Proverbs 11:24-25; 2 Corinthians 9:6, 8-11
Pastor Tom Millner
SpiritSong Worship Center
July 25, 2010
A scientist approached God and said, "Listen, we've decided we no longer need you. Nowadays, we can clone people, transplant hearts and do all kinds of things that were once considered miraculous."God patiently heard him out, and then said, "All right. To see whether or not you still need me, why don't we have a man making contest?" "Okay, great!" the scientist said. "Now we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam," God said. "That's fine," replied the scientist, and bent to scoop up a handful of dirt. "Whoa," God said, shaking his head. "Not so fast, pal. You get your own dirt."
Two weeks ago we established that God owns everything. He never transferred title to any of His creation. If God owns everything, He's also in control. If He is in control, then His promise to provide for our needs is true. Last week we established that God expects us to manage what He has given us as good stewards. Being a good steward of His blessing is managing in a way that does not put us in the debt of others to the degree that God cannot come first. Today we learn about giving responsibly; our investment for eternity.
I was reading this week where the Bible contains about 500 verses relating to faith, about 500 relating to prayer and about 2000 relating to money. I wondered why; then I paused to remember the words of Jesus to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37-39) Why wouldn't scripture speak more to that which so easily gets in the way of putting God first? In all those verses about money or wealth, or possessions and the management thereof, there are common themes from which we can learn.
- Attitude is at the heart of giving! If giving is out of duty or in any way causes a grudge, it will be used to His glory, but your gift is only a wound to you. We're instructed to give out of a heart of love. A young mother, desiring to teach her five year old daughter the virtue of giving, handed her daughter a one dollar bill and a quarter. She instructed her to give at offering time from her heart. After service, the mother eager to hear her child's story asked; "well, did you give the dollar or the quarter for offering?" The child responded: "I was going to give the dollar, but then the man in the pulpit said God loves a cheerful giver and I just knew I'd be more cheerful with a dollar than a quarter, so I gave the quarter." This is not the attitude the scripture describes, however. God instructs us on two points of attitude about giving.
- Giving with a heart of love! John 3:16 tells us "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…" God's greatest gift to us, forgiveness, redemption, life eternal with the Divine- given from a heart of love. It is with that same motivated heart that God asks us to give back to Him. Paul expresses in 1 Corinthians 13:3 "If I give all I possess to the poor…but have not love, I gain nothing." The way of this world would have us to believe that we need to get some return on our giving. Look at the "Founders Circle" next door. It's on the wall for all to see – those who contribute at a certain level to the work of the center. Praise God they are able to operate because of donations! Placing our name on a plaque does not put God first. Scripture speaks to this from Jesus' words in Matthew 23:23. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."
- Give with a cheerful heart! Paul instructed the believers at the church in Corinth in this way: "Each man should give what he has decided to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."(2 Corinthians 9:7) Reluctantly means with a heart of loss, sorrow, grief, even grudgingly. If you've given with these on your heart, or if you've avoided giving to avoid these feelings, take that to God and ask Him to reveal to you a better way. He knows the condition of your heart even better than you do. Invest your time with him. You'll get a heavenly return!
- Put God first in your giving! The pastor of a small church in Africa answered the knock on his door to see a young boy who was attending his church standing before him with a large flapping fish and a big healthy smile. "What's this?" the pastor asked. The young lad said "the Bible teaches us that we are to bring the first fruits of our labor – out tithe to the church. This is my tithe." The pastor inquired; "where are the other nine fish?" The boy responded; "they're in the lake waiting for me to catch them." Proverbs 3:9 tells us "Honor the Lord from your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops." We know that God doesn't exist because of our money, but God exists BEFORE our money and He provides far beyond our money. Giving to Him the first portion of our earnings is putting our money where our heart truly lies.
- Tithing is the Biblical standard! There are those who argue against such a standard, but scripture always takes us back to the tithe or 10% being the foundation, not the limit! In the Old Testament, tithes and additional offerings were common. The New Testament expounds on the foundation of tithes and offerings by instructing us to give in proportion to what we have received. Jesus took it a step further as He praised sacrificial giving in Mark 12:42-44. "A poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny…Jesus said, 'I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.'" Remember the story of the African widow who had not a penny to her name? She sat by each week as folks brought the tithe of crops and offering as the Lord led. One day the widow came forward a laid four gold coins on the altar and went back to her seat with a gleaming smile. The Pastor, knowing she was destitute feared she had stolen the coins, so he asked her; "where did you get the offering you made this morning?" She responded that she so much wanted to give back to God her gratitude for having saved her soul that she had sold herself into slavery to a local farmer and had given the whole amount to the Lord! God gave His all for us…He asks that we honor Him with our first 10%!
- Giving is a blessing! Not only are all the things we own, we earn, we share, we breathe a blessing from God, He exalts the blessing we express when we give back. Acts 20:35 tells us: "…Remember the words of the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" This would indicate that the greater blessing lies not in what we have received, but in what we are giving. This is not to diminish the importance of the blessings received. So, how does giving deliver blessings to us?
- Our hearts are drawn toward Christ! Remember the scripture "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."? (Matthew 6:21) When we're instructed to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness…our giving is directed toward Him. When we give to Him, our hearts are drawn to Him.
- Our character is transformed to His! The purpose of our Christian walk is to develop our character like that of Christ. The character of Christ is not selfish, nitpicking, and self-centered. His character is one founded in giving totally of self for the sake of the Kingdom. Giving helps Him to transform our character.
- We build eternal treasures! You've heard me quote our former Pastor who said; "life here is just the kindergarten for eternity." How we deal with life this side of eternity is the proving ground for how we face life on the other side. Matthew 6:20 tells us, "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."
- He gives us greater return! Remember from our scripture reading this morning? 2 Corinthians 9:6, 8-11 "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever."Now he who supplies seed to the sewer and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." Paul wasn't just whistling Dixie with these words! God returns to us an increase not so we can gloat over what a great return for our giving, but rather a return so that we may give even more! Giving to receive is watering the wrong seed.
Our giving is toward the work of Christ in this community and beyond. This Body of Christ reaches far beyond the walls of this building. Through the technology afforded through the gifts of money and skills, we reach globally with the message of grace and mercy for all. Our messages are viewed not only by those here in South Florida, but also in other parts of this country, in UK, in France, in Russia, in Italy, in Poland, in India, Australia, and even Kosovo. We got an email this week from brothers in Kosovo asking if we had missions there. They are hungry for the fellowship of like believers. The Bible is clear that we are to support the work of our local church with our tithes and offerings. What you give is between you and God, and God has placed all of us here to be a part of His body, giving from our hearts overflowing with gratitude for everything we receive. What is standing in your way of putting Him first in all of your life?