This weekend I played jeopardy. No, not the popular game show. I took a risk. I dared to do something different. I played with fire. I went for a skate on thin ice. Exercising my liberty as the senior shepherd and leader of the church, I walked out to the edge and asked others to follow me. Are you ready for this? I decided it was time for us to actually put the truth we hear each week into practice, to become doers of the Word not hearers only (James 1:22).
After preaching a message from Matthew 6:19-24 titled WEALTH, I challenged everyone in attendance to empty their pockets of any cash or coin and give it all away . . . before they left the building. Jesus told us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” and I figured there was no time like the present to begin living the truth financially.
I know, I know. It was a radical thing to do on my first weekend to preach in 2010, the start of a new decade. But I was willing to take the risk if the reward yielded a church family that was willing to obey God no matter the cost. I wasn’t disappointed or surprised by the generous response of more than $33,000 in cash and coin. Way to go Immanuel! We identified three worthy ministries outside the walls of the church and blessed them each with a check for more than $11,000 to start the New Year.
Of course, not everyone was pleased with my methodology. In the interest of full transparency, one guy chastised me and said it felt like a “Sunday morning shakedown.” I respect his opinion but prefer to look at it as a Sunday morning shakeup – the shaking up of our souls and our savings accounts as we determine to put God’s financial Word into practice this year without hesitation.
Shakeup is perhaps a good way to describe the aim of Jesus’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. He refused to offer empty clichés or safe, sentimental platitudes on the hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee. For example, he cut quickly to the heart of the matter when he said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Hearing and then doing the truth is so important that Jesus concluded his Sermon on the Mount with an analogy about two men who built their own houses, one upon a rock and the other upon the sand. One was wise and the other was foolish. One chose to put the truth into practice while the other chose to hear it only. You can imagine which house was left standing when the rain fell, the water rose, and the wind blew against them like a Gulf Coast hurricane (Matthew 7:24-27).
As crazy as it sounds, we chose to start the New Year by building our lives on the solid rock of Jesus Christ. We put the truth about wealth into practice by emptying our pockets.
By the way, I was at lunch with a good man from our church on Monday. As we walked into the restaurant together, he said to me with a smile, “I’m sorry but I don’t have any cash in my pocket to pay for lunch today.” I suppose I had that coming to me.