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

Introduction

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.

 

Sermon Study
Sheets

KIDS CORNER

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

Introduction

 

The Old Testament Tithe

Malachi 3:8-10

 

Levite’s Tithe: Leviticus 27:30-32; Numbers 18:21f

 

Festival Tithe: Deuteronomy 12:6-7, 17-18; 14:27,28

 

Other Required Giving

 

King’s Tithe: 1 Samuel 8:15-17

 

Reasons People Teach Tithing

 

Old Testament Examples

Abraham & Melchizedek – Genesis 14

 

Jacob & the Lord – Genesis 29

 

New Testament Examples

        The Widow – Mark 12:41-44

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

 


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