Jump Start # 3098
Matthew 20:15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?”
Our passage today comes as the explanation of the Laborers in the Vineyard parable. That parable causes many people difficulty. Far too many think it is about death bed repentance, even though no one dies in the story. We actually have a Jump Start book on this parable. If you’d like one, contact me and we’ll put one in the mail for you.
The master in this story is generous. He paid the man who worked one hour the same as those who worked all day long. This is not about equality. This is not about what is right, fair or, the proper thing to do. It was the Master’s vineyard. It was the Master’s money. He had an agreement with those who worked all day long. He kept his word and paid them exactly what he promised. The rest didn’t know. Most likely they would not be paid the same. However the Master turned that upside down by demonstrating how generous he was. In the real world, such a business plan would be headed for serious financial trouble. This is the kingdom of God. It doesn’t run by business practices.
Our focus is upon the generosity of God, and to be specific, how generous God’s disciples are. Times are tough financially. Gas is at an all time high. The stock market is at a year low. It’s hard to get supplies. It’s been a while since this country has had to tighten the belt, say no to some luxuries and hold on because the way things are. More than 60% of the country is living paycheck to paycheck.
That’s the dark side of things. Now, how do you determine what to contribute on Sunday? You probably didn’t see that coming in this Jump Start. It’s been a while since I have preached a sermon about giving. It’s been a while since someone asked me, “How much do you think I ought to give?” And, in a season of hard times, one would think giving ought to be one of the last things we talk about. Why? Shouldn’t we talk about this anytime and all the time. The money doesn’t go to God. We don’t wire funds to Heaven. The money is to be used by the church to do the things churches are supposed to do. There are many things that take money these days, from paying preachers, to the upkeep of buildings, to sending the message out.
So, just how does a person decide how much to give?
First, percentages are not fair to use across the board. To say that we are to give 10%, everyone give 10%, makes that a requirement and not everyone can do that. Some can do more. Everyone has a unique situation.
Is it possible to give too much? Sure. A person can put himself in the category of being needy because he has given too much to the kingdom. And, it’s hard to be a good Samaritan if I no longer have any money to help someone.
Second, using the O.T. standard of giving is really never used in the N.T. I’ve heard folks say that the Jews gave 10% and that was without Christ, so we ought to give at least 10%. First, that 10% stuff is faulty. Consider all the animal sacrifices they gave. That costs. The farmers were to keep the corners of the fields unharvested so the poor could have something. That costs. And, if we use the baseline of 10%, aren’t we again making a requirement. The determining factor is not the love and faith in the heart, but a number pulled from the O.T. That turns giving into a taxation. And, that quickly becomes grudgingly.
Third, God is generous. He’s been generous with you and He has been generous with me. My giving ought to reflect a generous heart. I need to be like the Lord. What does it take for you to be considered generous? That’s what you need to give. And, remember, there are numerous other ways to be helpful, supportive and generous beyond the check we give on Sunday morning. What about sending a gift card to a college student who is away from home. What about buying a young preacher a few books. What about having some families in your home and feeding them. What about sending some flowers to a new mom. What about sending some money to a foreign preacher. What about buying a new Bible for the person who was recently baptized.
Generous—a heart of generosity. That’s how we determine how much to give. It is based upon a heart that has been touched by the generous God in Heaven.