So here we are. Week two of Money Month! In case you weren’t here last week or if you are new to Cornerstone, I made a decision a number of years ago that instead of responding to various financial crisis in the church by preaching on them that I would take one month each year and develop a theology of giving.
And, if you could handle me preaching on stewardship for four Sundays each Spring, I would leave you alone the rest of the year.
Now I’m sure some of you are thinking “Why do you have to speak about money at all?” Because it’s an important topic. Moses spoke about it, David spoke about it, Solomon spoke about it, most of the prophets spoke about it, the New Testament authors spoke about it and Jesus spoke a lot about money. How we make it and how we use it.
So, we can’t arbitrarily not speak about money.
I guess in the truest sense a church could operate without money, if you were willing to meet in your living room and not have a paid pastoral staff, but I think to truly worship God there would need to be a financial element, even if it meant you gave to give it away. Because from the very beginning of time worship has contained an element of sacrifice.
The very first act of worship recorded in the book of Genesis has Cain and Abel offering gifts to God.
Our theme this year is blessed, and the reality is that even without the entire thought of making lemonade from the lemons we’ve been given, we are a blessed people.
Last week we looked at the story of the widow and Elisha. She started in a tough spot, her creditors were demanding payment and threatening to take her children into slavery to settle the debt.
But through her faith and obedience she was blessed beyond her wildest dreams. If you missed the message you can find it on our website, or you can read the story in 2 Kings chapter 4.
Our story this week takes us to the New Testament: It was a beautiful day. Christ had crossed over the sea of Galilee and the crowd discovering where he was going followed on foot, covering a distance of approximately 15 km and Luke tells us in chapter 9:10 that they finally caught up with him in Bethsaida.
And it was here on a hill overlooking the sea of Galilee that Christ began to teach the crowd, and after teaching his heart became filled with compassion as he looked around and realised that those who have gathered were probably hungry. Christ saw not only a spiritual need, but he saw the physical need as well.
Jesus was aware that if His preaching about love wasn’t evidenced in his behaviour then he would be regarded as a hypocrite and rightly so. And so, as he looked around at the hungry crowd he didn’t say “They need Jesus” even though they did. Instead he said, “They need lunch.”
Now there are three people that Christ interacts with during this story and we are going to look at all three of them this morning.
John 6:5 Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”
The first person that Jesus checks with is Phillip the realist. Have you ever asked yourself why he asked Philip first? I mean other then the obvious answer, that Philip was right next to him.
Here are a couple of suggestions. 1) This was Philip’s old stomping ground. We are told in John 1:44 Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown.
And that makes sense, if you’re looking for a good cheap meal you ask a local. Right? They’re the ones who know where the best restaurants with the best prices are in the area.
2) Or maybe this was a faith check or an attitude check. Christ wanted to see how big Philip’s faith was at this point.
And good old Philip the practical said, John 6:7 Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”
Actually, in the original he said that it would take 200 Denarii to feed the crowd, and a denarri was the equivalent of a day’s wages and so Phil was planning on feeding 25 people for a day’s wage, which might be a little tight but could work.
Now don’t give Philip a hard time, he was just responding to Christ’s question with a statement, he didn’t say it couldn’t be done, he was just stating the facts.
But Philip didn’t answer the question. The question wasn’t how much will this cost, the question was “Philip, where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”
Like he could have said, “Well you could try Saul’s deli or Aaron’s Bakery.”
Instead he says, “Even if we were to go to McMalichi’s and everyone ordered a Filet of Fish, regular fries and a diet coke, it would still cost 4 bucks a head boss.”
At this point Philip could not see beyond the present day, he couldn’t see beyond the cost. And that’s typical of how most of us think when we are confronted with something new.
When we are confronted with a new project our gut reaction is usually “How much is this going to cost?” Can we afford it? Can we do it with what we have, or what we can raise?”
When we first announced the opportunity to start a satellite in Sackville Beaver Bank, which is an opportunity to reach another community and help depopulate hell, was your first reaction: “Cool” or “How in the world are we going to pay for that?”
When we first moved to Australia at one of our first church board meetings I quoted Mike Macintosh, a Pastor from San Diego California, who I had heard in a conference a couple of months previous. Macintosh said and I quote, “Money’s not a problem, because Money’s not an issue”
Profound right? In other words, if it’s God’s will to do something then the funding is God’s problem. The problem was that from that point on whenever we needed to go ahead with a project if I was feeling the least bit cautious a guy on my board by the name of Nev Robbins would say “Denn remember; Money’s not a problem, because Money’s not an issue”
And Mike and Nev were right because even though we may not be able to afford to do something God can. Philip should have remembered Psalm 50:10 For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.
I mean think about it if nothing else they could have had a dandy BBQ.
Philip was a pessimistic realist. He was one of those guys who saw a problem in every solution. He’d blow out the candle just to prove how dark the room really was.
Along with Philip the realist was Andrew the idealist. Andrew and his brother Peter were also originally from Bethsaida and Andrew comes rushing up to Christ and shares his amazing discovery, John 6:9 “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”
I bet Peter had a laugh at that, can’t you just hear him now, “So, we have five thousand or so people to feed and you bring us two sardines and a few buns. Andrew there’s not enough there to make tuna fish sandwiches for the thirteen of us.”
But Andrew didn’t see the loaves and the fishes, what he saw was Jesus and he knew that Jesus was capable of anything.
Andrew didn’t know how Jesus would feed the five thousand, he didn’t know what Christ could do with so little for so many, but he knew that Christ could do something. I mean after all nobody thought he could do anything with Peter either, but he did.
Maybe Andrew was thinking back to John 2 and the wedding at Cana of Galilee and how Jesus turned the water into wine. Andrew was the eternal optimist who believed implicitly what Gabrielle told Mary in Luke 1:37 For nothing is impossible with God.”
Andrew didn’t ignore the problem, he realized that it wasn’t going to be easy, however he knew that there wasn’t anything too tough for his God. Let’s never white wash the practical necessities of the ministries that we endeavour to perform, or make them look easier then they are. But let’s realize that God is God and He is bigger then mere dollars.
And thirdly there was the “lad”. From the description of his lunch box we can assume that this boy was not an up and coming executive in Galilee. Barley loaves were a poor man’s bread, dark and coarse. And the fish were probably the standard pickled sardines of the region.
The boy didn’t have much to offer, but what he had he gave to Christ. Just like the widow gave her all when she placed her two small coins in the temple offering box, this boy gave Jesus everything he had.
Now that’s a radical concept, in a time when most Christians give of their spare time and spare change, most of us would never consider giving our week’s grocery money to Christ, but this boy did. We give out of our abundance he gave out of his poverty.
My question is this, “Would Christ have performed the miracle if the boy had kept one loaf for himself?” Think about it. If the boy had kept back just one loaf and one fish. Just an assurance that he would have enough to eat, what would the end result have been?
What was the catalyst for this miracle? The fish and the loaves or the total unselfishness with which it was given? Only asking.
So, what is it that we learn from this story?
John 6:5 Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”
There Are Opportunities for Giving
Not sure if many of the people that day took the time to look around at all the people who had gathered on the side of the hill to hear Jesus, or if they just kind of focused on those sitting around them. And I wonder how many of them would have thought to have multiplied the rumbling in their bellies by the number of people in the crowd.
And if they did actually do the math and say “wow, I’m hungry and I bet everyone else is hungry too.” I’m wondering If their next reaction was “I wonder where I can grab a bite to eat?” or if it was “I wonder how we can feed everyone?”
Frankly, I would have been in the first group, I would be mentally running down the list of restaurants in the area, what their specials were and how much it would cost for me to buy lunch.
A friend of mine says that I only have three criteria for restaurant food, it has to be greasy, cheap and there has to be lots of it. Not sure if that is entirely accurate or just mostly accurate.
We all come to areas in our life where we have opportunities to give. Sometimes they are expected and sometimes they are unexpected. I Don’t think that anyone came to the meeting that day thinking they were going to be asked to give up their lunch.
There are always areas in our life where we can give. Not just our money but also our time and our talents. Not just where we give our money but where we give our time. And we can be looking for those opportunities or we can be oblivious to them.
John 6:8-9 Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish.”
Jesus Uses People
Now here is a secret, if Jesus could feed five thousand people with a little kid’s bag lunch he could have fed the crowd without the bag lunch. But Jesus always gives us the opportunity to share in his miracles. You ever use the argument or hear the argument, “Why do I need to pray if God already knows what I’m going to say?”
Because that’s our part. I mean if you can’t even be bothered to ask, then why should God be bothered to answer? If you can’t even work up enough desire and energy to take a few minutes and focus on talking to God and letting him know the desires of your heart how much do you really desire whatever it is?
I know I keep going back to the original capital campaign for the building in 04 but I remember having a conversation with our campaign director about it and him telling me that even if it failed it would be valuable. And I asked “Why?” and he said “Because than we will know people really don’t want a building.”
And we had people in the group just like that, people who talked about having a building to call our church home, people who verbalized their desire, but apparently they wanted it to magically appear without any sacrifice or effort on their behalf.
God partners with us and with our resources to change the world. There have been some people who have offered alternate explanations for what happened that day, I prefer the straight miracle explanation. Think about it if he could create the fish he could multiply the fish, if he could grow the barley he could multiply the barley loaves. I mean if we can’t believe that our God could multiple a little gift of food to feed thousands of people then there isn’t much we can believe that our God can do.
One explanation is that the little boy wasn’t the only person in the crowd with food that day, but he was the only one in the crowd willing to share his food, and when people saw what he was willing to do than a spirit of generosity came over the crowd and everyone shared. Or as William Barclay stated “It may be that this is a miracle in which the presence of Jesus turned a crowd of selfish men and women into a fellowship of sharers.” Whatever. You can explain it away anyway you like; the fact is that Jesus started with a couple of tuna fish sandwiches and ended up with more food than he could give away.
Jesus Uses People Who Are Willing
Now we don’t actually read that the boy willingly gave away his lunch but I’m can’t picture Andrew just taking the kid’s food. Peter maybe, but not Andrew. And so, we have to assume that the lunch was offered. “You know guys, don’t know what you can do with it but I have my lunch here, it’s not much but you can have it.”
We alluded to it before but I am sure there were other’s in the crowd who could have given something and there may have been some in the crowd who could have bought lunch for everyone but that isn’t who we remember, we remember the boy and his lunch. He is the one who made the impact and he did it willingly.
The difference in this world is made by those who are willing to make a difference and we will never know what could have happened if someone else had of stepped up.
And what a story that boy had, everyone else could tell about what Jesus did with the boy’s lunch, he could tell about what Jesus did with his lunch and there is a world of difference there.
Some of you can tell people about the difference Cornerstone is making and some of you can tell about the difference Cornerstone is making because of your giving.
A difference here in Hammonds Plains, a difference near by in Sackville/Beaver Bank and a difference far away in a small village in Sierra Leone.
2 Corinthians 9:7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
I hope that you never leave Cornerstone feeling that Denn pressured you into giving, hopefully I will have motivated you to do all you could do for God but I don’t want you to leave feeling angry or resentful toward God, Cornerstone or Denn about what you give to the church. And if you have to pick one of the three let it be Denn.
It was Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, who said “Giving is the business of the rich.” Good thing the boy hadn’t heard that or the entire crowd would have gone hungry. Giving is the business of those who are willing to make a difference.
I wonder if there were people in the crowd that day who had a lunch with them but snuck out early so they could eat it alone without having to share with those around them. Just as the boy made a choice to willing give, they made a choice to keep what they had for themselves.
Jesus Can Do More with our Stuff than We Can
There wasn’t enough in the kid’s lunch to feed Jesus and his disciples and yet Jesus fed thousands of people and had 12 baskets of food left over. It started with the boy’s subtraction but it finished with Jesus’ multiplication.
We each do what we can, we each sacrifice what we can and Jesus will use it to make a difference. A difference here in Cornerstone, a difference in marriages and families, a difference in children’s and teens and a difference in people’s eternities.
Because what Jesus does with and through this church will be determined by what those who love Jesus and love Cornerstone and choose to invest in His church and His Kingdom.
When the time comes for you to die, and we are all going to die, do you want to be known for what you had or for what you did with what you had?
It’s not recorded in John’s account but in Matthew’s account we read this Matthew 14:15 That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
They were willing to send people away because they couldn’t see past the cost, I hope that at Cornerstone we will never limit our ministry or have to send the crowds away because we are limited by a lack of financial resources.
Last week we saw how the widow was blessed and had more oil then she could imagine. Her blessing provided for her immediate family. It was a blessing for the here.
Today’s story shows how the boys blessing provided for the crowd. It was a blessing for the near. You can probably guess where next week’s story is going.
Last Sunday I mentioned four questions I wanted you to think about through March.
If not me, then who? Cornerstone and its vision are funded by those who call Cornerstone their church home. Sometimes, people will rationalize that they give in different ways, with their time or their talents. But there are many who give in all of those ways. And if everyone only gave of their time, Cornerstone would not exist.
If not now, then when? If you’ve been through this process before, maybe you’ve said: Not this year, but perhaps next year. At some point you need to decide, there will never be a perfect time to start. There will always be bills to pay, there will always be unexpected expenses.
If not 10%, then what? Is this the year you step up to tithing? Or is this the year you take a step toward some type of proportional giving. Sometimes it’s easy to say, well I can’t give 10%, so I’m not going to give anything. This year I would challenge you to start at something, and maybe take a leap of faith.
If not here, then where? I truly believe that you ought to give at the church you worship at.
And if you are with us this morning in person or online because your church isn’t having a service, please from the bottom of my heart, please don’t leave your tithe here, it belongs to the church you call home.
But, through the years I have said that money month isn’t about the church’s need to receive, it’s about the believers need to give. And at the end of the day I’d rather you be giving to God’s work somewhere else, than not giving to God’s work at all.
Give all you can, God doesn’t expect more or less.