Posts Tagged 'giving'

Panic Podcast – The Gift of Giving

It’s the one Spiritual gift that I believe all Christians possess: the gift of giving.

 

Video Sermon – Stewrardship Sunday, Part 2

Good Lord’s Day morning, saints. For my second and last look at stewardship this year, I want to focus on giving as it relates to you, the giver.  Giving to the work of the Lord is expected by Him, but why?  Does He really your offering?  Click here to find out what giving does for you.

Living in the Kingdom, Now: Motives

motivation

Matthew 6

Matthew 5 deals with the righteousness Christians ought to possess and chapter 6 deals with how Christians ought to practice that righteousness.  It all boils down to motive, and verse 1 establishes this:

“Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, for then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.”  (TLB)

The key here is the phrase “to be admired.”  It’s not that Christians are to hide their good deeds because, in fact, the exact opposite is what Jesus taught in 5:15, 16—

“Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father.”  (TLB)

What Jesus is dealing with here is the motive behind doing those good deeds.  In performing good deeds that are “out in the open,” our motive ought to be the glorification of God, not ourselves.

1.  God’s rewards, Matthew 6:1—8; 16—18

Righteous acts, verses 1—4

A common teaching in Jesus’ day was that alms-giving itself earned points with God.  From the apocryphal book of Tobit comes this teaching:

Do the good, and evil shall not find you. Better is prayer with truth, and alms with righteousness than riches with unrighteousness; it is better to give alms than to lay up gold: alms-giving doth deliver from death, and it purges away all sin.  They that do alms shall be fed with life…  (Tobit 12:8, 9)

But Jesus didn’t teach that.  He simply assumed His followers would give and be generous.  But in giving, they were not to give like the Pharisees, who made giving offerings a big deal and announced their giving with great fanfare.

But when you do a kindness to someone, do it secretly—don’t tell your left hand what your right hand is doing.  And your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.   (Matthew 6:3, 4  TLB)

This advice from Jesus needs to read correctly.  He is exaggerating to get the point across.  He already established that good deeds should be done for others to see so that God would be glorified.  The sense of these two verses is that a Christian should never seek the praise of others in their generous acts; they should be generous and give regardless of who sees or doesn’t see.  The point:  God sees and He will reward your generous giving accordingly.

Prayer, verses 5—8

Ostentatious praying—not public praying—is something to be avoided.  Pharisees loved to shout out their prayers in public to get noticed.  The importance of private prayer is what Jesus is stressing here.  It doesn’t matter where or when or even how a Christian prays, only that he does so with a sincere heart.

Jesus is certainly not prohibiting praying in public; pastors and worship leaders do this every Sunday.   It’s the motive; why are you praying?  Are you praying in public as an act of worship and leadership?  Or are you praying in public to get noticed?  Are you praying in private so that you can bear your heart before God and touch His?  Or are you praying in private to get something out of Him?  It’s your motive that counts.  Prayer in important; it’s much too important to waste time on merely using dusty, old prayers others have prayed.

Don’t recite the same prayer over and over as the heathen do, who think prayers are answered only by repeating them again and again. Remember, your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!   (Matthew 6:7, 8  TLB)

Pray and understand that you are praying to a Person who knows you  better than anybody else and He knows precisely what you need.

Fasting, verses 16—18

Fasting can be a wonderful spiritual exercise for Christians to engage in, but only if it is done properly.  The Pharisees fasted incorrectly—they made a big deal about it and made sure other people knew what they were doing.  Jesus, though, taught that if a Christian is going to fast, he should do so in way that draws no attention to himself.  Pink makes this sharp observation on the topic of fasting:

When the heart and mind are deeply exercised upon a serious subject, especially one of a solemn or sorrowful kind, there is a disinclination for the partaking of food, and the abstinence therefrom is a natural expression of our unworthiness, of our sense of the comparative worthlessness of earthly things, and of our desire to fix our attention on things above.

In other words, when a Christian fasts, he should do so in a serious, concentrated manner.  If he’s not going to eat, he should pray.  Not eating has no merit at all! 

The Pharisees were doing the right things in the wrong ways because their motives were skewed, and because their motives were completely wrong, they forfeited any eternal reward.  Jesus assured Christians that if they did what the Pharisees did, but it correctly with the right motives, God would reward them accordingly.

2.  No  materialism, Matthew 6:19—24

Treasures in heaven, verses 19—21

If your profits are in heaven, your heart will be there too.  (Matthew 6:21  TLB)

Jesus never teaches that money is bad or evil or that it can never be used to further God’s Kingdom.  In fact, the opposite is true.  But what Jesus is getting at simply this:  Christians should not be obsessed with accumulating things on earth that deteriorate and waste away with the passing of time.  Is there anything wrong with worldly wealth?  Not at all!  But your motivation in the accumulation of wealth is what’s at issue here.  If you are hoping your “stuff” will make you happy or somehow provide you with security, then your motives are wrong.  Instead, you should be investing in the Kingdom; you shouldn’t keep all your wealth to yourself but be willing to let some of it go for the sake of service to God.  When this is your attitude about your wealth—that you are willing to give some of it up—it comes back to you. 

Light, verses 22, 23

If your eye is pure, there will be sunshine in your soul.  But if your eye is clouded with evil thoughts and desires, you are in deep spiritual darkness. And oh, how deep that darkness can be!

The point of these verses is simply this:  A true believer must be single in his purpose.  He must strive to make sure his motive or motives are pure.

Masters, verse 24

You cannot serve two masters: God and money. For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around.   (TLB)

Our God demands complete loyalty.  If you are going to call yourself a Christian; if you are follower of Jesus Christ, then you must be absolutely devoted to Him.  A true believer does not have a divided heart or divided loyalties.  A true believer cannot split his time between longing for God and longing for the things of this world.

The main emphases of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6 up to this point are:

·         simplicity

·         sincerity

·         singleness

These form the foundation of discipleship.  Serving the Lord shouldn’t be complicated because it is simple by God’s design.  Everything we do for the Lord  in terms of both our worship and service, should be done with sincerity.  Finally, we should stay focused on the Lord as we serve Him.

3.  Priority, Matthew 6:25—34

Anxious,  verses 25—29

Should a Christian be nervous or anxious about the future?  According to Jesus, NEVER!  Christians whose focus is on the things of this world will always be worrying about them.  Christians who worry about being poor will never have enough money.  Christians who worry about their health will always be sick.  Christians who worry about being lonely will never have enough good friends.  Job discovered this to be true:

For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me.  (Job 3:35  NKJV)

Jesus’ advice focuses on our priorities.  Our lives are more than what we do and what we have in the here-and-now.  It is spiritual, too.  And Christians should never neglect the spiritual side.

Faithfulness, verse 30

And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you, O men of little faith?

Jesus wants His followers to understand that the God who looks after nature is more than capable of looking after them, too.  If God  provides for the short-lived grass, He will surely provide for His chidren, who will live forever. 

It’s God’s faithfulness in view here.  God faithfully cares for His creation, and that includes YOU!  Unfortunately, as faithful as God is, we are just as faithless sometimes.  We, like the disciples, allow ourselves to get burdened down with the cares of today, resulting in a lack of faith.  Jesus’ word to us is to just trust God!  Lee Roberson comments:

Faith is made up of belief and trust.  Many people believe God, but they do not trust themselves into His keeping and care; consequently, they are filled with worry and fear.

God knows, verses 31, 32

“So don’t worry at all about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them…”  (TLB)

Worry and pride and closely related and sometimes inseparable.  Jesus sums up His admonition on not being anxious by giving two reasons for not being that way:  (1)  Don’t worry because the heathen worry.  There is NO merit in worrying.  Some Christians feel guilty if they are not worrying about things!  Talk about wrong-headed thinking.  Unbelievers worry; Christians aren’t supposed to.  In other words, being anxious is sinful behavior.  (2)  Don’t worry because God has His eyes on you.  God knows what you need; don’t sweat it.   Trust that the Lord will provided what you need when you need it.

This, of course, takes practice.  But it’s how Jesus wants us to live.

The Kingdom of God, verses 33, 34

…and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to. “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.”

Don’t let worry take root in your head, Jesus says.  It’s a battle that takes place between your ears, but it is a battle that can be won.  God takes care of all the little things; what makes any of us think He is incapable of taking care of us?  God isn’t the problem, we are.  We MUST learn how to let go of our lives and learn how to place them in God’s hands.  We need to learn how to put God FIRST in our lives.  Worrying about tomorrow is a most selfish way to live.  It’s wrong, and it’s sinful.  Not only that, being anxious is just dumb.  Remember the old saw:

Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.

If we put God first, He will make sure ALL of our needs—and then some—will be met.  You cannot live tomorrow today.  You cannot act like God.  Stop that destructive behavior, Jesus says, and learn to have faith in God’s grace for each day.

Stewardship: It’s NOT what you think it is! Part 4

pass the plate

Principles of Giving, 2 Corinthians 8—9

All across the world on any given Sunday in churches of every denomination, you will hear a familiar refrain:  “It’s time to receive today’s tithes and offerings.”  Of course, the actual words may vary, but taking up the offering is the one thing Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, etc. all have in common.

We have been discussing “stewardship” and what that means in the life of the believer.  Stewardship is managing the variety of resources God has given us for His glory.  Things like our health, intelligence, temperaments, talents, and ideas are among the things that come standard at birth and are just a few of the things God calls Christians to exercise proper stewardship over.  With this final message on stewardship, we turn our attention to the principles that should govern the stewardship of our finances.

In John’s Gospel, he wrote an interesting verse that forms the basis of this study—

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  (John 1:17, tNIV)

We may well consider the New Testament to be an exposition of the grace and truth that came through Jesus Christ.  In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Paul gives certain principles, grounded in grace and truth, governing the New Testament pattern for giving which supersedes the Old Testament pattern, the tithe, which was based on the law, not on grace truth.

The Corinthian church was a large, though deeply dysfunctional church, which Paul loved dearly.  In all, he wrote four letters to them, of which we have two.  In his letters, the Apostle tries to correct wrong behavior, wrong beliefs, wrong practices, and, in the case of these two chapters, to remind them of certain obligations that come from being part of the Body of Christ.  In the preceding chapters, Paul had expressed confidence in his Corinthians friends because they had Jesus living in their hearts.  Now, his attention turns to the collection which he organized among his churches for the relief of the church in Jerusalem.  This offering seems to have been very important to Paul, for he persisted in its collection and delivery in spite of the near-certain danger that awaited him in Jerusalem.   As far as Paul was concerned, a brother’s need was his need, and being part of the Body of Christ obligated him to do whatever he could to meet that brother’s need, as though it were his own.

With chapter 8, Paul introduces the topic of this collection.   This was certainly not the first time the Corinthians had been told about the dire circumstances in Jerusalem.  Paul first mentioned it to them in 1 Corinthians 16:1—4, where he gave them very specific instructions on how to participate—

Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do.   On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.  Then, when I arrive, I will give letters of introduction to the men you approve and send them with your gift to Jerusalem.  If it seems advisable for me to go also, they will accompany me. (tNIV)

But it seems that, for some reason, the Corinthian church was not participating in this worthy project, and so with great tact instead of commands and coercion, Paul teaches and encourages his friends to give as a free and personal response to Christ.

1.  Giving under grace, not under law

In our church, we always worship the Lord in the giving of “tithes and offerings.”  While there is nothing wrong with the phrase, “tithes and offerings,” we must be careful not to transform a useful phrase into a theology of giving that has its roots firmly planted in the Old Testament Law.  For believers, giving is not supposed to be based on anything in the Old Testament but rather our giving today should be based on new principles of grace established in the New Testament.  Nowhere in the Epistles do we read of “tithes.”  In fact, the only offering God seeks from His people is that of the person himself as “a living sacrifice…which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 21:1).

Background

(a)  The Old Testament tithe

Though the idea of a tithe was first seen in the life of Abraham, it formed an integral part of the Law in Leviticus 27:30—33.  On the surface, the Old Testament tithe seemed very simple—

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.  (Leviticus 28:30, tNIV)

But, as with nearly every aspect of the Law, it got more and more complicated with each successive generation; later on Numbers 18:21—32 we discover that the tithe was to be used to support those who were dedicated to serve God.  In Deuteronomy 12 and 14, that same tithe was to be delivered to the Tabernacle, later to the Temple built by David, and it was distributed from there.

However, also in Deuteronomy 14 and 26, we see that there was a second tithe, which was to be collected every third year to help the needy!  In fact, if we read the Old Testament carefully, we will see that in total, there were three tithes, each used to either support those who led Israel in worship, help the poor, and to support the widows and orphans.

In addition to the 30% tithes, the Law also called for mandatory, yet voluntary, giving called “freewill offerings.”  The tithe was what Israel owed God, but the offerings were given out of love to God.  The tithe was a duty each Israelite had to fulfill, but the offerings were to be given spontaneously, as an expression of appreciation to God.  Giving the offering was actually a privilege; it was a practical way to demonstrate not only love but also devotion to God, and it was also a way to further help the less fortunate.

(b)  A new era of grace

As we pass from the Old Testament into the New Testament, we notice some very important changes.  With the coming of Christ, we see the dawn of a new era of grace as opposed to the old era of the Law.  While the Law was never abolished, it is fulfilled in grace, and all believers are responsible to keep the righteous demands of the Law in grace, not in fear.

As previously noted, though, the Epistles never mention tithing in any form.  The church of Jesus Christ has in no way replaced Israel; therefore the Laws that governed Israel cannot govern the church.  For example, we have no central Temple into which we would bring our tithes and offerings for distribution.  However, we do have paid professionals in many of our churches, and, the Epistles do teach that those who preach and teach the Gospel exclusively deserve to be paid for their work.  But nowhere does Paul or any other New Testament writer suggest this is to be done through a tithe!  Pastors are not the equivalent to “priests” of the Old Testament!  So, while we do not see tithing done in the New Testament era, we see something else: freedom in Christ, especially freedom to give of our finances to meet these kinds of needs, not in a legalistic obligatory fashion, but freely and in faith.  Furthermore, while the New Testament does teach meeting the needs of the local church—whether the need of paying the pastor or helping those in need—Paul’s guidelines for giving never mention or imply that the tithe is to be used to measure the Christian’s obligation.

(c)  The New Testament view of wealth

The principles of giving Paul gives the Corinthians are not rules and regulations, but reflect a general attitude toward wealth which we see elsewhere in the New Testament.

  • Jesus taught that believers should not put their trust in wealth and should not consider possessions to be treasures (Matthew 6:19—33);
  • In Luke 16:9, Jesus teaches that worldly wealth is to be used to prepare for the future;
  • Jesus also taught that nobody can serve two masters; the acquisition and preservation of wealth should never be the focus of our lives, if it is then we are demonstrating that we love it more than we love God;
  • John teaches that worldly wealth should be used to help other believers in need (1 John 3:17—18);
  • Paul told Timothy to teach the wealthy that their wealth came to them from God and that the should seek to do as much good with it as they can (1 Timothy 6:17—19).

The overwhelming teaching of the New Testament is that wealth is not a bad thing; it can be a very good thing because it can be used benefit the whole Body of Christ.  However, while wealth is not bad, the love of wealth is a problem because it can lead to many other kinds of evil.  So wealth is to be used, not loved.   And for the believer, the first use of his wealth is to benefit the Kingdom of God.

If we consciously put God first by meeting the needs of others within the Body of Christ, we are really preparing for our eternity.  Conversely, if we put wealth first by using it meet our own desires, we demonstrate that we lack the kind of dedication and commitment God wants and expects from those who call themselves His servants.  How we use our resources, then, is a measure of our dedication to God and a demonstration of the value we place on eternal values.

2.  The key is:  sharing

In the very early church, there were no church building programs to finance, in fact, there were no church buildings to support in any way; there was no Sunday School curriculum to buy, no heat and light bills to pay, no insurance premiums to pay, and no Presbytery taxes!  But the early church did have needs, and as we learn in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, local congregations from all over world gave to meet those needs, even if the need was miles and miles away.  Sometimes the need was merely supporting a local elder who assumed the  role similar to that of “pastor” today; he devoted himself to the Gospel full time, and he was supported by the local assembly.   Other needs included supporting widows, if they needed it.

Essentially, giving in the New Testament boiled down to a very simple principle:  find a need and fill it.   The goal of New Testament giving was simply survival; whether it was giving to help famine victims survive, or widows or victims of crime or to support those who gave up worldly careers to devote their skills to the preaching and teaching of the Word.  The survival and well being of other Christians was why Christians gave.

The Greek word the New Testament uses for “giving” is koinonia, which as we know means most often suggests “fellowship,” but it also means “to share.”  Just as believers share in the new of life of Christ, they also share a familial relationship with other believers, and that shared relationship is best expressed by a mutual sharing of resources, financial and otherwise.

3.  Paul’s approach with the Corinthians

Looking at 2 Corinthians we see how Paul solicited funds.  Note that there was a definite need:  the large church in Jerusalem was starving; they desperately needed funds.  Now note what Paul did NOT do:  he did not hold a rally to raise money; he did not send out “pledge cards,” he did not have a direct mail campaign or a “wear a yellow ribbon” campaign, he did not set up a big thermometer to measure the giving, Paul never had an “every member canvas.”  No, Paul’s approach to fund raising was unique.

(a)  He gave two examples, 2 Cor. 8:1—9

Paul started out by giving a prime example of a church that rose to the challenge of giving:  the Macedonia church.  After he writes so poignantly about how they gave out of their need, he wrote this—

I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.  (verse 8b, tNIV)

In other words, the Macedonian example of giving was the standard of giving against which the Corinthians could measure their—not giving—love.  Giving is never about the final amount, it is always about the attitude of the giver.

The supreme example of giving, though, was not another church, but Jesus Christ Himself, who gave all He had to save others.   He was rich, but He became poor, so that others may become rich.

New Testament giving, then, is not based on meeting a predetermined, minimal percentage-of-income.  New Testament giving begins with giving all you have to give.

(b)  Be willing!  2 Cor. 8:10—12

Some time earlier, the Corinthians had promised to give, but now they needed to honor their promise, “according to their means.”   Here is a vitally important factor to consider—

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.  (verse 12, tNIV)

Once again, it is not the amount that God takes note of, it is the attitude of the giver; a New Testament giver gives willingly what he is able to give.  The Macedonians, a very poor church, gave all.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gave all.

(c)  Giving is about equality, 2 Cor. 8:13—15

It’s not what some call “Christian communism,” but this principle is more like “the Godfather philosophy” of  “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”   It’s also reaping and sowing; if you give when you have resources to give, you will receive when you lack resources.

At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality.  (verse 14)

(d)  Take action, 2 Cor. 8:16—9:5

Promising to give is one thing, but that promise must be followed by action.  Paul apparently had been “boasting” about the generosity of the Corinthians, but they hadn’t followed through.  Notice what he told them—

For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we–not to say anything about you–would be ashamed of having been so confident. (verse 4, tNIV)

It’s a serious thing to make a promise and not keep it.

(e)  Giving is sowing, 2 Cor. 9:6—11

Sharing with others is just like sowing seed, Paul explained.   This in no way means that if you give $10.00 you will get $100.00 back.  What Paul explained to the Corinthians is a very simple yet profound principle:  a believer cannot outgive God.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  (verse 8 tNIV)

When we truly believe this, we will be set free to give generously without fear that we will somehow be deprived later on of some necessity.   This is the context in which Paul advised the Corinthians in verse 7—

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Paul was careful not to lay a guilt trip on these Corinthians.  He did not want them to feel obligated to give nor did he want to give them some sort of percentage that he deemed appropriate.  As far as Paul was concerned, nobody knew their personal financial circumstances better than the individual and his God.   So it was up to the individual to give an amount they themselves were responsible for.

(f)  The results of giving, 2 Cor. 9:12—15

The believers in Corinth were lastly reminded by Paul of the encouraging results that would stem from their generous gift.

Paul has already written that their generous giving would enrich themselves, meet the needs of the recipients, but their generous giving would also promote the glory of God by prompting others to praise Him.

How does this come about?  Simply because the Corinthians would be living up not only to their promise, but also to the Gospel, which among other things calls for meeting the needs of the saints (Romans 12:13).   Grace always prepares the way for grace.  When we act in grace according to the will of God, He gets the praise for what we do.  Notice that the praise is expressed less for the gift itself than for the spiritual virtues of the giver expressed in that gift.  It is never about the amount given; it is always about the attitude.

But Paul goes a step further suggesting that the giving will be reciprocal.  The Corinthians gave materially to the Christians in Jerusalem, and now they will give spiritual gifts to the Corinthians, in the form of prayer.

And the circle of giving is made complete.  The church in Jerusalem was in desperate shape, lacking many material things.  The Corinthians struggled in their faith and doctrine and were in need of spiritual help.  The needs of both churches were about to be met because of their obedience in giving.

Conclusion

Paul’s principles of stewardship are simple:

  1. Make your need known to the church.  Pastors and elders are not mind readers.  Paul never hesitated to share his needs with other churches.   The local church exists to meet the needs of its members; we employ a pastor to teach and preach the Word, we support a missionary family, we purchase material to help you learn and grow in the faith and share that faith, but can also meet other needs if we know about them.
  2. Learn what you can give based on your needs.  Sometimes, a thousand dollars is a lot of  money, sometimes it’s not enough.  Each one of us knows what our needs may be and our giving should be based on what we are able to give, not on a preset, one-size-fits-all amount.  We are responsible and answerable to God for how much, or how little, we give.  With freedom comes that kind of responsibility.
  3. Don’t give into manipulation.  Don’t let this church, or some other ministry or some other Christian manipulate you into giving more than you can or should.   Manipulation never glorifies God; our giving needs to be objective, never subjective, arising out of emotional pleas.
  4. We need to practice New Testament giving!  My job as pastor is to teach it, our job as members of the Body of Christ is to take this knowledge and put it to use in a God-glorifying, people-helping manner.

God is totally committed us; so much so He has been giving to us since He gave His one and only Son to save us.  He has never once stopped giving to those who love and serve Him.  We should strive to be that committed to Him.

Stewardship–giving in grace–sets us free, because when we give in grace, we are giving like God gives.  No rules.  No strings.  According to our ability.  What a great way to give!

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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