Sermon illustrations


The Biggest Misconception about Giving

What’s the biggest misconception Christians have about giving? That when we give money away to a church or ministry, or to help the needy, it’s gone. While we hope others will benefit from it, we’re quite sure we won’t. We think we’re divesting ourselves of money, disassociating from it. Once it leaves our hands, we imagine, it has no connection to us, no future implications relevant to our lives. We couldn’t be more wrong.

What we think we own will be rudely taken from us—some of it before we die, and anything that’s left the moment we die. But now is our window of opportunity not to divest ourselves of money but to invest it in heaven. We don’t have to have everything taken from us. We can give it before disaster or death strike.

Now’s our chance to give what we can’t keep to gain what we can’t lose. We are God’s money managers. He wants us to invest his money in his kingdom. He tells us he’s keeping track of every cup of cold water we give the needy in his name. He promises us he will reward us in heaven because we help the poor and needy who cannot pay us back for what we do for them. We can buy up shares in God’s kingdom. We can invest in eternity.

Randy Alcorn, The Law of Rewards: Giving what you can’t keep to gain what you can’t lose, Tyndale Momentum, 2003.


Falling for Different Schemes

I’ve watched intelligent, resourced men that had worked hard to amass significant wealth, lose a significant portion of it on an “investment” that was really just a scheme . . . a scheme that promised more of what they already had, only quicker this time.

When I listen to their stories, I think, How did someone as smart and as successful as you fall for something as dubious as that? After the fact, they wonder the same thing. In the moment . . . well . . . in the moment they were just like us. Deceived. Their hearts were deceitful. Mine is too. So is yours.

Andy Stanley, Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets: 5 Questions to Help You Determine Your Next Move, Zondervan, 2020.

Investing in their Bodies

LeBron James will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the greatest players in basketball history. His stats are consistently jaw-dropping, despite competing in a sport that is usually dominated by younger players.

His manager, Mav Carter, revealed in an interview with NBA reporter Alex Kennedy one of the reasons for LeBron’s consistent performance: he spends about $1.5 million a year on his body. Let that number sink in for a second: $1.5 million every year. That includes things like cryotherapy, hyperbaric chambers, exotic leg boots, exercise routines, diet, and much more. In Kennedy’s words: “He invested in his body, so he can still dominate at 33 years old.”

Top athletes typically don’t divulge how much money they spend on their bodies and their health, but LeBron’s expenses may not be as outlandish as they sound.

For example, Russell Wilson, elite quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, has a performance team dedicated to his well-being, including a movement specialist, a massage therapist, a mental coach, a trainer, and a chef. “Putting the team in place is like having a Formula One car,” he says. “You have to make sure that everything’s tuned up and ready to roll.

I want my car to be driving like Lewis Hamilton, and flying around those corners.” The most important number, though, isn’t the amount these athletes spend on caring for their bodies, but the return they get on their investments. LeBron’s career earnings were recently estimated at over $1 billion.

With that kind of return, spending a million or two a year isn’t exorbitant: it’s an investment that pays incredible dividends. A common myth of leadership is that great leaders are naturally great. They don’t have to work at it like the rest of us do, the myth says—they just coast along on their innate greatness.

But that would be like saying LeBron James and Russell Wilson coast on their athletic ability, and nothing could be further from the truth: they work relentlessly and passionately on every aspect of their game. Sure, they have natural gifts and abilities, but they have also multiplied those gifts and abilities many times over through training and hard work. They invest in themselves, and their investment pays off.

Chad Veach, Help! I Work with People: Getting Good at Influence, Leadership, and People Skills, Bethany House Publishers, 2020.

A Transfer of Funds

When Jesus warns us not to store up treasures on Earth, it’s not because wealth might be lost; it’s because wealth will always be lost. Either it leaves us while we live, or we leave it when we die. No exceptions. Imagine yourself near the end of the Civil War. You’re a Northerner, stranded in the South by the war. You plan to move home when the war is over. While in the South, you’ve accumulated lots of Confederate currency. Suppose you know for a fact that the North is going to win the war soon.

What will you do with your Confederate money?

If you’re smart, you’ll immediately cash in your excess Confederate currency for US currency—the only money that will have value after the war. You’ll keep only enough Confederate currency to meet your short-term needs.

As a Christian, you have inside knowledge of an eventual worldwide upheaval caused by Christ’s return. This is the ultimate insider trading tip: Earth’s currency will become worthless when Christ returns—or when you die, whichever comes first. (And either event could happen at any time.)

Investment experts known as market timers read signs that the stock market is about to take a downward turn, then recommend switching funds immediately into more dependable vehicles such as money markets, treasury bills, or certificates of deposit.

Jesus functions here as the foremost market timer. He instructs us to transfer our funds from the fallen Earth (which is ready to take a permanent dive) to Heaven (which is insured by God and will soon replace Earth’s economy—forever). Though Christ’s financial forecast for Earth is bleak, He’s unreservedly bullish about investing in Heaven, where every market indicator is eternally positive!

Randy Alcorn, The Treasure Principle, Revised and Updated: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving, Multnomah, 2017.

See also illustrations on Business, Debt, Economics, Money, Stewardship, Wealth