Updated: Feb 23, 2021
Thank you for joining us for worship yesterday as we looked at another spiritual discipline and habit that Christ Followers should to be DEVOTED to. Yesterday we looked at being “Devoted to Giving.” If you missed this message you can check it out HERE.
The story of the Magi from Matthew 2:1-12 teaches us some valuable lessons about giving. Verse 11 says, “And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
Here we see that “Worship led to Giving.” Those that joined us onsite yesterday received a small sample of the three gifts that were presented to Jesus. The frankincense and myrrh came from my wife Sherri’s essential oil collection. The gold sample - while not real - represented what most people feel was the most valuable of the three gifts. However, it is believed that the frankincense and myrrh were actually more valuable than the gold. Why? Because these gifts were rare commodities that were not easily found in that part of the world.
Most scholars believe that these gifts represented more wealth than Jesus would have ever made in his entire lifetime! On top of that - have you ever stopped to think about how Joseph, Mary and Jesus had the means to escape to Egypt when King Herod tried to kill baby Jesus? And - where did the money come from to help them live in Egypt between 5-10 years - or until King Herod died. (See Matthew 2:13- 18). Perhaps these three gifts helped provide a way - and perhaps these gifts gave Jesus a chance to grow up and to have a life. In other words - these gifts helped save our savior which means they helped to save us as well.
At the heart of this story - and at the heart of this spiritual habit is this: Giving may not always involve worship - but worship always involves giving! In this passage, we see four giving lessons that we can learn from the Magi. First: THEY GAVE INTENTIONALLY. They gave on purpose; they gave thoughtfully and they gave strategically. The reason that we give is not because we would otherwise feel bad or guilty. We give intentionally because we believe that a life of generosity is the best way to live.
On Sunday, I mentioned a book by Adam Grant called, “Give and Take.” In this non-faith-based study it was determined that there are three different groups of people in the world with three styles of interpersonal interactions. They are the givers, the takers and the matchers. Givers like to give more than they get. Takers like to take more than they give. Matchers just want things to feel fair. They say things like, “I will do something for you, if you do something for me.” What is interesting about this study is that the most successful people in the world, the ones who accomplish the most are the givers. It is interesting that it took this research study to remind us of something Jesus told us over 2000 years ago. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
The second lesson from the magi is this: THEY GAVE EXTRAVAGANTLY. They gave with creativity. They did not bring their leftovers – they brought their most precious gifts. One thing to remember is that extravagance does not necessarily mean the amount that you give. Remember the story of Jesus when he went to church and was observing those who were giving their offering. Many of them were wealthy, but then he saw a widow come and put two cooper coins in the offering. It was all that she had. (Mark 12:41-44). Jesus said to his disciples, “Guys, she gave more than all the rest.” Extravagance is not about the worth of the gift, but it is about the cost of the gift. This woman gave everything that she had.
CS Lewis once said, “I don’t believe that someone should settle on how much we “ought” to give. I’m afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.” In others words, when was the last time your spending decisions were impacted by your giving decisions? When you reach the point that you are evaluating your finances and giving like that – then you are giving extravagantly.
The third lesson we can learn from the Magi is this: THEY GAVE TOGETHER. They were a community of givers. Did you know that the local church is the original community of givers? The church is the place where we give together. Giving in community accelerates generosity. As an individual, most of us cannot afford to buy gifts for 500 shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child or 250 gifts for children at the Hope of Life Orphanage in Guatemala. By ourselves we cannot raise the funds to help open the New Transformation Life Center or to send missionaries around the world through our North American and International Mission Boards. But together, we are doing just that. We give together – for the Glory of God. Some can give more, some give less, but we can all give something.
The fourth lesson from the Magi’s giving is this: THEY GAVE JOYFULLY. In other words, they were not burdened by giving these gifts. They were not anxious in giving these gifts. They were not concerned about giving away a lot of value and net worth. The text says they “rejoiced exceeding with great joy.” There is something about giving that releases JOY. In 2 Corinthians 9:7, the Apostle Paul writes. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” One of the greatest privileges that we have as followers of Jesus is to give back to the one who has given us everything. At the end of the day, it is important to understand that generosity is not about amounts – it’s about attitudes. God can always find the resources – but only YOU can bring your heart.
So how then can we apply those lessons to our lives? I believe that in order to be Devoted to Giving, we must have a plan. Isaiah 32:8 says, “But generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity.” (NLT) Yesterday, we unveiled the “Giving Ladder.” There are 5 steps on this ladder. Every church has people that are at different places and different steps in their journey of generosity and giving. Our goal is to develop and practice this spiritual habit of giving in our lives. So, the steps are as follows:
Step 1: Become a First Time Giver. There are those who really like the mission, ministry and focus of Bayside – they sense the Holy Spirit working in the church – but they have not given financially yet. This would be your first step. This is not just a financial decision – this is a spiritual decision. These are people who are saying in a meaningful and tangible way that they are here and they are going to invest in eternal things – not things of the world. (See Matthew 6:19-21).
Step 2: Occasional Givers: These are people who give occasionally and sporadic. They give a different amount at different times throughout the year. Their giving is not really planned – but every now and then they give – and that is a step in the right direction.
Step 3: Intentional Givers: This is the person who has decided in his or her heart that they are going to sit down – and if they are married – sit down with their spouse and decide to give a set portion of their income back to God – back to HIS Kingdom and to the Local Church. It could be a fixed dollar amount a percentage. It could be weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. This is a major spiritual decision. This says that I will be purposeful and on point in my giving back to God. I will be Devoted to Giving.
Step 4: Tither. If you ask 10 Christians what they believe about tithing – you will get 12 different answers. Many Christians struggle with the issue of tithing. Tithing and giving is intended to be a joy and a blessing. In short – a tithe means 10 percent. In the Old Testament, believers were required as part of the law to give 10 percent to the temple. In the New Testament we see that Jesus came to abolish those types of laws. However, the New Testament gives us many principals about the importance and benefits of giving.
We are to give as we are able. Sometimes that means giving more than 10 percent; sometimes that may mean giving less. It all depends on the ability of the Christian and the needs of the body of Christ. Every Christian should diligently pray and seek God’s wisdom in the matter of participating in tithing and/or how much to give. (James 1:5). Tithing is not just about the percent – it is about the priority that you place on God in your financial life.
One thing that we should always remember is that God has given us everything. We should not just give Him our leftovers. Give to Him first. When you do that, you will start to see amazing things happening in your life. You cannot outgive God. Malachi 3:10 reminds us: Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Step 5: Extravagant Giver. These are the people who are having a different conversation about their resources. In other words, they are not asking, “Lord, what percent of my resources do you want me to give?” They are asking, “Lord, what percent of my resources do you want me to keep?” They say things like, “I have enough, I trust you, I believe that you will provide for me.” These people understands that their abundance is not so that they can raise their standard of LIVING – their abundance is so that they can raise their standard of GIVING.
Take a moment to determine
where you are on the Giving Ladder. If you are not on the ladder at all, prayerfully consider taking the first step. Become a first-time giver. If you are already on the ladder, prayerfully consider taking the next step. Remember that generosity releases the life changing power of the gospel – not only in your life – but in the lives of those around you. We are hearing the story of Jesus because of the generosity and the gifts that the magi presented to Him after His birth. And - people will hear the gospel of Jesus Christ for years to come because of your generosity to HIS Church here at Bayside. Yes – it is more “blessed to give than to receive.” When we give – lives are changed for eternity sake. To God Be the Glory!