This week, Pastor Steve looks at the concept of giving. I know, it seems like the church is always talking about money, well, some churches might. But the truth is, churches talk about money because Jesus talked about money. And the Bible is very clear on a couple forms of giving that all of us probably do, but our message this week really clarifies why we give. We'll see Biblical reasons to give. So, Let's Give...
This message is based on 2 Corinthians 9:6-15.
I really like that reading. Especially in verse 6, we started out with that verse, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” We’ve all heard that verse, haven’t we? We spent a little bit of time on that verse in a message fairly recently. And when it comes to farming and gardening, we all know it’s true. The more seeds we sow, the greater harvest we can expect. Paul is using this metaphor, but he’s not talking about farming or gardening. Because the metaphor is applicable to other areas of our life, too.
If we sow sparingly at work, we will reap sparingly. If we do just enough to get by, we might not keep our job very long, we won’t be getting those merit raises, if anybody still gets merit raises anymore, and we could expect to be overlooked for the next promotion. But if we work hard, doing the very best we can, then we are sowing generously and we can expect to get ahead.
We see it in our relationships. Those closest to us are closest to us because we have invested time and effort to build those relationships. We even see it in our health. If we eat right and get exercise, we’ll be healthier in the long run. If we don’t, we won’t be as healthy as we could be.
So the principal works in a lot of the areas in our lives. When we sow sparingly, we can expect to reap sparingly. But in the very next verse, he says, “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Giver? This passage talks about giving? I’m sure you remembered the part about the sowing and the reaping, but did you remember that it was from a passage that talks about our giving?
And then Paul goes on to make quite a promise. In verse 11 he says, “You will be made rich in every way so you can be generous on every occasion.” Can you believe that the Apostle Paul would make such a bold statement? Is this really a biblical statement – The more you give the more you will get? Yes! It really is. It is very consistent with an Old Testament passage in Malachi 3:10-12: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. “Test me in this,” says the Lord almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room for it.”
So the lesson on giving is that if we don’t hold back from God, He won’t hold back from us. If we give Him what He has asked us to give Him, we can count on His giving us everything we need – and then some!
But what has He asked us to give Him? Many people have questions about exactly what God is asking us to give. I think there are three areas that God wants us to give, and these pertain to financial giving, I won’t talk about giving of our time, but that is required also. We can’t give financially and be excused from giving of our time, nor can we give of our time and be excused of giving financially. They are both required.
But for financial giving, there are three things that we see in Scripture: tithes, offerings, and alms. These are three different areas, and each is commanded in Scripture.
First, the tithe. The tithe is ten percent, it literally means a tenth. When the people were farmers, they were to bring in one-tenth of their crop, one tenth of the fruit from their trees, one tenth of the fish they caught, one tenth of everything they received. Today, we use money as our measure, so that means one-tenth of every dollar you receive should be brought to the Lord as your tithe. We are in October already, and in the next month you can expect to receive a stewardship letter. Remember that God asks that you trust Him with a full tenth!
Some people don’t think that the tithe is required anymore, because Paul said that we are no longer under the law? It’s correct, we are not under the law, but the commandment to tithe is not from the law. The law is given in Exodus and Leviticus, mostly Leviticus. We see tithes back the forth chapter of Genesis, when Cain and Abel offer their tithes to the Lord. This predates the law by some two thousand years. So the tithe is separate from the law.
In Genesis 14 we see Abraham giving tithes to Melchizedek, in Genesis 28, Jacob promises to give God tithes of all he possessed. The command to tithe was incorporated into the law when the law was finally given, but it was not originally a part of the law. Therefore, when the law was fulfilled, the requirement to tithe didn’t cease.
Some people don’t tithe because they don’t think that Jesus had anything to say about tithing. Christ didn’t command it, so they don’t do it. But in Matthew 23:23, He says, “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.”
He is coming down hard on them because they tithed, even on the smallest things, but they didn’t show justice, mercy and faithfulness. He didn’t tell them to just do the later and forget the former, he said you should have done both, practiced justice, mercy and faithfulness, without neglecting the tithe. Both are required. In this passage, Jesus isn’t doing away with the tithe, He is confirming the importance of the tithe - it is still expected.
Also, the tithe goes to the local church. Malachi talked of bringing the whole tithe, the whole ten percent, to the storehouse where there may be food in my house. Today, the church is where you are spiritually fed, the church is your spiritual storehouse. So that’s where your tithes should be going. Paraministries and orphanages and seminaries and missionaries are all worthwhile things to be supported, but Biblically, not with the tithe.
The second type of financial gift is the offering. We call our giving the offering, but it’s really not. It’s when we should put in our tithes. Maybe it should be called our tithing! In the Old Testament times, there we certain required offerings over and above the tithe. There was an offering of firstfruits, which was taken from the earliest of your crops – the first of the crop went to the Lord. There was an offering of the firstborn of your animals. Even your firstborn child. In these cases, a monetary donation was given.
There were small offerings required of all the Jewish males when they went to the temple – sort of a temple tax. And there were occasions when special offerings were taken for erecting the tabernacle, or restoring the temple. These offerings were always over and above your tithe, and usually an amount of your choosing.
We have our missional offerings in our church monthly. These are gifts that support missions or other organizations that our Missions Committee supports, and these are offerings. And while tithes are given to the church, offerings can be given to any organization. This is where our gifts to those Paraministries or seminaries or any other ministries would be classified.
Lastly, we come to alms – what are Alms? Alms are for the poor, or for widows or orphans. We see in the Bible people begged pretty regularly. Blind and crippled people were taken to the side of the road to beg for money. The money received would come under the category of alms. I know several people that support children in other countries - that is a form of Alms. Our Diaconate fund is a way of giving alms, the people you meet during the week that you might help out a little are alms. That money is used for individuals that might have a special need.
I want to challenge you this morning, when it comes to giving, to use the Bible as your guide. I don’t know what level you have given in the past, but I do encourage you to consider Biblical giving to be your guide. Commit to tithing, that’s a full tenth of your income, if you don’t already give at that level. Giving a full ten percent of your income back to the church will enable us to do the things God is leading us to. And in addition to that, over and above the tithe, give offerings and alms as needed and where needed, as you feel God calling you to. Always let God be the guide.
One final thought in closing. In the Psalms we see that the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The silver and the gold are His. Every beast of the forest and the cattle on a thousand hills already belong to Him. He already owns everything. He already owns everything you have. He provided it to you. He doesn’t ask you to give because He needs it. He asks you to give to test your faith. He wants to know if you really trust Him.
To say to God, I can’t afford to give, is to say, I don’t trust you to provide for me. There is no other area in our life that I can better demonstrate to God that I trust Him, if I don’t trust him here. If I don’t trust God in your finances, I don’t really trust Him.
That’s why Malachi said that God will throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room for it. That’s why Paul said that God will increase you store of seed and enlarge the harvest of your righteousness and make you rich in every way. It’s because when I show God that I truly trust Him, He will bless me. And I’ll never know what a real blessing is until I can trust Him.