Taking the My out of Money: The Big Things

April 23, 2017

Two weeks ago I spoke about the little things, the minutia,
the details.  In that case it was the
details that would have been involved in supporting Jesus and his
disciples.  And I looked at Luke
8:1-3.  In particular the verse that said
Luke 8:2-3 Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had
cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager;
Susanna; and many others who were contributing their own resources to support
Jesus and his disciples.
Do you remember why they
contributed their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples?  That’s right because they loved Jesus and
believed in the mission.  But that was 2
weeks ago when I spoke about the little things, the minutia, and the
details. 
This is April, which often means
Easter and always means weird weather.  At
Cornerstone, April is the Month that we call Stewardship Emphasis month, or as
it redubbed a number of years ago, Money Month.
Those who have been a part of
Cornerstone for a while know the why and the how of Money Month, but we will
catch the rest of you up.
For the first 7 years of our
existence Cornerstone operated like most other churches.  In the spring, just before the new church
year, we would sit down as a leadership team and draw up a budget for the
upcoming year.  And usually the budget
was based on the previous year’s budget with an increase, because we needed to
take a step of faith.  I’m not even sure
that we needed to have met the previous year’s budget before we used it as our template.
But the budget was kind of a wish
list, we want to do this, we have to do this and we need to do this and then
we’d put it all together and call it a budget. 
   
And because we’d really only done
one side, the expense side we’d ultimately end up having problems at some point
through the year with the other side, the income side. 
And when the money issue would
inevitably come up with the leadership team there were always 2
suggestions.  Denn needs to put in the
bulletin what our short fall is so people know and Denn needs to preach on
money.
And I always had a problem with
both of those suggestions.  Putting it in
the bulletin is just discouraging and for the folks we are trying to reach it
sends a really dismal message.  And the
Denn preaching on money, that gets old really quick when you know the only
reason Denn is preaching on money is because there are money problems.
So in 2002 we decided to do
something different.  I would take a
month and preach on the theology of generosity because it was April, not
because we were in a bad financial situation. 
And then at the end of the month we would ask those who called
Cornerstone their church home to fill out an estimate of giving card, which looks
like this. 
And it is exactly what it says it
is. It is a card where you estimate what you will be able to give in the up
coming year.  And we use those cards to
set the budget for the upcoming year. 
And not a nickel more, we used to say not a penny more, but then they
did away with the penny.    
So two weeks ago we spoke about
the little things, this week I am going to be speaking about a big thing, as a
matter of fact you might even say it was a BHAG or Big Hairy
Audacious Goal.   I don’t know if you are familiar with the term
but it comes from Jim Collins, the author of “From Good to Great”.  
Here is how Collins’ defines a BHAG:  “A true BHAG is clear
and compelling, serves as unifying focal point of effort, and acts as a clear catalyst
for team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the
organization can know when it has achieved the goal; people like to shoot for
finish lines.”
And this was in the truest sense
a BHAG.  We first read about it in a
discussion that King David had with his son Solomon in 1 Chronicles 22:7 “My son, I wanted to build a Temple to honour the name of the Lord
my God,” David told him.  For four hundred years the people of Israel
had been worshipping God in a temporary facility, the tabernacle which God
himself had provided inspiration for to Moses. 
But the time had come as a nation that King David felt there needed to
be a permanent spiritual home for the people of God.  Sounds like a good idea, I’ve known other
leaders who have cast the vision for a permanent place of worship.    But listen to the rest of the story that
David told his son, 1 Chronicles 22:8 “But the
Lord said to me, ‘You have killed many men in the battles you have fought. And
since you have shed so much blood in my sight, you will not be the one to build
a Temple to honour my name.
Now personally if I was David I
would be a little confused, after all he might have shed blood but he was just
following God’s commands and for the most part he was defending Israel against
the Philistine and Amalekites and everyone else who thought they should have a
piece of Israel, some things never change. 
But I’m not David and I’m not
God.  And the issue here wasn’t an issue
of whether David was obedient or disobedient instead it was a matter of God’s
timing and apparently, God’s temple was to be built during a time of peace and
not one of conflict because God told David that Solomon would be able to do
what David could only dream of doing. 
And that was to build the temple. 
I think it says a lot about David
that even though he knew he wouldn’t get to build the temple he did his very
best to see that the temple got built, the temple didn’t just magically appear,
it happened because people gave to make it happen and that takes us to the
scripture that was read earlier.    1 Chronicles 29:3 “And
now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I am giving all of my own
private treasures of gold and silver to help in the construction. This is in
addition to the building materials I have already collected for his holy
Temple.”
So the first thing is that It was Sacrificial Giving   Not only did David tell the people that
he was going to give in front of God and everyone he tells them exactly how
much he is giving.  1 Chronicles 29:4 I am donating more than
112 tons of gold from Ophir and 262 tons of refined silver to be used for overlaying
the walls of the buildings Now David could have simply said “I’m really,
really, really committed to this and so I’m going to give a bunch of gold and
silver.”     But
he didn’t, he said I’m giving 224,000 lbs of gold, 464,000 lbs of silver.  Now we don’t know what that was worth in
their economy. There was no currency as we know it in Israel at that time, but
in today’s dollars that much Gold would be worth close to 10 billion dollars
Canadian.  And to quote Senator Everett
Dirksen “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real
money”.
And it wasn’t just the king who
gave, let’s keep reading in 1 Chronicles 29:6-7 Then the family leaders, the leaders of the
tribes of Israel, the generals and captains of the army, and the king’s
administrative officers all gave willingly. For the construction of the Temple
of God, they gave about 188 tons of gold, 10,000 gold coins, 375 tons of
silver, 675 tons of bronze, and 3,750 tons of iron.
Now understand, the tithe was
already a part of life for the Jewish people, including the King.  They were already contributing 10% but this
wasn’t their tithe and this wasn’t in place of their tithe, this was over and
above their tithe.  And if they were like
most people in most cultures than I would suspect that the gifts that were
given for the temple cost these folks something, there were other things they
could have used those gifts for, bigger homes, nicer chariots, new robes and
yet they opted to give it, sacrificially to God’s work.
From the looks of it they gave
some really neat stuff.  Gold, silver and
precious stones.  If you get into the
description of the temple being built it was the very best of everything that
was used.  Why?  Because apparently just good enough wasn’t
what Solomon and the Jewish people wanted to present to their God.  They wanted their offerings to mean something
and in order for it to mean something it had to be a sacrifice.   A sacrifice is by definition, a sacrifice.  It is when you give up something of value for
something or somebody who you think is more valuable than what you are giving
up.
Often I hear people say “Well
today people aren’t familiar with sacrifice.” 
Sure we are.  In each of our lives
we all are familiar with making sacrifices, perhaps not for God but you will make
sacrifices for something.  Maybe you will
make sacrifices so your children can be in sports or band or go to a private
school or get a tutor.  Or maybe you’ll
make sacrifices so you can drive a nicer car, live in a better home or have a
better retirement. Some people make sacrifices for causes that aren’t nearly as
noble.  If you smoke what is it in your
life that you sacrifice for your cigarettes? 
If you drink, what is it you give up to buy a case of beer or a bottle
of liquor?  If you gamble what else could
you or should you have spent that money on?  
You see when you choose to spend money on one thing instead of on
something else you have made a sacrifice. 
For better or for worse.
And the amount of the sacrifice
is directly proportional to how much you care for the person or object you are
making the sacrifice for.  Care a lot,
sacrifice a lot, care a little sacrifice a little. 
You cannot love much and give little. 
And it doesn’t have to do with
how much you spend instead it’s how much you sacrifice.  What might be a sacrifice for me might not be
much of a sacrifice for you. Does that make sense? 
When we were building this
building our theme for the capital campaign was “Not equal giving but equal
sacrifice.”  And that is still the reality;
God doesn’t call for equal giving he calls for equal sacrifice.
So when it comes to what you give to God is it sacrificial or is
it just superficial?
Let’s go back to 1 Chronicles 29:3 “And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my God, I
am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in the
construction. This is in addition to the building materials I have already
collected for his holy Temple.”  So
you remember whose words these were right? 
They were King David’s.  The most
powerful and richest man in the Kingdom. 
So the next thing we discover about this story is that It was Top Down Giving  It would have been so easy for David to
have said “We are going to give a bunch of money to build the temple, and by
“we” I mean you.”  
David didn’t expect his people to
do something that he wasn’t willing to do. And it didn’t stop with David, the
story goes on in 1 Chronicles 29:6 Then the family
leaders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the generals and captains of the
army, and the king’s administrative officers all gave willingly.
All of the leaders of Israel came
to the party because they believed in what was being done and they wanted to be
a part of it and they wanted to demonstrate their commitment. 
I think it says something about
God when we read in John 3:16 “For God loved
the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who
believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”  God, creator of the universe loved us
so much that he what?  He gave.  And what did he give?  He gave his one and only son.  Do you remember what Jesus told the apostles
during the last supper?  Luke 22:20 After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the
new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood,
which is poured out as a sacrifice for you. 
So the example set for us by God
is one of giving and sacrifice.  He
doesn’t just demand that his people give, he gave.  And he gave the very best he had to give.
And God continues to give.  Do you believe that all you receive comes
from God?
At Cornerstone you can be assured
that those in leadership are givers. 
Over 7% of our weekly budget comes from our staff, and one of the
requirements of being on the leadership team at Cornerstone is that you are a
sacrificial giver.
And David not only told the
people he was going to give he told them what he was going to give, remember 1 Chronicles 29:4-5 I am donating more than 112 tons of gold from Ophir and 262 tons of
refined silver to be used for overlaying the walls of the buildings and for the
other gold and silver work to be done by the craftsmen. Now then, who will
follow my example and give offerings to the Lord today?”  I
wonder if there were people who were upset because David publically declared
how much he was giving?   Maybe they
didn’t mind that he said he was going to give but they were a little cranky
because he named amounts.
Cornerstone went through a
capital campaign in order to raise the initial capital needed for this building
and as a part of the process Angela and I along with some of the leaders told
the congregation how much we were going to commit to our building project over
that three year period. 
And I know that there were some
folks in the congregation who wondered why I had to state it publicly. Why I
didn’t just stand up and say “I’m really, really, really committed to this and
so I’m going to give a bunch of money.”     
I don’t think David did it to
prove how special he was, everyone knew that David was the richest man in the
Kingdom.  It wasn’t going to benefit him
much because 25 verses later he died.  I
don’t think he did it to shame people into giving. 
When I decided to tell the church
how much I was giving it wasn’t so you would think, “Wow that Denn is a great
guy.”   If you are going to base that on
money there are a lot of people out there that can do more than I can do, does
that make them greater?   I certainly
didn’t do it to shame people into giving as much as I was giving. 
The reason that David announced
for everyone to hear the amount of his gift was for one reason and one reason
only.  To show that he was committed to
the process.  Listen again to his words
1 Chronicles 29:3 “And now, because of my devotion to the Temple of my
God, I am giving all of my own private treasures of gold and silver to help in
the construction.”
The reason I tithe to Cornerstone
now is the same reason I announced how much my contribution would be the new
building, because I am committed to seeing our vision accomplished.  And for anyone who cares I can show you my
T-4 and my giving receipt from Cornerstone.  In other words I am willing to put my money
where my mouth is.
Neither myself or our staff or
the leadership team expects others here to do what they don’t do.
Let’s continue with the story, I
love the line in 1 Chronicles 29:6 Then the family
leaders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the generals and captains of the
army, and the king’s administrative officers all gave willingly.  Did you catch the last three
words?  All gave willing.
It was Voluntary Giving  This was not a tax that the king imposed to
build the temple it was voluntary.  The
people of Israel caught the vision for building the temple and they wanted to
be involved. 
And when everything was said and
done we read in 1 Chronicles 29:9  The people rejoiced over the offerings, for they had
given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD, and King David was filled with
joy.
And that wasn’t the only example
of people giving willingly, listen to what Paul wrote about the church in
Corinth 2000 years ago, 2 Corinthians 8:10 Last year you were the first who wanted to give,
and you were the first to begin doing it.
And then there were Paul’s comments
on the Christ followers in Macedonia  2 Corinthians 8:2-4
They 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. For I can testify that they gave not only what
they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. They
begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the
believers in Jerusalem.
You probably remember the story
of Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts.  If not, here’s a recap.  They had seen how others in the church had
sold property and given it to the church so the kingdom could advance.  So they sold a piece of property and gave the
proceeds to the apostles for the church.
And that’s fine but they didn’t
give all of the money only a portion of it, and that was fine. 
But they told the church that
they gave it all and that wasn’t fine. 
We pick up the story in Acts 5:3-4 Then Peter
said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy
Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to
sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours
to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but
to God!”  And if you know the
story the fear of the Lord came over Ananias and he dropped dead.  But it wasn’t what he gave and it wasn’t what
he kept that was the issue, it was that he lied to God. 
And really, your giving to
Cornerstone is voluntary.  We don’t tell
people, “Unless you give you can’t come to Cornerstone.”  We don’t hold you up by your feet after the
service and shake you to make sure we got all your money and we don’t ask for
anyone’s T-4 to make sure they are tithing.
Let me end with two
thoughts:  In the Old Testament God asks
his people a rhetorical question through the prophet Malachi and then he
answers it himself in Malachi 3:8 “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated
me! “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’ “You have
cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.”  Interesting,
when we don’t give God what is due God then the bible says we are cheating God.
And I know that sometimes we just
can’t get our heads around the math, how can we give when it seems we spend all
that we have now.  Leonard Nimoy said
“The
miracle is the more we share, the more we have.”  When you think about it that’s not
logical but those that share would tell you it is a reality.
Why did David and the leaders of
Israel and the people give to see the temple constructed?  2 reasons ,they are deep so you want to write
them down this could have been all the of the sermon  They gave because they loved God and they
gave because they believed in the mission.