Sacrificial Generosity

Sermon by David Strain on Nov 2, 2014

Matthew 10:1-15

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Now if you would please take a copy of the holy Scriptures in your hands and turn with me to Matthew’s gospel, chapter 10.  Matthew chapter 10, page 814 in the church Bibles.  The words of our theme for our stewardship season you will find in the second half of verse 8.  In our translation is reads, “You received without paying; give without pay.”  In the New International Version is says, “Freely you have received; freely give.”  We’re going to read from verse 1. Before we do that would you bow your heads with me as we pray together?

O Lord, our God, we pray that You would open Your Word and deal with our hearts by it.  Would You do surgery in our souls?  Would You slay sin and make us like Jesus by Your Word?  Show us the glory of Gospel service and the beauty and privilege of ministry entrusted to the church.  Help us to see the weight of the responsibility and to look to You for the provision that all the glory might be Yours as we give and go in the honor and for the glory of the name of Christ, in whose name we pray.  Amen.

Matthew chapter 10 reading from verse 1.  This is the Word of Almighty God:

“And he,” that is, Jesus, “called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.  The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;  Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.  Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart.  As you enter the house, greet it.  And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.  Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.’”

Amen, and we give thanks to God that He has spoken to us in His holy Word.

Money, Mission, and Gospel Ministry

Apparently, Jesus sells. I was reading an article the other day about Matthew Ashimolowo, the pastor of Kingsway International Christian Center in London.  He was investigated by the UK Charities Commission after spending, get this, $120,000 of the church’s money on his birthday celebrations, $80,000 on a new Mercedes.  It’s nice work if you can get it!  A tax specialist examining the church’s accounts said of it, “This is a very well-financed business.”  Apparently Jesus sells.  It’s a story we could multiply again and again from Britain to America to Africa to Asia, to Matthew Ashimolowo to T.D. Jakes to David Yonggi Cho.  All over the world and every day on our television screens there are preachers peddling Jesus, very often to the poor and desperate, and getting extravagantly rich in the process.  It does need to be said, however, that even faithful churches that have no interested in the kind of spiritual Ponzi schemes we’ve been highlighting can still give the impression that the church exists to fund itself.  We need to make our budget.  We have bills to pay, obligations to meet.  We need to steward wisely and plan for the future with care.  But if we’re not careful, isn’t the suggestion terribly easy to convey that our ministries exist to gather funds?  That the end goal of our work is a well-supplied budget and that all is well if that budget is balanced? 

And one tragic effect of all of that is that for many of us we experience a kind of instinctive, understandable recoil when the subject of money is raised in the context of the life and worship of the church.  Our suspicions are aroused perhaps; we are instantly on guard because ministry, we know, is not a means to accumulate money.  That’s not what ministry is really about.  And the passage, the chapter before us here in Matthew chapter 10, as you will see with even a casual glance, isn’t about money either.  It is almost entirely about ministry in the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you scan through the chapter you’ll see that emphasis everywhere - in verses 1 through 4 Jesus gathers the twelve apostles and then in 5 to 15 He sends them out in mission with some specific instructions; 16 to 39 He explains the kind of reactions and opposition they’re likely to meet with and 40 to 42 the sort of impact for good they will have in the lives of those that receive and welcome them and their message.  What we have in Matthew chapter 10, in other words, is a class in missiology, Missiology 101, with Jesus Christ Himself as the tutor.  It is boot camp, a training seminar, for those about to be sent on the very first short-term mission trip in history. 

The apostles are about to go with the Gospel, and Jesus, in our chapter, is giving them instructions and teaching them lessons that will go on to serve them long after the resurrection and ascension of Christ as they bring the Gospel to the world.  That is the big idea of Matthew chapter 10 as a whole.  It is a chapter about ministry.  And our text this morning in verses 5 to 15 in particular is especially about ministry.  Would you look at it with me please?  Verses 5 to 15 - not money but ministry is the focus of verses 5 to 15, which I hear you say makes it all the more bizarre as a choice for Stewardship Sunday, right?  It’s not about money; it’s about ministry.  A passage focused not on money is an odd choice for Stewardship Sunday but if you’ll look at it carefully I hope you’ll see that actually the passage will really help us think about how and why we give and serve in our local church and in service of the mission Jesus has given to us.  So let’s take a look at it together.

I.     The Scope of the Mission

Verses 5 to 15 - notice in the first place in 5 to 8 Jesus explains the scope of the mission given to us.  The scope of the mission.  The apostles were to go only to the Jews in verses 5 and 6.  That will change, of course, after the resurrection when the church will go into all the world and make disciples.  And even here if you look down at verse 18, Jesus certainly anticipates the day when the apostles will bear witness before the Gentiles.  But for now, in this initial trip, they are to go only to the Jews, their target audience.  They’re also given, verse 7, a message to proclaim - “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  A target group, a message, and supernatural signs.  The signs of the breaking in of the kingdom of God in verse 8.  Miracles to perform - heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.  That’s the scope of the mission.  The people they are to reach, the message they are to reach them with, and the miraculous works that will accompany their ministry authenticating their words.

But if you look carefully at those three elements of their ministry you will see that it mirrors perfectly the ministry of Christ Himself.  One example - just look back at chapter 9 verse 35.  “Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages teaching in their synagogues.”  Jesus’ ministry at this stage in salvation history is focused specifically on the lost sheep of the house of Israel; He words amongst the Jews.  He, like the disciples, proclaims a message.  What is the message?  He proclaims the Gospel of the kingdom and He too performs authenticating, miraculous signs, signs that the kingdom of God has finally come in the appearing of Jesus Christ, healing every disease and every affliction.  You see what is being done in describing the mission of the apostles in this way?  It is being described really as an extension of the ministry given to Jesus Himself.  The apostles are extending the work Jesus has been engaged in.  The mission of the church is an extension of the mission of Christ.  That was true not just for the apostles here in Matthew 10 but continues to be the case as you will see if you read the opening words of the book of Acts.  Luke, writing these opening words says, “I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach in the first book.”  In volume one of Luke’s two volume work, Luke’s gospel, he says that was a record of what Jesus “began to do and teach until the day He was taken up into heaven.”  By implication he’s saying, “My second volume, the book of Acts, is about what Jesus continues to do and teach.”  But Jesus has ascended to glory.  He continues to work how?  Through the ministry of the church.  That is the scope of the mission.  We extend the work and ministry of Christ.  What an immense privilege is committed to us.  As the church, in its various ministries, we serve as the ambassadors and spokesmen of Jesus Christ Himself as He brings the good news of the kingdom to the ends of the earth through the work of the church.

II.     The Significance of the Mission

Then look down at verses 11 to 15.  First the scope of the mission; now notice the significance of the mission - what’s at stake.  In verse 11, the apostles are to look for “a worthy home” to stay in.  Worthiness in this context simply means they were to look for a household and a family that would welcome them and their message about Jesus and the kingdom of God.  Such a home would become their base of operations as they went from house to house preaching Christ.  In verses 12 and 13 Jesus tells the apostles when they enter each home they are to come in with the traditional word of Jewish benediction and greeting.  They were to speak peace.  They were to say, “Shalom.”  That was more than simply the ancient equivalent of “Hello,” however.  It was a prayer-wish, a desire that God would give the blessings of salvation summarized in that word, shalom, peace to these people.  And of course now that Jesus has come, this was more than simply an empty wish and aspiration.  This was something that was really on offer through the apostolic gospel concerning Jesus and the kingdom of God.  This is what faith in Christ that the apostles preached could bring to every home and to every heart and continues to bring to everyone who will trust in Christ.  Peace, peace with God, reconciliation to God, cleanliness of conscience, rest for a sin-weary soul.  Peace.

On the other hand, verses 14 and 15, if contrary to expectations the household rejects the message then the apostles’ offer of peace would be forfeited and they were to withdraw and actually to do what Jews sometimes did when they left a Gentile city.  They were to take off their sandals and shake the dust from them.  To many of the Jews in Jesus’ day, Gentile land was considered unclean and even its dust was something strict Jews wanted no contact with.  It was an act emblematic of absolute rejection and repudiation - shaking the dust off your free from your hometown.  Blunt and direct - “I want nothing to do even with the dust from your streets.”  But here, remember, Jesus has sent the apostles to Jewish people, not to Gentiles, which makes this act of shaking the dust from their feet extraordinary and stunning and shocking. He tells them, do you see, to treat Jewish people like Gentiles, like outsiders to God’s saving community, if they reject the apostles and their message about the kingdom that has come in Jesus Christ.  It’s a dramatic point, isn’t it?  No matter your birth or ancestry or pedigree, if you reject Jesus Christ you stand outside the community of God’s saving grace and today you stand liable to judgment.  And so instead of peace comes the terrible curse of verse 15.  “Truly I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgments for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town that rejects the Gospel.”

Here’s what’s really at stake in the mission Jesus gives the apostles, still gives to the church today - the peace of saving grace or the destruction of divine wrath.  That’s the real significance of the work entrusted to us, of the business of the church.  Eternal destinies worked out in response to our labors.  If the scope of the mission given highlights the incredible privilege that is ours we extend Jesus’ work, we are His ambassadors, His spokesmen - what a privilege - then the significance of the mission highlights its urgency and its gravity and its weight.  Heaven and hell are at stake as we go to the world with the Gospel.  The church is not the county club at prayer, trivial, a take-it or leave-it institution to which your connection can comfortably remain casual at best.  No, no, the church is the agent of Jesus Christ in the salvation of sinners.  The great issue of eternity for men and women, boys and girls, is the business of the church and a business in which every Christian is vitally involved.

III.     Supplies for the Mission

But then would you look down at verses 8 to 11 with me please?  Right in the center of the commission Jesus gives the apostles with the scope of the mission on the one side and the significance of the mission on the other side, there is a section, verses 8 to 11, dealing with supplies for the mission.  Supplies for the mission.  Do you see that in verses 8 to 11? Look at verses 9 and 10 first of all.  Jesus gives, I think, what are quite extraordinary instructions here.  Wouldn’t you agree?  The apostles are told what not to bring with them on this first mission trip.  We tell our missionaries how much money they need to raise before we will allow them on the mission field.  Jesus here tells the Twelve as they are about to leave on their first ever trip what they’re not allowed to do.  They’re not allowed to raise new funds or to take extra supplies - a bag, clothing, sandals, a staff.  If you’ve ever done a mission trip you will know the feeling well of being pushed out of your comfort zone.  It can be intimidating, can’t it, to go to people you may not now to tell them news they don’t want to hear about a salvation they did not think they needed.  How’s that for a definition of mission?  Going to people you may not know to tell them news they don’t want to hear about a salvation they never knew they needed.  It’s scary enough, in other words, without also being told, “By the way, don’t pack and don’t fundraise.”  How many of you would sign up for a trip like that?  I wonder how many volunteers Danny Story would get for the next Peru trip or Bill Stone for the next Scotland trip if these were the parameters.  “Where will we stay?”  “No idea.”  “What should I pack?”  “Don’t worry about it.”  “Well how much is it going to cost?”  “More than you could ever hope to pay.” Are you game?  I didn’t think so.

Two Principles for Material and Mission

Actually we know from other places in Scripture that raising funds and planning carefully are the ordinary, normal pattern for Gospel ministry and Gospel mission, so why does Jesus do what is in fact an unusual thing and give these especially stringent instructions to the apostles as they go out on this first trip?  I think He does it to highlight some important principles that shape how we think about money and material things in the light of the mission to which we are called.  Bracketing the call to radical selflessness in verses 9 and 10 are two principles about the relationship of ministry and money in verse 8 and then again in verse 10.  Do you see them there, verse 8 and verse 10? 

Freely You Have Received; Freely Give.

Let’s look at verse 8 first of all.  Jesus tells them who to go to, what to say when they get there, and what to do - the miraculous signs to perform.  And then He says, “You received without paying; give without pay.”  He’s using money and giving there as a metaphor for the whole work of Gospel service.  All of it, from the giving to the going, is an act of sacrificial generosity motivated by gratitude for the free gift of grace we have already received from Jesus Christ.  Salvation itself was a gift.  It cost Christ everything though you receive it freely.  In light of His grace, what will you withhold as He calls you to service?  There is nothing He cannot ask of you if He has given all on your behalf to make you His.  Freely you have received; freely give.  “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small.  Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all!” Everything, from my pocketbook to my energies to my every resource are to be given for the glory and praise of Jesus Christ.  Freely you have received; freely give.

This is Stewardship Sunday.  We call it that rather than Money Sunday because stewardship and the Christian life is about more than what you do with your pocketbook.  It really is about your attitude as you face the call of Jesus Christ to bring the good news about His saving work to the ends of the earth in light of His giving for you.  It really is about how you will steward your resources in a way that will extend the mission and honor the Master, which means that a Christian that is miserly or indifferent in their giving or who will only go and serve on their own terms, demonstrates and reveals how poorly they understand the Gospel of grace.  Someone who lives within sight of Calvary, who sees what Christ has done, will gladly give their all for the honor of the Savior who gave himself for them. 

The Laborer Deserves His Food

And then look at verse 10.  Here’s the second principle that informs Jesus’ commission to the disciples.  First it was, “You received without paying; give without pay.”  The Gospel came to you as a gift though it came at Christ’s great expense.  He died for you; therefore give your all for Him.  The second principle now is the laborer deserves his food.  The laborer deserves his food.  God’s people, the disciples here are being told, will take care of God’s servants.  The point this time is that ministry is the target for money. We use our gifts not to prop up institutions, not to maintain organizational structures; we give to people who are engaged in ministry to people.  That’s what you giving is really about, Jesus says. That’s what God’s people should do. They give to support those engaged in ministry to people who need to hear about Christ.  Lives, not institutions, are the goal and focus of sacrificial generosity.  The laborer deserves his food.

We give, and your giving supports lives, people; Gospel servants reaching lives, people, with the Gospel of grace.  Whether that’s the pastoral and administrative staff of the church or whether it’s our various benevolences - you can see them all listed on the back of the bulletin.  Think about the Twin Lakes Camp and Conference Center just for a moment.  Last summer, around 2,000 from across the United States heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ because you were generous and gave.  Think about the Twin Lakes Pastors Fellowship.  Several hundred pastors from the United States and around the world, some of them coming from desperately hard and challenging circumstances, gather to hear the Word of God proclaimed and were sent back to ministry encouraged and reinvigorated because you were generous.  They came and enjoyed that time for free because of your kindness.  Think about our Day School and the scholarships we are able to provide for families who can’t afford to send their children, where a Christian worldview is set in place in these young lives.  Think about our extraordinary women’s ministry or our growing young adults work.  Think about our ongoing needs.  We need a new youth minister.  We need a new mission and outreach minister.  We want to engage in other ministries and need to build ministries that we have so that people who don’t know about Jesus might hear of Him and pass from death to life.  That’s what we’re really talking about.  Remember the significance of the mission.  There is a hell to flee and a heaven to gain and our giving and our stewardship and our service furthers the salvation of men and women and the discipleship of others that they in turn might partner with us to extend Christ’s kingdom.  That’s the focus of our giving and our labors, not propping up an institution but funding Gospel work with eternal value.  Freely you have received; freely give.  The laborer deserves his food.

Sacrificial Generosity for the Cause of the Gospel

Here’s the scope of the ministry.  What an immense privilege that has been given to us, brothers and sisters, to be the ambassadors of Jesus Christ, to extend His work through our work on His behalf. Here’s the significance of the ministry.  How awesome the responsibility to know that as we proclaim Christ’s eternal destinies are being worked out.  And here are the supplies for the ministry.  Freely you have received; freely give.  Sacrificial generosity in the lives of the people of God.  The laborer is worthy of his food.  Giving is not about institutions but about people, about Gospel workers doing Gospel work.  We don’t do ministry to get money but money does serve ministry and we need to realize that as we think about our commitments today.  Money serves ministry, serves the kingdom, furthers the cause of the Gospel.  And so as you contemplate your giving this year think about the people sitting around you, some of them, who are serving hard without much recognition for the glory of Jesus in this place.  Think about the ministries of our church that need your help.  Think about lost, dying men, women, boys and girls, all around us in our city, in our state, in our country.  And above all, would you think about the cross.  Think about the gift God has given you in His Son, freely.  What won’t you give to bring glory and honor to the Savior’s name?  What won’t you give?  “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small, far too small.  Love so amazing, so divine, demands my life, my soul, my all.”  You have received freely; may God be gracious to you that you may freely give.  Let’s pray together.

Father, we thank You for Christ who, though He was rich, became poor that we might become rich in Him. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.  Having freely received of His grace and love in Christ, we pray for grace now freely to give, not just financially but with our labors and with our prayers for the extension of the kingdom of Christ and that the lost may be found and Jesus’ name honored.  For we ask it in His name now, amen.

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