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6. Lay Up Your Treasures: Earning Interest in the Bank of Heaven

Alistair Huong

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Alistair Huong

Executive Director of AudioVerse

Conference

Recorded

  • January 2, 2016
    3:15 PM
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Gracious heavenly Father, we thank You for the Sabbath day. What a high Sabbath it’s been already, the testimonies, the message we’ve heard, the singing, the fellowship. And, Lord, as we pause at this moment, this hour, to conclude this topic of practical biblical stewardship, help us to think clearly about our role as the managers of the assets You’ve given to us, and may we be faithful to the end. This is our prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

So, our topic this week has been called “Beyond the Tithe,” and I hope you’ve seen now why I entitled that because we haven’t talked about the tithe at all yet, really. And so, it goes to illustrate that the concepts of stewardship involve far more than just, “You should pay your tithe,” right? But today we are actually going to be focusing on this aspect a little bit more, just a little bit, and the title of session number six here is called “Lay Up Your Treasures: Earning Interest in the Bank of Heaven.”

 

And I apologize to those who have heard this six times, but it’s the same announcement I’ve made every time, but “Saving the Crumbs,” you can check out more information there and download the handouts, and you can look for the recordings from GYC and AudioVerse later.

 

So, we already are familiar with the term, “lay up your treasures,” and it’s found in Matthew, chapter 6, verses 19 through 21, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

 

And we talked about how laying up treasures upon the earth, hoarding the gold that gets corrupted and that gets moth eaten and cankered, that’s not the goal. We save up for future needs, but anything extra goes to God.

 

(Okay, that’s not us, so we shall continue.)

 

But I want to focus on this phrase; this is the title that we are entitling this session, and, “Lay up your treasures in Heaven,” what does that mean? When we think about laying up our treasure in Heaven, for a long time, my automatic assumption is, “Well, that means spiritual treasure,” right? We’re going to Heaven; the blessing is the spiritual aspect of being free from sin, being with Jesus. You know, “The joy that is set before us,” right, because we think of Heaven as a place where materialism has gone away. The Earth has passed away, so laying up our treasures in Heaven, it clearly, generally, at least in my mind, represents just a spiritual treasure.

 

It must be metaphorical or figurative or symbolic, spiritual, right? That’s the idea that I have, but notice what Spirit of Prophecy has to say. Adventist Home, page 541, paragraph 3, she says, “A fear of making the future inheritance seem too material has led many to spiritualize away the very truths which lead us to look upon it as our home.” So, there is a balance even when we talk about Heaven. Yes, we are not going to Heaven because we want to walk on the streets of gold only. There are the spiritual reasons, but it is a reward to be able to walk on the streets of gold. Amen? And to eat from the Tree of Life and to, you know, build our homes and see the giant gates of Pearl on the city and all of those things. It is a real physical place, Heaven is.

 

And so, with that foundation in mind, “Lay up your treasures in Heaven,” maybe there’s more to it than just a spiritual, like, sense of well-being or something to that effect. So, you know, we say this line a lot, “You can’t take it with you,” but if we take Jesus at His word, and He says, “Lay up your treasures in Heaven,” what that means is you can send it on ahead.

 

And let’s make this explicitly clear. Testimonies for the Church, volume 3, page 249, paragraph 2, it says this, “Every opportunity to help a brother in need, or to aid the cause of God in the spread of the truth, is a pearl that you can send beforehand and deposit in the bank of heaven for safekeeping.” Now, again, if you were just to read this passage without the little preamble that I just gave you, my hunch is that most of us would read this, and we would automatically assume this is spiritual. It is a figure of speech that we have a pearl, a bank of Heaven, that’s just a metaphorical statement that represents all the treasures that God has spiritually for us. And, because that’s just how we associate talk like this, right?

 

Well, let’s look at another one, Review and Herald, July 1, 1890, paragraph 7, it says, “The only safe place to deposit our treasures is in the bank of heaven. Every deposit made in this bank will accumulate abundant interest; you will be laying up in store for yourselves against the time to come.” It really is difficult for me to spiritualize every single piece of this away. I think the simplest reading of this passage is to just take it at face value. In fact, the Spirit of Prophecy, through all of these passages that we’ve just read, including Christ’s words, “Lay up your treasure in Heaven,” this gives me the idea that there is actually a bank in Heaven.

 

And not only that, we have an account there. We have our name on an account, and God is managing that account. And every time, in the previous quote, we advance the work of God through our giving, helping a brother in need, God makes a deposit on our behalf in our account, and that account accumulates interest.

 

We talked about investing yesterday, and I mention this briefly, and that is this is the only truly safe investment. A guaranteed rate of return with no risk of loss. The only risk is if you don’t show up to claim your deposits. And so, with this in mind, okay, think of the charitable giving. Our tithes and offerings that we think God is saying, “Oh,” you know, “You are robbing Me,” right, “of tithes and offerings,” guess what? You remember when you were little kids, right? Mom and dad, you know, they want to train us to be generous people. Like, “Hey, would you be willing to give mom and dad a gift,” or, you know, “If mommy needed five dollars, would you give it?” You know, those experiences, and, as little kids, we give our parents the five dollars or whatever that we earned. What do our parents do? They save it up for us until later. Our parents usually don’t spend that money. It’s just to train us.

 

And so, look, this is what God is doing. He’s saying, “You are robbing Me in tithes and offerings.” Yes, that is true because there’s an element of selfishness and covetousness and the love of money involved in all of that, but yet, when we return to Him what is rightfully His, He’s actually going to give it back to us. So, it’s not an expense when we give. We get it back with interest.

 

So, you’ve got to think of it this way, when we return the tithes and offerings to God, it’s an investment, and it’s an investment that cannot go down in value; it only goes up. And when we get to Heaven, we’ll have a bank account there already open for us. And, you know, this is sort of curious to me because I’m, like, “So, what are we actually going to be using the bank account for?” I don’t know, but I know we’re going to be building houses, we’re going to be farming. There still might be some medium of exchange. It won’t be, you know, a corrupt banking system like we have in the world today, but somehow there is going to be a use for it, and it is a reward for the righteous. And that’s one of the reasons why we want to be there. Amen?

 

But, as they say, but wait, there’s more. Counsels on Stewardship, page 343, paragraph 3, ways this, “The Lord has made us His almoners,” meaning we are the managers of His funds to dispense to those in need. “He places in our hands His gifts, in order that we shall divide with those who are needy, and it is this practical giving that will be to us a sure panacea for all selfishness.”

 

What does the word “panacea” mean? It’s a cure, right? It’s a cure-all. So, if I could substitute that word, this practical giving of us dispensing God’s gifts to others in need, this is the cure for all selfishness. I want you to take this word “selfishness” and file it on a shelf in your brain because you’re going to see that word again multiple times throughout this session, and I want you to see the relationship between personal finance and particularly giving, with selfishness.

 

But let’s focus on this right here. A panacea, a cure for selfishness, now, what is so bad about selfishness? Well, let’s take a look. Evangelism, page 633, “Selfishness is the root of all evil.” So, let’s put two and two together. Practical giving, according to the ways that God has designed, is the cure for all selfishness, which is the root of all evil. So, practical giving is a cure of what? The root of all evil. And, of course, we know the Bible says, 1 Timothy 6, verse 10, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” You see how it all fits together. God has given us the institution of the tithe and the offering, and He requests us to do it, not just because He needs the money, because, guess what, God doesn’t need our money, but because we need the sanctification, a cure for all evil.

 

And so, what I am trying to say here is that, how we manage our money has a lot to do with our characters. It’s a cure for selfishness, but we can phrase it in all different sorts of ways. We can say personal finance is an integral element of our experience of sanctification, because if you are becoming sanctified, you will manage your money in the way that God designs. You will have the generous heart of God.

 

And, as we learn to give as God requests us to give, it cures us, it roots out the evil in our heart and the selfishness. And this is another way that I explain it. When we talk about a cure, okay, this is not an over-the-counter or prescription medication. This cure is a natural remedy, okay? It’s an exercise. A generous spirit is like a muscle. You have to exercise it in order for it to get stronger.

 

And so, when we are dealing with selfishness, the opposite of selfishness is selflessness, and in order for us to become selfless, we must practice selflessness. And so, God gives a practical way to do it. Everybody understands money, and He says as you learn to give, you’re building this muscle of generosity. You’re building the muscle of selflessness, and as a result, it cures your selfishness, okay? And so, this is the reason why, and another way to look at it is it burns the fat of selfishness, okay? It builds the muscle of selflessness; it burns the fat of selfishness.

 

And this is the reason why giving is something that God expects, not just of the wealthy, but of everyone because, if you’re not willing to give God one dollar out of ten, what makes you think you’re going to give 10 percent of a million? You’ve got to exercise this muscle, right? And it’s a lot easier to lift the lighter weights, but as you lift the lighter weights, you’re able to lift the greater weights. And so, generosity, selflessness, is a muscle that you can exercise, and it is this natural remedy that God has given to us that’s a cure for selfishness. And just like all things in the life of sanctification, it is not the work of a moment, but it’s the work of a lifetime.

 

So, personal finance, and this is what I say, too, money is not everything, but money pervades everything, and so that is why there is no escaping character development and character refinement without addressing money in the life. It’s not because we need to make money the big trophy that we’re striving after; that’s not what we’re doing, but it just happens to be the current that flows through pretty much all aspects of life.

 

And so, this leads us to the question: How ought we then to give? Alright, so we see the importance of it. We see how God will give it back to us with interest later, so we’re not really losing anything. I mean, we have everything to gain. I mean, there is no reason not to, but how do we do it? Do we have instruction?

 

Well, the Lord has actually given to us very definite instruction. Counsels on Stewardship, page 80, paragraph 3, “This matter of giving is not left to impulse. God has given us definite instruction in regard to it.” Aha! Before I ask, He shall answer. So, what does this say here? “He has specified tithes and offerings as the measure of our obligation. And He desires us to give regularly and systematically.”

 

Okay, and I’ll summarize this later. Let’s read through the passage, and I’ll summarize the high points. Same page, “Let each regularly examine his income, which is all a blessing from God, and set apart the tithe as a separate fund, to be sacredly the Lord’s. This fund should not in any case be devoted to any other use; it is to be devoted solely to support the ministry of the gospel. After the tithe is set apart, let gifts and offerings be apportioned, ‘as God hath prospered’ you.”

 

Okay, so, in this passage, we have been given like bullet-point instructions on how this should work, so let’s break it down. How we ought to give? Give regularly and systematically now, which means don’t wait until you die. There’s another statement, if I can paraphrase, it says something to the effect, “Dying benevolence is no substitute for living charity.” I might have switched some of those words around, but you get the idea. You can look it up on the CD-ROM. The point here is, as we read earlier, giving is not because God needs our money. So, it’s not like, oh, if I just invest it now, I’ll have a larger sum later to give to God’s work. Well, that’s sort of nice, but that’s not the point. God’s point is sanctification is a daily work. It’s a muscle that needs continual exercise. And so, regularly and systematically now. Rule number one, right, how do we give?

 

Number two, set aside the tithe, and by definition the word tithe means 10 percent, as sacred from each paycheck. And when it says regularly examine it, that’s how I interpret it. Every paycheck, set aside 10 percent.

 

Then give offerings on top of the 10 percent as God has prospered, and this is an important point, this is not to be done by impulse.

 

So, these are very simply broken down. The four bullet points that we just read straight from the Spirit of Prophecy, God’s definite instruction on how to give.

 

Alright, I need to talk about the impulse segment a little bit. Counsels on Stewardship, page 25, tells us, “Selfishness,” there’s that word again, “is the strongest and most general of human impulses, the struggle of the soul between sympathy and covetousness is an unequal contest; for while selfishness is the strongest passion, love and benevolence are too often the weakest, and as a rule the evil gains the victory. Therefore in our labors and gifts for God's cause, it is unsafe to be controlled by feeling or impulse,” so practical.

 

Notice what she says here. We should not give to God’s work or labor for God simply out of feeling or impulse. Why should we not do that? It’s because selfishness is the strongest impulse. Selfishness is the strongest motivator within the natural heart, the carnal man, and so it’s an unequal contest. And so, if we’re sitting there, and we have to make a subconscious gut response to something, the majority of the time, the natural reaction will be the selfish one. And so, we need to understand that developing the selflessness, the cure, the panacea, it involves breaking this cycle, you know, going against the natural human tendency to selfishness.

 

And so, we continue reading, “To give or to labor when our sympathies are moved, and to withhold our gifts or service when the emotions are not stirred, is an unwise and dangerous course. If we are controlled by impulse or mere human sympathy, then a few instances where our efforts for others are repaid with ingratitude, or where our gifts are abused or squandered, will be sufficient to freeze up the springs of beneficence. Christians should act from fixed principle, following the Saviour's example of self-denial and self-sacrifice.”

 

You know, when you are exercising, is the natural tendency to want to exert that effort and feel the burn in your muscle, or is the natural tendency to just not go to the gym or not go running today? You understand the natural momentum, right? The natural impulse is to not move. This is the same principle. The natural tendency is to be selfish, but it says Christians should act from fixed principle and not go by emotions. Don’t go by impulse, and don’t go by feelings because we’re going to lose that battle. We need to exercise that muscle.

 

And so, when we look at it this way, that means there are several important things to remember when it comes to our gifts, our offerings, and our tithes. Giving our tithes and offerings back to God is not to be viewed as payment for spiritual services that we received. This is not exactly the picture of the widow, but I think it communicates the same concept. Jesus commended the widow with the two mites, even though, perhaps, she was aware of the corruption of the church at her day. Maybe she understood that this is not, you know, a church that is the most welcoming to her, but she gave anyway, and Christ commended her.

 

How often do we have a consumer mindset towards God and His church? We come to the church, we say, “I don’t enjoy the pastor’s sermon,” “someone offended me,” “I think the church should be doing this or that,” and then we feel as though, as a consumer with our wallet in the store, we can pressure the church by withholding our tithes. Guess what? We’re being ruled by the human impulse, and what is the ruling impulse in that kind of a decision? Well, it’s the stronger one, which happens to be selfishness.

 

The example of Christ was that He commended the woman who dropped in all that she had into the very treasury from which the money comes out to pay Judas to betray Him. Ladies and gentlemen, tithes and offerings, it is not an optional thing that we return to God when we feel like it, it our duty to do so as God’s managers of His funds.

 

And so, this is the next question: So, how much should I give? Let’s go quickly through this. Malachi 3, verse 8, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, ‘Wherein have we robbed thee?’ In tithes and offerings.” So, we mentioned earlier, tithes, 10 percent, okay, 10 percent. And offerings? That’s the question mark, okay?

 

And I just want to make this little disclaimer. I’m actually going to focus primarily for the rest of the time here on offerings because I believe there are vast number of resources dealing with the tithe already. Not to say it’s not important; It’s very important, so important that just about every pastor you talk to probably has a library of sermons trying to encourage the church members to pay their tithe. But offerings here is where I believe there is more to be discovered through study, okay?

 

So, tithe, we understand that is the 10 percent, but what about the offerings? First Corinthians 16, verse 2, this is where Ellen White quoted from earlier when she gave the instructions on how to give. [It] says, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay be him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.”

 

Now, interestingly, this is the passage that we generally hear explained as what it doesn’t say, right? This is one of the few first-day-of-the-week verses, and everyone says we use this verse to say, “No, we don’t worship on the first day of the week. This verse is not saying that.” So, we’re using this verse to say what it doesn’t say, but let’s actually look at the verse to see what it does say, right?

 

So, upon the first day of the week, what that means is, as soon as you get your paycheck, early in the week, you’re going to church on Sabbath, which is the last day of the week, but the first day of the week, set aside your offerings. That’s what it’s saying, so in actuality, this verse supports Seventh-day Sabbath-keeping far more than first-day keeping, but that’s beside the point right now. But this is the question right here: As God has prospered him, what does that mean?

 

Ellen White quoted it, there it is, what does it mean? Okay, so tithes and offerings, the big question we’re asking right now is how much should I give? So, I know I need to give God the 10-percent tithe, and that’s not optional; it’s not discretionary. You know, it’s robbery from God if we don’t give that, but He also says, “You’re robbing Me of my offerings,” and we see here the Apostle Paul defines the amount as God has prospered, but what does that mean?

 

Generally, when we discuss this, the way that we explain it is as you are able, right? As you are able to give, give a freewill offering in addition to the 10 percent to God. That’s what we say, but what does it really mean practically when we apply it? Generally, if you’re like me, okay, maybe you’re not like me, generally, my guess is most of us, it just means whatever we feel like, right? We open our wallets, “There’s got to be a one-dollar bill in here.” As God has prospered, right? Whatever I feel like, you know? The dollar bill is generally what we interpret as offerings, and if nobody’s looking, and the offering plate goes by, maybe we’ll say, “God will prosper me more next week.”

 

So, this is where I have to share some new passages that I have actually just been ruminating on myself fairly recently. Let me share them with you. This is a biblical example. Ellen White is describing this in the book Patriarchs and Prophets, page 527, to illustrate what it means to give as God has prospered. “The contributions required of the Hebrews for religious and charitable purposes amounted to fully one fourth of their income.” What percent is that, one fourth? Twenty-five percent, very good. Good math students. Keep that in mind. Ellen White here already knows what you’re thinking, because look what she says, “So heavy a tax upon the resources of the people might be expected to reduce them to poverty; but, on the contrary, the faithful observance of these regulations was one of the conditions of their prosperity. On condition of their obedience God made them this promise: ‘I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field…And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.’”

 

This is tough to swallow, isn’t it? Twenty-five percent? So, 25 percent, I looked at this and said, okay, so there’s 10 percent to tithes. What’s left for offerings? What’s the percentage for offerings then? Fifteen! So, I know, at least for me when I first read this, there’s got to be a reason, like it surely must not apply to us. I mean, that’s the Hebrews, come on. Old Testament! Jesus came and died on the cross. He nailed the handwriting of ordinances. This has got to be included in that, right?

 

Well, until I kept reading this chapter. Next page, “In the days of Israel the tithe and freewill offerings were needed to maintain the ordinances of divine service. Should the people of God give less in this age? The principle laid down by Christ is that our offerings to God should be in proportion to the light and privileges enjoyed. ‘Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.’…The work of the gospel, as it widens, requires greater provision to sustain it than was called for anciently; and this makes the law of tithes and offerings of even more urgent necessity now than under the Hebrew economy.” There is no escaping, is there?

 

Let’s mention a couple things. First of all, we were asking the question, what does it mean when the Bible says and the Spirit of Prophecy quotes “as God has prospered”? We usually associate that to mean whenever God gives us a little bit more money, prosperity in material possessions should then translate into additional offerings. That’s sort of the proportionality that we’re considering here, but according to this, that’s not how God sees it.

 

“As God has prospered” is in proportion to the light and privileges enjoyed. So, the more light that God has shone on you of truth, the more obligated we are. And that is why she says the work of the gospel, it is more urgent now than it was then. So, you know, sometimes we look at the Spirit of Prophecy and we wish, at least I do, we wish, “Can’t she be more specific?! I want to know God’s will for my life. I have this situation. Can’t you just tell me?! Like, just give me a percent!” Until she does. And then we wish, “Why didn’t you just give us broad principles for us to apply?”

 

But, of course, this is a principle to apply, and I want to be very clear. I want to be very, very clear on this. And that is, that’s why I have the title. It’s a recommendation because you notice she is making a soft appeal. There are times when you read Spirit of Prophecy, she will make something so clear you know what you must do. But here she asks the question, “Should the people of God give less in this age?” It’s as though she is saying, she’s appealing to our better natures. She’s saying, “Look at the situation. The work of God needs a lot more work now than it did back then. You are privileged with a lot more light and privileges than they did back then. And so, wouldn’t it be nice if we could give even more back to God?” You notice this is the way that she is phrasing it.

 

So, I do not read this to say, “Everyone ought to be required to give 25 percent,” okay? Please don’t walk out of this seminar saying that I am telling you, you must. However, she does make the appeal, so we can’t escape that she does give us this counsel to consider.

 

And, of course, there are some difference, right? There are some differences between Israel’s day and our day. The 25 percent for the Hebrews actually included all of their taxes because that was their economy; it was their government. Whereas now we have the actual secular government as well as giving back to God, and so I’m not sure that that necessarily changes anything, but there are differences.

 

And so, just as a testimony, I have a friend, I actually mentioned him in a seminar before about some other things that he does with his personal finances. He tells me that because he sees this portion down here, and even though he earns a sizeable paycheck and he has a family or he has his grandmother to take care of and things like that, he chooses to return to God 30 percent, and he still gives all of his time for service and that. So, there are people who take this at its face value and just does it. And, I know for me, it’s a challenge, but it is something that I take seriously, and I believe that God’s people should look at this and be seriously considering whether God is calling us to do more for Him.

 

And the next passage here is a promise, not from the same chapter, but I believe it ties together. This is from Testimonies for the Church, volume 3, page 408, paragraph 4, it says, “Should all whom God has prospered with earth's riches carry out His plan by faithfully giving a tenth of all their increase, and should they not withhold their trespass offerings and their thank offerings, the treasury would be constantly replenished…If systematic benevolence were universally adopted according to God's plan, and the tithing system carried out as faithfully by the wealthy as it is by the poorer classes, there would be no need of repeated and urgent calls for means at our large religious gatherings.”

 

Can you imagine going to an Adventist gathering where they don’t call for an offering?! I’ve never been to one, and we just had one this morning here, as well. And, if you go to ASI, you know, that’s sort of the highlight of the Sabbath service, but look at this. If we were faithful in following God’s plan and not just the wealthy but also the poor, not just the poor but also the wealthy, the treasury would be constantly replenished, and there would be no need of repeated fundraising campaigns.

 

So, there is a promise. If God’s people were to be faithful to the plan that He has laid out, His work would be constantly funded. It would be like building the tabernacle. Moses said, “Stop! We’ve got too much. No more!” Wouldn’t that be a nice problem to have?

 

And so, this is where I need to pause a moment, because we talked about all this, tithes and offerings and 25 percent and all this. There has been a question that’s come in, like, “What if I’m in debt? What happens then? What’s the priority level?” okay? So, God makes it clear, “You have robbed me in tithes and offerings.” The tithe is 10 percent; it goes to God no matter what. The fact is, it’s not that you can’t afford to pay the tithe, you can’t afford not to because the very next verse, it says, “Prove Me and see if I won’t open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings so that you don’t have enough space to receive it.” You know, this kind of situation right here.

 

So, the 10 percent tithe absolutely goes to God first; however, He also says that the offerings would be viewed as…We’re also robbing God when we’re not paying our offerings. And so, I believe there is the necessity of giving also the freewill offering; however, I believe that the 25 percent that we’re talking about is not a law, right, it’s not a law. It is something to strive towards. And so, the way that I would look at this is, pay God the 10 percent without question, and then pay an offering that is reasonable within the greater debt payoff plan. And once you pay off your debts, then continue to strive to give more to the Lord, going up to 25 percent or more. Does that make sense?

 

The 10 percent is always the Lord’s. Offering, I believe, we should still give some, but how much that is, that’s up to you to decide with the Lord. And leave the 25 percent as a goal to strive towards, okay? So, that’s what I would say to that, and there may be other applications as well.

 

So, let’s continue as we wrap up this section, and we need to move into another section dealing with end times specifically, but when I was preparing for this seminar, I asked people, you know, what they wanted to hear about. And one person said, they wanted to hear about radical giving. And, you know, I was thinking, “Radical giving?” It sort of has a nice ring to it, but what does it mean?

 

When we think about radical giving, are we thinking of people who drop 100-dollar bills into the offering plate? Are we thinking of people that single-handedly fund church building projects? And their name is on, you know the plaque; they get to cut the ribbon. Is that radical giving? Or maybe it’s guys like Bill Gates, richest man in the world, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, curing polio and malaria and all sorts of things, poverty; I don’t know what else they’re doing. But billions of dollars, is that radical giving? Or is radical giving just simply doing what God says?

 

You know, really the entire seminar has been building up to this point because we talked about spending less, saving more, living a modest life, right, living a modest life that limits waste and reduces spending, living contrary to the common American way of thinking, the American dream type of lifestyle. Because we are managing our finances in order to give more. You see, it’s not like, okay, let’s make a line item in our monthly budget, and let’s just say 15 percent. And, okay, we’ve done our giving, and then let’s get back to life.

 

No, no, no! It’s the whole point of our personal finance. We manage our money in such a way that we can give not just money to God but we give of our time and energy and resources. That was sort of the foundation of the whole week that we spent together. I believe that is the crux of radical giving. You make it the whole purpose of how you manage your money instead of just thinking, “I’ll just give a big check.”

 

So, radical giving is making Jesus the first, last and best of our money. This is the passage where I get that thought from. Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, page 99, paragraph 2, “Jesus does not release us from the necessity of effort, but He teaches that we are to make Him first and last and best in everything. We are to engage in no business, follow no pursuit, seek no pleasure, that would hinder the outworking of His righteousness in our character and life. Whatever we do is to be done heartily, as unto the Lord.”

 

And so, it talks about business, everything we do, so the necessity of effort, so clearly it must apply to our finances. So, in our money management, God must be first and last and best. And so, let me summarize that for you in how I believe it applies in our giving. So, we’ve been talking about the systematic giving. We make Jesus first in our tithes and offerings, aiming for 25 percent or more. Okay? So, that’s the target, 25 percent or more, but we make Jesus first by paying the tithes and offerings, or returning of tithes and offerings, first.

 

Surplus giving is when we make Jesus last by giving Him any surplus after all of our needs have been met. We’ve talked about this before. Saving and investing is for defined future needs. Once your needs are met, everything extra goes to God, and that’s surplus giving, and that is giving to Jesus at the end. You give it to Him first; You give it to Him at the end.

 

And then there’s sacrificial giving, which is making Jesus best by being ready to give any and all if He asks it of us. The Rich Young Ruler? Jesus asked him, “Sell everything, give to the poor, and come and follow Me.” He wasn’t willing to do that. And, you know, within all of this, yes, there is regularity. Yes, there is systematic. You know, yes, we save for the future. But there are those moments, those Abraham and Isaac type of moments where God speaks to you in a very distinct way, and He says, “I want you to give this to Me.” You better listen to the Lord, and we need to be ready to do that whenever He asks.

 

And so, making Jesus first, last and best: Systematic giving. Give to Him first. Surplus giving: Give to Him at the end. Sacrificial giving: Whatever He wants, He can have.

 

And that takes us to this question: What about the end times? I’m just dealing with these two questions, okay, and it does have to do with this idea of giving. In the end times, particularly recently, we’ve been hearing a lot of people making statements that it’s time to sell everything because Jesus is coming soon. Or the Time of Trouble is right upon us. So, we need to give everything to God’s work right now. There have even been some who say Jesus is coming so soon, you’re not going to have to pay off your credit cards, so charge them up. Take out all the mortgage you can on your house; give it to God’s work. You laugh, but I’ve heard it with my own two ears.

 

Should I sell everything because Jesus is coming soon? This is a serious question because it can literally bankrupt you if you make the wrong decision. And worse, it could bankrupt you spiritually. And so, what about the financial collapse, because this is the reason why people say we should do this, right? So, obviously there are lots of other questions about the end times that we’re going to talk about. Preparation for the end times, there are lots of other ministries and resources. AudioVerse and maybe a lot of the booths even here at GYC can deal with that, but I want to specifically, dealing with personal finance, these two questions in the context of the end times.

 

So, a couple of foundational principles as we look at this scenario, okay? “Don’t make a time of trouble before it comes.” I love this quote, “You will get to it soon enough, brethren. We are to think of today, and if we do well the duties of today, we will be ready for the duties of tomorrow.” Spirit of Prophecy is so balanced. Let’s keep reading. And, by the way, for those who are listening, Mind, Character, and Personality, volume 2, page 470, paragraph 2, that’s where that quote came from.

 

Next one, Selected Messages, volume 3, page 383, paragraph 4, “Many will look away from present duties,” you notice how often that word appears. Don’t neglect present duties. If you do them well now, you’ll be ready for future duties. Many will look away from present duties, present comfort and blessings, and be borrowing trouble in regard to the future crisis.” We shouldn’t be borrowing money, and we certainly shouldn’t be borrowing trouble. “This will be making a time of trouble beforehand,” and this is key, “and we will receive no grace for any such anticipated troubles…” That’s troubling to me because where would we be were it not for grace? Have mercy! “We are to wait on our Lord. Jesus will be an ever-present help in every time of need.”

 

So, what is the foundational principle I’m trying to lay down here? Is there going to be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation? Yes! But the reality is, we’re not there yet, and so Spirit of Prophecy says we should not borrow trouble from the future because by doing that we are compromising our ability to do God’s work that He’s given us today. And if we compromise our ability to do that today, that will guarantee we’re not going to be ready for that then. So, we’ve got to keep that in mind.

 

And so, tying this in with what we read earlier, Counsels on Stewardship, page 25, paragraph 1, “Therefore in our labors and gifts for God’s cause, it is unsafe to be controlled by feeling or impulse,” because, guess what? When we think about all of this talk, “Time of trouble; got to sell everything. It’s going to be hard,” let’s admit it, so often we are moved by feeling or impulse. That is the gut reaction, the wide-eyed panic. Is it time to run to the mountains? It’s a fear of pain or a fear of being lost. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve experienced it myself. I mean, I’m human, and I know exactly how that feels, but guess what? Even in the end times, it is still unsafe to be controlled by feeling or impulse. I might say especially in the end times.

 

So, this is the question, right? It’s all predicated on this. You should sell everything because Jesus is coming so soon. Well, do we know when He is coming? Are you sure? Haven’t you heard that there’s this prophecy called the Shemitah? Have you heard that? There were some that were talking about it, that there was going to be this financial collapse, and fall of 2015 is based on the Hebrew calendar, the seven-year cycle, and we’re coming up on the seventh seven-year cycle, the Jubilee, and it corresponds to stock market collapses. No, you haven’t heard about that?

 

Well, anyway, there are some people who said, even Adventists, who say this might be your last chance to sell everything. But this comes back to this question right here. It is presuming that we know when He is coming, and of all people, Seventh-day Adventists, we’ve got the scars to show what happens when we set dates! No, we don’t know when Jesus is coming. And so, as a result of that, it should affect the way we arrange our lives, especially the practical living that affects God’s work.

 

So, Evangelism, page 221, paragraph 1, it says, “You will not be able to say that He will come in one, two or five years, neither are you to put off His coming by stating that it may not be for ten or twenty years…We are not to know the definite time either for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit or for the coming of Christ.” And so, let’s say that we do go out, and we say, “I am convicted that Jesus is coming back next year,” 2016, 2017, whatever it is, and we do go and sell everything.

 

And then it turns out that Jesus does not come back within the next 12 months. What will happen to us then? We think that God will provide, but we just read earlier that, for anticipating the time of trouble, God gives no grace for that. What a terrible position to be in, and guess what the worst part of it is. Maybe 12 months from now we are that much closer to Jesus’ coming, and He needs us that much more to spread the Three Angels’ Messages, and we have bankrupt ourselves literally. Do you know who is the only one that is happy about that? The enemy of souls because he has successfully, by using our fear, our impulse, and our feelings, he has robbed God of a capable-bodied worker.

 

You see the danger of relying on our impulses? We ought to stick with what the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy have to say. So, we do not want to hamper God’s work because of rash or impulsive decisions because He has already told us we will get no grace to deal with borrowing trouble from the future for ourselves. But yet, here’s the balance. We’ve got to make sure we keep straight, right? Does this mean that we should say, “My Lord delays His coming?” Clearly not.

 

You know the parable. One man says, “Oh, my lord’s not coming back,” and he starts to eat and drink with the drunken and beats his fellow servant while the other servant is giving his meat in due season. No, neither are we to say, “My Lord delays His coming.”

 

Here is an example, a story that Ellen White tells. Last Day Events, page 42, “One brother said to me, ‘Sister White, do you think the Lord will come in ten years?’” We still have these kinds of conversations every day, right? Adventists do. She says, “What difference does it make to you whether He shall come in two, four, or ten years? ‘Why,’ said he, ‘I think I would do differently in some things than I now do if I knew the Lord was to come in ten years.’

 

‘What would you do?’ said I.

 

‘Why,’ said he, ‘I would sell my property and begin to search the Word of God and try to warn the people and get them to prepare for His coming, and I would plead with God that I might be ready to meet Him.’

 

Then said I, ‘If you knew that the Lord was not coming for twenty years, you would live differently?’

 

Said he, ‘I think I would.’...”

 

“How selfish,” there’s that word again, “How selfish was the expression that he would live a different life if he knew his Lord was to come in ten years! Why, Enoch walked with God 300 years. This is a lesson for us that we shall walk with God every day, and we are not safe unless we are waiting and watching.”

 

How applicable, right? People are saying, “Time to sell. Jesus is coming. The stock market is about to collapse. It’s all going to break,” you know, “Everything is going to break loose. You better hurry.” But guess what? What are they appealing to? They are appealing to the very same nature that this man was operating from. We are motivated because, “Oh, if Jesus is coming soon, then I need to protect myself, and I need to sell everything so that, because, oh, uh, I’ve got limited time.”

 

But what is Ellen White saying here? Enoch walked with God for 300 years, and so it’s like this man is only willing to sell because he thinks that Jesus is coming in 10 years, but if he’s not coming for 20 years, “Oh, no, I’m not going to sell.” You see the dilemma with that kind of thinking?

 

And so, the principle here that, just a simple principle, is whether Jesus is coming in two years or twenty years, the principles by which we live by, the principles by which we manage our money and make our money decisions should not change. It shouldn’t change simply because all of a sudden we think, “Oh, the sky is about to fall.”

 

So, should it matter that we don’t know when He’s coming? The answer is no. The principles should remain the same. Jesus tells us in Luke 19:11-13, “And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.” Notice, Jesus is talking to people who were expecting Him or the Kingdom of God to come immediately, just like a lot of Adventists today. Jesus is coming so soon, what should we do? “He said therefore, ‘A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them,’” (Do what?) “Occupy till I come.”

 

He doesn’t say, “Well, when I’m,” you know, “five miles away, you need to do this.” He says, “Until I get back, keep doing faithfully the work that I’ve given you to do.” And we have already talked about the parable of the talents in Matthew, but this is the Luke account of it. We are to occupy till He comes, so what does that mean? We need to manage our money prudently. We need to get out of the slavery of debtors. We need to be giving sacrificially and systematically and regularly to God’s work. We need to be working for the advancement of the Three Angels’ Messages to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. We need to work so that every soul has the gospel available to them. We need to prepare the world for the mark of the beast and Third Angel’s Message. Those are things that we should be doing, whether Jesus is coming in one year, ten years, or a hundred years from now.

 

And just like we said earlier, when it comes to selling all that we have, should I sell everything? The fundamental posture that we have is that it is all God’s anyway, but let’s take a look at some more specific counsel. We looked at this yesterday, Counsels on Stewardship, page 59, paragraph 4, it says, “I was shown that it is the will of God that the saints should cut loose from every encumbrance before the time of trouble comes, and make a covenant with God through sacrifice. If they have their property on the altar, and earnestly inquire of God for duty, He will teach them when to dispose of these things. Then they will be free in the time of trouble, and have no clogs to weigh them down.” So, indeed, God already tells us in His inspired writings that there will come a time in which we will have to cut loose from everything, but He will teach us when.

 

Next page, same book, “I also saw that God had not required all of His people to dispose of their property at the same time, but if they desired to be taught, He would teach them, in a time of need, when to sell and how much to sell.” Okay?

 

And this is key, page 324, Counsels on Stewardship, paragraph 1, “Some may inquire, ‘Must we actually dispossess ourselves of everything which we call our own?’” There’s that question, “Should I sell everything?” exactly the question. She says, “We may not be required to do this now; but we must be willing to do so for Christ's sake.” And this is exactly what we’ve been discussing earlier. It is not saying, “You must sell everything five years before Jesus comes.” That’s not the principle. The principle is, you need to be willing to give God everything whenever He wants it. “We must acknowledge that our possessions are absolutely His, by using of them freely whenever means is needed to advance His cause.”

 

And so, this is the question, when we think about selling, what is the premise of that question? Are we asking the question out of a fearful motive? A legalistic interest of self-preservation. “When do I sell so I can protect myself?” Or, are we asking, “Lord, when do You need these resources for the finishing of Your work?” Two different ways of approaching the question, and we need to be willing whenever it is that God says, “Now is the time.”

 

And the fact of the matter is, if you think practically, it doesn’t make sense for God to have all of His people unload all of their assets all at the same time because who is going to make use of the assets because everyone sold everything. Does that make sense? So, practically, just simply for the management of capital mathematically, there has got to be a staged process, and guess who is managing that staging process? It is God Himself. It is up to the Holy Spirit to move upon individual church members and say, “This is the time. I see the need. The Lord has moved upon me to sell in stages,” or to sell everything, “and to move this work forward.” And so, whenever someone comes up here and says, “Now is the time to sell; this might be your last chance,” I am afraid they are trying to take the place of God. Have mercy.

 

And so, there will be a time indeed when we should sell everything, but it is an individual matter. God will make known the right time for you specifically individually, but we must be willing to sell all any time God asks. And how do we get to the point of being willing to sell everything? By exercising this generosity muscle. By giving regularly and systematically, we exercise this muscle, so when God says, “It’s time to give me the rest of it,” we’ve developed that muscle memory. It just – bam! It just happens. And the motive will be for the finishing of the work, not for protecting ourselves. You see, sanctification, this is exactly what it is, it’s a transformation of the heart.

 

So, what about that financial collapse? As I mentioned earlier, the idea that has been shared, not just recently, but if you remember back even in 2007, 2008, there were predictions. There’s going to be a financial collapse, and the financial collapse is the reason given for why we should sell everything.

 

Well, let’s look at some historical data. Since the year 1900, there have been 29 market crashes in the world, 29. And I bolded two of them. This is 1929, of course that is the Great Depression, the beginning of the Great Depression. And then 2008, in all of our lifetimes, I assume, that was the second greatest financial crisis in history. And in probably every single one of these cases, some well-meaning Adventist somewhere or maybe non-Adventist predicted that this is going to be the end of the world.

 

So, let’s take a look. This is the Dow Jones Industrial Average from the year 1900 to about 2011, I believe, and I circled the Great Depression right there, and this is the 2008 collapse. Now, I need to mention that, if you might not be able to see it, this is not a regular graph paper. This is a logarithmic graph paper, which means this is not a straight line. It’s actually more like an exponential curve. It probably goes like this, like a hockey stick, but it has to be logarithmic in order for you to actually see it, or else it would be really small.

 

But what am I trying to say here? Throughout the span of history, you notice the stock market went from really low to really high. You notice that? Throughout this time, we had the two largest financial collapses in history, we had two world wars, we had the cold war, Vietnam, two gulf wars, HIV, Ebola, the climate change crisis, whether you believe it’s legitimate or not. We have the issue with the Middle East now. We have the most costly natural disasters in history. We have the development of the nuclear bomb.

 

And look, all of those things we associate with Matthew 24 and the signs of the end. There is absolutely no correlation to the stock market. I am not using this to give you investment advice; that’s not what I’m trying to say. What I am trying to say is just this very simple point: The stock market is a terrible predictor of the end of the world. That’s it’; that’s all I’m trying to say.

 

As the unrest in the nations are progressing, the stock market does not reflect that reality. Jesus did not say that there is going to be financial unrest in Matthew, chapter 24, but that does lead us to the next question, which is, is there any legitimacy to this, right? The fact is, 100 percent of the people who use the stock market to predict the end of the world has been wrong, 100 percent.

 

And moreover, you’ve got to think of it this way: There are two hurdles to overcome if you are going to use the financial world as the barometer or as the time, you know, timer for the end of the world. Number one: You need to be able to predict when the market is going to collapse, and let me tell you, every single person on Wall Street wants to know how to predict the next collapse, everybody. And, by the way, everybody agrees there will be another collapse. All the economists understand that it is just, it’s bound to happen. It’s just a systemic thing. Just expect it. Everyone wants to get rich by predicting when it will happen. How do we think that we, as just, you know, lay people, can beat Wall Street at their own game? That’s number one.

 

And then the number two problem is, even if we do get it right, we have to know, be able to predict, that it’s the last one. And guess what? A hundred percent of those who predicted it have been wrong so far.

 

So, what’s my point? My point is just this: We have the Bible, so let’s use the Bible instead. This is my point. We should not be filtering the Bible through the news. We should be filtering the news through the Bible. Does that make sense? And we get caught up because, “Oh, this guy has some fancy theory about the Shemitah and the seven years,” and we’re like, “Oh! Sabbath! Oh! Sanctuary! Oh! Jewish! Must be right!” Listen, we have been given the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, so let’s use it.

 

So, we’re going to conclude our session today with a little bit of Bible prophecy. I love Bible prophecy. I can’t leave this out. So, financial crisis and prophecy, so, why do we go to the economists and the stock prognosticators and the finance people to tell us about the end of the world when we already have Bible prophecy; that’s my point. Don’t, like, if somebody is trying to tell you, “Oh, look at the stock market. It’s a bubble. It’s going to collapse. It’s the end of the world!” just tune them out and study your Bible.

 

What does the Bible have to say? Will there be financial crises? Yes! Revelation 13, verse 17, tells us there is going to be a time when no man can buy or sell unless he has the mark of the beast. And then Revelation, chapter 18, verses 10 through 19, it’s a very graphic picture of how the world commerce crumbles when God starts pouring out His judgments on Babylon, Revelation 18. So, of course, the question is, when will these things happen? When will man no longer be able to buy and sell? Well, this is very clear in the previous verse, after the enforcement of the mark of the beast. That stands to reason, I believe. And then Revelation 18, if you go back a few verses, Revelation 18, verses 2 through 5, the exact phrase is, “Once her sins reach unto heaven,” meaning Babylon’s sins, once it reaches unto heaven, then the judgments start pouring out.

 

So, the question is, when is the mark? When is the “sins reaching unto heaven”? Okay, let’s take a look at the book Evangelism, page 234, paragraph 2, “No one has yet received the mark of the beast. The testing time has not yet come…But when the decree shall go forth enforcing the counterfeit sabbath, and the loud cry of the third angel shall warn men against the worship of the beast and his image, the line will be clearly drawn between the false and the true. Then those who still continue in transgression will receive the mark of the beast.”

 

I hope I don’t have to go through a whole Bible study about the mark of the beast. I think here at GYC we should have that covered, right? But the point here is, the time has not yet come when no man can buy or sell. But what’s the sign? The sign is the decree to enforce the counterfeit Sabbath, National Sunday Law.

 

Next, Last Day Events, page 198, paragraph 5, “When do her sins reach unto heaven,” quoting Revelation 18:2-5, exactly the question we have: When? She tells us in a sentence, “When the law of God is finally made void by legislation.” And within the context, it is specifically legislation enforcing worship that is contrary to the Law of God.

 

And so, the crisis in prophecy, the movement toward the National Sunday Law is still the crisis that we are to be focused on. The movement toward the National Sunday Law and not the movements of the stock market, because, ladies and gentlemen, Revelation, chapter 13, it is still true. The truth has not changed. America is going to set up an image to the beast. Church and state will unite. Apostate Protestantism will use the civil arm of the United States to enforce her dogmas. Apostate daughters of Babylon will unite with the lamb-like beast who speaks like a dragon. And, guess what? That is what we should be focused on because it is when that happens, then what comes next is no man may buy or sell. Then what comes next is the world commerce and the judgments on Babylon.

 

So, what that means is that some who, if they are relying on the financial markets as their barometer for end-time preparation, they might be waiting too long. And, if you read elsewhere in the Spirit of Prophecy, I don’t have those quotes here with me, but you can look it up; it’s very clear. National apostasy is followed by national ruin. The signs that we have been given, the prophetic waymarks that we are looking for, it is what our people have been teaching and believing all along! Revelation, chapter 13, Revelation, chapter 14, it is the National Sunday Law, the union of church and state, and our responsibility is not to worry about, “Oh, is the stock market going to predict the end of the world?” Our responsibility is to warn people to not receive the mark! It’s called the Third Angel’s Message, and so, we need to tell that to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.

 

And so, do we know when these things will happen? The answer is no. And just like we don’t know when Jesus is coming, we don’t know when the mark of the beast is going to come. We believe that it’s coming very soon. We see the movements happening, and so, what are supposed to do? Just like Jesus says, “Occupy till I come.” Occupy until He comes. Be the faithful servant who continues doing his duty regardless of when the master may return.

 

We need to live by the Bible, the same Bible principles, whether Christ’s coming is in two years or twenty years or two hundred years, for that matter, be willing to sell all that God asks us to, and be motivated by our love for Jesus and faithful in His Word and not out of fear for the time of trouble. And, of course, the title of our message this afternoon, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” That is how we prepare our material possessions, by sending them on ahead to Heaven.

 

So, let’s summarize. We must reduce our lifestyle so we can save and give more and have fewer attachments to this world. We must lay all on the altar, recognizing it’s all God’s anyway, and He will make known to us when to sell, how much, and what phases and when. We should invest in the bank of Heaven. We will get it all back plus interest when we get there. Practical giving is a cure for the root of all evil. Sanctification in the most practical sense.

 

We must make Jesus first, last, and best in our giving. Our Christian commitment shouldn’t change, no matter when Jesus is coming. We should interpret the news by the Bible and don’t interpret the Bible by the news. And we should study the Bible, believe it, and obey it.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for staying with us all six sessions. It’s been a pleasure sharing with you. I encourage you, study, be faithful; Jesus is coming soon.

 

Let’s pray. Father in Heaven, I pray that You will guide us this afternoon and the remainder of this Sabbath. We thank You for the tremendous blessings we have received already. I pray that the messages that we have heard and the lessons we’ve learned in this seminar will be practical, and not just practical in helping us manage the cents and the dollars, but practical in helping the sanctification of our souls and helping us be prepared for Your return. So, teach us and guide us continually, and keep us as we go from this place. And bless our evening devotional meeting as we head there now. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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