October 19, 2014
Pastor Joe Wittwer
This is the fourth and final talk in our series, Money Matters. Why are we talking about money? Two reasons: First, because money matters. It’s important! Money is a power tool that can be used to do a lot of good. Or misused, it can do a lot of harm. And second, because Jesus is Lord. Jesus is our leader in every area of life. He is Lord of all, including our money and stuff. The Bible teaches that God is the owner, and we are His managers. Our lives and all we have are His. We manage all of it under His leadership.
We’ve talked about what God says about spending money and saving money; today, we talk about what He says about giving money. Giving matters: it is one of the most important things you can do with your money, and I’m going to tell you why.
Once again, I want to remind you that I want something for you, not from you. Even in this talk on giving, I want something for you. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” I want you to experience the blessing that comes from generosity.
The Big Idea: Giving matters: it honors God, benefits both the giver and receiver, and advances God’s work.
I said in week one that God gives us money for three reasons.
- To spend to meet current needs.
- To save to meet future needs.
- To give to meet others’ needs.
1. Giving matters: it meets others’ needs.
There are several kinds of giving taught in the Bible, and one of them is giving to meet others’ needs, especially to help the poor.
Deuteronomy 15:7-10 “Don’t be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother…give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in you land.”
Be openhanded and generous with the poor and the needy.
Proverbs 19:17 “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.”
When you are kind to the poor, you are lending to the Lord, and He will repay you. Jesus gives instructions about giving to poor.
Matthew 6:2-3 “When you give to the needy, don’t announce it to everyone.”
Notice that Jesus said when, not if. He clearly expects us to give to meet others’ needs.
Luke 12:33 “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted.”
The first Christians took this very seriously. In Acts 2, members of the newborn church sold their possessions and practiced a radical generosity with each other.
Acts 2:44–45 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
“You need something; I have something. Here let me help you.” Paul wrote:
Ephesians 4:28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
This is fascinating. Stop stealing and start working. Why? So you can meet your own needs—of course. But Paul simply assumes that and says, “work so that you may have something to share with others in need.” One of the reasons to earn is so you can give to those in need.
There are many more verses on giving to the poor. Christians give to the poor. Jesus expects it, and He is our Lord. We give to others’ meet needs.
There are many ways to do this.
See a need and meet it. All of you do this. You see a friend in need and you help them out. You buy a bag of groceries for a family that’s out. You slip some money to a friend in need. You loan your pickup to a buddy to haul something. See a need and meet it.
One caveat: please exercise caution with panhandlers. Love is doing what is best for others. Giving to a panhandler may make you feel better, but it may not be best for that person. You may be enabling an addiction or keeping them from seeking a job. A friend of mine asked a panhandler why he didn’t get a job. He said, “I just made $70 in two hours standing on that corner. Where am I going to get a job that pays me $35 an hour?”
Sponsor a child.How many of you sponsor a child? More than one? 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 can exchange letters with your child, and possibly visit them. I tell people, “This is how you become a Christian: believe in Jesus, get baptized, sponsor a child.” If you would like to sponsor a child or add another child to your sponsorship family, visit our website. 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!
Donate to our special offerings. Each year we give you opportunities to give above and beyond your regular tithe and offering. We have three of them coming up in the next couple months.
- November 2: African Children’s Choir
- November 16: Tom’s Turkey Drive
- December 14: Benevolence
You are the most generous church I know. When we give you these opportunities, I hope you’ll see them as an opportunity, not an obligation. We want to give you opportunities to help the poor; we don’t expect everyone to give to everything. Do what you can: if you can help, great; if not, no one’s upset.
Support our local and international partners. These partners are listed on our website. 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, you can give money to support work among the poor. Christians give to the poor.
The first and most obvious reason that giving matters: it meets other’s needs.
2. Giving matters: it benefits the giver.
Spending to meet our current needs makes sense—we all need food, clothing, shelter. Saving to meet our future needs makes sense—we know expected and unexpected expenses are coming. We get a return on our spending and savings—we get something for our money. But what do we get from giving to meet others’ needs?
Here are the words of Jesus from the gospel of Luke—let’s read it together.
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.”
Let’s read that first sentence again. “Give and it will be given to you.” Jesus didn’t say, “Give and you’ll have less.” Or “give and you’ll regret it.” He said, “Give and it will be given to you.” Then for emphasis He adds, “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap.” Give and you’ll receive even more in return!
You can’t outgive God!
When you give, you not only meet others’ needs, but you benefit as well. In fact, you benefit far more than you know.
Proverbs 11:25 A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
It always comes back to you. Generosity doesn’t cost you; it pays! In the final analysis, you will be blessed.
Acts 20:35 We must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
It is happier to give than to receive! There is more joy, more benefit, more blessing in giving than receiving!
2 Corinthians 9:6–8 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 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. 8 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.
The more you sow, the more you reap. The more you give, the more blessed you’ll be. It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true. It is more blessed to give than receive. You can’t outgive God.
A young man came to Jesus and asked what he should do to have eternal life. Jesus said keep the commandments and the young man said he had.
Mark 10:21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Why did Jesus tell this young man to give away everything? Because He loved him. Jesus wanted something for him, not something from him. Jesus wanted the best for him. Jesus wanted this young man to be free from the grip of greed. Money was his god, and until he got free from that god, he would never be able to follow Jesus. If your money has a grip on your heart, the best thing you can do is give some away. Giving frees you from the grip of greed. Giving declares your independence from the money-god.
And Jesus said that he would be laying up treasure in heaven. I don’t think there is a bank in heaven and that our giving is all transferred there and earning big interest for eternity. I think that when we give to God and people, we are investing in the two things that last forever. When we give, we invest for eternity, we lay up treasure in heaven—and that’s good for you.
Almost every verse in the Bible that calls us to give also promises that God will bless us. He wants something for us not from us. You can’t outgive God.
Giving matters: it meets other’s needs, and it benefits the giver.
3. Giving matters: it honors God and advances God’s work.
Proverbs 3:9-10 “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”
When we give to God, it honors Him. It says that He is important to us. It is a value statement. You can tell what a person values by looking at their checkbook and calendar. Our values are reflected by how we spend our time and money. Giving to God is a value statement. The Bible presents it as an act of worship. “Worship” comes from the Old English word, “worthship”. Worship is an expression of value, of worth. When we give to God, it is an act of worthship. “God, you are most important to me. You are worthy of my best, my all.”
Giving honors God.
Giving advances God’s work. How much does it cost to do $100 worth of ministry? About $100. In both the Old and New Testaments, God’s work in the world was always funded by the giving of His people, through their tithes and offerings.
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 a tenth. The Israelites understood that everything belonged to God, and the tithe was a 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:
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, 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! By the way, this is the only place I know of where God tells us to test Him. “Go ahead, make my day.”
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, like the poor widow who gave everything she had! 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!
ILL: I have given God the tithe since I became a Christian in the 8th grade. My friend Nat Stock asked me if I was tithing. I had never heard the word; I thought it meant I should wear a tie to church. He explained that it meant I give God the first 10% of my income. “I’m in the 8th grade,” I said. “I don’t have income.” I started with my lunch money, spending money, and paper route money. Each month I put an envelope in the offering full of change; I’ms sure the ushers wondered! I’ve tithed ever since, 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 finances, 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.
There’s a bumper sticker that says, “Honk if you love Jesus.” I like the bumper sticker that says, “Tithe if you love Jesus. Any idiot can honk!” Here’s an interesting observation. Every tither I know says, “God has blessed me so much.” And many non-tithers I know say, “I can’t afford to tithe.” And as Forrest Gump says, “that’s all I have to say about that.”
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 several missionaries or local ministries that we love. Exodus 35:29, 1 Chronicles 29:9, Ezra 2:68
- Freewill offerings were given for the poor.
Your tithes and offerings are what fund God’s work here in our church, in our community and around the world. I want to show you how your offerings are used.
The Life Center Annual Financial Report
Friends: we want to reach more people for Jesus, plant more churches, and help the poor. Your tithes and offerings fund God’s work.