We're heading, according to what a number of economists are saying. Newsweek Magazine this last week, “Recession,” was the title. Some of you probably saw that. And a number of economists, even the ones who are generally always optimistic, have some sobering, at least short-term, outlook. Not only the skyrocketing oil prices that then, of course, affects the food prices and all of the commodities. Record home foreclosures. We are living right now with record credit card debt. I'll talk more about that in a little bit. Rising unemployment, increased overseas competition for products. We’re in the midst of an expensive war. Of course, I've never heard of a cheap war. And this all points towards inflation. The volatility and stagnation in the stock market; the ups and downs. Some people worried about the economic future. So I thought, “Well, you know, the bible’s got a lot to say about economy.” And I understand that 50% or more of all the parables that Jesus told had to do with economics and stewardship. So the Bible has a lot to say about this subject. And there are a number of stories in the Bible that we could look at that give us some clues on how we can successfully survive an economic or financial crisis.
Now, I personally believe we are heading towards a financial crisis. And I think you need to be intelligent about what to do. There are some Bible clues on what you can do to know that you'll be sustained during those times. [comments on church website] Here's tip number one, how you can survive the perfect economic storm. Remember the poor. Now you might be thinking, “Pastor Doug, how is that going to help my finances to remember the poor?” It's amazing. Some people think, when hard times are coming, what you're supposed to do is stop giving. That's backwards thinking. Let me give you some verses. If you believe the Bible--do you believe the Bible? “Blessed is he who considers the poor, the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.” And it's understood from the context here that if you take care of the poor during their time of trouble; (what's their problem? they’re poor) that God will watch over you in your time of trouble. So one of the keys to remember is to remember that even though you might be going through hard times, don't stop giving. I'm going to give you some stories it a little bit that will bear that out.
Next verse, Proverbs 19:17, “He who has a pity on the poor lends to the Lord and He (the Lord) will pay back what he has given.” So when you consider those who are less fortunate than you, even during times of economic trial, you're giving to the Lord and He will take care of you. Sometimes that requires a test of faith. And God will bless you for remembering that. And then of course, these are the teachings of Jesus, I John 3:17, “But whoever has this world's goods (doesn't say how much, but if you've got some) and you see his brother is in need and you shut up your heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” We need to learn not to tighten our fist and become miserly when we see that economic times are coming. That is exactly what the devil would want you to do. That is the opposite to the key to success. The key of success is do not stop giving. That opens the way for God to give to you during those times.
Then, of course, there is the practical admonition in the Bible. Some people have economic crisis because of lack of industriousness and diligence. Plan carefully and be industrious. Work hard. Proverbs 13:4, “The soul of a lazy man desires and has nothing, but the soul of the diligent will be made rich.” That's not governed during just economic times. There are some people; you look at the history of ups and downs of economy, and there are some people who make their wealth during times of economic crisis. That's when they make their wealth. God blesses them during those times. During our scripture reading, we talked about a time of great economic trial in Egypt, when there was examined. Do you know, during that time of economic trial in Egypt the pharaoh became fabulously wealthy because of Joseph's industry. Isn't that right? You know the story. So some people prosper even during hard times, if they're industrious, and with God's blessing. Proverbs 12:11, “He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread, but he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding.” So keep working during those times.
As you know what else is a principal. During times of economy, economic trials, certain basics become more valuable. Now people are actually, they're having to put padlocks on their trucks and their tanks. Farmers around Sacramento have diesel tanks that they use for running their water pumps for irrigating their crops. They used to just leave them unlocked. They're having to walk them now because people are stealing their diesel. It sells for $6 a gallon. Diesel is more than gas. They are going to turn on their water pumps and someone’s stealing it from them.
II Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were you, we commanded you this, that if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” You notice it doesn't say, “those who cannot work.” Some cannot work. It's talking about those who can that won't; those who will not work. John 6:27, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to everlasting life that the son of Man will give you.” So part of that industry that gets you through a hard economic times is not just working for your temporal food, but keep working for your spiritual food. Meaning, studying the word of God. Genesis 32:10, Jacob says, “I am not worthy of the least of all your mercies, and all the truth that you have shown your servant. I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies.” When Jacob left home, how much did he have? A staff in his hand. He had a stick, rock for a pillow, remember? Was Jacob industrious during that 21 years, I guess it was even more than that, that he was in Laban’s household? He worked, he worked hard. He recited how hard he worked in his sleepless nights in taking care of the flocks and watching over them and watering them. And when he came back home was he now a wealthy man? Was he a wealthy man because he inherited it form Isaac, or because of his industry? God blessed him, he was faithful and he worked hard. If you've got to where he had two companies. He had two complete families and the servants and all the cattle. And you notice, he gave a tithe of everything. He came back to his brother and he still had an abundance.
Now another important thing to remember, how to survive an economic crisis, keep divine priorities. Don't let the world dictate what your priorities are. Here's a story I'd like to direct you to about another economic crisis. I Kings 17, you read about a famine that lasted 3 1/2 years during the time of Elijah. The people were famishing, as they do during a famine, starving. The animals were dying, the ground was dusty, it was barren. The skies were dry and people were dying from hunger, starving to death. During this time God miraculously fed his servant, Elijah. First, He fed him miraculously by ravens bringing him food twice a day. He showed him a brook that continued to flow. But the famine was so severe, even that brook dried up. And God directed him to go and to stay with a widow who lived up north of Israel, in Serapha. When he went there he made a very unusual request. As she's there coming out of the city, to gather a few sticks, he asks her to go and get him a drink of water. While they still have a little water in the well, so that was a very common request for a stranger, and you should never turn down someone who asks for a drink of water. But even during a famine water is pretty scarce. And as she's going to get the water, he says, “When you come back, bring me cake of bread in your hand.” That's too much. Everybody’s starving. She thinks, “I can tell from his attire, he's one of the prophets of Israel.” They dressed in this uniform of camel fabric with a leather belt. And she recognized that he was an Israelite, a man of God. And sometimes people give to the Buddhist monks, the sons of the prophets that they had in Israel, they would often give offerings to them. And she says, “I can give you a drink of water, but were starving, I can't give you anything to eat.”
And listen to what Elijah says to this woman. Well first she says I Kings 17:12, “As, the Lord your God lives.” You notice she says, “The Lord your God.” “I do not have bread. All I have.” “We haven' t baked any bread. There's nothing stored.” “All I have is a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar. And see, right now I’m out gathering a couple of sticks that I might go and prepare it for my self and my son, that we might eat it and die.”
Now, what do you think? Was this a time of a financial crisis? They're getting ready for their last meal. They've got one handful of flour left, just a little bit of oil to mix with that. She's going to get, she doesn't say a bundle of wood, just a couple of sticks. When I used to cook on an open camp fire, when you're just building a fire enough to cook, a couple of long sticks-- you break them up into pieces, and you can bake a loaf of bread right there. So I know exactly what she's talking about. Listen to the audacity of Elijah. Listen to what he says. She says, “I'm going to eat and die. You want my last piece of bread?” And Elijah says to her, “Do not fear, go do as you have said. Get your sticks, bake your bread, but make me a small cake from it first.” Who does he think he is? I mean, it would be one thing if he said, “Break off a crumb and share.” Or, “You eat and maybe there will be some left. I'll work a miracle.” But before there is even a miracle he says, “Make the first cake for me.” Talk about a test. Does that make any economic sense at all? What was the economic secret here to her survival? Priorities. Put God first.
Some people think, “Well, during hard times, I like to help the church and all, but during hard times.” Why do you even go to church? If God isn't first why do you go? God has to be first. And that's the smartest thing in the world to do, because you need a miracle anyway. I mean, after all, if you're making your last loaf of bread, and you're going to die, what have you got to lose? Give it to the prophet and see what happens. He gives it to her with a promise. He says, “Bring it to me first.” And then he promises her, “that the barrel of meal will not fail, nor the jar of oil, until God sends rain on the earth.” Trust the Lord. Put Him first. And see if He doesn't provide for you. So she does that. And that's not easy.
Either way, I think there are some interesting parallels in this story. What does a woman represent? A church. Who do you think Elijah represents here? Jesus. Elijah, his name means, “my God is Jehovah.” And what does oil represent? The Holy Spirit. What does bread represent? The word of God. Do you remember another time in the Bible where the disciples brought bread to Jesus? And that bread was not unleavened bread. It was probably made with oil. And He blessed it, give it back to them, and when they handed it to Jesus it turned into more. Does that still happen? Now bread represents sustenance. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word.” And as we put God first in giving to Him. I mean, if you're starving to death, can you eat money? What do you buy with your money if you're starving to death? Bread. So what we’re talking about is really the essence of life. Why is money, even valuable? Because you can buy bread with it. You can't eat it.
They've got a new commercial on TV, Quiznos. It shows somebody gobbling down a five-dollar bill. And they say, “You can get a sandwich for five dollars. Wouldn't that tastes much better?” But the way some people hoard their money, you'd think they were eating it. Priorities. Jesus says, Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And all these other things will be added to you.” Now, did she listen to Elijah? She did. That might've been a tough test. She represents the church. If we put God first, with our substance, He then multiplies it and we get bread and oil. We get the word of God. We get the Spirit back from Him. Not only that, her son dies and Elijah resurrects her son. All the gospel is wrapped up in that one story of when Elijah stayed with that widow. But it happened during a time of economic crisis. And she was sustained all through that time until rain came upon the earth. Why? Because of the priority of putting God first. He said, “Bring the cake to me first.”
How often I've heard people say when times get tough and they're out of work or their wages are cut or sales are down or inventory is bad, whatever the problem is, they say, “You know, Pastor Doug, I can't really pay my tithe or do any offerings right now, because you know when things pick up and God prosperous again…” Well, no wonder you're having problems. God is not your priority. You put God first. Don't seek Jesus second. If you seek Him at all, seek Him first. You'll be miserable, if you seek Him second.
Acts 20:35, “And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than receive.” This is an interesting verse. You know why? It's in red letter if you’ve got a red-letter edition. It's quoting where Jesus says, “It’s more blessed to give than receive.” Who wants to tell me where in the Bible Jesus says it's more blessed to give than receive? Right here, Acts 20. It's not in the gospels. These are words of Christ are not in the gospel, but all got them from Matthew, Mark, or Luke or somebody. And Jesus must have said this, but you won't find it in the gospel. Isn't that interesting? A Jesus did say that. “It's more blessed to give than receive.” Of course, He teaches the principal in all His parables.
Another key to surviving economic crisis is: avoid the slavery of debt. Some people, even in the best of times, have their own economic crisis because they are in credit to the limit. And I've got to be very gracious, as I talk about this. There are two of you I'd like to speak to today specifically about debt. Some of you are in debt because of some unforeseen calamity, business failure, unexpected expense. Maybe there was a death that left great expenses. It could've been a divorce, something that you really couldn't control. And my heart goes out to you. It's very difficult. Some people, because of circumstances they did not have control of; they have had to borrow money. Their credit card limit is high. There are some very good Christian ministries I recommend that have priorities and principals on how you can get out of debt following these biblical principles. One I'm happy to recommend is Crown Financial Concepts, Crown Ministries. If you go to their web site, I'm not going to try and reproduce or plagiarize what they already have. They do as good a job as I could ever do in giving you biblical principles on what you can do, the steps you could take to be liberated from the slavery of debt.
Then there’s the other group. Those of us who are in debt, because we thought we had to have everything. And we wanted it right now, so we thought, “I’ll on it now, pay for it over time.” That's a bad practice. For one thing, our idea of the necessities in America is really not a realistic idea of necessities. Some people are in debt because they had to buy a new car. A car is not a necessity. We think it's a necessity, but you go to a lot of the world, you'll find out that most people don't have cars. In our lifestyle in America we just think, “Oh, he doesn’t have a car?” Most people have multiple cars. Or they go into debt because we want to own a home. That's good. And if there's an area where you would want to carefully take on some debt, you want to do it very carefully. Sometimes, what a price of homes in California, the only way you're ever going to get a home is you need to take out a loan. And I can understand that. But some people buy a whole lot more home than they can afford, and they plan on paying for it for 50 years.
The devil has stolen a fortune from the coffers of God's kingdom by enslaving God's people by paying unnecessary debt. Do you know how much money could be in the kingdom of God, spreading the message God around the world, if God's people didn't feel like, “We've got to have everything right now.” All of these creature comforts, and all these possessions. “Pastor Doug, come on, let's face it. A flat screen TV, it's a necessity. Or high definition, if you don't have high definition, you're in the Stone Age. It's a necessity. And you've got to have a DVD. Who has VCR anymore?” I still have one. I've still got 8-track. No, I don't. I still have a record player. It plays records. My mom has a whole collection of records. The only way I could ever play the records and things she wrote is to keep the record player working. But we all feel like we've got to have everything.
By the way, when we're going through a recession in North America; in many countries of the world what you think is recession living is royal living in most of the world. Are you listening? When people talk about what recession living is, for most of North America that would be considered royal living in much of the world. Do you believe me? I've been there; trust me. Americans driving around in our cars with cruise control and air-conditioning, complaining about the price of gas and how little disposable income we have. II Kings 4, another time of economic crisis. “A certain woman of the sons of the wives of the prophet cried out to Elisha saying, ‘Your servant, one of the sons of the prophets, my husband is dead.’” And he didn't have any life insurance. “And he was in debt before he died. And it would have been fine if he was alive, he could've worked us out of debt.” Be careful, men, about taking on too much debt because you might have the confidence you can work your way out of it over time. What if something happens to you? You can end up leaving your spouse with a lot of debt. “He's dead and you know your servant, my husband, fear the Lord in the creditor is calm a to take away my two sons to be his slaves.”
We ought to be avoiding debt. Proverbs 22:7, “The rich rules over a poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Romans 13:8, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” As far as possible; now there may be things like buying a house, or maybe it is necessary for your job to have a car. You might need to incur some debt. Avoid it like the plague. In other words, if you have to go into a bank and take out a loan, pretend you're going into a leper colony. You want to pay it off as quickly as you can. To not be buying other niceties for your self while you have debt. Make your priority to get out from under that debt, because debt is a burden.
So what did this woman do, who is in debt? She needed a miracle. Praise God for His miracles. Some of us have gotten ourselves into debt, and we just don't see how were ever going to get out. You make God your priority, you seek first His kingdom, and He can work miracles for you. For one thing, she started with what she had. She said, “What am I going to do?” And he said, “What do you have? What do you have in the house?” “All I've got is a little cruse of oil.” “All right, take what you have. You invest very carefully what you have. You go through the community, and you get all these empty vessels and you bring those empty vessels in, and you begin to pour out what you have. Keep filling all of those.” And God worked a miracle. By the way, that's also an illustration for what a Christian should do. We should open our homes, bring all of these empty vessels into our home, pray for the Holy Spirit (that's the oil), pour it into them. And as she did that, she then sold the oil. She had enough to pay her debt with extra left over. So, you notice what happened. She had a crisis, she was in slavery. They were going to take her sons. She brought the problem to Elisha. That's like us bringing our problems to Jesus. Matter of fact, Elisha’s name is very much like the name of Jesus. Jesus’ name is Yashua, God is Savior, Yaweh is Savior. His name was Elohim Shua, Eli-Shua, God is Savior. Same name. Bring your problem to Jesus; repent of anything you've been doing that gets you in debt. Stop those buying practices. If it means baking your credit card in the microwave, or whatever you've got to do, get rid of your credit cards if you're tempted to buy things that you don't need. It just ends up digging the hole deeper. And God got her out of that.
Another thing to remember, and we started with this illustration of the famine in Egypt. Genesis 41. We know, of course, there was an economic disaster during that time of Joseph. Joseph and his family prospered during that time because he planned ahead. It's the Methodist principle of economics, John Wesley. Give all you can. Make God your priority. Save all you can. Earn all you can. So you're being industrious. Earn all you can. Make good use of your time. Invest well. I don't speculate with the market that's going to go up and down or you'll learn what it means to lose all you can. There are things that you can do that are a little safer than playing the market or Lotto. Hopefully nobody’s doing that. Or Reno, or Thunder Valley. I pray nobody's going over there. It's amazing how, suddenly, we legalized gambling in California. Give all you can.
If you’re God, just think about this for a second, and you want to bless people to. And the way that you as God bless people is you give through people. God wants to use people to reach people. He wants to use people to bless people. That's how He teaches his children, who are normally selfish, to be generous. You're going to look down there and say, “Who on earth are the ones that I can use as a conduit a blessing? Who are the people down there that I can give through?” And you're going to see the ones who are faithful in sharing their two mites. And you can say, “This person is a giver. It doesn't matter how much.” “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.” And you’re going to say, “I’m going to give them more because I can trust them that they’ll share.” You see how God’s thinking? So if you’re a giver, if you’re faithful, if you’re considering the poor, and you’re sharing God’s going to give you more because you are trustworthy that He can give through you. I mean, if you were God, isn't that what you would do? If you wanted to give to people, through people, you'd look for the people that were giving. And you'd give more to them because you can trust them.
Earn all you can. We talked about being industrious. Pray that God will guide you, give you wisdom and opportunity. And save. Joseph, during the famine, during the years of prosperity, they stored. I thought it was interesting, the numbers. Genesis 41:54-57, “The seven years of famine began as Joseph had said.” No, I want to start with Genesis 41:34. “Let Pharaoh do this. During the years of prosperity let him appoint officers over the land to collect 1/5th of the produce of the land of Egypt. In the seven plentiful years.” So during the years of plenty, what were they doing? Saving. Saving for the economic crisis that might come. Saving for this need that was unforeseen. What percentage is 1/5th? 20%. What is tithe? 10% is your tithe. Is tithe the only giving we do to God? Tithe, what's beyond tithe? Offerings. Now in Israel, typically what they did is, it was called a second tithe. It was a second 10%; covered all of the different things under the category of offering. One was mandatory, in the sense that God says, “This is mine. Return it, it is my property. Then I'm asking you to give cheerfully.” And the priest, when they stipulated what the needs were for the poor, for the temple and the different things, they called it a second tithe. So what is 2/10ths? 20%. How did they get through their financial crisis? They were giving two groups of 10% during the time of prosperity. When the time of crisis came, they were fine.
I have this theory that those that are faithful in their tithes and offerings, God sustains them. Matter of fact, it's not just a theory. Read with me, these are the keys to Heaven's treasury. Malachi 3:8, you've heard this many times, but some maybe have not heard it. “Will a man rob God? But you have robbed me. But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed you?’ In tithes,” that’s one 10, “and offerings,” that could be up to the other tenth. Some people have given a double tithe. Some more. It depends on, “every man as he purposes in his heart.” “You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring a tithe into the storehouse that there might be food in my house and prove me now, herewith, in this, says the Lord, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out such a blessing there will not be room enough to receive it.” What are the keys to unlock heavens storehouse? Faithfulness in giving. Store; during that time, you're storing treasure in heaven, and He's going to open the heavens. And He will pay again.
It's like God said there in Proverbs, “And I will review the devourer for your sake so that it will not destroy.” Your car will get better gas mileage. That's the modern version. “So it will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall by fail to bear fruit for you in the field, says the Lord. And all nations will call you blessed, for, you will be a delightful land, says the Lord of hosts.” So this principle of faithfulness, especially during the times of prosperity, in tithes and offerings. God promises to open the windows of heaven and bless us. You notice He says you are cursed with a curse if you don't, and I'll bless you beyond what your capacity is if you do. Now something I've discovered personally, and through observation. There are varying degrees of blessing and cursing. God doesn't have a big switch in the sky, where He looks down at you and says, “He only gave 90% of his tithe, cursing is on now for him.” Or, “He’s paying his tithe, and he's paying his offering, but not as much as he could. 100% blessing, 100% cursing.” That's not how God works. It's not the switch, off and on. It's a graduated scale. Some of you are blessed. You are paying, faithful tithe and offering, pretty faithful, sort of faithful. But you could be a whole lot more blessed if you were 100% faithful. Some of you are a little cursed. It's not the famine. You're not going out to gather your last two sticks to make your last loaf of bread. But it just seems like everything is going wrong, and you just can't keep ahead. Maybe you're under a partial curse because you're only being partial in your giving.
I don't know where you are on that scale, but everybody here is probably somewhere along that scale. But I have observed and I'm certain enough to share this with you. It's not just blessing or cursing; it's anywhere in between 100% blessed and 100% cursed. Based on what your scale of faithfulness is. Real unfaithful-- real cursed. Real faithful-- real blessed. I believe it's true. Did God bless Joseph? Yes, and he was faithful in what he did. Why did Jesus talk to His disciples about their giving? Because He was concerned with their blessing. He wanted them to be blessed. Also, the whole gospel revolves around giving. “God so loved the world He gave.” Love gives. And the other thing is, we are naturally stingy. The opposite of love is what? Selfishness. The opposite of love, love is giving, selfishness is the opposite of that. I know we think the opposite of love is hate.
I read an amazing fact. Her name was Stingy Heady Howland Green. They wrote a book about her called Their Mad Genius. She lived from 1834-1916. Her father was an investor in Wall Street. She was watching the ways he was investing even as a little girl. And she just managed to wrap her head around careful investing and she became fabulously successful in investing. They called her “The W itch of Wall Street” because she was the most miserly person alive. Paul Harvey did a story about Heady Green one time. He talked about this woman going up and down the streets pushing a wagon with her son, who had broken his leg and it had become infected. She went from one hospital to the next tried to find a place where she could get free care for her son whose leg was becoming [gangrened]. The reason that his leg was [gangrened] is because she didn't want to take him to a hospital because she didn't want to pay the money that she would have to pay a doctor to fix his leg properly. So she tried to do it at home. She didn't know what she was doing. It got infected. Then for days, she went trying to find a hospital.
Finally got a hospital they gave him free care. And they said, “It’s too late.” They amputated her son's leg. In the meantime, she had the equivalent in today's standards of $17 billion in the bank. So cheap! She spent all night looking for a two-cent stamp that she had misplaced. The story I could tell you about Heady Green and how miserly she was. She went around her house with clothing in the wintertime bundled all over because she didn't want to put any coal in her stove. So everybody was always shivering in her house. She wouldn't throw anything away.
But you know, we've all got a little bit of Heady in us, don't we? They used to call it Scotch. “I’m frugal.” Mark 8:36, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” Would you like to be a billionaire? The day you die? If you knew you could sell your soul and be a billionaire the day you die, would it be worth it? What about a week before you die? When you think about it, if you knew that you were going to trade eternal life in order to be a billionaire, and when you get your billion-dollar check, you know that every day you're marching towards oblivion and eternal destruction, would you enjoy it? How could you enjoy selling your soul for all the pleasures of this world? You wouldn't enjoy those pleasures. What profit is it?
Jesus then tells the parable, Luke 12:16, “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully, and he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I'll do this. I'll pull down my barns and build even bigger barns. And there I'll store and hoard all my crops in my goods. And I'll say to my soul, Soul, you've got many goods laid up for many years.” Notice, he thought he had many years. You wonder what he would have done with his crops if he thought he had 24 hours. “You've got many crops for many years. Take your ease. Eat, drink, be merry. But God said to him, ‘You fool.’” The Bible says it's the fool that says in their heart there is no God. Some of us would ever verbalize that there's no God, but in our finances we say there's no God. And we are fools in our finances. “God said, ‘You fool. This night at your soul will be required of you. Then who will those things be for which you provided?’” You had a chance. God blessed you that you might give to others, but you hoarded it all, built bigger barns so you could hoard it even longer. And that's the attitude of many.
We hear about the rich and the famous. You know, the magazines in the stories about these incredible homes and an incredible wealth. I was watching the Discover channel the other day and I talked about this guy who sold some .com company for billions of dollars. He went from nothing to a billionaire by selling this company. In the first thing he said is, “I'm going to go out and buy the best jet.” And he bought a Gulfstream. I'm a pilot and I've been on a couple of jets. My debt sold a couple of jets to millionaires in Saudi Arabia and I went on these jets with leopard skin seats—real leopard. I know, that sounds kind of ooey now. That's politically incorrect. But it wasn't a problem back then. Anyway, so in my heart, I felt that little bit of Heady Green. I thought, “Man, a private Gulfstream jet. Would that be something?” What profit is it if you gain all that and you lose your soul? “Whose shall those things be?” And then Jesus ends by saying, verse 21, “So is he who lays a treasurer for himself and is not rich towards God.”
This is the balance. You know how to work and earn all you can. You need to know how to give all you can. You need to know, how much do you save. You should save, but you shouldn't hoard. We need to keep giving and have that balance. Pray God to give us the wisdom to know that. Mark 12, “He that is faithful to that which is leased, is faithful also in much.” If we're faithful in pennies we'll learn to be faithful in dollars. Mark 12:41. I want to talk about being faithful in least. “Jesus sat opposite the treasury, and He saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.” When a billionaire gives $100 it's not that impressive, is it?
I remember one time; the smallest church I ever preached in was in Key Largo, Florida. I was a camp pastor for a cystic fibrosis camp my brother started. My father came down to check out the camp. I said, “I'm going to be preaching this afternoon, Dad, if you want to come by.” It was the first time my dad ever heard me preach as a pastor. So he came. Every son wants to have their dad come and see them preach. And I had preached to thousands of people. The first time my dad comes there's about eight people in the church. My dad came and then he brought my stepmother. My brother came, brought my sister-in-law. My cousin, Danny Batchelor, came. And then pretty soon I looked around. They were all on their way back to Miami and they said, “Let’s stop and hear Doug preach. This should be entertaining.” Little bitty church. I was so nervous. I still remember, I preached about Naaman the leper.
What profit is it to have all that money if you've got leprosy? My dad’s sitting right there, multi-millionaire. There were more Batchelors in the church than regular members that day. So the offering plate goes by, and the guy who is the deacon is also the Sabbath School superintendent and he was the head elder, too, I believe. And so he takes up the offering and comes by my father. My father pulls out a wad (he always kept a wad of like $100 bills). So he takes a $100 bill and puts it in the plate. “This is the whole church budget for a month!” But I knew better. I wasn't impressed. My dad had a whole wad of them.
The Lord, when you’re giving, He’s not looking at the amount you’re giving. He’s looking at the amount of sacrifice. Are you giving so that it means self-denial? That it means that it's a sacrifice for you. This woman comes in and she throws in two mites, two little copper coins. “And He called His disciples to Himself and He said to them, ‘You see that woman? I say, this poor widow,’” she’s a widow—no husband, “’has put in more than all of those who have given to the treasury. For they have all put in of their abundance, but she, out her poverty, has put in all that she had.’” Her whole livelihood, everything in the world that she owned, was there. Now there have been a couple of times where I have told myself that I was really generous because I dug into my wallet and gave everything, in my wallet. But I know I've got more in the bank account. When she went by the treasury box, she closed her account. She gave everything. And you might wonder, why did she do that? Was this an offering, or was it tithe? Maybe was just faithfulness. She said, “This is my tithe, even though it's the last thing I have. I want to give it to God.” Maybe she said, “I love the Lord and I want to do something, I want to worship Him.” Who knows? But anyway, she decided to be faithful. She felt impressed by the Spirit to give.
What pastor, including myself, would counsel a widow (she might have had children at home), who says, “I want to make an offering. All it got left is 50 cents.” Of course, I would probably say, “If that's all you've got left, you may as well give all. You're not losing much.” We've had people at Amazing Facts, and even here at Central Church, that they get carried away with the zeal for God, and they say, “We’re not going to pay the electric bill this month. We’re going to do without electricity, because it's summer, we don't need the air conditioner. We're going to give an offering.” And we say to them, “Brother, Sister, let’s talk.” I think, “God bless you for your generosity. You need to take care of your family.” We've had to tell people; we've sent checks back to people when we found out how much they sacrificed. We have. We said, “No, you shouldn't do that.” This woman gave everything. Now did Jesus tell her, “Don’t do that”? Did Jesus stop her? No, He highlighted her and He brought attention to her and He said, “Everywhere the gospel is preached, people are going to hear about this.”
Do you know how many billions of dollars; think about it. That woman went by the treasury that day, and she said, “No one’s ever going to know what I gave. It's not much, Lord, but I from my heart. I pray that you'll accept it. It's all I've got. I wish I could give more.” And she probably was thinking, “It's never going to amount to much. No one will even know. It won't make any difference.” Did it make a difference? Think of the billions of dollars that have poured into the treasury of God over the centuries as people have looked at the story in the Bible of what that one widow was doing she thought in secret. Does the Lord see our faithfulness? Does He observe it? Wouldn't you like the Lord to look down at you and your faithfulness and say, “Behold, my servant.”? “Behold, my servant Job. Behold this widow.” You know, the Bible doesn't go on to say what happened to her. Did God open the windows of heaven for her? Did He feed her children? What happened? I believe He did, don't you? I believe He took care of her. Do you know, why? Because God is faithful.
My last point is this. You don't need to worry about financial security, if you’re faithful in the priorities because your Father owns the bank. Isn't that right? Everything you could possibly need, He owns the bank. He's going to take care of His children. “I was young, and I'm how old and I've not seen God’s seed forsaken or His children begging bread.” That's what King David said. Psalm 50:10, “For every beast of the forest is mine.” Their wealth was measured in livestock back then. “Every beast of the forest is mine, not only the wild ones, but the cattle on a thousand hills (the domestic ones). I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine. All the gold in it and all the silver.” Haggai 2:8, “The silver is mine and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts.” God is just asking us to demonstrate our faith in Him by being faithful stewards of the little bit that goes through our hands during the little time we're alive here on this earth.
In the judgment, remember we give account to God for two simple things. Your time. You've got some choices to make over how you use your time for influencing people for God's kingdom. You can use your life to influence people. And how you use your means to influence people for God's kingdom. Isn't that right? Those are the only two things that we'll give an account for. What do we do with our time and what do we do with our means? Everybody has some influence. I want to be faithful to trust God. If you follow these principles, friends, God is not going to forsake you, though there might be economic ups and downs.
By the way, in case you think I'm saying is there's going to be and economic disaster in the world's going to end, I'm not saying that. I think there are going to be economic disasters. There's going to be wars and rumors of wars. There's going to be highs and lows, but don't think an economic disaster means the world is ending the next day. The way I read my Bible, just before Jesus comes, it's in a time “you think not.” Before the flood came to Noah they were eating and drinking and building; a booming economy. Before the destruction came to Sodom and Gomorrah, everybody was employed. Well it doesn't say that, but it looked like the economy was just fine. Do you see what I'm saying? So, this idea that the economy is going to spiral down to famine and then the second coming; it's not really what the Bible teaches. It's going to happen suddenly. But I just want God's people to be faithful during the hard times, too. Let's remember, this is our Father’s world. That's our closing hymn.
I'd like to pause in these verses here, and just ask you to respond in a simple way. First I'd like to ask, if the Holy Spirit has spoken to you and you're saying, “Lord, I'm wanting to be faithful, but I want to be 100% faithful. I want to be 100% blessed. If there's any area in my life where I'm being a little careless in being a faithful steward of your means, I want to be 100% for you, Lord.” Is that your desire, friends?
Before we sing the last verse, I'd like to offer the opportunity for you to respond in maybe a little more tangible way. Some of you might be struggling with debt. Some of you may be doing well. You might have money in the bank, but you want to be more faithful. You know that there could be financial tough times and you need wisdom so that you can know how do you save and how do you give and how do you earn, how do you invest. The Bible says in the Lord is the one who gives His people the ability to get wealth. It's the wisdom of God and the blessing and the Spirit of God that blesses His people. In Romans 12, in order for you to give what you have you first give your heart. You present yourself a living sacrifice. If God’s got your heart He’s got everything. He'll have the right priority. As we sing this last verse, if there's some who would like special prayer, that you could put all that you are and all that you have on the altar today and be faithful-- maybe God helped you out of debt and you need special prayer, come to the front. We're going to close this service with that prayer.
I want the Lord to bless you. I think He can. No matter what happens in the economy of the country or the world or North America or California or Sacramento, He can still bless you. I believe that God can bring you ahead if everyone else is going behind. If we follow His principles and priorities. Do you believe that, friends? People in Israel might be starving, but where Elijah was there was bread, amen? Are you willing to say, “Lord, by your grace I’m going to put my heart and life on the altar”? And that means all that you are and all that you have. And seek first His kingdom. Is that your prayer?
Father in heaven, Lord, these are your people. You fed them in the wilderness. We believe that you can easily take care of them during times of prosperity and even times of adversity. All things are possible with you. Lord, I want you to bless your children today. There may be some struggling here with debt; maybe because of poor planning. Maybe circumstances they could not control. Whatever the case, work miracles for them. Give them wisdom. And I pray that you’ll remove that bondage. Bless your people. Lord, I pray that you’ll give us wisdom so we can know how to earn all that we can for your cause and your kingdom. How that we can know how much to save and save all that we can. And also how to balance things so that we can give all that we can; that we can be channels of blessing to the world around us. Lord, bless your people. Be with your children here. Lord, I pray the promises we see in your word, and others I have not touched on, that we’ll find them, we’ll give cheerfully and that you will open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing so there’s not room enough to receive it. We’re claiming this promise now, Lord. Help us to do our part to be faithful. We ask in Jesus’ name, amen.