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On giving........

I know of more than one pastor that does not believe that Christians should, or are required to tithe. They see tithing as an Old Testament requirement for the Israelites, akin to one of ancient commands like, “don’t mix cotton with wool”, or “never cut off the edges of your beards”. So we begin today by acknowledging that there is some disagreement in the Christian community about tithing and no where in the New Testament to Jesus command that His followers give 10% of their earnings to the church.

In many ways, the Bible remains frustratingly vague about things like this—specifically about just how much we should donate. We’re left to our own interpretation, to a degree, when it comes to stewardship and generosity. This may explain why so many pastors don’t preach about it.

It’s a perfectly understandable – and perfectly human – to question things like this. But when it comes to our money, the question mirrors our tendency to seek out the lowest common denominator in our life and our faith. We really want to know, “What is the least I can give while still fulfilling my duties as a a part of the church? I am willing give to the church-but only what I must give”

So how little can we give before it becomes a sin?We’ve been granted freedom from the Law, according to Paul, so let’s not “over do it”, when it comes to donating money. Is that how you think? Or do you think you can’t afford to tithe?

A famous Christian leader once said, “I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. If our giving habits do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we want to do but cannot do because our giving expenditures exclude them.” – C.S. Lewis. Does this represent your giving? Or do you only give out of what you can afford to do without.?

Like so many of the freedoms granted by the New Testament, the expectation for Christian generosity is actually more challenging than the requirements of The Law. The Old Testament teaches to love your neighbor, the New Testament teaches to love your enemy. For one that has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, you really can’t say, “Well, I’ll give 10% and I’ve done my duty.”

Here’s what Paul said: “Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum

of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” I Corinthians 16:1-2. So whereas he did not use the word “tithe”, it was assumed that all Christians were setting aside a “portion” of their income to help in the Lord’s work. Are you and I doing this?

He also said this:“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (II Corinthians 9:6-7, NIV). So we’re supposed to think about it, plan for it, set it aside, and cheerfully give it. Now why did the Apostle Paul this? Because people were spending all their money each week, finding that they did not have enough at the end of the week to give to the church, and then, when they did give, they weren’t very happy about it! We haven’t progressed much have we?

Did you know that in the USA, in 2020, the typical Christian family gave only $1749. That’s what the typical Christian family gives a year, or about 2% of the annual income of a family. But the starting point, is supposed to be a tithe….10%; imagine if every Christian tithed? What an impact the work of the church. So before we talk about 2% or 10% or even 90% (and some folks do donate 90%). I want to ask you this:

“Do you, set aside money, each week, for the Lord’s work, and do you donate those funds to the Lord’s work?” Does my question annoy you, convict you……have I now started “meddling” in your personal affairs? Do you resent someone telling you that ought to be doing more, perhaps, than you are right now?

If you don’t tithe and make donations to Christian ministries it’s a matter between you and God. But I would dare say that you should not be complaining about your financial woes if you are not tithing. Consider these words from Malachi: “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.” Malachi 3:8-10, NIV

Giving is not about what we can do for God, but rather about what God has already done.

Consider what Jesus said in Luke 21:1-4 (NKJV). “And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

How can it be said that this women’s penny was worth more than all of the other gifts? Because it was from her heart. Because she gave more than she could spare. That’s how we’re supposed to be giving. Do you know the joy of being able to open up your hand or your pocketbook?

So let’s talk for a moment about why you or I don’t give.

One of the first reason if we really don’t think our gift will matter and that we think that we could use that money a lot more than the church could. We reckon that our gift won’t make that much difference, so why give? It’s the same lame excuse people use for not voting: “My one vote won’t change anything.” (And when a 10 people in every town across the USA thinks that way an election is lost!) No, your donation won’t feed 100 people. But a wise lady named Mother Theresa once said, ““If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” Use God’s gift to you to feed one family this week—— from this week on—-and see how bountifully you are blessed.

The second reason we don’t give is that we think we’ll lose something or fail to fully enjoy the better things of life if we give away 10% (or more) of our hard earned money! But Pablo Picasso famously said that, ”The meaning of life is to find your gift.  The purpose of life is to give it away.” Can you give away what you have earned or must you it stored away? If you can’t give it away, you don’t own it, it owns you. Money and possessions can become a tar baby—-they grip your heart and stop your blood from flowing. “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” (Winston Churchill). What are you giving back —— not to your children or your family, but to God? Your worth is measured not by what you have in the bank when you die, but what you were able to give away while you lived. "The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.” (Albert Einstein)

The third reason we don’t give is that we think about it too much. Seneca said, "We should give as we would receive, cheerfully, quickly, and without hesitation; for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers." In our minds we try to find justification for not giving or for giving less than we ought to. C.S. Lewis's stepson Douglas Gresham told the story of Lewis and a friend walking along the street one day when a beggar approached them asking for money. Lewis's friend kept walking, but Lewis stopped and emptied his wallet, giving the beggar its contents. After rejoining his friend, he was chastised. "You shouldn't have done that, Jack. He'll only spend it all on drink." Lewis joked, "Well, that's what I was going to do.”

Let me close with these rhetorical questions:

1. How much should you give? That which represents your heart and gratitude to Him.

2. Why should you give? Well, not because you seek to be blessed and become more prosperous——though you will! We give because we have already been blessed abundantly. The tithe and our donations represent our satisfaction with what God has done for us and as a token of our love for Him and His children.

3. Do we give as the widows gave? She gave more than she could afford and Jesus made note of it! God will take note of your generosity—-never forget that! He sees and will take care of you!

4. Are you giving to attract attention? Don’t let your left hand know what right hand is doing. Give secretly and discreetly and God will bless you. Brag about it, put your name on a building, establish an endowment in your name and you have your reward already——expect nothing more from God/

5. Do you give cheerfully? It’s a privilege to be able to give! "We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." (Winston Churchill). Your giving makes a difference and should put a smile on your face! Don’t be afraid to give——try it. "Think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege." (John D. Rockefeller Jr.)

6. It’s ALL His, your tithes and gifts is a witness towards your faith——you cannot out give God and "no one has ever become poor by giving." (Anne Frank)

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