Stop Giving Today

This morning we are talking about money. It’s not because I have to. Last week, our elders looked at the church financial statement. We are in a healthy place. The opportunity I have to talk about money during a season of financial health is great. I don’t have to reprimand the body for not giving enough (not that I would anyway). I actually wasn’t going to talk about money because I didn’t have to after looking at the financial reports, but we cannot skip any part of Scripture. We talk about money simply because it has come up as we are walking through Scripture. So, what about this thing called stewardship?

1 Samuel 25:2-17

Now there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel; and the man was very rich, and he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. And it came about while he was shearing his sheep in Carmel (now the man’s name was Nabal, and his wife’s name was Abigail. And the woman was intelligent and beautiful in appearance, but the man was harsh and evil in his dealings, and he was a Calebite), that David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep.

So David sent ten young men; and David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, visit Nabal and greet him in my name; and thus you shall say, ‘Have a long life, peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have. Now I have heard that you have shearers; now your shepherds have been with us and we have not insulted them, nor have they missed anything all the days they were in Carmel. Ask your young men and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we have come on a festive day. Please give whatever you find at hand to your servants and to your son David.’”

When David’s young men came, they spoke to Nabal according to all these words in David’s name; then they waited.

But Nabal answered David’s servants and said, “Who is David? And who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants today who are each breaking away from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men whose origin I do not know?”

So David’s young men retraced their way and went back; and they came and told him according to all these words.

David said to his men, “Each of you gird on his sword.” So each man girded on his sword. And David also girded on his sword, and about four hundred men went up behind David while two hundred stayed with the baggage.

But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, saying, “Behold, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, and he scorned them. Yet the men were very good to us, and we were not insulted, nor did we miss anything as long as we went about with them, while we were in the fields. They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the time we were with them tending the sheep. Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him.”

The deal (v. 2-8)

Now there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel; and the man was very rich, and he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. And it came about while he was shearing his sheep in Carmel (now the man’s name was Nabal, and his wife’s name was Abigail. And the woman was intelligent and beautiful in appearance, but the man was harsh and evil in his dealings, and he was a Calebite), that David heard in the wilderness that Nabal was shearing his sheep.

The historian prefaces this part of the story by describing two new characters, Nabal and his wife Abigail. Nabal is a shrewd businessman, harsh and evil in his dealings. He is also a Calebite who lived on the land given to Caleb (Cf. Joshua 14:13; 15:13). As a point of irony, here, Nabal is not like his forefather, Caleb. Caleb gave himself for the sake of God’s name and Israel. Nabal is interested only in his gain as a shrewd businessman. Abigail, Nabal’s wife, is intellegent and beautiful in apearence.

Whatever this story is about, it has in view Nabal’s shrewd business dealings. When David hears that Nabal is shearing his sheep, it is likely he expects payment for something he has done.

So David sent ten young men; and David said to the young men, “Go up to Carmel, visit Nabal and greet him in my name; and thus you shall say, ‘Have a long life, peace be to you, and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have. Now I have heard that you have shearers; now your shepherds have been with us and we have not insulted them, nor have they missed anything all the days they were in Carmel. Ask your young men and they will tell you. Therefore let my young men find favor in your eyes, for we have come on a festive day. Please give whatever you find at hand to your servants and to your son David.’”

David sends ten men to bless Nabal and collect their wages. The fact that David assures Nabal that nothing has gone missing and his people have been treated with respect indicates that David and his men have been providing security for Nabal’s people and property as he conducts business. They are trading their services for goods. Carmel was 8 miles south of Hebron, the land given to Caleb. David is protecting Nabal’s assets while they are conducting business away from home. David’s men are to ask Nabal for some of the wages they are owed as payment for providing security—whatever Nabal is able to spare at the moment so David and his men can celebrate whichever festival is at hand.

The cheat (v. 9-13)

When David’s young men came, they spoke to Nabal according to all these words in David’s name; then they waited. But Nabal answered David’s servants and said, “Who is David? And who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants today who are each breaking away from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men whose origin I do not know?”

Even though David’s men provided security for Nabal, Nabal refused to pay their wages on account of a technicality; They didn’t have the correct paperwork, so to speak. According to Nabal, he was not sure they were not escaped slaves. A modern equivalent in an American context would be something like—A farmer hires a team of people to harvest his field. At the end of their labor, after the work is done, the landowner refuses to pay them because he suspects they might have crossed the border from Mexico illegally. Instead of paying for the services he has received fairly, Nabal comes up with an excuse not to pay fair wages because he is a shrewd business man.

So David’s young men retraced their way and went back; and they came and told him according to all these words. David said to his men, “Each of you gird on his sword.” So each man girded on his sword. And David also girded on his sword, and about four hundred men went up behind David while two hundred stayed with the baggage.

David, here, acts in his anger. Nabal cheated him into providing free security. Nabal was selfish and presented himself as entitled. David’s response is to ready his men for battle; He plans to pillage Nabal’s assets and take what he is owed by force. Do you see the leaning of this story? No one is exempt. Nabal has an attitude of entitlement that leads him to treat others harshly for his self-gain. David has an attitude of entitlement that now leads him to take what he believes is rightfully his without reasoning or seeking a fair trial of any kind. Both parties, here, are out to keep or get what is theirs.

The sin (v. 14-17)

But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, saying, “Behold, David sent messengers from the wilderness to greet our master, and he scorned them. Yet the men were very good to us, and we were not insulted, nor did we miss anything as long as we went about with them, while we were in the fields. They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the time we were with them tending the sheep. Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him.”

In the next part of the story, the beautiful and intelligent Abigail will be the voice of reason. For now, we see that even Nabal’s servants know him to be shrewd and worthless. Do you see the irony? Nabal’s net worth is great because he is a successfully shrewd businessman. As a person, though, he is worthless. He has accumulated much and is the most successful a person can be in this life materialistically, but he is worthless because no one can speak to him—reason with him. He does not judge justly—just judgment being a theme in the story these past several weeks. The worthless person, then, feels entitled. His or her self-entitlement leads to greed and causes him to only be concerned about how he is profiting from others. People were not created for greed and self-gain.

Consider the account of creation: 

Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground… Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 2:5; 1:26-28)

People were created not to horde the earth as personal property, but to steward it and cultivate it. All things really belong only to God. We cannot hold on to our things forever, yet we find it so important to build up for ourselves on this earth. Vanity, vanity. This is one of the realizations that leads the Christian to be so generous and less concerned about keeping as much as possible for self. In America, we have been conditioned to earn money, property, and time for ourselves. We have come to see ourselves as entitled gods. When we peer into the order of creation in Genesis 1-2, we see that God has made us stewards and not owners of His creation. Entitlement and greed are two of the deepest idolatries the human race has ever committed. When we recognize Christ as Lord, we become more generous and hospitable stewards of those things He has entrusted to us—jobs, homes, technology, intelligence, vehicles, money, and everything else we have been entrusted to steward. We experience more joy because everything we steward we steward for God’s glory rather than to exalt ourselves—He is good and provided those things for our enjoyment and good. If we do not recognize Christ as Lord, we feel entitled—jobs, homes, technology, intelligence, vehicles, money, and everything else we think we own become the means of our satisfaction or happiness. When we don’t accomplish our goals or get what we think we deserve, we become cynics and joy alludes us because we have not recognized our proper function on this earth. God, Himself, is our rest, not our money or stuff.

This is why we don’t have to beg true Christians to give generously to the church and to missions work. It is why the true Christian cares about paying fair prices and wages. Hyper frugality in the church irks me. People who claim to be Christians make it sound spiritual, “This is the Lord’s money,” and use that as an excuse to give others as little as possible. Why? The people of God are generous and fair. They are generous as they tip their waitresses. They are generous as they give to their churches for the work of Gospel ministry. They are generous as they pay their employees. The problem I have experienced in organizations that refer to themselves as churches is a lack of generous wages paid to those who work hard and a lack of generous giving because people want to retain as much as possible—they feel entitled. Churches are so generous that they will pay a guest preacher $50 to go preach a 45 minute sermon. Church, do you not realize that the world pays between $500 and $1,500 to a qualified but inexperienced keynote speaker for 45 minutes of his or her time? That’s the low end. We are even less generous when it comes to giving freely. We do not honor God by holding on to as much as we can and by losing to the world concerning our generosity. God does not call us to greed, yet we practice greed in His name, saying, “It is the Lord’s money.” That’s blasphemy and twisting God’s word to our own benefit. If we really believed the money was the Lord’s, we would be generous as He is generous. We are generous and fair stewards of all God has given us. We were created to use those resources to cultivate God’s earth, including one another. If we have the Holy Spirit, we will be made into a generous people—generosity and fairness with our time, money, belongings, and services in our dealings is fruit, not root, consistent with repentance and of being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, who is generous even to His enemies. We do not give to get. We get to give.

Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, “He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever.” Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God (2 Corinthians 9:6-12).

Post-Sermon Discussion at The Cats:

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