Generous Hearts Stewardship Series #2
I want to read a little book to you by one of my favorite children’s authors, Judith Viorst. She’s best known for her book Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, which was made into a movie and is in theaters, now.
This is another Alexander book titled: Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday. (Read The Book Out Loud)
] It isn’t fair that my brother Anthony has two dollars and three quarters and one dime and seven nickels and eighteen pennies.
It isn’t fair that my brother Nicholas has one dollar and two quarters and five dimes and five nickels and thirteen pennies.
It isn’t fair because what I’ve got is. . . bus tokens.
And most of the time what I’ve mostly got is. . . bus tokens.
And even when I’m very rich, I know that pretty soon what I’ll have is. . . bus tokens. I know because I used to be rich. Last Sunday.
Last Sunday Grandma Betty and Grandpa Louie came to visit from New Jersey. They brought lox because my father likes to eat lox. They brought plants because my mother likes to grow plants.
They brought a dollar for me and a dollar for Nick and a dollar for Anthony because – Mom says it isn’t nice to say this – we like money. A lot. Especially me.
My father told me to put the dollar away to pay for college. He was kidding.
Anthony told me to use the dollar to go downtown to a store and buy a new face. Anthony stinks.
Nicky said to take the dollar and bury it in the garden and in a week a dollar tree would grow. Ha ha ha.
Mom said if I really want to buy a walkie-talkie, save my money. Saving money is hard.
Because last Sunday, when I used to be rich, I went to Pearson’s Drug Store and got bubble gum. And after the gum stopped tasting good, I got more gum. And after that gum stopped tasting good I got more gum. And even though I told my friend David I’d sell him all the gum in my mouth for a nickel, he still didn’t wouldn’t buy it. Good-bye fifteen cents.
Last Sunday, when I used to be rich, I bet that I could hold my breath till 300. Anthony won. I bet that I could jump from the top of the stoop and land on my feet. Nicky won.
I bet that I could hide this purple marble in my hand, and my mom would never guess which hand I was hiding it in. I didn’t know moms made children pay. Good-bye another fifteen cents.
I absolutely was saving the rest of my money. I positively was saving the rest of my money. Except that Eddie called me up and said the he would rent me his snake for an hour. I always wanted to rent a snake for an hour. Good-bye twelve cents.
Anthony said when I’m ninety-nine I still won’t have enough for a walkie-talkie. Nick said I’m too dumb to be let loose. My father said that there are certain words a boy can never say, no matter how ratty and mean his brothers are being. My father fined me five cents each for saying them. Good-bye dime.
Last Sunday, when I used to be rich, by accident I flushed three cents down the toilet. A nickel fell through a crack when I walked on my hands. I tried to get the nickel out with a butter knife and also my mom’s scissors. Good-bye eight cents. And the butter knife. And the scissors.
Last Sunday, when I used to be rich, I found this chocolate candy bar just sitting there. I rescued it from being melted or smushed. Except the way I rescued it from being melted or smushed was that I ate it. How was I supposed to know it was Anthony’s. Good-bye eleven cents.
I absolutely was saving the rest of my money. I positively was saving the rest of my money. But then Nick did a magic trick and made my pennies vanish into thin air. The trick to bring them back he hasn’t learned yet. Good-bye four cents.
Anthony said even when I’m 199, I still won’t have enough for a walkie-talkie. Nick said they should lock me in a cage. My father said there are certain things a boy can never kick, no matter how ratty and mean his brothers are being. My father made me pay five cents for kicking it. Good-bye nickel.
Last Sunday, when I used to be rich, Cathy around the corner had a garage sale. I positively only went to look. I looked at a half melted candle. I needed that candle. I looked at a bear with one eye. I needed that bear. I looked at a deck of cards that was perfect except for no seven of clubs and no two of diamonds. I didn’t need that seven or that two. Good-bye twenty cents.
I absolutely was saving the rest of my money. I positively was saving the rest of my money. I absolutely positively was saving the rest of my money. Except I need to get some money to save.
I tried to make a tooth fall out – I could put it under a pillow and get a quarter. No loose teeth.
I looked in Pearson’s telephone booths for nickels and dimes that people sometimes forgot. No one forgot.
I brought some nonreturnable bottles down to Friendly’s Market. Friendly’s Market wasn’t very friendly.
I told my grandma and grandpa to come back soon.
“Last Sunday, when I used to be rich, I used to have a dollar. I do not have a dollar any more. I’ve got this dopey deck of cards. I’ve got this one-eyed bear. I’ve got this melted candle.
And. . . Some bus tokens.” (1)
Alexander needs to change doesn’t he? He needs a better understanding and stewardship of money. A lot of us are like Alexander. We know the old saying “Money talks” is true because ours keeps saying “Good-bye.” So what is it we need to learn about stewardship that will help us like Alexander. Well, first we need to remember that the Biblical witness concerning stewardship is very simple. You find it in the first words of both the Old and New Testaments. OT “In the beginning, God.” And NT “In the beginning was the Word” (which we know refers to the Son of God).
For the believer, these phrase put everything else into proper perspective. It tells us that everything that was and is and will be comes from God. It was created by God and given to us to use responsibly. We are the stewards, the caretakers of God’s stuff. And since everything was created by God, it’s all God’s stuff, including money. The mistake we make is that we think of it as OUR money.
Having said that, you might have guessed that this is what I always refer to in a Stewardship Campaign as “The Sermon on the Amount.” Let’s look at the two passages I’ve picked for this morning.
Malachi 3:10, Luke 6:36-38 (NRSV)
 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.
Luke 6:36-38 (NRSV)
 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven;
 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
Last week I told you about Mr. Dick and his generous heart. And I told you how few people knew what kind of giver he was. His life was an example of the three different kinds of giving that we find in the Bible. First there is the Tithe, then there is the Offering. And then there is Second Mile giving.
I. THE TITHE:
A. The Biblical witness for giving is the Tithe or ten percent. From the very beginning all God has ever asked for is a Tithe. Everything we have and are comes from God and is really God’s to begin with, and all God asks is that we return a portion as a means of giving thanks. And God said that portion should be ten percent or a tithe. And that tithe should be from the first fruits not the leftovers.
Some people don’t think it matters which portion they give to God; the first fruits or the leftovers, but it does. What if I asked you if you wanted to share a candy bar but didn’t offer to break off a piece but ate the candy bar down to the last bite and handed the rest to you. How would you feel?
You see if you give God the leftovers, that’s like eating an apple and giving God the core. And the apple core isn’t very appealing is it?
In 2 Chronicles 31, it tells us that during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when Hezekiah was king of Judah, an order went out for the offering. In verse 5 it is recorded. “As soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the first fruits of their grain, new wine, oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything.”
God wants us to give but God doesn’t want the leftovers. You wouldn’t give them to your children or your spouse would you? You throw scraps and leftovers to the dog, not God. God doesn’t want leftovers. God wants a tithe of our first fruits.
B. Tithing is the Biblical standard. Tithing is also an act of faith; faith and trust that God will supply what we need if we get to the point where there was too much month for our paycheck. That’s usually everybody’s fear. But Tithing is a matter of faith, not fear.
For some, this may be the first time you’ve ever heard about tithing and how much God expects us to give to the work of God. You may be sitting there scared to death or angry or even trying to figure out how you can tithe when you hadn’t ever thought about how much you should give to the Church.
I understand and God understands. So, let me suggest something to you. It’s called “Proportional Giving.” It’s not an alternative to the tithe but a tool to achieve the tithe.
If you find the tithe, ten percent, too staggering a place to start, then find that percentage where you can start. If it’s five percent, then pledge and start giving 5%. But don’t leave it there. Test God and stretch your faith. Make it a spiritual challenge to increase your offering 1% every month. Keep trusting God, and keep slowly challenging yourself to increase your giving every month until you have moved yourself up to the Biblical standard, the tithe.
I promise you will be blessed. And you will become rich in your generosity and good works.
II. THE OFFERING:
A. If you’ve noticed the bulletin, our time of giving is called Tithes and Offerings. Have ever wonder, “What’s the difference between a tithe and an offering?” A tithe is what God expects. It’s where our giving begins. An offering is gifts above the tithe. These gifts are offered out of joy and gratitude and generosity for what God has done in our lives through Christ.
When my Uncle Kenny died and left us a little money, the first thing we did was tithe it. We gave part to the church, part to the camp and part to another ministry. Then as a thank offering I did something I’ve wanted to do for the last 20 years. We set a scholarship for seminary students. It’s not a huge scholarship, but it’s enough to help. And when you’re in seminary, every little bit helps.
We did other little things as well. We had fun giving it away. It was exciting trying to find ministries to bless. But while giving these offerings, we still tithed.
The motive behind the Tithe is obedience and faithfulness. The motive behind the Offering is Sacrificial Love. As Christians we sacrifice for others and the church because we are the recipients of Christ’s sacrifice. The gifts of love, renewal, redemption, forgiveness, hope, peace, joy, you name it, all of these gifts that we, as Christians, have received freely. And in response, we give just as freely. And when we give an Offering, we give Sacrificially in response to the Sacrificial Love we have experienced through Christ.
B. The movie “I Am Sam” is about a mentally challenged man raising his daughter Lucy, on his own. Sam works at Starbucks and hangs out without four other men with similar disabilities. Lucy is going into the first grade and needs a new pair of school shoes. Money is tight for Sam and his friends and what Sam makes at Starbucks barely covers the rent for his little one bedroom apartment. But Sam and his friends head out to buy Lucy a pair of shoes.
They all take the task very seriously and each of them search for what they think is the perfect pair of shoes and bring everything from blinking shoes to leopard skin shoes. The shoe salesman is somewhat frustrated but cooperates and Lucy finds a pair of shoes.
Sam asks the shoe salesman how much they are and he says, “They’re $16.19 with tax.
Sam pulls out all his money and all he has is $6.25. He begins to explain why he didn’t get his whole paycheck. About that time all of Sam’s friends, who aren’t in any better financial shape than Sam, start digging in their pockets and pulling out their money. They lay it all out on the counter and ask if it will be enough. Lucy smiles and they all leave with balloons.
I think that’s a great scene which shows the Sacrificial nature of the offering. No one asked those men to help Sam. But because of their love for both Sam and Lucy, they pooled what they had and offered it to Sam. That’s Sacrificial giving.
III. SECOND MILE GIVING:
A. And that brings us to the Second Mile Giving or the Special gift. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, Matthew 5:41 (NRSV) “if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.” That’s sort weird saying but it’s where we get the idea of Second Mile giving.
A Roman Mile was 1,000 paces. Roman soldiers had the right to force a local citizen to carry their belongings for one mile. Sometimes it was used as a show of power. However, to force someone to carry it any further was seen as almost criminal and a major faux pas. However, a righteous perons wouldn’t strike back or retaliate for being pressed into service, Instead, they would go beyond the law and carry the burden the second mile
Here Jesus is talking about Christian Character. It’s about more than obeying the rules. It’s about the character of the heart. It’s about having a generous heart and servant heart. Because at the heart of Stewardship and Discipleship is both Generosity and Servanthood.
So, why would Jesus tell us to go the Second Mile when all that was required by law was to go one? When you were a teenager and left the house to go somewhere, did any of your parents ever say, “Remember who you are?” In essence that’s what Jesus is telling us; because later in Matthew 5:45 (NRSV) he says the reason we turn the other cheek and go the second mile is, “So that we may be children of your Father in heaven.” This is who we are. By our actions and our faithfulness is kown and God’s Glory in shown.
B. One afternoon three children entered a flower shop in the city, two boys and a girl. They were about nine or ten years old, raggedly dressed, but at this moment well-scrubbed. One of the boys took off his cap and gazed around the store somewhat doubtfully, then came up to the person who owned the store and said, “Sir, we’d like something in yellow flowers.”
There was something in their tense nervous manner that made the man think that this was a very special occasion. He showed them some inexpensive yellow spring flowers. The boy who was the spokesman for the group shook his head no. “I think we’d like something better than that.”
The man asked, “Do they have to be yellow?” The boy answered, “Yes, sir. You see, Mister, Mickey would like ‘em better if they were yellow. He had a yellow sweater. I guess he’d like yellow better than any other color.”
The man asked, “Are they for his funeral?” The boy nodded, suddenly choking up.
The little girl was desperately struggling to keep back the tears. “She’s his sister,” the boy said. “He was a swell kid. A truck hit him while he was playing in the street.” His lips were trembling now.
The other boy entered the conversation. “Us kids in his block took up a collection. We got eighteen cents. Would roses cost an awful lot, Sir — yellow roses, I mean?”
The man smiled. “It just happens that I have some nice yellow roses here that I’m offering special today for eighteen cents a dozen.” The man pointed to the flower case.
“Gee, those would be swell! Yes, Mickey’d sure like those.”
The man said, “I’ll make up a nice spray with ferns and ribbons. Where do you want me to send them?”
One of the boys responded, “Would it be all right, Mister, if we took them with us? We’d kind of like to — you know — give ‘em to Mickey ourselves. He’d like it better that way.”
The florist fixed the spray of flowers and accepted the eighteen cents gravely and watched the youngsters trudge out of the store. (3)
That was Second Mile giving at its best. That was a Special Gift given out of generosity and love because the florist remembered who He was.
One day at Church, as the ushers came down the aisle to take up the offering, Susie asked her mom what was happening. “They’re taking up the offering and when they get here you can put your nickel in the offering plate,” her mother answered. Anxiously, Susie replied, “But this nickel is for Jesus.”
Mom explained how, by putting her nickel in the offering plate she was giving it to Jesus, because of the many ways in which her gift would be used to spread God’s Word and serve God in the church.
As the plate came down her row, Susie carefully placed her nickel in the plate, then turned to her mother and asked, “If that money is for Jesus, why wasn’t there more in the plate?” (4)
Since, the title of today’s sermon is The Challenge of Generosity, let me give you a little challenge. “How would you answer Susie? What would you tell her?”
There are three Biblical examples of Giving. The Tithe; The Offering and Second Mile giving.
Contrast that to the three kinds of givers in the world. Grudge Givers, Duty Givers and Thanksgivers.
Grudge Givers give but they don’t do it with any happiness or joy, they give grudgingly because they’re supposed to but they’re no happy about it.
Duty Givers, they give more out a sense of duty. The Bible says give so they give. The Bible says Tithe so they Tithe. They Give because its their duty to give.
But then there are the Thanks Givers. These are the folks for whom giving is a joyous spiritual act. They enjoy giving. They enjoy helping others and sharing because it is one of the ways they can say Thank You to God for the amazing grace they have experienced through Christ. It is one of the ways in which they can say Thanks to God for the ability to give back.
The question is, which type of giver are you. The Challenge of Generosity is to let Christ transform each of us into Thanks Givers who can be thankful for “a dopey deck of cards, a one-eyed bear, a melted candle. And. . . Some bus tokens.”
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Alexander Who Used To Be Rich Last Sunday, Judith Viorst, Atheneum, 1978.
2. I Am Sam, MMI New Line Productions
3. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), July 1983
4. Preaching-Vol. 2, #1.+
Other References Consulted