“It just doesn’t make sense.…” We know 1+1=2. But there are plenty of times in life when the numbers just don’t seem to add up. I practice sports every day…but I don’t make the team. I’m kind and loving…but they still don’t like me.
It just doesn’t make sense… After 70 years the Israelites returned to Jerusalem from captivity. The Holy City of Jerusalem looked like a ghost town, walls and gates broken and crumbling – the temple a heap of rubble overgrown with weeds.
They looked at that decimated Jerusalem and decided to roll up their sleeves and put some sense back into life. Jerusalem’s walls were rebuilt. The plan was lay the foundations for a brand-new temple. God brought them back from slavery – it would make sense to think of building something for him first in thanks.
But they soon lost interest in rebuilding the temple and began to pay attention to seemingly more important projects – their own houses. Why should they prioritize precious money building God a house when their own houses needed work too? We’ll take care of ourselves right now, so that we’ll be in a better position to take care of God’s house later. The “later” never came. After laying the foundations, almost 15 years went by without any real progress on the temple. They built themselves some wonderful houses but still no church.
That’s where the Prophet Haggai proclaims “Is it a time for you to be living in your paneled houses, while the temple remains a ruin?” You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it. You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops.
The Israelites were preaching a sermon to the world about personal priorities – their message? Giving to God first doesn’t make a bit of sense for them.
Do we ever think like the Israelites? My mind logically tells me that if I “pay myself first” I get more money. If I prioritize the work of the Lord with FIRSTfruits giving, then that means that every other area of my life will suffer right? We say things that seem to make sense.
We call it the good life. God calls it greed. We call it being sensible. God calls is sin. We call it planning God says you just don’t really trust me.
Did you notice in Haggai’s lesson how the Lord turned our eloquent excuses upside down? You plant much, and harvest little… Eat and drink, but aren’t satisfied…. Clothed, but not warm… Money is placed into a purse with holes… Translation: the people had less, because they gave little. The people felt like they had nothing because they horded and didn’t give thanks.
That is our American story – a culture full of people with castles and cars who feel as though they have nothing. And really friends that’s my story too. And I tell you to show you how I was Israel so that maybe you can see that in you too. I think it started when I was about 16 years old. Back then we didn’t have unlimited cell phone plans. I already worked at my parents restaurant and made great money. But I kept racking up 400$ 500$ phone bills and I blew money on clothes like you wouldn’t believe. Not my parents fault she tried to help me. My solution? Make more money. So I got a second job. I ran around with a literal brinks safe full of money in my trunk and looking back I have no idea where that money went. I can tell you zero of it went to God’s work. I was obsessed with money. I met Karrie she worked as a dance instructor and I worked in fine dining. Once again income went up. We went to Disney world 3 times in three years. But somehow I and I say I not her. I fought with her about money and constantly worried trying to out earn my foolishness. Money went into the wallet somehow the wallet had holes. Yes friends I made a lot. But I felt broke. I was literally studying to be a pastor and preaching a message to those around me that my money was my priority and not the work I said I wanted to do.
Want to know when that changed for me? When God grabbed me showed me how he loved me when I was broke. Vicar year we had Elianna I made 13,000$ that year. But I gave at that time because I felt that I had to as the vicar and God proved it to me. He still loved broke me and still provided for my dead broke family. Again I’m not saying Im great I’m not. What im telling you is that sin and greed wrecked me and the solution to my greed was to give proportionately in thanks for what he did for me. Now I don’t worry about money anymore. I don’t keep score at restauraunts over who pays – I don’t worry if my bills will be paid. I budget, I plan, but I do not worry about personal finances because God has shown me how he blessed me first.
I tell you that story because I suspect that some of you feel like I did. Like me, like Israel, we preach sermon to the world with our finances – the message is that Giving to God first doesn’t make a bit of sense.
So friends see the solution: The gift that makes no sense. That’s why it’s called grace. Jesus didn’t give 10% of himself for you. He was in it 100% for you. What dedication to your salvation did it take for Jesus to leave streets of heavenly gold for the cow manure of Bethlehem’s barn? How much was Jesus willing to give up for us, not even having a house to call a home or a pillow to plop his head. He shed his precious blood to buy you back from that greed.
The one who cries out “Why have you forsaken me” is precisely the one who will never forsake you! The one who prays “Give us this day our daily bread” is the same one who opens his hands and satisfies your desires. Your God is a beyond generous gift giver that can never be outspent.
Because of that we are going to trust him with one of our most touchy subjects – our finances. Over the next few weeks we are going to hear the Words of God’s love And say God I want to thank you with my first, my proportionate and my best. And as we do – we’re going to see some amazing blessings.
Our God given resources are going to fund aggressive Gospel ministry. We get to use our gifts to thank God in order to make eternal differences for people. Our gifts have tangible results where you see people baptized, when you see a building addition built for our children to learn about Jesus, when you see members growing in community with each other.
Friends you worship a God that you cannot out give. God gave you his first—Jesus. God gave you his best—his Son, in whom he is well-pleased. In Christ, God graciously gives you all things. So let’s pray, let’s plan, let’s purposely and proportionately look at how we budget our finances throwing our best at his work. AMEN