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Jesus on Money: The Measure You Use

Notes & Transcripts

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” [1]

I am certain that every Canadian is able to recite the biblical injunction prohibiting judging others—“Judge not, and you will not be judged.” Stung by an accusation, especially an accusation delivered by a brother or sister Christian, we fling those words out in a sort of unconscious self-defence mechanism. Even non-Christians are quick to recite this particular injunction whenever they believe they have been criticised.

I wish each Christian was equally familiar with the remainder of the verse and with the verse that follows. Though Jesus’ warning against harbouring a critical spirit are frequently misapplied, and though we would doubtless benefit study of His words on that occasion, I am not focusing on them today. I am focused on the remainder of this divine saying. The focus of the message is on generosity as a mark of stewardship for believers.

Seldom do we Christians approach the biblical ideal of a tithe in our giving. Stewardship has too often been a means by which we attempt to coerce others into doing our will. When a church does what we want, we support it—at least with a portion of our gifts. When the pastors are less responsive to our own views than we imagine they should be, we attempt to punish the congregation through withholding our generosity.

There is a biblical mandate that is neglected in this business of giving, and we will do well to remember what the Word of God says concerning giving. As children of the Living God, we are under obligation to see giving as an act of worship. In fact, the whole of our life should reflect the spirit of generosity demonstrated through giving. When we understand the relationship between honouring God and generosity with what we possess, we will also discover the reality of His gracious promise toward those who honour Him.

GOD ENCOURAGES GENEROSITY AMONG HIS PEOPLE — “Give, and it will be given to you.” The Word anticipates that a Christian will be generous with his life and with his goods. The child of God gives, not in order to be a child of God, but because he is already a child of God. Generosity reflects the character of the one who knows God. God is generous, and those who are born of Him will likewise be generous.

James testifies that God “gives generously to all without reproach” [JAMES 1:5]. Few of us consciously think to ask God to give sunshine or rain, though we may complain if there is too much rain or if we believe there is too much sunshine. We would be safe in assuming that those who do not believe God and who have nothing to do with worshipping Him would not consider asking Him to send sunshine or rain. Nevertheless, we are taught that God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good.” We are taught that God also “sends rain on the just and on the unjust” [MATTHEW 5:45]. The point is that God is generous and good, and His generosity toward us is not dependent upon how we treat Him.

His generous nature, which is synonymous with His mercy, sometimes creates confusion, even consternation, in the mind of believers. For instance, God does not immediately strike down the wicked, but instead He shows mercy and generosity toward sinners; and that generosity sometimes disappoints His people. Pondering life on one occasion, Asaph questioned God’s goodness. In the 73rd PSALM, Asaph wrote:

“Truly God is good to Israel,

to those who are pure in heart.

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,

my steps had nearly slipped.

For I was envious of the arrogant

when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

“For they have no pangs until death;

their bodies are fat and sleek.

They are not in trouble as others are;

they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.”

[PSALM 73:1-5]

Asaph’s disappointment with God mirrors the disappointment of a wayward prophet who felt God’s goodness toward sinners was undeserved. God had dispatched Jonah to Nineveh to deliver a message of judgement. Jonah tried to disobey, only to be confronted by God. There followed a wild ride in a great fish, after which Jonah never again enjoyed fish and chips. Jonah did, however, choose to obey God—he grudgingly delivered the message of judgement, and his message brought about a great revival.

Unfortunately, revival was not what Jonah wanted to see! He wanted judgement. The Word tells us that God’s mercy to Nineveh “displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, ‘O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live’” [JONAH 4:1-3].

God is good and God is generous. James notes God’s goodness to us when he writes, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” [JAMES 1:17]. Despite the fallen nature of our world, life and all that makes life enjoyable, is a gift. More than merely being a gift, life and all that makes life enjoyable is a divine gift. God is generous to mankind, and that includes you and me.

When God shows us mercy, forgiving our sin and giving us life in His beloved Son, He initiates a process that will eventuate in creating the image of His dear Son in us. We are quick to memorise ROMANS 8:28: “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” However, it is tragic that we fail to memorise the verse following that reminds us that “those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” [ROMANS 8:29]. God’s purpose is that He might be glorified by conforming us to the image of His Son. God is at work in the life of each Christian recreating the image of Christ the Lord.

It is perhaps impossible to mention this glorious promise without reminding you of the promise as John views it in his first letter. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” [1 JOHN 3:2].

The reason for reminding us of God’s purpose in saving us is to stress again that we bear the divine image because we are born into the Family of God. As Christians, we bear an indelible stamp that marks each one of us as a child of the Living God. Our character must, of necessity, reflect our parentage. Since God is generous, we will be generous because we reflect the divine character in greater or lesser measure.

Generosity is not demanded in order to be a Christian, but generosity is anticipated because we are Christians; generosity will be reflected through our life. This is very closely related to the teaching found in EPHESIANS 2:8-10: “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We were saved specifically so that we could to do “good works.” Those “good works” demonstrate to others the perfect work of the Father in our life. Part of that goodness is that we will be generous, being open-handed toward those labours that glorify God.

Unquestionably, God calls His people to be generous. In the Psalms, we read:

“The wicked borrows but does not pay back,

but the righteous is generous and gives.”

[PSALM 37:21]

Again, the Psalmist has written:

“It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;

who conducts his affairs with justice.”

[PSALM 112:5]

It is apparent that God expects His people to be generous.

We should ask, “What specific acts of generosity prove pleasing to God?” Throughout the Bible, God encourages generosity toward the needy and in advancing His cause. Consider just a few examples as demonstration of God’s concern for His people to be generous toward the needy. In particular, God calls His people to be compassionate toward the impoverished within society.

“Whoever despises his neighbour is a sinner,

but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.”

[PROVERBS 14:21]

“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,

but he who is generous to the needy honours him.”

[PROVERBS 14:31]

Among the poor to whom God expects His people to demonstrate generosity are widows and orphans—arguably the most vulnerable members of society. James cautions Christians that “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father [includes showing compassion toward] orphans and widows in their affliction” [JAMES 1:27]. Consequently, concern for widows and orphans begins with our own families. We have been taught that, “If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are really widows” [1 TIMOTHY 5:16]. However, compassion to our own family is only a beginning point, if we will reflect the character of our Father, it will extend outward as we have opportunity to do good.

I am often challenged by conscientious believers struggling to know how they can address all the needs that touch their heart. The answer is that we cannot relieve every case of need. Jesus said, “You always have the poor with you” [MARK 14:7]. Though there will always be needy people about us—genuinely needy people—God provides a guideline to direct our generosity in GALATIANS 6:10. “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

According to the passages we have considered, we should first address the needs of our own family. Then, we should accept responsibility for the needs of Christians with whom we associate in our own congregation. After this, we should be compassionate toward fellow believers, even when they are removed at a distance from us. After that, we are to include all who are needy. The guideline begins with our own families and extends outward in concentric circles reflecting decreasing relationship.

I am compelled to note that the modern liberal mindset is to utilise moneys that belong to others as an act of redistribution of wealth. This is not generosity—it is an act of control. As such, it is crass and unworthy to be called charity or generosity. The Christian heart seeks to express grace and mercy voluntarily just as grace and mercy has been demonstrated freely toward the child of God. Appropriating Lady Thatcher’s view, the problem of political liberalism is that eventually the liberal runs out of other people’s money. The glory of Christian charity is that God continually supplies what is needed!

God also expects His people to be generous in advancing His cause. When Paul writes the Corinthians instructing them in giving as an act of worship, he includes a specific promise from the Lord resulting from generosity. “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for all your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you” [2 CORINTHIANS 9:10-14].

Nor should we expect that the sole work of a church is provision of benevolence. Glorifying God through providing for His workmen, through providing for a place to gather His people for worship and through providing for disseminating the message of life are also the responsibility of His people. As Moses received instruction for the Tabernacle and for the work of worship, God instructed him to receive from those who were generous contributors. Here are a couple of examples that demonstrate this truth.

“Take from among you a contribution to the LORD. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the LORD’s contribution: gold, silver and bronze” [EXODUS 35:5]. When God urges Moses to accept the generous contribution of His people, He was iterating a command that He had issued earlier to Moses. “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me” [EXODUS 25:2].

Those providing for worship are those whose heart moves them, those who have a generous heart—that should be all of us! The gifts we bring are brought for the specific purpose of honouring God. We receive the contribution of His people for Him! If you are giving for the church, your motives are inferior and unworthy of the Master; our gifts are brought because our hearts are moved and we seek His honour.

Christians are to be generous in providing for worship, in providing for advance of the Kingdom of God, in providing for winning the lost to faith. You must assume responsibility to underwrite the ministry of your own congregation, for in doing so you please God and glorify His Name. In doing this, the teaching is to practise generosity.

GOD IS GENEROUS TOWARD THOSE WHO ARE GENEROUS — “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.” Multiple examples of Christian philanthropists can be provided as encouragement for generosity in supporting the work of God. While living in Dallas, I was privileged to share worship with Mrs. Mary Crowley, a godly woman who gave generously to a number of ministries. An article no longer available online, tells how Mary Crowley rose from humble beginnings to become a multi-millionaire. Though wealthy beyond the wildest dreams of most people, she did not view her wealth as something solely for her personal use, she was convinced that she was responsible before God to honour Him through wise investment of her funds in the lives of others.

Mary donated millions of dollars to provide for the music ministry of her church, the First Baptist Church of Dallas, to provide for cancer research at Baylor Hospital in Dallas and to establish the Mary Crowley Cancer Research Centers in Dallas, Abilene, Texas and in Palm Beach, Florida. Mary used her wealth to underwrite the ministry of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, to provide for the education of women at colleges and universities across the United States and in Canada and to relieve the physical suffering of many people. Above all, Mary Crowley endeavoured to honour Christ the Lord. Mary wore a necklace with a pair of silver shovel charms: a large one and a small one. She used those shovels to illustrate her belief that we cannot out give God. She often reminded people, “His shovel is bigger than mine.” [2]

R. G. LeTourneau is another godly philanthropist noted for generosity. For years he lived on ten percent of his income and gave away ninety percent to Christian work, especially investing in missionary causes in Africa and in South America. LeTourneau College in Longview, Texas continues to this day because of his belief in education, and the foundation he established continues to underwrite Christian ministries. [3]

Both Mary Crowley and R. G. LeTourneau grew up in poverty. Each determined early in life to honour God; and God richly rewarded their generosity. Both Mary Crowley and R. G. LeTourneau testified that God responded generously to their generosity toward His work. Their testimonies simply echoed what many godly men and women have said throughout the ages, and what God Himself has promised in His Word.

This world operates by the standard of reciprocity. Reciprocity says, “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.” The Peats family sent you a Christmas card last year? Somehow you feel you have to send one to them this year. The Starks invited you over to their house for dinner? You know it’s your turn to have them for dinner.

The dark side of reciprocity is that though we are convinced that we are to be “nice” to those who are nice to us, we feel free in responding unkindly to those who treat us unkindly. The simple notion that we ought to be nice to those who are nice to us, but that we are under no obligation to be nice to those who aren’t nice to us, seems to permeate every human relationship. Understand that I am not saying that the norm of reciprocity is utterly wrong; it helps hold society together. If we couldn’t depend on people responding in kind, there would be a terrible uncertainty in all our relationships. However, this standard that characterises the world must not to be the Christian standard. We are held to a higher standard—a standard established by God Himself.

Christian behaviour must not to be governed by the norm of reciprocity! Another standard, one that Larry Richards and Lawrence Richards calls initiating love, [4] is to control how Christians live. Christians are to take the lead in initiating love. This is Jesus’ meaning when He commanded His followers, “Love your enemies.” We are not to demonstrate love because we expect to be repaid. We are to love, even to the point of lending, without expecting anything back. We are to love in this way because Jesus calls us to this kind of life.

Christians who decide to live a life of initiating love will have two consolations. First, in living this way, we will be living as Jesus has commanded us and we will be living as He Himself lived. Second, in living a life of love we will discover in a love like God’s what it means to have a truly abundant life. That abundant life does include divine generosity, but it is a generosity that we can experience now—a generosity that will redound in every area of life!

I do not want to mislead you. There are plenty of charlatans promising a guaranteed financial return if you will only invest in their “ministry.” I am not suggesting material wealth if only you will invest in God’s work. I am, however, affirming on the authority of God’s Word that God takes note of how His people live. The manner in which we live our lives reflects who we are and reveals the relationship we have with God Himself.

Individuals that think solely in monetary terms demonstrate where their heart lies. Because they are always focused on the acquisition of wealth, they say by their lives that they serve money. Of course, such people need to remember the warning Jesus issued: “You cannot serve God and money” [LUKE 16:13]. This is not to say that money is unimportant, but the wise Christian realises that money is simply a tool and that what he holds is entrusted to him to be used as an administrator of God’s grace. Money is not given to us solely for our enjoyment, but it is given for wise use and for God’s glory.

GOD’S STANDARD FOR GENEROSITY — “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Reciprocity must not become the guiding principle for our lives, though we know that the world in which we live operates by the principle of reciprocity. Sinners lend to sinners, anticipating that they will receive a return; but the child of God is to be open-handed, expecting nothing in return. However, the child of God will always know that the Father takes note of her action and He will provide for her need.

I have stressed that this particular passage presents a much larger issue than merely speaking of generosity. Christians are expected to reflect the character of the Father; and we know that “God is love” [see 1 JOHN 4:7-11]. Before He spoke the words of our text, Jesus taught us to love our enemies [VERSE 27], to do good to those who hate us [VERSE 27], to bless those who curse us and to pray for those who abuse us [VERSE 28], to avoid retaliation [VERSE 29], and to be generous whenever opportunity to do so is provided [VERSE 30]. A summary statement including all of these applications is found in VERSE 31: “As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them” [LUKE 6:31].

The divine principle stands, “Whatever one sows, that will he also reap” [GALATIANS 6:7]. The same truth is iterated in 2 CORINTHIANS 9:6: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” This divine principle cuts two ways—either blessing or hurting the child of God. Because the principle is clearly established, we should make the effort to understand what is meant.

In our text we are promised that mercy will result in mercy [VERSE 36], judgement will lead to judgement and condemnation will eventuate in condemnation [VERSE 37], just as forgiveness will secure forgiveness [VERSE 37]. In the same way, generosity will lead to generosity; but the generosity anticipated is not a mere financial accounting. What is apparent from Jesus’ words is that attitudes and actions reflect back on the individual. What you are determines in no small measure how others will treat you; and assuredly, your actions will reveal a great deal concerning your relationship to God.

God is not saying that showing mercy will ensure that other people are merciful toward you; neither is God promising that the judgemental will themselves be judged by mankind, though that may prove to be the case. He is, however, saying that when we are merciful, He responds with mercy. When we are judgemental, we invite His judgement. And when we are generous, He will be generous toward us. We seek to please God not in order to receive His life; rather, because we now possess His life we will act in this manner and the evidence that we possess that life will be revealed in His response to us.

Divine principles related to that found in our text are at work in the life of Christians—principles that can only be neglected to one’s eternal detriment. Jesus taught that the wiser our investment of God’s blessing, the more we will receive from Him. Jesus said, “To the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away” [LUKE 8:18]. The Master also taught that with the receipt of blessing comes responsibility [see LUKE 19:22-26]. These principles are related to the principle stated in our text. The blessing of salvation imposes the expectation that the redeemed individual will be generous with time and talents in addition to being generous with material goods that he or she may hold. The principle can be stated thusly: Generosity reveals love.

Moreover, if the redeemed individual has been entrusted with great resources, then great responsibility is attached to the resources. Perhaps you are thinking at this moment that you have no great resources, but I would challenge you to think outside the box. You are given twenty-four hours every day, sixty minutes in each hour, and sixty seconds in each minute. What are you doing with the time that God has entrusted to you? You can either squander the time God has entrusted to you playing solitaire or watching the latest fantasy that parades as news and entertainment, or you can invest in others a portion of the time God has given you. Since you agree that your time has value—otherwise you would not expect a wage for services given to your employer—then you must consider what you are doing with the time God has given to you.

If a tithe of our moneys is reasonable, shouldn’t a tithe of our time be equally reasonable? By this criterion, we should expect that about seventeen hours each week would be invested in worship, in personal time with Christ or in ministry. Preachers often suggest devotional time of ten or fifteen minutes daily; but I am suggesting that we should not begrudge two and one-half hours each day in service for the Master. We preachers likely suggest such a paltry amount of time alone with God because we are uncertain that people will give Him any more time than ten or fifteen minutes. We imagine that our personal time is of greater importance than our time alone with God.

No doubt some will protest that it is unreasonable to expect that anyone living in our fast-paced world will be able to sit quietly reading the Word or praying for two and one-half hours each day. I will agree; however, time for God should be set aside. Time meditating in the Word or quietly waiting on God should be a mark of each life.

Beyond the quiet time with God, surely the suggestion of a tithe of our time must speak of honouring God through the investment of life in service to others. Are there no projects on the properties that will permit us to meet in a bright, clean facility that says “Welcome” to those sharing our services? Perhaps we need to encourage our men to seek out widows and elderly whom we could honour through small tasks such as mowing the lawn, shovelling the drive or doing small repair tasks performed to the glory of God. Single moms might welcome men from the congregation taking their sons out for a day of fishing or for women of the church taking their daughters out for a day of shopping. This says nothing of the need for people to visit the lost and the spiritually wounded.

I grant that we need time to sleep, time for our family, time for work and I will even argue that we need time for recreation to refresh our mind and body. If we sleep eight hours each night, work forty hours every week, and spend five hours per day in family time and sharing meals, that leaves around thirty-seven discretionary hours each week. The time suggested for sleep, for family and meals, for work, is certainly generous. Out of the optional time we have, we should ask how much time is set aside for Christ and for service in His Name.

Fathers are responsible to bless their children through being available, through providing, through taking time to understand. Mothers are responsible to bless their children through teaching them righteousness, modelling godliness and a holy life. Husbands are to bless their wives through being understanding and through showing honour. Wives are to bless their husbands through cultivating a submissive sprit and through treating them with respect. A good place to begin investing time in the work of the Master is through truly quality family time—reading the Bible together, praying together, speaking to one another respectfully and actually taking time to love each other.

Certainly, God has blessed you with abilities and talents that help make you the unique individual you are. What are you doing with the gifts, the abilities and the talents that He has invested in you? I know that you have strength. Is that strength offered to God for His glory? Each of us have abilities and talents that can be used to His glory. What are we doing with the abilities He has permitted us to have? When you became a Christian, the Spirit of God took up residence in your life, making your body His temple. At that time He entrusted to you divine gifts so that you could participate in building up the Body of Christ. What are you doing for Christ’s sake?

We are indeed a blessed people; we live in a land of peace, a land of abundance. Each of us is blessed simply through living in this great nation. We have more than we need, though we probably do not have all that we want. Material blessings multiply for each of us. What are you doing to demonstrate the love of Christ with what you have? How are you investing the wealth He has entrusted to you?

God has repeatedly promised to provide richly for those who honour Him. Through Malachi God challenges Israel to test Him by bringing the tithe into the storehouse, promising that when they obey He will open the windows of Heaven [MALACHI 3:8-12]. He employs similar language in HAGGAI 1:7-11; 2:16-19.

For those who heed the Lord’s call to generosity toward His cause, He promises unimaginable riches and unclaimed blessing—friends, joy, peace and answered prayer. This is clearly the intent of Jesus words in LUKE 18:29, 30. “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

As we live a life of love, God has promised to hear our prayer. This is a blessing we dare not take for granted. Listen to Peter as he writes about this subject in his first letter. “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For

“‘Whoever desires to love life

and see good days,

let him keep his tongue from evil

and his lips from speaking deceit;

let him turn away from evil and do good;

let him seek peace and pursue it.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,

and his ears are open to their prayer.

But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’”

[1 PETER 3:8-12]

“With the measure you measure, it will be measured back to you.” Those are such awesome words. God has offered life—eternal life. This life is freely given in the Son of God. God has promised peace for all who seek Him. He promises hope, and joy, and strength to accomplish all that He appoints us to do. It all begins with the receipt of the forgiveness of sin and the acceptance of the sacrifice that Jesus has already offered.

This is the promise of the Word of God to all who will receive it. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved… For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” [ROMANS 10:9, 10, 13].

I encourage you to receive the free gift of God, the life that Jesus now offers. Having received that life, I urge you to reveal His presence in your life through living a life of love. If you are struggling to know what that life would look like, I recommend the words of our text, focusing especially on the necessity to reveal a generous spirit. “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.”

May God bless us with life and with goodness as we serve Him. Amen.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers, 2001. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] “Our Home Interiors & Gifts Founder Mary Crowley… and the Legacy She Created,” The News From Home Magazine, Canada, April, 2002, http://www.homeinteriors.com/images/040102_nfhc.pdf, accessed 28 April, 2005; see also http://marycrowley.org/en/About Us/Founder.aspx, accessed 29 June 2015

[3] “R. G. LeTourneau, No Job Too Big,” http://www.intouch.org/myintouch/mighty/portraits/rg_letourneau_213618.html, accessed 28 April, 2005

[4] Larry Richards and Lawrence O. Richards, The Teacher's Commentary (Victor Books, Wheaton, IL 1987) 662

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