ACTS 20:35b (part one)
Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he
said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
March 30, 2003

Money is a tough topic to preach on. To relieve some of the tension, humor often helps. Due to the unfortunate number of charlatans and professional beggars among the clergy, there is a proliferation of jokes about preachers and money.
One is told by Dr. Gary Grey, pastor of Park Crest Baptist in Springfield MO. After church a hippie told the pastor, “Man, that sermon was crazy.” Pastor, wanting to show his sophistication, replied, “Sir, I do not understand your speech.”
The hippie tried once more, “That message you laid on us was wild, way out.” Pastor again demurred, “I am sorry, sir, I do not understand your speech.”
The hippie tried again, “Your sermon was so cool that I’m thinking about giving you 10,000 smackeroos.” Pastor immediately said, “Crazy, man, crazy!”
I feel a need to remind us the handwriting on the wall, “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin” (DN 5:25) is not Hebrew for “Money, money, tickles the parson.” Now that I’ve tickled our funny bone, I’ll tackle our hip bone, the one near our wallets.
Giving is essential to being a good Christian. Thus, we need to study it, to learn its rules. Giving is God ordained, Christ inspired, Holy Spirit prompted, and Bible regulated. Scripture gives wise guidelines which are to govern our giving.
The first Bible principle is, Jesus assumed His followers would be generous givers. May we not disappoint the assumption. The most casual reading of Holy Writ, including our text, convinces us our Master believed His children would be liberal givers. Willing, generous giving has always characterized God’s people.
Despite our many faults, Christians respond overwhelmingly to calamities. Even those who malign organized Christianity are forced to admire our Founder’s influence on the history of charity. A lion’s share of world generosity is Western generosity, and Jesus remains the driving force behind Western generosity. Red Cross, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, YMCA, Southern Baptist relief, Catholic Charities–one would have to look long and hard to find a benevolent institution among us that cannot trace its roots to the influence of Jesus Christ.
Jesus won’t tolerate tight-fisted penny-pinching. He expects His followers to be the world’s most generous people. I’m proud to be Pastor of a church which honorably exemplifies our Master’s expectation. You are generous and charitable.
This is a major reason God blesses our fellowship. Second Baptist is an unselfish, benevolent church, able to give freely because of its people’s liberality.

We do not have a printing press in the office making counterfeit money. Everything our church gives away has been donated by you, dear ordinary folks.
Second has no patrons who pay all the bills, no members who give huge, exorbitant amounts. None among us ever has the right to abdicate responsibility, to say we can leave it to others to pay the bills. We are the common people’s church. There has always been at Second an underlying assumption that everyone, whatever their age or economic situation, helps carry our financial obligations.
Our duty to give is not affected by how much we have. Rich or poor, we give. “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (LK 16:10 NAS). John D. Rockefeller said, “I never would have been able to tithe the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.”
To predict the amount we would give if we had more money, all we have to do is analyze how much we give now. The percentage will remain about the same.
Teach children good giving habits. Patterns learned young tend to stick as we age. The best way to learn a good habit is to never have to unlearn a bad habit.
The second Bible principle is, handling money is a trusteeship. Believers must accept the fact that Scripture teaches we are trustees, not owners. Jesus said, “No one of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions” (LK 14:33 NAS). Reading this verse last year almost took my breath away. I had missed its impact before. Initially, the verse caused consternation for me. Except for Barnabas, an exception to the rule, early believers did not divest themselves of their possessions. Also, the Bible teaches private property is okay. The only way to reconcile these two facts with Luke 14:33 is to understand, Christians do not own, we manage. Property is “private” in the sense of oversight, not ownership.
Because the financial emphasis in many churches is only on giving, giving, giving, it becomes easy for our people to slip into thinking our offerings proceed from resources that are ours to begin with, but the truth is exactly the opposite.
Good giving grows out of understanding good receiving, realizing that everything we have is always already God’s. Thinking as a trustee forces us to deal first of all with how much of God’s resources we intend to keep for ourselves.
How much of God’s supply do we regularly keep for ourselves? Rather than focusing on giving God ten or twenty percent, think instead on the fact we are retaining eighty or ninety percent of resources which ultimately don’t belong to us.
How we handle our money is a matter of serious consequence to God. Legally, trustees own nothing, but are accountable for everything. Each time we write a check, tender cash, or use a credit card, we disburse God’s assets, not ours.
Jesus’ plan is to give through us. He wants us to convey, not clutch, what is ours. We are Christ’s servants dispensing Christ’s resources at Christ’s pleasure.

Every financial transaction in life is a theological decision. All of life, including use of money, is holy, to be lived in light of what God thinks. Over the next month, we’ll all confront the question, “How much of God’s money entrusted to me should be invested in God’s kingdom through one of His churches, Second Baptist?” Pray everyday that we will be the good trustees God expects us to be.
The third Bible principle is, giving beautifies life. Jesus lived the most giving life ever. Thus, no surprise, His is also the most beautiful life ever lived.
A few years ago, in the same week the world’s two most famous women died: Princess Diana and Mother Teresa. Why did mystique and aura surround them? For several reasons, one being, they gave. Princess Di held in her arms Angolan children dying of cancer. I never have. She touched AIDS patients. I never have. She walked through fields of land mines. I never have. Mother Teresa nursed the destitute. I never have. She sheltered the homeless in Calcutta. I never have. Di and Mother Teresa won the world’s admiration. I never have.
Giving makes a life winsome. In the late 1800s two men were working their way through Stanford University. When their money was almost gone, they decided to engage the pianist Paderewski for a concert and use the profits to stay in college. The concert failed to bring in enough funds to fulfill the contract. The students pledged to pay their debt to Paderewski though it meant the end of their college days. The pianist graciously refused their offer, and saved their careers.
Years passed. After WWI Paderewski became the premier of Poland. Thousands of his countrymen were starving. Knowing the only hope was the USA, Paderewski appealed to the head of the U.S. Food and Relief Bureau. Boats soon began arriving, delivering thousands of tons of food. Paderewski later made special arrangements to meet the USA statesman and thank him. “It’s all right,” replied Herbert Hoover, “you helped me once when I was a student in college.”
Giving beautifies life. When Ruth and I were poor seminary students, a deacon, James Hicks, gave us a hundred dollar bill to carry in my wallet in case of emergency as we traveled back and forth between school and church. I carried it 3 years and returned it to him when I graduated. It remains a beautiful memory.
Giving of our essence, our substance, our possessions, beautifies life. On the other hand, the smallest packages in the world are people wrapped up in themselves. I fear many of us, including myself, are small packages.
I pray we will imitate our Master’s most giving, and thus most beautiful, life ever lived. Jesus overflows His goodness, lavishes His kindness, abounds in His grace. It is inconceivable that we His children could be greedy and selfish. Let’s begin to unwrap our dwarfed, packaged lives. May beauty spring forth from them.