(The weekly GPS Small Group Guide can be downloaded in .PDF format from the individual sermon page, found at http://www.cor.org/worship in Sermon Archives)
Which Pocket Drives You?
A Grow-Pray-Study guide for small groups
This guide uses the Scripture readings from the daily “GPS” study guide. Group members may read the daily readings before the group meeting, or read the verses aloud when the group meets. The group may subdivide into two or three smaller groups, each discussing a set of the daily readings and the matching questions on page 2, or the entire group may discuss those questions together. We pray that, whatever pattern of study you choose, the Holy Spirit will weave God’s Word into the life and heart of each group member.
This psalm said that to “honor the Lord” means being caring, merciful, and justice seeking people, freely giving of ourselves. Fear is one obstacle that can block us from being generous and compassionate. Those who honor the Lord, however, “won’t be frightened at bad news. Their hearts are steady, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are firm; they aren’t afraid.” What a privilege to live free from fear’s debilitating effects!
The writer of Ecclesiastes had observed human life closely and carefully. Verse 10 noted the painful irony that “the money lover isn’t satisfied with money.” Verses 15-16 stated more poetically the same truth as the more prosaic English phrase “you can’t take it with you.” Perhaps most important, true joy and satisfaction in life come as God’s gift to us (verses 19-20).
Jesus called this young man to be brave enough to reset his priorities. He wasn’t able to do it. He went away sad, which suggests that he wanted to follow Jesus. He didn’t do it, which showed that he wanted his earthly possessions even more. Like many people then (and now), Jesus’ disciples thought earthy riches always showed God’s approval of a person. When Jesus said, “It will be very hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven,” he shocked them. Very hard, but not impossible: “All things are possible for God” (verse 26).
Jesus stated a basic principle of his kingdom in verse 15: “One’s life isn’t determined by one’s possessions.” He followed up with a parable. It was a simple story–a rich man, reaping a large crop, thought of nothing but how to keep it all, adding it to his already overflowing supply. Absorbed with earthly wealth, he forgot that, when life ended, none of it would be of any use to him. Jesus knew better, and urged his hearers to become “rich toward God.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
“God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace” (verse 8). “You will be made rich in every way” (verse 11). Paul, a traveling Christian preacher who owned, as far as we know, no real estate, no life insurance, and no retirement plan, wrote those words! That does not mean it is wrong to have things like that. It does challenge us to rethink how we define “rich” and “more than enough.” God’s wisdom truly opens our hearts to new kinds of freedom and satisfaction!
On the night before he was crucified, Jesus gathered with his disciples, and washed their feet. It was a shocking act—washing feet was slaves’ work. Then Jesus told the disciples they were right to call him “Teacher” or “Lord.” His lesson for them (and us) was that when he acted as a servant, he did it, not to abdicate leadership, but to redefine our ideas of glory and power. His life was guided by God’s standards, not earthly ones.
To access the Family Activity suggested in this week’s GPS, download the printable GPS from http://www.cor.org/guide.
Lord Jesus, fill us with humility so that we might serve you with pure hearts. Fill us with gratitude so that we become rich toward you and see and share your abundance. Accept our thanks and praise so that our days are filled with your steadfast love. Most of all, Lord, fill us with your light, letting it shine in generous, compassionate and sharing spirits. Amen.
CONNECT (5-10 minute discussion, at most)
What do you think life is all about? Why are we here, and what is our purpose?
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION AND STUDY
Read Psalm 112:1-9 and the paragraph for Monday on page 1. How can fear be an obstacle that can block us from being generous and compassionate? Do you think life without fear is possible? Can you see how life without fear can be a gift from God? Does this come “automatically” as part of your Christian experience, or do you need to make personal choices in order to live without fear? When we are generous toward others, are they receiving a blessing from us or from God? In what way(s) have you ever been used by God in this way? Has another Christian ever been a blessing to you?
Read Ecclesiastes 5:8-20. These verses seem to suggest that riches are meaningless unless they are put to good use. If so, are there some wrong ways for us to think about money? How can we use money effectively? Have you ever felt “owned” by something you possessed or wanted? What has helped you avoid this trap? Does God want us to focus our attention primarily on the past, the present, or the future? How can we trust that God will see us through all the terrible things that creep into our imagination?
Read Matthew 19:16-30. Do you think this story meant that the young man was condemned because he couldn’t part with all his wealth? Jesus used the words, “if you want to be perfect…” Are any of us perfect? So then, what is the message of these verses? How can we be set free from the often destructive power of our possessions? What role do our attitudes play in this question?
Read Luke 12:13-21. How can we go about becoming “rich toward God”? If a person complained to you that, even with all their wealth, life seemed hollow, what would you suggest? How would you define “eternal wealth”? Do you know any wealthy people who find it difficult to part with their money? Do you know others who are very generous with their wealth? How would you describe the difference between them? How easy or hard is it for you to be generous? What has helped you to be more generous?
Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. How do you define “rich”? How do you define “more than enough”? In terms of our faith, is it acceptable to be rich and have more than enough? In terms of our faith, does that kind of situation place any more responsibility upon us? Does God want us to give strictly out of a sense of responsibility? Have you experienced the feeling of not having enough even when, upon reflection, you realized you already had much? Do you think this is a common American malady? In what ways has God been generous toward you and your family?
Read John 13:3-17. In reflecting on these verses, would you say that our earthly standards for living are the same as God’s standards? Is it easy for all of us to humble ourselves before others? Why does God seem to think this is an important standard to follow? In what ways can we serve others, humbly? Do you often feel God nudging you to offer yourself to others? What can we do to prepare ourselves so that we are more likely to follow these nudges?
From last week: Did you pray daily for direction and vision regarding the potential for building a church expansion? Did you ask God how you might be his instrument and how he would like you to contribute to this planning? Please share with the group whatever thoughts you had as a result.
FOR ADDITIONAL INSIGHT
From Pastor Adam Hamilton’s sermon, October 13, 2013:
Both the Old and New Testament call us to contentment rather than covetousness. Jesus addresses it this way in a passage many of you have memorized, Luke 12:15: “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”
I was struck by a thought the other day. Every day the last thing I do as I walk out the door is to put my billfold in my right pocket, and my pocket Testament in my left pocket. I don’t go anywhere without them.…And here’s what hit me: many of the decisions I make will be made in the tension between what this [my Testament] represents and what this [my billfold] represents. The Testament calls me to contentment and reminds me that I don’t need most of what I want, and that my life does not consist in the abundance of my possessions. The billfold, with my cash, my desire for more, and my credit cards by which I can have what I want now, often leads me into conflict with this. The war is exemplified by what I put in my back pockets every day….
I find that much of my own spending is not so much intentionally choosing the billfold over the Bible. It’s sometimes not having the discipline to say “No” or convincing myself that I need something that I don’t need, will not use, and which will not satisfy. Here’s a silly example. I’m not saying this is a sin, but it is something I should have thought about differently. I bought this tie last year at Dillard’s. It was a really nice tie–one I’d never buy at full price normally, but it was half off! I wasn’t sure what I would wear it with, but it was half off! I brought it home, and could not figure out what it went with or whether I really liked it, but I kept it thinking, “It was half off.” At half off, it was still $45. Which would have been a tank of gas, or dinner with friends, or backpacks with nutritious snacks for three low-income kids for an entire month….
One rule that has helped me at times is simply to wait – to choose not to buy the thing I think I have to have, yet. I am not saying I won’t buy it. But if, a year from now, I still feel I can afford it, and that it is something that will bring me joy, I’ll buy it. I also typically choose to purchase what is several steps below what I could afford. My aim is to pay cash for what I’m going to buy, or if I use my credit card, to know that I can pay it off within the month. And, except when I find a tie at half price, I try to avoid impulse spending knowing it is seldom something I’m happy about afterwards….
If we could summarize the practices of good financial managers, according to the experts, they:
1. Say “No” to the constant desire for more.
2. “Act your wage” – spend less than you make
3. Have clear goals and a spending plan to achieve them
4. Save for emergencies, then retirement.
5. Use credit and credit cards sparingly.
Ultimately, our relationship with money and possessions is a heart problem. This is why the New Testament describes covetousness as idolatry. The question is about what is most important here. Jesus said it this way: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
This week one of our staff members was sharing his story. He had a great job in a terrific company that at times demanded that its employees give their entire heart and soul to the firm. He described a morning that he was having breakfast with his wife at First Watch. He looked across the restaurant and saw one of the senior people at his firm having breakfast with his wife and children. He noted, “I looked over from time to time to see how he interacted with his family at breakfast. But he never looked up from his computer to acknowledge his wife or his children.”
I don’t know the man in question, but, at least that morning, he could not see the treasure sitting all around him–his treasure was his work and what it afforded, and his heart followed. “Your life does not consist in the abundance of your possessions,” nor of the position you hold at work, nor the amount of zeroes on your paycheck….
The pivotal question in our lives is whether it will be the Bible or the Billfold – which comes first, and which comes second. It is it money or God that sits on the altar of our hearts? Or asked another way, which pocket drives you?
Quotes about Giving, Generosity, Sharing
• He who waits to do a great deal of good at once, will never do anything.– Samuel Johnson
• There are three kinds of givers — the flint, the sponge and the honeycomb. To get anything out of a flint you must hammer it. And then you get only chips and sparks. To get water out of a sponge you must squeeze it, and the more you use pressure, the more you will get. But the honeycomb just overflows with its own sweetness. Which kind of giver are you?
• Giving with glad and generous hearts has a way of routing out the tough old miser within us. Even the poor need to know that they can give. Just the very act of letting go of money, or some other treasure, does something within us. It destroys the demon greed. — Richard J. Foster, Money, Sex & Power
• It is estimated that if the widow’s mite had been deposited at the “First National Bank, Jerusalem” to draw four percent interest semi-annually, the fund today would total $4,800,000,000,000,000,000,000. If a bank on earth could multiply the widow’s mite to such an astronomical figure, think what treasures this dedicated woman will have in heaven where “moth and rust doth not corrupt.”
• When it comes to giving, some people stop at nothing.- Anonymous
• If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble. –Bob Hope
• It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. –Ralph Waldo Emerson
• Author Thomas Carlyle tells how, when he was a boy, a beggar came to the door. His parents were out and he was alone in the house. On a boyish impulse, he broke into his own savings bank and gave the beggar all that was in it, and he tells us that never before or since did he know such sheer happiness as came to him in that moment. There is indeed joy in giving.
• No man was ever honored for what he received. Honor is the reward for what he gave.
• You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.
• First, give yourself to God. You may be sure he’ll look after what is his.
• You have never really lived until you’ve done something for somebody who can never repay you.
• Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting.
• He who gives when he is asked has waited too long.
• The millionaires in eternity are the givers in time.
• The best thing you can give someone is a chance.
• If you are not generous with a meager income, you will never be generous with abundance.–Harold Nye
• You only keep what you give away.–R. E. Phillips
• Do your giving while you’re living, so you’re knowing where it’s going.
• We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
• Plenty of people are willing to give God credit, yet few are willing to give Him cash.
• Let us give up our work, our plans, ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, our influence, our all, right into God’s hand; and then, when we have given all to Him, there will be nothing left for us to be troubled about. — Hudson Taylor
• The miracle is this – the more we share, the more we have.– Leonard Nimoy
This week, pray daily to overcome your fears and qualms about generous giving. Ask God for his direction regarding your efforts to offer yourself and your possessions to him. By the end of the week, decide what your commitment is to be. Next week, share with the group any insight you might have been provided.