Part 5: “Give me!”
Today is the fifth and final part of Money Talks. Money talks and it says, “Give me.” One of most freeing and fun things you can do with your money is to give it away. We’re going to talk about how to do that.
This is the fifth and final talk in this series, “Money Talks.” Here’s what we’ve looked at so far: Money talks and it says, “serve me, spend me, save me, and free me.” We’ve talked about the dangers of the love of money, about our reining in our undisciplined spending, about wise saving for the future, and about getting free of debt. Today, money talks and it says, “give me.”
Often, when churches talk about money, all they talk about is giving. But giving is only one part of managing money; we have to earn, spend and save it wisely to have some to give. The Bible says that all we have belongs to God; we are managers, not owners. To manage God’s money, we must spend it, save it and give it as He leads. That’s why we spent five weeks talking about money, looking at everything that God wants us to do with His money.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, said this about money: “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” Notice he didn’t say, “spend all you can.” We do that naturally—we spend all we earn and more, and because of that, we have nothing to save or give. This is why I put giving last in this series. I know so many people who want to give, but can’t. They are debt up to their eyeballs, and they spend more than they make. They have nothing left to give. We have to get our spending under control if we want to save and give. There are very few things that will bring you more joy than being able to give to God or give to help others! Giving is fun!
There are lots of ways to give; I want to talk about three kinds of giving that Christians have practiced for 20 centuries. They are all found in the Bible; you’ll find lots of references on your outline.
1. Give the tithe to God.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites gave the tithe to God. It was the first tenth of their income. If they were farmers it was the first tenth of their crop. If they were shepherds it was the first tenth of their herds. If they were merchants, it was the first tenth of their profit. The word tithe means tenth, one tenth, and the Israelites understood that everything belonged to God, and the tithe was their way of acknowledging that, and thanking God for His generosity.
The tithe was given at the temple, and it was used to pay for the work of the temple, and pay the expenses of the priests and Levites who worked at the temple. It was also used to help the poor. And it was used to throw a huge party each year when everyone celebrated God’s goodness—an annual “God is Good to us Party.” I think that’s a great idea and we should start doing it!
Of course, while everyone was expected to give the tithe to God, not everyone did. So God had this to say in:
Malachi 3:8-10 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 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.”
To these folks who were not giving their tithe, the first tenth of their income, God says, “You are robbing me.” Strong words! There are other places in the Old Testament where it says that the tithe “belongs to the Lord.”
Leviticus 27:30 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.
The tithe, the first tenth of what you make, isn’t yours; it belongs to the Lord. It is holy to the Lord, that means set apart for God. If you keep it, if you spend it, you are robbing God.
We all understand how this works. For instance, each month, my mortgage payment is due. I borrowed money to buy my house, and agreed to pay it back. So that money is not mine; it belongs to the bank; it is holy to the bank. And if I keep it, I’m robbing the bank.
Each month, my utility bill is due. When I moved in and hooked up, I agreed to pay the cost of electricity and gas. So that money is not mine; it belongs to Avista; it is holy to Avista. And if I keep it, I’m robbing Avista.
It’s the same with our tithe. God says, “The first tenth is mine; it belongs to me; it is holy to the Lord. Keep it and you are robbing God.”
Here’s a crazy thought. Do you know anyone who robs the bank and then asks the bank to bless them? “I know I haven’t paid my mortgage in a year, but would you bless me? Give me some more money!” Crazy! But that’s what people do to God all the time. They rob Him and then ask for blessing!
Here’s the cool thing. If you give God the tithe, you won’t have to ask for blessing because He has already promised to bless you!
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 enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the Lord Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.
Give God the tithe and you won’t have to ask for blessings; you will be blessed! You won’t have room enough for it all His blessing!
You might be thinking, “Fine, Joe, the Old Testament taught tithing, and Israelites practiced it. But what about the New Testament? We’re not under the Old Testament law; we’re under grace.”
Yes, and from the beginning, Christians have believed that those of us under grace will do more than those who were under the law. The leaders of the early church believed that the tithe was the starting point of Christian giving, and that every grace-filled believer exceeded it. For example, Irenaeus wrote this in the second century:
“And for this reason they (the Jews) had indeed the tithes of their goods consecrated to Him, but those who have received liberty set aside all their possessions for the Lord’s purposes, bestowing joyfully and freely not the less valuable portions of their property, since they have the hope of better things [hereafter]; as that poor widow acted who cast all her living into the treasury of God.” Irenaeus, “Against Heresies”, 4:18:2
Irenaeus contrasted the Jewish practice of the tithe with Christians who give everything to God! So grace isn’t an excuse to give less; it’s the reason we give more!
Did Jesus teach tithing? It is more like He assumed it.
Luke 11:42 Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
Jesus is correcting the Pharisees for their legalism. Legalism always gets things out of whack, and that’s what happened here. The Pharisees were fastidious about tithing. They even gave the first tenth of their garden herbs. These were spices, and they were meticulous about measuring out one tenth of these tiny amounts of garden spices. But they were not nearly as careful about justice or the love of God. In other words, they majored in the minors and minored in the majors. Jesus says, “You should have practiced the latter (justice and the love of God) without leaving the former (tithing) undone.” So Jesus endorsed the practice of tithing, and added that we keep it in perspective. Seek justice, love God, and tithe.
Giving the first 10% of our income is an act of faith. When I tithe, I’m saying, “God I trust You to meet my needs.” If we can trust God for our eternal destiny, we should be able to trust Him to meet our financial needs. I feel sorry for people who live with a crippled confidence in God and miss out on so much of His blessing. Trust God!
I have given God the tithe since I was in the 8th grade, and God has poured out His blessings on me. I can’t afford not to tithe. Years ago, I made my tithe automatic. I have my mortgage automatically deducted from my account each month; I do the same with my tithe. That way I don’t forget and spend it and rob God! You can do that at your bank, or through our online giving.
God said to bring the whole tithe to the storehouse; that was the temple, the place where they worshipped. I give my tithe here at Life Center, my home church, the community of faith where I worship. When people ask me where the tithe should go, I always say, “to your home church, where you are fed spiritually. If you buy your groceries at Albertsons, you don’t make the check to Safeway.”
So what can you do? I know that there are lots of you who would like to give “the whole tithe” but don’t see how you can. Let me make some suggestions.
Start where you are with the goal of giving a full tithe. Maybe you can give 1%, or 3% or 5%, start there, and work towards a full tithe. Each time you get a raise, give God a raise. Each time you rework your budget, give God a little more. Start where you are. God understands and knows your heart. I think when God sees that we want to do the right thing and we’re working to get there, He’ll bless our efforts!
Take an honest look at your budget. It may be that you really are just scraping by. Or it may be that there is more fat in the budget than you think. What does it say about us when we say we can’t afford to give to God, but we can afford cable TV, or a cell phone, or a new car? Let’s be honest about our priorities. If God is first in our lives, it ought to be reflected in our spending, so take an honest look at your budget. Maybe you need to make some adjustments so you can give to God.
Or if you are a person of faith, you might just take the plunge! Give God the whole tithe and see what happens. God invites you to test Him in this—give it a shot and see what happens.
Here’s an interesting observation. Every tither I know says, “God has blessed me so much.” And most non-tithers I know say, “I can’t afford to tithe.” Think about that. And that’s all I have to say about that.”
2. Give a freewill offering.
Did you notice in Malachi 3 that God talked about “tithes and offerings”? The tithe is the first tenth that belongs to God; an offering was something above and beyond that. In the Old Testament, it was often called a “freewill offering”, meaning that you gave it because you wanted to, not because you had to, or were expected to. Freewill offerings are given for lots of reasons.
Freewill offerings are given to God as an expression of thanks or worship. Someone moved by God’s goodness said, “I want to give God more.” I mentioned that our tithe is deducted automatically each month; it’s actually more than a tithe because I believe that generosity starts when we give something beyond the tithe. So we give a tithe and an offering as thanks to God. Leviticus 22:18, Deuteronomy 16:10
Freewill offerings are given for special projects, like building the Tabernacle or the Temple. Many of you did this to help us build this building and finish the north parking lot. Laina and I made what for us was a large contribution to both those projects, above and beyond our tithe and offering.
Freewill offerings are given for supporting a specific ministry. Laina and I give monthly to serveral missionaries or local ministries that we love. Exodus 35:29, 1 Chronicles 29:9, Ezra 2:68
Freewill offerings were given for the poor. I want to spend a few minutes on this.
Ever since we did “The Hole in Our Gospel”, we have emphasized the importance of giving to the poor, and we have given you a number of ways to do that.
First, you give to the poor when you give your tithe and offering here at Life Center. In the Old Testament, one of the purposes of the tithe was to help the poor. So we take money the money that you give and use some of it to help the poor. Last year, we gave away 20% of our offerings, some of it directly to the poor, and some to other ministries that serve the poor. I told you a few months ago that last year you gave $240,000 above our budget; we believe you did that because you wanted to fill the hole in our gospel and help the poor. So we gave it all away! We are in the process of carefully giving it to our international and local partners.
Second, you can give to the poor by sponsoring a child. How many of you sponsor a child? This is one of the best investments you can make with your money. For $35 a month, you can help provide clean water, food, education, medical care and spiritual training for an impoverished child. Plus, you get to exchange letters with your child, and possibly visit them.
ILL: When I was in El Salvador in November, I sponsored a child through Compassion, and got to visit Marvin. I’ve sponsored children for almost 30 years, and this was the first time I’ve ever met one of my sponsored kids. Marvin and his sister Marcela (whom my son Michael sponsored) live with their parents in a tin shack with dirt floors, and no electricity or running water. Their father, Jose, works hard all week to earn $40-50 a month—for a family of four. I can’t tell you how impactful this was—I pray often for Marvin and Marcela and Jose and Juana.
By the way, our partner church in El Salvador, Iglesia Elim in the town of Armenia, is doing amazing work with these kids. Compassion works through this local church, which cares for over 300 poor children and their families. We just sent them almost $18,000 to complete the wall around the project and add another classroom—it’s part of that $240,000. They will start building next month. Many of these kids are sponsored by our church, and there are 36 kids that still need sponsors. I can tell you that Pastor Frank and Paty and the crew at Iglesia Elim are amazing—I’ve been there and seen the work and it made me want to sponsor another kid (we now sponsor six, counting Marvin)! They also have a Child Survival program that is serving 52 young moms, from age 13 on up, teaching them how to care for their babies. Imagine having a baby when you’re 13 or 14 or 15, and you have no idea how to care for that baby or love that baby. Many of the babies die from simple lack of care. This program is changing that and saving lives. You can become a sponsor of the Child Survival Program for $20 a month.
If you don’t sponsor or if you want to add another child to your sponsorship family, I want to encourage you to visit our sponsorship tables in the Commons:
Spring of Hope
And for all of you who sponsor kids, please keep sending that check in each month—your kids and their families depend upon your help. A huge thanks to all of you who are sponsoring kids!
A third way to give to the poor is in our special offerings. Each year we give you opportunities to give above and beyond your regular tithe and offering. A month ago you gave about $40,000 to help those made destitute by the tsunami in Japan. You have given hundreds of thousands of dollars for wells in Kenya, for a Habitat for Humanity home, for Tom’s Turkey Drive, and for benevolence for those in need in our community. You are the most generous church I know. When we give you these opportunities, I hope you’ll see them as that: an opportunity, not an obligation. We want to give you opportunities to help the poor; we don’t expect everyone to give to everything; if you can help, great; if not, no one’s upset.
A fourth way to give to the poor is through our local and international partners. Look at the piece in your program; it lists our local partners on one side and our international partners on the other. It also lists at least one practical way you can give to these partners; notice that it’s not always cash. Locally:
You can give household goods, school supplies, or items for a thrift shop.
You can give time mentoring a child.
You can give services to families in need.
Internationally, we give money.
One really cool note: our wonderful worship team recorded a terrific album of worship songs; we sold all 3000 of the first printing at $10 each, and all of the proceeds are going to World Vision to drill wells in Swaziland. We are sending the check off this week. And we’ve ordered another 1000 CD’s to sell. Worship for water! This album will drill at least one well and bring clean water to 1000 people!
By the way, we are working with World Vision on an ambitious project to bring clean water to all 40,000 people in the Maseyisini region of Swaziland. The budget is half a million dollars spread over three or four years; the first year budget is $208,000. We’re asking some other churches to partner with us. So far, we’ve got this $30,000 from the worship project, and donors in our church have given another $39,000. So we’ve got to raise another $139,000 to get the project started. If God moves you—or you know someone with $139,000—40,000 people are waiting for clean water!
Which leads to the third kind of giving:
3. Give a sacrificial gift.
A third kind of giving is sacrificial giving. This is when God asks you to go way out on a limb and give more than you think you can. There’s a story in Luke that is a great example of sacrificial giving.
Luke 21:1-4 As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
It’s one thing to give out of your surplus. I can tithe and give a freewill offering and still have plenty—that’s surplus giving. It’s another thing to give everything, to give what you have to live on, to give and not know where your next meal is coming from. This widow did that. She gave her last penny, and had to trust that God saw and would provide for her. The others gave an offering; she gave a sacrifice.
ILL: A farmer loved to have ham and eggs every morning for breakfast. One day out in the farmyard, a hen was cackling to a hog about how much she enjoyed giving her eggs for the farmer’s breakfast. The pig said, “For you it’s an offering; for me, it’s a sacrifice!”
There’s a story about another widow in 1 Kings 17. A drought had caused a famine in the land. God told Elijah to go to Zarephath where a widow would feed him. When he got to town, he met the widow gathering sticks. He asked her for food and drink, and she said that she had only a handful of flour left and a little oil in a jug. She was going to make a meal for her and her son so they could eat it and die! (She was a cheery woman.)
1 Kings 17:13-14 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.’ ”
Think of what he was asking this starving woman to do! First, make me some bread. First, feed me, and then you and your son. If you do, you’ll have enough until rain comes. What would you have done: feed yourself or feed the prophet? If she had used her last bit for herself and her son, they would have died. But she gave sacrificially, her last bit of food, and God provided for her.
Every now and then, I think God asks each of us to do something sacrificial, something that isn’t easy, something that taxes us, something that strains our resources so we have to trust Him. When God asks that of you, I hope you’ll say yes. God can ask for anything we have, or for everything!
ILL: I was 21 years old and leading a youth ministry in Eugene. We had a Tuesday night Bible study at Noel’s house; as many as 140 kids would cram into his house. Afterwards, I would give rides home in my van—a 1970 Ford Econoline van with no windows and no seats except the two front seats. The back was carpeted and we had a couple bean bags, and I’d cram as many as two dozen high school students in the back and drive for two hours taking kids home. Sometimes we’d stop to pick up hitchhikers. They’d roll back the sliding side door and be greeted by a mob of students just waiting to tell this poor captive hitchhiker about Jesus! That van was my transportation and was an essential for my ministry.
Then God told me to give it away. I wrestled with that for a few weeks. What would I drive? “I’ll provide.” How would I get the kids home? “I’ll provide.” Finally, I obeyed, and gave the van away. I had no money to buy another car, and so now I had no car; I was completely dependent on others to get me places. It was a sacrifice.
Want to hear what happened? That’s the last point.
4. And it will be given to you!
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.”
You can’t out-give God!
ILL: So I’m without a car, and Noel shared his with me for the next couple months.
Then one day a lady called me on the phone. “Joe, I have this extra car, and I was wondering if you need a car. If you do, it’s yours; I’ll give it to you.” It was something like an Oldsmobile Electra, one of those big gas-sucking boats…but it was a car. I thanked her and she drove the car over and gave it to me. But I heard of someone who needed it worse than me, so I gave it away to them…and kept borrowing Noel’s car.
A month later, I got another call. This was from a young couple with two kids whose parents had just given them a new-to-them used car, so now they had two cars. Now, most young couples with kids think it’s essential to have two cars, but this young couple thought that if they had 2 cars and I had none, they should give me one. So they gave me their 1967 VW Beetle. I drove that car for over a year.
Just before getting married, I thought it might be good if I got something more reliable than that Beetle. So I sold the Beetle and started looking. Then I got a phone call. Someone wanted to help me out so they gave me a check for $2000, which combined with the Beetle money, paid for a 1970 Volvo sedan.
One day I added it up. I had given away a van worth about $900. Afterwards, I received two used cars and $2000 cash, many times more than I had given away. You can’t outgive God.
I’ve listed some Scriptures here; every one of them says the same thing. Give and it will be given to you. Give and God will bless you. The blessing may come back in the form of money, or may take some other form. Maybe your car will run longer, or your kids stay healthy, or you get a better job. God’s blessings take many forms. You can’t out-give God!
ILL: A few years ago, Ken and Kristi Calhoon felt challenged by a message I did on this subject. Right there in church, they decided that they needed to tithe. He got his checkbook out but couldn’t find a pen. He prayed, “Lord, if you want me to do this, send a pen.” Well, nothing happened. The service ended and they got up to leave, and a lady approached them and said, “I think this is yours,” and held out a pen. Kristi said, “I don’t think that’s ours.” But Ken said, “Yes, I’m afraid it is.” He wrote the check and gave it to me in the parking lot after church.
The next morning at work, Ken’s boss called him into his office and gave him a big raise. He’d worked there several years and never had a raise! Give and it will be given to you. You can’t outgive God!