In the final part of my sermon last Sunday on the 8th commandment we looked at how the gospel has power to transform us from being ‘on the take’ to ‘giving it away’.
What the commandment reveals is that there are, in fact three attitudes to money not two.
1) What’s yours is mine and I’ll take it,
2) what’s mine is mine, I’ll keep it,
3) what’s mine is yours, I’ll share it.
Good manners may be enough to move you from the first attitude to the second. Respecting peoples property is an honourable thing but it is in essence the rule of the classroom. But morality won’t take you to generousity for that it takes the power of the gospel.
The gospel has the power to take you from ‘what’s mine is mine, I’ll keep it’ to ‘what’s mine is yours, I’ll share it.’ Why? because in the gospel that is what God has said to us.
We start to keep the 10 commandments when our living is shaped and directed by the gospel. So how do we learn to be generous? How do we begin to be so utterly transformed that we say ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’
We look back to both the transforming power of the cross of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of Jesus.
The death of Jesus moves us to be generous givers
The apostle Paul in the middle of 2 chapters teaching about the grace of giving put’s Jesus death at the centre. In 2 Corinthians 8:9 Paul writes:
I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
When it comes to keeping the 10 commandments we’ve seen through this series that the Bible teaches us that we can’t. But Jesus did and by his Spirit he begins to live them in us now.
As we look back to the cross we find that Jesus, the one who delighted to give and who gave so freely giving everything away, was willing to be considered as a thief. In Matthew 27:38 we read ‘ Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left.’ In Isaiah 53:12 we read that ‘He was numbered with the transgressors.’ Martin Luther wrote ‘When the Law found Him among thieves,it condemned and executed Him as a thief’
How can you be a generous person? Understand just how generous Jesus has been to you and it will, as Paul says, test and prove the sincerity of our love.
How does the resurrection help us become generous givers?
The resurrection helps us overcome the fear of being generous. You see what often stops us from being generous with our time, our possessions, our money, in big part it is fear about the consequence for me in being generous.
- Fear that I give away my time I might be missing out on opportunities elsewhere.
- Fear that if I give away my money I may not have enough for the future
How can you deal with your fears about being generous?
Understand that the resurrection of Jesus moves us to be generous givers. The resurrection teaches us that we have an incredible future. It reminds me that in the light of eternity giving up time now is of no consequence. It reminds me that in heaven I have an inheritance that can’s spoil or fade so does it matter if I do have a little less than others now?
Do we think for one moment that Jesus regrets his generousity on earth now that he is in glory? No. And so as we look to him so we are moved to be generous givers.
I enjoyed a twitter debate earlier today with a couple of friends on the issue of whether Christians should avoid paying taxes. Here’s my conclusion:
Should Christians avoid paying tax?
It really depends on what we mean by avoid. In some senses the answer is ‘yes’ in others ‘no’.
1. Yes because the government encourages us to pay less tax by, for example, offering tax-breaks to encourage us to save for retirement through personal pensions and tax-free savings investments such as ISAs.
2. Yes because it raises more money for gospel work. For every pound we give to the church the Government gives back the tax!
3. Yes where expenses are legitimately incurred that are tax deductible
4. No where an unintended tax loop-hole is being exploited to avoid paying tax especially if this is being aggressively exploited to avoid paying any tax.
5. No where we simply don’t like the way our taxes are being spent.
What did Jesus mean when he said “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” in Matthew 22:21?
R.T. France notes that the verb Jesus chooses to use for ‘to give’ is the verb ‘give back’ apodote in v.21b. It is a different verb from the one his accusers use in v.17.
Jesus’ word ‘give back’ ‘indicates either the return of something borrowed or the payment of what is due. The tax is thus presented not as an arbitrary imposition but as due payment for the benefits received from the imperial government, which they have acknowledged by using the imperial currency.
Craig Blomberg makes the same point about Jesus’ choice of the verb ‘give back’ and his conclusion is that according to Jesus’ teaching ‘Reasonable taxation is a legitimate function for all governments, even totalitarian regimes; how much more so with more democratic governments! ‘
What does it mean for the Christian to recognise that the state is a servant of God?
It must mean being a dutiful citizen as part of our worship of God. Blomberg argues that Jesus’ teaching makes clear that ‘Christians who avoid taxes, or who avoid paying the full amount of their taxes,sin against God even just as surely as in more obvious ‘moral’ arenas.’
For Montegomery Boice ‘they should obey the speed limits, pay their taxes honestly…’
For the Christian is there then a fundamental distinction between tax avoidance (where unintended but legal loop-holes are exploited) and tax evasion?
It seems to me therefore that Jesus would say (and see also Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17) a deliberate attempt to get around the law and avoid paying taxes –even through legal means – is sinful because it is immoral for two reasons. It is a failure to love God who has put government in place for our good. It is a failure to love our neighbour who has to meet the shortfall in tax created by my dodge.
A deliberate attempt to evade paying taxes – through illegal means – is both a crime against the state and a sin against God.
So Jimmy Carr has hit the headlines for his decision to use a tax loop-hole to avoid paying income-tax. In a twitter post this morning he wrote ‘I now realise I’ve made a terrible error of judgement’ and is promising to put his house in order. It may be a pretty blatent form of breaking the 8th commandment but as we’ve been seeing in our series at City Church there isn’t one of us who hasn’t also broken the 8th commandment.
How we break the 8th commandment
We might not be armed robbers or highway man but how then do we break the commandment?
1. Whenever we take something that does not belong to us
What are you like when it comes to other people’s property? One of the issues with stealing is that we don’t call it that we just ask to borrow things without any plans to return them (intentions maybe but no plans). Maybe it is time to put things right – some kind of church amnesty on returning things.
Employer’s time is also one of the ways we take something that doesn’t belong. JI Packer asks whether we ’start late, finish early, stretch coffee, lunch, and tea breaks, and waste time in between’ . Maybe that means avoiding Facebook during working hours.
Money. It’s not just MPs who are tempted to fiddle the expense claim with slight exaggerations here and there.
2. Whenever we are lazy – we steal time
Not from an employer but from the time God has given us to use. It is easy to waste time which is really stealing God-given time. The Sabbath principle reminds us that this is no mandate for overwork but 1 Thess. 4:11,12, 2 Thess 3:10 there is a call for Christians to be careful stewards of time.
Students just finishing exams you now have 3 months ahead of you. Who’s time is it you have? Who will set your priorities?
3. Greedy – Stealing in the heart
As someone has said ‘coveting is to stealing what lust is to adultery’. Stealing things in our hearts (inside/outside rule) is a very subtle way of undermining the commandment. We’ll return to this when we look at the 10th commandment ‘You shall not covet’.
4. Whenever we are wasteful – we fail to put to use what God has given us
We steal what could otherwise have been put to good use Squandering what we have been given– That’s at the heart Jesus’ teaching in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. We learn from the parable that every Christian has received something from God that is to be put to use. We are stewards of what God has given because you and I are God’s servants. We have ‘talents’ entrusted to us. JC Ryle says ‘Our gifts, our influence, our money, our knowledge, our health, our strength, our time, our senses, our reason, our intellect, our memory, our affections, our privileges as members of Christ’s church – all, all are talents’
Two of the servants take what the master has given them and put it to use but the third refuses to use what God has given him and instead buries it in the ground. What is being highlighted in the parable is that it is possible to talk as if we are God’s servants and yet fail to serve him by do nothing.
Jesus tells of the masters return, a picture of his return at the end of time, when every Christian will give an account of what we have done with what the Lord has given us. Those who have sought to work with all that God has given them there is the promise of great reward but for those who claim to be God’s servants and do nothing, only a fearful judgement.
Now if you are here and looking into Christianity then please don’t think that we are saved by what we do. We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone. We are saved by what Jesus did in his perfect life and death but when we claim to have put our trust in him it should make a difference. Faith saves alone but is never alone but begins to work. The apostle James says a similar thing in his letter and chapter 2v.14, 18b.
If you were to die tonight what do you think that the Lord Jesus would say to you? How would he judge your faithfulness? JC Ryle again ‘We are not told that the unprofitable servant was a murderer, or a thief, or even a waster of his Lord’s money: but he did nothing.’ Jesus tells the parable with a very clear purpose we are to be faithful in obedience until his return. What we have been given we have been given by him and we have it for a purpose which is to put it to use. Remember the lie of consumerism? That what you have is yours then remember the truth from this parable; what you have has been given to you and given to you for the sake of others.
Wasteful with our wealth
So what might that mean for your use of your wealth? Our wealth This story doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to have money or possessions but it does radically alter our use of money. This is what Paul says in 1 Timothy 6v.17-19 where he calls on Christians to be generous and willing to share.
What does it mean for you to be generous with the money God has given you. It must mean giving the first of it back to God. Some of us here are about to start work – have you already committed to give the first of it back to God? Before Christ came God’s people gave 10% of their income back to a God who had given them so much, living this side of the cross it is hard to imagine that we would be less generous in our thanks to God.
Wasteful with our possessions
Paul also urges us to be generous not just with our money but with our possessions. So, are we willing to share? I think one of the great opportunities to demonstrate the power of the gospel at work is in our sharing of possessions. I have been so blessed by the generousity of others Ever since our children have come along Jane and I have not had the money to pay for a holiday but generous Christians have provided just what we have needed. This summer we will be spending a week in a cottage in North Wales courtesy of a friend.
At City the amount of stuff that people have shared with us when kids came along has been remarkable. Someone told me of a Christian guy who gave him his car keys to use car in day time if needed as he commuted by rail to work.
Wasteful with our gifts
One of the ways we break the 8th commandment is when we are wasteful with the gifts that God has given us. If you are a Christian then God has given you gifts for the sake of others. When we float form church to church or when we are very sporadic in our attendance or when we come to consume is to be a Chrsitian who steals from God. Not to use your gifts to bless others is to steal the blessing that could and should be theirs.
Wasteful with our time
There are many who have retired from work who are members of City Church and demonstrate a remarkable example of how to be good stewards of the time God has given them. So many give so much of their retirement time to the Lord rather than pottering in the garden.
It is so much easier to spot sins I have committed rather than duties I’ve omitted to do. I am far more likely to be troubled by what I do than what I don’t do and yet Jesus’s teaching in this parable is a reminder that we sin as much by what we fail to do.
Philip Ryken in his excellent commentary on Exodus includes the following list of items stolen from a single hotel in its first year of opening; 38,000 spoons. 18,000 tiles, 355 coffee pots, and even 100 bibles.
As we continue our series on the 10 commandments at City Church so this week we arrive at the 8th command.
Why the 8th commandment?
‘You shall not lie’ looks very much like a command that belongs under the heading ‘love your neighbour’ but, as with the other commands 5-10, this one too depends upon first ‘loving the Lord our God’. All of the commandments flow from God’s character – he is a generous God who gives without finding fault and so we too should be generous – and from commandment 1 through to 10 we express our worship of him as he do his will. Stealing from someone else, is first and foremost a sin against God
How is stealing a sin against God?
1. Everything comes from God
David writes in 1 Chronicles 29 ‘everything in heaven and earth is yours…everything comes from you’. Believing that, changes everything and set’s the Christian apart. Consumerism tells me I own what I possess the Bible tells me everything belongs to God.
J. John writes ‘ Everything we have comes from God. I no more own my house, my car & my bank balance than I own my library books.’ How does that change things?
Two things flow
2. ‘Every theft is a failure to trust God for his provision’ (Ryken)
Why would I steal? I steal because I want more and if I can’t have more by honest means then maybe I can simply take it by other means. But what I’m really doing, or the sin behind the sin, is saying to God ‘you haven’t given me enough!’ Stealing is failing to thank God for what he’s given me and it’s failing to trust God that what he’s given me is enough. More than that it’s saying to God ‘I know what I need more than you do.’ and more than that not only is everything I have from God but everything I have from God I have been given for God and for others. Ownership means stewardship. What I have is what has been given and what I have been given I have been given for others.
Paul in Ephesians 4:28 writes: He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
3. Every theft is a theft of what God has intended for others
When I sin against God by taking that which he has not given to me I also break the commandment that calls on me to love my neighbour. When I steal I’m thinking about what would be good for me, regardless of its impact on others. So that too ends up being a sin against God. When I steal I am stealing from what God has given to others. I taking what he has decided to provide for someone else.
So next post..how do I break the 8th commandment?
Miroslav Volf, professor of theology at Yale Divinity School and director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture shows us how the gospel works to make forgiveness possible.
- Be realistic about your expected salary in this economic climate!
- If you’re doing a professional job expect your first few years to be tough. Growing up is hard! Trust God and man up!
- Don’t think of your first job as an extension of your degree; act maturely, work hard and earn respect for what you do
- Keep in close contact with your friends and even closer with your God.
- See your work as part of your service of Him, rather than a way of paying the bills so you can serve elsewhere.
- Read ‘Thank God it’s Monday by Mark Greene which is awesomely inspiring.
- Be prepared that you might find work hard, get challenged and feel rubbish! Your identity and worth more than ever needs to be rooted in Jesus and his grace.
- You don’t need to know what their plan is for the rest of life, or even their plan for next month; they do need to remember that Jesus is our shepherd and we are His.
- Go to sleep before midnight during the week. Trying to catch up with a cat nap in the loo’s at lunch, will not cut the mustard in the world of employment. Not that I ever did that…
- Pace yourself: you have to get up early, every day, for more than just a term. It is a shock to the system when you don’t have a month off every 13 weeks.
- Get into good habits & don’t despair: it does get easier to do.
- Read Maximum Joy by Julian hardyman
- Meditate regularly on Psalm 86:11 – ‘Unite my heart to fear your name.’ By guarding your heart closely in the ocean of secular culture you will be able to stand.
- Find a faithful church, plan to go, and initiate serving!
- Be regularly accountable in the deep places with a believer you trust
- Set up standing orders for giving so as not to be mastered by money
- Worship through work as if for God and not for men
- Ask your church if they can help you find a mentor. Someone 5 to 10 years older in the same kind of work
- Remember the fall and don’t be idealistic about work. The workplace is a still filled with sinners, just like you.
- Work out on what moral issues you will need to make a stand. Ask you mentor for advice on these areas.
- Be quick to tell others that you are a Christian but do it in a non-freaky way.
The single best book that I’ve come across for starting work is Working without wilting.
It’s becoming more common for dating couples to go off on their own for holidays. Peter Ko offers biblical wisdom on the matter.
Preaching through the 10 commandments I sought out some advice from friends and family on what it means to honour our parents. Here’s what we came up with.
20 practical ways to honour your father and mother
- Show gratitude for the ways they have shown love – however imperfectly — thank them for their love in sacrifice, commitment, care, concern.
- Visit often
- Phone home. One guy said to me ‘ I phone both of my divorced parents at least 3 times a week during my walk home from work it’s because I know that communication and keeping in touch is important to them and makes them feel valued. This doesn’t come naturally to me (difficult relationship with my parents sometimes) but I continue because honouring is important.’
- Continue to seek out and then listen well to their advice – even if you choose a different path. Mark Twain once said ‘When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years.’
- See they are well cared for in their old age (that may mean saving for their future, moving your home, etc.)
- Pray for them (if they are Christians ask how you can be praying for them).
- Tell them how great Jesus is (if you and they are Christians they will be blessed more than you can imagine…if not their salvation!)
- Say you’re sorry if you can look back and see ways in which you did dishonour them and thank them for their patience with you
- Repent of any attitude that wishes they were out of the way…to free up more time or because you want your inheritance now!
- Encourage and facilitate active grand-parenting! Let them in to your lives even more as grand-parents.
- Don’t talk negatively about them behind their backs or grumble against them to others.
- Speak positively about them to others
- ‘Value your parents as most parents give their best to their children. I know this isn’t always the case but as a mum myself, I know we do the best we can’
- Expect the relationship to improve. ‘The beautiful thing about growing older is that my mum and step dad have become my friends.’
- Ask her Dad’s permission before you propose.
- Value what is most important in them especially if they prayed for you and encouraged you in your faith.
- Remember important dates…birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s day, Father’s day
- Place photos of them in prominent places in your room
- Accept them for who they are even if you wish they were different.
- Don’t take what you have been given for granted – a secure, loving, lifelong relationship
Ask yourself: ‘would we be happy if our young children treated us like we, now grown, treat our parents?’ Kevin DeYoung
Tony Watkins points us to this TED talk by Michael Norton on how to buy happiness.
As the Apostle Paul says in Acts 20:35 ‘In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
Jason Ramasami is a cartoonist who finds ways to engage us with the gospel in fresh and creative ways. People of faith and people who maybe wish they had faith in Jesus will be helped by this great animation.
- Church Planting
- Global Church
- Jesus Christ
- Medical ethics
- Social media
- Suffering Church
- The Christian Life
- Transforming Society
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010