Pastor Edward Brouwer, 8-26-2018

Wisdom’s Way: Our Time, Talent and Treasure

There’s a wisdom that seems right in our own eyes and then there is wisdom that has transcendent truth. It seems right to us, for example, to look after number one, to take care of our own business before looking after others. But today’s Scripture actually tells us that true wisdom is not prioritizing ourselves but rather the things of God. Honor the Lord with your wealth, (indeed do so) by first setting aside the initial portion of the fruit of your labor. We are continuing our series in Wisdom’s Way. Last week Proverbs 3:4-5 challenged us to trust in the Lord with all our heart and not to lean on our own understanding: in all your ways acknowledged God and He will direct your path. And today we look at a very practical way of doing that. How do we trust God and acknowledge him with our wealth, our resources, our time, talent and treasure?

Read Proverbs 3:1-10

When it comes to what we have and how that relates to God, I want to look at giving through the lens of: Grace, Gratitude and Gladness. Everything we have comes from God, and God wants us to respond to this grace with gratitude. The arc of God’s grace comes full circle as our hearts are filled with gladness.

Why does this Scripture tell us to honor God with our wealth? (and our wealth is not just our money or treasure but also our time and talents). Well, because God gave it all to us by grace! Grace is unmerited favor. When we look at all that we have, we need to understand that we have been given that by God. We don’t deserve all that we have; we didn’t earn it. Start out with the fact that you have life. Who gave you your body? Who gave you the aptitudes you have? It’s all of grace! You wouldn’t have the material wealth that you have unless you had a life given to you at the start. The Bible is telling us: honor God with everything as a way of recognizing that you are not your own, that you have been bought with a price! He made you, and he redeemed you from a life focused on self to a life focused on your Creator. Isaiah 43:1 says to us: “I made you and I redeemed you!” True wisdom starts at that beginning point, understand that God is the central defining reality of my life. I exist because He made me. The Heidelberg Catechism states it in the form of a question and answer. The first Q/A is “what is your only comfort in life and death? A: That I am not my own! But belong, body and soul, to Jesus Christ” (my Creator and Redeemer). Jesus draws the connection between our life and our riches in the story he told in Luke 12 about the Rich Fool. (Remember that to Jewish readers true wisdom says we owe everything to God and that “the fool says in his heart ‘there is no God’”. Jesus said “watch out that your hearts are not gripped by coveting things in this world: for your life doesn’t consist of an abundance of material possessions”! He then tells the story of the rich fool who puts his confidence in his wealth! What a fool because as soon as he had made good on his lavish retirement, well, he died! And the point of the story is “so is the one who lays up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God”. Recognizing that everything we have belongs to God trains our hearts to become rich to Him and not ourselves. God loves us so much and he knows how we are wired. We will try to find our security in our idols: our wealth, our talent, our rainmaking abilities!

God’s grace to us has multiple functions then: his grace reveals to us that we are his and everything we have comes from him and his grace teaches us to let go of our grip on the things we have because we know and have confidence in our God. But this grace also works another beautiful thing in our hearts: gratitude. Naturally when you realize that something you have has been given as a gift, then a healthy response is thankfulness.

SO gratitude works itself out in a very practical way according to the wisdom spoken of here. When we acknowledge God in our life, when we desire to honor him with everything, then it will be natural for us to live as he desires and as he himself is. God is generous and he has made us in his image so we too are made to be generous. Proverbs 19:17 says “he who gives to the poor lends to their Maker and He will give him a reward”. Poverty is a reality in our world and some are poor because of poor choices and others are poor because of the choices of others. God has a special concern for the poor, for the widow and the orphan. James writes that true faith expresses itself practically in caring for the poor and oppressed. So when we are generous two things happen: we become rich toward God and we become rich toward our fellow image bearers.

And this principle seems to be laid down at the beginning of Scripture. Think of Cain and Abel: each of them gave the first fruits from their fields and from their flocks. But what is an appropriate amount of our wealth to give as a first fruit unto the Lord? The Scripture shows us in the story of Abram and Melchizedek in Genesis 14 that Abram gave a tithe or one tenth to the King of Righteousness. Then Moses declared in the law Leviticus 27:30 that one tenth of the produce of the land belongs to the Lord. Now you may say: we don’t live under the law. Yet even Jesus said in Luke 11:42 about the religious leaders “you tithe even from the herbs in your garden but you have neglected the weightier things of the law like justice and mercy: you should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former.” Jesus is more interested in our heart attitude though, then being obsessed with a rule. So what is the gospel rule for giving for believers? To sum up: God gave us everything, we respond in gratitude with a generous heart and he gives us gladness in return. Gladness not more goodies! This is not some divine vending machine where we drop our money and get more money in return. This Scripture is not a promise per se, it is more an observation that those who tend to be generous tend also to experience blessing. But that blessing may come to us in many ways—not just monetarily. Which is my third point:

Gladness is the first and the best fruit of giving. The Psalmist wrote “more than when the grain and the new wine abound, Thou has put gladness in my heart!” (Psalm 4:7) God wants us to enter into the joy of his generosity. Not only has he given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) but He has given us himself. He became poor so that we might become rich! (2 Corinthians 8:9) Jesus emptied himself for us that He might fill us with himself. In light of that 2 Corinthians 9:7 gives us the guide for gospel giving…based on the Holy Spirit’s voice in your life…”each of you should give what you’ve decided in your heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, because God loves a cheerful giver. Trust God and God’s grace will bring gratitude and gladness into your life.