Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
- Why is greed such a dangerous thing? Where do you see greed creeping up in your thoughts, words, and decisions?
- Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19. What does generosity look like in the age of grace? Specifically, what will that look like for you?
- “God is the only inheritance that gives life.” How do you know when you are chasing a different inheritance?
- What is one action step you can take in response to what you heard on Sunday?
So, a few years back, 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair teamed up to do a study, and the study was on American greed. Now, that's not what caught my eye. I'd actually picked up a question that had caught my eye online, and the question that was in this survey is what drew me to the survey itself.
Here was one of the questions in this survey on American greed. How many times going through the buffet line in a restaurant is too many? That's hilarious. So then here was the response. 57% of people said, four, five, or unlimited as their response, how many times through a buffet line is too many. Four? Five? Unlimited? 57% of people surveyed answered that way. That's insanity. I'm curious as to like who they were actually giving this survey to. Was it like a middle school field trip? Right? Was it a bunch of starving college students? Was it a tour bus with sumo wrestlers? What did they do that this came at 57%?
Now you're going, "Well that's really like gluttony." Well, gluttony is really closely attached to the idea of greed. There were some other questions in there though that I thought were interesting now that I was there and reading through this particular study, that I thought were interesting.
Here was one of the questions. If you see an older man with an attractive younger woman, what immediately comes to mind? Almost 40% said, she is with him for the-
... money. 40%, almost, 40% of the people assumed greed from these younger attractive women who are with the older guys because they're obviously assuming it's not about the looks, right? It's not as if he's still a stud, right? They must be in it for the money. That's what they assumed, right?
Then there was another question that said this. What do you think is going to be most predictive, or what will it take for people to be highly successful? 50% of the respondents answered, those who are greedy will be the most successful. 50%, one out of two.
Now, I tell you this because I found this survey to be interesting, and it was a survey on American greed, and we have Canadian friends, I met a Canadian pastor who's here with us that we're glad you're here, but apparently Canadians aren't greedy, but we are. Right? So this was about American greed. But at the end of the day, you may or may not have seen people that you're thinking of in your mind going, "Oh yeah, I know somebody who would have fit into that perfect," right? They're greedy or whatever.
Or maybe you saw yourself in this. Some of you are still stuck at the buffet line. I need you to come with me, all right? I need you to come with me. You can get there in a minute, all right? Stay with me.
But you may be able to see yourself in that if you're honest, right? But here's the thing, I'm convinced kind of in the culture that we live in that we may underestimate our understanding of what greed and/or money can do to us. Like, it can make us crazy. All you have to do is watch when someone wins the lottery, watch what happens in their family. Oftentimes, it's not good. I have seen horror story upon horror story upon horror story. Like if you google, what happened to the lottery winners, and like you see family breakups and all kinds of mess. Why? It's all over money, it's over greed, right?
Or you see some celebrity athlete or somebody gets famous and all of a sudden they've got all of this money and now they have cousins that they didn't know they had. Right? They're coming around like, "No, man, I'm in your family." You're like, "You're not in my family, I've never seen you before." But now, everybody wants a piece of the action, right? If you really want to see how money makes you crazy, talk to any attorney who does estate and inheritance stuff, and you will find all kinds of craziness. You will find people who take advantage of their older family member and will manipulate them out of inheritance. You will find siblings after a parent dies that are now suing one another because either I got stiffed on the inheritance or they really don't deserve this much or whatever. And you kind of want to just go, "Hey, quick time out. It's an inheritance. That means you don't own any of it, it was a gift to you. It wasn't yours to begin with. It's actually being given to you, so just like, enjoy, instead of being angry," right?
It just goes crazy. To our peril, we underestimate what actually the idea of greed and money does to us, and I'm concerned that we don't have a real high level of discernment in being able to navigate that whole thing. And it doesn't matter if you're young and you're going, "Look, I'm young. I barely have pizza money, man. I'm just like happy to be able to go to Mighty Taco one time a week, and it's like, leave me out of this."
No, no, no. Because this actually gets to a heart issue, and it includes all of us whether we're younger or older, whether we've got a lot of stuff or not a lot of stuff. This kind of is inclusive of all of us, and we need to be discerning. Now, I would say this. I think Jesus is on my side here, or maybe I should state that better. I think I'm on Jesus' side here, because Jesus is also really concerned about this. He shares this concern. I don't know if you realize this, but when Jesus was teaching in his ministry while he was on the earth, teaching about the kingdom of God and how we can be reconciled to God by faith, when Jesus was teaching, do you know that he spoke about money and possessions and greed more than he talked about sex or more than he talked about heaven, or more than he talked about hell?
He talked about this more than any of those things. It doesn't render the other things unimportant, it just reminds us that this is probably a pretty big deal that vies for our affections and vies for our attentions, and maybe we would do well to pay really close attention to it.
So, Jesus, in Luke chapter 12, if you want to turn there, is having an interesting conversation with his disciples. It's a really intense conversation, in fact, because he's talking about kind of the cost of discipleship and the weight of disciple. Basically, for those of you who are brand new, disciple meaning somebody who follows hard after Jesus, who goes where he goes, does what he says, puts his teachings into practice, lives like he lives. That kind of idea of being a disciple.
And Jesus is talking about weighty things like discipleship and how costly it is and all of that, and then there's this guy who's in a crowd, and he just interjects. He just interrupts. And I want you to notice exactly what he says. This is in Luke chapter 12, beginning in verse 13. It says, "Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.'"
Do you know these people? Do you know these people? You're having a conversation, maybe it's a deep conversation, maybe it's a weighty conversation, and then somebody who needs something answered, they don't really care what you're talking about, they don't really care what you're doing at that time, they just want to interject, right? They need to get their question answered and they need to do it. Does anybody know anybody like that? Right, if your hand's raised, it's you. All right, good.
So, "'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.' Jesus replied, 'Man,'" I don't know if he said it just like that, "Man." "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" I find this kind of really interesting because obviously when we read this, we kind of go, this guy's being rude. Jesus is talking to his disciples, he's teaching them some really weighty matters about what it means to follow hard after him, it could cost them their very lives, that they need to be able to confess Jesus before people. And we're talking about in a place and in a time where the Roman oppressors were real and this could go really south for you if you follow hard after Jesus.
And now, all of the sudden, this guy just jumps in, "Hey Jesus, tell my brother to give me my portion of the inheritance." And Jesus is like, "Who appointed me a judge or arbiter between you and your brother?"
Now, even though it seems rude to us, it's probably not as rude as maybe we think when we read it, and here's why. Because in the ancient world, rabbis were actually given the authority to make decisions around these kinds of ideas. So, this guy, maybe even though he was being a bit rude and kind of changing topic, in his mind he was asking the right person the right question. He saw Jesus as a teacher and as a rabbi and thought to himself, he can solve this for me.
Now most scholars, when they're commenting on this passage of scripture, kind of make the assumption that the other brother, or what we would call the older brother, I'll say that to you in a minute, is probably in the crowd alongside of him. And you can see younger brother who's like, "Hey, Jesus, tell my brother to share the," I'm not sure he did that, "To share the inheritance with me." Now, the inheritance was probably a bunch of land. That's generally speaking what you inherited in that time. And you've got to remember how precious land was to the people who were Jewish and who were living in that particular context. It was worth something, and there was a life associated with this.
And it's interesting what Jesus says. He says, "I'm not going to split up you and your brother over stuff." Like, I'm not here as just a rabbi who's going to be making decisions about stuff and possessions, and basically damage your relationship. That's not what I'm here. And then Jesus actually goes further after saying, "Man, who appointed me a judge and an arbiter between you and your brother about your inheritance rift?" And then listen to what Jesus says in verse number 15.
"Then Jesus said to them, 'Watch out.'" See this exclamation point? "'Watch out. Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.'" Do you think you would pay attention? Let's just say Jesus walked in in the flesh right now. Do you think if he walked up to you, and it doesn't matter what the topic was, if Jesus looked you in the eyes and said, "Watch out. Be on your guard against," and then he named whatever he named, would you pay attention to that?
This is the Son of God, God with skin on, who is truth personified, and he is saying to this man in the presence of other people, "Watch out. Be on your guard against all kinds of," and here's what he says, "Greed. Be on your guard against all kinds of greed." Now, I would suggest to you that what Jesus is doing right here is he's helping us to understand something. When he says, "Watch out, and be on your guard," do you know what he's saying? Let me translate. Discern. Discern. You better pay attention.
What is it that we're supposed to discern? Well let me give you the first thing here. You can jot this down if you like. Discern the danger of greed. Some of us have not given enough thought or attention to what actually greed does to our souls. In fact, there's a couple of things that I'm going to note here real quickly, and here's the first one. What greed does, listen to this. We have to understand and discern the danger of greed, why? Because there's no life in greed. There's no life in it.
Now you say, okay, I'm writing that down, Jerry, but what exactly do you mean? It's not what I mean, it's what Jesus said. There's no life in greed. Look again at his response when asked this question in verse number 15. "Jesus said to them, 'Watch out. Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.'" Listen to this. '"Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.'"
You see, when you read this statement, what you hear Jesus saying is this. You can, if you want, search for life in the midst of your stuff. If you want to try and find life in the security of your money or your possessions, go ahead, but I'm going to go ahead and tell you something, it's not there. You will not find life in all of these things. They are lifeless and cannot indue you with life.
Now, not only do they not give us life, not only do they not have life, but they actually lead to bondage. This is what happens to us when we find ourselves in a place, when the danger of greed starts to infect our soul and the talons of this greed just begins to hold on to our soul. Do you know what happens? It steals life. It doesn't give it. We're looking for it sometimes in this stuff and in these things, and it's stealing life from us.
I saw a particular piece of research, some data from Northwestern Mutual that said that for Americans, the average debt load, not counting mortgages, okay, not counting a home mortgage, that the average personal debt load for an American is $38,000. $38,000 is the average debt load for an American. Now, that's a lot. It could be a multitude of things, right? I realize there are some circumstances that are hardships and as a result, some people have gotten in trouble that way. I get all of that. I realize that it's difficulty, maybe something happened and now you're trying to find childcare but you're a single parent and that's been real difficult, and now you've accrued some debt as a result of that. I get it. Life's circumstances can sometimes be really, really hard.
But, do you know kind of the majority of where that debt was accrued? Some of it's student debt, right, from loans and that kind of stuff. But do you know where a lot of that debt was accrued? Just credit cards. Just buying stuff you don't need. That's really what they showed us. Just buying stuff you don't need.
It's extraordinary in America how we, listen, we will go into debt to buy stuff that we don't need to impress people we don't like. Why do we do that? It seems like a bad use of money, right? But we find ourselves then being kind of enslaved and in bondage and in debt. And I realize there's all different kinds of debt, and financial people will tell you there's good debt and there's bad debt. They'll look at your kind of ... the index related to your debt, in terms of your income, and there's a debt ratio there that's healthy, and then there's one that's bad. I understand all of those things.
What I'm saying is this, is that if our lusts and our greed for stuff overcomes us, it doesn't give us life. We can't find life in that, we can just find bondage in it. And that's not what Jesus wants for us, and that's what he's actually warning this man about. And I would suggest to you that he's warning us about the same thing.
So not only do we have to discern the danger of greed because there's no life in greed, but let me say it even more explicitly. Greed is idolatry. I'm going to say this explicitly. Greed is idolatry. Now, for those of you who are kind of new, I'm not talking about, hey, we're building a little idol that we're bowing down to. The idea of idolatry is when we put something in the place of God where only God belongs. And it gets our affections and it gets our attentions. In fact, you can figure out if you have idols in your life when you just ask questions about what motivates your decision making.
If your decision making, listen to this, if your decision making is motivated by God and his glory and his kingdom, that would suggest to you that God is your highest affection, that God is God. But if your decision making is based around other things, then maybe you have to ask the question if you have affections and allegiances to something other than God when only God should be God.
That's what we talk about when we're talking about the idea of idolatry. That's really what we're referring to. And when I say that phrase, greed is idolatry, you're like, man, that seems like you're kind of overstating the case to make a point. Actually, I'm not, I'm just restating the case the apostle Paul did. In fact, here's what he said two different times. In Ephesians 5, he said this. "For of this you can be sure, no immoral, impure, or greedy person, such a person is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God."
And then here's what Paul said in Colossians 3. "Put to death therefore whatever belongs to your earthly nature, sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry." In other words, Paul is picking up on the teaching of Jesus, the warning that Jesus gave us that we need to be able to discern the dangers of greed. And Paul says, "Here's what greed is, it's an idol. It is going to be a false god that leads us to false living, and it will always end poorly for us."
In fact, God knew this from the very beginning when He was constituting a people called Israel. God already knew that this was damaging and idolatrous. You know that when the 10 Commandments, you remember those, right, the 10 Commandments, finger of God, tablets of stone? You remember, you've seen the movie. When the 10 Commandments were in play, right, with Moses, do you remember what the first one is? I'm not going to give you a quiz like you, stand up right now, tell me all the 10 Commandments. I'm not going to do that to you, okay?
But if you remember what the first one is, it was this. You shall have no other gods before me. Do you know what He was warning against? Idolatry. Do you know what the second one is? You will create no graven image. Do you know what God's warning us against? This idea of idolatry, right? The first two commands out of the gate ... and of course a little bit later on, you get those commands that are kind of behavioral in nature, right, in the 10 Commandments. Don't kill, don't steal, don't lie, bear false witness, don't commit adultery, right? You know all of those. But there was one at the very end, the very last commandment. And it was not so much about behavioral things, it was really a command about the heart posture. Do you remember what it was?
Here it is. You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male or female servant, his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor. Do you know what's interesting about that? God, from the very outset when He was dealing with His people, God knows everything about human nature. He knows our bent is toward greed, He knows our bent is toward coveting, He knows our bent is in that direction, and He knows that it's just, really it's just an idol waiting to happen to be manufactured by our heart.
John Calvin had said that at one point that our hearts are idol manufacturers, right? And that there are times where this is one of those things. You see, this is common to human nature. You know greed is a primal sin. Adam and Eve, listen to this, coveted the knowledge of good and evil, and made choices as a result of it. This is primal. This is something that we all have to deal with, and God is trying to remind us that we have to pay attention to this even when He's constituting His own people Israel, because He knows that this will form in their hearts and their lives when they covet, when they're greedy, that it will form idols and it will carry them away from having no other god but God.
And as a result, it will teach the world around them what God is not like instead of what God actually is like. You see, Jesus is reinforcing this. He's reminding the guy who asked the question. Because when Jesus says that you need to be warned and that you need to stay on your guard against all kinds of greed, that term that he uses in the Greek language can also be translated covet.
You see, it's as if he's reminding him, God's known this all along that this is a heart issue and that this will plague you and this will be awful for you. And then Jesus just goes a step further. After telling the guy asking the question and telling this in front of everybody, he says, "Watch out. Be on your guard against all kinds of greed. Your life will not be found in an abundance of possessions. This is going to lead you to no life and it's going to lead you to idolatry." And then Jesus said, "Let me tell you a story." And he tells them a parable. Listen to what it says.
Verse 16, "He told them this parable. The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, what shall I do? I have no place to store my crops. Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain, and I'll say to myself, you have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy. Eat, drink, and be merry.'
But God said to him, 'You fool. This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you've prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves, but is not rich toward God."
I mean, this story is really self explanatory, isn't it? This man, if you read the parable, here's what you hear all through the parable. I, I'll, myself, me, I. That's what you hear. He didn't ... So, right, the Bible actually says that the ground gave a great harvest. It doesn't say the rich man did it, right? It's almost as if there's a reminder there that God is the one who provides all of these things, and the guy's rich because of what God has produced from the ground, right?
And so all of that comes up, and then the rich guy, who's already rich and who already has big barns to store all of his stuff, says, "Well, what am I going to do? I've got all of this stuff, so I'm going to have a conversation with myself." Notice he doesn't have a conversation with God, notice he doesn't have a conversation with other godly people, he just has a conversation with himself. Self, what should I do? I know, I'll tear down these barns and build bigger ones. Great idea, you. This is basically the conversation he's having with himself, right? This is going to be great. I'm going to tear down my barns, and I'm going to build bigger ones. And if I were to ask, "Why are you doing that?" He would say, "Because I can."
I've asked that question to people before, some friends that I had. They were building a really, really huge house. The kids were already gone. And I said, "Man, you guys are building a house, that's awesome. Now, why are you guys building that house?" "Because we can." And I went, "Okay, sounds like a stupid idea, but that's up to you, right? That's up to you. Your call." I didn't say that out loud, that's what goes on in my head. I'm more diplomatic than that. I'm like, "Oh, wow, okay. God bless you. Cool. I'll pray for you. Like seriously pray for you." Because that could be problematic, right?
It wasn't, "Man, we just want a place where we can host missionaries, we want to be able to bring-" it wasn't that at all. It was just, because we can. I was like, oh wow, fantastic. Bad move. Because that's indicative of something, right? And by the way, we laugh, but the truth is, is it's probably indicative of us in some places in our lives, right? It's funny for us to be able to laugh a little bit because it takes the pressure off, but the truth is is that all of us probably face some of that in our hearts when we get right down to it.
So all of this stuff that this guy acquired, it doesn't bring him any happiness, he doesn't find life in it, and God actually says, "Oh, you're going to build all this, you're going to keep all this, and you're just going to kick back and everything's going to be good? You're a fool. You know why? Because you're going to die. You're going to die tonight, and then who's going to get it?" The birds and the deer like they eat all of my stuff in my front yard like my plants and everything? The deer just they go crazy in that place, man.
Like, they're going to just get all of this stuff, and it's not going to be of any use to you, it's not going to be of any use to anybody else, it's just going to rot in the barns, these huge barns that you've built, because you decided that your sufficiency, you thought, was in your stuff. You decided that you thought that your life could be found in your stuff, when I'm the only one. I'm the only one that controls this narrative.
You see, Jesus makes this point in this story really clearly. But here's the great thing, Jesus doesn't just give us a warning, he also gives us some hope to move forward. It would be enough, by the way, because Jesus can do whatever he wants, he's Jesus. He's allowed to do whatever he wants, because everything he does is true and right and good. And so if he just wants to warn us, that's enough for me. Watch out, be on your guard against all kinds of greed. Your life does not consist in an abundance of possessions. Fair enough. All I need to hear.
But he actually says something positive to us. Notice again what he said at the end of verse 21 in this story. He was teaching us something. He said, "This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves, but is not rich toward God." You see, if the first thing that we were being warned about were how to discern the danger of greed, the second thing that we have to discern is this. Discern why generosity helps us. Discern why generosity helps us.
You see, when I look at Jesus saying these things, he says, "Be rich toward God." What does that mean? What does it mean to be rich toward God? Well at the very least, I know what it's the opposite of, because Jesus contrasted it with something. He said, "Hey, instead of storing up for yourselves a bunch of stuff, be rich toward God." So, here's what we do know, being rich toward God means not just storing up everything for ourselves. We know at least it means that.
But I think maybe on a more positive note, we could probably identify that it means that the money and the stuff that we have, we use to show that we value Jesus and his kingdom more than we value the American dream. That we value Jesus and his kingdom more than we value the American dream. I think that's what it means to be rich toward God.
Listen carefully to this. Thank you for all seven of you. Listen. Here's what this means. I realize this kind of hit, hit can hit close to home. When it talks about being rich toward God, understand this. You can't enrich God. God has no need of anything that you give Him. If you say, "God, listen, I gave you five bucks today, I hope that works out for you. Make another comet." You know, that's just not what God's doing. God's not waiting around on us to give Him stuff because we cannot enrich the God who exists eternally in His own personhood with need of nothing. You can't enrich God. He doesn't need anything from you, He wants something for you.
To be rich toward God is God's way of helping us to understand what our heart needs, not what He needs. You see, I think this is in part why God taught His people Israel to tithe. Now, don't worry, I'm not actually going down this path, but I want you to understand this as a teaching point, that I think the reason He taught His people to tithe was not because God needed anything, but because their souls needed to learn a lesson about having no other gods before them. That was what He was doing.
And so what He told them is, is He said this, "Hey, the first tenth," a tithe means tenth, that's what it means. That's the literal meaning of the word, 10%, a tenth. He said, "The first tenth of everything that you get, right, from your field, your grain harvest, from you know, everything, that's mine. I want you to give it to me in my service. You'll do that by way of the Levites, but I want you to give that to me." In fact, He said this in Leviticus, right? A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord. It is holy to the Lord.
In other words, God says, "I want this. I want the very first 10%, and I want you to give it to me." Why? Because God needs it? No, He doesn't need anything. Because you do. You see, because what God was trying to teach His people was to have Him as the highest allegiance, because that was not only going ... listen to this. That was not only going to be best for them, but it was going to be how He would accomplish demonstrating His glory to the pagan nations that surrounded them.
You see, listen to what He said in Deuteronomy about this. "Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always." Do you see the point behind it? It wasn't, "Hey, give me 10% because I'm running out of cash. I'm strapped here as God." No, He's saying this, "I want your soul to learn what it means to revere me."
By the way, that was an Old Testament command to an Old Testament people called Israel. We are not as now as people under grace, we are not under the law anymore. So that Old Testament command of, hey, you have to give 10%, that is not in play for us now because we live in an age of grace. Some of you are going, "Shew, that's great, because I was concerned. I'm so thankful for grace because now I don't have to do jack squat." That's actually not the point of grace, right?
Because when we look at the New Testament, what we see is we see guys like Paul who are teaching Timothy how to teach the people of God in Ephesus what they should do. And the emphasis isn't on a number, it's on a heart posture. Watch what Paul says to Timothy. 1 Timothy chapter 6. "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age." Treasure for the coming age, not treasure for the now.
Do you hear how Paul is taking the words of Jesus and he's expanding them? So that they may take hold of the life that is truly life, that this is where life is actually found, because you can't find life in stuff and possessions. Paul just brilliantly takes the teaching of Jesus and he unpacks it for Timothy and says, "I want you to do this."
So, what does generosity look like in the age of grace? Well, I mean, listen, I still think it's a wonderful paradigm, because when we look at the Old Testament teaching of the tithe, particularly the idea of 10%, God wasn't doing that to just create a law that was just some weird kind of, you know, law. He was doing that for the sake of the hearts of people.
And what the tithe did, listen to this, what God was doing was He was revealing His heart. His heart for His people was that they would know Him intimately, that they would make Him their chief affection. Why? Because it's the best thing for them, and it's the best thing for the world that needs to see Him. That's why. Not because God needed anything. And so even though that is not in play for us now who live in the age of grace, here's what I would say to you. How many times do you think in your life that grace takes a backseat to law?
Okay, never, right? I mean, grace is so much greater and better and sweeter and bigger than the law. Grace is never subservient to the law, grace is fulfilling of the law and then some. So the way that I look at this is, for believers who really want to get serious about combating greed and get involved in a life of generosity, it's not that the floor has gotten lower, it's just that the ceiling got a lot higher.
Listen, here's what I mean. Here's what I mean. People ask me from time to time when they come and they want to join our church, or they're talking about our church, and they'll say, "Hey, if I become a member of your church, do I have to give 10%?" And I'm like, "No, you can give way more than that if you want. I would never bind you up to 10% if God wants to do significantly more." And by the way, I don't stand here as a pastor who talks about that and doesn't live it. We've always given. The tithe has always been something way back in our rear view mirror, because it's kind of the training wheels of generosity, right? That's kind of the training wheels of generosity.
Because I think that it's not that the floor got lower, it's just that the ceiling got a lot higher. Generosity is a heart issue, but it's not about checking numbers or checking percentages by the way, that's not really what it's about. It's about what has Jesus asked of us, and then let's do that, because the only way for us to really combat greed is generosity. That's the only way to combat it. And Jesus apparently thought that this was big enough a deal that he warned us, "Watch out. Be on your guard."
So how do we do that? How do we do that? Do we just huddle off? No, we've got to play offense, and how do you do that? By being generous. That's how we do it. Now, these are individual kind of calls on our life, and if you're like, man, I don't even know where to start with how to put that into my life because man I've messed ... We've got some resources for you.
For instance, if you're like, I wouldn't even know where to start. I've got debt and I don't know where my money's going and I don't have a budget and all that kind of stuff, I would encourage you to get involved in our Financial Peace University, and you can check at the information center on any of our campuses, check at the information center. They're starting a class up in the fall. I would encourage you to get involved in that, because it'll help you get out of the kind of the bondage of debt, and the bondage of not knowing ... your money's your boss instead of you being its boss, right?
Our job as believers, our money's not telling us what to do. Jesus tells us what to do, we tell our money what to do, based on what Jesus tells us to do. That's what we're trying to do, right? That's what we're trying to do. So that's a resource for you. Or maybe your community group, if you're ... In the summertime, the community groups have an opportunity to not track necessarily with the messages, but to do something different if they want to do that. We've got some small group curriculum for this very thing if you want to take a look at that. You can check out the information center there as well.
Or just go to TheChapel.com/stewardship, and there's a number of resources on there for you on an individual level, because you need to ask, how do I play this out? What do I do? And we've got some helps for you to be able to do that.
But you know what else? We don't need to just do this as individuals, we need to do it corporately as a church. Do you know what my prayer has been, I mean really since getting here? One of the things that I ask God for ... I've been here for 17 years. One of the things that I've consistently asked the Lord for is this, is that we would be a church or generosity. Do you know why? Because we want the world and our community to see a representation of who God is. God is generous. God is generous. And we want to be a generous people as a church.
So, you may remember back in ... those of you who were here, back in January of 2017, I shared with you a five year vision for our church. How many of you in this room at least, and maybe sort of ... how many of you remember that? Five year vision. Yeah, there was a bunch of you that were here.
What I did is I brought out three barrels, right? Here's a picture of it just so you know I'm not lying. Barrel one, barrel two, barrel three. This, that's me. Still me. I'm still here. I had three barrels, expand, partner, and release. If you remember, I went over to the expand barrel, and the first thing I pulled out was a popcorn bucket, because at the time, our Cheektowaga campus was meeting in a Regal theater, and what I said that part of our five year vision was is we wanted to find a home for them, if God would supply a permanent home so that Cheektowaga knew we're there to stay. We're there, we're committed to this community, and we want to reach people and minister in this community.
So I pulled that out. Well, done. Right? Done. The next thing I pulled out was a picture of Niagara Falls, literally the Falls. And I said, "What if God would allow us to launch a church here in Niagara Falls?" This was two and a half years ago. And everybody cheered and they're like, that's awesome. Then I reminded everybody not literally on the Maid of the Mist at the bottom of the Falls, but like in Niagara Falls, right? What if He would allow us to launch a church in Niagara Falls to have an impact? Done.
Then I moved over to the partner bucket, and in the partner bucket, I pulled out a On Mission magazine. And that On Mission magazine represented all of these partnerships that we have through our Kingdom Come partnerships, things that are outside of our church that we invest into to see a kingdom movement because we realize that we are one congregation in the greater church of our region, and we want to see God do something extraordinary in kingdom work.
And what we said was this. We don't want to back up from that, we want to continue to invest and do all these things even while we're doing this other stuff. And we know that's all going to require money, but we don't want to take a step back from this, we want to continue to be generous and see God work, and maybe even expand our generosity. And God by His grace has allowed us to do that as well. Since February of 2017, in the last two and a half years, we've given 2.8 million dollars outside of ourselves or the sake of the kingdom of God. That's to the glory of God and to the generosity of us together as a people.
And then I moved over to the release bucket. And what I did in that barrel, it was a barrel not a bucket, but whatever, I pulled out a set of matches, and I lit one. I almost lit my finger on fire, but I lit one and I said, "We want to light something on fire so that we can light something else on fire." And the thing that we wanted to light on fire was our debt note, kind of this facility, we wanted to light that on fire so that we could be generous and be able to light our region on fire for the sake of the kingdom of God in more generous ways, to even be more generous than we possibly could.
Now, we started that process by immediately, right after that, immediately paying off the Apex, which is our building across the street. Done, paid for, no debt. And then we started saying, okay, Lord, will you help us to start moving in this direction? Will you help us? But see, all the while what we were doing is we were also ... we also had some more assets that we added, right? By the way, in this timeframe, right at the very beginning, Lockport became the owners of their facility, in our Lockport campus. They became the owners of their facility. But you know what? We did it, and there's no debt, and it's completely paid for, okay?
Then, we knew Cheektowaga needed a home, God supplied that home, the former Movieland Eight Theater. There's like 600 or 700 people worshiping in that place today as we speak, and God allowed us to do that and pay for it, and we have no debt, and we owe nobody anything, and that's completely ours, completely paid for, completely done.
And as you heard today, Niagara Falls campus, we are leaving the Regal Theater. It's going to be a little time before we do that because we're going to honor the contract, and we're going over to the high school that's there, Niagara Catholic High School, and so that's another acquired asset for the sake of ministry and the kingdom. But we're going to be able to pay cash for the building because of the grace of God.
Now, listen, and those at Niagara Falls have to listen, we're committed to not actually acquiring any debt on that property at all. We can buy the building, but we don't have enough to actually do all of the renovation work yet. We will only do what we have money to pay for at that building, because we're committed to not adding any debt to what we have right now.
So, all of that, right, all of that ... and we knew that kind of we'd have to start attacking the debt after this, you know, after we did this, because we've added assets. But we added assets and didn't add any debt at all. But we actually did better than that, because of the grace of God and the generosity of people. We not only did not add debt while adding these assets, we knocked the debt down by 17% during this two and a half years, by the grace of God. This is a wonderful thing.
Now, here's why I tell you this. I'm telling you all this kind of as a way of an update on our five year vision, but also as a reminder that we as a body corporately are trying to steward and live under the same things that Jesus is teaching us to do individually. That we want to be a people who are generous so that the world may know that God is a generous God. And that we live our lives in such a way that that's the case. Here's why, because all of this started with a question from a guy who interrupted Jesus and wanted to talk about his inheritance. And Jesus went off.
And do you know what I could summarize Jesus as teaching us in this whole set up? It's this. God is the only inheritance that gives life. God is the only inheritance that gives life. We will not find life in stuff. We will not find life in greed. We will not find life in money. We will not find life in idols. We will only find life that is truly life in God. And ladies and gentlemen, we need to be able to discern this in our culture. If we can't discern the dangers of greed, and we can't discern how good generosity is for us, then we're going to be putting aside the warnings of Jesus, and we're going to be teaching a world around us what God isn't like rather than what He is.
You see, when you talk about generosity, how can you go further than God? Because while we were all undeserving, poor, sinful people who were absolutely broke and destitute, God in the richness of His grace gave His son so that we might be reconciled to Him. That he, listen to this, he who knew no sin became sin for us so that in him we might become the richness that God has called us to be. We might become in him new creations that he's called us to be. Do you know how extraordinarily generous that is? That's why Paul, when he was writing about all of this at one point, he just says, "I can't even conceive how great is this extraordinary gift of God in Jesus Christ."
You can't talk about generosity without talking about the nature of who God is in His very essence. And for us to be a people who are being transformed into His image, it means that we will be that kind of people too. So why don't we show the world in our lives individually and as a church corporately, why don't we show the world, or keep showing the world, that God is the only inheritance that gives life. God, not greed. God, not money. God, not possessions. God, not stuff. God, not images. God, not idols. God is the only inheritance that gives life. So, why don't we trust Him? Why don't we act on whatever He wants us to act on by His spirit? And why don't we start to move into the life that God has for us, because Jesus has warned us, but he's also given us a path forward. Let's take him at his word.
Let's bow our heads together. We're dismissed in just a moment. If you're here and you've never before entrusted your life to God through what Jesus has done by putting your faith in Him, let me say this to you. God has been extraordinarily generous, that while we were undeserving, because all of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God, while we were undeserving, God in His grace offered His son. By the way, Jesus came willingly to show us what it meant to live a truly human life, and then to die in our place as the perfect substitute. The sinless one for the sinless ones. So that we might now by faith in what he's done be reconciled to God.
Here's the beautiful news, Jesus didn't stay dead, he lives. And we too can be made new and live with him, not only in this life, but in the life to come. But we cannot save ourselves, Jesus himself is the way, the truth and the life, not us. He's the only life that is truly life, and it's only by faith in him can we find that life that is eternal in quality. And if you've never put your faith or your trust in Jesus, then I encourage you, when we dismiss in just a moment, the most pressing need that you have is not getting to lunch, the most pressing need that you have is not checking off a box that says, oh I went to church so I've made God happy today. The most pressing need you have is to respond in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, to surrender yourself to Him.
We'd love to help you with that, and so we have a room that's set aside just for you. It's called the fireside room, and if you leave this room or the East Worship Center and you come straight through the atrium, you'll see it clearly marked out there. There's some pastors and some other friends in there who would love to just take a moment and talk to you about what it means to begin this journey of faith with Jesus Christ. It's the most pressing issue that you have.
Father, not only do I pray for those who are in need of relationship with you, but I pray for those of us who have been transformed by your goodness and your generosity and your grace. I pray that we would be willing to take our lives before you, God, as an open book, and allow your spirit to search our hearts, and to see maybe where there are places that are eating away at our lives, maybe where we need to pull back the talons of greed that wants to strangle our souls. And God, would you help us to think about how we can combat that with being a generous people, not because you need anything, God, but because you want something for our soul, and you realize what greed steals from us. It steals from us life that is truly life, that we can know by living with you at the center and by living with a kingdom mindset in the world that we live in.
Would you help us as a people to do that? Would you by your spirit give us the grace to be able to do that so that the world around us would see a God who is generous and gracious, kind and loving, who cares even when others have not. And so God, I pray you would help us to be that kind of people, individually, and you'd help us to be that kind of church in the place that we live in. We trust you to do that in our hearts for your glory, because Jesus, we proclaim and we acknowledge what you were trying to teach us, that God alone is the only inheritance that gives us life.
And so may we live in that truth for your glory, we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.