Sermon 1.14.18 Epiphany 1

Pastor Walther / January 14, 2018 / 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 / Grace Gives / Epiphany 1

Can you name the richest American ever? You’re probably thinking of Bill Gates. It’s not him! Without a doubt, the richest American ever was a man named J.D. Rockefeller. Ever heard of him? He lived around the turn of the century and founded the Standard Oil Company right as cars and gasoline and the need for oil was beginning. He amassed a personal fortune that in today’s dollars is estimated at between 300 and 400 billion dollars. That’s at least four times the amount that Bill Gates has today! One day, J.D. Rockefeller was asked, “How much money is enough?” With his hundreds of billions in the bank, do you know what he said? “Just a little bit more.”

“Just a little bit more.” Does that describe your life? Whether you have hundreds of billions of dollars or a little less, doesn’t it always feel like we just need a little bit more? There aren’t enough hours in a day. There’s not enough time to finish projects at work. There’s not enough energy to finish projects at home. Not enough money to get what we really want. Not enough friendships to feel like we’re truly loved. We’re close, right? But we’re always just a little bit short. I think this is our default human condition. Never quite satisfied. “Just a little bit more!”

I’ll admit that I feel that way a lot. The perfect word for it is “shortage.” We go through life with a shortage mentality. If I just had a little more time.  If I just had a little more energy. If I just had a little more money. If I just had a few more friends. But I’m always a little short.

There’s just one problem: That’s not true! In fact, it’s an absolute lie that comes straight from Satan. Because if I don’t have enough, that can only mean one thing: God hasn’t given me enough. What a lie! Doesn’t that sound familiar?  Adam and Eve were in the perfect Garden of Eden surrounded by everything they could have possibly desired, yet Satan somehow convinced Eve and Adam that they didn’t have enough. “I need that one more fruit . . . God hasn’t given me quite enough . . .” Shortage entered the world with devastating results.  Just think of the result of that mentality. We’re never content. And we’re always frazzled. Always running. Always struggling. Always searching for that one more thing. For just a little bit more. Ever feel that way?

Satan has convinced me that I’m always just a little bit short, which makes the topic of giving so much more difficult. If I’m convinced I need more, why would I want to give away what I’m trying to save? Because of Satan’s lie, it ends up that it hurts to give. When you put $5 in the offering plate, you sort of give that second look, with sad eyes, wishing you didn’t give it because you could have used that 5 dollars. If giving your money away is difficult and painful, chances are that you are living with an attitude of shortage, thinking that I always need just a little bit more.

Jesus has an amazing viewpoint on this attitude of always being short, and he’s not talking about how tall you are! He’s starts by taking us out to a farm. “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” Think of a farmer: If you don’t sow, you won’t reap. If the farmer doesn’t put seed in the ground, we won’t get any plants. A farmer must give to receive. In fact, the more seed he gives up and plants in the ground, the greater his harvest will be. That takes tremendous trust, but it works! God says that it works the same with him. He who gives, receives. He who sows generously, reaps generously.

Satan wants to fill you with this “just a little bit more” disease. In contrast, I want you to count how many times God says, “All” or “every” in his promise. He says, “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” We don’t have a God of “just a little bit more.” We have a God of “all.” God is not a God of shortage. He is a God of abundance.

God’s abundance starts primarily with this: “God is able to make all grace abound to you.” God’s grace is his undeserved love for us in Jesus. How much of that love is there? God describes it like a flood—it’s abounding and overflowing. The apostle Paul says in Romans,“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). How do we get past the “I need a little more” thinking? Grace!

You don’t need a little bit more. You have it all! “You will be made rich in every way.” In the previous chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Here God isn’t necessarily promising financial blessings, but you must look at the context.  We need to remember that hardships are blessings to believers too. The point of this is that faithful stewardship will be blessed in ways we don’t often think of.  Everyone who goes through life thinking they don’t have enough is missing the big picture. Jesus died for you. Jesus has forgiven you. Jesus saved you. Jesus loves you. You are rich—rich right now! The hymn that we just sang reiterates that same point, “Jesus, your boundless love to me…” We have a God of abundance!

Being rich isn’t about a number. You could have all the money in the world, but still be poor. Being rich is an attitude. It is the gift of God’s grace. Your worth isn’t determined by your bank account. It’s determined by Jesus’ blood. Your freedom isn’t a result of your constant struggling. It’s the result of Jesus’ forgiveness. You are rich! That doesn’t mean that when you are a Christian God blesses you with millions of dollars, but you are not one bit short, because you have what you need most. You are rich with the overflowing love of God!

Sometimes people talk about different perspectives in life. Are you a glass half-empty or glass half-full kind of person? Well, we look at God’s glass that he has given to us and that glass is full! In fact, it’s overflowing!  Whenever this shortage nonsense creeps back into your mind, tell yourself, “God is able and because of that, I am rich!” We don’t have a God of shortage. We have a God of abundance. He has blessed you!

But God’s abundance isn’t meant to stop with you. Here’s how he puts it: “You will be made rich in every way (here’s the emphasis) so that you can be generous on every occasion.” God has blessed you with all that you need for a purpose. God wants to make you the greatest possible blessing to others. You are not an end in yourself. God’s blessings are not meant to come to you and stop. He’s got a much bigger purpose for you than that! Isn’t that what we want to hear? We want a purpose in our lives. God gives you one: You exist and the blessings you have exist to be a blessing for others. God wants his abundance to flow through you.

Have you ever heard of “seed money”? It’s money that is used to start something bigger. You might put some “seed money” into your child’s college account—and hope it grows. You might invest “seed money” in a business and hope it pays dividends. God’s blessings to us aren’t ends in themselves. They are like “seed money.” The money and time and possessions and talents that God has given you are seed money to sow generously. He doesn’t want us to keep our blessings to ourselves any more than a farmer keeps his seeds to himself. He gives us blessings to plant them so that they grow and flourish and bless even more people with God’s abundance.

We’re going to spend some time in future sermons talking about all the practical advice God gives us for giving back to him and to others. Today, he says this to us: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Giving is connected to your heart. It’s a decision that reflects your faith in Jesus. This is why we can’t ever tell you how much to give! But as you decide, ask yourself: Do I have a God of abundance or shortage? Do I have a God who leaves me a little short or gives me all? I also like this passage because our giving is in the context of God.  Our stewardship is something that you need to think about and plan.  Not necessarily just opening your wallet and seeing what you have in the moment.  Stewardship is a completely different view on life.  It’s a mindset on living, planning, and blessing, because there’s a purpose: God intends you to be a blessing to other people.  

Let’s be honest, there is not a hint of shortage in our lives. God has given you exactly the right amount of time to serve him. God has given you exactly the right amount of money to serve him. God has given you exactly the right talents to serve him. Don’t wish you had a little bit more. Rejoice in what he’s given you.

Rockefeller was actually a very generous man. He gave away hundreds of millions of dollars in his lifetime. His desire to give led him to develop a habit: He gave a dime to every single person he met—from a tiny baby to the president of the United States. Everywhere he went, he gave out dimes. It’s estimated that he gave away $35,000 in dimes. If you do the math, that’s 350,000 people he gave a dime to. That’s a lot of seed money. Our God is invested in us. He not only gave value to us through Jesus, but he continues to bless us every day.  Our God is a God of gracious abundance. Joyful generosity is a response to that gracious giving. Amen