The passage in Luke 9:57-62 shows us three men who didn't surrender to Jesus, each for a different reason. The first has no idea of the demands of discipleship. He seems to have expected Jesus to be heading somewhere specific, where He would reign, or to a war, where the scribe might be glorified. Jesus reacts by telling the scribe that He isn't going where the scribe wants to go. "Foxes have holes, and birds have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." Commitments made without counting the cost are seldom kept. No surrender here.
The second asks to bury his father first. His lack of surrender stems from not putting Jesus first. Jesus said elsewhere that anyone who loved father or mother more than Him is not worthy to be His disciple. No surrender here, either.
The third man asks to bid his father farewell. He wants to be in control; to decide what can be done when. That is certainly not a surrender.
Today, our leaders pass on to us the Biblical mandate that God should get the first ten percent of all we have. We are asked to tithe. We hear that word, and we cringe. "The church is after my pocketbook again. All they want is my money." I'll get to that misconception in a minute, but first, I have a little secret I want to reveal to you.
Whether you believe it or not, you don't mind tithing. The truth is: everyone tithes. Some tithe to a boat. Some tithe to a casino. Some to drugs. Some to cars. Some to entertainment, be it movies, music, or art.
God doesn't want your money. Little slips of paper and metal aren't important. God is after your heart.
A man went to church one day with God. It was a church on the corner of two prominent streets, and the man had been there before. He sat through the service with God, waiting patiently for the end. He watched the choir, in their shiny robes and perfectly coifed hair, stand and sing songs. He watched the preacher stand in the pulpit and orate. When the service ended, he watched the people file out, and when they were outside, he asked God about the service.
"God," he said, "Why couldn't I hear anything? I could see all the splendor in that church, but I heard nothing."
God replied, "I wanted you to know how I saw the service. You see, I only hear what a person's heart says."
I believe that's true. God sees your heart. Your words won't fool Him.
You may fool me, but so what? You won't fool God. Your life has eternal consequences, so don't play games by playing church. If you haven't accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior and as the king of your life, you need to do that. It doesn't matter how much you study the Bible. You can take all the Bible study courses that exist. Study won't pay for your sins. You can give the church eighty percent of your income and leave everything to the church when you die. Money won't save you. You can be on every committee in the church, go to every meeting, fill your schedule until you have no time for anything else. That won't save you. You can build a house for every homeless person in this city. You can take meals to the hungry. You can visit the elderly. So what? That won't save you. You can sing the most beautiful hymns and choruses ever heard. You can write tunes to glorify God from now until you die. It won't save you. Singing won't do it. You can get fired up. You can scream and shout. You can jump up and down. Guess what? Excitement and energy won't save you.
Paul said he could speak in every tongue, surrender his body to the flames, give everything he owned to the poor, but without love, it wouldn't do him any good. Remember that God is love. Substitute God for love: You can do all sorts of good things, but if you don't have Jesus, it does you no good.
Only the name of Jesus Christ can save. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can pay for your sins. Only Jesus Christ can save.
I'm not saying you shouldn't study the Bible, give money to the church, serve on one or two committees, build houses for people, take food to the hungry, visit the lonely, sing beautiful songs, get excited about God, praise Him loudly, speak in languages other than English, give up your life for the Gospel, or give to the poor. If you want to do any or all of those things, do them.
The important thing is to remember that God wants your heart. It's not about money. It's about heart. Your money is merely an indicator of where your heart is. To paraphrase, where your heart is, there will your treasures be also. I enjoy computers. Consequently, I spend money on computers. I enjoy reading. Consequently, I spend money on books. I enjoy the internet. Consequently, I spend a lot of money on internet access. I love Jesus. Consequently, I give ten percent of what I receive to God. I also give God any pennies that are in my pocket whenever I walk in the door of my house.
Would you like to know why people don't give their tithe to God?
We don't trust Him.
We say things like "I can't afford to tithe." Why not? Think it through. Your answer has to be: "I need to save this money for my needs. My god isn't powerful enough to supply my needs, so I need to keep all my money."
By the way, it's not your money. It's God's money. You are simply a steward of God's resources. That isn't limited to your money. That means your home, your car, your time, even the very breath you take every second or two. It all rightfully belongs to God.
We trust Jesus with some things some of the time; we should trust Jesus with all things all of the time.
Stay with me. I'll stop talking about money for a minute, because it's not about money. It's about heart.
Let's talk about time. Do you give God ten percent of your time? You ought to be giving seventeen hours every week to God. Do you spend seventeen hours reading God's word? How about praying? How about going to church? How about thirty-seven days each year in missions?
If you add up all all that, do you spend ten percent of your time for God?
Let's try something a little easier. Let's talk about work. In this country, the vast majority of us are on the verge of being workaholics. We can barely stop working long enough to spend fifty minutes in church. So let me ask you something. If you're a doctor, do you do one surgery or office visit for someone who can't afford medical care to every nine for which you get paid? If you're a lawyer, do you handle one case pro bono for every nine on which you collect fees? If you're a mechanic, do you fix someone's car who can't pay for every nine you fix for hire? Apply that equation to your field, if I didn't mention it. You should be tithing your time.
It's a tall order, isn't it?
Don't get angry with me. God thinks it's important we care for the poor. The Bible contains over 2000 verses commanding us to care for the poor. We'd rather not talk about money. We'd rather not talk about time. What about your talents?
I won't try to quantify talents. I'll simply ask you to think about your talents. Do you possess a talent which God's Church could use? Are you withholding your talents from the service of God? I'll say something now that may surprise you. God doesn't need your money. Take a look at Genesis chapter one, verse one. "In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth." Please notice that God did not take up a collection for a building fund. God created the universe by Himself. He supplied the materials and the labor. He did it all. My God can create a universe, and little pieces of paper and metal pose absolutely no problem for Him, either.
Let me tell you something, Church. If we would focus completely on Christ, it wouldn't matter if the total giving for every member of this church were zero dollars and zero cents. God would provide the funds needed to keep this church running. That's how powerful my God is. If your god isn't that powerful, you need a new god.
Let me ask you something. Whom do we think we are?
Do you realize that we have the unmitigated arrogance to say to the King of the universe, the creator of all that has life and breath: "It's my money. You can't have it." To say to the almighty, omnipotent Lord of creation: "After twelve o'clock, you have no right to ask anything of me."
Do you realize that?
I say, brothers and sisters, that if we say that to God, we are spiritually dead. Do you want to be spiritually dead? We need to move from being spiritually dead to being dead to sin. Paul said "I am crucified with Christ; therefore, I no longer live."
What do dead people do? (Nothing)
We need to be like dead people. We shouldn't be doing anything. Jesus should be doing things through us.
Let's put that into practice.
God doesn't want your money. He wants your heart. If He has your heart, you'll put your money where it needs to go on your own.
God doesn't need your money. He set out the tithe for our sake. We need to surrender to God to remind ourselves that we are dependent on Him for all things.
Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald's makes you a hamburger. Give your heart, your life, your self, totally and completely to Jesus.
It doesn't matter what your friends, family, or church think of you. God knows where you are, and you can't fool Him.
We need to remember that God's grace, which we can never earn, is the reason we have life and money and food and shelter and all the other things we have. It is a small thing He wants from us in a tenth of the money He has given us, a tenth of the time He has given us, and the use -- in glorifying His name -- of the talents He has given us.
I don't think that is too much for Him to ask. Do you?
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