SERMON TITLE: We are Generous
TEXT: Matthew 6:19-24
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
DATE: 1-14-24 (evening)
Watch the sermon here
Take notes here
As always it’s a joy to be with all of you for this evening communion service. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and it’s good to say with our North Main Campus folks present — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
We’re continuing our vision series tonight. As I mentioned this morning —Matt Heft — one of our elders — kicked off this vision series last week by introducing our new mission statement. All of this started about a year ago — when I and the elders began a conversation about God’s vision for Gateway Church. And — this new vision — resulted in the elders taking a look at our mission statement and realizing that it was time for an update — as new vision requires a mission statement that uses complementary language. That’s what Matt’s sermon was all about last week.
Now what I’m about to say is so important that this will be repeated in each sermon in this series. And I hope this will become so familiar to you that you’ll be able to explain it to someone else. So here’s the graphic you’re going to become familiar with. These four columns represent the key components that drive the life, ministry, and direction of a local church. The first component is the pastor. The second component are its key leaders. The third component of a church is its discipleship process. And the fourth component describes the kind of disciples we hope all of us are becoming here at Gateway.
So component one — the pastor — that’s me. The Bible has a lot to say about the qualifications, characteristics, and calling of a pastor. There are the characteristics of a pastor found in First Timothy chapter 3. There’s the call to shepherd the flock as found in First Peter chapter five. There’s the mandate to preach the Word — Second Timothy chapter four — as well as the example for pastors to focus on prayer and the Word — as found in Acts chapter six. These are some examples of my role and responsibilities as your pastor.
The next component of a church are the other key leaders. This would include our elders, deacons, staff, and those who serve as Life Group leaders. These key leaders help the pastor move the church along in a certain direction — which leads us to the third component — our discipleship process. Here at Gateway Church this is our process of Worship, Connect, Serve, and Go — this is how we help you grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Worship is when we gather together to worship our God in a way that’s Gospel-Centered, done with excellence, and is contextual. We connect with each other in Life Groups to discuss how the Bible applies to our lives and to care for one another. We serve each other — the people in our church family — in a variety of ways. And we go into the world by equipping, partnering with, and sending members to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Are there other ministries we do? Of course. But Worship, Connect, Serve, and Go is our primary way of making disciples here at Gateway Church.
Now — this series is focused on our vision as a church — and this is where the fourth component comes in — the column labeled “disciple.” In the past, we’ve focused so much on what we want you to do to grow in your faith — our discipleship process — that we failed to clearly communicate to you who we’re wanting you to become. Meaning, “what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus here at Gateway Church?”
You’ve caught glimpses of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus through my preaching, the podcast, our conversations with leaders, and so on — but because this component hasn’t been defined like the other three — there’s been some confusion. And this is what I and the elders want to make clear so we all move forward growing as disciples of Jesus together with a clear vision of what we mean by the word “disciple.”
And our vision — our spiritual goal for every follower of Jesus here at Gateway Church— is that we’d be disciples...
1. Who are...Word and Spirit Christians.
2. Who are…generous.
3. Who are...family.
4. Who are…disciples who make disciples.
5. And who are Kingdom-minded.
And — what we’re doing in this series — is devoting one sermon to each of these characteristics to give even greater clarity as to the kinds of disciples of Jesus that we all should be aiming to become together. And — tonight — we’re going to look at what it means to be generous.
Being generous is something I especially love about Gateway Church. Whether it be our Christmas Eve offerings or how much of our church budget goes to missions — and specifically to the least reached people groups around the world — being generous — especially with our resources — is the kind of disciples we’re desiring to make here at Gateway Church.
Now — as we talk about being generous — and — yes — that means we’re going to talk about money — and if you’re not a Christian — one — know that this isn’t a topic I bring up all the time — and two — I have zero expectation that you give anything to this church — but money is an important part of our lives and it’s an important part of being a disciple of Jesus. So we’re going to look at a warning, a holy obligation, and a promise in regards to money and being a generous people. A warning. A holy obligation. And a promise. Let’s look at each of these.
A warning. In the gospel of Matthew — and just three verses after teaching his disciples how to pray — what’s known as the Lord’s Prayer — Jesus said this.
Matthew 6:19–24 (ESV)
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
So here’s the warning. Jesus warns us of a dangerous self-deception — a self-deception none of us are immune to when it comes to treasures here on earth — to wealth — to money. It’s found in verse twenty-four.
Matthew 6:24 (ESV)
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
No one. That’s all inclusive — we’re all implied — none of us — no matter how special you think you are — none of us are an exception to this statement. No one can serve two masters.
Now — the word that’s translated as master — is the word often translated as lord in the New Testament. It’s the same word used in Scripture — for example — in the phrase “Jesus is Lord.” And no one — Jesus says — can serve two lords. Either Jesus is your Lord or he isn’t — but he won’t share this role in your life with anything or anyone else. And he tells us why.
For someone who tries to live with two masters — two lords — with Jesus and something else as lord — that person will end up hating one lord and loving the other. You’ll devote yourself to one and not the other. You’ll say Jesus is Lord but that other lord will demand your allegiance and will demand that you abandon Christ’s authority as Lord of your life. That’s what Jesus is saying — that’s the implication of his words. And these are his words — not mine — so keep that in mind as we talk about money and wealth and generosity.
I bring this up because Jesus ends his lesson on lordship by saying, “You can’t serve God and money.” And that means — money is one of those lords trying to oust Jesus from his role as Lord of your life. And rarely does a person take this warning seriously enough — for money is a luring and deceptive lord.
Then there’s James — Jesus’ younger brother — who wrote this — and I can’t help but think he had his older brother’s words in mind.
James 1:9–18 (NET)
9 Now the believer of humble means should take pride in his high position.10 But the rich person’s pride should be in his humiliation, because he will pass away like a wildflower in the meadow.11 For the sun rises with its heat and dries up the meadow; the petal of the flower falls off and its beauty is lost forever. So also the rich person in the midst of his pursuits will wither away. 12 Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has proven to be genuine, he will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. 15 Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death. 16 Do not be led astray, my dear brothers and sisters.17 All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change.18 By his sovereign plan he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we would be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
I find it interesting how James — in talking about riches — think money and wealth — that in talking about riches James brings up the root cause of temptation in our lives. How temptation comes from a luring desire that’s within us. And that luring desire — when it conceives — gives birth to sin. And that sin — once it’s matured — results in death. And then — as if to bring home his point about this specific kind of temptation — James turns our attention to our generous God — who is the giver of every perfect gift — including the gift of our salvation.
His point is that our generosity is to imitate our generous God — a generosity that supports the message of truth — the gospel — going forth so that others might hear it, respond to it, and discover the new life that Jesus offers. Thus a way to test to see if you’ve fallen for the lure of riches — according to James — is to evaluate how your wealth — how your riches and money — are being invested in the message of truth going forth so that others might hear, respond, and find new life. That’s something measurable — here in the US we’re even given statements for tax purposes — meaning we can literally see a total sum that equals our financial generosity in a given year. And — between the warnings of Jesus and James — we’re now left to face the truth of which lord we love and which one we hate — both individually and as a congregation.
So that’s the warning.
A HOLY OBLIGATION
Now onto what I call our holy obligation. Everything we have is God’s. Everything you have is his — everything I have is his too. And that means that every dollar you have is on loan from him — and you’re to be a good steward of it. So everything that your purse or wallet represents — your wealth, income, finances — is all God’s — you’re just managing his riches. This is what Jesus teaches us in one of his parables. He said…
Matthew 25:14–30 (NLT)
14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last — dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. 16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money. 19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’ 21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ 22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’ 23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ 24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’ 26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ 28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Now — in case it isn’t clear — none of us are the master in this parable — we’re the servants. And either we’re a servant who invests our master’s money in a way that benefits him or we’re unfaithful or — to use Jesus’ words — we’re useless. And notice what the unfaithful servant did with his master’s money. He returned every single penny he was responsible for. He didn’t cheat his master. He didn’t spend his master’s money on himself. He gave him back every single silver coin he was entrusted with — and for that — he was called unfaithful!
And — the reason why that’s scary to me — is because for many disciples of Jesus — simply giving him back what’s his would be an improvement to their generosity. Far too many Christians view God’s riches as their own to spend however they want on themselves. Thus what for many — is an improvement — Jesus calls unfaithful — he calls useless — because his money wasn’t stewarded in a way for his benefit.
So what does this have to do with us being generous because this is getting all kinds of uncomfortable right now? Here’s why this is all very relevant and practical for you. The question isn’t, “Jesus, how much money am I supposed to give?” The real question is, “How much of your money, Jesus, do you want me to spend on me?”
When we realize that we’re not the owner of our finances — that we’re stewards of Someone else’s finances — the question we ask changes. And this is why I believe that we have a holy obligation to steward the resources that God has entrusted to us by using them for his Kingdom work — individually and as a church. From our dollars, to our buildings, to our staff, and everything in between — for God is the giver of every good gift and he wants us to invest his resources into the work he’s doing in the world. And — never forget — the master was pleased with the first two servants who stewarded his resources faithfully. God will be pleased with us when we steward his riches faithfully.
PROMISES TO A GENEROUS PEOPLE
And that leads us to some wonderful promises — promises given only to those who are generous. In Jesus’ parable we saw one of the promises. Those who are faithful will be entrusted with even more. What an amazing opportunity — to build trust with God so that he increases your responsibility with even more of his resources. And this isn’t some health, wealth, and prosperity teaching — because this is an increase — not for personal gain — but for greater investment in God’s work in the world.
As Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth…
2 Corinthians 9:6–15 (NLT
6 Remember this — a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 9 As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” 10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. 11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving — the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. 13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. 14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. 15 Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!
Now many Christians are quick to focus on Paul’s words, “You must each decide in your heart how much to give” and think this gives them permission to either not give or to give sparingly. But we can’t ignore that these words are in the context of a discussion on giving generously! So — it’s not a stretch — to interpret Paul’s words as “You must each decide in your heart how generous you’re going to give.” He does — after all — use the words generous, generously, and generosity six times in these verses. All that to say not giving isn’t an option — and not giving generously isn’t an option either. But — there is room for generous giving to not be locked down to a certain amount because God has entrusted each of us with different amounts of his riches.
But we’re supposed to be focusing on God’s generous promises to a generous people. The promise here is that — for those who give generously — God will generously provide all that they need. Additionally, he will produce a great harvest of generosity in his faithful stewards. And he’ll enrich you in every way so that you can be even more generous. And all of this will prove to others that you believe — and are obedient to — the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul is saying that our generosity is one way the unbelieving world knows that we actually believe what we say we believe.
Some final promises to those who are generous are found in Paul’s words to the pastor of a church in Ephesus. Paul tells Timothy…
1 Timothy 6:17–19 (NLT)
17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.
Oh what expectations and what promises! Be rich in good works. Be generous to those in need. And be ready to share with others. In doing so you will be storing up treasure in Heaven.
Are you storing up treasures here on earth or in Heaven? Are the resources that God’s generously gifted to you being used to support his message of truth going forth? Is your trust in money — which is unreliable — or is your trust in God — and would your bank account agree?
I’m not saying this because I want your money or because Gateway needs your money — we’re doing fine financially because there are many among us who are generous, faithful stewards. But I’m sharing this because I love you too much to not warn you about the danger — not of money itself — but of the love of — and allegiance to — money as the lord of your life. There’s only room for one lord in your life and being generous is one way we spiritually fight for Jesus to be our one and only Lord — individually — and as a church.
Something I learned late last year — is that 34% of those who give to Gateway Church contribute 82% of the giving. Now let me clarify that as I know that math isn’t everyone’s favorite subject. Of everyone who gives to Gateway Church — not everyone who attends, because not everyone who attends is a giver — but of all households who gave last year — 34% of the giving households contributed 82% of the total donations given. If you’re wondering — $5,001 — or a basic tithe on a household income of $50,000 — was the minimum to make it in the 34% group. So we’re not talking about households having to make incredible amounts of money by US standards — even by our local community standards $50,000 is below the median household income for Hancock County as of the last census. But I thought it was important for you to know that there’s a core group of generous givers to this church and — if you’re part of this group — thank you for your faithfulness to Christ’s ministry here at Gateway Church.
Now I’m thankful for the remaining two-thirds of our giving households — you’ve given something. And for some of you — you’re being faithful. You’re on a fixed income — or you have a stack of medical bills that you’re taking care of — or some other situation — but you’re giving and doing so faithfully. Well done!
For others — though — you’re giving, but you’re not being faithful. Maybe you’re getting your finances in order — generosity is your goal — but right now — all you could do was start giving. Good for you. Others — though — gave so little — or didn’t give at all — because money — and not Jesus — is your lord. And the fact that I’d even suggest so has made you angry and — do you want to know why you’re mad? Because I’ve insulted your god. And I love you too much to not say something with the hope that you’ll repent. For what you’ve been doing with God’s money is sinful — but you can begin — today — of being a faithful, generous steward of the riches God has entrusted you with.
And here’s what I wonder — I wonder what ministry we could be doing if we all grew in our generosity? What would our next generation programs look like if we were able to resource them beyond what we’re currently doing? How many more missionaries would we be supporting — both locally and abroad? How many more mouths would be fed, orphans cared for, and churches started? Can you even imagine what God could do through us if we strove to be a more generous congregation — more faithful stewards of the riches he’s entrusted us to invest in his work until he returns?
Theologian Leon Morris has said, “Worship that costs us nothing is worth precisely what it costs.” What cost are we willing to pay so that others — both here and far — might worship the only Savior, Jesus Christ? Our desire for others to worship Jesus will be displayed in how generous of a people we are. Let’s pray together.
Gracious Father, thank you for your generosity in our lives. Thank you for entrusting us to be stewards of your resources. Forgive us for often being unfaithful with what we’ve been entrusted with. We use your money on ourselves often without thinking of how you want us to invest your money. Forgive us of this sin. Thank you for your forgiveness.
Spirit of God, make your promises to a generous people real to us. All of our needs provided. Being enriched so we can be even more generous. You producing in us a harvest of generosity. All wonderful promises that are also proof that we do believe the gospel — that we are disciples of Jesus.
And —Jesus — you have modeled for us what it means to be generous. You didn’t tithe your blood — you gave it all for our sins. You knew your life was not your own, but was to be lived according to the will of your Father in Heaven. You’ve shown us what it means to live a generous life and — having called us to be your disciples — you now say, “Follow me. I’ve shown you what it means to be generous — now it’s your turn to show the world my generosity.” May our love for you — as the one and only Lord of our life — make us into a generous people. And we pray all of this in your name. Amen.
At this time I’d like to invite those who are going to be serving us to make their way down to the tables.
We give thanks to God the Father that our Savior — Jesus Christ — before he suffered — gave us this sacrament of communion to remind us of his sacrifice until he comes again.
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. - 1 Corinthians 11:24-26
With these words our Lord commands all disciples of Jesus to eat this bread and to drink this cup in true faith and in the confident hope of his return in glory. But — before we do so — let’s pray this prayer of confession out loud together.
Congregational confession: Holy God, merciful and forgiving, who in Jesus Christ welcomes sinners and eats with them, we confess that we have often acted stubbornly, going our own way; we have often shown an ill temper and how little we understand your ways; we have used your resources to indulge ourselves, and failed to conduct ourselves as members of your royal family. We have sinned against heaven and before you. Forgive us, we pray, and roll away the disgrace of our past sins. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Now hear and receive the good news: In this supper God declares to us that our sins have been completely forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which he himself finished on the cross once for all. Come, therefore, all of you who are truly sorry for your sins, who believe in the Lord Jesus as your Savior, have confessed his name, and desire to live in obedience to him — come eagerly and joyfully with the assurance of faith — for Christ — our risen Lord — invites you as guests to fellowship with him — and each other — at his table.
At this time, ushers will begin dismissing you by rows, so you can come forward to receive the bread and the cup. Take both before returning to your seats. There are baskets — up front — for you to put your empty cups in. We also have a gluten free wafer option for those who need one. If you’re unable to come forward — raise your hand and let the usher know as they dismiss your row — and someone will come and serve you in your seat.
Father, we give you thanks for your Son, Jesus Christ, for his willing obedience and suffering during his life on earth, and especially for his giving up of his body and blood on the cross. Give us assurance that our sins are forgiven through his blood and may your perfect love drive out all fear. Fill our minds with your peace and turn our eyes to Heaven, where Christ is at your right hand interceding for us. Give us the strength and faith we need to offer ourselves in service to Christ and may no trouble or sorrow distract us from this loving service. And unite us with each other through your Spirit so we continue in the living hope of our Savior's return which is sure to come. Hear us now through our Lord Jesus, who taught us to pray, saying these words — which are on the screens if you need them…
Congregation: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13 ESV)
If you believe in Jesus, may you go as his faithful servant — a generous disciple — who will one day hear him say, “Well done, faithful servant. Well done.” Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.