Matthew 6:19-34

Hotwired to the Heart

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Matthew 6:19-34

Hotwired to the Heart

Richard Niell Donovan

As you know, our “Consecrating Stewards” program is well underway. Next Sunday is Consecration Sunday. We will have a pot-luck luncheon after worship next Sunday to celebrate the culmination of the program. The schedule calls for me to preach a stewardship sermon today.

Preaching about money can be dangerous. The story is told of Bill Jones, who was recovering from a heart attack. His wife, Edith, answered the phone one day, and learned that they had just won the five-million-dollar Reader’s Digest sweepstakes. Bill and Edith should expect confirmation the next day by a Federal Express letter, and a courier would arrive the following day with the check.

Of course, Edith was overjoyed. With five million dollars, they could really retire. They could travel. Life would be wonderful. But then Edith had second thoughts. Bill was, after all, recovering from a heart attack. Even though the news was good, the shock might kill him. She could just see him clutch his chest, fall the floor, and die.

But the courier was coming. She had to do something. So Edith called Pastor Brown for advice. Pastor Brown agreed to think of a way to break the news to Bill gently. He would be right over.

Pastor Brown went to their home, and told Bill that he was struggling with a problem. Could they talk it over? Edith brought lemonade, and they sat in the living room. Pastor Brown said, “Bill, one of the people in the congregation has just won five million dollars, and has asked me to advise him on its use. I am gathering ideas. I would just like you to think for a moment—what would you do if you won five million dollars.”

“That’s easy,” Bill said. First, I’d give half of it to the church.”

Whereupon Pastor Brown clutched his chest, fell to the floor, and died.

I want you to know that I have a strong heart. If you win five million dollars and decide to give half of it to the church, I would survive the shock. Don’t go “easy” on me.


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Money is a sensitive subject. Robert Wuthnow, a sociologist at Princeton, has researched the subject of money. He says that it evokes deep feelings. In fact, he says, “The darkest taboo in our culture is not sex or death, but money.”

Dr. Gilbert Bowen, the pastor of a large church in Illinois, comments:

“A majority of Americans see no connection between faith and their use of their money. People think that churches ought to stick to spiritual things and stay away from talk about money.”

Then he adds, “Yet there is literally no subject which Jesus talks more about.…”

That’s an interesting comment isn’t it! People think that churches should stick to spiritual subjects and should not discuss money. But there is no subject about which Jesus talks more.

Someone did a bit of research on the subject of money in the Bible, and came up with the following statistics:

• Sixteen of Jesus’ thirty-eight parables deal with how to handle money and possessions. Sixteen of thirty-eight. That’s almost half of Jesus’ parables. It sounds as if Jesus thought that money was an important spiritual issue.

• In the Gospels—the four books of the New Testament that tell the story of Jesus’ life—one out of ten verses, 288 in all, focuses directly on the subject of money. That’s interesting, isn’t it? The Bible talks about tithing—giving ten percent. The Gospels—the books about Jesus—tithe. They devote ten percent of their verses to the subject of money. Money must be an important spiritual issue

• In the whole Bible, there are about five hundred verses on the subject of prayer and another five hundred on the subject of faith. There are two thousand on the subject of money and possessions. Money must be an important spiritual issue.

Someone has put it this way. They said:

“The scriptures deal with money matters,
because money matters.”

Jesus put it this way:

“Where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also.”

Sometimes people get this backwards. Sometimes they say, “Where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.” In other words, you will spend your money on the things that you love. That is probably true, but it isn’t what Jesus said. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, once you invest your money in something, you will learn to love it. Money takes the lead. It creates the affection. If we have no money at risk, we tend not to care very deeply.

I have occasionally found myself in the situation where I could finance a religious retreat without asking participants to pay anything. In one instance, I had enough money to rent rooms at an oceanside hotel in Key Largo, to have our own private pool, and to buy dinner at a nice restaurant. I didn’t need a dime from the participants, but I asked them for ten dollars up front. Why? Because I had learned that, unless people had invested something—however little—from their own pocket, they wouldn’t come. They would make reservations, but wouldn’t show. But if they took ten dollars from their own pocket ahead of time, you could count on them being there.

“Where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also.”

In other words, our wallets are hotwired to our hearts. There is a direct line from our billfolds and purses to our hearts. If we give money to the church, we will love the church. If we give money to God, we will love God.

Our giving to God is more effective in building devotion to him than receiving from God. Just think about it! If God were to bless you with an extra twenty thousand dollars this week—let’s say that a rich uncle died and left you an inheritance—what effect would that have on your spiritual life? Would it cause you to love God more? Perhaps—but probably not much. Let’s face it—most of us, if we received an extra twenty thousand dollars this week, might give God a passing “Thanks!” but would focus most of our attention on what to do with the money.

Now imagine the reverse. Imagine that you were to give twenty thousand dollars to God. Let’s say that you were to put twenty thousand dollars—or the largest amount that you could gather together—in the offering plate next week. I can guarantee you that your twenty thousand dollars would buy you an intense interest in the affairs of the church. You would think about God all the time. He would have your undivided attention.

My point is not that you should take out a loan and give twenty thousand dollars to the church. My point is that our love for God depends more on what we give to him than what we receive from him. It seems backwards, but it is true.

God knows that! After all, he made us, and he knows how we are wired. He knows how our different parts connect inside us. He knows that one of the large-gauge wires provides a direct connection between our wallets and our hearts.

That is why God didn’t establish a “land-grant” church. It would have been so easy for him to set aside large acreages of land to provide income for the church just as some Midwestern states set aside large acreages of land to fund their state universities. Then we would never have to worry about the church. We would never have to take offerings. We would never have to preach about money. But then we would never love God—because our love for God starts when we realize what he has given us, but our love for God really gets serious when we start giving to him. As Jesus said:

“Where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also.”

During our Consecrating Stewards program, we are asking you to think seriously about your stewardship—your giving to God. Next week, Consecration Sunday, we will provide you with Giving Cards and will ask you to write on the card the amount that you will give to the church each week this coming year. We won’t pressure you or embarrass you. In fact, we won’t even ask you to write your name on the card. Your commitment will be between you and God. Only you and God will know what you put on the card. If your circumstances change, you are welcome to re-evaluate your commitment with God—to lower or to raise it.

We are observing this program, because money is important. Money is important to our spiritual lives. Money is a spiritual issue. Nothing tells more clearly what we believe about life than our MasterCard bill and our checkbook. Nothing establishes spiritual devotion more quickly and more firmly than that which we give to God!

I need to close by acknowledging that many of our church members have very limited incomes. Many people are struggling to make ends meet. You should not feel bad if you can’t give large amounts of money to God. God expects us to give only in proportion to that which we have received from him. Jesus said that the world’s largest offering was a penny—given by a poor widow who had only one penny. It was the world’s largest offering, because it was everything she had.

So if your means are modest, don’t feel badly about modest giving. God expects us to give only as we have received. But don’t discount the importance of your modest gift either. Don’t imagine that your modest offering doesn’t count. Consider two facts.

• First of all, most of the church’s work gets done—and gets funded— by people of modest means. If churches received only the offerings of wealthy people, most churches would close their doors tomorrow.

• Second, the most important effect of your giving is that on your own heart. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

This week, consider prayerfully what God has done for you, and consider prayerfully what you should give him in return.

Scripture quotations from the World English Bible.

Copyright 2008, Richard Niell Donovan.