. Notice the end of verse 18. What you sent has become) a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.

You see, Paul changes from the human side of giving to the divine side of giving. When we give in the right way, for the right reason, it becomes, in God's sight, (notice verse 18) a fragrant aroma; literally, an odor of a sweet smell. That's taken from the Old Testament. That picture comes from the way it was described when the burnt offering was put on the altar and the smoke from that offering went up into the sky. Of course, at a human level, it didn't smell sweet, but in the Old Testament it's described that that smoke as it arose, the sacrifice arose into the nostrils of God, it was a pleasing aroma. It was a fragrant aroma. It was a sweet smell in God's nostrils. Paul says when you and I give, and when we give for the right reason, we give for God's glory, it is a fragrant aroma to God.

He also says it is an acceptable sacrifice - of course, the word sacrifice, that common Old Testament term for any kind of offering made to God. But notice, this offering–Paul says it's acceptable to God; He receives it. But I love the last expression in verse 18. He says when you give in the right way, for the right motive, for the right reason, the right purposes, it is "well-pleasing to God." Think about that for a moment. Our gifts, given for God's glory, given for His approval, bring pleasure to God. He doesn't need our money. He doesn't need our resources. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. Our giving shows that He has our hearts, and it pleases Him. When we give with the right motive, when we give in the right way, it is worship just like the sacrifice in the Old Testament was.

Now it's so important to keep that in mind when you give, because, I don't know about you, but giving can seem pretty sterile, can seem pretty detached from the rest of our worship. I mean, after all, you're just sliding something in a slot. You're just clicking with your mouse online. It can seem pretty sterile. It doesn't necessarily evoke some emotion, like singing in worship, or even like studying the word or prayer. And so giving can easily become mechanical. It can easily seem as if we are merely giving to an organization, like when we give to the United Way or to the American Heart Association. But Paul wants us to know that when we give through the church to support missionaries, to support those in need, to support the ministry of the church, it's not like that. It's entirely different. Christian giving is ultimately an act of personal worship. Paul's point is that when you and I give, we give to God.

I love that proverb I quoted to you last week, Proverbs 19:17 – "One who is gracious to the poor lends to the Lord (God takes it very personally when we give with His glory and His approval in mind), and He (the proverb says, God) will repay him for his good deed." What I want you to think about is this: when we give through the church, it might be through the church, but it's to God, just as truly as if we placed it in His hands. I want you to think about that when you give. That's biblical giving. Lord, here it is. This is just an expression of my heart in gratitude for Your goodness in my life and because I care about what You care about. I want to see the gospel spread. I want to see the church healthy. I want to see the poor cared for. Receive this as an expression of my love. That's biblical giving.

Now let's consider lastly the Lord's response to biblical giving. How does God respond when we give like that? Look at Matthew 6:4. "so your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." You know, it's really a remarkable statement, the theological implications of that statement that God sees in secret. Do you realize that absolutely nothing escapes the notice of our omniscient, omnipresent God? He knows everything. He knows what you think. He knows what you say. He knows it before you say it. He knows what you do. He's omnipresent. He's everywhere you ever are, in the fullness of His person. Hebrews puts it like this, Hebrews 4:13. "There is no creature hidden from God's sight, but all things are open and laid bare before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" All things.

Our Father sees and He keeps careful accounts. He sees when you give for His approval and for His glory. And if that's your motive in giving, Jesus says the Father will reward you. It's a promise. You say, Well, what exactly is that reward? Well, first of all, there are spiritual blessings now. I won't have you turn there, but we saw it last week in 2 Corinthians 9:10 He says when we give in the right way for the right reason, we have a harvest of righteousness. When we give generously, it's not that God's going to give you back dollar for dollar. That's not the idea at all. Not talking about financial benefit; he's talking about spiritual benefit, just like any other act of obedience. When you and I choose to obey God, we reap spiritual benefit from that. And the same thing is true when we obey in the issue of giving – spiritual blessings now, a harvest of righteousness.

But Jesus is talking about more, I think, than the spiritual blessings we are rewarded with now. He's talking about a future reward at the judgment. You know, the Bible has a lot to say about a believer's rewards. What exactly are our rewards? You know, some Christians have the idea that we're going to have these actual crowns that we're going to wear on our heads. That's our reward – the crown of life, the crown of righteousness, the crown of glory. I think in context those are: the crown which is life, the crown which is glory, the crown which is righteousness. It's not some piece of hardware you're going to get, you know, and shine up every day.

But what are our rewards biblically speaking? I want you to think about this. This is what we're hoping for. This is what we're longing for–is to be rewarded by our God. But what does that mean? Go back to Matthew 25 because I think there is a verse in Matthew 25 that lays out two aspects of our eternal reward. Here's what the reward will be. Matthew 25:21. It's in the parable of the talents. You remember the story – talents being a kind of money, not like skills. A talent was about fifteen years' wages of a typical laborer. And the master gives out these talents and expects them to be used, and for return to be received on them. Now, and the master returns, and He responds. Verse 19:

After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. (It's a wonderful picture here of us left on the earth, and our Lord away, and He's invested His resources with us. And we're, in turn, supposed to invest those for His benefit. Verse 20): "The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, 'Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have gained five more talents.' (Now watch verse 21. Watch the reward that's offered this faithful slave at the accounting, which is the judgment). His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, (while I was gone, I gave you a few things to be faithful with. I gave you a few resources to manage and) You were faithful with a few things so I will put you in charge of many things…

You see, part of your eternal reward is a greater capacity for service in eternity. If you're faithful with what God has given you here, then you will receive a greater capacity to serve Him in eternity.

But there's another aspect of our future reward at the judgment – not only a greater capacity for service in eternity but, (I love this) Jesus' public commendation, a public approval of our Lord. Look again at verse 21: "His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful slave.'" Paul makes this same point. Turn over to 1 Corinthians 4. He's talking about the stewardship he's been given of the gospel on this planet, and he says, listen, verse 4:

. . .I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; (conscience is not a perfect tool) but the one who will examine me is the Lord. Therefore, (look at 1 Corinthians 4:5, this is key – therefore) do not go on passing judgment before the time, (don't determine the validity of your ministry, the fruit of it, the productivity of it, the worthiness of it, or your motives) but instead wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and He will disclose the motives of men's hearts; (this is what happens at the judgment. I love this. And if the motives are right) then each man's praise will come to him from God.

The public commendation of our Master, of our Lord: "Well done, good and faithful slave." Folks, that's a reason to give, and to give in the right way, and with the right motive – for God's glory and for His eternal approval.

Paul sums up what we should do as wealthy Americans. I began by saying if you're here this morning, you're wealthy. In terms of the 6.7 billion people on the planet, you are wealthy. So what are we supposed to do with that? Paul sums it up, I think beautifully, in the end of his first letter to Timothy. Look at 1Timothy:6. This sort of pulls it all together.1 Timothy 6:17. Timothy's in Ephesus, which was a wealthy Roman city, and Paul says to Timothy, here's what I want you to do:

Instruct those who are rich in this present world (folks, that is us) not to be conceited (you see, we can tend to think we have some contribution to our success. People who are wealthy are quick to congratulate themselves, and to think they had more to do with it than they really did. Don't be conceited) and don't fix your hope on the uncertainty of those riches, (listen, they could go away tomorrow. We could all fall off the fiscal cliff together) but fix your hope on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct those who are wealthy to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous (and the Greek word 'ready to share' there, is a word which means bountiful, to be liberal in the good sense of that word. I know, you know, in Texas saying that word sort of sends shivers, but to be liberal, in the good sense of your generous giving, your heart) storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.

How are you doing with the stewardship of your resources? And how are you doing, when you give, avoiding the deadly danger of hypocrisy? Are you giving for God's glory and God's approval? Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for Your Word. It pierces to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, discerns the thoughts and motives of our hearts, and truly it's done that this morning. Lord, forgive us for our excuses. Forgive us for our disobedience and help us even in this area, the area of how we give to you out of our resources, the resources You've given us. Help us to do so biblically and to do so for the right reason – for Your glory and not our own–for Your approval and not the approval of the people around us. Father, thank You for Your amazing generosity to us and thank You that even as we do what we ought to do, and really nothing more, You're still generous in giving us reward - in giving us spiritual blessings now, giving us a greater capacity for service in eternity, and Father, it's unimaginable to us, but giving us Your approval: "Well done, good and faithful servant." Lord, help us to live for those words. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.