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Principles of Giving, Pt. 2 - The Challenge of Giving
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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
July 2, 2006
Principles of Giving, Pt. 2
The Challenge of Giving
This morning I want to follow up on my message from last week about the principles of Godly giving found in 2 Corinthians 8 & 9. If you missed last week's sermon, I would encourage you to pick a copy of the tape, CD or the notes. In that sermon we learned several principles of giving and I want to state them again for you as a way of reminder.
1) All people are to give regardless of personal economic condition (2 Cor. 8:1-5)
2) You give to meet real needs - not greed. (2 Cor. 8:8-15
3) Reasons to give include:
The example of Jesus (2 Cor. 8:9)
The principle of equality (2 Cor. 8:13-15)
4) The agent handling the distribution of the gift must have already proven themselves trustworthy. (2 Cor. 8:16-24)
5) You must sow bountifully in order to reap bountifully. (2 Cor. 9:6)
6) You are to give what you want freely (not grudgingly or of necessity) and cheerfully. (2 Cor. 9:7) If you cannot do that, then don't give. Get your heart right with God first.
7) The harvest reaped from godly giving is:
A) You will have an abundance for good deeds (9:8)
B) You will produce thanksgiving to God (9:11,12)
C) You will cause others to Glorify God (9:13)
D) You will stimulate others to pray for you (9:14)
Giving is simply a reflection of your heart. It reveals which you love more, God or the world. It reveals whether your priority it God's kingdom or you own. It reveals how much you trust God for your own future. It reveals your sensitivity and obedience to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. You will never handle anything less significant that money nor more revealing of your heart.
This morning I have sub-titled my message, "The Challenge of Giving," because I want to show you some examples of people in the Bible that reflected this godly attitude of giving, but before I do that I believe I need to address the issue of the Old Testament tithe.
The Old Testament Tithe
It is not hard to find those that still advocate that Christians should "tithe." Many believe that God commands all believers to give 10% of their earnings to God's work. They cite several Old Testament scriptures and in particular Malachi 3:8-10 which states, "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed Thee?' In tithes and offerings. 9 "You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation [of you]! 10 "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows."
This section of Scripture teaches the importance of tithing and the wonderful blessings God would pour out as a result of it. However, there is one major problem in demanding this of Christians. It was written to the nation of Israel while they were in the land. We, the New Testament church, are not Israel. We are not bound by the Laws which came through Moses that were directed to that nation. That is not to say that we cannot learn much about the character of God and principles for our own lives through those laws, but God has not required us to keep them. We are bound by the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2) and His commands through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
It should also be pointed out that "the tithe" was not a freewill offering, but actually one of the many taxes placed upon the Israelites. In addition, there was not just one tithe, but three different tithes.
The first tithe commanded is sometimes referred to as the Levites's tithe which is presented in Leviticus 27:30, "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD. 31 And if a man will at all redeem ought of his nines, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. 32 And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, [even] of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD." Ten percent (10%) of all the produce of the land as well as the stock were to be set apart as holy unto the Lord. If the individual wanted to keep the particular item for himself, then he would have to substitute something else of equal value plus twenty percent (20%).
Numbers 18 gives more detail about the specific purpose of this tithe in verse 21. " And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. 24 But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levities to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance."
This particular tithe was given for the support of the Levites in their ministry to the Lord. The rest of the passage goes on to say where they could eat the tithe and that the Levities were to give ten percent of what they were given (a tithe of the tithe) to the High Priest.
A second tithe is described in Deuteronomy 12. This tithe was sometimes called the "festival tithe. " Verse 6,7 state, "And there you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the first-born of your herd and of your flock. 7 "There also you and your households shall eat before the Lord your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the Lord your God has blessed you." Verse 17,18 add, "You are not allowed to eat within your gates the tithe of your grain, or new wine, or oil, or the first-born of your herd or flock, or any of your votive offerings which you vow, or your freewill offerings, or the contribution of your hand. 18 "But you shall eat them before the Lord your God in the place which the Lord your God will choose, you and your son and daughter, and your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all your undertakings." This tithe was one in which they shared with the Levites in a feast of rejoicing before the Lord.
According to Deuteronomy 14:27,28 this tithe would be collected locally every third year and deposited "in your town. 29 "And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance among you, and the alien, the orphan and the widow who are in your town, shall come and eat and be satisfied, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do."
These two tithes were religious in the sense that Lord required them for the support of both the Levites who ministered locally and those who ministered in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple.
These two tithes do not take into account the other required offerings such as the various sacrifices listed in Leviticus chapters 1-7, or the requirement to leave the corners of the fields for gleaning by the poor (Lev. 19), or letting the land rest every seven years (Exod. 23), or the Temple tax instituted in Nehemiah 10:33 for the upkeep of the Temple itself. The total estimate of taxes for the Israelites ranges from 24-35%. Those taxes went higher when Israel set up kings over themselves.
The prophet Samuel warned about this in I Samuel 8:15-17 saying that a king would do the following; "He will also take your daughters for perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 "And he will take the best of your fields and your vineyards and your olive groves, and give [them] lo his servants, 15 "And he will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards, and give to his officers and to his servants. 16 "He will also take your male servants and your female servants and your best young men and your donkeys, and use [them] for his work. 17 "He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his servants."
From my point of view, to advocate that a Christian must tithe only demonstrates an inadequate if not shoddy study of the Scriptures. There are several reasons that there are so many that urge Christians to tithe, some of which are not very godly. To be sure, many teach it simply because that has become the tradition of their church and they have never studied out the concept for themselves. There are also those churches that teach that the church has replaced Israel so keeping aspects of the Mosaic law is important to them. Then there are those that teach it because they hope to increase giving through guilt and obligation and/ or greed. All of these, as we saw last week, are in contradiction to the New Testament commands to Christians given in 2 Corinthians 9:7, "Let each one [do] just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver."
The sad fact is that the average percentage of giving by church members in America was only about 2.5% in the 1980's and was dropping in the 1990's. It has not improved in the new century. There are many preachers that are guilty of trying to get a fourfold increase in giving by teaching tithing as the required standard.
There is another aspect to this among some people. Their income is such that they realize that tithing is cheaper than actual sacrificial giving. It is not uncommon for middle and upper middle class Americans to have a disposable incomes of over 35%. That means after their actual necessary living expenses and taxes are paid they still have 35% or more of their income to spend on anything they want. Many of them will spend it and even more for their wants and put themselves in debt, but the actual fact is that for them to give 10% is not a sacrifice.
If you believe that God requires just 10%, then when you reach that level you have satisfied your obligation to God. To put it a little more bluntly, depending on the particular view of tithing, you have either bought God off or you have purchased His blessings for a meagerly 10% of your income. The true reasoning behind this thinking is quickly seen in the fact that part of the discussion of tithing almost always encompasses whether it should be on the gross or the net income (i.e. what you actually earn or what is left in the paycheck after the taxes, etc. are taken out). A tenth does not buy off God. It didn't in the Old Testament and it doesn't today.
We need to understand clearly that the Old Testament tithe does not transfer into New Testament Christianity any more than the sacrificial system does. The forerunner of the New Testament principle of giving is seen in the free-will and fellowship offerings and in the example of Abraham.
Old Testament Examples of Giving
In Genesis 14 the patriarch Abraham gets involved in a war. Four kings from the north came and waged war and conquered 5 kings in the south and in the process took captive the people of Sodom and Gomorrah which included Abraham's nephew, Lot, and his family. In verses 13-16 we find that Abraham forms an army and goes after the northern kings and eventually defeats them north of Damascus. As Abraham returns he passes by Salem (Jerusalem) and there meets Melchizedek who was the king of Salem and a priest of God Most High. Melchizedek says to Abraham, vs. 20 "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." Abraham then gave Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils.
There was no command for Abraham to give anything to Melchizedek, and there is no record that Melchizedek asked for anything either. Abraham gave to the priest of God Most High simply because he wanted to do so. It was a response of thanksgiving for God's blessing upon him. There is no record of Abraham doing anything similar again, but then again, there was not an organized priesthood nor was there a church. Abraham's regular gifts to God were the sacrifices he offered.
Another example is that of Abraham's grandson, Jacob, in Genesis 29:10-22. As Jacob was going down to stay with his uncle Laban in Haran, he had a dream in which God repeated the Abrahamic covenant with him which was a promise of blessings. The next morning Jacob made a vow that if God would be with him and meet his needs and he was able to return to his father's house, then Jacob would recognize the Lord as his God and would give Him a tenth of whatever he made. While the vow shows aspects of Jacob's spiritual immaturity at that point, it would have been a silly bargain to try to make if that was what Jacob was doing. God had just promised to extend to him the blessings that He had promised to Abraham. It would be silly to try to make a deal to get additional blessings from God by giving Him a cut of what He gives to you in the first place. That would be like me saying to someone, "I got a great deal for you. You give me $100 and I will give you $10 back." My point in bringing this up is not to make Jacob look silly, but to point out that there was no command by God for Jacob to give back anything. Jacob made his vow out of his own choice. God had already promised to bless him.
Giving ten percent to the Lord's work does nothing special for Lord or for you. A tithe is not a magical amount that suddenly pleases God. The only thing special about a tenth is that it is the amount Abraham and Jacob, who probably picked it up from Abraham, chose to give. Later, under the Mosaic law it was the amount used for several different taxes. What you give is to be a reflection of what is in your heart. His concern is that you give out of your heart and that you do so willingly, happily, and sacrificially.
I mentioned last week that Paul commended the Macedonian Christians to the Corinthians because they had given sacrificially, "in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord..." (2 Cor. 8:2,3). Paul commended the Philippian Christians for the same type of sacrificial giving.
It is not a matter of how much you give. It is a matter of the heart. Jesus commended an impoverished widow for setting the example of godly giving.
The Example of the Widow
In Mark 12:41-44 we find the story of Jesus making important observations in the Temple. Remember the Temple area was separated into several court areas. The outer most one was the Court of the Gentiles were people from all nations could come to pray to the Lord. The next inner court area was called the Court of the Women only because this is as far as the women could enter, but this was also the common area of worship for all the Jewish people. Along three sides of the perimeter of this court was a simple colonnade. Against a wall were thirteen different chests or "trumpets" for collecting contributions. These chests were narrow at the mouth and wide at the bottom and looked like a trumpet standing on end - hence their name. Nine of these were for collecting the required offerings and the "temple tax." The other four were for voluntary gifts. The area these chests were located was called the treasury, which is the name used for it in Mark 12.
Jesus had come into the Temple and had He sat down opposite the treasury and began observing how the multitude were putting money into the treasury. It was not hard for Him to take notice of the rich people placing in large sums of money. Jesus had earlier commented about the practice of some of these kinds of people in Matthew 6:2 saying, "When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full." These people called attention to themselves as they gave because they wanted people to see all they were giving and they wanted the praise of those people.
The same sort of thing certainly exists today among some "Christian" organizations. If you will contribute to them at some certain level they will put your name on something so other people will know how generous you have been. It could be as simple as publishing it in their newsletter or as fancy as a bronze plaque mounted on the wall or some such thing.
Contrasted to these rich people that were flaunting their wealth was a poor widow that came into the Temple. Mark 12:42 records, "And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent." You can imagine her coming in and doing the opposite of the rich people. They were trying to get noticed and she was trying to be inconspicuous. Yet Jesus was intently watching and knew just what she had done. He then commented to His disciples in Mark 12:43 "And calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to 'live on."
You see it is not the amount of money that is important. It is the attitude of the heart. Man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). This would be another reason that we use the Faith Box in the back of the church instead of passing offering plates. It not only helps us to fulfill 2 Corinthians 9:7 so that there will not be a sense of compulsion or obligation to give that would be present if we passed offering plates, but it also helps in allowing you to give in inconspicuous manner like the widow instead of a flaunting manner like the rich hypocrites Jesus had talked about. We do not want to contribute in anyway to someone who might want to make a show of what they give. What you give is between you and God, and He knows your heart.
The challenge of giving is not contributing a large sum, but in giving sacrificially. That is giving in such a manner that you will be affected by it. The reward for giving out of your abundance is small, but the reward for giving out of your livelihood is great because it requires greater trust and dependence upon the Lord.
If you make $100,000 per year and you give $10,000 how much does that really affect your lifestyle? Perhaps you have to drive a Cadillac instead of a Mercedes and your house is 3,000 sq ft. instead of 4,000? But if you make $40,000 per year and you give $5,000, then your lifestyle is going to be affected. If you make $25,000 per year and you give $3,000, then your diet will even have to change and your car is probably held together by bubble gum and bailing wire. If you're a minor living at home and you are given or earn $100 and you give $80 to the Lord's work, then you will not be able to purchase whatever toy or game you had in mind. Who is the one that most pleases the Lord? The one that gave $10,000, $5,000, $3,000 or $80? Who is the one that has to trust the Lord the most? Who is the one that in all probability has the closest relationship with the Lord?
How much should a person give? The examples of godly people in Scripture range from 10% to 100%, but there is not Scriptural requirement for the Christian to give any particular percentage. It must be as you purpose in your heart. As I have said before, if you cannot give gratefully and cheerfully for the Lord's work because of what He has done for you, then do not give. God does not need your money and neither do we. Work out the problem in your heart first, and then give.
Remember what I have been saying all along. Giving is simply a reflection of your heart. Do you love God or the things of this world? Are you seeking after the kingdom of God or you own kingdom? Have you learned to trust God for your future, or are you still relying on your own abilities? Are you sensitive and obedient to the prompting of the Holy Spirit? You will never handle anything less significant that money nor more revealing of your heart.
Two Final thoughts. First, when I am talking about giving I am not necessarily talking about you giving to just Grace Bible Church. Certainly support of the work here is part of what you should do and the financial condition of the church at present is in trouble, but the needs to go much beyond just this church. There also needs to be personal involvement with the Lord's work. That may mean supporting some missionaries personally. If you have not picked up the letter from Dana Welch then do so and consider what you might do to help her. Let me add that neither you nor the church gets extra credit for having the money get funneled through the church treasurer. You can give to them directly. There is great encouragement to missionaries when someone personally and faithfully supports them over the years. They know that the individual cares and is praying for them. That is much more important to them than just getting a check from a church.
There also needs to be personal expenditures in helping other people in practical ways too. We can and should be helping those with financial needs both in and outside the congregation. 1 John 3:17,18 says, "But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." Our concern in giving should not be whether we get a tax receipt or not.
Second, some of you maybe living in such a financial mess that you don't see how you can give what may be on your heart to give. Next week I will be giving some of the very practical principles of Scripture dealing with keeping your finances in order so that you can get on track and keep the proper priorities. After that you will then be able to accomplish that which God places on your heart in furthering the work of His kingdom.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God's Word to your children's lives. Here is some help. Young Children - draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children - Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word "tithe" or "ten percent" is mentioned. 2) Talk with your parents about what God wants you to give back to Him and why.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What principles for giving can you learn from 2 Corinthians 8 & 9? What does your giving reveal about you? What principles can you learn from Malachi 3:8-10? Does this passage apply to the Christian? Why or why not? What is the Levitical tithe described in Leviticus 27:30-32 and Number 18:21f? What was its purpose? What was the "festival tithe" described in Deuteronomy 12:6-18 and 14:27,28? What was its purpose? What other "giving" was required of the ancient Israelites according to the Mosaic code? How much do think was the total percentage of income required by "tithes" and other giving requirements? What did Samuel warn the people in 1 Samuel 8:15-17? What were the "taxes" after that? Why do some Christian groups advocate mandatory tithing? What are some reasons people accept required tithing? What do you learn from the Old Testament examples of Abraham (Genesis 14) and Jacob (Genesis 29)? What is the significance, if any, of 10%? What was the example of the widow in Mark 12? What was Jesus' commendation of her? How much should you give? Why? Are you seeking after the kingdom of God or you own kingdom? Do you trust God for your future? Are you sensitive and obedient to the prompting of the Holy. What do you think of this statement: "You will never handle anything less significant that money nor more revealing of your heart."
Sermon Notes - July 2, 2006
Principles of Godly Giving, Part 2 - Selected Scriptures
The Old Testament Tithe
Old Testament Examples
New Testament Examples
The Widow - Mark 12:41-44
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