Part 10 of The Rebel’s Guide to Joy
Pastor Mark Driscoll | Phil. 4:10-23 | December 16, 2007
Father God, thank you for being a good God, who loves us, who gives to us, who is in every way a God who is a giver and not a taker. Lord Jesus, we thank you that you are the greatest gift that has ever been given, and we thank you for giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit, having made us Christians, so that we might live new lives by empowering grace, to change from the way that we were to become increasingly more like you.
God, as we open your Word tonight, it is our prayer that you would give to us and that you might make us givers, as we ask this in Jesus’ good name. Amen.
Well, I’ll tell you what’s going on here in Philippians, chapter 4. The church of Philippi is the most generous church in all of the New Testament. They are repeatedly extolled for being good stewards, for being generous givers. For example, in 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9, they are lifted up as an example to the Corinthian church of what a good, giving, generous, church should look like and how it should conduct itself. And so it is in many ways one of the greatest examples we could have in all of church history as God’s people of the church, what it means to be generous, and what it means to be good stewards. The church at Philippi understood some things Biblically that helped shape their view of wealth, and finances, and income, that I want to share with you as my introduction, and then we’ll look at their example and see what God would have for us to learn there.
I’ll start by saying that the Bible talks a great deal about money. About 800 times, in fact, scripture speaks of money, wealth, finances, possessions, and the like, between the Old and the New Testament. Furthermore, Jesus teaches on finances and wealth about 25 percent of the time, which means were I to speak of money as much as Jesus, we’d take one whole Sunday a month and I would just talk about money.
As we move through the Old Testament, we see that God’s people were expected to give what was called a tithe. Tithe literally means ten percent. And in so doing, that ten percent would be given to the Levite priestly ministry to fund God’s work. But that wasn’t the sole extent or end of the tithe. There were feasts and festivals, and various offering, and money to be given to the poor, and the needy, and widows, and orphans, and aliens, and strangers, and when you totaled it up, the obligatory giving in the Old Testament was about 25 percent or more. They also gave their first fruits, which is their first and best, and so they’re giving off of their gross and not their net.
As we move to the New Testament, we see that that concept of tithing, that was dominant in the Old Testament and old covenant, is replaced by what we’ll call “grace giving” in the new covenant in the New Testament. And so what we see, then, in the New Testament is the great text on financial giving that I would commend to your personal reading this week, is 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9. And there Paul lays out four different criteria by which those of us who are Christian should decide how much God has apportioned for us to give back to him funding ministry. He says that our giving should be sacrificial, regular, cheerful, and proportional.
So, in saying that it is sacrificial, what he’s saying is that we each should give whatever is sacrificial for us. If you’re very affluent and established, ten percent wouldn’t be sacrificial. You’ll need to do more than that. If you’re a single mom struggling to make ends meet, ten percent would be too much to ask. Perhaps we need to help you, rather than asking for money from you. And so it’s whatever is sacrificial. A broke college student gives a different amount than an established business person.
Secondly, he says, it should be regular. That means more than once every presidential election. It’s regular. That means that your giving should be weekly, or monthly, or quarterly, or annually. But it should be thoughtful and planned out, and you should give the amount that God has laid on your heart, and you should give it in the time frames that you’ve decided in advance.
Thirdly, he says, it should be cheerful. It should be, “This is one way that I get to demonstrate my love for God, who has loved me so well, and I get to demonstrate my love, as well as God’s love, for people.” So we give so that God and people would know of our love for them. So, in that way, it could be cheerful.
And then fourthly, he says, it is proportional, meaning it’s according to what you have, not what you don’t have, Paul says. And so in that, you look at what you have, you ask what God would have you to do, and then you do that in a way that is proportional to your income.
And so in giving those four principles in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Paul is extolling the Philippian church because in that section, he is telling the Corinthians, “If you wanna know how to give, look at the church at Philippi. This is how they do it. They’re a model church. Follow their example.”
And so there are a few additional things that I need you to understand, which they understood. The first is that our God is a giver. Our God is a giver. So, the first thing you need to understand is that our God is different than the false gods of all the false religions in the world. All the other religions have a god who’s a taker. If you want God to love you, you gotta give him something. If you want God to care for you, you need to do something. He takes. You gotta give so much money, you gotta take a pilgrimage to a sacred place, you gotta go to purgatory and pay him back for your sin, you gotta reincarnate and pay back your karmic debt, you owe God and you gotta pay him. God’s a taker.
Christianity, our God is a giver. Our God’s a giver. Though we’ve sinned, he gives us Jesus. Jesus gives us his sinless life. Jesus gives us his substitutionary death to pay the penalty for our sin. Jesus gives us his bodily resurrection for our eternal life and our future resurrection. Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to empower us for a new life. Jesus gives us the church for friendship. Jesus gives us the Bible for truth. Jesus gives us skills, talents, abilities, to do ministry. And even when he was alive on the Earth, Jesus was a giver. He fed hungry people, though he himself was very poor. He was generous, even though he didn’t have a lot. He was a giver.
The Bible records Jesus feeding thousands, sometimes a few ten to fifteen, or even twenty thousand people at any one given time. And so Jesus is a giver, and he continues to give today, and he gave practically while he was alive on the Earth. And so the first thing we celebrate, and the first thing we must understand before we approach our finances and such, is that our God is a giver. And that God gives to us. And then we are to be stewards, meaning we take the skills, talents, abilities, resources, dollars, that God gives to us, and we steward them. We do so wisely and generously. We do so proportionally, but we also do it cheerfully. Good stewards.
Jesus gives a story of good stewardship in Luke, chapter 16, and he tells the story of a good steward and a bad steward, and he says that a good steward is one when you give resources to them, they multiply it, they, they’re very prudent and wise, and a bad steward is one who is not a good return on investment. And Jesus says there that “if I can trust you with a little, then I can trust you with much.” That most of us tend not to start rich and powerful and affluent. We tend to start very humble and simple, and if we’re faithful, then God would entrust to us more, so that we could be good stewards. And in saying this, I’m not teaching prosperity theology.
Prosperity theology is that God is a piñata, that faith is a whacking stick, and if you claim the promises, that an Escalade with rims, and a flat screen TV, and a summer home, and a grill for your teeth, just fall out of heaven, and then you could walk around praising God. Okay? That’s not what I’m talking about. But what I am saying is that for those who are faithful, it would make sense that God would be more likely to entrust to them his resources, since they’re good stewards.
I’ll give you an example. God’s a loving father. We’re his kids. I’ll use an example from my own home. I’ve got five kids – I tell you that every week – and they’re too little to send to the store on their own just yet, but the day will come when they’re a little bigger and I can send ‘em to the store. So, hypothetically, my wife and I, let’s say Mama and I need milk and eggs and bread and just a couple essentials at the store, so I hand one of my kids $20.00 bucks and say, “Okay, go to the store. Pick up milk, eggs, bread, and while you’re at it, ‘cause I love you, get a candy bar or a pop. Get yourself a treat.” Kid comes back, no milk, no eggs, no bread. Big huge bag filled with candy. Now I look at my kid and I’d ask, “Hey, what happened?” Kid says, “You didn’t give me enough money.” I say, “Well, I did give you enough money. You stole it. So, here’s $20.00 bucks, learn your lesson, be a good steward. Get on your bike, go to the store, get a few things for your Mom and Dad.” Kid comes back, ice cream, suckers, rented a video, you know. Where’s the milk, eggs, bread? “Well, you know Dad, I think I’m gonna need more money. You didn’t give me enough. I think you’re cheap. You’re cheating me. I read the promises in the Bible, and good fathers provide for their children.” Right? Hand the kid $20.00 bucks, “Okay, go get my milk, eggs, bread.” Comes back, one loaf of bread, no milk, no eggs. Nothing but ice cream, Cocoa Puffs, a few games. What happened? “Well, I didn’t have enough. I only had enough to get the bread.”
The point is at some point I would take the $20.00 bucks and give it to another kid, and see if I could get a loaf of bread for less than $60.00 bucks. “You go to the store. Let’s see how it goes with you.” And the point in that is simply saying that God is looking for good stewards. And if we’re just
sort of bratty kids who keep blowing the money, saying, “You didn’t give me enough,” at some point it would make sense that he would entrust his resources to someone who was more faithful and a better steward.
And some of us struggle financially because we’re not good stewards. Because we’re not good stewards. And so what they understand, rightly, is that our God is a giver, that we are to be stewards, and that it’s really not about whether you’re rich or poor, but about whether or not you’re a good steward. Paul says this in 2 Corinthians 8, I think it’s around verse 6. He says Jesus was rich, but for our sake he became poor, okay? So, Jesus was rich in heaven, lived in the most amazing home, heaven, most amazing place, adored and worshipped by angels. He wasn’t poor. He humbled himself, became a man, entered into human history – though he’s eternal God – was born to a poor, teenage virgin in a barn, grew up in a dumpy, rural hick- town, was adopted by a blue-collar dad, and for the first 30 years of his life, worked alongside of his dad as a carpenter, making a simple income. He went into ministry. He was homeless. He was broke. He was poor.
See, our world is too focused on “Are you rich, or are you poor?” The Bible is focused on “Are you a good steward, or a bad steward?” Jesus was rich, and Jesus was poor. And today Jesus is in heaven and he’s rich again. But, he was willing to become poor to be a good steward, to love you and I, to serve us, to give us salvation, eternal life, forgiveness of sin.
Now the people in Philippi, the church, had a really good understanding of these things, these mega-concepts. The result was that it changed how they viewed their possessions, their finances, and their wealth. And it enabled them to be a cheerful and generous people. Now in saying this, some of you will automatically have resistance, “Why do we have to talk about money?” Well, because the scriptures do. And Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, that’s where your heart is.” So if you wanna know who or what you really love and are most devoted to, balance your checkbook, and that will reveal the truth of your commitment.
So I’m gonna read these things that Paul says to his church, and then I’m gonna ask you some questions. And the situation is this – Paul hadn’t seen them for four years. He had known them after planting their church for eleven years. He’s in prison, flat broke, facing possible death, and the Philippians were concerned for him, though he asked for nothing. They took a generous special offering, a lot of money, they handed it to a man named Epaphroditus. He was the steward. He brought that gift to Paul in prison. Paul was so grateful, that he wrote a letter – that’s the one we’re studying in the Bible – and then he gave it to Epaphroditus, who then, as a good and faithful steward, brought the book back to the church at Philippi.
And so here’s what Paul says to his friends, beginning in chapter 4, verse 10. “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation, I am to be” what? “Content.” We’re gonna talk about that.
Okay, I am assuming that none of us, myself included, lives in a state of contentment. “I know how to be brought low, how to be absolutely poor, on hard times. And I know how to abound, how to have more than enough. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of facing plenty, and hunger, abundance, and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Here’s my first question. Are you content? Are you financially, materially content? Are you?
Now the opposite of being content is coveting, which is a violation of one of the Ten Commandments. It’s a big deal. But in our culture, coveting is not something that most people are aware of as a sin, because much of our culture exists to get us to be discontent – I need a new car. Hey, their TV’s bigger than mine. Oh, their TV’s flat. I don’t have a flat TV. They have a car, they have a second car. They have a home, they have a second home. They have all kinds of nice things. I’m not content.
It’s to make us so that we are discontented, so that we will covet, so that then we will be bad stewards, so that then we will spend money we don’t have or we will steward that money toward things that God didn’t appoint for us. How many of you actually pray over your purchases? Not in retrospect – “God, please help me pay that off.” I’m saying, in advance. You pray in advance, “Jesus, do you want me to have this? Am I being discontented?” How much junk do you get in your mailbox this time of year, just saying, “Be discontent. Be discontent. Be discontent. Covet this. Covet that. Covet the other thing.” And, and all of marketing and advertising is rigged. It’s rigged. How many of you’ve bought an iPod and then they came out with a bigger iPod, and then they came out with an iPod with video, and you kept buying one. And they had an iPhone, and you bought the iPhone. Now they’re gonna come out with a better iPhone, and you’re gonna poke yourself in the eye and just say, “I quit. I quit. I see that every other month there’s a new gadget. There’s an upgrade.”
You know, I experienced this recently with my, with my vehicle. That we are to be good stewards, the Bible says, that starts in creation, with stewarding creation. Yes, I recycle. Yes, I try to reduce my global footprint. Yes, I drive very, very, very little, actually about a fourth as much as the average American, okay? So we try to be a good steward of creation, good steward of our body, good steward of our time, talent, treasure, good steward of our resources. If you’re discontent, you will not be a good steward.
And this issue of stewardship hit me recently, and contentedness. I got a letter from my Jeep dealership. Now all my life, I’ve driven beater cars. I’ve never personally owned a car that had less than 200,000 miles. I think I had one, but that was a long time ago, when I was in high school. All my cars have had 200,000 miles or more. And I decided, “I’m gonna get a decent car.” So a few years ago I got a new Jeep. I’ve always wanted a Jeep. At the time, I thought, “This is great.” And when I went in to buy the Jeep, the guy told me, “Oh, the Jeep’s the best vehicle, and this is the best Jeep you can buy. And you buy this Jeep, and you’ll never need to buy anything ever again. This will change your life. You don’t need to go to heaven. You got a Jeep.”
And then two and a half years later, my Jeep’s only got like 16 or 17,000 miles on it. I work from home, tend not to commute a lot. My wife and I, to be good stewards, tend to live and such where we work and where we minister. And I got a letter in the mail saying, “Your Jeep is old. Your Jeep is a
heap. Your Jeep is not like the new Jeeps. We told you that your Jeep was great, but we lied. Now the good Jeeps are in. You could trade in your old beater Jeep, your heap Jeep, and we’ll give you a new Jeep. And the new Jeep is bigger. It’s got better rims, better suspension, new stereo. It’s got leather. It’s got a sunroof!” And I’m reading it thinking, “Well, God made the Son, and when I look at it, I think of Jesus. Maybe I need a new Jeep! I could listen to worship music on the new CD, and I could drive” – new stereo system, not CD – iPod, of course. I’m old. I’ve just dated myself, not in a romantic way. “And you could start – well, I need the heavier suspension, so that when I go off-roading in the city,” right? I don’t need it. So I’m not buying it. I don’t need it. You start thinking, “Well, they didn’t have that color when I bought mine.” That’s ‘cause they’re tricky, like Satan, they get you.
But it’s always this: Are you content with that? You deserve better. You can have better. Contentment, Paul says, is very important to be a good steward. And if you ‘re not content, you may actually find yourself inclined toward false “teachers” who will say “God wants you to not be content. You’re a child of the King! You deserve the best!”
No love, no joy, no peace? Apart from Jesus? No. Apart from money. So joy doesn’t come from Jesus? No, it comes from money. Peace doesn’t come from Jesus? No, it comes from money. Love doesn’t come from Jesus? No, it comes from money.
Paul says that elsewhere the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. You know, you can have love for free. It comes from Jesus. You can have peace for free. It comes from Jesus. You can have joy for free. It comes from Jesus. Our God is a giver, not a taker. In addition, our God is sufficient, not insufficient. What a horrible thing to tell a single mom, “Jesus loves you, your kids love you. Too bad you can’t have joy and love and peace. You’re having a hard time paying your bills.” And then the lie is if you have enough faith, like a pagan, you can manipulate God and with faith, you can whack the piñata and all of the wealth of God falls out of heaven. I’m not saying it’s a sin to work hard, invest smart. It’s not a sin to make money. But you want to be a good steward. It’s not about whether you’re rich or poor; it’s about whether or not you’re a good steward with whatever it is God has entrusted to you, and that begins with being content. Are you content? Are you content? If not, for your own wellbeing, as well as the love of God and others, you need to repent of that as a sin, if you’re a coveter.
It goes on in verse 14. “Yet, it was kind of you to share my trouble.” Paul’s broke, in prison. And what he says about the Philippians is that they are an attentive and gracious people. Here’s my question to you. Who have you helped this year? Who have you helped? Do you have a list? Not a boasting list, where you post it on the Internet and compete against your friends to see which of you was the most generous and humble, but your own, maybe, record of God laid on your heart to help so-and-so. God laid on your heart to help so-and-so, and so you did. You served these people. You went to their house and served them practically, or physically, or tangibly or this person you lent your car to, or this person you gave money to, or this person you gave groceries to. Are you a generous person? Do you help people?
And see, what he’s saying is that he loves the Philippians because they were attentive. They didn’t wait to get begged for needs of Paul. They paid attention. A steward is looking for good opportunities to take the resources that God has given and to use them in a way that helps people and honors him.
You know, Jesus was a giver during his life. He served people. He healed people. He prayed for people. He taught people. He taught people. He cared for people. He fed people. And people also, likewise, fed, and housed, and cared for, and supported Jesus. Are you helping other people? Are you sharing in their trouble?
Thirdly, he says in verse 15 and 16, “And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs, once and again.” What Paul says is that they’re generous, and they have been for eleven years. Ever since he started that church, any time he’s going to do ministry, they send him a gift. Any time he’s planting a new church, they send him a gift. Any time he’s on hard times, they send him a gift. And this is wonderful. These are people who love Jesus, love their pastor, love the ministry, and they’re looking for opportunities to give, and some of you would say, “Well, that probably was easy for them.” If you read 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, it says that their “generosity welled up out of their poverty.” These weren’t rich people. These were good stewards.
See, the myth is, “God, once you make me rich, then I’ll be a good steward.” I would say, if you’re a bad steward, why would God make you rich? And I’m not saying that you give to God to get. I’m not saying that. That’s greed. I am saying that you give to God hoping that he would give you more, so you could give more. We’re not talking about prosperity; we’re talking about stewardship. We’re not talking about getting rich; we’re talking about helping a lot of people.
So here’s my question to you. Are you pleased with your giving this year to your church? Are you pleased with your giving to God? Are you? Some of you are probably very encouraged because at the beginning of the year, you had a number in mind, and by God’s grace you’ve met that goal, or maybe even exceeded it, and as your putting together your budget for 2008, you’re increasing what you’re anticipating giving, and you’ve been able to see your giving increase year after year, even if ever so slightly. And so you’re feeling really encouraged. And you should. And we would say thank you. There are faithful people that are a huge help.
Some of you may not know what you gave this year. Some of you may say, “I know what I gave. Zero plus zero is zero! I added it up!” And I would say look at your giving for the year. It’s the end of the year; what did you give to God? And in that, that’s almost the wrong way to state it, God gave to you – how much did you keep? How’s that for the question? A little more convicting that way. And in that, what do you plan to give in 2008? Have you put together your budget, first fruits? What would be sacrificial, regular, what would be cheerful and proportional for me in 2008? Do I have anything
to catch up on from 2007?
It goes on, verse 17, “Not that I seek the gift.” Right? He wasn’t a guy who was trying to manipulate people financially, but “I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus,” the steward who brought the gift and then brought them the letter, “the gifts you sent,” – now listen to this language – “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” Okay? For those of you who have any familiarity with the Old Testament, what language is that? What language is that? Worship. That’s the language of worship.
Now here’s the question. Do you worship your money, or do you worship with your money? Jesus said you can’t worship both God and money; you gotta pick one. If you worship money, you will be a bad steward, because rather than taking a day off, you’ll work to make another buck. Rather than enjoying family and friends, you’ll work to make even another buck. Right? Rather than going to Bible study and taking time to love those that God has put in your life to serve, to be a person who gives some time and money to community service, you will be a taker and not a giver.
See, the world is filled with two kinds of people. There are takers, and there are givers. Those who worship money are takers. They’re not givers. All of their decisions are based upon what will bring me the most money. I am not saying that it’s a sin to make money. There are holy people in the Bible who love God and make good money. But they don’t do it by being discontented, covetous, stealing, by not being gracious and good stewards. You’re not holy if your goal is to make as much money as possible. I would go further and say if all of your life’s decisions are based upon what is most profitable, you will be godless. You will be godless. You’ll say, “I can’t give to church. I can’t feed the poor; can’t help those in need; can’t do anything to serve, help, love, anyone else because that would take away from my money.” If that’s the case, you worship money and not God. And not God.
That being the case, many of us are worshippers of money, even if we profess to be worshippers of Jesus. You either worship your money, or you worship with your money. You worship with your money as a steward; pay my bills, give to my church, help those in need, be generous and loving, gracious, a good steward.
I’ll say it another way. You either use money and worship – rather, you either worship money and use people, or you worship God and use money. You can’t be simultaneously devoted to money and God. You must pick what is your priority. Do you use people for money? Or do you use money for people?
I’ll tell you how this plays itself out. I have seen husbands, who make the money, control the money, their wife stays home with the kids, and they have their wife bound by such a tight budget, not because they have to, financially, but because they love money more than their wife. She can’t go out with her friends. There’s no discretionary income because he loves money, not his wife. That’s an evil thing to do. It’s an evil thing to do.
It plays itself out as well – how many of you have been to dinner with this person? They say, “Hey, I’ll pick up the check!” How many of you have been to dinner with this person, “Hey, who got the extra teriyaki sauce? That was 37 cents, and I can’t get the math to add up. Before we go, we gotta settle this. Who’s gonna own the teriyaki sauce?” That person is demon possessed and knows nothing of the New Testament grace of God. Nothing. Just rebuke ‘em and say, “Get behind me, Satan,” you know? 37 cents? I mean, some people are like that, though. They’re just freakish. As God’s people, we’re not to be that way.
I would also say this. You either worship money or you worship God with your money. When you go out to eat, if you talk about Jesus or pray over your meal, then tip really, really well. And you may say, “But the service was bad.” Then tell them, “The service was really, really bad. And I tip good, because I’m a Christian. You’re lucky Jesus is alive.” Right? So, that’s what we’re talking about, using money to love people, not using people because you love money. It’s worshipping with your money, it’s not worshipping your money.
It goes on, verse 19, very important. “And my God will supply every need of yours, according to his riches and glory and Christ Jesus.” Some prosperity teachers quote this verse and say, “See? God will give you whatever you want. Just have enough faith and claim the promises!” Is that what he says? Who’s this written by? Paul, who’s broke in prison, apparently a total hypocrite, telling us to worship the homeless Jesus. I hate to say it, it just doesn’t seem to add up, that all of God’s children will be rich in this life. Some will be, but not all. The mark of maturity is good stewardship, not affluence.
Is he saying that God will give you everything you want? No. He says that God will meet your what? Your needs. Just so you know, there’s a difference between your wants and your needs. This is a huge learning experience for all people. When we’re kids, we have no distinction. Food, water, shelter, air, cookies, video games, juice, right? All the same. All the same. Nervous breakdown in the grocery store, full tantrum on the aisle because you did not get a RedBull, right, when you were six. You say, “I need it, I have to have it!” No, you don’t. That’s a want, not a need.
See, one of the definitions of a child is they can’t distinguish want and need. Everything’s at the same level. Part of what it means to grow and be an adult and mature is I distinguish between want and need. And I’m not saying it’s a sin to have things you want, but you need to distinguish between that and your needs. You need food, but you don’t need to eat out all the time. You need something to drink, but you don’t need 17 mochachino whatever- they-ares a day at the Starbucks cult. You don’t need it. Now, you think you do ‘cause you start shaking if you don’t have one, that’s because you’re addicted, right?
I’m not saying it’s a sin to have a cup of coffee. I’m not saying it’s a sin to have a cell phone. But some of you couldn’t even conceive of life without a cell phone, or high speed Internet access. It’s at the place of being next to food, water, shelter, air. Connectivity—that’s what we need for survival, right? Not necessarily. Some things are nice, but not absolutely necessary. You need transportation. You don’t need a new car. You may need an old bus. Needs and wants are different.
So here’s the question. In his declaration that God supplies our needs, we assume that we have what we need. Here’s the question. Are you living within your means? As opposed to saying, “God, I need more,” saying “God, I need to be a better steward and live within my means. If I don’t have the money, I shouldn’t spend it.” See, but we’ve created something in this culture called credit card debt, which allows you to spend beyond your needs to fund those desires that you don’t even have to have, charge you an exorbitant interest rate, compound it with lots of penalties and interest if you should meet – or fail to meet, rather, any payment date.
Paul says elsewhere that the borrower is slave to the lender. Some of you are enslaved to your debt, and you’re debt holders. And one of the reasons that Paul tells us to be content and to think of others, not just be coveters who think about ourselves is, it’s good for others, but it’s also good for us and God loves us and doesn’t want us to be slaved to our debtors. The most likely person, statistically, to have credit card debt is a single woman in her 20s.
What is your debt? Are you living within your means? Do you put your money toward your needs, or also, is your excessive spending for your desires, which are unnecessary, or are you worse still, one of those people who went into massive consumer debt, buying things that weren’t necessities, found yourself in credit card debt with high interest, and then refinanced your home, pulling out the equity, during the recent upswing in recent years, thereby taking away all of your equity, but not adjusting your lifestyle to be content and live within your means, and now you’ve jacked up your mortgage pay ment, taken away your equity, not changed your lifestyle, and you’re going back into credit card debt? We call that an American. That’s what people do, but it’s not good stewardship.
Last couple – I say that, not because I intend to stop anytime, but so that you will continue listening. I’m just confessing, though not repenting. Verse 20, “To our God and Father, be glory forever and ever.” Here’s my next question: Do you glorify God in all that you do, including, contextually here, your finances? And glory means this: God is wonderful, and we are to mirror him on the Earth. So God is loving; we glorify him when we’re loving. God is a giver; we glorify him when we give. God cares for people; we glorify him when we care for people. God cares for the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the needy, as we care for the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the needy. We’re glorifying God. God loves the church; as we give to our church, we’re glorifying God.
Do you glorify God in your finances? If you don’t, you’re a hypocrite, because you say, “God is loving. God is good. God is a giver. God is gracious. God cares for you.” But if you don’t reflect that, then you’re actions contradict your doctrines, and that’s, by definition, a hypocrite. And the truth is, with our non-Christian friends, or those who are marginal in their faith, they really learn much more about the depth of our commitment from what we do than what we say. If you bring someone groceries, and then tell them that our God is a giver, that makes a lot of sense. That makes a lot of sense. When you tell them that God loves them, and you go and serve them, that makes a lot of sense because you’re reflecting the glory of God to that person. “God loves you. He sent me here to serve you. God cares for you. He sent me here to give you money. God is concerned about you, and he sent me here to give you groceries. God cares about this church. He sent me here to participate in the forward progress in the message of Jesus, as a giver and not a taker.”
Next question, comes from verses 21 and 22. “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.” He’s here talking about the church, groups of people in the church, and the collective church. And here would be my question: Are you helping or hindering our church?
Now, if you’re here and you’re not a Christian, let me be emphatically clear on this point. We are not asking you for anything. We don’t want you to give. We want you to receive. Before you ever give, you need to receive from God, his Son, your Savior, Jesus Christ. If you’re here and you’re not a Christian, please do me this favor. Do not give us any of your money. We don’t want it. We love you. Give the Christians the blessed opportunity to pay for the ministry of this church so that we can welcome you and love you and server you. I want to be emphatic that the burden to give is laid exclusively upon Christians in no way upon non-Christians. Don’t feel guilty, bad, or uncomfortable if you do not give. But the reason God brought you here is to receive, to receive Jesus as God and Savior, who died to take away your sins, and who lives to change your life. Receive Jesus.
Paul’s final point, in verse 23, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Now, had Paul not concluded with that word grace, this all would be legalism, moralism, and horrible religion. It would be “Give your money or God will be angry! Give your money or God won’t love you. Give your money or you won’t have a ticket to heaven.” He’s not saying that at all. He’s saying that this will all be accomplished, good stewardship, contentment, living as one who reflects the glory of God, helping your church, and your city, and your world. All of that can be accomplished in one way, and that is by the grace of God. Okay?
So let me explain the grace of God. As I told you, our God is a giver. We call it grace. It’s unmerited favor, undeserved love. I don’t deserve God to love me, he just does. It’s grace. I don’t deserve Jesus to live, die, and rise for me. He did. It’s just all grace. I don’t deserve to go to heaven; it’s all grace. I don’t deserve God to help me right now; it’s all grace. I don’t deserve any of the good things I have in my life; it’s all grace. Christianity is all about grace. This makes it different then every other religion. We don’t get what we deserve; we get what we don’t deserve. God is a good God, even though we are sinful people.
Now, that being said, I want to distinguish for you two forms of grace, because an inability to distinguish them leads to a lot of confusion. And I think most Christians suffer from an inability to really comprehend the distinction. There is saving grace that makes you a Christian. There is empowering grace, that makes you like Christ. We are saved by grace alone, saving grace alone. It’s totally a gift of God, as we have faith in Jesus, God gives us the gift of his son for the forgiveness of our sins. It is in every way holy of grace.
But then some people think that that’s the only kind of grace, and so they only see God as helpful in this way. “I sin, and then God gives me forgiving grace.” Now that’s true, but Paul says to the Romans, “Should we sin, that grace may abound?” Should we just keep sinning, and sinning, and sinning, saying, “Well, God gives me forgiving grace. He’ll forgive me of my sin.” Paul says, “By no means.” Because in addition to saving grace, there’s empowering grace. There’s grace that makes you have new desires and new passions, to have a new mindset, to have a new attitude, to live a new life, to be a good steward, to be content, to glorify God, to love Jesus, to be concerned about the well-being of others, to be a giver and not a taker, all of that is through empowering grace, which means apart from the empowering grace of God, none of these things are possible.
Saving grace connects you to God. Empowering grace allows him to change your life, so that you increasingly become more like Jesus. Now those of you that have only understood saving grace, you think Christianity is this: I sin, and God forgives me. No, it’s this: I sin, and God forgives me, and changes me, so I stop doing that. That’s empowering grace.
Now, in God’s providential timing, all of this comes at this time when it is really important that we have this discussion. Some of you think, “I think Mark picks the topics so he can hammer us when something bad happens.” No, Mark picks the topics in prayer, at least a year in advance, and in the providence of God, because God’s Word is timeless, it’s always timely and whatever we’re going through, it’s amazing, it totally fits where we’re at as a church. God’s Word is great that way. That’s why we love scripture. It’s like nothing else. It’s miraculous, and it’s used of the Spirit continually.
If you had more money what would you buy? New car? New house? New body? Could any amount of money buy you joy? Preaching from Philippians 4:10-23 Pastor Mark Driscoll reveals that the rebels guide to joy includes knowing how to have joy even when you are flat busted broke and too poor to pay attention.