It's a myth that all the church wants is your money. You are the church, and God wants you to live generously, to bring hope and be a blessing to others. Todd teaches on myths around giving. All the church wants for you is what Christ wants for you. In our giving, we should follow the example of Christ.
All the Church Wants for You is What Christ Wants
Seeing Clearly Through Debt and Savings
Why God Doesn't Want You to be Jerked Around by Materialism
The Danger of the "Bad Eye" and the Beauty of Seeing Clearly
Oh, man. I love gifted artists. Charlotte did that. She wrote myth and flipped it, and it became true. That's what we've been doing in this series. We've been trying to switch the way you perceive reality, if you perceive it wrongly. It's exactly what Jesus did when he came here. He came to bring light to the world, to help people who are in darkness see the great light. He himself was the light.
He said, "I came that you might know the way, that you might know I am the truth and everything about me is good and right, that you might experience life." Jesus said, "If you see with a bad eye, your whole life will be filled with darkness. If your heart is filled with darkness, it's going to affect the way you live."
We've been working through a little series here called Switch, because we're trying to change the way you think about life, stewardship, treasure, talent, time. We're trying to change the way you think about God, if what you think about God is that he's going to rip you off, that he's trying to deny you things that lead to life.
So many of us think all the things we want to do, God is going to say, "You can't do those," and all the things we don't want to do, God is going to say, "You have to," if you get serious about following him. That is just a bad eye. You have not been paying attention. We are here to help you see clearly and to reveal to you truth, how to have a right perception of God.
Why wouldn't you want to have a relationship with God if you knew he was slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, full of grace and truth? That's who he is, and he has come to lead you out of darkness into life. This series has been a lot of fun, and today we're going to mow through a whole bunch of different myths and help you see the truth and the reality.
I'm going to end today by answering this simple question: How much of your money (what percentage of your money) does God expect you to give if you're going to be a faithful believer? I'll give you a very specific, very biblical answer to that question. What I want to do to set it up, though, before we get into some myths and share with you some truths informed by God's Word, is read to you from John Steinbeck, since I know most of you didn't read him in high school or college. You read the CliffsNotes about John Steinbeck and his work.
What John Steinbeck did is he also wrote, in addition to his great novels and works, a lot of letters. Letter writing is a lost art. This is actually a letter he wrote in November of 1959. He had just returned from England. He calls it Camelot in his letter. He was writing to his friend Adlai Stevenson, who was a congressman, and later a senator, from the state of Illinois. He was lamenting the state of America.
It was during the time (those of you who have seen the movie Quiz Show) that Americans had just been rocked by the scandal that there were individuals who were being fed answers on the show Twenty-One to make them look smart so they could get money and riches, be thought of well, and be able to live well. We found out that was all an illusion. Steinbeck didn't hear about that when he was overseas, but when he came back, he picked up a paper, and he wrote this letter to his friend who was involved in government. This is what it says:
"Dear Adlai, Back from Camelot, and, reading the papers, not at all sure it was wise. Two first impressions. First, a creeping, all pervading nerve-gas of immorality which starts in the nursery and does not stop before it reaches the highest offices both corporate and governmental. Two, a nervous restlessness, a hunger, a thirst, a yearning for something unknown [in the people]—perhaps morality. Then there's the violence, cruelty and hypocrisy symptomatic of a people which has too much, and last, the surly ill-temper which only shows up in human when they are frightened."
What Steinbeck is saying here very eloquently is, "Our country is at a point of great crisis. What I see in them is a despair and a violence that is rooted in the fact that they feel like they've been betrayed. They don't know what to do about it, so they're hurting. Therefore, they hurt one another. He goes on to say this:
"Adlai, do you remember two kinds of Christmases? There is one kind in a house where there is little and a present represents not only love but sacrifice. The one single package is opened with a kind of slow wonder, almost reverence. Once I gave my youngest boy [before I had many means], who loves all living things, a dwarf, peach-faced parrot for Christmas. He removed the paper and then retreated a little shyly and looked at the little bird for a long time. And finally he said in a whisper, 'Now who would have ever thought that I would have a peach-faced parrot?'"
It seems kind of odd, doesn't it? Giving your kid a bird for Christmas? But the kid loved living things, and the dad, through much thought and sacrifice, had got his son a little bird. That boy loved it. He goes, "Who would have ever thought that I would have a bird like this by myself?" He goes on:
"Then there is the other kind of Christmas with presents piled high, the gifts of guilty parents as bribes because they have nothing else to give. The wrappings are ripped off and the presents thrown down and at the end the child says—'Is that all?' Well, it seems to me that America now is like that second kind of Christmas.
Having too many THINGS they spend their hours and money on the couch searching for a soul. A strange species we are. We can stand anything God and nature can throw at us save only plenty. If I wanted to destroy a nation, I would give it too much and would have it on its knees, miserable, greedy and sick."
At the end of the letter, he says, "Someone has to reinspect our system and that soon. We can't expect to raise our children to be good and honorable men when the city, the state, the government, the corporations all offer higher rewards for chicanery and deceit than probity and truth. On all levels it is rigged, Adlai. Maybe nothing can be done about it, but I am stupid enough and naively hopeful enough to want to try. How about you?"
Well, that is the reason I am doing this series. Here, some 50 years later, we look at a nation that is just as frightened, just as morbid in its immorality, and just as filled with hopelessness and despair as when Steinbeck wrote that letter. One of the ways to change that, one of the ways to help children know there's a better way…to remind them of the first Christmas, not the second kind of Christmas that destroys and brings hopelessness into so many houses…is to help people switch their thinking.
Let me remind you of, in the very first week, some of the things we said and pound this home again. The reason we're doing the series is not because we're trying to get something from you. It is that we're trying to give something to you. Our goal is not to get your money. Our goal is that you would not let your money get you, steal your heart, and pierce you with many a pang.
It is a myth that all the church wants is your money. In fact, I started this whole series by giving out about $40,000 to you all, reminding you that you are the church. God wants you to live generously. He wants you to bring hope and blessing and help to people, out of grace and thoughtfulness. All we asked of you is you wouldn't be flippant, and you wouldn't take that money and feather your bed with it.
We said, "If you have a need, God wants to meet your needs. Use it to meet your needs. But if your needs are largely met, probably you've been given that money because somebody else has a need, and God wants to use you to meet it." We asked you to share those stories with us, and it's time to get those in.
Some of the larger gifts we've given out (isn't that interesting), we've heard nothing from so far. We encourage you to share with us on our Facebook page, or you can email us if you don't have opportunity to do that through social media. If you do have social media, like Twitter, put #switch13. We're collecting all those stories, and we're going to share them. We'll share some with you today.
It's a myth that all the church wants is your money. The truth is all the church wants for you is what Christ wants, at least if we are Christ's church. If we are his people, what the Lord wants for you is what we should want for you. Our goal for you is that you would be faithful, free, content. What we want for you is that you would hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant," because you see clearly and act wisely.
What we want for you is that you should set your heart on the things above, not on the things of the earth. What we want for you is that you would bear fruit in keeping with repentance. What we want for you is that you would lay hold of that which is life indeed. What we want for you is that you would not be pierced with many a pang. What we want for you is that you would be rich indeed.
That's why we're doing this whole thing. That's our heart, to try and love you and serve you. Paul admonishes us… At the very end of one of his letters, he's telling young Timothy how to shepherd and lead people who are rich. I explained to you last week why all of us are exceedingly rich. First Timothy 6:17-19 says:
"Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 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."
That's what we want for you. The goal is transformation. This is not going to give you a bunch of information about debt and statistics about where America was and where it's going. The purpose of every teaching we do is transformation, not just information. We want to remove the obstacles that block your heart, so we've been laboring with you.
We've asked the simple question: Is it easy for you to give, to let go of possessions? That is the acid test. Jesus says this is how you can know what your life is really invested in. Do you find yourself throwing money at the things you see, which he says are temporal, or the things which are unseen, which you profess you believe are coming? I'll say this a couple of times today: People say what they think, but they do what they believe. Jesus says, "Do you want to know where a man's heart is? Just follow the money, and you'll see what he really believes he should invest in."
It is a myth that the reason the church teaches on stewardship is because it wants your money. That's not the case at all. The reason we teach on it is Jesus says this is one of the three biggies that choke out your fruitfulness and that will get in the way of heart transformation: the worries of the world, the concern for many things, and the deceitfulness of riches.
This is what it says in Ezekiel, chapter 28, verses 4-5. It says, "By your wisdom and understanding you have acquired riches for yourself and have acquired gold and silver for your treasuries. By your great wisdom, by your trade you have increased your riches and your heart is lifted up because of your riches." In that lifting up of your heart and your arrogance, you think you don't need God.
This is why Jesus said, "Do you know what's really hard? It's hard for rich people to enter into the kingdom of heaven." Because we often don't really perceive our need for God when we have all our needs met. This is why it was wisely prayed by the writer of Proverbs: "Two things I asked of You, do not refuse me before I die: keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, 'Who is the LORD?' or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God."
So, "Lord, just give me what I need. Let me be faithful." I'm going to tell you. What you need is not just a certain level of income. What you need is a certain level of instruction from God's Word that will help you see how you should live as a steward. It is a myth… It is a myth, my friends, that money is always a blessing. Sometimes it's, frankly, a test. It can be a temptation. It can be a trap.
I mentioned this in one of the services way back. There was a Romanian pastor who said it was his experience that 95 percent of all believers who face the test of persecution… This was said by a guy who lived underneath a dictator who believed in an atheistic worldview, who persecuted pastors, persecuted Christians. He said, "In my experience, 95 percent of the believers who face the test of persecution pass it, while 95 percent who face the test of prosperity fail it."
That's why our brothers and sisters around the world who have one one-hundredth of what we have pray for us, because they see the test we've been given. Do you know 70 percent of all Christian wealth in the world exists right here in America? It's hard for us to see our need for God. The truth is a man is rich in direct proportion to the number of things he can live without. When there are certain things that have a grip on your heart and you say, "I can't live without that," we are in a very, very dangerous place.
There's only one thing I can't live without, and that is a relationship with the God who delivers me from my sin, the wage of which is death, a God who can deliver me from a way which seems right to me, which in the end leads to death and hopelessness in this life. The only thing I can't live without is a relationship with the God who is slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, filled with grace and truth, who loves me enough to come and rescue me.
That's the only thing I can't live without. Health, a foot, a strong back. I can live without those, but not without a God who says he loves me, will protect me, and will deliver me even from the greatest threat known to finite man: that is a ceasing to live. In fact, another thing that's a great threat to us is we would be alive and never really live. My God rescues me from that.
I love what Wesley said a long time ago. He said, "I value all things only by the price they shall gain in eternity." He basically said, "When I get something, I give it away as fast I can, lest its talons grab hold of my heart." This idea that a man is rich in direct proportion to that which he can live without is thoroughly biblical.
Let me share with you from Philippians, chapter 4, verse 6 down through verse 14, a very familiar passage. Watch the context of it. We always quote this as a passage when we're talking about prayer, where it says, "Be anxious for nothing…" Don't stress out. "…but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
You want to set your mind on something? Set your mind on this: "…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." Then he goes on to say, "The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." That's what Steinbeck said wasn't around in 1959, and it's what's not around in many of us, and certainly our friends in this city, today. Now watch this. Look at the context of these verses. Paul says,
"But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need."
Then this verse many of us have memorized, and we completely jerk it out of context: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." I can have a huge payday, or I can be unemployed. I can have a fine meal and go back to the buffet as many times as I want, or I can miss a couple of meals. I can still have joy in the midst of those circumstances, because I have Christ. I can live every way with Christ.
Some of you guys heard this verse at a summer camp, trying to learn to do a double backflip on a trampoline. Your counselor is sitting there going, "Come on. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you." I'm like, "That is not what the verse means." If you're 5-foot-2, you probably can't dunk from the free throw line and become the MVP of the NBA. All right?
That's not what that verse means. It means if you know Christ…the hope we have, and his concern for you…then you can live with peace in every circumstance. Set your mind on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, and lovely. That's Christ. That's his Word. Paul is zealous for us, and he wants us to know that.
There's a story of a gentlemen who went to see a friend of his. He said, "I'm dying." This friend came to visit him. While his friend was there in his house, seeing his dying friend and the despair in his life, he saw the glory of all this man possessed. He said, "Ah! David, David, David! these are the things that make a deathbed terrible." He said something like, "The next time you need something, come and see me, and I will teach you how to live without it."
So many of us are investing, right now, like this is our home, that this is where we want to create our heaven. It's not. We say we know this world is headed for judgment, that this world is fleeting, and yet so many of us double down in our investment here. Jesus is trying to correct that thinking, because he loves you and wants to help you. If you're owned by things, you're not very rich. If you think things are what's going to make you happy, you're not very rich. You're enslaved to serve those things.
It is a myth that God hates materialism because it keeps us from investing in his kingdom, and it keeps us from helping others. That is a myth. Of all the things that enslave us right here, materialism is at the top of our list. In this country, in this city, in this community right here of faith. It's a myth that that's why God hates materialism, because it keeps us from giving more. No. The reason God hates materialism is because he loves you.
The same way it says in Scripture that God hates divorce. He does not hate divorcees. The reason God hates divorce is because it rips your soul out. It leaves children decimated. It fractures the foundation of society. God does not hate divorcees. He hates destruction of human relationships that were meant to be a blessing, that teach us about our need for the Spirit of God and our need to die to self in order for us to be the kind of people God originally created us to be.
God does not hate materialists. He hates materialism. One of the ways he serves you, if you're enslaved and in bondage to things, is he'll teach you words that are true. God hates materialism because he loves you.
I read one time… I did a message a number of years ago called And What to Do If You Hate Your Job. It's still there online. You can go back and listen to it. I remembered that when I was thinking about the myth of God hating materialism because he wants our money and reminding myself that God really hates materialism because he loves me. There was a posting on a job board there of people who hated their jobs and why they wanted different jobs. I remembered this. Here was this guy. He wrote this:
"So, I'm sitting here steaming about how much I hate my job, and I realize something. I don't need to work here, so why do I? I'll tell you why. Because I've sold my soul to the Devil. That's why. I've given up my freedom for the ability to buy new shoes or a nicer TV, and for what? So all the people I don't know have less than I do, and they're happier than I am, mostly because they don't sit in a prison nine hours a day or more doing nothing of importance to humanity just so they can buy some crap they don't really want.
'Oh, I need a new iPod or a new DVD burner or a new whatever.' No, I don't. I don't need any of that…" Then, for some reason he couldn't type clearly right there. "I need to reclaim my virtue. I need to reclaim my happiness. I need peace of mind. I need to quit this freakin' nightmare job, sell my house and all the useless crap in it, rent a tiny apartment, and live life. But I have to wait until five o'clock before I start."
Now that doesn't sound like life, does it? Damn. There I said it, all right? Look. He came that you might have life. He doesn't want you to be damned. We have to quit thinking of eternal life as something we're headed toward. Eternal life starts right now. The Scripture says this, in Proverbs 11:4: "Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death." Let me say that another way. Riches don't really profit right now. Righteousness, though, delivers you from that drone march you're in.
Lily Tomlin, you might not even know who that is, but she said, "The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat." Isn't that truth? Proverbs 18:11: "A rich man's wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own imagination." God doesn't want you to have high walls in your imagination. He wants you to be secure.
Proverbs 23 says, "Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies toward the heavens." Gang, when you think about money, why you get it, and the blessing of it, you shouldn't always think, "When I get money, it's just a blessing." Sometimes it's a test to see really what you think life can be found in.
Like I said, you say what you think, but you do what you believe. Jesus gives us this thing called money we traffic in that shows us a lot about where we think our home is. The truth is any money stewarded for security, self, the satisfaction of self, or satisfaction of your heart is foolish. The truth is money not deployed properly is a sign you are a poor steward. If you're keeping money around and it's not for provision for today…
Let me stay this. Provision includes not just food to live on today but also a little whipped cream. The Scriptures tell you every now and then to get some Rocky Road ice cream. Every now and then, especially when Blue Bell is on sale for $3.98, go stock up. Have a big time but don't just live for that stuff. If you have money laying around and it's not for provision, or it's not for production for eternal deployment or creating some future opportunity in order to provide for yourself and be generous to others, then it's probably a problem in your life.
Jesus tells a story that basically says this in Luke, chapter 12. "Then He said to them, 'Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.'" So, he told a story about a guy who needs to go someplace where he can hear the Switch series.
He says, "The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?' Then he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul…'" As if we're lord of our own souls.
"'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
Here's the mistake. This guy called himself a success. God thought of him as a fool. This guy said, "I have many years." God said, "This very night." He said to himself, "Be merry," and God said to him, "Be judged." This story and others like it in the Scripture teach you about this myth that the more money you have the happier you are.The myth is money stored up is a source of security and peace. It's not.
With all the Powerball stuff that's out there… Do you know they've done numerous studies on lottery winners? I know you can't even believe this, but they have studied this for years. What they have found is six months after winning a lottery, winners were no happier than if they had been paralyzed in a car crash. Do you think hundreds of millions of Americans would have gone out and bought a Powerball ticket this last week if they would have known it's really not going to be the success and the secret to what they're looking for?
Here's the truth. The truth is the more money you have, the better you understand money does not buy happiness. That's the truth. Let me contradict that with another statement, okay? Because I do think the rich are infinitely better off than the poor, because while the poor still think money will buy them happiness, the rich know better.
It's the same reason I would say those married here at Watermark are infinitely better off than single people. Because single people, while they still think if they just got married they'd be happy, married people know, "What happened when I got married is I saw what a wretch I singularly am and how I need something more than another human who is desperately in need of something other than another human, to have a life that is defined by contentment and joy."
That's why beautiful people, famous people, are infinitely better off than the common-looking common man, because we think if we could just make it big, just be a somebody, just look like that, we'd be happier. Yet, how many beautiful and famous people do we see destroying their lives, racked with substance abuse and suicidal behavior, destructive in every relationship?
It ought to tell you something. Remember what I told you about the deceitfulness of sin? That's what the Scripture says. "But encourage one another day after day…so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Part of the deceitfulness of sin is we all think we're the one who can handle it, or we can make out of life that which is not really life-giving.
Let me take you to the Scripture just to prove this, to prove this truth that the more money you have, the better you understand money doesn't get you what you want. This is written by the wealthiest man who ever lived, one of the most famous men who ever lived. He says this. What I've done is I've inserted my words here to explain to you what the guy is saying.
Here's the truth. The more money you have… Watch this. He writes, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money…" The truth is the more money you have, the more you're going to want it, because you're never satisfied there. Rockefeller is famous for saying, when they asked him, "How much is enough?" he said, "Just one dollar more."
Solomon continues to write, "…nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity. When good things increase, those who consume them increase." The more money you have, the more people, including the government, come after it. You see, I know this. My name is Todd Wagner, if you don't know that. In this city there is another Todd Wagner. He happened to be partners with Mark Cuban.
A lot of places a lot of times, when I'm introduced to somebody, they go, "Oh, Todd. Great to meet you. I've wanted to meet you for a long time," and they treat me a certain way. Then, they realize I'm not the Todd Wagner who can pay for you. I'm the Todd Wagner who can pray for you. Todd and I have met. We've talked about this. We've laughed about this.
I've talked to him about how many people want his money, and they come to me for it. I get letters from all across the country. This is the truth. It's like I'm my own personal Shark Tank. I get letters, people pitching their ideas, telling me, "This is what I think I need to do," or horrible stories of sadness and loss, asking me if I can get them back on their feet.
I not only get that, there's been more than a few early mornings when my doorbell rings while it's still barely beginning to be daylight. I go down, and there's a guy there. He hands me a thick packet. He goes, "Are you Todd Wagner?" I go, "Yes." He goes, "This is for you. You've been served." It's a lawsuit. I go, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa." He goes, "No, no, no, man. Don't tell me… I already asked you who you were."
I go, "You've got the wrong Todd Wagner." He goes, "That's what they all say." I go, "I'm not going to be there in court." He goes, "Well, you've been subpoenaed. That's all I can do for you." I go, "You've got the wrong Todd Wagner," and then I take a quick peek to make sure I'm right. Then, when I realize it's about Todd, I'm telling you. The more you have, the more other people want your money. It comes from all sides.
Solomon continue to write: "So what is the advantage to their owners except to look on? The sleep of the working man is pleasant, whether he eats little or much; but the full stomach of the rich man does not allow him to sleep." Here's the truth: The more you have, the more you realize it doesn't meet your needs. So, you're up all night going, "What is it?" If that's what you're living for, you're going to realize there has to be more to live for. It doesn't give you rest.
Verse 13: "There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt." Did you see that? Here's the truth: The more you have, the more you have to worry about. This thing that was supposed to be a blessing is a burden. It's a constant concern, and it fills their minds and their days.
"When those riches were lost through a bad investment…" Here's the truth: The more you have, the more you have to lose. "…and he had fathered a son, then there was nothing to support him. As he had come naked from his mother's womb, so will he return as he came. He will take nothing from the fruit of his labor that he can carry in his hand." The truth is the more you have, the more you have to leave behind. These are the things which make a deathbed terrible.
Pharaohs tried to take it with them, and they can't. It's still here traveling around in museums for you and me to see. That's the truth about money. It is a myth that he who dies with the most toys wins. It's advertisers' jobs to persuade you that you need what you don't really need and to convince you that you'll be satisfied with what really doesn't satisfy.
They're trying to convince you if you don't have a Lexus under your tree this Christmas, you got taken. But you don't really need a Lexus or a Chevy. God bless you if you have either one of them, I guess, but if you got it because you think you need it or you got it because you think it would satisfy you, no. We live in the most affluent society in history. The truth is he who dies having not invested wisely loses. That's a fact.
I'm showing you that people figured this out all over the place. Cicero the philosopher said, "For can there be anything more absurd than to make so much more the provision for life's journey as there is less of that journey left?" No. So, because Jesus loves you, because he knows you can't take it with you, because he knows it's a temptation and a trap, he says words like this, in Matthew 6:
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…" I want you to watch this closely. "…where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Basically, what he's saying is, "Don't renounce treasure. Just relocate it." Do you see what the motivation is here? His motivation is for you, to help you invest wisely. What he's saying is basically, "Don't abandon the idea of storing up treasures for yourself." He wants you to put it where it will last. He's basically telling you, "When it comes to treasures, be smart not stupid," because he loves you.
You have to remember when God gives you more, it's probably not just to feather your bed and increase your standard of living. It probably is to increase your standard of giving. It's to increase the opportunity you have to show who you love. It is a myth that it's God's will we all have a lot of money. You guys know there are churches all around this city that will teach you that today. You can turn the TV on and find all kinds of guys who say God wants to bless you and make you rich. That's a myth, that God wants all of us to have a lot of money.
It is also a myth that it's God's will we all live right next to the poverty level, live austere lives, and not have a lot of money. That is a myth. The old joke, "O God, please give us a poor humble pastor. You keep him humble. We'll keep him poor." That's usually what people think, because if their pastor is really spiritual, he won't have very much. They think it's a sign of godliness to live, basically, right there in a very austere life.
No. This is the sign of godliness: The sign of godliness is that you are holy. That's the truth. Let me say this again. It's a myth that God wants us all to be rich. It's a myth that God wants us all to live barely above the poverty line. God is not a Communist. There's not some magic number that if you make more than that, you're a pagan, or if you make less than that, you're not blessed.
God is not a Communist, but you need to know this: He is a comin'. You will be accountable. The way you measure holiness is not by what you have or have not but by knowing who he is. Not just knowing about but having a relationship with him. This is the truth: It's God's will that we are holy because he is holy. God wants us to know him. When we know him, it should affect the way we handle everything. Everything.
The truth is God distributes what he's given very unequally, so those with too much can help those with too little. When we give, we solve two problems. Others have too little, and we have too much. Let me show you this. This isn't just my idea, okay? I'm not brilliant. I just read God's Word. Second Corinthians, chapter 8, verses 13-15 says this is not the reason you should give…
Paul writes to the church in Corinth: "For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality—at this present time your abundance being a supply for their need, so that their abundance [of need] also may become a supply for your need…" Which is what to do with what you have that you don't really need. "…that there may be equality; as it is written, 'HE WHO gathered MUCH DID NOT HAVE TOO MUCH, AND HE WHO gathered LITTLE HAD NO LACK.'"
Then it goes on to say, "…for the glory of the Lord Himself…" Do you get that? What the Lord is basically saying to you is, "Look. I own everything. You are my money manager. Are you living according to my vision and values?" God has prospered you for a reason. It's not just to make you more comfortable, but in order that you might meet the needs of others.
You might sit there and go, "Todd, I don't have as much as the next guy." To you, I would say this. It's a myth that if I don't have a lot of money, I can't be very generous. I'll add this to it. It's also a myth that if you give a lot of money, you're generous. It might just be because you're loaded. God is not somebody who is impressed by how much you give. I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself but let me say this.
The myth here is if I don't have a lot of money, I can't be generous. The truth is, the Lord celebrates what you do, not what you can't do. Do you get that? All right, so maybe you can't stroke the check that other people can stroke. There are lots of ways to be generous, by the way. You can be generous in thanksgiving. You can be generous in encouragement. You can be generous in kindness. You can be generous in service. You can be generous in forgiveness.
I love this. Let me talk about this. Here are some folks who didn't take the money we gave them and put it to work, but we got this thrown on our Facebook page this week. It says, "Thank you to the 3 Watermark Church Angels who assisted me today on Central Expressway. I volunteered to use the company vehicle to pick up an employee who couldn't drive in the weather. I work in a retirement community where it is important that we have staff. The car died in the middle of the freeway and rolled to the next lane.
I was horrified. I thought about my husband and 2 children. A car stopped in front of me and a guy came to the car asking if I needed help. I said yes. He and a friend offered to push the car off the dangerous highway. He tried to start the car and it wouldn't. He stated he attended Watermark church, out of nowhere." He basically said, "I want you to know I'm a follower of Christ. I happen to hang out there. I'm going to serve you because Christ loves you."
"I was like, 'Wow, I have been attending Watermark for about 9 months, and my daughter is special needs and attends the wonderful Kaleidoscope class. I asked if he could give me a ride to a nearby restaurant so I could be picked up. The other two passengers stated they also attend the church. I just want to thank them for risking their lives to pull over on the dangerous highway to help me."
It didn't cost them anything. They were just generous. There are lots of ways to give, but here's my point: The Lord celebrates what you do, not what you can't do. This is biblical. Second Corinthians 8:12. Watch. "For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have."
Here's the other myth: If I give a large amount of money, I'm a good steward. Not necessarily. The truth is what makes you a good steward is if you live with God's vison and values. Some of us can give a lot of money and never feel the effects of it. God says, "You know what? This is not about what you did compared to everybody else. It's what you should do given what I have apportioned you to do."
Listen. I have never, to this day, looked at a single penny any of you have given. I don't know who gives what here. Now, other guys do, and it's something that, at appropriate times, we'll look at. When we're looking at naming leaders and people who are here who love Christ, one of the things I'll do is, before we move forward, I'll say, "Men, go. I don't know what they gave, but has this person been faithful? Have they shown a right understanding of why they are here? Are they participating in that blessed ministry of giving and investing in this ministry here?"
I've never looked, because I don't want to treat any of you different. Whether you give or whether you don't give, I'm going to love you. I'm not going to be a respecter of persons based on that. But I want to let you know something. Just because, if I did look, you gave a lot of money, I wouldn't just go, "Oh, man. You must be… You're a really generous person."
The truth is you might be giving less than some people who are giving what folks would call an insignificant gift. That's why you don't need to be concerned Todd Wagner sees what you give. That's why when you give here you get a letter saying, "You're not going to get a note from me." At the end of the year, we'll have guys respond to you and let you know there's a record of it, if the IRS cares, if you're so concerned about that.
I wouldn't know…unless I really get involved in your life and know you personally…whether you gave a large amount or not, if you were being a good steward. This is what makes you a good steward (this is the truth): if you live with God's vision and values. That's what makes you a good steward.
In fact, Jesus talks about how one day he was sitting by this… Look at this. Luke 21:1-4. He was sitting by the temple treasury, and it says, "And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, 'Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.'"
He didn't criticize her for what she didn't have. Now, by the way, Jesus also didn't go, "Hey, that was awesome. Come here," and take her back out behind the temple, take dirt, turn it into gold, and say, "You go, babe. Rock it." I want to tell you what he did is memorialize her for all eternity as an example to the rest of us. I imagine she is rocking it right now, because of what happened in that moment and what Jesus said that meant.
It's a myth that the more money you give, the more money you'll get. You might be like that widow. You put in all you have, and your condition doesn't really change. Here's the truth. The truth is the more I understand God's Word and grace, the more I will use money God's way and be generous. Let me say that to you again. This is the truth. The myth is the more money I give, the more money I'll get from God. The truth is the more you understand God's Word and grace, the more you will see and use money God's way and be generous.
Here's the truth: The reward for faithful service is the opportunity for more service and/or joy and peace in your life, knowing you have done all your Master has asked of you and you won't need to shrink back at his coming. He won't always resupply you, but look. By and large, don't you do this? I lead a large organization.
The guys I move up to greater opportunities of leadership and influence are the guys who are faithful with small opportunities of leadership and influence. I tell them all the time, the reward for faithfulness is an opportunity to be faithful in greater things. Look. If I were God, I would have a verse like this in my Bible. By and large, this is true. Luke 6:38: "Give, and it will be given to you."
Now this is not the only verse in your Bible, which is why you can't build your theology on this. Some guys will preach this until the cows come home to manipulate you to feather the ministry of the church. You need to know this. God does say it's true. In Luke 6:38, "Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return."
That verse is always true, just not always true five weeks, five months, or five years after you drop all you have in the temple treasury. Matthew 6 is the cross-reference for Luke 6. Not some health, wealth, and prosperity nonsense. "If you just put a seed of faith and $10, you'll get $100 in return." You might. If I see you being faithful with all you have, I'd probably give you more, but don't you buy the lie that you always will.
Spurgeon said, "Men trust good stewards with larger and larger sums; and so it frequently is with the Lord; He gives by cartloads to those who give by bushels. Where wealth is not bestowed [if you will, by the cartload], the Lord makes the little much by contentment which the sanctified heart feels…" You say, "I've done today, prayerfully, what is consistent with my Master's vision and values." That's why you do it.
God says this: "Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver…" Here we go. Are you ready?
This is a myth: God wants 10 percent of your money. It's a myth that what God is looking for you to do is give 10 percent of your money. Some of you are really relieved, because you're giving about 2 percent. That's not where I'm going with this. Some of you guys don't give at all. Let me say this to you.
If you're here today, and you don't know the God who is slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, full of grace and truth, who has come crashing into darkness to be a great light, who gave his Son and allowed his Son to become sin on your behalf, that though he was rich, the Son became poor so you might be given all the riches of heaven by faith in him… If you don't know that God, then of course you're not stewarding your resources here.
Maybe some of you don't know or believe what we're doing here is investing in God's Word and God's people, the only two eternal things. "I don't want to give my money here." I would tell you that's fine. If you don't believe what we're doing here is the Lord's will, I wouldn't give here either, but I pray you find someplace you believe is. I happen to give everything I can here radically and increasingly, I pray by the grace of God, more. Here's the truth: God wants you to know him and live like you know his Word is true.
Now here's the truth you need to know. The implication of a tithe comes from the Old Testament. There's no mention of a tithe in the New Testament. The tithe was training wheels. The tithe was law. The tithe was teaching children who had no relationship with God, basically, the minimum. That's what children are asked to do, the minimum. They're told what to do. They don't know yet of the Father's goodness. They don't yet know the Father's love. As you grow in relationship with the Father, the law is gone, and the relationship exists on the basis of love.
In fact, if you want to know the truth, the Old Testament saint didn't just give 10 percent. If you take the temple tithe, which is 10 percent of everything they grew and everything they earned, there still were the festival contributions and the frequent command to give to the poor. The truth is, if you want to give like an Old Testament child, 23 percent is what the Old Testament law basically exhorted you toward…23 percent.
Now, if that's what's expected of children, who were living under law, what do you think God wants of children who have been saved, who come to know the Father intimately and personally, to do? You see, what God wants you to do is increase in your understanding of who he is and live like his Word is true.
Gang, when I look at the Bible, I get convicted to change my lifestyle. Then, often, I look around… Certainly the church in America, not as much here, but probably you look around some places in the church, and you see everybody else live just like you do. You're demotivated. The truth is, God wants us to raise the bar for each other not lower it. We have to trash our unspoken agreement not to challenge each other about our stewardship, about our materialism and short-sightedness. We have to shepherd each other's hearts.
I want to ask you. How much of your giving can be explained only by the supernatural work of God and your understanding of who Christ is and what he's done? If you're still trying to pay the minimum temple tax, you don't understand the sweetness and goodness of your Father. You know, the truth is the average American churchgoer gives 2.6 percent.
I have no idea here what the average is, but I would tell you your goal should not be: "How much should I give God?" Remember, the truth is God owns everything. You're his steward. He wants to make sure you have your needs met. After that, your goal should be: "How much can I live on so I can give everything else away?"
We asked you guys to share back some stories. There are some people who have shared back their stories of how they've used all the money God gave them and added to it a couple of weeks ago, because they had their needs largely met. There are a few stories we've captured on film to share with you what they did with God's money. Listen and be encouraged.
Female: So, we got these envelopes and kind of had a suspicion of what they were going to be doing.
Female: Abby is actually the one who got to open the envelope. There was $2 in it.
Male: It was a little bit of déjà vu for us because we were here, I don't know, three or four years ago when they had done a similar thing, given us an envelope. We failed miserably. I actually felt guilty about that the last four years and was glad for another opportunity.
Female: I was kind of hoping I was going to get a lot of money so I could do something really cool with it. Then, when we opened it and I had the $2 bill, I thought, "Okay. We'll start with that and see what we can do."
Male: So, I opened up my envelope, and it was empty. At first, I was a little disappointed. All my friends here have $2 bills, and I don't have anything.
Male: It was easier to love the idea of it than the actually doing of it. What I wanted to do that Sunday was to go home and watch the Cowboys game, but Kimberly, knowing if we didn't do it then it might not ever happen, was able to encourage me. So, immediately after church, we took our kids and Cameron, who is a young man we're mentoring, and we got to work.
Female: I decided to put it on Facebook, where I have my $2 bill and I say, "What can you trade me that would be bigger or better?" I had somebody who offered a Snuggie. Then, for the Snuggie, season one of Heroes. Then for the DVD set, I got $20 gift card to Target. Then, from the Target gift card, I got a full mattress and box springs.
Female: Our kids have always been begging to do a lemonade stand. It was awesome. We had lots of neighbors come by and friends as well. We were able to turn $6, to switch it, into $76.
Male: After the service, I went and talked to the greeter who was standing right outside where I was sitting and told him, "Hey, my envelope was empty. Do you have another one I could have?" He kind of glanced around for a sec and said, "No. We're all out." He said, "Do you know what?" and pulled $20 out of his own pocket and said, "Here. Go steward this." I wanted to say, "No, no. You don't need to do that," but it was his money to decide to do that, so I was just very grateful.
Female: The whole her-raising-money, that idea was birthed the day before the service. She was trying to come up with creative ways to raise some money for a birthday party she was going to be going to. She was going to go around our neighborhood and collect used books, and then take those books to Half Price Books and sell them.
She got a friend of hers involved, and her friend's dad kind of encouraged them, "Maybe a better thing to do with that money would be to give it to a charity." They both agreed, and they both got really excited about giving the money to Medical City Children's Hospital. The reason we chose Medical City was because her brother, my son David, had been a patient there for a long time, nearly a year of his life broken up over the course of the four years he was with us.
Female child: We just went around our neighborhood with this little wagon, collecting any kind of used books.
Female: We told her we were going to match whatever Half Price Books gave to her, and we could, of course, add this with the $2 we got in service that day as well. I sent out an email. Basically, I asked them to match it as well. As of today, we're at $1,900 and counting.
Female child: They're going to build this special room so they can help other kids like David.
Female: The plan is for that to be named after her brother.
Female: You know, I didn't know what kind of impact I could have with $5, but I have been building a relationship with my neighbor for a few months. She has been struggling with some health issues. I sent her an email just explaining that I had been blessed with some additional money.
I cried when I got her email. She sent me a list that ranged from chicken to diapers to bills that needed to be paid. Gas for her car. You know, I had some money I had set aside for giving, and I combined that and delivered that to her. She reached out to me later just to say thank you and how much it really meant to her.
Male: There's an organization called 40 Days for Life. They're a pro-life organization. They had a donation-matching going, so my wife and I took the $20 and put it toward that so it was doubled.
Female: I had a lady who was interested in buying the mattress from where I had posted it. She said, "Is there any way you could come down on your price? Because we didn't really have it in the budget to buy a mattress, but our son has been sleeping on the floor." I explained what we had done from $2 up until the mattress. I said, "The whole point was just to get to something somebody could use and be blessed by, so we would love for you to have this mattress."
Female: It really just awakened something in me. I have a neighbor next door who doesn't even have her basic needs met.
Female: The lesson she's learning… She shows up with the talents and the resources she has, and she lets God multiply those in whatever way he wants to do that.
Male: This gave us an opportunity as a family to come together and use our time, use that $6 we were given, use our creativity, to do something together for the kingdom. It doesn't get much better than that.
Male: The idea that that money was no more ours than the money that's in my bank account, and that I'm supposed to use all of my money in the same way I would use this.
Female: Going forward, it makes me look at our budget and say, "Where do we have an extra $2 here, an extra $2 here?"
Female: So, it's really just kind of looking at those things and thinking, "What can we do differently to bless others with things we're not thinking about yet?"
Male: Just a perspective change. If this is God's money that he's given me, then what am I going to do with his money? How am I going to spend it?
I wish I had saved myself time to share with you stories. I didn't take an envelope that Sunday, but everything I have comes from his envelope. The stories of the way I've been blessed to be involved, the needs that are around me, and the joy it brings in finding a need and meeting it in the name of Christ, for his goodness and glory. Go to our Facebook page. Check out that particular #switch13. Read it with your kids. Give them a vision that it's more blessed to give than receive.
Let me close with this. It's a myth that Christmas is all about us getting a lot of gifts. That's the second kind of Christmas. The first kind of Christmas, though, is the gift given with great love, often at great sacrifice. The truth is Christmas is our ultimate example of what we should give. When people ask me, "Todd, what should I give? How much should I give?" I always tell them, "Don't give any more than Jesus." That's your New Testament example.
It says in 2 Corinthians we should follow the example of Christ. "…though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich." When you understand that's what Christmas is about, it changes everything. You might sing Christmas songs. You might think you believe in Christmas, but people sing what they think. They do what they believe. What you need to know is God believed you were worth his very best. He didn't just tithe a little bit. He gave it all so you might have life. Listen to this song. It captures the first Christmas.
The only thing more beautiful than that song is that truth. See, people sing what they think, but they do what they believe. If you believe that child has come, that he's Messiah, he's Immanuel, we've been reconciled to him, he deserves all the glory, we are his stewards, and we're his servants then it changes everything. It changes everything, and we just want to live for him.
Let me tell you. There's not going to be a single one of us who stands before him and goes, "You know, I just wish I would have given less." None of us are going to say that. In fact, one second after you meet him, in that moment where we stand before that time of judgment when we give an account for what we did, we're going to wish we had done more.
Let me encourage you with this. Let's spend the rest of our lives trying to close that gap between what we're giving now and what we're going to wish we had given on that day. Amen? Let's spur each other on. Let's go. Let's not get hung up on percentages. Let's get hung up on the coming of the King who died on the cross for our sin, that this world is not our home, and this is our moment. It's our moment to sing like angels and to tell everybody here who has given themselves away to fleeting things, "Come. Come and hear of the King who has come."
If you've never been to Watermark before, we just don't do a cute little Christmas Eve service. We talk about who this King is, what he produces in the lives of people, and the transformation that happens. We give folks a chance to decide. I would encourage you… I'm going to be here all day. I hope you come with me with all your friends. You go and sing now.
You steward your life. You steward your time. You steward your talents. You steward your treasure increasingly. Let's close the gap. If you don't know that King, there is an infinite gap between you and him because of sin. I pray that's the first thing you get right, his gift for you and that you come and you take it this morning and you freely receive, that you might learn how to give.
You can't have a whole week of worship. Have two great days of worship. We'll see you Tuesday. God bless you. We'll see you.