Sermon November 24, 2019 – The Blessing of Giving

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How many times a day do you think about money?

Whether it is the lack thereof, or the abundance of money, both can be a snare.

In Malachi 3:6-12, God rebukes the nation of Israel because of their lack of faith with their finances. God had blessed the nation and things were going well, but there was a problem. The people had become complacent and their true devotion and worship of God had become mere religious activity.

In verse 6, God declares his immutability. The Immutability of God means that God is unchanging in his character, will, and covenant promises

God then pleads with the people to repent (see Malachi 3:7). The biggest problem was not that the people were needing to repent, but that they didn’t even know they were outside of the will of God. This is sadly the state of much of the church in the 21st century. It is exceedingly difficult to convince someone that they need to repent when they think that what they are doing is okay with God.

People can even do good things “for God”, but without a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ, they are destined to spend eternity separated from God in Hell.

Being a Christian is not about the things that we do for God. It is everything about what Jesus has already done for us when he died and rose again.

The key issue that God is dealing with in the nation of Israel in these verses is their finances. As we see in verse 8, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions.”

Our finances are a big deal to God. Of all that we have recorded of what Jesus taught, 15% of  was related to money. The foundation of our understanding is that God owns everything (see Psalm 24:1). Everything we have comes from God and we are called to be stewards of God’s wealth. The dictionary defines stewardship as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care”

In verse 9 of Malachi 3, God not only rebukes the nation, He actually says that they are under a curse because of their lack of stewardship.  

You may argue that we are under the New Covenant and we are under grace, so this principle does not apply to us today. You would be right that we are under the New Covenant, but remember the words of Jesus in Mathew 5:17 where he says that he did not come to abolish the Law, but rather to fulfill the Law. Jesus took the law and raised the bar. He made what was a legal system of rules and regulations and turned it into something so much more significant, a personal relationship.

In verse 10 God challenges the people to test him. This is the only time in the Bible where testing God is seen as a positive action. God is challenging the people to step out in faith.  

As a church we rely on the gifts and tithes of attendees to maintain the budget. But what if we didn’t focus on meeting a budget, rather we were giving so that the church could advance the Kingdom of God, reaching the lost and setting the captives free.

One of the lessons Jesus taught on money is recorded in Mark 10:17-25. As Jesus was walking a man ran up to him and fell on his knees, crying out, “what must I do to inherit eternal life”. This man claimed that he had kept all the commandments, he was living a holy life, the Bible even says Jesus looked at him and loved him. But then Jesus pressed to the heart and told him to, “go and sell everything he had and give it to the poor, then you will have treasure in heaven.”

Sadly, the man couldn’t do it, he was tied to his wealth and he got up and walked away broken. Jesus went on to teach how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

The rich man was looking for a set of rules. He was looking for a checkbox that he could tick off to say that his eternal salvation is secure, but Jesus saw deep into his heart and knew that he was seeking rules rather than a relationship. This is still the situation that so many people find themselves in today. We don’t give to God because the law requires it, we give because He has already given us His only Son. Jesus Christ gave everything to purchase our salvation.

When Jesus taught, he always raised the bar of the law, and made it clear that our response to the Gospel is much more than 10% of our income or following a set of rules. The truth is that God doesn’t need your money, He already owns it, He wants your heart.

The challenge for us today is not if we should be giving 10% of our income, that is a given, the real challenge is what about the other 90%? How do we steward the money that God has given us? You may not be wasting money on lottery tickets or cigarettes, but what about things like cable tv or high interest rates on debt. Living according to and within a strict budget is the very definition of what it means to be a good steward.

During the year, I frequently challenge the church to give over and above their regular giving to the church. Right now, we are raising money for the end of the year mission offering, going to support international missionaries. From time to time we have a visiting missionary or a team heading on a mission trip. All these special offerings are times when we pray and ask the Lord how much we should give, but this is not out of the 10%, this is out of the 90%, this is trusting God for the supply. Giving in faith deepens our walk with the Lord and we are blessed as we do.

This is not a prosperity gospel teaching. God doesn’t promise wealth, he promises a blessing and a lack of need (see Malachi 3:10). God promises to meet our every need, and that is a blessing.

This Thanksgiving week, demonstrate your faith in God by giving, testing the goodness and faithfulness of God.  

Sermon series on Stewardship Part 2 – Finances, October 2, 2016

 

stewardship-pt-2-title-2-01There are 2350 verses on finances in the Bible, and 15% of all the recorded words of Jesus were on money. Finances are obviously an important topic in the Word of God, and stewarding our finances well is vital to our Christian walk.

The foundation of everything relating to a discussion on finances is that God owns everything. He is the creator and sustainer of all things (see Psalm 24:1). Everything we have comes from God, we are not owners of it, we are stewards of God’s wealth. That is such an important paradigm shift we need to make in our lives.

The second reality is that we cannot take any of our material possessions with us into eternity. When we die, all our accumulation of wealth stays behind and gets divided up according to our estate. This sounds obvious, but so few live according to this reality. The Bible clearly states that what we do with our time and resources here on earth will store up for us riches in heaven. In a currency that we know nothing about.

We use the term tithe or tithing when we talk about giving money to the Lord’s work. This is not simply a modern Church word, rather tithing has been a part of many different cultures and religions throughout history. And in fact it pre-dates the law of Moses. A tithe is ten percent of one’s earnings or crops, set aside and given to God. In the OT book of the Prophet Malachi, we read how God rebukes the nation of Israel for their lack of tithing (see Malachi 3:6-12). You may argue that Malachi is in the Old Testament and it doesn’t apply to us today, we are under the new covenant and we are under grace. It is true that Jesus ushered in the New Covenant by his death and resurrection, but he also said in Matthew 5:17 that he did not come to abolish the Law, but rather to fulfill the Law.

People who view tithing as simply an Old Testament law whereby one is paying a debt back to God, miss the point entirely. The early church in the book of Acts understood this and were an extremely generous people.  Tithing was never meant to pay a debt to God, in the Old or the New Testament, rather tithing builds our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Notice verse 10 of Malachi 3; “Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty….” God challenges the people to test him, this is the only time in the Bible where testing God is seen as a positive action. God encourages us to test our faith in the giving process.

When one gives a tithe to the local church it is never simply to meet a church budget. Rather, you are tithing to the ministry of reaching the lost, sharing the Gospel and bring the light of Jesus to our community. Not simply meeting a budget, who wants to give to that? No as we seek to diligently steward the gifts and tithes, we seek to make an eternal difference for the kingdom of God. Eternal souls are at stake. Give to that.

Looking at one of the lessons Jesus taught on money we read of the rich young man in Mark 10:17-25.

Notice the posture of this man as he runs up to Jesus and falls down, begging Jesus for an answer. There is a desperation. He knows that there must be more to this life and he wants to have eternal security. But notice the question he asks; “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. This man is looking for a set of rules, a checkbox that he can tick off to say that his eternal salvation is secure.

Jesus knowing his heart lists some of the ten commandments, to which the man responds that he has kept these laws since he was a boy. But notice the commandments that Jesus mentions. Jesus only focuses on the Commandments that relate to our relationship with our fellow man. Jesus saw deep into the heart of this man and saw that he was trying to follow a set of rules rather than seeking a relationship with God.

This is a trap we so easily fall into, we want a set of rules, but God wants a relationship and then out of that relationship we seek to do the will of God. Again it is reinforced that we cannot possibly earn our way into heaven.

Jesus looks at the man and the Bible says, “he loved him”, and then Jesus raised the bar and told him to sell everything he had and give it to the poor and then come and follow him. Jesus loved him, but let him go, because Jesus knew that he loved his money more than he loved God. His money was his idol. It doesn’t mean that all of us are required to sell everything we have. But if we hold on to our money as our security, as our peace rather than Jesus, it has become an idol and we need to rearrange our priorities.

Again, the kingdom of God is not about a set of rules, it is about a relationship with our Heavenly Father.

We don’t give in order to get something from God, even though there is tremendous blessing in a life of disciplined tithing, no we give because he first gave everything for us.

So Jesus raised the bar and made it clear that our response to the Gospel is much more than 10% of our income or following a set of rules. This man lost everything because of his wealth. His wealth robbed him of the greatest wealth of all, eternal life. Today people are still being robbed by wealth, by letting their finances become and idol and it is preventing them from a relationship with the provider of all wealth.

The truth is that God doesn’t need your money, He wants your heart.

God wants you and I to understand that a closed hand is unable to receive his blessing, but a generous hand is open to receive from God.

The challenge for us as followers of Jesus is not if we should be giving 10% of our income, the real challenge is what about the other 90%?

One may argue that after tithing 10% the rest of the money is yours to use as you wish. But is that really true?

As we look at our spending habits, how much of the 90% do we waste? You may not be wasting money on lottery tickets or cigarettes, but what about things like cable TV or high interest rates on debt.

This is vital for us as Christians, we need to do everything we can to get out and stay out of debt.

Live according to a budget. Living according to and within a strict budget is the very definition of what it means to be a good steward.

When we meet people who have a close walk with God and those who have strong faith in God, if you dig a little and find out their story, you will discover that 95% of their faith lessons were lessons on finances.

If you want to grow your faith, it starts with realizing that everything we have belongs to our Father in heaven, and then trust him for the future.