Enriched in Every Way

2 Corinthians 9:10-15(NLT) 10For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. 11Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. 13As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. 14And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. 15Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!

I want to close this week by looking at 2 Corinthians chapter 9. Paul continues to talk to the church in Corinth about giving. He is not just talking to very rich or very poor people. He is talking to everyone in the Corinthian church, including the normal people who give what they can. From the 8th chapter we learned a number of things. In chapter 9 Paul is expanding on what he said in chapter 8.

Beginning in verse 6, Paul encourages the Corinthians to do two things. First, he tells them to sow abundantly. He says if they do, they will also reap abundantly. If they sow sparingly, they will reap sparingly. For those who do not believe we should expect to reap at all, this would be a problem. Paul seems to think we should reap a harvest from our giving. Jesus seems to agree since in Luke 6:38 he says God will give back to us “good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.”

We are sowing bountifully if we are giving all we can and maybe a little more. It is not a matter of quantity so much as a matter of the heart. If you have a great deal and only give a little, the amount might sound impressive but in God’s eyes, you gave sparingly.

Remember the story of the “widow’s mite.” She gave only a small amount but because it was all she had, Jesus said she gave the largest offering of all. There were rich Pharisees who gave much more in terms of amount, but it could not match the widow’s gift in God’s eyes. Be generous in your giving. God will be generous to you as well.

The next thing Paul tells the Corinthians is that God loves a cheerful giver. That is quite a statement. I know God loves me because Jesus died for me. In this context, we might say God is pleased with someone who gives cheerfully. I am a father of six and grandfather of 13. I know when one of my kids or grandkids does something that I consider special it really blesses me. We say, “It tickled me to see him (or her) do that.” I think we might say it tickles God when he sees his children giving cheerfully.

The Amplified Bible makes it even clearer. It says that God “will not do without a cheerful, prompt to do it giver.” If he will not do without this kind of giver, it must mean he will provide for them to give. If I am a cheerful giver, God is going to see to it that I have the ability to give to every good work. That is exactly what the Lord says in verse 10.

That brings us to today’s scripture. I want to close the week by encouraging you how important it is to cultivate a giving lifestyle. We usually do not understand what a blessing it is to the ones to whom we give, to the world around and to us as well. In verse 11, Paul tells them that their giving will cause them to be enriched in every way. Part of the meaning of this verse is that the giver have what he needs to give. I believe that there is more to it than that.

When Paul says you will be enriched in every way, I believe that is exactly what he means. Last week we pointed this out, but I wanted to take a moment and reinforce this thought from these verses. Paul is indicating that the Corinthians can expect every aspect of life to be enriched if they cultivate giving as a lifestyle. I believe this to be true. I believe our giving affects us emotionally, physically and spiritually. I believe every part of our being is enriched when we give.

In verse 12, Paul begins listing some of the far-reaching benefits of the offering they will send to Jerusalem.

1. It will meet the needs of the Jerusalem church. The Corinthians’ giving will alleviate suffering for their brothers and sisters in another city.

2. These same brothers and sisters will be moved to have a thankful heart to God. There is very little a thankful people cannot face and even less they cannot accomplish.

3. Because of the giving of the church at Corinth, God will be glorified. That is the highest thing a believer can do. When our actions result in God receiving glory, we have truly done something special.

4. The giving of the Corinthian church will be physical proof of the validity of their ministry. Paul says their “generosity to them (Jerusalem) and to all believers” proves they are obedient to the Gospel.

5. Their giving will inspire the Jerusalem church to pray earnestly for them. All of us can use prayer, so that in itself is a benefit. However, I think this is pointing to something more. Why will Jerusalem pray for Corinth? It is because our giving makes a connection. When we give to someone we are jointed to them in spirit and that fellowship results in greater concern for each other. Therefore, the prayers we pray become more potent as they are motivated by the love of God.

This list gives us an idea of the impact giving has on those around us. It also gives some insight into how the grace of giving becomes a blessing to us as well. Finally, it shows how God is blessed when we choose to give. It is good to give an offering, but the real power comes from developing a lifestyle of giving. When we do, this list and its affects multiply many times over.

No wonder Paul ends chapter 9 with such glowing words. “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!”

I pray that my life as a giver will inspire such an outburst of praise. I pray the same for you. Let us embark on this exciting adventure and we will see what God will do.

Do Not Just Give Stuff…..Give Yourself

2 Corinthians 8:5-9(NKJV) 5And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. 6So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. 7But as you abound in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us—see that you abound in this grace also. 8I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. 9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

Yesterday we began looking at 2 Corinthians chapter 8. In this chapter, Paul is speaking to a church that has promised to participate in an offering for the church in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem church was undergoing a time of difficulty and needed support in the area of food and provisions. The thing that caught my attention in this account is the fact that Paul is writing to normal, everyday people. Some of them were going though their own difficulties, but they decided to give anyway.

Most people do not fall into the “mega-giver” class. They cannot give thousands of dollars. They also do not fall into the “desperate giver” class, those who give the last bit that they have needing a miracle for survival. Most people are just like this church. They have some pressures they are dealing with. They may be having trouble making ends meet, but they choose to give anyway. They pay tithes and give offerings to the local church and in other ways as well. This chapter speaks to some attitudes and principles that encourage growth in the area of giving as well as growth in our faith that God will take care of us as we give.

Yesterday we looked at two things from verses 1-4. The Macedonian church gave what they could and then gave a little more. I believe this is a good practice. Do not try to give beyond your means. Set what you believe you can comfortable give based upon what you have. Once you have determined what that amount is, go a little farther. Not so much that it will put you at risk, but enough so that it is a little uncomfortable. This will stretch your faith. The more you practice this principle the more you will learn to trust God and your giving will naturally grow.

Second, we saw that they gave willingly. It is important that you do not do anything by compulsion. If you do not want to give than you should not. If you do not give willingly, your giving comes with strings attached that make it impossible for it to be a blessing to anyone including you.

Today let us look at a few other attitudes that Paul encouraged the Corinthian church to cultivate. In verse 5, Paul points out that the Macedonian church did not just give what they had, but they gave themselves as well. He points out two areas in this “giving of themselves.” First, they gave themselves to God. Giving is a matter of trust.

The Macedonian church was in its own time of struggle. It seems to me that things might have been worse in Jerusalem, but Macedonia had enough hardship that Paul called them “poor.” Yet in the midst of this hardship, they gave anyway. Why would they do that? They did it because they trusted God. They gave themselves to his care. They trusted that if they gave to Jerusalem, people they did not know, then the Father would see to it that their needs were met as well.

If you are going to be a giver, you must trust God. There has been much criticism toward the “prosperity message” because of the perception that people are being taught to give just in order to get back. If this is taught, it is not right. However, you will never be a giver if you do not believe you can trust in God. Macedonia first gave themselves to the Lord, and then they gave to Jerusalem. We must do the same.

Paul said they also gave themselves to him. As a pastor I know that the people I am responsible for are generous givers. They need to know that when I ask them to give it is for a good reason. I never put a need before them on a whim. I consider what I have asked them to do recently and the severity of the need or the worthiness of the cause. The Macedonians knew they could trust Paul in this area. He would not have asked them to give if the need was not great. In this way, they also gave themselves to him.

I encourage you to give yourself in this way to the leaders over you. If they ask you to give, consider whether they have been trustworthy in the past. If you find yourself in a situation where you do not have that trust, I encourage you to consider respectfully expressing your concerns to the leadership. If you still do not feel comfortable with what they are asking of you, you should not give. If this becomes a chronic situation, you should consider finding leaders you can trust. Before you do that, however, you need to do all you can to understand.

In verses 6-8, Paul points out something else we need to understand. Giving is a grace just like faith and love. We all know we need to grow in faith and love. In this scripture, Paul points out how many ways the Corinthian church is strong. Corinth was a huge port city in Paul’s time. It was far richer than Macedonia. They had a bigger church. They had the best preachers. They had all the grace any church could want.

We might liken Corinth to a big city church of today. Macedonia was a smaller area with smaller churches. Often we can be caught up with all kinds of “graces.” We can see “spiritual” things, like faith and love, as important. We can focus on the “big” things like programs or quality preachers and judge a church by them. Paul wants us to know that our giving is an expression of all of these things. It is just as important as any other quality we can mention. It is just as spiritual as faith. It is an expression of love. It will have as much impact as programs or preaching.

We need to excel in the grace of giving. There is something about a giving church. They are usually full of love and faith. God blesses them with what they need to reach out. They are thankful because giving produces thankfulness and results in the Lord giving back in tangible ways.

Lastly, in verses 8 and 9, Paul tells them he is not giving them a commandment. He is encouraging them to consider the greatest givers of all. We need to consider Jesus. What did he hold back in his giving? He gave his life so that we could have life. He took our sin so he could give us his righteousness. How does our giving earthly wealth compare to that? It does not.

Though Paul does not point this out here, we cannot consider the giving of Jesus without considering the giving of the Father.

John 3:16(NKJV) 16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

The Father’s love could only be expressed by giving. Paul tells Corinth that he is asking them to give as an example of their love for others. I believe giving will help us show our community and our world the Love of God. Open you heart before you open your wallet and see what the Lord will do.

Practical Giving

2 Corinthians 8:1-3(NLT) 1Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia. 2They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. 3For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will.

This week we have been looking at various aspects of giving, including the one hundred fold return spoken of in Mark 10:29-30. I believe the best way to view this number is in terms of the abundance God wants to return to us when we give. We have a covenant with the Father through our relationship with Jesus. When we give, it puts this covenant into motion. This makes it impossible for the devil to stop the blessing of giving from coming to me. The one hundred-fold return is the minimum that God will bless us with; however, we do not have to keep an accounting for him. He will certainly take care of us.

Today I want to begin looking at two chapters in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church. In these two chapters, Paul outlines some guidelines for giving that will help us make sure we are in line with the Word of God. Before we look at those guidelines, I want to point out something about the people to whom Paul is writing. They are normal people just like you and me.

We have all heard wonderful stories about people who have given large sums of money, or cars or some other very valuable thing. In these stories, the givers are blessed with something that meets a great need. We have also heard stories from the other side of the spectrum. These are stories of people who were in abject poverty and gave the last of their food or money and God moved mightily to meet their needs. Most of us do not fall into either category.

For the most part, people tend to be normal folks working normal jobs. They cannot give thousands of dollars in an offering. They cannot give away their car or house. God rarely asks for something like that. They are also not impoverished. They may be tight in their finances, but they usually make ends meet in the end. They are giving to the Lord through their local church. They pay tithes and give offerings. They may support foreign missions or give to the poor in some way. It is great to know that God will bless the big giver or that God will take care of the desperate giver, but what about the rest of us. These two chapters are written to the rest of us. Let us take a closer look.

I chose the New Living Translation to quote today’s scripture from because it gives a more contemporary picture. It describes the church in Macedonia as being tested. It also calls them poor. I believe we are in a testing time financially. Most families find it difficult to do all that things that a family must do. They have food, but it is a challenge to have enough of the kind of food they would like to have. They have to juggle between the utilities and clothes. Taxes and insurances make life that much more difficult. In the sense that there is not an overabundance in the hands of most normal people today, one might say they are poor.

We see something in this church that, to me, argues against their being impoverished. They have joy and generosity. They do not have a lot to give but they are giving. Many Christian families in America today could say the same thing. They are poor, though not in the way we usually mean it. They continue to give, they have the joy of the Lord and they have a generous spirit.

How should such people give? I believe we can see some things in this church that will also help us. In verse three, these people did two things concerning their giving that we should incorporate in ours as well. First, it says they gave what they could afford and then they gave more.

I believe giving, as a covenant act and as a faith act, is something in which we need to grow. When we first begin to live a lifestyle of giving, it seems that we could not possibly give very much and survive. What I have discovered is that the more I give the more my faith and capacity is enlarged. As I practice giving, I see God move in new ways in my life. The thing is I must start where I am, not where I will be later on.

By this I mean, begin with the first part of what Paul said the Macedonians did.. Give what you can afford to give not what you cannot afford to give. Many people hear about giving and its benefits, they get excited and then get into trouble. They try to give beyond their capacity to believe. In my years as a pastor, I have known many people who tried to do too much too soon, got discouraged and quit. Some even got offended and had bad things to say about our ministry or church.

When we are talking about giving here, we are not talking about the tithe. That is ten percent of our income. I believe we should all start with that. In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul is talking about a special offering for the church in Jerusalem This is the kind of giving I am talking about now. If you are starting out in this kind of giving, be realistic. If you can give ten dollars do not try to give a hundred dollars. If you can give one hundred do not try to give five hundred. Look at what you have and give what you can afford.

It says, however, that the Macedonian church did more than what they could afford. I believe we can grow to the place where we can give more than when we start. Our faith to receive grows as we give. Our confidence that God will take care of us grows as well. I have often given more than it was easy for me to give, and those are the times I have seen the greatest blessing. That is a relative thing, however. When we are beginning to give, any amount may seem like more than we can give.

Here is what I advise in giving. If you can give ten dollars, do that and add a dollar or two to the ten. If ten is comfortable twelve might be a little bit of a stretch, but it will not break you. In this way, we are continually growing in our ability to give without becoming discouraged or offended. The process grows as our capacity grows.

If you can give one hundred dollars, it might be a good idea to make the amount one hundred and ten or twenty dollars. Whatever you can do that takes your giving out of the comfort zone without putting you at risk is healthy. Soon you will find that consistent extra giving will be normal for you. You will also be able to stretch farther should a need arise that requires it. Your confidence in God’s provision will grow until you will be fearless in your giving. At that point, the fun really begins.

The next thing verse three tells us is that they did what they did willingly. We will look at other aspects of this thought later, but today, just remember. No one has the right to make you give. Those in ministry can ask you to give, but they cannot make you. If you are going to give, do it willingly. If you cannot do what you are asked to do willingly, do not do it. Your giving will not be a blessing to the one to whom you give. It will also not be a blessing to you. I would rather have 10 dollars given willingly than 1000 dollars given begrudgingly.

More on these chapters tomorrow.

One Hundred Fold

Mark 10:29-30(NKJV) 29So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.

Yesterday we looked at Mark 10:29-30 from the perspective that giving is a covenant action. We are in covenant with the Father through our relationship with Jesus, his son. That covenant is the highest law of the universe. It supersedes every other law, including what Satan won in the fall of man. Adam’s transgression caused the devil to gain authority in the earth. Our covenant in Christ removes us from that authority.

Since covenant requires that one partner must do in return what the other partner does for him, when we give it obligates God to give back to us. God is always willing to provide for his children, however, the devil will use his authority over man to stop God’s provision if possible. When we invoke our covenant by giving and then making a faith demand on that giving, we leave the devil no place to hinder God from meeting our needs.

A second benefit is that our faith is aided by the fact that we are not begging. We have given according to our covenant and according to our covenant we can expect a return. There is nothing that takes our financial life out of the devil’s hands like giving into the Kingdom of God.

I want to take a moment today to look a little more closely at these verses. Jesus is answering the concern of the disciples that a rich man will have trouble obtaining salvation. This idea was foreign to their understanding of God and wealth. Jesus assures them that their giving would still produce a covenant return.

Let us take a closer look at the nature of the return. There is certainly a spiritual aspect to what Jesus is talking about here. When he says that if we give up family we will get family in return, he is talking about spiritual family. However, when he speaks of houses and lands, he is not talking about spiritual houses or spiritual lands. He is talking about the things we give for the gospel.

The word translated “houses” here can also mean wealth. If we have sacrificed our wealth for the gospel, I believe this scripture applies to us. If we had to leave wealth because of the gospel, this scripture applies. If we lost wealth because we stood up for the gospel, this scripture applies. This scripture also applies to what we give in response to the Gospel. Jesus says our covenant action will result in a return to us.

Many would put the reward in scripture off until we get to heaven. They would argue, “This return is not something we can expect to see in this life.” That sounds very spiritual, but it is not what Jesus said. He specifically states that they will receive the return “now in this time.” There is a reward in the age to come. That reward is eternal life. In this time, we can expect a reward that is commiserate with our giving.

There is something else Jesus tells us we can expect in this life. That is persecutions. The world does not like God’s economic system. The devil knows that if Christians ever truly understand that they can operate outside of the worlds system, they will be able to do damage to his kingdom and he will not be able to stop them. He will do his best to discourage you and that includes stirring up people against you.

You may find that friends and relatives question your giving. You may find a resistance to your giving if you want a loan or in some other way in the worldly financial realm. Mostly you may find that the devil tries to discourage you from giving by putting pressure on your finances. Remember, if you give, the devil cannot stop God from blessing you back. There may be a challenge, but if you stand by faith you will see this scripture bear fruit in your life.

At what rate can you expect God to give back to you? He gives us a number in verse 30. That number is 100 fold. We do not use this term much in our day. In today’s language, we would say that the rate of return on this investment is 100 times what is invested. In other words if you give 1 dollar for the Gospel you can expect that God will give back to you 100 dollars. That is certainly what is on the surface of Jesus statement, but does he really intend for us to approach God that way.

For many years we used this scripture as a way to remind God of his obligation. We would go to God and say, “Now Lord I put 25 dollars in the offering so I am expecting you to get me 2500 dollars.” We would calculate how much we needed and give an offering that, when multiplied by 100, would result in a return of that amount.

This is OK as a point of contact for our faith, but I think we have to be careful with our attitudes concerning this kind of thinking. We do not need to be God’s accountant. I believe the 100 fold expression means much more than 100 times what we give. I believe it is an expression of the kind of abundance God will release to us if we give. It is an expression of assurance that he will meet every need.

If I give 25 dollars, I can rest assured that 2500 is not a problem to God. I can expect that God will meet the 2500 dollar need and much more. I believe the 100 hundred fold is better interpreted as God telling us that he will do far more than we can ask or think. (Eph. 3:20) I believe we need to be careful not to think that we have to “twist God’s arm” by reminding him that he owes us 100 times what we gave. I think it is healthier to remind ourselves that eternal life is the far more important gift.

That said, to remind ourselves and the devil that God promises to return at least 100 times our giving can be healthy. It is a point of release for our faith and a reminder to the devil that the covenant of God guarantees this minimum to a believer who gives. I am happy to tell the devil that God has placed a “restraining order” on him to the tune of 100 times my giving. He is prohibited by covenant from interfering with my finances according that rate of covenant return.

I want to close by looking at another scripture that gives us a statement that is really saying the same thing as 100 fold.

Luke 6:38(NKJV) 38Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

We have covered what this means before, but it is obvious that Jesus is saying here the same thing he is saying in Mark 10. When we give, we have a promise from God that we will see a return on our giving that far exceeds what we gave to begin with. We can give because we can trust God to take care of us. If it helps to remind the devil of the 100 fold minimum or if we just realized that “good measure, shaken together and running over” is more than we will ever need, we can rest assured that the Lord will take care of us.

Give by faith in the covenant. Give according to what you have, but know that God will give back to you in a way that will be far greater than what you could imagine. He is our Father and he cares for our needs.

Giving as a Covenant Action

Mark 10:29-30(NKJV) 29So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.

Last week we spent most of our time in Matthew 6 and Matthew 29. In Matthew 6 we learned that Jesus encouraged his disciples to lay up treasure in heaven as opposed to on the earth. The purpose was twofold. First, treasure stored in heaven is protected from the world and the world system. Second, storing our treasure in heaven will keep our heart focused in the right direction.

The rich young ruler in Matthew 19 is an example of the outworking of this principle. Jesus offered him discipleship if he would give his treasure to the poor. He went away sad because he had so much. His treasure was stored on the earth because he could not see that Jesus was offering something worth far more than earthly treasure. He also did not remember that Proverb 19 tells us that if we give to the poor we lend to the Lord and the Lord will repay us.

If the rich young ruler had obeyed Jesus, he would have had the privilege of traveling with Jesus and learning what he could not have learned any other way. He also would have stored his treasure in heaven. That does not mean he could not get it. It meant it would be available when he needed it.

We must understand that when we give in response to the Word of God, we never give anything away. We do have to release it from our direct control. We have to entrust it to the Lord and to heaven, but we do not give it away. God keeps track of everything we give. When we need our treasure for something on the earth, we go to the Lord by faith and ask for what we need. He has promised that he will supply those needs. He even tells us in Psalm 37 that he will give us the desires of our hearts.

If the treasure we desire to use happens to be in an earthly account of some kind, we still should ask the Lord if we can do with it what we are planning to do. The principle is the same when we are talking about the treasures that are actually stored in heaven as a result of our giving. We go to God and ask him for what we need. If what we ask is not in the will of God, he will let us know. If what we want to use our treasure for is in the will of God, we will see that treasure come to us.

You might ask, “How will God get what we need into our hands?” All I can say is that he will do it legally. Beyond that, I will tell you that God has an infinite number of ways to get what you need into your hands. One of our men stood up Sunday and gave a testimony that illustrates the diversity of how God supplies our needs.

This man needed tires for his van. He researched the prices online and found some good deals. He took the information to a local store and had the tires put on. When he asked for the bill, the salesman said, “The manager has it. You’ll have to go see him.” The brother went to the manager and asked for the bill. The manager said, “There is no bill.” When asked why he said, “I’m the manager and I can do what I want.”

Now, I do not know about you, but I do not think that is the normal way to get tires. God can do things that we could not figure out if we took years to try to explain it. Just trust him. Make your request and thank God for the answer. He will surprise you when you do.

Today’s verse takes place just after the account of the rich young ruler as told in Mark 10. When the young man walked away, Jesus commented on how hard it was for a rich man to enter heaven. The disciples were astonished. They asked Jesus who could possibly be saved if a rich man could not. I find that interesting.

Today we would probably be much more surprised if Jesus said a poor man could not be saved. If Jesus said a rich person would have a hard time being saved, we would probably shake our heads and sadly agree. Why did the disciples have such a different reaction? The reason is their completely different view of wealth.

You see to Israel, wealth was a sign that a man had kept the covenant. Poverty was not a sign of spirituality, but a sign that the person was cursed. To the disciples, the rich would certainly be saved because they kept the covenant. The poor man would probably go to hell because they did not. Our views tend to be just the opposite. The rich must be rich because of evil practices and the poor are victims who will be saved because they were taken advantage of in life.

The truth is that neither view is completely accurate. The determining factor for salvation is the covenant between God the Father and Jesus Christ. If we receive Jesus, we are part of that covenant. If we do not receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, we will spend eternity separated from God because we are outside of the covenant. If we are not saved, we are not in the covenant and are not able to receive its benefits. If we are saved, we are in the covenant and all of the promises of God are yes and amen in Christ. (2 Cor. 1:20)

Giving is a covenant action. If I give, I am exercising faith in the covenant. This is what Jesus reveals to the disciples in Mark 10:29-30. He reassures them that the covenant is still very much intact. The way it works out in the natural will be somewhat different than they currently understand it, but the covenant is not void. Today, it is a new covenant based on better promises, but it still applies to giving.

They have left everything for Jesus. Jesus tells them that they have lost none of what they left. It will be returned to them 100 fold in this life. Tomorrow we will talk a little about what “100 fold” means, but for today, just remember this. When you are a giver and you have invested in the Kingdom of God, God knows and records everything you have given. He does not need to have this record to take care of you. He loves you and he will take care of you. However, you and the devil need to know that your giving is a covenant action that must be honored.

When you come to God, knowing that you have given you do not come as a beggar. You come as a covenant partner in good standing. You come on the strength of covenant relationship that says whatever one partner does the other must also do. You have given for the Gospel and God will give back to you at a return rate of 100 fold or 100 times the investment.

Even more important for us to understand is that this cripples the devil where you treasure is concerned. Both Jesus and Paul call the devil the god of this world. The fall of man gave the devil authority over man and all man has. The covenant in Jesus takes precedence over that authority. If I have not given, the devil has some ability to hinder God from meeting my needs. However, if I am a giver the devil has no authority over my treasure. It is laid up in heaven and the rules of heaven apply. He cannot hinder God from meeting my needs because I have the authority of the covenant on my side.

Think of what you have given. Release your faith in the covenant where that treasure is concerned. Remind the devil that he has no authority over your treasure and trust God with every need in your life. He will meet them and more.

The Story of the Rich Young Ruler 2

Matthew 19:21-22(NKJV) 21Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

This week we have been looking at what Jesus taught in Matthew 6 concerning laying up our earthly treasure in heaven. We have seen that the purpose for doing this is to protect this treasure from corruption and theft. We also understand from Matthew 6:21 that where we put our treasure determines where our heart is focused.

The method for storing earthly treasure in heaven involves perspective first of all. Jesus spoke in verses 22 and 23 of Matthew 6 about how we see things. If we choose to see the Lord as the keeper of all of our earthly treasure, we lay it up in heaven. This means he must have a real say in how we use it.

We turned to Matthew 19 and found Jesus saying the same thing to a rich young man who came to him seeking how to right with God. This young man knew the Bible as he has kept the commandments of God from his youth. Jesus tells him he must do one more thing and if he did, he would have treasure in heaven. That one thing was to sell all he had, give it to the poor and follow Jesus. This saddened the man and he left Jesus without accepting his offer.

There are many things in this story that we need to understand. The first thing is that it was not about the young man’s wealth. Jesus saw something in this man. In the account of this story from Mark 10, it says that Jesus looked at him loving him. Jesus was not saying he could not have wealth. He was telling this young man that he could have something much more than just his wealth.

At this point, the young man cannot see past the treasure he would lose. His eye was not “simple” as Jesus taught in Matthew 6:22-23. If he had the simple understanding that God is good and anything he asks of us will be for our benefit not to take anything away, he would have been joyful at Jesus words.

We have already pointed out the potential of Jesus’ invitation. He would have been part of Jesus’ inner circle. If he was not part of the twelve, he would have been part of the seventy that are also spoken of as personally sent out by Jesus. However, there is also something about his earthly treasure that he should have known.

You see this man was obviously someone who knew the Word of God. He had kept the commandments. Jesus gave him a specific direction. He told him to sell what he had and give it to the poor. If he did that, he would have treasure in heaven. If you look back at my posts from this week, we learned in Matthew 6 that “treasure in heaven” could not mean it is not available on earth. Matthew 6 is about providing for our earthly needs. Treasure in heave means it is in God’s control and protected from the things in the earth that can take it away.

There is something in the specific direction Jesus gave him that the young man should have understood. Look at Proverbs 19:17 out of the New Living Translation.

Proverbs 19:17(NLT) 17 If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD— and he will repay you!

Since the young man insisted he knew the Word so well that he kept the commandments from his youth, he should have known this verse. Jesus was not taking his treasure from him. He was asking him to lend it to the Lord. He was asking him to give God control over it and put it in the Lords safekeeping.

This was also a way of investing his treasure so it could be used to extend the Kingdom of God. If he needed his “treasure” God promises to “repay” his investment. God’s rate of return is stated in Luke 6:38. He always gives back “good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.

So here is what Jesus offered this young man. “Invest you earthly treasure with God by giving to the poor. He will repay you when you need it. It will actually grow because you placed it in God’s hands. You will not have to manage it, so you can come and follow me. By doing that you will have the eternal life as you have asked about and you will still have your treasure. It will just be stored in heaven instead of in the earth. You will also gain a position in the kingdom of God you would not have if you hold onto your earthly treasure yourself.”

If the rich young man had seen through the single eye of Matthew 6, he would have rejoiced at this offer and rushed to sell his earthly possessions so he could embark on this wonderful journey with Jesus. Unfortunately, he could not let go of what he had so God could give him something better. I believe that describes most of us.

What does this teach us about laying up our treasures in heaven. Well, one way to do that is to change our perspective on wealth and money. However, there is another way to take our earthly treasure and store in heaven instead of on earth. We can give.

In this study we have emphasized that giving is at the heart of God’s financial system. What Jesus shows us in combining Matthew 6 and Matthew 19, is that giving means we lay up our earthly treasure in heaven. We put it to work in the Kingdom of God and it begins to earn us a return. When we give for the gospel we are not giving anything away. We are simply changing where we store it and we are investing our treasure in a way that will benefit us and the Kingdom of God as well.

When we begin to see giving this way, we can see how it unleashes the power of a supernatural financial system. That is what the rich young ruler could have done. We also will receive the other benefit Jesus was offering to him. When we give, we place our hearts in God’s hands as well. (Matthew 6:21) Giving, as a lifestyle, opens the door for tremendous spiritual benefit, not just financial benefit.

God is a giver; therefore, a giver is more like God than someone who holds back their wealth. A giver sows not only financially, but spiritually and emotionally as well. A giver develops a more open and loving heart than the person who hoards. A giver wins souls to the Lord by his giving. The list goes on and on.

Take some time today and look at you earthly treasure. We live in a day when it is under threat by the economic conditions in the world. What do you have that can be invested in the kingdom of God? If you sow what you have God will multiply it to ensure that it meets your needs. You really cannot out give the Lord. Open your heart and see what benefits are released in your life.

If you are already a consistent giver, begin to release your faith in what you have sown with the Lord. He will cause it to produce. When you go to the Lord and ask him to meet your needs, you are not begging It is not that God needs to have a reason to take care of us, but he knows that he made us to be productive. You are not asking for charity. You are asking God to do what he said he would do. You have laid up treasure in heaven and you need to use it on earth. Let me end with this promise to the giver.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11(NKJV) 10Now £may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God.

The Story of the Rich Young Ruler

Matthew 19:20-21(NKJV) 20The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” 21Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Yesterday we focused on Matthew 6:22-23. In these verses, we see that one of the ways to make sure our treasure is stored in heaven is to adjust our perspective. Jesus speaks of how we see. If we see through the single eye of God’s love and provision, we have laid up our treasure in heaven. If we see through the evil eye of labor, annoyances and hardships, our treasures will be stored on earth where they will be vulnerable to corruption and theft.

At the heart of this thought is whom we see as in control of our treasure and the provision for our lives. If we are in control, then our treasure is in the earth. If we yield that control to the Lord, then our treasure is in heaven. The important thing to remember is that this control must be real. In other words, we must give the Lord the right to determine what we will do with our treasure. Will we give it to someone, how will we spend it and how will we manage it are all decisions we must be willing to yield to the Lord. If we do that, our treasure is in heaven.

I want to point out one more thing before we move on. The last half of Matthew 6:23 makes this statement. “If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” What does Jesus mean by this and how does it relate to our treasure. I believe the general answer to what Jesus means is simply this. If we do not stay teachable, we are in trouble. When we think we are right when we are wrong we cannot change. If we choose to believe our own wisdom or natural opinion over the Word of God, our darkness is indeed great.

Where our treasure is concerned, if we refuse to yield to what God is directing to do with it, that is great darkness. There are many who believe they have great wisdom where economy and finance are concerned, however, when those people choose to ignore the Word of God, they are walking in darkness. Our economic crisis today is a result of those who think they have light, but discount the Lord, walking in increasing darkness. Look at Proverbs 4:19

Proverbs 4:19(NKJV) 19 The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know what makes them stumble.

To me, this is a perfect description of our “best and brightest” economic minds. The more they “solve” the problems the worse they get. Do not let that be you where your treasure is concerned.

Now let us begin to look at today’s verse. This is a very familiar story in the Bible. Notice that in verse 21 Jesus says the same thing to him as he did in Matthew 6. He tells this young man that if he gives all he has to the poor, he will have treasure in heaven.

One way that we store our earthly treasure in heaven is to change our perspective concerning that treasure. However, there is another way. In this case, Jesus tells this young man what he must do in order to lay up treasure in heave. Let us back up a little and see what Jesus is really talking about.

I want to point out something before we take a closer look at this young man. In the first part of this chapter, Jesus is dealing with two groups of people. First, he deals with the Pharisees. In all of the society of that day, I do not believe there was a group of people who were more “evil” in their perspective. They were legalistic and harsh. They saw nothing as simple. They focused on every point of the law down to the minutia. They did not care about people, just about the law.

The second group was children. Is there any group in any era that is more simple in their point of view. They do not worry about how things work, they just expect that they will. They take things at face value. If you tell them you will do something, they believe you will. We have to teach them to be cynical.

In light of Jesus’ dealing with these two very different groups comes this young man. He was rich and he was a ruler. I do not know what kind of entourage was with him, but Jesus knew his station when he saw him. He comes to Jesus seeking how he can better know God. This is important because it shows that this young man was serious. Jesus did not treat him harshly as he did the Pharisees. However, he also knew that this man did not have the simple faith of a child.

Jesus tells him he should keep the commandments. If you have read the Gospels at all, I think you would have to conclude that Jesus probably knew that the young man was going to tell him he already did that. Jesus rarely, if ever, conversed with an individual that he did not perceive exactly what their condition was. Jesus knew this man kept the law, but he wanted to know if he was interested in going deeper than just religion.

The young man assures Jesus that he has kept the written commandments all his life. Jesus then makes an astounding statement. He tells him that if he wanted to be perfect he should sell what he had and give it to the poor. I wish that was all that stood between me and being a perfect Christian. Jesus knew that this young man’s perspective on wealth and position was the thing keeping him from really serving God.

I want to point out one more thing that Jesus said to this young man. He said, “Come and follow me.” He said that to very few people. Most of them ended up apostles. We know that Judas was going to be replaced eventually. Could Jesus have had this man in mind for that position? We cannot know, but we do know that Jesus was offering this man something far greater than any earthly treasure. He was offering him the opportunity to be close to Jesus, watching and learning from him from then until the crucifixion.

The tragedy is that this man could not accept this great offer. Why not? He had great wealth. His earthly treasure got in the way of a much greater treasure. If he had listened more carefully to what Jesus said, he would have known that he actually was going to lose nothing. His real problem was that he did not have the “single” eye Jesus was speaking of in Matthew 6.

Tomorrow we will learn the heart of the lesson of the rich young ruler.

The Key is in How You See

Matthew 6:22-23(KJV) 22The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

Yesterday we began to look at Matthew 6:19-24. This whole section of scripture, all the way to the end of chapter 6, is dealing with how God provides for our needs. In verses 19-20, Jesus exhorts us to lay up treasure in heaven as opposed to laying it up, or storing it, on earth. This does not mean we no longer have access to this treasure. It does mean that it is protected from the enemy’s ability to corrupt it or steal it from us.

The nature of the treasure Jesus is referring to is determined by the context of the chapter. Since Jesus is talking about what we need for physical survival, I do not think he is talking about some kind of spiritual treasure. I believe he is primarily speaking about the money and resources we accumulate to care for our physical needs. How do we store these kinds of things in heaven?

Let me first say this. I do not believe it is wrong to have savings accounts, retirement accounts or insurance. I am not against natural investments or owning properties. I do not believe that having your treasures in heaven means you can have no treasure in the earth. As a matter of fact, I think you can have things that are manifested in the earth but stored, laid up, in heaven. How is this possible? I think the key is in today’s scripture.

I have stated a number of times that all of Matthew six from verse nineteen to the end is about God’s provision for our natural life. This is easy to see from every verse except two. Verses 22-23 seem to be completely out of place. What do eyes have to do with treasure? I believe everything.

He makes some very figurative statements in these verses. He speaks of how eyes that work correctly fill the body with light and those that do not fill it with darkness. It is obvious that Jesus is not saying there is some kind of glow inside our bodies if our eyes work correctly. He is speaking instead about our point of view. How we see things determines what we will believe and how we will respond to life.

We all know that some people are half empty people and some are half full people. One preacher told of two little boys whose mother told them, “Go look and see how much gas we have. If there’s enough we’ll go to Grandma’s house.” One boy came back with a long face and said, “We can’t go, Mama, there is only a half a tank of gas.” The other ran in and exclaimed, “Let’s go Mama; we have a whole half a take!” Perspective is everything.

How we see our natural wealth is what determines where it is stored. If we see the natural as our sole source of supply, we have stored it on the earth. If we are depending on our treasure to take care of us, it is stored on the earth. If we do not give the Lord access to our treasure, it is stored on the earth. When we see all that we have as belonging to the Lord and under his control, we have stored it in heaven.

I want to look at some definitions. You may notice that I used the old King James Version today as opposed to the New King James Version. The NKJV uses the terms “good” and “bad” to describe our eyes in this verse. The KJV uses two very different words, and when I checked them, I knew they were significant.

Although “good” and “bad” are clear enough, the words used in the KJV required a little more research. The word translated “good” in the NKJV is translated “single” in the KJV. This is interesting. What does it mean to have a single eye? I looked up the word and found it had three basic ideas attached to it. The first is “simple.”

To have the kind of perspective we need in order to lay up treasures in heaven, we need to have a simple eye. We make things far too complicated. We want the Lord to give us all the details as to how things are going to work. We live in an information age, but God is not an information God. He is a faith God. We do not trust something until we know all the possibilities, liabilities and risk. God does not work that way. Hebrews 11:6 tells us what God requires.

Hebrews 11:6(NKJV) 6But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

When you think about it, this is a very simple verse. If you come to God, you must believe he exists and that he is involved in your life. You must believe that he rewards seekers and does not withhold blessings from them. You must believe that he is going to take care of you. Period, end of discussion!

The second idea in the definition of single is whole. This is one of my favorite Bible words. To be whole means everything is working correctly. It means healthy. To have a single eye means we have a healthy point of view. A healthy point of view from the perspective of Jesus is to know that God will take care of you no matter what.

The final idea in the definition of single is, “working properly. Let us put it all together. An eye, or point of view, that is healthy and working properly is one that understands that when the heavenly Father is involved with our treasure, we are in the best possible position. A single eye, therefore, puts that treasure in God’s hands, giving him access to every account. The Lord has the right to ask me to sell anything or give away anything. The Lord has the right show me the best way to use the treasure I have.

Since he has primary access to it, it is stored in heaven. I simply believe that he will see to it that nothing on the earth can destroy or corrupt it. If it looks like it has been destroyed or corrupted, I simply believe that God is going to take care of it and me. My eye is simplt, healthy and working properly.

The word “bad” in the NKJV it translated evil in the KJV. This may seem a little harsh, but any point of view that is not simple is evil. This word did have some interesting points in the definition, however. The one I think is very pertinent to our day is, “full of labors, annoyances, hardships.” If that does not describe modern life, I do not know what does.

When we see life as just a series of labors, as hard and unrewarding, we have an evil perspective. We are taking the pressure of provision upon ourselves. This means our treasure is firmly stored in the earth, not heaven. When life is full of annoyances, we are not seeing God’s hand in things. We see only the temporary distractions that seem to threaten our security. Once again, we have stored our treasure on the earth not in heaven.

Finally, when we choose to believe all the negative news telling us of the hardships we will inevitably face, we have laid up our treasure on the earth. Heaven has become irrelevant. God is not taking care of us. We are responsible for our own prosperity and when that is the way we see things, you can be sure that moth, rust and thieves are not far behind.

Tomorrow we will look at some other important aspects of laying up our treasure in heaven.

Where is Your Treasure

Matthew 6:19-21(NKJV) 19“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

As we continue our study on divine prosperity, I want to take a second look at Matthew chapter 6. We have already discussed the need to break the power of the god of mammon over our lives. Jesus points this out in verse 24. We also took time to look at verses 25-34 in which Jesus assures us that the Father knows our needs and intends to meet every one of them if we seek first His Kingdom. Today I want to look at another aspect of Jesus’ teaching on provision in this chapter.

In verses nineteen and twenty Jesus speaks of “laying up” our treasure. The first question we must ask is what he means by treasure. Many people will look at this scripture and conclude that he is speaking of two different kinds of treasure. This is because he speaks of laying up treasure either on earth or in heaven. However, I want to suggest to you that Jesus is not talking about two kinds of treasure but two different places it is possible to store one type of treasure.

What, then, is the nature of this treasure? If we consider the context of the chapter, we find that from verse nineteen to the end of the chapter, Jesus is talking about God providing for our needs. If that is the case, I believe we must assume that Jesus is speaking about the treasures we accumulate on earth in order to provide for our own needs.

What is this treasure? I would define it as the sum total of our resources. Certainly, it involves our money. I believe it also involves our homes, cars and savings or retirement accounts. If we have investments, that would be part of this treasure. Our treasure is our gifts, talents, education and relationships. Anything that is involved in providing for the needs and desires of life would be part of the treasure Jesus is talking about.

Jesus exhorts the disciples that they should not lay this treasure up on the earth but they should lay it up in heaven. He says on the earth, “moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal.” We should learn o store our treasure in heaven because as long as it is on the earth it is vulnerable to the enemy.

I have an investment account for retirement. When I signed up for that account, they told me it would be worth a certain amount of money when I reached age 65. I am 7 and ½ years from that point in life, and my account is not worth nearly what they told me it would be. Why? Of course, we know why. The stock market and the economy itself have taken some very strong hits in the past few years. A thief got into my accounts and stole from me. Many of us could say the same thing.

No treasure that we store solely on the earth is safe from the risks of life. Many have lost jobs and homes in the past few years. They found out that those treasures were not safe. Some had skills that applied a decade ago, but technology and downsizing have made their jobs obsolete. They found out that treasure was not safe. How many people with expensive college educations are working for fast food franchises or some other entry-level employment? Even the treasure of education is not safe.

The one investment Americans could always count on was their home. If you could buy a home, it would never be worth less than what you paid for it. For many of us this is not the case. Even that investment is not safe. I could not sell my home today for what I paid for it in 1990.

Jesus gives us another alternative. He says store these treasures in heaven. He assures us that no moth, rust or thief will get to it there. Many will say he is telling us we should not have any earthly treasures at all. Jesus is talking about spiritual treasures. He is telling us to store up joy, peace and good works. He is telling us that salvation is the treasure we need to store. If we simply have no earthly treasure, we will have heavenly treasure. There is some truth to this point of view.

We cannot deny that the New Testament teaches us to focus on spiritual things over natural things. Look at Paul’s words in Colossians 3.

Colossians 3:1-4(NKJV) 1If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

I have spent a great deal of time exhorting us to make sure we keep our attitudes toward material things and spiritual things in the proper order. In verse 21 of today’s reading, Jesus tells us the main reason we must keep our treasure in heaven. He tells us that where our treasure is we will find our hearts as well. However, that does not change the fact that this whole section of scripture is talking about God providing for our needs.

The emphasis in the later part of Matthew 6 is on trusting God for that provision, but there is no indication we should have no earthly or material treasure at all. The exhortation is to store it somewhere that will keep our hearts right and protect our treasure at the same time.

Part of our confusion is in the assumption that if our treasure is stored in heaven, we have no access to it. This is not true. We put our money in banks for three reasons. We want to protect it, better manage it, and allow it to be used so it can grow. Banks invest our money in various things. We make it available for them to use as mortgages or loans so that when we go back for it, there will be interest earned and we will have more than what we started with. Part of the assurance of a bank is that we have access to our money when we need it.

Jesus is telling us to store our treasure in heaven for the same purposes. If it is in heaven, it is protected. If it is in heaven, heaven is involved in managing it. If our treasure is in heaven, God is using it to bless others and interest on that treasure is charged to our account. Look at Mark 10:29-30.

Mark 10:29-30(NKJV) 29So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.

When we lay up our treasure in heaven, it will always be there for us when we need it. God says the rate of return on heavenly accounts is 100 fold. That is 100 times the investment. If we really study this term, I believe we can conclude that it really means “more than enough.” We can access it by faith and nothing can keep this treasure from us once we entrust it to the Lord. No depression, inflation or financial collapse can destroy treasure that is stored in heaven.

What we must learn is how Jesus intends us to get earthly treasures into heavens hands. Come back tomorrow.