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TEXT: II Corinthians 9:15
SUBJECT: Money Matters #6: Giving
A few weeks ago we began a study called Money Matters. Your money matters to God because you do, and money has a major effect on your life-for good or bad.
What do you do with your money? Four things: you make it, spend it, save, it, and give it away. We've already studied the first three; now we'll have a look at number four. Giving.
Before we get to that, however, let me define my term. There are two kinds of giving-and both are good. The first is humanitarian. A typhoon wipes out a village in Southeast Asia. The survivors are now homeless and without food or clean water. The Red Cross sends out an urgent appeal. The village is not Christian and the relief workers are bringing no Bibles. Is it our duty to help these people if we can? Of course it is. The Bible says so and it's consistent with the character of God and the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As much as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).
The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works (Psalm 145:9).
Jesus of Nazareth.went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38).
Thirty or forty years ago, Francis Schaeffer warned against Super-Spirituality, that is trying to be more heavenly-minded than God! If the Lord cares for men as men and not just as potential converts, we ought to be as well. Of course, saving the soul forever is better than saving the body for now, but the opposite of better is not bad, but good.
Thus, I'm for humanitarian giving. My wife and I give to the crippled veterans, the leukemia fund, and two or three other charities. They're not evangelistic, but they're doing God's work (even if they don't know it).
The other sort of giving is Christian. Some things should be supported-not because we're human-but because we're disciples. In particular, I mean the church, missions, and others who are advancing the cause of Christ in the world.
For now, this is the kind of giving I have in mind: supporting the church, missions, and so on.
Do we have to do this? Do you have to give to the church? Do I have to support missions?
No. You don't have to do these things, you get to do them! This is not a play on words! Some things you have to do-like have a root canal! Other things you get to do-like go on a picnic or kiss a pretty girl!
Supporting the Church is not a root canal! It's kissing the cute girl! It's a joy, a privilege, an honor, even--and not a something you got stuck with! It's not a necessary evil, but a necessary good.
This is the Bible perspective on giving. The chapters we read today were II Corinthians 8 and 9. In 9:7, Paul tells us not to think of giving as a heavy cross to bear,
Not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.
It's easier to issue a command than to obey it. But in 8:2-3, he says the churches of Macedonia really did it,
The abundance of their joy.abounded in their liberality.beyond their ability, they were freely willing.
These were poor people, yet they felt the privilege of giving what little they had-and gave more than Paul expected-and gave with merry hearts!
Zacchaeus did the same thing. The day he was converted, the old swindler said,
Half my goods I give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone, I'll repay him four-fold.
Who twisted his arm? Who manipulated him? Who made him feel guilty about being rich when the Kingdom was poor? Nobody. But, after a lifetime of pinching pennies, he was happy to give them away-by the millions!
Do I have to give? How much have I got to give? What's the least I can get away with? We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for thinking this way! The Psalmist got it right-116:12.
What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me?
When it comes to giving, the first word to think of is not duty, responsibility, sacrifice, need, reward or punishment. The word you're looking for is privilege!
God owns everything and He could just take it if He wanted to. But He doesn't want to. He wants you to give it to Him, because He loves you and wants you to have a part in bringing His Kingdom into the world.
Before it is anything else, giving is a privilege.
If giving is a privilege, it is also a duty. The New Testament commands us to support the cause of Christ in the world with our money.
The duty applies, first of all, to the rich. They have an obligation the rest of us don't have. But giving is not for the rich only (or even mainly). It is every believer's duty to give-including the poor. Both our Lord and Paul were poor men, who never forgot the needs of people even poorer.
Giving to the Church is designed to meet four special needs: (1) to support the men who preach the Word, (2) to relieve poor saints, (3) to promote missions, and (4) miscellaneous expenses.
Preaching is hard and time-consuming work. Some men can do it while making a living in some other way, but most cannot, and-more to the point-it is the church's job to pay the preachers of the Word. Two passages spell it out, Galatians 6:6, I Timothy 5:17-18.
Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, 'You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain', and 'The laborer is worthy of his hire'.
The first verse doesn't need much explaining. Men who give to the Church ought to get something back from the Church. The former give the Word, the latter give a living.
The second passage gives more detail: the men who labor in teaching-who work hard at it-deserve a double honor. A few verses earlier, the word, honor, plainly means a living. The double honor-some think-means a lavish salary. I don't believe that. I think it means the honor of a modest salary plus the honor of respect. To prove his point that we ought to pay the men who labor in the Word of God, Paul quotes two verses from the Bible: Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7.
If the work of an ox deserves pay, so does the work of a preacher! If traveling evangelists need a salary, so do settled pastors.
Preachers are not commanded to take a salary. Some-like Paul and Barnabas didn't. But that does not change the fact that we're commanded to pay them as best we can.
We have to beware of legalism here. Though the Bible says to support preachers, it doesn't say how much to support them. Here, I think, wisdom comes into play: what are his needs and what is the church's ability? Should a single man with a retirement from the Army be paid as much as a married men with nine kids? Should a church of 2,000 pay their pastors more than a church of 50?
These things have to be thought through and prayed over. But the command remains: Let them who are taught communicate to them who teach in all good things.
The second thing we give for is to relieve needy saints. This is what II Corinthians 8 and 9 are about. Preachers often take a verse or two out of the chapters and tell their people to give to the church, by which they mean, I need a raise or Give to the building fund. These may be good things to give for, but the chapters are about something else. 9:1 says what,
Now concerning the ministering to the saints.
If you compare the chapters to Acts 11, you'll see that an awful famine hit Judea, and the Christians in Antioch (and elsewhere) took up a collection to relieve the people suffering in it.
Paul assumed God's people would want to help their brothers and sisters in Christ. And commanded them to do it-
See that you abound in this grace also.
What grace? The grace of giving.
I Timothy 5 touches on a matter closer to home. There were poor widows in every church. If they had family, they were to take care of the aged sisters. But if they had none, the church was to take care of them. Paul does not give the details, only that the church needs to do this. Acts 6 says the first church did this, appointing seven deacons to oversee the work of caring for the widows who couldn't take care of themselves.
Helping the poor is a priority. Not able-bodied men who are too lazy to work (cf. II Thessalonians 3), but people in real need. We live in a rich society, but the words of our Lord apply to us too,
The poor you have with you always and you can always do them good.
The third duty is to support missions. Paul said he robbed other churches (cf. II Corinthians 11:8) to preach to the Corinthians without charge.
For most men, missionary work is expensive and time consuming. If they serve in Papua, New Guinea, for example, how many Americans could make a living the native way? It's not that they're all greedy, but they're Americans, and they can't live off a garden and hunting. If they can't make a living for themselves, we have to support them. Or have no missions in the desperately poor parts of the world!
If we pray, Thy Kingdom Come, we have to support missions.
The fourth need is miscellaneous expenses. We have bodies and we have to have some place to meet. That takes money. If we want to follow along with the Bible reading, we need light and that takes money. Some of us could stand the whole service, but others can't. If they're to be in the church we need pews or chairs. And that takes money.
In some churches, miscellaneous expenses are greater than all the other expenses put together. They have a huge mortgage, a big staff, expensive sound equipment, lavish programs. I wouldn't pass judgment on them, but I have to wonder if these are the priorities of the New Testament.
In any event, if pastors are to be paid, widows are to be cared for, missions are to be supported, and other obligations are to be met, the church has to have money. And that means we all need to give. It is our duty to give-mine and yours.
How do we do it?
Some churches rely on manipulation. Preachers browbeat the people into giving, or they promise them riches unheard of if they give. Maybe you remember the scandal several years ago: a famous preacher hinted that if he didn't get the money he needed, God would take him home. Manipulation is sometimes effective, but it's always sinful! Paul said,
We have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the Word of God deceitfully.
Don't be manipulated-by me or anyone else! Let the Word of God and the Holy Spirit lead you in your giving, and not the pleadings of some man-honest or otherwise!
Many churches rely on tithing. This is the official policy of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the practice of most Baptists in America.
I have very high respect for the people who teach this-and even more for the ones who practice it! God has always blessed tithing and it's a workable system.
I myself have always tithed, but I cannot tell you to do it because the New Testament doesn't teach it.
The usual argument for tithing is based on a wrong definition of key words and a selective use of the Mosaic Law and Old Testament examples.
What is a tithe? Every Baptist knows it is ten percent of your income. We differ on which income-gross or net-but we all agree that it's ten percent of it.
But that is not how the Bible uses it. Yes, tithe does mean a tenth part. But, under the Old Covenant, Israel had to pay three separate tithes. Every year, they paid the tithe of the land (Leviticus 27:30) and the tabernacle tithe (Deuteronomy 12:10ff.); every three years, a charity tithe was added (Deuteronomy 14:28). Tithing, therefore, was not 10% of your income, but over 23%. If we're going to appeal to the Mosaic Law to support tithing, let's not water it down. We've got to pony up a quarter on every dollar-or it's not tithing.
The examples of Abraham and Jacob are sometimes cited. Abraham tithed to Melchizedek and Jacob promised to give the Lord a tenth if He brought him back to Bethel. The fathers did this, but they weren't commanded to. What's more, they did it once in their lives, as far as we know. The day I got married my wife and I were worth-maybe $10,000 (including my car). If I had given $1,000 to the Lord that day, would I be finished tithing?
The Mosaic Law-though inspired by God and true in every word-is not the Law of God's People under the New Covenant. If it were, we'd have to do far more than tithe! We'd have to circumcise our sons, rest on Saturday, stay away from Gentiles, and burn our polyester shirts!
The New Testament method for giving is.uh, well, the way of trust and love. I know this makes people groan and sigh. It's not practical and you can't plan if people are going on trust and love, but it's still true.
Put first the Kingdom of heaven and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.
Let us love, not in word and tongue, but in deed and truth.
If we love the Word of God, we'll support the men who preach it. If we love the Lord's poor and suffering saints, we'll help them when they need it. If we love the lost, we'll support missionaries who take the Gospel to them.
If we trust the Lord, we'll support His Kingdom, even when it seems we need the money for other things-like food and clothing.
The objection to this method is always the same: It doesn't work. But if love and faith won't make you give, I don't know what will!
How come many churches and ministries are in financial crises? Why don't the Lord's people give more? Why do some of them give nothing at all?
Some of the fault lies with the churches and ministries. Lavish spending turns good people off from giving. Why should I pay for the pastor's Rolls Royce? Why should I give to put up a building ten times bigger than we need? These are real problems, but I won't say any more about them for now.
What I'm getting at here is why don't we give more than we do? We believe the church or the mission or the ministry is worthy of our support, but we still don't give. Why not?
The first reason may be more common than think: Many professed Christians are not saved. They go to church, but they don't love the Lord and they'd rather spend their money on themselves than on Christ. They need new hearts, and until they repent of their sins and believe in Christ, they'll never give.
The second reason is sin. Believers are also sinners. And some of the sins hinder us from giving to the Lord. One is covetousness-we'd give if we had anything left over, but we have nothing left over because we have to have everything we want. Another is greed, which is the love of money. Another is pride-if I don't agree with the pastor's every point of teaching and character, I won't support him.
The third reason is ignorance. You assume someone else is supporting the church and so you don't need to. But when everyone thinks someone is supporting the church, no one is.
The fourth reason is a lack of planning. This, I think, is one of the two main reasons. We love the Lord and would love to give to His Church. But, we don't plan to give, and therefore, we've got nothing to give. Not out of willful sin! But out of neglect/
The final reason is, probably, the main cause of not giving: worry. We'd like to give to the Lord, but, if we did, how would we pay our bills? And what could we put in the bank? And, what will we do for our retirements?
I have great sympathy for people who feel this way. I myself am a worrier by nature. But, nervous or not, we have to believe the Promises of God. Matthew 6:25ff is the one I have in mind. Without reading the whole passage, it says,
Therefore, I say to you, do not worry about your life.what you will eat or what you will drink or what you will put on.Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they neither toil nor spin.yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.After all these things the Gentiles seek, for your Heavenly Father knows what things you need.But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.
The Lord will take care of the people who put Him first. He can do that because, after all, He dresses flowers with more glory than the richest man in the world. And He will do it because He is our Father in heaven. Therefore, we can give more than we can afford, knowing that no one who put God first every went without!
The righteous are not forsaken and their seed do not beg bread.
Because their Father loves them. And He will give them everything they need when they need it.
Giving is good for you. And for your children. People with open hands have open hearts. People with clenched hands have narrow hearts. Is that what you want? A small, hard heart-more businesslike than Christlike?
How do you want your kids to grow up? Selfish and wasteful? Or generous? They're learning more from what you do than from what I say.
Giving is good for other people. Unless you're stupid in your giving, you're going to help people with it. And wouldn't that be wonderful? To help someone for whom Christ died! What a privilege. Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these My brethren, you've done it unto Me.
Giving will glorify God. How can we better glorify God than by being like Him? And what is He if not generous? Be followers of God as dear children.
Some privileges are for the few and not the many. But giving is one for every saint-from Job the wealthiest man in the East, to the Man who had nowhere to lay His head.
So trust the Lord and love His people. When you do, you'll be a cheerful giver.
To help you, just remember the Happiest Giver of all,
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, how that-though He was rich, yet He became poor that we through His poverty might be made rich.Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!
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