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Giving to God

Giving to God

I want to talk to you today about giving to God. Sometimes it is called tithes and offerings. The tithe is an Old Covenant word, and it meant to give 10% of what you have to God. An offering is usually defined as anything over and above a tithe. Although we are not under the Old Covenant, God has not changed and His promises apply to the New Covenant for those in Christ, who fulfill the Law by loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Malachi 3:6-10 "I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. "But you ask, 'How are we to return?'  "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me." But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings.  You are under a curse--the whole nation of you--because you are robbing me.  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 enough for it.

We can be reluctant when it comes to giving, and we can even be reluctant when it comes to listening to a sermon on giving. After all, our salvation is not determined by our giving. We cannot buy our salvation. It is a free gift of God’s grace because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Nevertheless, if we remain ignorant about this subject, we not only rob God, we rob ourselves of His blessings. There are four reasons why we need to reaffirm this important aspect of the Christian life.

#1 we don’t preach on it very often. Not that it’s wrong to preach on it, but we just don’t do it. I’ve been here over three and a half years, and out of 182 sermons, this is the second sermon I have preached on money or giving. So if you’re visiting with us today and think, “Oh no, here we go again, another church asking for money,” realize that we don’t preach on giving very often because it should not be necessary.

#2 it is Biblical. The truth is that you cannot preach the Gospel and not include giving. In fact, of the 39 parables Jesus told, over half of them deal with greed, generosity, or giving. Over 2000 times in the Bible, finance, money, generosity, or greed are mentioned.

#3 it’s a needed subject for our culture. Money has become the number one obsession of Americans. We want the money and we want the stuff the money buys. If we are going to be relevant to this culture, we need to have Biblical answers for people whose lives revolve around money.  Jesus taught in Luke 12:15, “Watch out. Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

#4 not only is it needed in our culture, but it’s needed in our churches.
1 Timothy 6:8-10 says, But if we have food and clothing we ought to be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Even though we know God wants us to give to Him and we know that He blesses us for it, many of us still suffer under a curse, because we fail to love and trust God by giving to Him like we should.

I heard the story of a game warden that saw a fellow heading downstream on the Cossatot River with his fishing pole and tackle box. He went up to him and asked to see the man’s fishing license. The man said, “Warden, I don’t need a license. I ain’t fishing. I’m just carrying this here pole and tackle box. Ain’t no law against that. Ya don’t need a license just to carry a pole.”

So as not to be outsmarted, the warden fell back and began to follow this guy at a distance. The man headed downstream and finally crossed in some rapids. The warden followed after him getting soaking wet in the process.

Then the man headed through some heavy brush, doubled back across the river, went up a steep embankment, then back down the other side, and back across the river. The warden was determined and scrambled after him, taking the same route.

The man then headed through the thickest part of a briar patch and the warden came right after him getting scratched up in the process.

Finally, after about two miles of this back and forth, the man stopped by the edge of the stream, baited his hook and cast his line out in the middle. Immediately, the game warden jumped out and said, “I caught you, now you’re fishing.” And the man looked at him, and said, “Yep, warden I am” and pulling out his wallet he said, “And now, you can see my license.”

I tell this story because there’s no law in the New Covenant that says we have to give. Like the fisherman, we are quick to point this out and claim our righteousness. However, by doing this, we are not fulfilling the spirit of the New Covenant law to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. If we are not giving to God, if we are holding back, or just tossing in a buck or two, here and there, then we cannot tell Jesus that He is Lord of our life. Money is our god.

Here are three Scriptural attitudes in which we are to approach giving under the New Covenant.

Attitude #1 is to Give Cheerfully. Giving is not something we have to do. It’s something we get to do. The blessings of God fall upon those who give.

2 Cor. 9:6-8 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 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.

Notice it says "God loves a cheerful giver.” And the Greek word used for cheerful is the word "Hilarios". Literally, God loves a hilarious giver, a very cheerful giver.

Suppose you and your sweetheart are about to celebrate an anniversary. How well do you think it would go over if you bought a gift and said, "Here you go. I HAD to get you something. I didn’t want to, but everybody says I should. I could have used the money for something I want or to pay down my credit card balance, but here it is. I hope you enjoy it."

Well, they are not going to receive much joy from your gift because there is no cheerfulness in that attitude. And God’s the same way. He doesn’t want us to give grudgingly. He doesn’t even want your gift. He wants us to feel so much love in our heart for Him that we wouldn’t consider giving grudgingly, reluctantly, or under compulsion. He wants our love for Him to motivate us to give cheerfully to those things that He is concerned about, such as His church and missions to evangelize the lost.

That is why you won’t get pressured in this church to give. That is why the offering boxes are posted for your convenience rather than pass a plate by you. Because if you don’t love God, it won’t do you any good to give, and if you do love God, you will want to give. We are not going to knock on your door once a year and say, "fill out this card, we’ve come to see how much you’re going to give the church this year." We aren’t going to send out offering envelopes every month. We aren’t going to have an offering meditation every Sunday. We don’t want to do that, because we don’t believe that a Christian should need that much encouragement to give.

If it’s not enough motivation to know that Jesus Christ gave everything, hung on a cross, that He gave His very life for us, to save us from eternal Hell, then no amount of preaching is going to make us a cheerful giver. If we are not in love with Jesus Christ after all He has done for us, willing to give whatever He asks, then there’s a serious problem in our relationship with Him.

The Church in Acts were so thankful for what Jesus Christ did for them, so in love with Him and with each other, that they gave everything they had and held all things in common.

Acts 2:44-47 All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Therefore, shouldn’t we cheerfully give back just a portion to support His church and help evangelize a host of people out there that don’t know Jesus Christ? However, it needs to be given cheerfully. God would rather have our heart than our money, because when He has our heart, He has everything about us. And that’s the principle we need to understand.

2 Cor 8:1-5 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches.  Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.

The Macedonians were poor people. Paul says they gave as much as they were able and even beyond their ability. Furthermore, they earnestly pleaded for the privilege of sharing with other believers. They wanted to do it because they knew what it was like to suffer. They were eager to share what they had. That’s how a cheerful giver acts. Experience shows us that there is much more joy in giving than in receiving.

Acts 20:35 says The Lord Jesus Himself said, “It is more blessed to give then to receive.”

The Macedonians also demonstrate the second Biblical principle: to give generously. There is no set amount under the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant it was a tithe or 10%. People ask, should I tithe off of my gross or net? Where’s our heart? The government takes 20% of the gross. We give ourselves a percentage of the gross by directly depositing into our savings accounts or 401K retirement plans. Why should God not be given a percentage of the gross? If our motive to give as little as possible to God, then there’s a deeper problem to deal within our heart. It may be selfishness, a lack of self-control, greed, worldliness, a lack of faith, or a lack of love.

Matt 6:19-21 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I have heard people say, “If I had more money, I’d give.”  The Bible clearly says that if we aren’t faithful with a little, we won’t be faithful with much. An attitude of generosity starts on whatever level you’re at now. When I started giving to the Lord, I made $800/month. That $20/week seemed like a lot at the time, but soon I adjusted and learned to live without it. I never missed it. God made sure I had all I needed. As I grew in faith, I learned I could trust God no matter how much He asked me to give. We can’t out-give God. He has given more than I ever gave Him. He has always given me more than I need. I love Him and He loves me. Giving is a joy to me now, but I was a very selfish person before Christ changed my heart.

I read a fascinating true story this week. The leaders of St. Malkies Parish in Chicago, Illinois wanted to find out where the hearts of their members were. You see, they were only giving about $300 a week to meet the needs of the church. They wondered what influence the Illinois State Lottery was having. And so on a specified Sunday, they had their members bring in all their losing lottery tickets and place them in the offering tray. To their amazement, they gathered over a thousand dollars in losing lottery tickets, and the total offering for that day was less than $300.

There is a poem that says:
20,000 for a brand new car, 40,000 for a piece of sod,
100,000 I paid for a house, and $20 bucks I gave to God.
There’s one question that I still search,
With things so bad in this world, what’s holding back my church?

We are to give cheerfully and generously to God by giving to the ones who love Jesus, not to unbelievers, not to those living for the devil. They may try to put a guilt trip on us and call us selfish, but they need Jesus, not our offerings. Our offerings should meet the needs of those in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus says in Matt 25:40,The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

Biblical Principle #3 is to Give Thankfully. Everything we have has been given to us by God. It’s an offering of thanksgiving to return a portion of that to the Lord.

In 1 Chron. 29:13-18, King David, praying for the offering that was given, said, “Now our God, we give you thanks and praise your glorious name. But who am I and who are my people that we should give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. O Lord our God, as for all this abundance that we have given for your work, we know it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. O Lord, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever and keep their hearts loyal to you.

I pray that our giving will always originate out of a heart that is thankful for the bountiful blessings that God has given in our lives. The ironic thing is that when giving comes from the heart, the Lord says it’s going to be returned to us in abundance. He said in Malachi – test me in this and see if it doesn’t come true. He has also made this promise in the New Covenant.

Jesus said in Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Now, the Bible does not teach that we are give in order to get—that if I give a hundred dollars, God will give me thousand back. That’s treating God like the lottery. That is not giving—that’s greed. And God does not honor our greed.

However, when giving comes from a heart of thanksgiving and generosity and cheerfulness, we are promised that it will be returned to us in some way. It may be financially; it may be spiritually. It may be in things that money can’t buy, such as peace and joy.

Sometimes we see it now. And sometimes we won’t see it till later or in Heaven. But if we give to God because we love Him, it is guaranteed that it will be returned in amazing ways. God says test me and see.

Giving to God out of love for Him is kind of like planting cucumbers. Have you ever planted cucumbers? For about $.25 you can plant 25-50 tiny cucumber seeds. Pretty soon you’ve got so many cucumbers you don’t know what to do with them. You put them in salads, make cucumbers and onions, put them in jars for pickles, make relish, and give them to friends, the preacher, and anyone that will take them, even your rude neighbor. God gives back to us in return like that so we have even more to give. If we are faithful stewards with a little, God will trust us to be faithful stewards with more. If we don’t give to God, we will just squander what we have.

I don’t know where you’re at this morning. Maybe you are on a fixed income, maybe you have hospital bills to pay, maybe you are really in a financial mess, but like anything significant in life, giving to God has to start with a decision to give something. Maybe you’ve never decided as a family that you’re going to do what it takes to start tithing. There are probably some things you could give up that would not only allow you to tithe, but would be a healthy change for your body, soul, and spirit. Ask God to change your heart and increase your faith so you can be a cheerful, generous, and thankful giver.

As a church, we are not going to keep track of your giving. It is a matter between you and God. You must answer the question: How much do you love God and trust Him? In the end, you must live with the consequences of your answer—either you live under a curse or you enjoy God’s blessings. “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 enough for it.