Craig Smith - A Dangerous Blessing
Well, welcome to Mission Hills on all of our locations, including Church Online. I’m so glad that you’re with us today. Why don’t you go and grab a Bible, start making your way to Mark chapter 10? We’re gonna jump in pretty quick. We are starting a new little kind of a mini-series here at Mission Hills. And I don’t know of any better way to sort of orient us to the theme of the series and at this passage than by looking at what Mark says about Jesus in Mark 10:17. He says this. He says, “As Jesus started on his way…” And I’m just gonna stop there. And I know it seems like we’re just barely getting going but those small words actually have a big impact in understanding what this passage is about and really understanding what this series is about.
Well, what Mark’s telling us is that Jesus is on the move, okay? That he’s going from one place to another. And that may not seem like a big deal but that’s actually something that Mark emphasizes over and over and over again in this Gospel. He kind of tells us constantly, Jesus is on the move. It’s really important because where Jesus is, that’s where all the good stuff is. Where Jesus is, that’s where salvation is. That’s where forgiveness is. That’s where joy is. That’s where hope is. That’s where peace is. All the good stuff is with Jesus. Now, because Jesus is always on the move, he’s a moving target, mobility becomes a must for us. Really, that’s what he’s saying. Jesus is always on the move so mobility is a must. We gotta stick with Jesus.
And the question then becomes, so what happens when there’s something in our lives that reduces our mobility? What happens when there’s something in our lives that keeps us from following Jesus, keeps us from sticking with Jesus? I mean, you understand that we’re called followers of Jesus for a reason, right? We’re not called standers-around with Jesus. We’re not hangers-out with Jesus. We’re followers of Jesus. And that means that we gotta be mobile enough to stick with Jesus. What happens when there’s something that’s affecting that mobility? That’s really what this passage in this series is about. Mark says, “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him.” And that immediately tells that this man was desperate on some level.
You see his desperation in two things. First, he ran. Nobody in those days ran. Nobody. I mean, little children and servants. And this man is neither one of those. Nobody else ran because it was undignified. I mean, think about it. They all wore robes. There’s no way to run and look dignified in a robe. You gotta hike it up first. It’s weird. It’s awkward. Only small children, servants ran. But this man, who’s neither a small child or a servant, he ran. That means he set his dignity aside to catch up with Jesus.
And then it says, “He fell on his knees before him.” He’s also setting his dignity aside in falling on his knees before him like a servant. And what those things do is they indicate that this man is desperate on some level. He’s run hard to catch up with Jesus. He’s desperate for something he believes Jesus can give him. And the man said, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And there we see what he’s desperate for. He’s desperate for eternal life. He’s desperate for the confidence that he can have, that he can inherit eternal life.
But I want you to pay attention to how he asks it. He says, “What must I do?” Let’s say it together. What must I do? He’s thinking about it in very standard religious terms. He’s thinking about it in the way that I think we all have a tendency to think about it, which is that religion says, “Eternal life is the reward for doing enough good things.” Right? Eternal life is the reward. If you do enough good things, you get eternal life. But, of course, that raises two other questions.
The first one is, what things? What are the things I have to do to inherit eternal life? And religion is great at telling you the list. Here’s the list of the things you have to do and here’s a list of things you have to not do. And you gotta check off the list. That’s how you inherit eternal life. So, religion says these are the things. Religion can answer that question.
But then the second question that religion can’t answer is the one that naturally comes. If we think that, you know, eternal life is a reward for doing enough good things, then, of course, we wanna know how much is enough, right? And religion can’t answer that question. In fact, the reality is that religion never produces confidence. I want you to hear me on that. Religion never produces confidence. It can’t.
We always wonder, “Have I made it over the goal along? How do I know if I’m in the end zone? How do I know if I stay here? How do I know? How do I know? How do I know if I’ve done enough?” And religion never produces confidence. And so Jesus deals with the man’s question not by giving him another thing to do, but by pushing in on really the root of his thinking, the root of the problem with all religion, which is that it can’t produce the confidence. And so verse 20, I’m sorry, verse 18, Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good except God alone.” And, understand, Jesus isn’t saying he’s not good. And he’s not saying he’s not God.
What he’s doing is he’s forcing the man to sort of rethink his whole perspective on goodness and what it means and where it comes from. And what he’s really basically doing is he’s challenging religious thinking. See, religious thinking says, “If I’m good enough, I get to God.” And Jesus says, “No, no, you’re thinking about this all wrong.” Goodness is not something that gets us to God. Goodness is something that we get from God. God’s the only source of goodness. So Jesus is saying goodness isn’t what gets us to God. It’s what we get from him. God is the only source of goodness. You don’t get there by being good. You get there not by a religion, but you get there by, what?
By a relationship with the one who is good. God’s not calling us to a religion. He’s calling us to a relationship. And Jesus kind of pushes in to make that point, to make the point that religion can never give you the confidence. And so he does this. He says, “Let’s talk about the do’s and the don’ts for a little bit.” And so he says, verse 19, he says, “You know the commandments, right? You know about them. Like you shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony. You shall not defraud. Honor your father and your mother.” He says, “You know about these, right? You know about the commandments.” These are all drawn from the Ten Commandments, which is kind of the kind of compact list that the Jewish people believed that these are the list of things you do and don’t do. And if you do these, if you do enough of these, then you kind of earn your way into eternal life.
He says, “You know about them. So how are you doing? How are you doing with the doing, basically?” And the man says, “Teacher,” he declared. And I like that word. He says declared. It’s a powerful word. He says this with confidence. He doesn’t have any confidence in eternal life but he’s confident in his answer to this one. He says, “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy. Yeah. I’m nailing it,” which is really interesting. There’s no reason to think he’s exaggerating. There’s no reason to think he’s speaking anything other than truth. He says, “Yeah. I’ve done it since I was a boy.”
Jewish boys were considered accountable for the Law when they turn 12. That was the age of accountability. He says, “From the moment that people began to hold me accountable.” It doesn’t mean he wasn’t before that. It just means from that moment, everybody watched. Everybody has been looking. “From that moment on, I have nailed this. I’ve checked off the boxes of do’s and the don’ts. I have nailed it. I’m confident of that,” which is really interesting because we’ve already seen that he’s not confident that he’s gonna receive eternal life. He’s nailed it from a religious perspective but that religion has never produced confidence, which is interesting to me. Religion never produces confidence.
You know what it does produce? Arrogance. Religion produces arrogance because I don’t know if I’m good enough, but I know I’m better than him. I know I’m better than her. I know I’m better than them. I don’t know if I’m good enough, but I know I’m better than those people. It produces arrogance but it never produces confidence. So what’s the alternative? If religion can’t produce confidence, what can? And the answer is a relationship, which is really the heartbeat of Jesus teaching all along. Jesus didn’t say, “Here’s the things you have to do.” What he said was, “Come follow me.”
In John 14:6, famous verse, he said, “I.” Not a thing you do. He said, “I am the way.” The way isn’t made up of series of things you do. “I am the way and the truth and the life.” He says, “No one gets to the Father except through me.” That’s relationship. It’s not religion. See, religion produces uncertainty. Only a relationship produces confidence. And the thing is that’s exactly what Jesus wants to give this guy. And I love what Mark says next.
Verse 21, “Jesus looked at him and…” Could you read that word with me? “Jesus looked at him and loved him,” not because of what he’d done, but just because he was his child. Just because. Jesus loved him. And what that says is that from Jesus’ perspective, there was a green light for the relationship that would have given this man the confidence that he was so desperate for. As far as Jesus was concerned, we can absolutely have this relationship. That may actually be the most important thing you hear in this whole series. This is not just true of this man. It’s true of you, too. It’s true of me. It’s true of all of us. God loves us.
From God’s perspective, there’s a green light. God is giving us the green light for a relationship with him. Do you hear me? We feel like, “No, I gotta clean myself up. I gotta do this. I gotta do that. I gotta earn my way.” No, no, no. None of that’s right. From God’s perspective, there’s a green light for a relationship with him, the relationship that will give us the confidence that religion never could.
The problem is that there need to be two green lights for a relationship. God’s giving us the green light. But Jesus looks at this man and he says an interesting thing. He says, “One thing you lack.” And I need to push in on the translation there a little bit because in English, this sounds a lot like Jesus is saying, “Ah, there’s one more thing you have to do.” And that’s not what Jesus is saying.
The problem is there’s really there’s no way to translate this literally from the Greek. If you translate that literally, it would sound something like, “One thing to you is lacking.” Not one thing that you lack, but one thing is like lacking you, which doesn’t make any sense. And there’s really no way to translate it.
Literally, the closest you could come in terms of capturing the thought would be, what Jesus is saying is, “One thing is holding you back.” So there’s one thing. It’s not who you are but there’s one thing that’s got its grip on you and it’s holding you back. Remember, staying close to Jesus is the key to everything. But as Mark tells us, Jesus is a moving target so mobility is a must. And he says, “There’s a problem with your mobility.” And so he looks at the man. He says this. He says, “Go sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in Heaven and then come follow me.” Getting fun now, right?
You know, we have a tendency to focus in the first part of that. “Go sell everything,” and we get a little tense, like, “Oh, no. Please tell me this is not universal.” It’s interesting that we focus on that. And I understand why we do, but we focus on that. But that’s not really the main part here. It’s not the most important part. The most important part is those last little words. Jesus looks at the man and says, “And then come follow me.” You might actually recognize those words. We see them quite a bit in the Gospels. These are exactly the same words that Jesus used to invite those guys we call the Twelve Apostles.
I mean, check this out. If you wanna just flip back a little bit earlier in the Gospel of Mark, Mark 1:16, “As Jesus walked…” Notice that. Jesus is on the move. “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake for they were fishermen. ‘Come follow me,’ he said, ‘and I’ll send you off to fish for people,'” which if we can strip away the Sunday school songs and the religious like familiarity we have with that, that’s a weird thing to say to a group of people. “Come follow me. We’re gonna catch people.” I guarantee you, one of them was thinking, “I think that’s illegal. And even if it’s not, they’re not gonna like it, right.” It’s a weird thing. They don’t really understand what that’s all about. But notice, he says, “Come follow me and I’m gonna send you out to do that.”
You know at Mission Hills, we say a lot that we exist to help people become like Jesus and join him on mission because you can’t follow Jesus without joining him on mission. They’re part of the same thing. And so, he invites them to come be with him and to join him on mission. They don’t really know what that looks like, but they know that the opportunity to be with Jesus is worth whatever the cost is. And so, at once, they left their nets and they followed him. You just flip over a page, Mark 2:14. “As he walked along…” There it is again. Jesus is on the what?
He’s on the move. He’s always on the move. “He saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus said. And Levi got up and followed him.” And now, Jesus uses exactly the same words to make exactly the same invitation to this man, which, I don’t know, but I think it means we could be looking at the 13th apostle right here. But we don’t have 13 apostles, do we? Why not? Verse 22, “At this, the man’s face fell. And he went away sad because he had great wealth.” Now understand, poverty is not a prerequisite for following Jesus. Poverty is not a prerequisite for following Jesus. And all God’s people went, “Oh, okay.” But this is so important, guys.
Saying yes to following Jesus requires saying no to whatever holds us back. Saying yes to following Jesus requires us to say no to whatever holds us back because Jesus is on the move so mobility is a must. And anything that’s keeping us from being mobile in following Jesus has to be dealt with. That’s why Jesus told this man, “You gotta sell everything,” because he understood that for this man, his wealth had a tremendous hold on him. That’s not surprising because the reality is that money tends to have that impact on people. I think it’s one of the reasons the Bible actually talks about money over 800 times. And the message of the Bible is very consistent. Two pieces to it.
Number one, money is a gift from God. Money is God’s gift to us. But the second part of it, the Bible says over and over again, is that it’s a dangerous gift. It has the potential to be a bad thing in our lives if we’re not very careful because it has the potential to hold us back from following the one who gave it to us. We could say it this way. Money is a dangerous gift because it has the power to hold us back from following the Giver. Money has an ability to draw our attention to itself and go, “Well, this is where my security is. This is where, you know, my significance is. This is where my hope is.” But it’s not. It’s on the one who gave it to us. But money has this power to draw our attention away from the Giver to the gift. And so the Bible says, “Money is a dangerous gift because it has this power.”
And the reality is we have to say no to whatever is holding us back from following Jesus. For this man, it was his wealth. Now, what Jesus says here is kind of extreme, right. “Sell everything.” Why so extreme? Because the more extreme something’s hold on us is, the more extreme the steps we have to take to be free.
We know it’s extreme in part because of his reaction. Mark says, “At this, the man’s face fell.” Literally, his face became darkened. It clouded over, we might say in English. It became angry almost. It’s an anger word. He has a visceral, visible reaction to this call to sell everything. And the extremity of his reaction sort of indicates the extremity of its hold on him and how much it was holding him back. Remember, Jesus said, “One thing is holding you back,” and now we know what it was. It had a strong hold on him. It often does.
Now, let me just real quick, I mean, do something pastoral to acknowledge that a whole bunch of you are thinking, “I’m good. I don’t have enough money for it to be a problem.” This is an OPP. This is another people’s problem. And I wanna say a couple things. The first one I wanna say is that, you know, we often think we don’t have all that much money. We don’t have as much as people around us because we look at the way they live their lives and we look at the people in our neighborhoods or at work or even the people we go to church with, and we’re like, “Okay. They clearly have a lot more money than we do.”
And I wanna tell you, after 25 years in pastoral ministry, a lot of people are spending a lot of money to make it look like they have a lot more money than they actually do. They’re spending money they don’t have to make it look like they have. And you’d only get caught up in the trap of going, “Well, they clearly have a bigger issue there. It’s a bigger danger in their lives because they got so much more.” That’s not always true.
The second thing I want you to understand is that it’s not really how much money we have. I’ve known people who had very little money and it had them locked tight. And I’ve known people with tremendous wealth that it had no hold on them at all. And the real issue, the real problem isn’t how much wealth we own. It’s how much our wealth owns us. And that can happen. It can get ahold of us. It can get us in an iron grip whether we have a little or a lot.
Jesus said to this man that he knew had an extreme problem with wealth, he said, “You’re gonna have to sell everything.” And what’s interesting is that, you know, when we read through the pages of the Gospel, we see a number of people who had wealth, considerable wealth. And Jesus never said that to them. We see people like Lazarus or Mary or Martha or even Zacchaeus, the wee little man. You remember Zacchaeus, the wee little man? They’re rich. They had considerable wealth. And yet we never see Jesus tell them they had to sell everything. Why don’t we see that?
Well, the answer is because we see them doing something that apparently this man wasn’t doing, and that is using their wealth to bless others. We see them being generous, we would say. We see them being generous. We see it over and over again in the Gospels. Everybody who had money but didn’t have a problem with money, we see being generous in the Scripture.
And you notice, Jesus didn’t just tell this man, “Sell everything and then come follow me.” He said, “Sell everything,” and then do what? Give to the poor. And it’s interesting, I wrestled with this as we were kind of dealing with it in the original Greek. I always kind of read that as, “Sell everything and then give everything.” And that might be what’s implied there but it’s not what’s actually said. What’s literally said is sell everything and give to the poor. It’s almost as though Jesus says, “Sell everything. You know, liquidate your assets. Get some liquid assets available and then start being generous. Start giving to the poor,” implying that that hasn’t been going on. So, whether it’s all or little, what Jesus is doing is he’s calling the man to be generous.
And here’s the important thing is that generosity is the key to having money without being held back by it. If you remember nothing else today, remember that. Generosity is the key to having money without being held back by it. And so what we need to do is we need to learn how to develop in generosity. So how do we develop in generosity? It’s pretty simple. You’re gonna wanna take everything you have. You’re gonna wanna give it to Mission Hills. So, if the ushers would come forward, we’re gonna be… No, of course not. Of course not.
But let me give you four things that the Bible teaches us about developing in generosity, four steps to it. The first one is very simple. First step is remember that money is God’s gift to us. We need to remember where it came from. We need to keep our eyes on the Giver, not the gift, okay? We need to remember that money is God’s gift to us. That’s the first step. You know, you get a paycheck. Remember who sent it to you. His name may not be on the check, but he’s absolutely the one in charge of the funds. And he’s released those funds to you and he is the one who needs to have the attention there.
The second step is to practice gratitude for what God has given. That’s one of the ways we keep our eyes on the Giver, not the gift. We thank God for the gift itself. We focus on what he has given us. See, here’s the problem. For so many people, the reason we struggle with generosity is because we start by focusing on what we don’t have rather than what we do. And when we focus on what we don’t have, guess what? It always feel like we don’t have…enough.
And if we don’t have enough, how can I possibly be generous? When we focus on what we don’t have, generosity is almost impossible. So the key is we focus on what we do, what God has given us. And it’s amazing. When we focus on what we have, it really transforms our way of thinking about what we have. It expands it.
I was driving the other day, and I saw this pickup truck. It was a man’s man pickup truck, okay? It was covered in mud and dents and stuff. And it had a bumper sticker on the back, and it was just one of the few places where the mud hadn’t covered over. And the bumper sticker you expected on a truck like this was, “Do not touch my guns,” something like that, right? But the bumper sticker in this kind of like frilly writing said, “Gratitude is what makes our stuff enough.” And I remember like, “That is truth right there.”
It’s gratitude for what we have that begins to make us feel like what we have is enough. And generosity is easy when we feel like we have enough. And so first thing is we remember that money’s a gift from God. The second thing we do is we become grateful for what God has given. Third thing we do is we develop God-honoring approaches to handling money. One of the reasons generosity is so hard for so many people and why money has such a hold on them, it’s holding them back, is because they’re not dealing with money in God-honoring ways.
One of the things we do here at Mission Hills a lot, we offer Financial Peace University. If you wanna push into this a little bit more, that’s an awesome experience. It’s a great way to begin to get a handle what the Bible teaches about dealing with money in ways that honor God. But I’m gonna give you the crash course on it right now. Bible talks about money 800 times. If we boil those down to the basic principles, here’s what the basic principles are. Give first. Save second. Live on the rest. There it is. It’s the whole thing. Can you say it with me? Give first. Save second. Live on the rest.
That’s what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that when we give first, that honors God. Giving first honors God. See, when we give second, when we give at the end of the, “Okay. Well, I needed this to live and I needed this to get the stuff I wanted. And now over here, okay, I’ll take a portion of this and give it to God,” what we’re saying to God is, “You’re pretty low down on the totem pole. You come pretty far…you know, late in the thinking.”
But when we give first, we’re honoring God. We’re recognizing, “This came from you.” We’re practicing gratitude. So giving first honors God. Saving second practices wisdom because the Bible’s filled with instructions, especially in the Book of Proverbs, that say, “Hey, they’re gonna be seasons where a lot comes in and seasons where not so much comes in.” But when you save second after you’ve given, when you save second, you’re putting something aside for those leaner seasons. And that’s just basic wisdom. It’s just common sense. But, of course, the problem with common sense is it ain’t so common. Giving first honors God. Saving second practices wisdom.
And then third, living on the rest builds contentment. Living on the rest builds contentment. You know, I’ve seen this in my own life. We made the decision several years ago to begin giving first. That whatever comes in, the first thing we do is we give to God. And the way we do that for a long time has been through our local church. Not everybody has that conviction. Personally, I do think we’re called to make our church our first place of practicing generosity. So the first thing we do is we give to our church.
The second thing we do is we set aside savings. I put it in a couple of different buckets because I got two kids that are in the college age and I got retirement I need to deal with. And we’re always having things that break and so there’s some money I set aside for that. And, honestly, at the end of that, there’s not all that much left over, but I make sure that we’re living on the rest. We’re not living beyond our means. And so we don’t use credit cards for taking vacations. We don’t use credit cards for buying things that we want. If we don’t have cash for it, we just don’t do it.
And what I’ve discovered is that when you live that way, like, honestly, I just feel so incredibly blessed financially. I don’t feel like we lack for anything even though there’s a regular season where we’re going, “Yeah, we can’t do that right now. We don’t have cash for it.” But I’m fine with that. It’ll come if God wants it to happen. But there’s a contentment. There’s a peace that comes. I’m not worrying about finances. Giving first honors God. Saving second practices wisdom. And living on the rest, it builds contentment. And from contentment, comes joy and peace and freedom. Freedom to move, to follow Jesus.
Then the fourth step, take the next step of generosity. As you do these other things, you begin to take the next step of generosity. And the reason I say next step is pretty simple. Nobody goes from being Ebenezer Scrooge to Bill Gates overnight. We move in that direction, the generosity that my family was able to practice now wasn’t the kind of generosity we were able to practice 10 years ago. But 10 years ago, we began to go, “Okay. What’s my next step?” And so I wanna kind of walk you through next steps and what that might look like in your life.
Now, let me just put all my cards on the table. Be very upfront and honest. I’m gonna use the example of giving to Mission Hills. Now, if you don’t attend to Mission Hills regularly, if this is not your church, don’t give to Mission Hills. I really wanna encourage you to practice your generosity with your home church, the church where you fellowship. That’s where you should be giving.
But I also wanna acknowledge that when I talk about giving to Mission Hills, there’s a bunch of people going, “Uh-huh, that’s what I was waiting for. I knew it was coming.” Yeah, here it is. I’m not gonna be apologetic about it. But I also wanna recognize that for a lot of people, the idea of giving to a church is difficult because you don’t trust the church. You don’t trust organized religion. You don’t trust many organizations at all. And what I wanna say to you is if you don’t trust Mission Hills, then don’t practice your generosity here. But practice it somewhere. I want you to hear me on that.
If you don’t trust Mission Hills, if this doesn’t seem like the place where you’re comfortable practicing generosity, then don’t practice it here. But practice it somewhere because what I’m gonna tell you is intended for your benefit. It’s intended to be for your good. Money has a tremendous power to grab a hold of us and to keep us from being mobile. But mobility is a must when it comes to following Jesus. So, if don’t wanna practice it here, practice it somewhere. But if you do wanna practice your generosity at Mission Hills, let me just tell you a couple things that I…you probably know these but maybe not. And so, I just wanna be really clear about it. The number one, my salary is not tied to your giving. We don’t take a percentage of your giving and that’s what I get that month. That’s not how it works, okay? I have a set salary.
Second, we’re members of the ECFA. That is the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability. It’s an outside independent organization that audits our books and our financial processes every year to make sure we’re doing what we say we’re doing and that what we’re doing is in line with biblical principles. So we’re in good standing with them. Number three, we take 15% off the top of every single dollar that comes then it immediately goes to just pure outreach, blessing people that have nothing really to do with Mission Hills. The Bible does not command that. We just think it’s a good practice and so that’s what we do. Fifteen percent of every dollar goes directly to outreach. A lot more goes to that because all of our ministers are constantly looking to bless others and to do outreach. But 15% is just right off the top for that.
And the last thing I’d say is just this, that we do practice financial transparency. If you have any questions about our budget, our practices, or any of that, we’re happy to give you all of the numbers. There are a lot of numbers involved. We can drown you in numbers. We’re happy to do that. If you want it, you just call the church or send us an email. We’ll put it in your hands. We used to put it on the website. The problem is when you put it on the website, weird people do weird things. The Internet’s full of weird people. There was weird scamming and trolling stuff that was happening. And so we pulled it off there, not because we wanted to not be transparent but just because it was just getting strange. But we practice financial transparency.
Let me just mention this real quick. My daughter actually, my oldest daughter, was applying for an internship with a church. And I’m not gonna name the church. It’s not in Colorado though. And one of the first red flags about this church was that before she went too far in the interview process, they said, “Well, you have to sign a non-disclosure agreement saying that you will not discuss the church finances with anybody outside of the church staff.” And we went, “No. No, there’s something not healthy there. That’s not how we do it.” Financial transparency. So, hopefully, maybe that gives you some confidence.
So here’s what I wanna say. If you’re looking to take the next step of generosity, especially at your local church or at Mission Hills, here’s what I wanna suggest that you do. The first thing is you go, “Okay. Well, if I’m not giving anything, I need to start giving something regular.” That’s my next step. If you’re not giving anything, start giving something regular. Maybe it’s $5 a week. Maybe it’s $10 a week. You know, we spend $10 a day on coffee pretty easily.
What if you just started giving $10 a week to Mission Hills? What I’ll tell you is that I can…you know, the number of people who attend here and call this home who don’t give anything, and there’s no guilt involved in that, what I’m saying, if those people just started giving $10 a week, the amount of good that we could begin to do for people here and around the world would be staggering. Ten dollars a week could make a tremendous difference if everybody started doing it. So if you’re not giving something, start giving something regular. Whatever God leads, $5, $10, $20, whatever.
If you’re already giving something regular, then your next step is to start giving a percentage. What percentage? Well, may be its 1% or it’s 2%. The national average for committed Christians for regular church attenders is 2.5% of their income. So if you wanna be average… If you’re giving something regular, then start giving a percentage, however God leads you on that. If you’re giving something, if you’re giving a percentage, then your next step will be to start giving a tithe. A tithe is a biblical word meaning 10%. In the Old Testament, 10% was what God required of his people. That command’s not repeated in the New Testament. We don’t know if it’s necessarily required. But it’s a really good model to be thinking of. It’s a great way to honor God.
And one thing that’s interesting about the word tithe is it shows up in an interesting place. I’d honestly forgotten this verse, but I share the message on Tuesday afternoons with our service planning team. And as we were kind of talking over it, Justin Adams, our worship leader, reminded me of a verse in Malachi where the word tithe shows up. And I want you to hear this verse. Malachi 3:10 says, “Bring the whole tithe,” the whole 10%, “into the storehouse that there may be food in my house,” in the temple. “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.”
That’s an interesting verse because, you know, there’s a whole bunch of times in the Bible where God says, “Do not test me.” One time, he says, “Test me.” This is the only time he says, “Test me with your tithe. Test me with 10%.” And he says, “And see if I don’t throw open the floodgates of Heaven.” Now, the Bible scholar may want to say, “Well, that was a promise given to the nation of Israel, not necessarily the church and not necessarily individuals.” But at the same time, I also have to go that the nation of Israel is made up of the Israelites, the individuals who made up that nation. And so I do think there’s probably a principle here that applies to individuals as well as to the nation of Israel. And as we were sharing this on Tuesday, Justin Adams, he brought up that verse, reminded us of it. And he said, “You know, a few years ago, we didn’t really feel like we had enough money, but God was calling us to that. And so we said, okay, we’re gonna start giving 10%.
He said, “The most amazing thing happened. Once we started giving 10%, it seemed like we always had enough whereas before we never did. And every time some new expense came up, it always seemed like there was plenty of money for it.” He was like, “It was the weirdest thing.” And then one by one, it was the coolest thing, one by one, everybody on the service team began to go, “Yeah. We actually had exactly the same experience. My husband and I did this two years ago. We did it seven years ago.” And it just seems that it’s always there. And I’ve had exactly the same experience in my life. We began to do this years ago when, honestly, most months I wasn’t quite sure how we were gonna pay the mortgage. But we just said we’re gonna honor God first by giving a tithe and we’ve always had what we need since then. Sometimes that’s because God has brought generous people in their lives to help out. But he’s always provided.
And so if you’re giving a percentage, maybe the next step for you is to start giving a tithe, to start testing God with your tithe. Now, if you’re already tithing, good news. You’re off the hook. Anybody believe that? Now, if you’re already giving a tithe, what I wanna encourage you to do is to start practicing what I call Spirit-led sacrificial giving. And I’ll tell you what that looks like in my life. We’ve been doing this for a number of years. It means that the first thing we do is we honor God by giving first with our tithe to the local church. And so everything that comes in, we move the decimal point one place to the left. And that’s the amount that we give. That’s 10%. And so we give that immediately to our local church. That goes immediately to Mission Hills right now. Well, then beyond that, we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to lead us about other ways that we could use the money he’s entrusted to us to be a blessing to others.
And so we have a number of missionaries we support on a monthly basis. We have some nonprofits. We have two Compassion children we support. I say two. It’s two right now. Compassion just invited me to come down to Peru in May with them. I’ll probably come back with a third Compassion child. I don’t know how that’s not gonna happen. But we pray about how else God might call us to use our…sometimes that means there’s special things at Mission Hills we do. But very often, it means the things outside of the church that we do, and so 10% to the church and then, you know, as the Spirit leads, to other ways that are advancing the Kingdom. And so, if you’re already giving a tithe, then, you know, maybe the next step is Spirit-led sacrificial giving.
But the question really is, what’s the next step? Let’s just get really practical for a second. If you go, “How am I supposed to do that? How do I give?” because if you’re like me, I don’t have cash. I never carry cash. Anybody else? I haven’t even seen a checkbook in years. So how do you give in the plates? You know, we pass the plates every week. And like, how do you do it. Let’s just be really practical. We pop up that slide there. I give almost everything through missionhills.org. I go to missionhills.org/give and that’s how I do the giving. I actually set it up as a recurring giving so I don’t even have to worry about missing it. But we also have the opportunity through the Mission Hills Church app, you can do it. Or if you wanna grab your phones… Well, let’s just go ahead and do it. Let’s all take a next step right now, one little next step.
Take your phones. Go ahead and open your phones and go to your texting app. You’re gonna text to 28950. Now, when you go there, you need to put in a category. And here’s the category I wanna suggest that maybe just…let’s practice this together just today. It’s MHC Care. So if you just type MHC Care. That is a special fund that we use. One hundred percent of the money goes to people who are in poverty here in our area. It doesn’t pay for church staffs. It doesn’t keep the lights on. It doesn’t do anything except help people who are in need in our immediate community, okay? One hundred percent of it goes there so it’s a great place to begin practicing generosity. Type MHC Care and then you put in a number. I’m not gonna tell you what my number is. I had to do this four times this weekend. And you hit send and bam. “Thank you, your donation has been submitted.” I love for you to do that. Contribute to that MHC Care. It’s just a simple practice to begin practicing generosity or to use those to begin practicing generosity or take your next step of generosity. Why? Because Jesus is always on the move. So mobility is a what?
It’s a must. And money has the ability to hold us back and so we don’t wanna let it do that. So let me ask you three questions just to wrestle with. Question number one is what is or has the potential to hold me back from following Jesus? We’ve talked a lot about money today. And there’s a good reason for that. The Bible talks a lot about it. Certainly, it’s in this passage. But it might be that money’s not what holds you back. It might be a relationship. It might be a career. It might be a dream or an expectation. It might be a sin you’re holding on to. It might be a possession. But what is it that’s holding you back or could hold you back from following Jesus? Identify that thing.
And then the second question is what’s God calling me to do to be free from its power in my life? What’s God calling me to do to be free from its power in my life? If it’s money, then the third question is the most significant, which is what’s the next step of generosity that God is calling me to take so that money isn’t what holds me back? Would you pray with me?
God, I just wanna thank you for the green light for a relationship with you. That’s awesome. I wanna thank you that we can have confidence because of that relationship. But, Lord, we know that our Savior is always in the move so mobility must. And so, Lord, would you just speak to us. Show each one of my brothers and sisters the things that are potentially holding them back from being able to have the mobility that’s a must, keeping them from being able to follow you with their whole hearts. Lord, if that is money, would you just give them the courage to take their next step of generosity so that they can peel the fingers of wealth off of their hearts and their souls and be free to follow you with all that they are. If it’s something else, Lord, make that clear as well. And give them the courage to do whatever is necessary to be free from its power.
And if you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just begin praying for the people around you, people watching online? There’s thousands of people watching online from all over the world. And I believe that in this place and in those places where they’re hearing this, there are some people, they didn’t hear anything about money here. This is not about money for them. What caught their attention, what caught your attention was that conversation about religion versus relationship.
And I think many people have experienced the lack of confidence that comes from religion. You know that you’re not good enough and you’re so worn out and you’re so tired of trying to get to that point. But you heard today that there’s a green light from God’s perspective for a relationship with you, that God loves you. He loves you so much he sent his own Son to die for you, to pay the penalty of all the wrong that you’ve ever done, of all the goodness you weren’t able to achieve. He paid it all off with his own death. Three days later, he rose from the dead to prove that the payment had been accepted. And he’s offering you new life. He’s offering you forgiveness. He’s offering you a relationship that leads to eternal life and a confidence in your acceptance.
And if what you need today is that relationship, and if you’re ready to say yes to Jesus, to accept his sacrifice, to put your faith in him to begin that relationship, if you’re ready to do that, would you just slip your hand up right now? That’s awesome. It’s fantastic. If you’re watching online, I just want you to click the button right below me. And wherever you are, in your heart you just say this to God. It’s so easy.
Hey, God, thank you for loving me. I’ve done wrong and I’m sorry. I know I don’t deserve a relationship with you, but I want it. Jesus, thank you for going to the cross in my place. Jesus, thank you for rising from the dead. I believe you rose from the dead. And I know that you’re offering me forgiveness, a new life, a relationship with you. So right now I’m saying yes. Yes to you, Jesus. I put my trust in you. I’m yours from now and forever. Amen.